London 18-21 July 2000
Travel diary (non-fiction).
Time to visit London again! What has happened since last visit? A report from London...
It was incredible non-expensive to travel to London. But as always, I was surprised how costly the hotels are. Is there good word for "cheap hotel quality at a price for medium quality"? I'm not that poor, so I pre-booked a room without doing all efforts to find the lowest price. When I came to the hotel, they gave me the trouble to choose between two rooms. I picked the two keys and walked to the first on the first floor. This was a single room. Definitely. Took the stairs to the third floor. This room was bigger (which is not the same as big), because it had two beds. The bathroom also had a bath in stead of a shower. I looked at the toilet. And tried to imagine how anyone could sit straight on the toilet if not being a dwarf. Was the best way to sit turned 45-90 degrees or maybe put the legs in the bath tub? The toilet and the five pound cheaper single room did the decision for room number 18.
Room No 18. Very spacy. On the height. I had no chance to reach the ceiling. Which also meant that I had no chance to withdraw the curtains. Anyway, it didn't matter because I had only the wall to next house a few metres way to look at. But I could hear the traffic very well. The window was rigged with a piece of wood to be opened a decimetre and I didn't dare to move it... there was also sliding inner windows, so in total the window could be closed quite good, but of course the traffic could be heard all the night. The bathroom had a washbasin with separate warm and cold water, and it was the smallest model. To the right of the washbasin was a (closed) window with frosted glass, but as this window was directed to the street I could see if the sky was blue or not. There was a squared hole in the wall inside the window (the window much bigger than the hole), and if I looked down in the space between the window and the wall, I could count a dozen of soaps, but nothing more interesting. I won't mention that space hadn't been cleaned for a long time, if ever since it was built. Next to the window was the shower. It wasn't built for such a long man as me (around 190 cm). It was ok to shower the shoulders and below. But I like to take away the grease from the hair as well, which was best arranged by bending the knees, put one arm somewhere at my back resting at the wall behind. Not only the risk of soap in the eyes had me to close the eyes. on the edge of the ventilation hole something black (originally green I guess) had been growing nicely... The toilet seat was placed opposite the tub and on a floor about one dm higher. I had good space for the legs! The high floor made be spreading my legs a lot when seated, so I could have them on the higher doorstep respective the shower. I figured it was best to pee sitting because the toilet was in a kind of low door, so I had difficulties to put my head anywhere if standing. I haven't mentioned the door into the bathroom! It was so narrow I preferred to walk in sideways... and I know I have some body fat, but I still consider myself not as fat. But it's normally not so uplifting to check the Body mass index, but that must be because muscles weigh more than fat. Of course, the door to the bathroom could not be closed completely. As an engineer I was fascinated of the electrical grounding wires screwed close to the washbasin. Back to the room...sideways... the bed was not too bad and quite long with space at the back end. Colour TV which worked quite well and a small desk. In short: the room was as could be expected in London!
Of course I used the underground a lot. I wasn't the only one doing that. I can't remember it has ever been so crowded. It didn't matter if the time was 10 am or 10 pm, many times it was so jammed it was just I made it to squeeze in. Talking about space people want to strangers, it was very narrowed here, almost sexy if you thought that way as the bodies were close and even the faces could be less than a dm away. And warm... no chance to keep fresh, just let the sweat drip under the Tee... talking about that, how can so many (English) have so much clothes on and still look comfortable in the underground? What secret air condition system do they have under the shirt? Another question to be investigated- in the tube (as they call it for obvious reasons) I see all kind of people including the strictly dressed in black suits. The question is, is this because of equality or because the roads are even more jammed?
Camden Town. I went out to Camden on a Wednesday, known for street markets and a bit underground/low price. But a lot of it was closed in mid week, I talked for a while with David the leather maker, had him to punch a new (inner!) hole in my old belt, and I'm still thinking of the nice expensive belt I didn't buy and hadn't time for a new visit.
Launderette. Fascinated of these places for washing...
East London has always been the poorer part of the city. I have been told the wind normally comes from west, therefore the rich built there homes at the west side with the smelling factories at the east end, and guess which inhibitors have to live and work at the east end? During 2nd world war, the east end was also hit by a lot of bombs, the Germans had to drop spare bombs before returning home. It was also in this area the Salvation army, Booth, started as I remember (there are also statues of him). So, I went to Mile End and walked back in the direction to City via Whitechapel to Aldgate to find budget shops with few tourists. It was just a guess from me, I've been there once. But I really found a long street market and small shops. I didn't find too much for me, but one shop close to the mosque in Whitechapel had some nice shirts. I was alone in the shop and I felt one guy followed me closely... finally I bought one for £10 (was large too small?) and only afterwards I thought of I maybe could have negotiated the price... but that was too late.
The Clink. I had to go to museum the last day! Near the London Bridge, a few hundred metres from Shakespeare's The Globe,was a prison located for some hundred years, closed two hundred years ago. The museum is at the same place but not in the same building, but downstairs in dark rooms... To be imprisoned was more or less a long end. I was the only visitor going around in the black rooms with sawdust on the floor, lighted by candles and other dim lights. Around me was jailed persons, blocks for hands and legs, axes, feet crusher and other retraining and torture devices... well, the exit door was possible to open... so I headed to take one more outside look of the New Globe. Next to the Globe is...
Tate modern. It's a huge building! And the entrance is free, so I had to spend half an hour (the last thing before preparing the ride home). I saw only a few rooms, Nude was one exhibition I looked at. On a big screen I watched a naked man in a slow dance with his penis moving gracefully.
Pubs. Still many with all kind of styles. Some with music, some silent. My last meal was fish&chips upstairs in a very quiet pub with a few locals chatting.
St Martin in the fields. The crypt below the church is one of my water holes in London. I took luncheon the first day- potato soap with fresh tasty bread, and after that a big portion of apple pie with vanilla sauce, nam nam! Went into the bookstore beside the café as usual. Besides all the Christian books and Celtic things, I also noticed they had books with wisdom's from Islam, Hinduism etc. I went quickly to the street market at the church yard.
Yoghurt with toffee taste, chocolate rings added... hehe strange food!
Guided walking. Again I went on a guided walk, it's a fun way to learn facts and oddities of London. And often with good guides that even I understand quite well. I didn't know the English word ale derived from the Swedish word for beer. Or that City of London has 8000 inhibitors but handle so much money (the banking is there).
The snot test. So how was the air, was it polluted by cars etc? The standard test to blow the nose after a day in London gave more or less the normal pollution level- the snot was in between grey and black.
Coffee. Still weak. Still often instant coffee, at the hotel for example. But it is possible to get real coffee, also chic cafés have opened. The coffee at the bookstore was quite good. I like these big stores with so many books and open late in the evenings. Now I don't need to buy on internet for a while! The Potter books were of course well displayed.
The Bride. Now I remember the wedding cake church is The Bride!
Folks, that's all for now!
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Updated 23rd of July 2000.