A Piccadilly Line

by ahanagata

I indeed found the dwelling of the Legendary Danger Mouse.

I indeed found the dwelling of the Legendary Danger Mouse.

 

  Hello again Savages, I must apologize in the delay of articles here. I have a lot of exciting things in the works and I also had a bout of technical issues. Last I left you I had just landed in Heathrow Airport. Having been crammed into an international sardine can and deprived of sleep I was expecting to hit the ground in a haze doomed to shuffle about London in a zombie-like state. Thankfully, I was energized by the prospect of travel and found myself with the strength of ten lions. Well…at least eight, yeah at least eight lions. I changed into my boots, strapped my pack to my back and set off to find my home for the night. I knew I had to take ‘the underground’, England’s subway system but I had no idea how to get to the train station. If London had anything in common with Los Angeles I was in for a hefty taxi bill to get from the airport to the train station.

I saw a couple signs that said ‘underground’ and followed accordingly, soon I managed to find a kiosk which seemed like the likely place to purchase tickets. I popped in the queue, and awaited my turn. Now, there were open machines where one could buy tickets or an ‘oyster’ card, but American Credit/debit cards don’t have the EMV chip and are too stupid to communicate with the British machines so, i waited for a real person. When it was my turn I purchased an oyster card, which is basically a prepaid train fare in an RFID gift card form. For those curious, I thought ‘Oyster’ might be some kind of smart acronym; turns out it was just chosen by some Don Draper ad-man type because it sounds cool, there are oysters found around London and phrase ‘the world is your oyster.’

Oyster loaded with the necessary British Pound Sterling, I began to wonder how much the taxi would cost me to get to said train station. In Los Angeles, you probably have to pay something like 30-60 bucks to get to the train station from LAX, or have to take the Bus. Mind you that’s a big guess, I’ve never not had someone pick me up from LAX because taxi’s will bleed you dry and public transit in L.A. sucks harder than the vacuum of space. To my complete and utter surprise and delight, there was a stop for the tube right in the airport! All I had to do was walk over swipe my card and board the next train car. Unfortunately, it was rush hour and train cars were all pretty packed and there I was like a complete bell end with a gigantic backpack. If at all possible, avoid rush hour with the big backpack. You’ll inevitably bang into people, take up a lot of room and draw the ire of all local Londoners. Such was my lot.

Luckily, the tube is pretty fast, much faster than the light rail back home. There is a polite British voice over the speakers telling you the stops and the line you’re on. In my case I was on the ‘Picadilly’ line going toward ‘Cockfosters.’ (Yes, I’m a juvenile, no it doesn’t get old). Before I knew it, I had transferred lines and reached my stop and found myself in the streets of London. Upon exiting the tube station, I found myself in what I might consider a small suburb of London. Some small shops on the street, surrounded by what appeared to be what Americans might refer to as ‘row houses.’ Following my directions that i scrawled down in my little notebook, I made my way to my friend’s flat.

Immediately, I was confronted with the weight on my back. I had more weight in my Baltoro than I have ever had before. I had to pack for regular around town traveling as well as trekking through the Glens of Scotland. Luckily, I wouldn’t have to carry the pack that far. Before I knew it I was at my friend’s flat; I dropped the cumbersome pack and took off to wander the streets of London.
I made my way to the local High Street, which happened to be littered with corner shops and cafés. First bit of culture shock was ordering a coffee and being asked ‘white or black?’ I assured the barista that I am neither white or black, turns out she was asking if I would like milk in my coffee. Back home, I like a bit of half&half so I said white. I watched the girl pour milk in my coffee until it turned the beautiful caramel color I like then proceed to pour what appeared to be half the milk supply of the EU into my cup. Turns out they mean it when they say ‘white.’

Camden

Warm vaguely coffee flavored milk in hand, I set out to answer all my questions and curiosities of the British Empire. I had a few hours to kill before my friends were off work, and I was completely aimless so I just picked a direction and began walking. I ended up in a part of London called ‘Camden Town.’ I would best describe this part of London as ‘Venice Beach, CA on Steroids’ not just any steroids, multiple high dose anabolic steroids. This is where all the bohemians, punk rockers, goths, freaks, hippies, artist and such hang out; in other words, it’s the Austin, TX/Portland, OR/Highlands, KY of England. There’s all manner of small shops shucking everything from Doc Martin and Fred Perry to homespun extravagant goth kit. Not to mention there is a huge selection of food booths offering everything from Indian, Chinese to Vegan this or that.

Around every corner there are buildings that likely predate the Colonies.

Around every corner there are buildings that likely predate the Colonies.

The one huge difference between my Colonial homeland and the Empire is the wondrous architecture. At nearly every turn there is a church, building, etc jammed in somewhere that is old. By old, I mean predates the United States…by centuries. I kept feeling like I was either in a museum or on a Hollywood backlot. England is old, I know that, but there’s a difference between knowing something and walking through it. It’s like someone telling you ‘the grand canyon is big’, you know it’s big, but it’s not the same as experiencing it.

Another thing Americans might notice is England is kinda dirty. When I say that, I mean the outside of buildings have a bit of grime to them, the streets are a little sooty, walls might have some green shit growing on them. That might put off some of my fellow Colonials, who have grown used to the power washed, superficially clean, Disney-esque homogenized destinations that have come to dominate the States. To me though, it was a well earned patina, beautiful brushstrokes adding to a masterpiece. It’s character, it’s real, it’s England and it’s lovely.

pint

The sun began to dwindle, so I wandered back and met up with my friends. We wandered to a pub, a proper pub, not a sports bar called a pub, but a proper real deal pub and got a proper real deal pint. I was informed that we could even stand outside and drink this pint glass and all in the street. Because we’re responsible adults and England recognizes this. After our pint, we met up with a few others for just about the Best fucking Indian food I’ve had, to which I was informed was ‘middle of the road’ as far as quality thanks to 16th century Imperialism. It was a pretty great cap to a very whimsical day.

Next up, London Proper and the Bushcraft Store

Part 2 of the Britain Diaries   Part 1

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