London

8 weeks to go

Hello again. My apologies for the lack of writing the last month. The hiatus was due to a hectic period of school work and very important social engagements. But now my crappy time of school has past (for a few weeks) and I can begin to use my limited brain resources to more pleasurable endeavors like writing this blog on a Sunday night. I’m not sure if I my brain is getting worse at balancing a lot of different things or if I am just demanding more of it than ever. I do keep mentally picturing that I’m turning the proverbial screw just a bit tighter every time I decide to take on a new activity or responsibility. That’s likely not a good sign. Why do I think this is a good idea when I’m mentally unstable as it is? Yet, somehow it keeps me in better spirits than when I’m left with nothing to do. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop for me I reckon.

This past month has been fun and gone by very quickly. I’ve had an assignment due every week for 5 weeks straight. Not that they’ve all been arduous, but just knowing you have an essay  due every week is annoying and grating. Reminds me of my MSc 2nd semester which just about drove me to the nut house. Every word I wrote was torture. Luckily I’ve been leaving my essays so late that my only mental option is to have laser like focus on the topic and I just sit down and write it. It’s pretty amazing really. But besides the homework I have been playing some tennis (including today), drinking copious amounts of alcohol sporadically and dressing up as Peter Pan.

Drinking around the Olympic Park. Possibly with a stolen pint glass from a pub, which I left at another pub.

Drinking around the Olympic Park. Possibly with a stolen pint glass from a pub, which I left at another pub.

Canal life on the pub crawl.

Canal life on the pub crawl.

Actually Halloween was just a perfect day. It was really warm for October 31st. I got to cycle into work in shorts and a T-shirt. I really enjoyed my work that day and got to lunch in a new part of Hampstead Heath that I had never been to before and it was spectacular. It is over in the West Heath area and called the Hampstead Pergola. You come to see me, I will take you there for a wander.

Hampstead Pergola

Hampstead Pergola

Pergola. Such a great day and a great place to lunch!

Pergola. Such a great day and a great place to lunch!

I was Peter Pan for Halloween this year and I spent every week night two weeks ago with needle and thread creating my costume. It ended up coming out quite well considering I didn’t finish making the skirt (My belt held up the bit of fabric which was my skirt.) I’m particularly proud of my shoes covers which took about 4-5 hours to make.  So yeah, after a good day at work I got to dress up like Peter Pan and drink Pumpkin beer. What else could you want out of a Friday? One for the books.

So I realized today that 8 weeks from right now I will be on a plane to Lusaka, Zambia! Just nearly about to land as well. Still, we have no itinerary for what we’ll be doing nor where for sure we’ll be staying. What could possibly go wrong with showing up in Africa with no itinerary for 3 weeks? Nothing. Nope, i can’t see anything going wrong. But seriously folks, we’ll get some stuff booked in the next couple weeks, but not much. Part of the fun will be seeing what happens when we open ourselves up to the travel God’s whims. From my experience, those are the best experiences I’ve ever had. Some unpredictability in my mostly predictable life will be absolutely excellent. The bad and the good. I can not wait. I think we will be reasonably well prepared in case we are stuck somewhere (I’m bringing a tent) so I think we will be fine. It’s gonna be an absolute laugh as well because my friend Carrie-Ann and I are super obnoxious about pretty much everything. I’m not sure how we haven’t been separated at work yet, but I think it’s because everyone is secretly entertained. At least that’s what we like to think.

Any ways, please enjoy the rest of the photos. And keep in touch friends and family. Let me know what’s happening in your life.  Peace.

Planes and Elms. Mostly Planes though.

Planes and Elms. Mostly Planes though.

Limes

Limes

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10 years later

10 years ago tonight, I got on an airplane headed to London for a semester abroad. I didn’t realize back then how much those 4 months would come to shape my next 10 years, but I’m glad it did. Tonight I got to walk along the Thames and take it all in. Tomorrow I’m going on a special expedition to commemorate the anniversary. You W8 5PNers out there are certain to like it!

