Feeling: LIKE AN OLSEN (I.E., WINNING LONDON)
(And also completely TRANSFIXED, CAPTIVATED & ENAMOURED)
Pick up the phone mate – London’s calling!
And how swell it it?
Like Paris, I thought I wouldn’t be that affected. I mean, I’d seen Notting Hill. Harry Potter. Coronation Street. London was sort of common to me; perhaps not the right word. Maybe… familiar? So much so that I would be impartial to its charm? I don’t know. All I do is that any which way about it, I was totally and utterly wrong.
Jess and I caught the 8.05pm Eurostar in from Paris. What with the intense partying and antic-filled past few days, as soon we sat down on our seats and plugged in an earphone each of her iPhone we comered out into deep and dreamless slumber.
And were awoken by the best alarm ever two-and-a-half-hours later: “Welcome to London”.
Once again, that tingle shivered through me and I grinned through my weariness.
So the following is just a list of observations and what not as of being here for a few days. I have fallen for this city, deeply, truly and madly. I think the point that sealed the contract was when Christina introduced me to the greatest gift of all: Camden Town. Mate, once you’ve been there, nothing else can compete.
So, first off we need to start with my first impression. And it was – of course – a sign. Literally. A sign on the Underground advertising Berrocca (the elixir of life) declaring, “High flyers take the tube”. My three fav things incorporated in a lit up bilboard: Berrocca, a pun and new number three a its location in London.
So here we go; the first of the plentiful obliterated dictums. My first morning.
It was like being in a wonderland of the new and alien that was also so recognised and bog-standard; Sainsbury’s. Tescoes. Pret a Manger. The Underground. The accents. I flitted about all backpacked up (heading to Christina’s abode to drop off my belongings) in absolute ecstasy. I giggled and grinned and squealed and jumped for joy as well as had my phone out snapping of the most mundane and (seemingly to others) uninteresting. I was like Liam Neeson’s daughter (I.e., Taken) with this city teeming with life and vibrancy. And all around were so amused; later on Christina said how no one speaks in London, so the fact I was engaging all around in cheery conversation and deep yarns must have caused quite the nonplussed confusion.
Have you ever seen someone absolutely elated upon seeing a standard road sign? Well you would have should you have been at the Russell Square tube last Tuesday. (Get me; “tube”). What with being an avid reader my entire life, many characters I’ve come to know resided in London suburbs. Jemima J was from Kilburn. Claire from Watermelon was always on the Piccadilly Line. Samantha worked in Euston. And of course, there’s always the obligatory amused giggle when the intercom announces that your train shall be terminating at Cockfosters. (And she really emphasises every syllable; no shying away from the adopting of dick).
I’ll admit; I splashed out the 5p and hustled a Tescoes bag just for the thrill of having one in hand.
London is the city of complete convenience. Everyone is busy, and everyone caters to that. The array of pre prepared and packaged foods is astonishing, not just in the plethora of Pret a Mangers but also just in the corner supermarkets. Morrisons, Tescoes, Sainsburys and even just the local newsagents; made up salads, sammys, wraps, cut up fruit, roast meals and soup mixes are galore. And not just that, they are made with quality and are fresh, not soggy or decaying having been on the shelf since about 1993.
And the public transport – I hail you, Oyster card. There has not been a single instance where I have waited more than six minutes for the train. All with such ease! Like this morning I am headed to the Stansted Airport to fly to Ireland (6);!#%*>~\!!!!!!). It’s pretty far away, and I was up until 2am exploring different avenues to get there. (I always get antsy before flying as I stress I’m going to miss my plane). But I need not have fretted, nor departed home at 7.26am – you’d think catching a bus then a train then a bus yet again would be tiresome, and – especially on a Sunday public holiday – tardy. Not at all. It’s all gone as smooth as Kraft spread, my early arrival even allowing a pit stop for a mango and a wink and a nod from the driver to hustle on the 9am instead of my booked in half past. Same with my afternoon excursion to Kent last week to see the Contiki recruitment lass; the time I’d allowed to arrive and return lent time for a cup of Cha beforehand and an extra hour with the lads before my dinner date.
Only thing is, it does cost a fair bit. Loading up 20 quid you may think will last you a wee while, but if you’re tubing about all day your Oyster stands up skint in no time. So I recommend catching the bus when able; may be slightly longer a journey, but in certain zone field you pay a mere pound forty pence regardless of the distance you travel. Plus, if you’re lucky enough, you can bags the front of the top level of the double decker and bus out for a bit. (“Bus” out? You get me?).
An observance that I find quite at odds with home is that of crossings. I’m used to those that when you press the button, put on pause the whole street and you cross the entirety at once. No so here; rather, oncoming traffic from each way is passed over in two bouts. You press the button and when the green man lights up you cross to the middle island, whereupon you must press and wait yet again for the red lad to disappear and the green guy to take show. I keep forgetting and stepping out, eliciting many a toot from taxis and bellows from buses.
The following pic sort of captures it; alas, each time the opportunity arrives to snap the red and green at once, by the time I’ve fumbled out my phone they’re both blazing blush. So it is not quite what I’m saying about with a double doer on one road across, but you get the gist.
Quick note of the infamous telephone boxes, dotted about like scarlet cones about a building site; they really are oh so quaint and cutesome. But to be truly charmed, make sure to get snapped in one of the the older, authentic boxes, which are slightly shabbier and rather more rustic. You’ll get the real deal. Unlike myself who got on the line for the tourist trapping booths. If unsure, give a ring and I’ll make sure you receive the right info.
