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Michael’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 16 Aug 2006

Location: London, UK

MapMY GHETTO

Okay, so let me tell you all a little bit more about where I live. The place is called Camberwell Green, and it is south of the river Thames. It is a 5 minute walk to a bus stop, and about 25 minutes on foot to the nearest tube station (Oval, on the Northern Line). The nearest bus stop to me has busses that run to Oval in about 8 minutes, Victoria Station in just over 20, and Picadilly Circus in about 30 minutes, so distcance wise it ain't horrible, but it's not the best.

The people...
Well, it no Park Avenue if you get my drift. It is a mainly African community, and as such the neighborhood is particularly dark. That leads to some interesting sights though. The food selection for one is grand. There is Carribean or deep fried southern style crispy chicken... your choice. Ther is actually a Subway and Nandos a little way out of town, but a bit too far to hike for a late night snack or a bite to eat... and of course there is Maccas, but we're trying to steer clear of the devil for now. I haven't seen a pizza shop yet...

The other think that makes me giggle every time I walk past is the hair dressers along the main drag. I swear I am walking past the movie set for Barbershop 3 every time I wander down. On a Friday night around 9pm, there must have been about 30 African men in the barbershop. Maybe 5 guys getting 'hair cuts', but I haven't seen a single pair of scissors being used yet - nothing but buzz cuts. So 5 guys getting their hair buzzed, 5 guys doing the buzzing wearing Timbaland boots, knicks jerseys and baggy jeans, and another 20 just socialising! Think I know where I'm getting my next hair cut!

Yesterday whilst heading I out to the shops I passed a white guy that allegedly stabbed a black guy on the doorstep of my place 2 years ago. There are actually three apartments in the one building - a basement, a lower floorMY GHETTO

Okay, so let me tell you all a little bit more about where I live. The place is called Camberwell Green, and it is south of the river Thames. It is a 5 minute walk to a bus stop, and about 25 minutes on foot to the nearest tube station (Oval, on the Northern Line). The nearest bus stop to me has busses that run to Oval in about 8 minutes, Victoria Station in just over 20, and Piccadilly Circus in about 30 minutes, so distance wise it ain't horrible, but it's not the best.

The people...
Well, it no Park Avenue if you get my drift. It is a mainly African community, and as such the neighborhood is particularly dark. That leads to some interesting sights though. The food selection for one is grand. There is Caribbean or deep fried southern style crispy chicken... your choice. There is actually a Subway and Nandos a little way out of town, but a bit too far to hike for a late night snack or a bite to eat... and of course there is Maccas, but we're trying to steer clear of the devil for now. I haven't seen a pizza shop yet...

The other think that makes me giggle every time I walk past is the hair dressers along the main drag. I swear I am walking past the movie set for Barbershop 3 every time I wander down. On a Friday night around 9pm, there must have been about 30 African men in the barbershop. Maybe 5 guys getting 'hair cuts', but I haven't seen a single pair of scissors being used yet - nothing but buzz cuts. So 5 guys getting their hair buzzed, 5 guys doing the buzzing wearing Timbaland boots, knicks jerseys and baggy jeans, and another 20 just socialising! Think I know where I'm getting my next hair cut!

Yesterday whilst heading I out to the shops I passed a white guy that allegedly stabbed a black guy on the doorstep of my place 2 years ago. There are actually three apartments in the one building - a basement, a lower floor and an upstairs. Given I am sleeping in an attic, I am obviously living in the upstairs apartment. But there used to be a black guy living in the basement who was dating a white girl. A couple of the younger lads up the road didn't like the situation, and one of them stabbed the black guy, my housemate saw the whole thing. So, not only is it a ghetto - there's a fair share of racism to boot. Anyway, get to the shops, do some shopping, and as we walk out we see a black security guard run down some white bloke that had stolen something. Hoping to see the security guard dive into the legs of the thief, I was disappointed to see the thief drop the bag, shrug the grip the security guard had on his arm, and run off with the security guard giving chase.

So that my friends sums up my ghetto... but I do like it!

So lets get into what's been happening of late. Friday night I made the most of London's active live music scene with a visit to Barfly in Camden. One of Sarah Egg's, work mate's, boyfriends (got it?) plays in a band called The Bishops. They are starting to get a name for themselves over here, with a couple singles released, and have been doing small tours around parts of Europe including Austria, and are in Germany in a few weeks for a festival in Hamburg.