The city

The city

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2013: A year in Review

Back in January 2013, I wrongfully assumed that my London adventure would be coming to a close in January 2014. Instead, everything has pretty much remained the same from then. Well, there were a lot of ups and downs between now and then but I’m still living at the same place, with the same job and with still the same cat keeping me entertained in the evenings.

lazy cat

lazy cat

I thought I’d done one of these re-caps the last few years, but I can’t seem to find one from last year. My memory is certainly suffering these days. The numerous pints of beer must be catching up with me. Any ways, let’s get this going as I’d like to go bed sometime tonight.

Best Trip: Scotland It was only 5 days at Fyne Fest, Inveraray and the Isle of Mull, but it is the trip I’m still talking and thinking about 7 months on. I hadn’t taken a holiday in the 9 months before then and I was feeling  like shit. But the week I went to Scotland was the week I finally went permanent at my job. The stress and strain of life drained out of me that weekend. The trip ushered in an excellent 2nd half of the year and now flows into 2014. I won’t go on too long as you’ve heard enough. The weather was pretty good. Even warm. And best of all: no midges. Looking forward to the 2014 edition of Scotland.

getting blown off the top of  Dun na Cuaiche above Inveraray

getting blown off the top of Dun na Cuaiche above Inveraray

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Honorable mention best trip: America I can’t choose between my two trips to America. They were both good in different ways. I only really went to Scotland and America for an extended time this past year, so these win by default. It was good for my soul to spend some quality time with my family and some of my bestest friends in the world. Made me feel grounded again.

a pile of family

a pile of family

Best new food: Brussels Sprouts There’s a bumper crop of sprouts in the UK this year. Maybe that’s why I first noticed them. A few months ago I bought my first bag of them to try out. I loved them. Now I buy them nearly every week. I never imagined being a brussels sprouts person, but here I am, a devotee. And they are only a £1 a bag at the co-op. Bargain!

Honorable mention best new food: Grünkohl For those of you who don’t speak German, that’s kale. I got Grünkohl at one of the Christmas markets. It had to be over a pound of cooked down kale with various seasonings  in a wooden bowl and a few brats and potatoes thrown in the mix. I think it costs €6, but a €6 I’d happily spend again. In fact I’ll be sure to get it again next year when I go back to Köln for the Christmas markets again. (Yes, I’m holidaying in the same places again this year. They are excellent, how could I not?) But I’ve thrown kale into a few of my dishes for the first time this year and it’s nice.

Best song: Chris Malinchak – So Good to Me A tough race in 2013. I spent a lot of hours listening to BBC Radio 1 while working, so I was exposed to more new music than I had been over the last few years. So many new bands and singers are now on my iTunes. I love it. But this song, which I heard first in February last year, got me through some cold working days. It was such a summer tune and made me happy. It still does. 

Honorable mention best song: Laura Mvula – She The first time in a long time I’ve heard a voice and instantly fell in love. Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon album is ASTOUNDING. I’ve mentioned it here before. Have a listen.

Best bike ride: To and from work. 193 times 4091.6 miles of commuting by bike in 2013. Yes, I counted. And I’m counting again this year. None of those trips were in vain. Not once the whole year did I say in the morning “I don’t feel like cycling today. I’ll take the train to work.” It wasn’t always pleasant. Sometimes I faced 50mph wind and cold rain in my face. Sometimes people would do idiot things on the road and sendBut I would rather be out in the elements or deal with asshole motorists/cyclists/pedestrians than face the battle of the train any day. All that cycling got me in very good physical condition too. I lost 3″ around my *waist (thanks sIRK). Dropped a couple pant sizes. And not one incident to report. Safe cycling all year. Long may it continue into the future. And heck, it’s only when I cycle to work that I get to see stuff like this:

Fog monster eating the Houses of Parliament

Fog monster eating the Houses of Parliament

Honorable mention best bike ride: Spin up in a brewery Brighton to Dark Star Brewery. My co-worker Rob and I did a ride from Brighton to the Dark Star Brewery last May. 20 miles over the South Downs. Luckily for me and my 45 lb Pashley, only about 5 of it was uphill. The rest was on flat ground or racing down hill. It was a beautiful weather day as well. I drank good beer all day and ate some amazing bbq’d food as well. It was a win of a day. And if my Roland Garros watching doesn’t interfere, I’ll be doing it again this year. Below is a few seconds of the uphill bit of the journey. I will figure out a better way to record on my bike this year!

