chapter 3 London Calling

Yes, I went to England. It all started with a random idea. Several month ago a friend mentioned he had an aunt living in the Lake District he had not seen in a while and I thought about going somewhere to improve my english.. we came up with the thought that maybe we could meet there? But both of us thought by the time we would have time to travel we most surely would have different plans and that it´s just crazy to plan half a year in advance. But somehow it worked out. In spite of never having wanted to go north, my inner traveling-spirits always called me south (- or north when in south america, but always towards the equator). But then, why not go and see with my own eyes this region that I associate most of all with english classes at school, the big Empire, Monty Python, Mr. Beans, eternal rain and (increasingly) immigration unfriendly politics? After all traveling is about trying to reduce you prejudices (or find them confirmed), so I try to make an effort and not link nationality to certain characteristics of behavior. Nor mention the Falkland Islands conflict. (Although it´s a quite interesting and at the same time often shocking pastime just asking everyone around for their opinion on politics). As always I couldn´t decide on which books to take with me, something english to give it away when I finished it, something small, light to carry..  At last I picked a book by Jack London, not british, but north-american, but the name made the decision. “The kiss of the spider woman” by Manuel Puig and “On the black hill” by Bruce Chatwin. And as always the night before leaving I got really nervous, didn´t sleep much. Went to see a friend until very late at night, he gave me a drawing-block as a present to collect impressions on the way. 🙂 Ok, so I left the next morning with my backpack called “Cacique”, an umbrella and the sketching block to hitchhike to London, but then only stayed about 30 minutes in the city. To be honest I did only half the way thumbing, to cross the channel and reach London I took a coach, (incredibly cheap offer and) my “bed” for a night. I hitchhiked to Köln, from where the coach left. It was nice weather, little waiting time and I arrived 4 hours before my bus left. I never have been in Köln before, it´s the city of german television companies and weird carnival-traditions. I walked around a bit and then sat on the “rambla”, the wall by the river, watching the boats pass and the sun go down behind the big cathedral. I was very surprised to see some wild rabbits in a small park, but the next days I learned this in England is very common thing to see. I was tired, it was hot, I decided to go to the bus terminal to sit down, sleep and maybe find something to eat. When I found the street it turned out that there was no such thing as a bus terminal. Just a random street with a simple paper attached to a fence.

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I soon came to the insight that I should have done all the way hitchhiking, as I did not only spend 4 hours in Köln waiting for the bus, but then couldn´t sleep because of the crowded bus and annoying bus driver John telling stupid stories and going crazy because the passenger list he had sent to the border police didn´t coincide with the people he counted, after an hour or so we started anyway. Half of the way, 2 o´clock in the morning the drivers changed and they kept discussing the problem and counting us 5 times. I started to get a little afraid of english border authorities. So, no sleep till London. At last they found the problem, and at 4 in the morning we made it to Calais. “All passengers please get off and have your passports ready”. What?? Am I leaving the EU? I didn´t know they were like this here.. I went to the driver telling him I had the passport somewhere in my backpack, somewhere in the boot. He opened it, “good luck”, I was the only passenger who hadn´t thought of it,  but I found it quickly, luckyly. Passport controls took a long time, because the officers questioned a poor exchange student from southern europe, intimidating him, because of his bad english, I didn´t understand why they made such a fuss about him…

Later I saw the white cliffs of Dover blink, fell asleep, woke up at 7 in the morning seeing the mist light and a shy sun rise, then we rolled into London. My first impression was quite positive, not as I imagined, (had only negative images in my head, modern shopping malls and anonymous crowds wearing suits, working in banks, walking with their black umbrellas..) instead I saw sweet little brick stone houses, a lot of them old and empty, some with trees growing on their roofs, nice (don´t ask me wich part of the city it was). Don´t know, they looked interesting,  made me curious about the country I never had any interest in. In Victoria Station my friend picked me up, bought me a coffee and waited for the caffeine to take effect on my exhausted body. We jumped on a train to Egham, Surrey, close to heathrow across the Thames. There we followed the instructions to find the eco-village in Runnymede County we had read about on the internet and contacted and whose residents invited us to come and stay as long as we wanted.

Then the obvious happened, a lorry almost killed us, because we looked at the left, instead of right while crossing the street. Uff! Concentration! We rescued each other from getting run over countless times the following days. It was sunny and on our way through the national trust we took a nap in the field. Vacations ahead of us, we stretched out in the grass, smiling, counting wild rabbits and squirrels. Later we went to the eco-village (forest squat). When we entered the forest we were amazed, it looked really enchanted, violet-blue flowers everywhere we looked contrasting with the greens of the moss and the fern. We tried not to step on them, but it was impossible. We found some self built houses out of wood and clay, but didn´t see anyone. Did not enter or call loudly, because we didn´t want to disturb people in their houses, that looked so peaceful, so we just sat down we were, waiting and thinking about taking a nap. Soon someone came, a woman with a baby, and welcomed us, we drank tea, (the english way with milk) and she explained us the place.

Obviously the energy of this place could never be captured in photos, but to give an idea, I took these two:

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“It will rain” – she looked at the sky, “better you go now find a place and pitch your tent. And don´t step on the bluebells!”

She was right, as soon as the tent stood it started to rain and we were happily falling asleep listening to the drops drippling on our tent.

– To be continued –

 

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