London: DIY & The Hero of Maida

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.


Two weeks with Alex, friends and some memories

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!

Meeting (half) the team 1st time amidst tragedy on Ama Dablam (R.I.P. Thundu)

I had emailed Tim yesterday (my expedition guide, back right in the picture) to see how his November/ December expedition to Ama Dablam (6,812m) went and also to get a few gear related questions answered. Once we managed to connect and discussed the sad news from Italy this morning, he told me that he would actually be in London today to meet a bunch of clients. I gladly headed over to Euston (so exciting!).

Half the team face to face in London

By the time I arrived, Tim was accompanied by 6 hikers. Five of the lot will join us for the 3 weeks base camp trek (sorry folks, names I didn’t keep just yet) and Rory, from Ireland, who will head for Everest summit I believe. Nice bunch of people first glance and some good Q&A from which all benefitted. They seem to be all friends and/or colleagues and most have done Kilimanjaro. Rory seems to have a good amount of mountaineering experience (well, more than me anyway) with Denali, Aconcagua etc (probably loads more) done. In total we will be 12 people of which 4-5 high altitude climbers and some 8 people trekking to base camp – a big feat in itself at almost 5,400m.

High altitude team of four, maybe five

  1. Rory, Ireland, ex city worker (back left in the picture)
  2. Blake, US (?),  he tried 2y ago but didn’t make in 2015 due to the earthquake, was with IMG at the time yet had moved to Tim (better food!), permits from 2014/15 (two disaster years) can be used again (5y & 2y expiry respectively)
  3. Billy, ???, oil service background
  4. Ronny, East Germany, ex city worker
  5. Maybe one more guy (tbc)

Not sure yet if there is anyone in the team who also heads for Lhotse. Most likely, they all will attempt Everest I reckon. I guess I will find out soon enough.

Departure date set

Tim expects us to be in Kathmandu by Sunday 26th March. I will head out the 25th and enjoy an extra day in what I have been told is the craziest city there is (lets see JW ;o). Things are beginning to fall in place.

Bad news elsewhere, sadly

The initial reason to get in touch with Tim was to hear about his November/ December expedition to Ama Dablam (here a few pictures from another expedition). Unfortunately it didn’t go entirely as planned, as a freak accident above camp 3 killed Thundu Sherpa, injured another climber and led to an early end to this expedition. The reason was the tremor of a 5.4 earthquake in the region that dislodged some blocks of ice that hit the sherpa on the head and a client (who got also injured, but survived supported by a helicopter rescue). Reminds one of the risks this environment exposes you to. Thundu was only 43y and leaves two kids behind. Tim has visited Thundu’s family and organised a fundraiser to support his family and 9 other children left exposed following the earthquakes in 2015 the killed their fathers. You can help here.

Rest In Peace Thundu!