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Published: September 9th 2009
Our brave heroine
I don't always look like *complete* shit.
I backdated this entry. No-one will ever know...mwahaha...oops. In May (which is now, it's not September now at all...and I am not a lazy bugger with writer's block) I took a little trip. I started out in London, made my way through Kent to Dover, where I got on this huge boat. More on that later. Our story (ok, my story. I'm just trying to be nice my making you feel included) starts in...
It's a chilly spring evening and our heroine is busy prepearing for her overseas voyage. She finishes her packing, stuffing the last of her clothes into a small, practical rucksack. She checks her list one last time and hoists the pack onto her shoulders. "Wish me luck, mother dear. I'm off to see the world! Nothing can hold me back, I want to be free. Free! FREE!"
Her melodious (or was that malodorous? Or just odious? Or Odysseus?) voice echoes impressively throughout the chateau gardens, before reaching the ears of the handsome stable boy. He leans on the handle of his dung-shovel and sighs. "Oh, how I wish she'd love me"
. The very thought of her makes his heart beat faster, and he
"Why, Tinna! I never knew you'd traveled with Mr. Potatohead!"
breaks into a soulful song...
Sorry, wrong meeting.
Anyway, our heroine bravely hops onto a bus and then spends the entire fucking night on a bench outside the damn bus terminal, since the buses don't start running until fucking whenever in the morning, and she'd rather freeze her ass off for a few hours than waste money on a taxi. She has a book, some beer, and her iPod, so she's fine.
At the airport she grabs something to eat, some booze and cigarettes and then hangs out in the smoker's fridge, surreptitiously sipping her duty-free beer and smoking her duty-free cigarettes, even though she knows full well that you're not supposed to open it until you're in the air, or that at least it is frowned upon. She knows it is frowned upon by the way people frown upon her when she opens another duty-free beer. Maybe they're just jealous, since the poor suckers just paid three times the price she did for their own beers.
Either way, she doesn't care all that much, since soon she'll board and then she can sleep for a bit before waking up in another country. It's like magic, really, only
A random street corner, shot at a quirky angle. Because I'm so totally unique.
without the magic.
As it turns out, she doesn't sleep at all on the plane, so she contends herself with being bored for three hours and a bit. As she gazes at the seemingly endless stretch of ocean, she wonders if anyone has patented the idea of advertising on the oceans, and how that could be accomplished, technically, without
killing a bunch of dolphins or krill or some other hideous sea creature. Finally she gives up and turns her iPod on. The rest of the flight goes smoothly, and the plane lands at Heathrow airport at...probably noon or something: her magnificent adventure has begun!
(Hopefully non-confusing switch to first person now, so I can stop feeling -although probably not sounding- like a twat)
So, my first mission was simple: have a cigarette. I eventually did, and it was god (that's not a typo). How can people hate them so? They'll never (or never again) know the sheer pleasure of finally having a smoke after hours of looking at your watch, nervously twitching, fidgeting with your lighter, wondering what the hell is wrong with smoking in airplane toilets anyway, and how much the fine would
This is clearly a modern book shop. Only the most modern shops are spacialized in PAAN.
be, and why oh why oh why oh why can't I have a fucking cigarette now you fucking nazis! They're missing out.
I then lugged my luggage (one small rucksack, plus a bag of booze, ciggies and books) onto the train, and then off it again as I recognized the name of a station. I've forgotten what it was, but I'd definitely heard the name before.
I wandered around the station area in search of a locker to stash my stuff in, but was informed that there were no lockers. Stupid terrorists. Trying to take over ze vorld by ruining tourists' backs! Darn them to heck!
I was told that I would find storage space at another station. Can't remember the name of that one either, but you'll find it on a map of the underground. It was probably that one - no, the other one. Bit over there....yeah. That was probably it. Maybe. So I went over there and was allowed to store my crap for an exorbitant fee. I had something to eat (again) and wandered around for a bit before getting in touch with my host for directions. We decided on a time and place to meet
My hosts' house. I hope they won't mind the picture, since they've moved, although they still keep their gold, silver, and expensive electronic equipment there.
and I got out of the stinky red phonebox. Seriously - if you're drunk/desperate enough to take a leak in a phonebox, aren't you drunk/desperate enough to climb into the bushes for a piss? Come on! Assholes.
