the c & b diaspora

Fog.

Posted on: September 1, 2008

[Edit- Picasa web albums are a piece of shit. Visit the album to see the photos that should have stayed fucking integrated into my post. FFS]

There wasn’t any.

Welcome to another late entry. About a fortnight or so. Luckily for you, I already have another planned in my brain, hopefully you will be able to read that one this week too. I think I might sub-title these two entries ‘the pulitzer series’, because they are just that fantastic.

So Briony and I took a wee ‘holiday’ last week and travelled south. South to what could easily be a country just in itself; south into hell. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t very warm.

The length of the bus journey there was longer than I liked really. About four hours or so. We did stop somewhere, but it wasn’t Thames. I miss that one lane bridge, and waiting patiently as a stream of cars flows across from the other side of the river. There is a Thames in London, but its a river. Funny.

So we arrived and walked around for a few hours. I got shitty. It was hot, I was carrying a lot of bags, I was hungry, it smelled funny, and the large groups of middle eastern people walking in the middle of the footpath really SLOWLY were starting to get to me. We couldn’t get into the museums because having all our bags searched would cause a terror alert, and the time we had between arrival and departure to Briony’s brother’s house would not have accommodated my desire to fully scour all six floors of the Science Museum. Sigh. Slightly disappointed, but its not like it will burn down or anything. WILL IT.

Having braved the dangers of Piccadilly station in Manchester before, I felt that I was comfortable with tackling the challenge of Victoria station in London. You know when you are at the Big Day Out (or something equivalent) and there are lots of people there, all moving, all at once? Yeah its like that. Probably almost 24-7. A constant swarming of yuppies, chavs, tourists, bums, losers, everyone else, and us. We found our train pretty easily and made it all the way to Reigate, which was about half an hour outside of London.

Briony’s younger brother Callum and his girlfriend Lucy are doing the more typical thing while travelling the world. Working in a bar. Its convenient especially if you like drinking, and like not travelling too far to work. They live upstairs in the pub Lucy works in, along with the chef, the kitchenhand and the manager. Oh, and a cat:

The pub where they stay is quite nice, its in an upper class area and hence is not filled with ‘traditional english pub stuff’ AKA complete shit. I have several grievances that I will be airing later, so they fit better into the story. Briony and I had dinner there. It was good. Since leaving my dream job at BurgerFuel I have struggled to find a burger that has satisfied my manly, and exotic tastes. One day, when I finally return to New Zealand, I will share with you all the best burger of all time. The burger I had at the Yew Tree pub was quite good. The pattie was actually grilled meat, and it wasn’t soggy and takeaway like. The chips were good. The beer was cold, as was the cider. Briony liked her risotto. The chairs we were sitting on were good. This place was good. We sat there for a few hours just chatting, eventually Lucy finished work and joined us, and then we ended up chatting to these two old ladies for about an hour. It was insane. One of them was about 80, and completely off her face after drinking a whole bottle of wine. Just a usual Sunday night in England.

Day two involved various tourist things. I hate tourists, and it pains me muchly to be considered one. I especially hate tourists because people consider anybody holding any kind of camera to be one. This is irritating because I feel guilty taking my camera anywhere (as much as I love it) because:

  1. People look at me like I am a tourist.
  2. I feel like a tourist
  3. I am a tourist, but I don’t want people to know. I just want to take photos without the stigma.

We took in various things on what could be considered a typical summer’s day in England. Overcast, windy and raining. There were, however some parts of the day where you could see blue sky beyond the grey canopy.  The London Eye was quite a highly priced technical marvel.  Its actually quite marvellous once you are on it, providing you have a nice day to experience it. Luckily for us the weather was pretty good by the time we got on. You can actually see a fair distance. They have a really retarded term for riding it though, they call it a ‘flight’ ;a term usually reserved for things that move through the air without being fixed to the ground. It takes about half an hour to complete the full circuit, in that time I managed to take roughly 8000 photos. I kid, I kid. The curved glass construction of the viewing capsules makes photography irritating. Don’t you just love reflection in your photographs? I sure do. Not. I suspect this was a deliberate choice by the owners of the London Eye, as to ensure that any photographs taken whilst on the Eye could not be resold because of shitty reflections, ie. GOTTA HAVE ALL MONEYS. There are heaps of photos in the web album, should you choose to check it out. Here is one photo I took of the centre of the wheel, with a really exciting dutch tilt:

Ahhh Dutch Tilts, is there anything they can’t make exciting?

[edit- great dutch tilt reference ruined by google.]

The London Underground is a strange, bewildering place. It is a giant underground labyrinth consisting of mainly hot air, sweat, farts and lost tourists. It is very intense. There is only a short amount of time between the train arriving at the station, and leaving again. So as you can imagine, there is often a rush to get on before the train leaves. The next train is often only two minutes away, so if you miss it, who cares. Its more important that if you are on the train that you get off at your station. Sometimes this is stressful because you are packed into a car with a lot of other people like a tin of sardines, or a shipping container full of illegal immigrants. So often to escape the train that will surely take you miles and miles away from where you want to go, you must punch, kick, climb and stab to get to the door. The strangest thing about it is definitely the illusion of distance that it creates. There are a lot of stops all over the place, and often through sheer laziness you catch the underground to somewhere really close. It seems like you travel a long way underground, but in reality (ie. above ground) it was only about 200 metres. Google for a map of the underground, and you will see what a Lovecraftian behemoth it is. If you have someone with you to help it becomes a lot easier, and through a few trips you eventually get the hang of it.

