Published: March 11th 2011March 10th 2011
Selling puppies in Covent Garden
...I never met an ugly puppy until now.
Panorama Spring is arriving in Southern England
The Train. It's such a lovely way to travel. And in Europe, I prefer it against the likes of Sardine Airlines. So, on the morning of 11/02/2011 (such an auspicious date in numerology), I travelled on four trains to get from Buhl to London. It was easy and well timed. Buhl to Offenburg. I left earlier so that I had plenty of time between trains and I could meet with Barbara for coffee in Offenburg and farewell. Offenburg to Strasbourg. A little time to sit and have lunch. Strasbourg to Paris. The only real excitement was that this train was delayed by over half an hour and I had to find my way from Paris East to Paris North station and check in for London 15 minutes prior to departure. That gave me only 15 minutes. A full backpack and a smaller wheelie suitcase were cumbersome. I had to buy a ticket for the metro and waited at the end of a very long line. There must have been 10 people in front of me all buying unusual tickets. Thousands of people moving in all directions during peak hour. Surprisingly, I
He is so pitiful, I want to take him home.
...but I don't have a home yet so I donate money instead.
The queue was moving in slow motion. 20 minutes before the London train was to leave. I had to go only one stop. If I walked the 700 metres I would never make it in time. Forget a taxi in this traffic (and not enough Euros left). So..... I had my metro map of Paris, I had my London ticket with departure time and I walked up to the first person in line, put my pitiful tourist face on (most of you know the face I mean), and showed the woman my ticket and my desperation. She waved her hand for me with the elegant style that all Paris women have. There could have been a cigarette perched between her fingers and it still would have looked the same. I love that about them. My metro ticket in hand, backpack on and wheelie case, I get stuck in the turnstiles and wiggle about for a bit, the pressure build up of people behind me, like a blocked drain, pushed me through, then down to the platform for the next train just arriving. In peak hour, there is hardly any room for me, let alone my luggage too.
I just push my way in until the doors close behind me. There are a few French sounds of disgust but I smile and say g'day. Instantly, as an Australian, I'm tolerated. Lucky for me!
I'm in Paris du Nord in 1 min, up the stairs (waving away some man trying to chat me up...can't he see I'm in a hurry?) to the Eurostar check in and security pat down and on the train with 5 mins to spare. Whew! Lucky for me, I'd been to Paris before and knew the system. I'd hate to think how many first-timers would be left scratching their heads, getting angry at TGV staff and looking for overnight accommodation in this same situation.
I arrived in London one and a half hours later and met Jonathan at the gate. I first met Jonathan in China when I was a Couchsurfing Host. He stayed with me for three days during his early days in the country. That would be almost 18 months ago now. We had a lot of fun and kept in touch since. So we went to my hostel near St Pancras, dumped my gear in the room, and then went
Satiated after a big roast lunch
Now looking for a place to have a nanna nap.
out for the night. It was Friday so everyone was out having a good time. There was some really great people-watching going on tonight. I was back in London! I love this atmosphere. We walked around and stopped at a restaurant for dinner and visited a few pubs and clubs. The last of these was just starting up by the time we got there. We walk through the doors to the sounds of ABBA singing 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' (a man after midnight) and men everywhere.
Yep, I'm in London! ;o)
I spent Saturday on a few errands for phone sim (a new one with International package for £20 per month local credit with 200 free international minutes to anywhere in the world with no charge to the recipient or to me for that matter from any of my friends). I've been waiting for this kind of deal. I'm going to advertise this everyone.... it's a sub company with Vodafone called Talk Mobile. So I bought credit for my internet dongle too. The only other necessary thing to do was organise my train ticket and a night at a hostel in Brighton for Monday and then I move in
to the flat at Shoreham until end of March.
One thing I like to do on a random impulse is to hop on a bus, doesn't matter where it's going. This is a stark contrast to my fears as a child, no really until I was 30. My fear was that I'd get on a wrong bus and end up somewhere I don't know. I would have panic attacks and sweat and worry about when I'd have to push the button to get off. Crikey, I was in a bad way. Back to the story. This particular random impulse doesn't happen often, I should see to that, but on this day as I walked out of the hostel, I got on the first bus that came along. It ended up taking me to Trafalgar Square. Great place to start my wanderings. I'm always armed with my Oyster Card when in London so I don't need to worry about small change or wrestling with the ticketing machines. Travel is so cheap. So I get off near Nelson's column and wander around one of the busiest places in the world until I get a feel for where I want to go.
I've been to London 5 times now in the last year. It has served mainly as my base for other places. But there are some places I like to go to soak up the atmosphere time and again. Covent Garden is one of them. So from Trafalgar I walk in that direction. I like the strolling around the cobblestone streets, to see the extremely talented performers surrounded by hundreds of people. The unique shops and restaurants, pubs and cafes. This day, there were many of the 'statues', dressed up and bodies painted. To me, this kind of street performing is a bit dull. I know it takes a lot to stand there and do nothing but it doesn't interest me. Today I found something unique. A table covered in a cloth. On this table was a pet basket and a dog bowl. I see this first from the side and couldn't figure out what it was. So I move around to the front and see a dog in the basket. Not some ordinary dog. This one was really ugly! He told me his name was Bob the Shitsu. But his real name is Steve. He was very funny and full of one liners. And when he learned I was Australian, then came all the jokes about Aussies! Great fun.
It pays to be a participator rather than a spectator. Later on, I was looking around for a place to sit at a cafe. It was very busy but a woman, sitting with her friend and kids, called me over and offer me a place at her table. She was in the crowd watching Bob the Shitsu and me talking. These are the small kindnesses that I remember. A good nature that I see regularly underneath the media-frenzied world of doom and gloom.
London is a place of new beginnings and opportunity. Sunday, I was to meet Jon again at 4pm at the Tapas Bar across the road from my hostel. Coincidentally called The Camino. Ha! I arrived there early, about 2 hours early, only for a coffee and met 2 women, one from Barthelona (phonetic) and the other from Bolivia. The Bolivian lady had an interesting story of coming to London 4 years ago on her own for a holiday. Her life was in a bad way at home so instead of returning and with the support of new friends, she stayed. She had no English but learned very quickly through working in a hotel with other Spanish speaking immigrants. She doesn't look back at her old life and remains in contact with her family regularly. There was a lot of sharing and laughter with the aid of 2 jugs of Sangria until Jon turned up. I was a little sloshed by then. Jon and I left the ladies and went for Chinese at a nearby restaurant. (no food was being served at the Camino and we were both starving). After Jon left to meet a friend for a late dinner, I returned to the hostel and packed everything with clothes ready for an early getaway in the morning.
Brighton is also a place of new beginnings and opportunity. My train arrives into Brighton station at midday on Monday. I went straight to my hostel near the pier, dumped my things in the room and proceeded to visit the employment agencies that line West and Queen Streets. I suppose I wasn't really dressed properly for this sort of thing (still in my daggies from the train trip) but it was only a factfinding mission. At the third agency, I was asked what kind of work I was looking for. As I was telling her my eyes landed on a notice on the wall about a sales exec position. I pointed at it and said "That is the ideal position for me". She told me that CV's were being sent to the company that afternoon. I had to be quick. I returned to the hostel, sat in a comfy position with my laptop and proceeded to flower up my CV. By 1.30pm they had it. I had a good feeling about this. 2 weeks and 2 interviews later... a job with a car! I start on 16th March.
PS Not so many pictures. Sorry. My Nikon lens is broken and my Sony is needing a service. Soon to be rectified.