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Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

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The Trip to the UK - A Continuing Saga
Drawing of a trike
(I'm offline again whilst I write this, in fact I'm heading east through the English countryside on a train to Paris. So this entry will be devoid of links.)

Following my previous entry about getting to the plane which took me from New York to London, let me tell you about the rest of my trip to the place I was staying!

I did manage to sleep on the flight to the UK, in fact I almost missed breakfast. I have a new favourite plane, the Boeing 777. Maybe it was the pilot, but the landing was so smooth I didn't even realise we'd touched down until we started slowing down. Of course what a given airline chooses to fit its planes with by way of seats might also help.

On the flight over I sat next to a guy from the US airforce, who fixed trucks for them. Really liked his trucks I have to say! Anyway, he was on his way to a US airforce base in the UK, and hence was travelling without a passport! I wasn't convinced they'd let him into the country, but I say him later wandering the terminal.

Passport control was relatively easy, compared to the US. The guy at the counter wanted me to prove that I had a flight out of the UK, so I fumbled around with my battered itinerary, and I think he got sick of my going "Um, I'm actually leaving Europe out of Switzerland..." I guess he was convinced I had further travel plans, and he sent me on my way.

I thought I was such an organised traveller - in the terminal I bought an A-Z Guide to the streets of London, a map of the Tube, and a SIM card for my phone. Then... I got on the wrong train!

I made one basic mistake - I assumed there was only one train station at the airport. No, experienced traveller, there were two. I had detailed instructions from my host Zoya about how to get to her place - Piccadilly line to Green Park, Jubilee Line to London Bridge, Dartford or Gravesend line to Blackheath. So I found a train station - not realising that an airport can have two, I mean, come on, the airport in Melbourne has zero train stations - and was then totally confused because the train I was looking at when straight to somewhere called Paddington, and not any of the stations mentioned by Zoya. Oh, and I also couldn't find Blackheath on the tube map, turns out its an above ground line so it wasn't on there!

So I hopped on the train to Paddington, paying a pretty penny for it to I might add. Then my plan was to catch a tube to Baker Street, then catch the Jubilee line to London Bridge. So I lugged my 20 kilo suitcase up and down several flights of stairs (dear London undeground, please get some more fucking lifts!) and found the train to Baker Street. Hopped of there, more stairs and I found the Jubilee line.... Which was broken, and took me only one station in the direction I needed to go. The Jubilee was broken after Green Park. So at the last possible moment I wrestled my suitcase off the train at Bond Street. Caught the central line over to Tottenham Court Road, then the northern line south towards London Bridge. Did I mention the lack of lifts? I must have lugged my suitcase up and down I don't know how many flights of stairs! My feet were killing me. I did find one station with a lift - it was way the fuck down the end of its own tunnel, and barely fitted me and the lady with the pusher.

Eventually I found my way to London Bridge... and took the wrong escalator, and ended up at the wrong end of the station... A nice bloke working there pointed me in the right direction. Eventually I found the platform the Dartford trains were leaving from, only to discover that only every second one goes to Blackheath...! Eventually I got on the right train, and was delighted to discover that Blackheath was only two stations from London Bridge.

So I jumped off the train in Blackheath, some six trains from Heathrow later. Then I looked up Zoya's place on google maps on my phone, and it suggested a route of about 1.4 kilometres and 14 minutes. By this stage I was very very tired, my feet were killing me - I think I mildly strained one ankle lugging my suitcase up so many stairs - I'd had about four hours sleep and not a whole lot of food... So I regarded the leafy semi-suburban street with some trepidation, like it was some kind of walk of pain. I dragged my suitcase up a hill, along a street, and down a court (or a "Vale" in this case). The footpath on Zoya's street is odd to non-existent, so I weaved all over it then the road. Eventually I reached a spot where the road forked two ways, and indeed wrapped around on itself. I took my left branch, and way way down the far end, at the end of a row of identical houses I found the address! I pressed the door bell and to my enormous relief Zoya answered it!

My plane landed at about 9.40AM. By the time I ended up at Zoya's, it was after 2 in the afternoon... It had taken me something like three hours after I left the airport to make it to her place! I was so relieved to get there - I dumped my suitcase and had a shower. For the next day or two my legs didn't work very well at all.