Finding A Clock, Tracing A Lead
Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
141Trip End Jul 21, 2010
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Where I stayed
Meghan's Housemate's Room
I need to work out what I’m doing about Leeds, and hating the fact I need the Internet like an umbilical cord. Moving house was over the weekend, so they are still without phone line. After a glorious breakfast of crumpets with cups of tea (magic) the three of us walk the neighbourhood to Shepard’s Bush. Because of the new shopping centre, completed rather recently, and not my favourite place to be in – I stopped inside last night hoping for a café with Internet – the City Circle train line is no longer a circle
The most run down houses of London are said to be situated nearby. When passing them all of us agree that they don’t actually look to bad from the outside, but council has deemed them unsafe and plans to flatten the whole area and start again.
There is a garden amongst the streets that was once part of the Olympic Village. The rest of it was torn down to make room for the buildings we see around us, and the park is a nice tie in to the history as well as providing a nice place for the locals. The thought of living in a Stadium is kind of intriguing though. It would be a little like those stories you hear of people living in shopping centres and hiding in the ventilation shafts and sneaking out at night. Only centred around sport. And eerie time I’ve gone to a sports ground of any kind the food is well sub par and well expensive, so perhaps that dream is not all it’s cracked up to be.
As we make our way towards the Shepard's Bush Market, which sadly turns out to be closed, Michael tells of his only ever couch surfing experience as a surfer, rather than a host
I catch a double decker into the city, watching the streets from the top floor, the magic sadly lost on me. The double decker trains of Europe I find more annoying than exciting, as from either position it becomes harder to see the station name, and if I’ve been sleeping – which more often than not I have – waking at a station and not knowing immediately where we are puts me in enough of a panic to get out without thinking about it. Luckily I’m yet to be stranded on a platform.
Walking Oxford St along and around the newly discovered circus, I find the much needed Internet before recommitting to the tourism. Off to find a clock.
Passing the changing of the guard and a number of horsemen in glossy gold armour, Big Ben hits you when you take the corner. Others around me, noticeably tourists point in the direction of the clock and ask if that’s Big Ben
Crossing the nearby bridge you can see the London Eye or London Flyer or London something that refers to the fact it’s a big wheel and you can see a lot fro the top when you get inside one of the attached bubbles. I keep moving. Following the river once again I pass an inflatable purple demon shape thing that turns out to be a comedy club by the name of Udderbelly, here one can find the comical stylings of all England’s greats, Michael mentioned the support for comedy talent is quite big in England or at least London. Unlike Melbourne comedians can actually travel and play a show every night to survive. And this is not the bigger stars we’re talking about, but those who may have only just broke the scene or are slowly riding the wave. Beyond this is the graffiti mess that could only be a skate park. One child star to be repeats the same attempt at a trick. Jumping from the top of the bowl he plans to get the board under his feet and land, wheels don to keep rolling. After three tries I need to move on, the kid is going to break his neck.
Tate Modern is the name given to London’s national gallery of international modern art, founded in 2000 in a disused power station. One of a family of four Tate Galleries, it keeps to the later end of the spectrum, offering up contemporary works while keeping to four main hearts of the collection. The seminal periods are Minimalism, Surrealism, Cubism/Futurism/Vorticism (which personally I wouldn’t put all together) and another that escapes me
Alongside these hearts sits several temporary exhibitions on surrounding floors. One, towards the outer edges of the building is by artist Haris Epaminonda, who creates a conversation between found objects placed together, often out of context and into something new. This Volumes series has been exhibited all over the world, each new while following the same theme. The association of the images is left for the viewer to decide, the images of waterfalls set behind sewing machine have me think of water patterns and washing women - absolute magic.
I catch a tour group moving through the area housing contemporary sculpture (found in the section whose name escapes me). The tour guide gives an in-depth and very different perspective on a number of pieces as the group of uni kids look on with sketchbooks and notepads in hand. The sculptures of one Joseph Beuys are notably a favourite of the guide, who talks at length about the artist and his colourful history. Beuys is one of several contemporary artists that are beginning to be seen and see themselves as a work of art themselves; many of their works are choreographed movements or happenings. These sculptures and paintings are mere leftovers. I wish I made leftovers like this.
Walking through the rooms with my mouth agape I slip on a card on the floor, nearly breaking my coccyx as onlookers avert their gaze
Again the train stations keep from the direct way home. Part of me thinks it may have been easier to simply start again. The amount of money they paid on the advertising campaign alone would have put quite a nice hole in the budget. But everything has that older character about it. It’s like things were tested in England, then those that worked moved throughout the other countries, while that that didn’t work so well was fixed time and time again, similar to the Australian "good enough" ideal. The hot water systems are much like this. Having spoken to Michael about the crazy shower tap I get a lesson in English water supplies. The cold water comes through pipes throughout the city much like Australia, from catchments dedicated to fresh water. The hot water however, comes from water tanks on the room, similar to those associated with the air-conditioning units that spewed forth Legionaries disease into a Melbourne Aquarium some years ago. But I digress. These two streams of water never really meet. The faucet and end game for the water, moving from metal to skin has two entry points. Twin jets of water actually come out at you. One Cold. One Hot. He ends with a note of warning – don’t drink the hot water out of the tap
As I pack the last of my bits over tea (yes, again with the tea) I’m given a short lesson on Philosophy and the two main strands and their roots. The one that always comes to mind when I think of philosophy is apparently that which stems from Art. The other, that which Michael is writing on elements of in his thesis, stems from science. His work appears to be full of quite complex mathematical equations, something I never conceived philosophy having. I am quite out of my depth in the conversation as we’re coming from very different paths, Michael’s work adding more definition to the sciences that shape our world.
