Another day, another train & a chance to catch up on the last week's happenings since arriving in London. Have just come in to Waterloo to catch a train down to Southampton – the National Rail trains sure are a lot more pleasant than the tube, & so they should be. I am going down to the Isle of Wight to catch up with Ben & Gina (former Pukekohe flatmates) before they head off back to NZ (after two years, I think, here) via South America. I think we be heading to Cornwall to check out the Eden Project.
A nice relaxing day at Andrew & Shelley's on Friday, where we traded a few media files (so now I have old Seinfeld to watch when desired), I put my bike together (hopefully the last time for a while), discovered my first bike-in-plane damage (cracked helmet, grrrr), went to Sainsbury's, repacked all my stuff & prepared for the cross-London trek on Saturday. My destination on Saturday was Mum's cousin's, Trish, house in Sidcup – down towards Kent. The Patricks kindly let me store the stuff I didn't need immediately in the attic & I was off to London Bridge on the tube with my bike & rather full Macpac. One small hitch was I couldn't take my bike down the escalator on to the Northern line, so had to bike a couple of stations (Moorgate to London Bridge). It took a little getting used to carrying a full pack on a softtail in traffic (they drive on the left hand side here, time to get reused to that), but it was easy to find my way & I really felt like I was in London (except the weather was nice) with the skinny streets, black cabs, double-decker buses, old stone buildings & so on. Even got to ride across London Bridge before getting to the station, hopping on a train, biking the mile or so to Trish's house & arriving at about the time I had guessed.
Great to catch up with family (Mum & I had visited last year) & later in the afternoon Trish's sister Jan called in after visiting their mother (my great-aunt, I think – I will have to get up to speed on genealogical titles with all the distant relatives in this country) close by. After a catch up, I was pleased to have a willing audience for the best of my photos from the States. Much of the rest of the weekend was spent unpacking & sorting & a few small walks. Managed to get a 500GB hard drive to back up my laptop & Sunday afternoon Trish took me to check out the nearby Biggin Hill – a famous Battle of Britain airfield – nice to see a NZ flag & some names of those Kiwis who had served there.
Monday I was itching to get on the bike – even if it was on tarmac & not singletrack. I rode northeast (got a new sim card for my rather aged, but still working, NZ Nokia) until I was about to ride in to the Thames & then I followed the cycle & footpath all the way to Greenwich. Most of the way it was light industrial stuff & pretty grotty as one would expect. There was a big civil & marine project going on – a power plant that will incinerate solid waste barged down from the city. Next door was a huge waste water treatment plant (that accordingly stunk – it was just like being on that Environmental Engineering field trip all over again, except I didn't eat as much) & another power plant where they burn the left over solid waste. Cycled past the Millenium Dome/O2 arena that looked pretty disgusting really, the grounds had really been let go – but I suppose people don't go there to look at the outside. When I eventually reached Greenwich, it was much I remembered – I had a little ride around but due to riding shoes & sweat, didn't feel like going in the Maritime Museum (missed it last year). Did however find the burger shop that Cabby & I went to last year – ordered a massive Kiwi Burger. If McDonald's sold Kiwiburgers like this in NZ, the country would be even fatter. It was gargantuan – a huge Scotch fillet & all the standard Kiwi fare on burgers: lettuce, tomato, beetroot, cheese, egg, onion & pineapple - & almost got the better of me. Unwisely, it was straight back on the bike for the (more) direct route back home; somewhere on the A205 I picked up the London Cycle Network & followed that home. It was very well signposted & took me off the main roads; nice to be home after twenty-eight miles of stretching the legs.
My first attempt at dealing with British bureaucracy was my appointment at Barclays on Tuesday to open a bank account. It didn't get off to a great start when I arrived at the Hammersmith branch well early & found that it was closed for the week for refurbishment. The much maligned British customer service looked to be well deserved as no one had bothered to tell me. Anywho, I went off to the branch at Shepherd's Bush (the only thing I knew of this place was that it featured in the Only Fools & Horses song) & was very well looked after & happy to be impressed by the guy who set it all up for me. With a bit of time to kill before my next appointment I had got a rather brutal, but good haircut, from a Hungarian girl whose own haircut looked like it fell out of the sixties & took over her head. A few more tube rides (got good value from my day travel card, sixteen stations & eight lines - & a bus ride) to get up north to meet a NZ friend for a bit of a tune up for my back (we met when he was completing chiro college). Great to catch up & share travel stories (Andrew is London for a short while between months in SE Asia & a year in South America). Popped in to Covent Garden to visit a coffee shop of one of his friends, which was so small we had to share a booth with a Asian couple) & then a cider with another Kiwi. We were all off to meet some more friends before they went on to salsa lessons & I went to pick up my remaining bag from the Patricks. Who should rock up but Hayden – a family friend who was a year ahead of me at school, who I think came to my first birthday & our parents go way back. Quite amusing, as I don't think I've seen Hayden for at least six years, maybe eight or nine. A late night home after dragging my bike bag across the city.
I seem to have got my sleep-ins back to nine o'clock (it's hard) & what was left of Wednesday morning was spent booking train tickets – this trip to Southampton, Monday's ride north to Mum's only maternal uncle's funeral & then Tuesday on to Edinburgh for the festival & hopefully tattoo. And also investigating a bit of a jaunt over to Paris mid to late-September. In the afternoon Trish & I took a bit of a trip out in to the Kentish countryside to Eyrsford for a stroll. There was a great old viaduct, the rain held off, quite a few horse that had covers over much of the head (which from a distance look like it blindfolded them – but didn't – can anyone tell me why?), & a big old manor house that tried to pass itself off as a castle (it had a big gatehouse, but that was about all). On the return to the car we went up a side road & climbed a decent hill to Eagle Heights, where we were just in time to see the bird of prey showing. They had all sorts there – eagles, vultures, falcons & the show was quite good with a lot of swooping just over head height of the audience. Their collection of other animals – cheetahs, camels, Siberian & normal huskies, storks (which are not at all good looking – why would one want a baby to come carried by these?) – was good, but I couldn't quite work out how they fitted in to the birds of prey theme. The owls & eagles on display were very impressive – the Bald American eagle made a lot of noise, but I suppose that could be expected. Not much more to say, perhaps I'll look at the countryside whizz by for the last twenty odd minutes of this trip – oh, nice email from Southern Cross Travel Insurance, they are going to pay out for my very expensive & next to useless hospital visit. Woohoo – I might be very boring & pay off the rest of my student loan.
6 hours ago