The Romance and the Dirty Underbelly

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Thursday, November 25, 2010

London has been really nice. After a late Friday night out for Indian in the charming East London with Olivia and her boyfriend Mike and a busy week exploring the city, we took the weekend easy. Saturday began with left-over curry from the night before, then we went off to see the new Harry Potter at the Odeon in Leicester Square - the same cinema where the premier was held. I could not believe how many people were there. We stood in line for about half an hour before we were let into the building and then another half an hour in the foyer before we could go into the cinema. I’ve never lined up to see a film before, I felt like a crazy fanatic. 

After the film - which was very scary - we went with a group of about fifteen other girls Lucy knows from uni to Chinatown for diner. Lovely girls but totally overwhelming to be with in such a big group. It was rather funny when they started to interrogate us about or trip, all sitting round the table like that asking question after question. Thankfully we have become very practised at spitting out the standard answer. “Yes it was good, I liked it a lot.” All our answers have become rather standardised. 

Sunday we had another relaxing day. In the afternoon we went to watch Lucy play soccer. It was a very entertaining game and a totally freezing afternoon. Lucy’s team started off a little shaky but brought out the big guns in the second half scoring five goals to win five to nothing. I really enjoyed watching the girls play, even on a freezing, freezing afternoon.

 Monday we went to the Tate Britain. A few nice exhibitions but I was generally very disappointed. There was a new exhibition that was just an old military fighter jet all polished down to shiny metal laying on it’s back and another painted like a bird hanging from the roof that looked really cool - if you ignored all the shitty intellectual crap the artist probably made up to try get the grant. There was also some of William Blake’s work there which was really nice to see and another artist I’ve never heard of who did some amazing pictures of fairies and mystical creatures but other then that - generally pretty boring and un-stimulating. I did expect a bit more then what was on offer, being the Tate Britain and all. Felix enjoyed being there and saw many paintings that he had studied for school but never seen other than in photos. That night we went and stayed with Olivia and Mike. 

Tuesday we stayed in most of the day. And every time I do that I feel really bad, I feel like I’m wasting my time here but I need to remind myself I can’t be going, going, going the whole time. Being away from home for so long, I’ve learnt I need to take a few days when I can here and there otherwise I’ll run myself into the ground.

In the evening we headed out to Hyde Park to meet Lucy at Winter Wonderland, a Christmas market/carnival kind of thing. There we heaps of lovely christmas lights in the trees, market stalls selling German sausages, gingerbread hearts, sweets, handmade gifts, toys,clothes, jewellery and all the other kinds of thing you would expect in between. There were many, many carnival rides, games and an ice-skating rink. Even without money to buy into the fun we had a lovely time browsing through the market, watching people screaming their lungs out on rides and falling on their arses on the ice. And all the lights and colours were so pretty.

Wednesday we enjoyed another side of London. The slightly wild East side. As we walked around it was easy to forget what country we were in for the amount of different people and shops from across world. Almost everyone we passed on the street was speaking a language other than English and I’m sure you could find anything you want from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and everywhere in between somewhere in that area. It is really a stark difference to Central London. And the shops are not enough for the people of East London, every day it seems, people set up market stalls on the footpath bursting with sparkling Indian saris and coloured scarves, bright and loudly  printed African cloths and dresses, cheap sweatshop clothing you see at every market, vegetables and fruits so strange they might be from another planet mixed in among the regular vegetables and of course stuffed into little crevices between the buildings are men selling mobile phones and every other kind of little electronic gadgets. And it’s like that everyday. It’s a crazy place.

Around seven o'clock we went with Mike to his favourite pub, down a little alley off the famous colourful and boisterous Brick Lane. Walking down Brick Lane every second shop is an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi restaurant with some guy out the front trying to pull you in while saying “I give you thirty percent off two round of drink” or “The lady drinks free” or “Ten percent off the total bill, special deal for you sir.” We had a pint in the friendly atmosphere of Mike’s “local,” a country town style pub, before walking to where we were meeting Olivia and Lucy for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. I had maybe the best night I’ve had all year. Wonderful cheap food and the best company. We talked and laughed non stop all night, by the time we left the bar where we had an after dinner drink my cheeks we hurting from smiling and laughing so much. I am rather out of practice,  I haven’t smiled that much for so long.

And so now it is all over as we fly above the clouds back to Germany. I’m so glad we went back to London. It is such a fantastic place, so varied and changing, so full to the brim with history and amazing old buildings. Growing up as an English speaking Australian so many things I love from my childhood are of English origin. Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales, classic children's books and novels. After singing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ and ‘London’s Burning’ for so many years it was so fun to finally see London’s bridges - whatever one it was that was falling down. If an old castle in Poland or Slovakia is a place to get swept away imagining a princess locked away in the tower and Kings and Knights riding around on horses, London is a place where not only do you see the castle and feel the romance of Knights and princesses but you can also feel the dirty unground. The rats and starving people rotting away in poverty and the cold, cold streets and the stories of Sweeny Todd and Jack the Ripper. 

It’s such an old place - sure it’s not old like an ancient Greek or Roman city, that is a world too strange and different to connect with - London is a place I can relate to and shows the remains of that history everywhere in plain sight. It was so fantastic when we visited the Museum of London to see artefacts and read the story of London from when it was still just a muddy river estuary with mammoths and giant bears roaming around, to a place of ceremony and scarifies for pagan hunters and gatherers, to people with basic farming skills, to a Roman settlement and finally to what it is today.

 But it’s not just the history of the place that is intriguing and exciting - London is the centre of the modern world - along with New York and Hong Kong. To see the famous sights for real that are always in the media and in films is always fun. Everyone likes to yell “I’ve been there” at the TV when a shot of a place they have been is on screen. 

But there is one thing I hate about London, something that makes me sure I never want to live there. It’s the same feeling I would feel if a close friend of relative had done something terrible or became Neo Nazi or something like that. A really hurt and sad feeling. Because I really like them (my friends and relatives, not Neo Nazis) and I wanted them to be good but they have betrayed me by under it all being so evil. Thats just as an example though, none of my friends or family are evil or Neo Nazi! London, the beautiful city, is betrayed by its crime and the culture around criminals. Everything in London is set up in such a security conscious way, everyone clutches their belongings on the train in tightly zipped and clipped bags, everyone double, triple, super locks their doors and windows even when they are at home, cars go missing every day, people are stabbed for looking at someone the wrong way or for twenty pounds, people think is alright to call someone totally disgusting things for accidentally bumping them on the street, people shove and push on the train and getting into the stations with not a hint of manners or politeness. It’s all a little to rough and harsh for me. 
Apart from that, I absolutely loved London, I keep thinking of things I still want to do there and see. But a few days in Germany now and then it’s back to Austria, a few days there which I’m terrified of and dreading, then back to Germany again, visit my family in Kieselbronn and then home. And my god, I can’t wait for that. 
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laure-marie on

oohhh stay over there!
i ll be in london for work in 2 weeks!it would have been so cool to meet you there!
oh well, its ok, i'll see you back in Australie, beg of January :) can't wait.
take care

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