Monday, 9 February 2009

BioBlog travel log - 12/01/09

BioBlog travel log - 12/01/09

This place isn't quite real. I met up with an old friend from my course last night and we took in a few of the sights. Seriously, this place is like walking into a postcard, it's wall to wall landmarks and it's all so ridiculously gorgeous. It's lit up like a Christmas tree at night, skyscrapers line the horizon during the day and everywhere I look reminds me constantly that this is maybe the pinnacle of British achievement. This insane hive of activity, never resting, never stopping.
If I were a more energetic kind of person, I think I could deal with living here. I'd be leaving for too much behind, though, and I really don't think I could deal with living here without at least a few friends. It's funny, the more people you put in a place, the more you get a curious sense of isolation from it all. Still, people here that I've spoken to seem largely friendly (alright, they're being paid to help direct people and provide hotel services, but even so), so I can't complain there.
Last night was a hoot. Piccadilly circus, King's Cross, Whitehall, Nelson's column, Downing Street, the eye and the Thames. And probably some others that I can't recall just now, but it WAS 11 in the evening in my defence. Never thought I'd catch myself wandering the streets of London at midnight. The tube is an experience I'd recommend to most, unless you get nervous in crowds.
It's a funny city. You go to Leeds and the inner city looks like a city, the outlying areas look like large towns. You come here and there's the big industrial areas, the entertainment areas where all the fancy film premiers go on and the residential looking places that look... well, like smaller cities. This place doesn't do ANYTHING by halves. It's like it's been split (albeit seamlessly) into dozens of different areas. Hopping off the tube at any given station will take you to what looks like a completely different city. It's quite confusing, but there's still a reasonable sense of consistency and it's really quite exciting along with it.
This room has a bath. I shall certainly be indulging in that, s'been over two years. Two bloody years. That's criminal, that is. Quite a nice little room, really, reminds me a little bit of campus living, but a much larger room. I don't know why it's a twin, though. My original idea of "the person in the company who booked the rooms is flirting with me" seems to have failed, but that's just fine.
I mean, I think it was a dude, anyway.

10:00 pm
This city thought it had defeated me. Today was a day for exploration and poor decisions.
See, the plan was to finish the course for the day then hit up the Thames and ride the eye. It seemed like a good plan, especially as they also run a cruise service from the same location. It has to be mentioned at this point that I enjoy travelling on boats more than... really, more than almost anything. So down to the eye, which involves me finally experiencing the horror of the tube in full force. I thought I'd seen it on Sunday, people milling about all over like sheeps, bustling, moving far too quickly in big metal bullets. But no. No, today I experienced something which I've only ever seen in video footage from Japan. Cars literally filled to capacity with people, with yet more people trying to get on. Etiquette gets thrown out the window as people pile their way on without any kind of regard for me being stood right in front of the goddamned door.
This place also seems to have sapped my powers. What little charisma I had seems useless here. I suppose it was my own fault for trying to do something as misguided as starting an idle conversation in the middle of a 10 minute queue where nobody could have conceivably had anything else to do but stare at the walls. I'm used to folk not noticing I'm there, it's entertaining sometimes, but to be completely blanked like that was, honestly, pretty draining.
To Waterloo station, which was at least large and quite interesting to wander around. At least the people running the information desks around here are genuinely wonderful, I'd probably still be at Picadilly now if it weren't for them. Shiny new map in hand, I set off to the eye.
The eye is not running. Not for this week. Neither is the cruise ferry, just the commuter ferry. At the very least, I got to take some pictures of the Thames, which is rather nice, but couldn't quite work out the camera. It was largely a collection of blur and darkness with some coherence, apart from the one shot I took of myself which clearly shows my acne. Which has now magically vanished within 3 hours. I check the timetable for the next boat, only to realise that my phone is out of power and that I've not worn a watch in over 2 months. Then I notice Big Ben after 20 minutes, which makes me feel like an idiot. Actually, that's sort of funny now.
But no, I'll fight this thing, I think. I'm near the playhouse or something like that, this might be a classier end of town. Let's try that. Passing a couple of places that seemed vaguely famous (some Chinese place particularly. Mama... something. Mamagawa?) I was sort of impressed and watching the joggers was fun. Maybe you have to get good at running in this city. It CERTAINLY couldn't hurt. Then came a huge display of grafitti. Now I'm naive, I'll be the first to admit, so I figured that it was some urban art thing. I quite like that stuff. The gang of hoodies that emerged from the darkness suggested otherwise.
Time for a very hasty retreat, because I can hear some meaningful rumblings from their direction, despite my headphones and I'm suddenly very, very alone. With a camera.

It's at this point that there was a bit of a Douglas Adamas moment. He described how he wrote the hitchhiker's guide when he wrote my omnibus edition, about how he was hitching through Europe and an impossible sequence of events nearly drove him mad. I was starting to really understand, being stuck 200 miles in hostile territory, far from my bed and fridge, friends and family...
Back to the hotel, anyway. Forget dinner, I'll sort that after... oh, right. There's a bath here.
I don't know what to say, now. I can heartily recommend taking nothing but showers for 2 years, if only for the experience of getting back into the cauldron of searing heat, because every part of my body seems to think I've just been taking ecstasy like bags of skittles. Hot DAMN.

Hotel food's good. Standard English breakfast, but a "make your own muesli" option, too, which I find quite amusing when there's pig bits on offer. Still haven't tried the fancy restaurant, but I think I'll go make a tit of myself tomorrow and order something really common like a true Yorkshireman. And cider as well.
And so, with a cup of sweet tea, little to no feeling in my limbs and the thoughts of a big ol' breakfast tomorrow, things aren't so very bad. This place isn't too bad, now that I've been here a while, but it's just so busy. Nobody's ever allowed to stop for anything, you charge from one end of town to get to work, then charge the other way for your leisure and finally dash home for bed.
It must be just cities. Everywhere else I've been in the south has been really quite nice, decent people, a lot of entertaining things but nothing being shoved in your face on billboard ads, pretty much like Yorkshire with funny accents and better scenery. This city's so impersonal.
Quite looking forward to the return trip, really. Get a good night's sleep, maybe some comfort food, say some hellos and then more sleep. Yeah.

Incidentally, I'm reading the list of services the hotel offers and trying to convince myself that yes, a massage would be amazing right now, but I'd rather have the £30. There's something here about some makeover you can have if you're pregnant that's supposed to make you beautiful for your big day or something.
2 things occur, here.
1. I thought that women were generally supposed to get more attractive to some extent when they were pregnant. Some genetic thing to do with the body trying to keep the male interested in hanging around. Anyway, people always seem to say things about pregnant women glowing, which suggests either a boost in outward appearance or health. Either that, or babies probably register on Geiger counters.
2. Right, I don't care who you are, when your "big day" comes, you're going to be laid on a table in stirrups with complete strangers staring at your crotch. There will be crying, bleeding, screaming, cursing, projectile pooing. You will not, in any way, shape or form be winning any beauty contests.

The way I see it, you might as well just slum around in jogsuits and tshirts until the baby's due. Then at least you won't stretch out any fancy clothes. But then, I might have a vague idea about this "new man" concept, but I've barely evolved further than thinking that a shower and a shave are impressive displays of preparation for an evening out.

1 comment:

Hanna said...

Funny accents?
Yorkshire has a far funnier accent than the south... although, the London accent is faster and sharper than at home, I'll admit