I picked up my pack and followed Gosia's directions to Canning Town (yay, I remembered a name. Ok, fine, I looked at a tube map. One of the others was probably Piccadilly Circus or thereabouts, and the other would be...not that one) where she picked me up and whisked me off to somewhere in East London, not too far away.
I spent the next few days there, mostly wandering around the High Street. I love those. Every shit little town or area has a "High Street", even though the only thing there is a second-hand bookshop and a pub (more on that later). This High Street had more than that, though. It had a library - in which no-one could find an encyclopaedia or a dictionary, unless you count a children's illustrated edition of the latter, full of difficult words like 'frog' and 'banana'. Strangely enough, it didn't list the obscure medieval torture device I wanted to look up. What are
I found this amusing.
they teaching children these days?
There was also a lovely pub (complete with astounded regulars), a few chippies and a bakery. One day I ventured into the bakery for a custard tart. Damn, those are good! I mean really good. If I lived in London I'd eat fish and chips every day, followed by a custard tart and explosion. Sorry, first a pint, then explosion. Ok, so I probably wouldn't, since London has nearly every cuisine imaginable, but I'm sure I'd eat a lot of custard tarts anyway.
After a few days in London I took off again. Where did I go? Paris? Rome? Neumunster? No, I headed, of course, to beautiful, scenic...
What? Swanley? To those who haven't been there, Swanley may seem like nothing more than a kind of shit town in Kent. To those who do know, it is much the same. I tried to find a map, but the woman in the tourist office (a desk in the library) seemed puzzled. "A map? Of Swanley? Whatever would you want that for?"
After convincing her that I wasn't, in fact, the head of an international terrorist organization plotting to take over Swanley's valuable
Everyone in Swanley is dead. Well, at least these people are.
natural resources, but rather a silly girl from Iceland, dead set on walking or hitchhiking to Dover, she offered me a free map of cycling routes in Kent. It came in handy later. I sat outside the pub, sipping my beer and reading, occasionally chatting to other patrons when they came out to smoke.
In my pub conversations, two themes dominated; my nationality, and my reason for visiting Swanley.
On the former the consensus seemed to be that as this was where Bjorrrk came from, I must be equally weird (most of them seemed to like Bjork, exceptone man who growled "Bjork is fucking shit!"
when I mentioned Iceland, and when I agreed, he added (though slightly less menacingly) "Yeah, shitty fucking Bjork"
. This was confirmed for many when I disclosed my reason for coming to Swanley, instead of a slightly less shit town like, say, anywhere in the known universe. You see, I am a sad, pathetic person. Being a sad, pathetic person, I wanted to visit the town one of my favorite comedians
grew up in. He's written about how crap it was to spend his teenage years there, and I'm inclined to agree. It seems like a town that's nice for kids
The photo isn't blurry, Swanley is.
under ten and people over sixty-five, but not those in between.
After the pub closed, I pulled out my map of Kent. The nearest town was Farnir an. Actually, it's called something else, but the idiots who made the map decided to stick a great big Go cycle Kent
logo right on it, so most of the bit I was actually in was obscured. Farnir an was about three, four kilometers away, so I decided to walk there. However, it was getting late, and I wasn't about to walk along a fucking highway in the middle of the night (not until later, anyway), so I wandered around until it was two in the morning. At that point I had explored every inch of the glamorous all-night ASDA, and was getting pretty tired (it's a big fucking shop) so I decided to take a nap behind a church. What I hadn't realized is that at around 2 am, every night, a big truck full of fog dumps its contents in Swanley. It was freezing. I wrapped myself up as best I could, but the cold humidity seemed to find a way to creep in every time, so I didn't sleep
Apparently that's taken in Kent.
more than perhaps an hour all in all.
In the morning I was pretty stiff, and relly bloody hungry, so I stuck around until the bakery opened. I bought some sort of meat pie with very little meat, but it was a) food, b) full of gravy, and c) so hot I couldn't taste it anyway. After shoveling that into my gullet, I took off.
In retrospect, it would have been clever to ask the confused librarian about the best way to walk. Instead, I walked along the highway. Never a good idea. Let me repeat that for those in the back: walking along the M20 is a bad idea
. Everybody got that? OK, good. Now, I did try to find a way off the highway, but every single plant in England has thorns, and 'public footpath' is probably a corruption of the phrase "Let's cover every footpath with thorny plants and wasps' nests in order to keep the filthy public off our land"
(attributed to the famous Lord Eville of Kittentorture Manor).