The style is similar to a beetles type rock (they do wear grey suits on stage, talk with pommy accents and have weird haircuts - obviously not cut in Camberwell - so maybe that's where the similarities stop?) but the songs seemed really short! Nothing seemed to go for more than 2 minutes, but that sometimes happens during live gigs cos you cut out the repetitive choruses and crap at the end. The boys also had no luck with the sound crew and the lead singer was drowned out all night, despite repeatedly signaling to have his mike turned up... it was a good show tho. Headed home after the concert, having decided to try and save (not spend) what little money I do have...

Saturday was a pretty quiet day, with a beer in front of the soccer (I know... ooops football). Nick's team plays in Championship League (second highest, I think) and they played on Saturday. He seemed to relish the idea of trying to explain to me the 3 million leagues there are here, and the multitude of cups on offer to anyone and everyone who plays in these leagues... not converted yet, but the betting option could get me over the line... Big Stu, might have to re-discuss the betfair thing you got going on with in-game betting... you allowed to do that in Australia yet?????

Sunday, well what an interesting day... well night actually. I headed to town during the day and bought some much needed new clothes from a sale... finally a T-shirt and polo that don't look like they've been half way around the world and in a suitcase for 5 months! Anyway, I finally headed up to Finsbury Park to meet up with Matty Porter and his mate Chris, and we headed to watch the London Northern Gridiron League game between Blitz and the Knights. The Knights were up 12-6 when we arrived in the 2nd quarter, and by half time the Blitz had taken a 23-12 lead. And it was even bigger by the end of the game. It is safe to say that neither team were that good, and given there are only 4 teams in the league (don't know how many in the southern league tho) I don't see it as a booming sport. They did however have large numbers of players on each team, maybe 40-45 suited up. Here's a taste of some of the action, and often enough Port's comments in the background.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1g_EDZNsDY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2iK5hXQ5_0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d2VbG73l7E

From there we wandered to the pub, but on the way back headed through the festival that was being held at Finsbury Park. Earlier there had been a strangled cat on the microphone (could have been a young girl, tough to tell without having looked) and it sounded awful... so the open mic was still going, and a couple of Finsbury Parks (or perhaps Seven Siters') finest were on the mic, and Ports got in touch with his roots. As you can see, it's another lovely summers afternoon in London!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xwmq8Vpblg

From here things went a little sour. I headed with Ports to on of his locals, somewhere nearer to Holloway Road, and met his girlfriend and a bunch of his housemates. The intention was to go there for a Sunday roast, a common meal served in London pubs. Well, I don't exactly know what a Sunday Roast consists of, but all we had were beers. Now, this might not usually bother me too much, but having had NOTHING to eat all day, except a cheeseburger at the gridiron, and having polished of 4 oversized cans before the pub, the 5th pint went down a little rough. At that stage I got up to leave, and Ports plonked another beer in front of me. Given it was some time around 10, I had no idea where I was, and unsure exactly how to get home, I had little need for another beer. Well, I tried to be polite, and managed maybe a mouthful before I gave up, and said my goodbyes... not having had a Sunday Roast, or any meal for that matter!

I made my way to Holloway Road station, without getting lost on the 10 minute walk, and finally was headed in the right direction to get home... hungry as buggery - I am a big fella after all!

LONDON TRAINS

Okay, no-one (and I mean no-one) talks on the London trains. They don't even look up. Look at someone and your deemed a pervert, talk, and god only knows what they will think. It seems like a kind of unspoken rule, but it seems to be there. Why do you think mp3 players were invented, so everyone will be so self absorbed in their music that there is no chance to offend the Londoners by talking on public transport. Anyway, those rules seem to head right out the window after a magical hour that I haven't yet pin-pointed, but it seems to be somewhere between when you go out to a pub/gig/any night time event, and when you decided to head back home. At that point, it is on for young and old, and the train carriage looks, well sounds, more like a train ride home to the burbs after an 80,000 strong crowd at the MCG... especially if it was a close game and supporters from the two teams are still bitching and moaning to each other - but in a fun way.