Best pub: the random one I went into on Buttermarkt in Köln I had a few mulled wines by this point. I wasn’t much paying attention to the name of the pub we went to. But I had a few Kölsch in there and they were good. It was great as it was a real German experience. I think I was the only non-German in the place. I immediately took to drinking Kölsch and  I like how it is served. The small glasses keep the beer fresh and cold. And it’s easy to lose track of how many one has had. I highly recommend going to Köln and losing track of your beers in the evening.

Honorable mention best pub: Queen’s Head in King’s Cross. The Queen’s Head is our failsafe pub for a good night of drinking after work. It’s always packed, but the beer is very dependable, if sometimes way over priced. It’s a great traditional type of pub if you’re looking for a place to go in Central London. Filled with locals and workers in the area. I had drinks there a few times in 2013. Always happy to settle down there for a session. It’ll be one of those places I miss if/when I go back stateside for sure.

Best meal: Kedgeree and a pint of Oldham Citra at Fyne Fest. Please let this be around at Fyne Fest 2014.

I could eat and drink this every day.

I could eat and drink this every day.

Honorable mention best meal: Lobster roll and a pint of Newport Storm IPA Hell yes! It’s good eating local, especially in New England with all their fine seafood.

Lobstery. And I don't really care for lobster that much.

Lobstery. And I don’t really care for lobster that much.

Best tree happening: removing the path from around this Holm Oak I don’t often get to make a situation better for a tree. But for this old, bad ass Holm Oak, I got to make things slightly easier. It probably won’t seem like a big deal to most of you, but I got the path removed from under one half of this tree in the hope of prolonging its life. Not that it’s even close to falling over, but I hope the remedial efforts we’ve done will make it stand for an extra generation of people visiting this park. I’m glad I suggested it and it became a reality. There is hope for trees in London after all!

The before

The before

The after.

The after.

Alright everyone. I think I’ll stop boring you and end this post. Best thing as I am planning another post tomorrow. 2013: pretty good. 2014: gonna be a whole lot of awesome. And there better be many more visitors this year people! Get over to London already. Looking forward to recapping 2014 in January 2015, likely sitting in the same place but ok with it. Happy 2014 everyone.

Categories: London, News, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

A walk in the city

I walked to work on Monday. I know, I’m as shocked as you that I actually did it.

Here’s my route:

Google says 3 hours and 9 minutes to complete. I say 2 hours and 40 minutes.

I was planning to set off at 6, but as it was I woke up at 4:15. Very very awake. So I took at as I sign that I should get out of bed. And I did. As usual I listened to a bit of the old iTunes while getting ready. It’s always on random but it was as if iTunes knew what I was about to do. First song up: Jesus Walks by Kanye West. I thought that was cool. 2nd song was Rambling through the Avenues of Time by Flight of the Conchords. I was ready to go. It was 5:40.

And dang, I haven’t been out that early and in the dark for a while. It was really quiet. Yes, very quiet the whole 4 minutes until I hit the high street.

Early, still dark.

Early, still dark.

The roads were fairly quiet. My high road is one of the main roads, if not THE main road to London from the south (sussex and Brighton), so to see it quiet is not normal. North I headed and hit the next train station Streatham at 6:01. This is a walk I do pretty regularly as my local is very close to the station. Did I say walk? More of a crawl from here to my house. The next station Streatham Hill I hit at 6:17. At this point I way trying to decide whether Streatham is worse in the dark as it’s all deserted or if it’s worse in the day when you can see how crap it is. I just mean the high street. It needs some help. Probably some more nice big trees would help it stop looking so unfriendly.

Streatham!

Streatham!

Oh and at 6:05 I started sweating. I thought it was going to be much colder out, so I was well bundled. It was at this point I had to undo my scarf and open my jacket.