So, I walked. It wasn't all bad: I found a smashed mobile phone and saw some roadkill. Finally I spotted a way off the highway, but it
Houses in Kent
"Honest, sir, one of the 'ouses 'ad wings!"
required climbing over a fence, which was covered in...thorny fucking plants, surrounded by wasps. I somehow managed to get over, and found myself in...
Or Farningham, as the locals so quaintly refer to it. And that is exactly the word to describe it: quaint. It's basically one street: the High Street. On this particular stretch you'll find the lovely hotel, the second-hand bookshop, a hairdressers and a pub with a sign congratulating the punters on their adherence to the 'no swearing' rule. So I went to the hotel. Across from it is a small stream (probably called 'the Bog' or something) and a mill. The mill and millhouse are private property, or so an aggressive looking sign proclaimed. I had a couple of pints in the hotel bar and watched as groups of schoolchildren shuffled behind their teachers, jotting down notes on how to make a map, what businesses are in the area, how to draw a marsh, and fart jokes (I assume).
After I was sufficiently refreshed I walked on, this time following the A20, which is a much more agreeable road, as it is actually possible to cross it without being hit by a
Collapsing house in Kent. As far as I know it is still collapsing quietly in on itself.
fucking great lorry. I ambled along until I could amble no more, but thankfully I was in West Kingsdown (or West Kiny n, as the map referred to it). Where there's a pub. So, I had a few beers, read a bit and rested my legs. After that, I kept walking, but since I was getting tired, I stuck out my thumb as I walked along. You may have heard of the 'rolling hills of England', but what they don't mention is that all those hills are in Kent, and 'rolling' means "fucking steep". I did see Brands Hatch, but only from a distance, because I don't really give a shit about racing. I did see some cool racers on the highway, though.
A bit outside Wrotham I got a ride, and the driver pointed me to a good hitching spot when he dropped me off in some town, the name of which eludes me right now, and from there I easily found a lift (in an Austin Mini, no less) all the way to
Or rather, a fucking service station. Now, to be fair, I probably could have walked from there to Dover, but
A beautiful collapsing house in Dover. If you look carefully, you might be able to spot the cliffs.
I decided it would be better to try to hitch a ride with a lorry driver all the way to Calais, and there were plenty of lorries around. None of which were heading towards Dover. So, I spent the night outside the station, since I didn't have a penny to my name and couldn't even afford a cup of coffee.
I met an old bloke who looked a bit like George Carlin. His name was Ian (or something. Might have been Richard or Bob or Noddy), and he very helpfully made me a sign and gave me pointers. He'd been doing this for years, he said, taking jobs delivering cars all over Europe and hitching back home to save money. We hung out and chatted a bit, but neither one of us got a ride for ten fucking hours. Did I mention that it was raining? Ok, it was raining. So, I stood by the side of the road, switching rapidly between techniques. One moment I tried to look run down and sad, standing in the rain, the next I attempted to exude an aura of jolly confidence - a sort of 'ooh, it'll be a right laugh in retrospect'
A very hungry seagull. Also: why it's a bad idea to not keep your trash in a bin.
which it is, though perhaps more of a quiet, sobbing chuckle than an outright laugh.
To make matters worse, in addition to being soaking wet, tired, annoyed and slightly more willing to believe that all lorry drivers are serial killers, I was getting very hungry and didn't really have any money. I finally got a ride, with a very nice man who'd lived in Denmark when he was younger. We chatted a little in broken Danish and unbroken English, but to be honest I was nearly falling asleep. He dropped me off near the ferry and I thanked him profusely. As I had finally reached
I could pick up the money my mum had wired, which meant I could afford to eat. Oh, how I adore KFC. Yes, I should have had a Dover Pie or something (I bet there's something called Dover Pie), but I wanted chicken, dammit! So I had chicken. After eating, I walked around trying to find a good spot to bag a ride across the channel, but sine I am clearl an idiot, I couldn't find one. I saw a sign advertising 'the lowest rates' for the ferry, so I asked. It was a lot cheaper than I thought, so instead of wasting more time on aimless wandering, I bought a foot-passenger ticket for the 15:15 ferry, and when the time came, I boarded said ferry (which is bloody huge, by the way), found a seat and promptly fell asleep. That turned out to have been a mistake, as I didn't bother to change my pounds into euros, and was therefore penniless again as I arrived in
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