It was nice to be back in London after a month up North in Scotland. Sleeping in your own bed is just different than in your own tent. But it was busy. As usual when i am back home there is a host of things to take care of. First up cleaning all the gear!
Alex was staying over as usual and brought loads of homework with him on top of his busy club schedule – piano, scouts, russian school, football, sunday church… You name it. There was also a new person to be met for all of us… My lodgers girlfriend. We did it in style over a good raclette dinner.
For laura it was the second time in london, but the first one with a bit of time at hand to explore london. Arguably far from everything. But we managed Greenwich & canary wharf, cycled through the west of town, camden lock market, the regents canal by boat, buckingham palace, natural history mueseum and explored tower bridge and its surroundings. I also manged to show some of my favourite hangouts – in particular the world’s best pizza at the Oak in Notting Hill.
Time went past in a heartbeat before laura returned to colombia and i made my way to vienna to start cycling the sultan’s trail (more of that in my next post).
Almost three weeks back in London are over. Busy as hell to be frank. DIY in Alex house completed, motorcycle license in my pocket, some great time catching up with friends and neighbors, trips to Devon and Liverpool and of course loads of exciting football at home or nearby pubs. Congrats to France. With Alex school also over, the outdoor season can begin… First up is a canoe trip from Usti nad Labem to Cuxhaven on the Elbe.
Catching up with friends
There were a few this time whether in the Tiroler Hut with Arndt, David and Isaac, in Liverpool with Steve (see here for a little background), at Lord’s cricket ground with the old Morgan Stanley gang, with Jane and Dom over some tasty BBQ, my godson and his parents, Minna & Ed’s summer party or over one of the many world cup games with Alex, Hubert and the boys from the hood. Busy.
Motorcycle license: Tick
After CBT and theory during my previous visit in London, I spent 4 days practicing and testing on the big bike. Passed both tests without problems, but still got a bit of the test anxiety. It was also good that the tests worked out first time, as the DVLA center is pretty busy and the next slot wouldn’t have been before late August. Now I can begin to think about some motorbike trips. But let’s leave that for another day.
DIY done: Tick
Alex flat is back in order, all damp spots removed and new terrace built. Monster job that kept me busy literally all moments that i wasnt training for the license. Good to have it fixed. Makes for an accomplished feeling going into the canoe trip.
My big bicycle adventure on the Sultan’s trail from Vienna to Istanbul is still two month away, but given other trips in the meantime, best not to leave key preparations to the last-minute. Most importantly I need a touring bike (my old one is probably still chained up in Canary Wharf) and a bit of cycling outfit as well as repair and safety gear. So I was off to Totnes, Devon.
Totnes is right in the southwest of england, not too far from Exeter. I found a decent hybrid/touring bike on ebay with the caveat to pick it up down here. The chap selling the bike, as his father told me, is currently travelling in New Zealand. Good deal overall. Just the 5 Ortlieb panniers would have set me back the same amount that I got all-in. Well, i needed a few extras which the ‘hot pursuit bike shop‘ in town happily supplied. All sorted apart from the pre-tour overhaul i will do in london (chain, sprocket, etc).
Since the handover was quick and my nightbus not on for a few hours I took the bike for a little spin. First stop at pub for beer and sandwich (which i had to defend from rather aggressive seagull). From there you pass through fields in all their lovely colours, little villages with mostly ancient stone cottages and cosy pubs that invite you for a stop. Very pretty and enjoyable. Fitness levels on the other hand need a lot of work. I hope the Elbe canoeing and more so the hike on the Scottish National trail preceding the bike journey will get me up to speed.
I didn’t leave it too late to get back to town in order to dismantle the bike still in daylight. Taking off wheels and mud-guards and a bike bag were necessary to travel on the bus. Hanging out in Totnes while and after packing up the bike and waiting for the bus turned out rather full of conversations… Covering all topics with older and younger folks alike. Hopefully the way to Istanbul will turn out similar.
