Published: April 29th 2008April 16th 2008
"We live by the River!"
It may not be the Mekong, Amazon or Mighty Urubamba but the Thames has it charm..especially at sunset
Well Hello !! its been a while - over 6 months in fact - since we typed our last blog in a late night internet café in Rio both full of anticipation, dread and excitement about our return to reality and what we hoped would be our next great adventure.
And an adventure it certainly has been ! …so tonight after returning from a failed attempt to meet out travelling hero -Michael Palin - due to mass demand for seats in the gallery auditorium he was presenting a debate on something or other, we find ourselves drinking red wine feeling slightly disappointed (although happy that Palin has achieved rock star status), reflective and a little pissed ready to document what happened next……..so here goes!
But firstly for anyone sat there thinking that a ‘back home’ blog is a little self indulgent then fair do’s, but if so please don’t read on as it is with some self indulgence that we write this - but a lot has happened since we boarded that plane in Rio and for anyone reading this in a dirty, poorly air conditioned internet café about to return home from their travels, hopefully what follows will
Where the wild flowers grow
France, the Vendee - September 07
ease your concerns about what life back home offers to those who ‘dropped out’, ‘ran away’ or simply took a break from that thing we call ‘reality’.
So where to begin? How about Heathrow airport on a cloudy Tuesday morning at the beginning of September.
After a week of home comforts, cups of tea, plates of gravy and a welcome home party (including massive northern style buffet and slightly camp 1980’s style dance off) we headed off to France to catch the last of the years good weather and delay our return to reality just that little bit longer (2 weeks longer to be precise).
My parents reside in the Vendee region of south western France and ever since they gave up on the rat race (it runs in the family) and took early retirement about 4 years ago they have lived in an old pink house in a small French village on the banks of the river Lay - and become friends with a wonderful bunch of people with such names as Jean Paul, Jean Claude, Zo, Roget and Bebert.
It’s a truly wonderful place where the pace of life
Not a chance Luv !
The seven stone weakling attempts the impossible - France 07
and traditions of rural France remain - think ‘Allo Allo’ meets ‘last of the summer wine’ and you will be somewhere close to the feel of the place.
As with all our previous visits the wine flowed, although this year saw the first harvest of grapes whose purchase had taken approx 3 years of negotiation with next door neighbour Zo. These negotiations had included money, various favours, firewood and also a condition that once harvested the wine be stored (and shared) in Zo’s cav, a stone shed containing a wine press and large oak barrel, where the local villagers (men only) meet on a daily basis to consume the majority of their 40 glass intake of red wine (the white stuffs for girls).
The day of harvest, like so many in France, started late and after a long boozy lunch a large wooden contraption was collected from local farmer ‘Medium sized Roget’ (presumably Roget has a number of differing sized namesakes),wheeled into a field and placed over the top of a large plastic dustbin. Then, with military precision, we walked the length of each vine collecting each plump red grape until our buckets were full and needed emptying into
Blue skies and Red wine
Making grape juice - September 07
‘Medium Sized Rogets’ contraption from where Zo would turn a handle passing the grapes though a small press, which split them, as they dropped into the dustbin below. From here they awaited transportation to Zo’s cav and eventually the glasses of all the locals (most of whom had turned up to either help or watch)
The whole process took about 3 hours and by 5pm we all had sore backs, sun kissed faces and 4 dustbins full of juicy part crushed grapes which would eventually be transformed into 75 litres of French red wine.
Back to Reality
Our return flight from France was even more daunting than our return flight from Rio - finally reality was to return and plans needed to be made, CV’s needed to be updated, shirts needed to be ironed and money needed to be made. This was when our travelling luck continued and after a quick phone call to my old boss I returned to my old desk on a temporary basis whilst Carla headed to London in search of fame, fortune and a job at Microsoft.
Milton Keynes is home to some of the greatest memories and people
Hangin out in the Queens front garden
The first signs of summer hit the capital - Buckingham palace April 2008
we know BUT in the words of Jo strummer London (was) Calling and after a brief interview with an old boss Carla was offered a job working for ‘Bill’ and the wheels were in motion for our next great adventure.
During this time my brother had returned to his old role as “Game On” style landlord and my old boss had proved what a great mate he was by allowing me the freedom to work on a day to day basis whilst I began the search for a job in our nation’s great capital.