Saying goodbye to Michael and Olla, they offer me a place on my way back down, as I’ll be flying out of Gatwick airport. This is so nice of them, and I hope one day I can return the favourite of such gracious hospitality.
On the train back into the city I’m pressed for space amongst the peak hour-esque traffic. Somehow making his way through the carriage is a small beggar. He enters at one end, pleads his case once where he stands, then slowly makes his way between the passengers
At the connecting train station –that with the local network and the big wide world - the waiting room has all the characters I need to make a sit-com, possibly the grittier kind you get from England.
- A blind girl talks about the kind of work she could do to help pay the rent. The list is a little shorter than she expected, many of the jobs shot down by her mother. “I’ll not have you doing that, I’d rather not eat.”
- Two girls talk about the price of a room for a wedding, saying they may as well have bought the whole place the amount they needed to put down to secure it. But she looked lovely on the day.
- A man talks in German with a strong English accent, in what I think begins as a job interview for a place further closer to the European country. It begins in English, and once all the formalities are out of the way the suggestion to change to the foreign tongue is answered.
- Three young men in oversized jeans slowly roll a cigarette while looking at the security guard, knowing this is a non-smoking area. One holds while the other two snigger along.
- Two sorry looking security guards, one obviously quite new to this, getting rather greasy looks from the other.
I get a coffee instead.
At Michael’s suggestion I check out St Panoras Station, the other train station that sits in the square. Recently refurbished, this holds the new bullet shaped Eurail trains that can get you all the way to Paris in a few hours, complete with an empty wallet for your troubles.
This clean white and very new inside meets the amazing neoclassical architecture of the front, the main entrance standing the red coloured stone and white clean and steel side by side, creating something very
One the train – located at Platform Zero! Platform Zero! – I’m next to a man who looks like he hasn’t slept for a while. He looks at me like I feel the same. It turns out to be true. He’s come down to London for the weekend for a programming get together, making the even sound like a supersized LAN party with everyone comparing computer parts and code like trading cards. There was even a competition to write the most beautiful piece of code –and he won! Not only did he win, he won programmable Lego! He reminds me I was once among the geeks of high school, though my sub par PC never made it to the LAN parties I was usually the one falling asleep on the couch with my mouth full of sugar as the others keep their eyes glued to screens.
We talk of travel – when he hears of wwoofing it reminds hi of something he tried out in the English countryside, referred to as Farmstaying. It sounds like a combination between housesitting at a bed and breakfast and working on a farm all in one. He remembers his travels throughout Europe and always seemed to find himself drawn to other English people, able to pick them out of a crowd without a word. Troubles in France had him sticking to the English even more. A holiday with his girlfriend had a small hiccup when she went downstairs to the train station toilet and did not return for over an hour. When she finally surfaced, she was a little distraught from being hopelessly lost. Having forgotten which was the way in, every attempt at asking a local where to go was met by a blank stare and an absolute commitment to not speaking a word, let along English
I watch the countryside change until the hacker gets off. Replacing him a two seats away as an old lady who looks out the window the moment she sits down, eyes searching for those who are leaving her behind, arms outstretched and waving until the carriage pulls away.
Leeds Station is not what I expected, but I’m not sure what I did. Looking for something familiar, it’s simply a place I have never been. Like everywhere I have been, everywhere is new. Looking around and I hear a squeal and the sound of small feet running towards me. Meghan jumps with her arms around my neck. Both of us cannot believe I am here.
Trying our best to catch up in the spaces between, we wait for a bus that never comes as Meghan gives quick lesson on the natives. When they ask for change it’s not for food or a train ticket. There is a slight animosity between the locals and the uni kids, many of the latter only here for the semester, causing the population to fluctuate. This dries up the beer halls and takes all the women – something worth getting upset about.
Meghan just got back from some mind-blowing drum and bass festival that succeed in browning her skin and taking her voice
Most of the student population has gone way for the semester break, and much of the population that is left can be found outside lying on the grass enjoying the sunshine. I’m introduced to everyone as a group (I suppose names are overrated anyway) as we head into the house to find Matt. In his room not really watching what was on, he was waiting for Meghan to help brainstorm what is happening tonight and over the next few days. I pick up an empty bed, dumping my stuff for now as we decided to pub it up for the football.
There is a club we passed on the bus situated in a church. Meghan disapproves – not because of the possible desecration of a religious icon but because the place is simply not the most fun for a person. So it’s out to the closest pub, which also turns out to be a crowd favourite and suitable to enjoy a beer in the fading sun with the game on the big screen. I’m yet to get the magic behind it, I suppose I’ll find it eventually.