The 5 day stint in London went past in a heartbeat. The summer had also arrived in the UK with a record warm bank holiday weekend at 28/29 degrees. I was mainly busy with DIY at Alex house, but also bumped into some old friends (keen Chelsea supporters), had a sunny sit down with my neighbors Jane & Dom and enjoyed a beer with Hubert in the finally reopened Truscott Arms … wait, ‘The Hero of Maida” as they christened it this time ;o)
DIY @ Alex’ house: Good weather to do some DIY. I was in Alex and his mum’s flat where some plaster & the terrace needed looking after. Pretty dirty work, but also fun to get your hands dirty and teach your son a few basics. He was a great help, but also liked to spend time with the neighbour. Anyway, good old work with a beer and some really interesting conversations with neighbor Ahmed (from Cairo) and a chap with insomnia living above. He is Palestinian and studied in Russia. We spoke Russian for a while before some conspiracy chats required english skills for both of us (funny that this chat came after a pretty devastating Russian class on Sunday … keep fighting!).
The Hero of Maida – my local is back open! The story with my local pub is like a never-ending love story. Loads of ups & downs on both sides. When I moved to Maida Vale in summer 2006, the pub was actually closed. It was called Truscott Arms at the time and had a bit of a history as a rough football pub. It reopened as IDLEWILD and had a really good vibe about it, often thanks to an Italian Rasta man. In 2013 ownership changed again and the pub was reopened with its original name Truscott. That went to summer 2016 when to lease for the pub was hiked from £75k to £250k. The owners gave up and the new owner refurbished the place. After almost two years, now it’s back. The new name THE HERO OF MAIDA pays tribute to General Sir John Stuart, whose triumph at the Battle of Maida was said to restore British morale. Hubert joined me for a quick drink on the fine Monday bank holiday. Good to gossip a little bit about what’s happening in the city.
My two weeks in London went by incredibly quickly mainly due to the time I spent with Alex (who I take care of full time when I am here). School runs, after school clubs, birthday parties, homework, Saturday school and Sunday’s at church were my new routine. When Alex was in school, i had a busy time doing admin stuff, seeing the dentist seemingly a hundred times (finally I got rid of my braces) and paperwork.
I also tried to be extra efficient catching up with friends. This often proves more difficult than it seems. They are stuck in their work schedule while it’s the opposite for me when I am looking after Alex. Still I saw loads of them and chatted away about Russia, their past weeks & months and what lies ahead. Seems there is never enough time to talk though! Also got to see loads of Nepal friends at rory’s child rescue nepal gig and a live taste of my latest musical investment (The Young Frankenstein) with Elizabeth. Ok musical, great evening (I cant recommend enough a visit to Mr Fogg’s tavern for whoever comes to London …).
One fine london morning I also managed to visit a place that I love and hadn’t seen in a while – the Tate modern. When I first came to london in 2002, my first apartment was just on the opposite river bank. Many weekends I would wander over millennium bridge to see some modern art be it alone or with one of the many friends who came to visit. A rather memorable one was of my good student friends Katrin & Ronny and fellow Commerz-banker Andre. I still own the Joseph Beust book they gave me at the end of a wonderful few days with the following inscription:
“Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler” (Everyone is an artist)
How true in a way though I guess I am more an artist of life than any tangible artwork. On the other hand, even Beust himself considered his pedagogical side his greatest art achievement … to an extent at least I have done some of that too.
It’s always interesting to think back to those moments (or others) in my early days in London more than 15y ago. How much I loved the atmosphere then, how proud was I to show my city to friends & family and how little did i know of the great times that lied ahead of me. Unforgotten and unfortunately hard to get back. Many times I wished to feel again like on that sunny Sunday on 30 June 2002 when I first arrived.
While Germany lost 2:0 to Brazil in the World Cup final, I arrived on crutches & had to hobble to London Bridge to locate a working pub (the inner city is dead weekends) … it felt so cool to be there. I remember well when I called mum to tell her just that (and I don’t often call). It remains a cool place, but also lost quite a bit of touch, something several of my friends share.
Well, enough dwelled in memory for now. Next week is half-term in Alex school and we are on a road trip in the Extremadura region of Spain. Basically picking up on a recommendation I received during a wedding I attended in June near Girona … let’s see! Hasta Luego!