October came and went with no job offer. November happened and Carla started back in the rat race - commuting 4 hours a day whilst I continued the interrogation/humiliation of competency based interviews with inhuman HR idiots who believe that securing a job in London should be a similar experience to appearing on the Apprentice or worse still Dragon’s Den. As December approached I was seriously about to give up (was it my shaved head, silly triangular travellers beard or general hatred of 'The Man' ?) when luck smiled again and my old Area Manager took up directorship of a company based in London’s square
back with the band playing songs written on the child sized guitar
mile and as the new year began we packed our bags, broke the World record for the amount of ‘stuff’ loaded into a white transit van and headed off into the hazy unknown of new jobs, new faces and a new life in our new home....London.
Doing The Lambeth Walk........................OI
It is with great relief and happiness that we write this blog from our ground floor garden flat in Kennington SW9. The rent may be as much per week as we lived on in Thailand for 3 months but we manage and are happy to have our own place again after 19 months of no commitments, no worries but also no place to actually call home.
It is also with great happiness and relief to write that London has lived up to all our expectations, however romantic and unrealistic they seemed. Walks along the Thames, record shopping in Camden, impromptu mid week gigs, celebrity spotting in parks and hanging out in galleries are all things that are now part of our weekly routine and long may all of this as well as walking instead of sitting in angry traffic and buying fresh veg from our
Camden Crawl 2008
Can you spot Matt looking a little confused as to where Cage The Elephants lead singer has disappeared to
local greengrocer (big up Tony!) instead of Tesco continue.
After nearly 3 months of working in London’s financial district I can still be seen wandering round like a gormless tourist pointing at Pudding Lane, Borough Market, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge (which contrary to popular belief is not falling down) and that horrible gherkin thing - I even manage to ignore all the pin striped city boys as they walk around doing that stupid fake laugh they do whilst shouting things like “exit strategy”, “TAXI”, “hedge funds” and “wasabi peas” (which by the way are a taste sensation).
It’s not all a bed of roses, nobody actually likes the tube at rush hour, paying £4 for a pint or trying to avoid eye contact with a 7ft Rastafarian mad man on the bus as he shouts “nobody stare at me, it makes me scared man”
before thankfully getting off at Elephant and Castle. But even things like this, if just accepted as part of London life, are a small price to pay for living in what is a truly cosmopolitan, vibrant and fantastic city.
Of course being back to normality means we struggle to do so many
Medium sized Rogets contraption
I'm pretty sure this ain't the way the folks at Jacobs Creek do it
of the activities that made up our daily routine whilst travelling. Although I promised that I would, I read and write a lot less and haven’t continued to take as many photographs even though London is a great place to capture by camera. Thankfully we have continued to walk and resisted the urge to buy a car and now find sitting in front of the TV almost impossible for any extended length of time. This means we have managed to keep off the weight we lost whilst travelling and get out and do more 'stuff' instead of sitting on our arses watching reality TV and soap operas.
Don’t get me wrong I like to sit on my arse as much as the next man but it’s just not something I enjoy doing on a regular basis anymore. I have even signed up for a sponsored 10k run which takes place at the end of May gratuitous click here to sponsor me link
(but hey every little helps and it is for a great cause) something that would have put the fear of god into me 18 months ago.
We have also and most importantly gained a
Where the hell are we?
Trev's sign that awaited us as we landed at Heathrow
perspective on life which means we are in that lucky bunch of people who really don’t care where their banks call centre is based, or if somebody stalls their car at traffic lights, or if the queue is a little long at the ATM or if Amy Winehouse is once more back in rehab (I say no, no no...) and feel blessed to have connected with the lives and cultures of people who would give their right arm (as many have) to be in the fortunate position we are today.
Other things haven’t changed, our friends and family are still the fantastic people they were when we left them back in September 2006, the band
I played in waited and remain my number 1 pastime - now adding songs written on an out of tune child’s guitar to their repertoire, we are still engaged and plan to marry in a deserted fort overlooking the beautiful Cornish coast and Carla’s engagement ring still comes from Peru and cost 8 quid!
So once again folks thats it!! Thanks to Ali for making us Travelblog moderators and also to all of you who voted our Happiest man in
Ding Dong (classic London landmark number one)
The suprisingly not so Big Ben, a brisk 20 minute walk from our new home
blog into the soon to be published TravelBlog blog book
......but this may be our last ever entry (although thats been said before!).
Its been a long and often frustrating road this back to reality lark and although deserted island beaches, Andean cloud forests, dazzling white salt flats, magical Buddhist temples and oversized mutant Gerbils may seem like a million years ago........................... we will always have our memories, our photos and this blog.
Peace and (indefinately) out
There are more photos below