It took a while to get to Brixton from here, crossing over the South Circular and heading down Brixton Hill. I was trying to remember if I ever walked to Brixton before. The answer is no. I’ve cycled quite a few times, but never walk. It is about 3 miles away so not without reason. In fact, I normally take the bus there. It was here in Brixton where I had to look at a map to remember which way to go. Luckily I didn’t need to pack a map as there are helpful map signs across London.

Now, which way do I go again?

Now, which way do I go again?

It was the only place I needed a map along the journey. I knew where I was going, but I was not sure which road I needed to turn down to get me there the quickest. Very helpful these signs are. My arrival in Brixton was at 6:48. I thought I may be making pretty good time, but it was hard to judge. Brixton was also the first place along my journey where the London underground came.

From here it was a short 13 minute walk to Stockwell. By this time the sun began to light up the sky a bit. I checked sunrise before I left the house and le Google said it was at 7:35 or so. It was nice to see the sun’s rays beginning to show.

The sun begins to light a Monday morning.

The sun begins to light a Monday morning in Stockwell.

I was trying to make it to the river by sunrise as I thought that might be nice. As I only had a half hour I thought I better kick it into gear. My next stop was Vauxhall at 7:18. Vauxhall is always busy as it’s a tube station, a train station and a major bus hub. And it’s right next to the river. It took another 6 minutes to maneuver all the crossing, all the while dodging bikes, scooters and cars which seemed to all be doing illegal movements on the highway. Luckily I made it unscathed.

Hey kids there's the London Eye!

Hey kids there’s the London Eye!

Arriving at the river, just to the East of Vauxhall allowed me the lovely view of the Houses of Parliament. On a side note, it was Vauxhall where 2 of my co-workers and myself met this summer on the “Walk to Work Day.” I remember meeting there at 7:30 and arriving just after 9, so I knew I was making alright time to get to work on time. This time I was also going a more direct route.

The tide is high as the morning arrives in London

The tide is high as the morning arrives in London

From here I was really enjoying the walk. If you have to walk to work, the South Bank of the Thames in Central London is not a bad place to be. And by this time, 7:24, the city was well awake. Lots of cyclists, people running, shops opening and many others scurrying around trying to get where they needed to be. 

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

It was somewhere around the London Eye when my feet started hurting. I was 2 hours into my walk and I had shoes which were well worn and not the best choice in foot ware for walking this far. My main concern was blisters. I didn’t want to get blisters right before going on a holiday where I’d be walking extensively. Luckily I stayed blister free. So 2 hours in I got to the London Eye.

Eye

Eye

It’s a nice area to walk through when it’s not jammed with tourists. The street cleaner was rocking through cleaning everything up before the throngs of foreigners arrive. I thought I’d be a tourist and take a picture of myself at the eye. I look old and ridiculous. That’s what happens when you get up at 4:15 I suppose.

And retouched on iPhoto as the photo was very dark!

Retouched on iPhoto for your enjoyment as the photo was very dark.

The sun was well on it’s way up as I headed East along the river towards Waterloo Bridge. And walking along this stretch of the river is one of my favorite things about this city. Waterloo Bridge is also the bridge I cycle over everyday. So from there I was roughly tracing my normal commute. Really I couldn’t have planned it better because the sun finally made it’s way over the buildings when I was nearly over Waterloo Bridge.

Nearly up!

Nearly up!

First glimmer.

First glimmer of the ball of fire.

One thing walking does is make you soak in all that’s around you. It was a great sunrise. But had it been any other day I would have seen a couple seconds of it on my commute in and thought “yeah that’s nice,” and gone back to focusing on not being run over. But having walked I had time to appreciate the view. And I’ll always remember this as the day I walked to work. It will stand out in my memory.

I arrived on the north side of the river at 7:52, which is about 15-20 minutes earlier than I normally am at this point. I headed up Aldwych and Kingsway. At 7:59 I arrived in the LBC.

That bit of brick across the road separates the boroughs of Camden and Westminster.

That bit of brick across the road separates the boroughs of Camden and Westminster.

I headed up Kingsway and into Holborn and Bloomsbury. I kind of forgot to mark down times of arrival as most of my brain thought I was already where I needed to be. Fail.

