Monday, 30 September 2013

A trip to Crawley (an illustrated rant)

A business hotel in which the telephones in the rooms don't work. In Brighton there were no direct-dial phones in the rooms either.  In The Regency Hotel the phone had such a loud buzzing in the line that I could barely hear what I myself was saying.
Oh Britannia, what woes you?
Communication issues?

Actually, I don't care anymore why nothing seems to work around here, so I'm off to the next city to buy a cell phone.  The hotel pamphlet advertises shuttle service to Gatwick, but of course that has been discontinued. And I'm not paying 12 Pounds for a taxi back and forth.  So I walk to the train station.  The ticket machine works and is easy to understand.  They have the same kind of gates as in Ireland at the train station. Make sure you keep your ticket until you leave the destination station otherwise you have to climb the barrier or squeeze through with someone else (No fun, I did that in Ireland). Anyhoo, not to worry, by the time I got back to the departure train station, the gates had ceased functioning and were left open !  In Crawley (you don't want to know where that is; see picture),
Almost having to wade through garbage to cross the tracks in Crawley
I located a telephone store (after a bit of walking I discover 3 right next to each other.  After an explanation of my situation, the staff suggests a pre-paid cheap cell phone.  I leave with a simple Nokia and 15 pounds of talk credit. One minute talking to Canada costs 6 p. And the whole bundle cost me 19.99 Pounds (tax included). Yes, I got the phone for 5 pounds.

Try that in Canada !!!!

Crawley Station

On the way back to the hotel from the train station I stop at Lidl to buy some groceries.  Lidl is one of Britain's favourite food discounters and happens to be a German store chain. Hey, if you have a German royal family, might as well buy German food.
My spirits get dampened back to British normality when I try to buy a train ticket online. You get them cheaper online than at the machine and you don't have to line up.  But ONLY if you have a BRITISH BILLING ADDRESS.  Thank you sooo much Southern Railway!  Canadian Credit Cards not accepted because the billing address does not have a British Postal Code.

Insular thinking?

London Calling (Part II: Day II with a broken camera)

Another day, another train (it used to be bike rides ;-(
After this day I was wondering what background music to use for this post and the best thing I could come up with is this Homeley British Theme. Looking around the town where I am staying, not much has changed ! Careful: CLICK HERE

I’m standing at the train station to take the train into London again, when my camera lens refuses to extend (protrude?). This happened before, and in those cases there was either sand stuck in the lens barrel elements or the battery was too weak.  I just came from my hotel where I completely charged the thing and there was no sand noticeable along the way.  Given I’m on my way into London, the lack of a functioning camera could become quite noticeable very quickly.  I just might have to bite the bullet and get another one.  What bothers me is that this camera is only 3 months old.  On the other hand it wasn’t carried around Europe on a velvet cushion. It got banged in pants & jacket pockets, banged against laptops and other things in backpacks, and got its dose of sand, dust, and tobacco flakes.  And last but not least: Looking back over those last 3 month of blog post, I can say that it has done a formidable job. 

At the train station, the trains to London Victoria Station seem to alternate with those to London Bridge Station.  Like yesterday the luck of the draw (or rather: my particular arrival time) got me onto a train to Victoria Station.  So on today’s agenda is another attempt to see Sir Isaac (given that today is not a worshiping day ;-).

 HOOOO, stop breathing. Someone in my immediate vicinity in this train keep farting silent killers!  Hard to concentrate or even move one's fingers in the face of chemical weapons!

OK.  I recovered.  Hopefully I will find a camera store at Victoria Station.  Because after visiting Sir Isaac, I’m planning to take another boat trip down the river towards the Tower, or even further. Maybe Greenwich? We’ll see. In any event, a camera would be nice ;-)

I'm sitting at Victoria Station after having bought a camera.  No pictures to show yet, because even though I asked Mr Curry's PC World employee, whether the big memory cards would fit into the tiny Canon IXUS and he said "oh, just buy another one. SD will fit!" and I was stupid enough to buy another one.  SD DOES NOT FIT. Fortunately I'm only 5 minutes away from that store to exchange the memory card and then I'll be ready to snap again.  

I'm snapping again.  And I'm getting close to Sir Isaac Newton.

I almost faint when I see this sign.  But hey: I came this far ....

The place is PACKED. The Living and the Dead.  Graves in the walls, graves under one's feet. Me being the considerate type, I had turned the flash on my new camera off before I entered.  Then I see the NO CAMERAS sign.  18 Pounds and no pictures?  F U !!!

A clandestine attempt to get a picture of the ceiling. It went unnoticed. 
In London lies a knight whom a Pope interred
 While the above shot went unnoticed, the following one didn't.  A 40ish short skinny priest in floor length robe says "Would you NOT take pictures in the CHURCH !  You MUST TURN OFF you camera NOW, he says while staring at my pants pocket.  I fish out the diminutive IXUS and say "It's off".  My comment of "I paid 18 POUNDS to get HERE to see just THIS" only gets a "PARDON ME?", to which I reply "Never mind; have a wonderful day". He probably thinks he's SPECIAL because he gets to wear his black dress in WESTMINSTER ABBEY! If I hadn't been wearing sandals, I'd turned on a heel with my chin high.  With sandals I just shuffled to the nearest exit.
 I always though the Germans were the phoniest nation when it came to religion but I was dead wrong.  Nothing beats the British !

