England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿: Thames cruise on “De lachende Moor”- mayday, mayday …

I have to turn back the clock quite some years to take me back to the time I lived on a house boat right by tower bridge. With hindsight, it was probably my best time in London and I made some wonderful friendships that last until today.

Paul is one of these friends and without a doubt the biggest character of all as my other friends will happily attest. He lived next door on a steel hulled dutch barge called ‘De lachende Moor’. He skippered his steel monster the way from Holland across the channel. No experience? No problem! A true, full-blood english explorer.

Fast forward to today Paul asked me for help to get his boat into dry dock downriver at Chatham. Sure! It turned out that he picked a beautiful evening to start the trip. The sunset was amazing with vivid colours and lovely, open views of the London skyline courtesy of the river.

He came alone from Barking dock and picked me up at the Thames Clipper pier in Woolwich / Royal Arsenal. Without Paul actually stopping i jumped on the boat to the surprise of folks waiting for the official ‘public’ transport. Off we went into the night…

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It was already late and visibility increasingly poor. However, we wanted to make some way in order to make the next days journey quicker. After i while paul left me to steer and disappeared into the boat. It was really dark by now and hard to tell what is river and what is mud as we approached low tide.

I saw lots of seagulls resting in the shallow waters to my right (starboard) and made sure to keep a distance. Still i misjudged the situation for the birds didn’t sit in shallow water, but in the mud itself. By the time i realised that we had already hit a mudbank. Stop.

There was no getting away and so we prepared dinner waiting cor high tide to lift us off. Eventually a boat from the London Port authority joined us and, once the water levels allowed, pulled us off the mudbank and led us to this nights resting place.

Off to Chatham

We left bright and early (partly to avoid paying a mooring overnight fee) and headed down the river. Paul was up even earlier than i was and prepared a fry-up … the smell tingling my nose and forcing me out of bed despite the bitter morning cold.

Soon after we set off we passed under Dartfort crossing. The weather was miserable at best – rainy, cold, foggy … and no wheel house to hide in. Coffee and snacks kept us going as we headed towards the North Sea.

Late morning another incident, as we tried to cut short the path off the Thames and on the River Medway. We got stuck on mud again. Really hard to see that though this time we managed to free ourselves (as the tide was coming in) and continued our journey.

Conditions got rougher now by the minute and waves became a real challenge forcing the boat to move in corkscrew like patterns. One moment the forces was so strong as to catapult Paul’s tender boat and bicycle off the barge and into the river … bye, bye.

We ended up calling the coast guard for support and while we only requested moral support really, they dispatched one of their boats to guide us into the next harbour. We were well relieved, prepared lunch and headed down to Chatham in much calmer waters where we checked the barge into dry dock. Fingers crossed the survey doesn’t turn out too bad!

Anyway, what a fun two days out. Thanks captain Widdecombe! It was a real adventure.

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A wedding, a christening and two reunions

My 9 day break from cycling proved fruitful for catching up with former classmates (20y reunion!), family at my cousin’s wedding along with a new godson, team Nepal over a raclette evening and Alex who represented his school at a cross-country event. I feel like I should get a special discount for any travel from/to Berlin Schönefeld with three flights in a week by now. Back to Serbia to continue my cycle trip…

20y school reunion

20 years ago I finished off my A-levels before heading to the army for my basic military service. Thankfully we have a group of people who keep the anniversaries in mind and organise a get together every 5 years. We had a school tour with a rather hilarious former teacher and i learned that we had prison cells somewhere in the basement… Different ones for different problems (such as STDs!?!). Many things have changed now that the school has been renamed, extended and hosts a Czech focused class and teachers. But there was still plenty of memories berried those old walls of the former Rainer-Fetscher gym.

The dinner and party in Pirna’s city center was nothing short of amazing. Really good to catch up with old friends until the early hours. Gossip central!

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Denise / Mitko wedding & Anton’s baptism

My cousin finally got married to her Mitko after living together what seems forever to me. Crisp church service including the christening of my new godson Anton and then it was party time in the village of Weissig with wonderful views of the surrounding Saxon Switzerland countryside.

The party was good and many made an effort to surprise the newly weds. Good moments to chat with people who i don’t get to see often. Thanks. I had a good time.

Team Nepal in da house

Jon, one of the Everest climbers, just commenced his time off from service on his ship and stopped over in london before heading to africa to climb Kilimanjaro. Good time to catch up and retell Nepal stories. Rory and Zena came along too for what turned out a fantastic evening over a raclette – my preferred choice to socialize over dinner. Looking forward to the next catch up. And good luck to Rory for his Nepal cycle trip.

Not quite Usain Bolt, but good effort nonetheless

Alex already told me over the phone that there will be a cross-country event with 120 kids from different schools. He was excited to have been picked amongst a handful others in his class to represent St saviours.

He was busy thinking how fast he could be. I was busy managing expectations. His run turned into a series of sprints with some walking in between. Pacing is something he will need to improve. In the end it was just place 94 this time. Room to improve for the next run.

London: Home sweet home, school & sightseeing

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).

Outdoor season can begin

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.

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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.

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.