April 12, 2009

Trains and Tubes: Part 1

Trust the BBC to build up my expectations of the English countryside - lush green fields, stone farmhouses piping smoke from the chimneys, and wooden gates hanging haphazardly from crooked fence posts... It's all true you know - they really do look like that, even when you're whizzing past on a high speed train. I thoroughly expected to see the Secret Seven jumping the ditches between paddocks, being chased by a man with a crooked nose just as Enid Blyton would have it.

An accented voice broke through my daydream, announcing stations with names like Haddenham and Princes Risborough. Much to my surprise there is a word that rhymes with porridge, but you'll have to make your way to London from the West Midlands to find out what it is.

The pebble beaches of Brighton were in the past and the architectural pin cushion of the Bullring in Birmingham was getting further and further away. I was headed east for London, where they have the Monopoly on recogniseable street names. For a Fleeting moment I feared being Stranded somewhere I'm unfamiliar with. But Chances were I'd find my hostel with the Tube map I Euston the journey in.

Anarchy on the train

Easily the most hectic city I've been in, London didn't let me down with shiny gold -rimmed clocks, enormous ferris wheels and pompous ceremonies just to hand over a set of keys. My room above The Steam Engine pub was cramped, as was the Underground and every store I went in. I allowed an Indian woman to tidy my eyebrows with only a reel of cotton and (not suprisingly) found someone from Adelaide working in a pub that knew someone else I knew.

I missed the last tube on Friday night and stayed with a friend who'd just moved into a new place, only recently converted to residential status after housing a brothel. The video intercom gave us no end of entertainment at 2am as gentlemen came calling and were quickly turned away with threats to call the police.

I learnt the ins and outs of the stations, the 'stick to the right' rule on the escalators, and the need to predetermine your fare when using a non-legitimate taxi service. So with a little of the lower UK now under my belt, I took off for the highlands, the castles and the kilts.
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