So, what's this got to do with me? Well, given I had a walk from the pub, I had the mp3 player going and jumped on the train still listening to my tunes... It wasn't too long before I had the headphones out, dealing with all sorts of interruptions. A guy wandering up and down asking if I wanted a tic-tac, and as hungry as I was I said no, drunken people all over the place making noise. There were four Brazilian girls on the train heading out to Leicester Square, and despite having been in London for a 'few months' they still were acting like class 1 tourists taking photos in the Subway. Another interruption to take a photo of the four of them. I gave up with the mp3 player then - could that have been where it all went wrong?

Anyway, chatted to them for a while, and then they left (or me not going with them, is that where it went wrong?). Anyway, a guy that was sitting near by starts talking as he'd overheard me tell the girls I'd been to Italy, and of course he's Italian. So I chat with him the rest of the train ride about places in Italy, given I hadn't been to many and still want to go back. We both get off at Oval, and he asks if I wanted to go round for a night cap? Well, I didn't need it, but went round anyway (or maybe THATS where it all went wrong?!).

So we wander back to his place, a couple minutes from the train station. He cracks a couple beers and we keep talking bout Italy. A few minutes later he gets up goes to the toilet, and when he comes back, he says 'you mind if I turn the TV on?' I said it's your place, whatever. He killed the radio and turned the TV on.... PORN. I shit you not, it was tuned to porn (or maybe it was a DVD playing?) and he sits down next to me and says (I shit you not, word for word) 'lets wank'. It came out as if it was Eddie Murphy talking in the movie Coming to America.

So, it gets crazier pretty quickly. I look over at him, and see he's got his hand down his pants, button fly undone, having a tug. I don't know weather he saw my reaction or what, cos I hadn't had a chance to respond, and he says 'oh no, umm, let me blow you - why don't you stay the night'. At that stage I jumped up, said 'I think we have different tastes' and headed out the front door... never looking back. Safe to say I soooo didn't see that one 'coming'. Anyway, back to the train station, on a bus home, and sit in my attic staring at the ceiling, too afraid to close my eyes.

So that was my brush with Italian penis... and as close as I ever hope to be...

Monday I tried to wash away those bad thoughts, and headed to see Datarock play at the Lumiere in Kilburn. This is the same group that I saw play when I was in London in May, and playing at the same place. Again, I walked away stoked with the show, even more so this time, because I had actually heard of the songs. I headed up there with Sarah Egg, a couple of her housemates, Tony (who I went to the first concert with) and Rochelle, and one of Tony's mates.

I will paraphrase Sarah to describe the band. The lead singer has a monobrow, a super hairy chest that is coming out of his top, which happens to be matching red and bottom tracksuit pants. The entire concert he had a lit cigarette in his hand. He probably drives a an old beaten up commodore (maybe VL) which undoubtedly would have a pair of fluffy dice hanging from the mirror.

So, not my kinda band, but I find something appealing about them. Anyway, judge for yourself with a selection of songs recorded from the show... the second one is a particularly short video, the others are between 1 and 2 minutes.

Computer Camp Love
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWuMz_ZGYaA

I Used To Dance With My Daddy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pf2Y4Fiz0rE

Sex Me Up
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPx2rFmzHEI

Night Flight To Uranus
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFTjJohxnJY

I've Had The Time Of My Life
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mQLYtMcLvM

The last one is a shorter one and is always played at the end of the concert after they have left and got themselves a few beers to come back and muck around with at the end.

Anyway, since then, other bits and pieces. Not much going on here, weather is typical London summer, top of 20 degrees and the sun appears for maybe an hour a day, the rest of the time it is just grey and cloudy.

Booked my trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. Flying down on 15th September and then flying back on the 18th. Headed down there with Kristy and Shernell (from previous adventures such as ANZAC DAY and Pamps) and a bloke named Ben that Kristy knows from back home in Queensland. So that should be a bit of fun, and hopefully I wont have to gripe long and hard about the tour company... might read like it's a passion of mine, but it ain't. The tour company was only used for the accommodation, so it shouldn't play to much a part of our trip.

I've been invited to the poker comp next Tuesday at a pub a little bit up the road. The guy that works for the Amateur National Poker League that I have been conversing with asked me to come along to meet me, show me how things run, and see if I want to take on a job. And as he pointed out, I can always play a game while I'm there! It's no money, just non-cash prizes for the winners of the series, and occasionally the pub will put up nightly prizes.

So, other than that, not much else going on. Will try and put a few photos from the weekend up when I can. Hope you are all still doing well, and surviving the winter, sounds awfully like the summer here. Thanks also for checking daily and getting me over the 5000 hit mark!