When I had entered the cathedral (PACKED with TOURISTS with VOICE-GUIDE devices and pamphlets) a voice similar to that of Emma Thompson came over the church speakers:  The voice of God?
Not quite:  "Please remember that this is a place of Worship"   'The place is PACKED with TOURISTS and you charged them 18 QUID each' I want to shout.  "Please move quietly", Emma continues and then "Let us PRAY"  and EMMA actually starts praying.  If I had found Newton's grave by that time I would have just left right then, but unfortunately I had not and got to enjoy Emma's performance.

I kid you not !
An IMPORTANT HINT to anyone wishing to visit the grave of SIR ISAAC NEWTON:  DO NOT go to the tourist entrance ! GO TO THE WORSHIP ENTRANCE.  ENTRY IS FREE for WORSHIPERS and Newton is RIGHT NEXT to the WORSHIP ENTRANCE.  

The river cruise again provided a bit of rest from the frantic street life and the even more frantic Abbey life.

Now I am going to try to get into St Paul's Cathedral (let's hope it's not 18 pounds again but I'm afraid it'll be close !)  There is a viewing gallery on the roof of the cupola, for which I am willing to suffer through 500 evil little steps of a long stairway. !

During a second stint at Whetherspoon’s (Tower location) I discover that even though the battery charge indicator of the new camera shows a full battery when it is connected via USB to a laptop, it doesn’t actually charge the battery.  So I have a new camera with an almost empty battery.  So no point in trying to climb to the viewing platform of St Paul’s Cathedral today: I won’t have a camera with functioning battery.

 'I heart London' ?  Nope !

I hop back on the train quite disheartened. I don't even feel like coming back into London, with or without working camera.

When I get back to my village I'm told by the bike mechanic that the bike won't be ready tomorrow, but that the missing bolt is being couriered from Portugal (1) and that it might be Wednesday or Thursday.

London Calling (Day I)

CLICK HERE for some musical background to this post.

I was in London for a few hours last week with Andrew, Yiman, and Holmes, but today is my first all-day London trip. To get there I shall join the crowds of people taking the train. Yesterday in Crawley I saw a bunch of fitting gray hats at the local market, but refrained from getting one. I don't think it would go well with my checkered  shorts ;-)
From the train

The RED MAN is referring to the one in the traffic light

London Cathedral

Sir Isaac will have to wait until tomorrow
My first experience was a disappointment.  One of the MUSTs on my itinerary is a visit to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton (Hey what would this astronomer do without gravity?) . When I got to Westminster Abbey, signs and some red-clad phony-looking guys pointed out that the Abbey was closed for tourist purposes but open for Worshiping.  I had an inkling that the guardians wouldn't have understood that this scruffy guy with a backpack and a camera, clad in shorts and a hoodie, was here to worship at the grave of one of history greatest genii. But not to worry: Tomorrow is Monday, and most of those who were worshiping today will be sinning again tomorrow, so I'll come back to visit Sir Isaac tomorrow.
He's in there somewhere !

Houses of P

One of the weirdest sights was a African British (I don't know what the proper word is but I'm guessing he was from the Caribbean Islands) playing a steel drum. I had never seen one of those (the drum) in the flesh but I recognized the sound from a distance.  The weird part was that the music being played was the theme from Dr. Zhivago.

How much ?  Oh ,get stuffed!

What keeps the EYE from weeping

2 minutes later I was at Embankment underground station.  I had planned to eat at the Wetherspoon at Victoria station and decided to take the Underground.  Hey, I mastered the Paris Metro, the Hong Kong MTR and even the Shenzhen MTR on the first try, so how difficult could The Underground be, given the machines speak English?  It wasn't a language barrier that prevented me from taking the UG to Victoria Station though. After I typed in Victoria, the machine dared to display 4.50 pounds on its little window.  Granted, it might have not been a direct connection, but that is more than 6 bucks for a 20 minute walk. So I left and after a minute of reflection decided to take a City River Cruise to the Tower of London for 9.50 pounds ! Definitely worth the money; the robe-tier, passenger-counting, tour guide was amazing !

Lineups !

Princes Dianna Memorial Bridge (The flimsy white thing) (The bridge I mean)


Millennium Bridge

St Paul & M. Bridge

But I saw London Bridge in Lake Havasu City !  They brought it back here ?


The White Tower

The Shard. No temptation to pay 30 Pounds to view down from.

If you don't like crowds: Stay away from the Tower

Which way to go?

German pretending to worship to get in on a Sunday 

View from Millennium Bridge

Replica of Shakespeare's The Globe

Replica of The Golden Hind (sailed around world twice)

My last strength gets me to London Bridge Railway station and back on the train.