The sun's rays reach the Brunswick Plane.

The sun’s rays reach the Brunswick Plane.

And finally at 7:20, well ahead of schedule I arrived at St. Pancras. I was so chuffed that the weather was so nice for the walk into work. A bit chilly, but not much. By the time I got north of the river my gloves were off, my scarf was off and all my jackets were unzipped. I was sweating.

You have arrived at your destination.

You have arrived at your destination.

In total it took 2 hours and 4 minutes. That’s nearly a half hour ahead of schedule. Not too shabby. I was a bit sleepy and hungry when I got into work, but overall I felt great. I was very relaxed. Much more relaxed than when I arrive by bike. An hour or two later though I started stiffening up. My cycle ride home was fine, but today I was very sore and felt tight in my gluts all day. Who knew walking was such a good work out!?

The walk was great and I hope to do it again sometime soon as well as the reverse walk. Some company would be good as well. I think the biggest thing I got out of the walk was to keep things weird. Do something out of your normal routine sometimes. Make a memory or an event. You never know what you’ll glean from the experience. Me: I got sore butt muscles and strange looks from people at work when I told them what I did. Plus I got to see London wake up, which was something I’ll never forget. The walk also set me on the right mental path for the week. I have felt great so far and I think that will last into the weekend when I go away.

Any ways, my bed is calling. I hope you all give walking to work a shot sometime. Let me know how it is. Take care everyone and have a nice Thanksgiving (for you Americans out there).

Categories: London, London Walks, Walking | Leave a comment

Refocusing

Seems to happen this time of year, every year. I get the itch to go back to school. To learn something new. This year is certainly no different.  I’ve just spent the morning looking at online classes. I’m not sure why I’m bothering as I have no money, but they are worth a look for future reference. I think I’d like to do more environmentally stuff next like soil science. It would help me in my current job as it’s a bit of an enigma to me. I haven’t spent nearly enough time learning about it.

Any ways, as part of this re-focus is the giving up of alcohol. Believe it. As it’s happening for both financial and health reasons, it’s my main focus for the next 45 days (or as long as I can make it (I’ve already made it a day and a half!)). I went out with a bang on Thursday at the Great British Beer Festival. I had such a good time this year. If you can go, you should go! How can you pass up drinking mostly beer you’ve never had, eating spicy pork scratchings and wearing a funny hat? Life hardly gets better.

Beer and TWO bags of pork scratchings. Greedy, I know.

Beer and TWO bags of pork scratchings. Greedy, I know.

I never went to the GBBF when it was at Earl’s Court (an exhibition hall not to far away from this place). But I think Kensington Olympia is the place to have it. I heard some bad stories about Earl’s Court being a hot, stuffy, inhospitable place. Kensington Olympia is a beautiful Victorian exhibition hall. A really amazing space to be in.

Olympia

Olympia

I liked that this year they opened up an additional hall on the main floor. Last year, some of the drinks were upstairs. Actually, there could have been drinks upstairs, but I didn’t go up there this year. It seemed much nicer and with better seating this time around.

I had an ecclectic selection of drinks at the Festival. About 5 or 6 pints in total. The worst was Wild Hops by Harvey’s. Surprising as I usually really enjoy Harvey’s. My sentimental favorite was Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA. I love Deschutes. I’m not sure the cask traveled that well from Oregon, but it was still excellent to have it. Maybe the Hobson’s Best Bitter was the best? Maybe it’s because it was the last thing I had and taste didn’t matter as much at that point.

So that was that. Now 45 more days of sobriety. I’ll be focusing on reading, writing and exercising. There’s so many books I want to read and I haven’t buckled down to do it. I blame the daily cycling.

I’m off now. Time to (possibly) go to the farmer’s market. I was going to volunteer today measuring trees, but there’s some horrible weather coming into town. Not sure it’s worth the physical effort to go all the way into town. Instead, I’ll read and enjoy the excellence that is Radio 6 on the weekends. Oh and I hear there may be some football on this afternoon. Yes! Have a great weekend folks.

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