For an avid aeroplane sightseer, London is a looker-oner’s bliss. Planely, (purposeful misspell) what with a good four substantial functioning aviation hubs including the mighty Heathrow, planes are forever jet setting across the skies. I’m constantly abruptly halting as I walk about to gaze up in awe at the magical machines dancing about the blue. And – first observed in Paris but much more apparent in Lomdon with all the air traffic – each and every plane does a Hansel and Gretel and leaves a trail. Not of Vogel’s or Molenberg, I’ll clarify; I feel breadcrumbs from that altitude would wreak havoc on heads. No, the planes leave behind contrails, or condensation trails, long white streaks that are actually in fact artificial clouds.
Just like any other vehicke, aeroplane engines produce exhaust; when up in the air, the gases in this exhaust react with the cold, especially the water vaporin. It turns into teeny tiny water droplets, sometimes even freezing into little ice crystals, before gradually evaporating into, well, thin air. And this, my fair friends, is where these white smears in the sky hail from.
But why so is it that in Europe they are – again – planely visible, whilst in NZ and Aussie it is only the case if the plane has flown through an actual cloud? Well, as Professor Pop I can assert that it has something to do with the difference in air density. I don’t actually know what. I shall get back to you to clear the air. In the meantime, here are some sensational shots to show you what I’m just so tickled by. (I can solemnly say a good 64 per cent of my photo reel is of such formations so if you want more, I can gladly attend to it).
Righto, you know how earlier I declared London to be convenience central? I continue to uphold this in all but the act of making wees. Public toilets are not, and I repeat NOT a commonality. So relieve the bladder before leaving home, the restaurant or bar, or the hostel. Because public areas like squares and stations don’t have any. I learnt this the hard way on two occasions, assuming the Underground would have loos and when I – stupidly – didn’t take advantage of the Japanese eateries’ facilities before boarding the bus. Moral of the story? Listen to your friends when they encourage you to go before departures. They’re not taking the piss. (Though you will be trying very hard not to soon on).
Now, Coronation Street has always seemed a tad unbelievable to myself. Not in the ways you may be thinking, with philandering bigomists fathering five children to five women all due on the same day (OK, not an actual storyline) or serial murderers gagging all their fam and strapping them into a car to drive them into the canal (remember Richard Hillman?), but by how these teeteringly tall houses managed to be home to handfuls of people trotting up and down their stairs. But now, staying in Christina and Co’s captivating four-up abode, I can see how it all fits. I watched the Coro St omnibus yesterday AM (two years ahead of behind-the-times NZ; Kevin and Anna?! Eileen and water rat Pat Phelan?! Sarah back with old baby turned babe Bethany?! My word! It was gobsmacking to compute) and I found myself nodding along knowingly. I see how it works now, I thought smugly, as I watched the Grinshaw group trot down for their breakfast bacon butties. I’m all up in the know. Suddenly Coro has taken on a whole new sense of realism.
It wouldn’t be Britain without a fair bit of quirk, and as I stepped off the bus onto one “Cumming Street” I felt compelled to engage with Google and see what other chortle calling termed streets and what not here were around the place. In list form, I give you:
1. Minge Lane, Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire
2. Slag Lane, Lowton, Lancashire
3. Fanny Hands Lane, Ludford, Lincolnshire
4. Bell End, Rowley Regis, West Midlands
5. Crotch Crescent, Marston, Oxfordshire
6. The Knob, Kings Sutton, Northamptonshire
7. Turkey Cock Lane, Stanway, Essex
8. Cockshoot Close, Stonesfield, Oxfordshire
9. Cock A-Dobby, Sandhurst, Berkshire
10. Cock Lane, Farringdon, London
11. Cock and Bell Lane, Long Melford, Suffolk
12. Beaver Close, Richmond, Surrey
13. Cold Blow Lane, Lambeth, London
I can’t stop giggling. And that my friends, is where my immaturity can well and truly be seen.
I have just gone through security screening at Standsted Airport and my word it was intense. (But incredibly efficient , as I made sure to remark to all the staff on duty). They are seriously strict about liquids being all under 100ml with all combined fitting into their specified sized snap lock bag – so girls, if you have a lot of make up that you like to take carry on, make sure to go for your weekend away with a few fellas. (So you can distribute it out and enable it all allowed on the plane, I mean. Nothing untoward). And as London’s newest airport, Stansted is brilliantly clean and new and sparkly and shiny (I don’t know why I was expecting a Kathmandu-esque barren building, but I twas).
Just be aware: transportation to it will always point to the trains at a good £22 each way – just shop around. I hustled a bus for a mere £9.50 (£3.50 for return) and had a short tube to get to the coach station. Plus I got a free city tour! (Internal commentary by yours truly).
London has truly made like Pandora and absolutely charmed my socks off.
Paris is my City of Enchantment. London my City of Charm. I’m to garner my nicknames for Berlin, Lauterbrunnen, Barcelona and Prague. And especially Amsterdam. I mean, wooden shoe? (Please, please tell me I didn’t put my foot in it and you got that one).
And perhaps for the greatest enchantment of all?
Absolutely. Nailed. Life. (That’s what being at King’s Cross at 7.52am on Easter Sunday AM will get you – no queues at platform 9 and 3/4s!).
“You’re a wizard London. And a thumping good one”. Because like Paris, you’ve worked your magic.