We attempted to visit the Queen, but for some reason the guards said that we weren’t on the list. I disagreed, and assured them that the Queen and I were OG. They still didn’t believe me, so we were reduced to making stupid faces outside of the gates, and mingling with all the other tourists. It was actually quite frustrating. Aside from all the people crowding it, it seems like a nice place. Fancy gardens, giant metal gates, numerous stone things. Most frustrating: you are no longer allowed near the guards with the stupid hats. Did you know that they are made from the fur of bears? As a bearded man, I find this disgusting and offensive. Bears are friends not hats.

Lots of other things happened that day, including walking through a park, seeing a real live SQUIRREL, Westminster Abbey, all you can eat pizza, drinking, and our hotel. Our hotel. Hah. For a measly £96, we were able to book a hotel room that would fit four people. Excellent. Or so we thought. Upon checking in, we were informed that they were having a problem with the plumbing, and had arranged for us to stay in another building. So around the corner we went, into another hotel. The lobby area was nice, and I think that was part of the illusion. Our room had a double bed and two single beds in it. A small television attached to the wall. Thats pretty much it. The best thing about the bed, was the double had a plastic cover over the matress. !!!. Sleeping on it was going to be a whole boatload of fun. And turns out, it was. Every time Briony or myself moved, it made that sound like the little kid did in Big Daddy when he pisses the bed and Adam Sandler just puts newspaper on it. Lucky that we were all drunk. Well, I was anyway.

Drinking in England is strange. In New Zealand there are pubs of pretty much every colour, and that cater to all musical tastes except mine. England, however is totally different. In respect to the types of pub I mean, not bars that cater to my taste. I have found one, but I havent been there yet. We started out our lovely evening in a typical pub, one that had beer. Which is all of them. For some reason, Callum picked up a little pamphlet that was entitled ‘Guide to Old English Pubs’ or words to that effect. Initially, alarm bells did not ring. It was not until later that we would discover this simple pamphlet was a complete tourist trap.

I’ll start my little rant here about pub food. At this pub, Callum ordered some wedges. Sounds good right? Yeah. Right. Back in little NZ, at the Crown & Badger, supposed ‘English Pub’ wedges for $9 = giant bowl of wedges covered in all sorts of flavoured shit. In England, we didnt know, but £4.5 wedges = one potato cut into wedges with a little bit of sour cream. Laughed about that for the next half hour. Pub food in England is baffling. Its staple food here, and yet, its complete and utter total shit. Basically the pub just buys shit from the supermarket and heats it in a microwave, and drunken old people buy it like its gold covered diamonds. Explain to me why, that even though it is still shit, and has crappy cover bands, the drinking cultures of various nations mishmashed into it, the Crown & Badger serves food that is worlds apart from what it is intending to emulate. Even though the food there isn’t very good. God, I miss BurgerFuel. What you can draw from this is that I dont really like pub food that much. Some stuff we ate the day after in a pub was a little better though, but I wouldn’t praise it highly.

So the tourist trap. We got to the next bar in our handy ‘guide’ and proceeded to order drinks. Looking at the menu we discover that it looks exactly the same. Suspicions arise, particularly my own. I come to the conclusion that all the pubs in this guide are owned by the same person.  I am right. We still stayed there. Had a few rounds. Drinking bourbon and coke here is expensive compared to beer or cider. You pay for the amount of spirit in the glass, and then you must pay for the mixer on top of that. So not really encouraging. This was made up for by the foreign girl who accidentally gave us change that amounted to the price of our order, so that round cost us about $2. That will teach them for luring us in with their lying guide. As it was a Monday night, bars closed at around 11. We managed to visit I think four from the guide of doom. We stole a glass from one of them, it now sits proudly in our cupboard, along with all the other large glasses. As you can imagine, I was probably the most drunk out of everyone.

We got McDonald’s on the way home, from Victoria Station. I’m sure they appreciated serving drunken New Zealanders in the middle of the night. Our shitty accents are hard enough to understand when we are sober. My Quarter Pounder was good.

The next day we went shopping on Oxford Street. Holy shit there were a lot of people there. I found an HMV that was the biggest thing I had ever seen. It was like Brookfield New World, except three levels. Didn’t buy anything. Callum bought World of Warcraft. I think the girls bought things. Didn’t do much else that day. Just as we got to Hyde Park it started to rain, then we got on our bus home, for a few more hours of boredom. My MP3 player ran out of battery about an hour out of Manchester, so I got to enjoy the sound of other people breathing, traffic, and various other shit.

I don’t even really remember getting home and getting into bed, perhaps Briony carried me.

Maybe we will go back to London one day. It wasn’t as awful as my overly dramatic/negative writing makes it seem, but for now, I am happy living in a smaller city.

In case you missed it, the photos.

Next fantastic entry to follow shortly. I hope.

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2 Responses to "Fog."

Christoph…..your stories of Vic Station does ring familiar bells in this girls ears…..maybe one day I will tell you how I got trapped in the tube door going to Picadilly Circus and then bowled people like dominoes….HIGHLY amusing……ahhhh pub food absolute shit…AGREED…..You can have my staff burger anyday friend.

Thankyou. But I want a fresh burger 😉

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