Days spent – 5 days (24 December 2016 to 29 December 2016)

Places visited – Home

Books read – Shantaram (unfinished)

Things done – Not a lot!

Highlight(s) – Surprise!

Lowlight(s) – Leaving again

Cost – £101.97 (£20.39 per day)

Firstly, a note on cost, it isn’t really that cheap but I get free food and accommodation at home!

When I left in June I knew I would always at least consider going home for Christmas. Come late October I’m in China and thinking that if I’m going to do it I need to start looking at flights, they won’t be cheap over Christmas. I found one for four hundred pounds from Mumbai and booked it that evening, it seemed reasonable value. That’s that sorted, I’m not going to tell anyone, now I just have to keep it a secret for another two months!

The problem with doing this is that it then plays on your mind. I got back from Everest Base Camp on December 3rd and after that I was ready to go home really. I just can’t wait to surprise everyone. In Kathmandu, Delhi and Jaipur I don’t do much, I’m just waiting to go home.

Christmas Eve rocks up and I’m spending this one travelling vast distances across the planet. I’m awake at four in the morning which is early, but even earlier considering at the time it’s still Christmas Eve Eve at home! The flight is fine if a little long.

I get off the plane and go straight to the Underground. Can I call it that now? I don’t have to use words like Metro and Subway. Occasionally I say Tube, just to really flummox everyone! On the Underground the announcements are in English, with an English accent and everything! It sounds weird… I head to Waterloo but miss the train I had pre-booked as my flight was slightly late. I go to the counter to see if I can change it. “Did you get a note from the pilot?” the guy asks. Ah, I’ve missed the British sense of humour. He stamps my ticket and on I go. Onwards to Honiton…

As I’m on a later train it gets dumpsy on the way, but not before I’ve seen the rolling green hills of home. The trains apparently have wifi now. They’re not on time but that doesn’t matter, we have wifi! Cars are driving on the right side of the road, I mean the wrong side of the road, I mean the right… the wrong… The left, they’re driving on the left.

I walk out of the station with the intention of taking a taxi home but there aren’t any waiting. That means I have to walk home to maintain the surprise, it’s over two miles and quite uphill, about fifty minutes, damn. I get to the drive and decide to film my arrival and I narrate it. Is my accent really that English?! Unfortunately, it’s dark which is a little annoying. I don’t really know whether to just walk in or knock on the door. I’ve thought about it a lot on the way back and I still don’t know. Upon my arrival I’m greeted by a doorbell that I didn’t know existed, that wasn’t there when I left. I walk in, my parents are quite surprised to see me…

Dad will be annoyed at me putting that photo online but it’s ok because he doesn’t read these anymore anyway! As I push the door open I nearly hit Dad with it. Only my parents could be trying to put down a carpet at 6pm on Christmas Eve! After popping in to see the bro I go to bed, I’ve been up for over twenty-four hours now.

Morning, Merry Christmas! I’m up early enough to go with Dad to feed the pheasants and the ducks which was nice. Many thanks go to Shane and Holly for letting me have Christmas Dinner at very short notice! Many thanks also go everyone else who tried to fatten me up over this period! I spend the rest of my time at home seeing people including Tom, we have a few beers and play pool, I won six to five, phew close one! Before I know it, I’m flying back to India…

Strawbs – written 19 March 2017, published 24 March 2017




Days spent – 10 days (8 June 2016 to 18 June 2016)

Places visited – London

Books read – Homage to Catalonia (unfinished)

Things done – British Museum, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Primrose Hill, Churchill’s War Rooms, Trooping of the Colour, Imperial War Museum, EU debate, Westminster Abbey

Highlight(s) – Tower of London

Lowlight(s) – the beggar

Cost – £412.21 (£41.22 per day)

So on the eighth of June 2016 I departed on my journey into and through the unknown. All feelings up to the seventh had been excitement mixed with a little nervousness and apprehension. All of a sudden things become slightly different the following day. It gets real that I hop of the train in four hours… After taking a few photos of home I embark on the train. The first hour on the train to London is probably the strangest I’ve ever felt. Months of planning but an hour in and it feels as though my world is falling apart. Apparently this is normal but in no way was I prepared for it! I almost felt human there for a moment…

Thankfully, that feeling dissipates faster than I thought it might and soon enough I’m in London seeking out my first hostel experience for twenty years or so. In typical British fashion, despite leaving in fair weather, upon arrival in London it’s raining, hard. The Underground it is then. I head for the nearest stop to my hostel, with my head above ground the rain has mercifully stopped.

The first night in the hostel is strange, downstairs it has a bar with Sky Sports, given that the Euros are on it seems a no brainer… My journal entry of the first day remarks that I’ve gone travelling to escape Sky Sports and end up watching, Sky, Sports!

Having read up a bit on travel before leaving I learnt that it’s not where you go or what you see, it’s the people you meet. Which brings me on to thanking Eu, Calum and John (and the others) for making my time at Seven Sisters hostel enjoyable (in the main eh Calum!?). Hostel life in strange in some ways but in others it’s just great. Such a mix of people, some of whom were living at the hostel and commuting to work from there.  I wish them every bit of luck.

On the afternoon following the England v Wales Euro game I was a little drunk (lunchtime kick off but before my lunch!), four pints on an empty stomach.  I need to the classy establishment that is ‘Spoons for some much needed food!  There I end up chatting to two sets of great guys about football, the EU and travel plans.  Stephen – I bet you thought you’d never hear from me but here we are…  Unfortunately, they both bought a round before I could repay the favour, next time I’m in London, they’re on me guys!

There’s one other person that I met in London that warrants a mention here and that’s Becky. We ended up sat next to each other at the EU debate I went to in Waterstones (this was before we voted). She was reading A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks (who wrote Birdsong which I’ve read) so we got chatting and ended up going for a drink after. It was great chatting to her but for some reason we didn’t exchange contact information. She heads to Vietnam in November on an organised trip so maybe we’ll accidentally meet in this small world of ours as that’s roughly when I intend to be there. The following week Waterstones was holding an event by Sarah Knight entitled “The life-changing magic of not giving a f**k.” I would have liked to have attended but maybe I don’t need to!

I suppose I should pass some comment on the things I did. One of the positives of London is that it doesn’t charge for most of the museums etc. I guess that’ll suffice for our centuries of exploitation and conquest: ‘Come and see the things we stole from you for free’. But make sure you spend lots of pounds in the process! The highlight was the Tower of London (see my other blog), Westminster Abbey and The British Museum were also both great. I knew the Rosetta Stone was in The British Museum but I didn’t know that we ‘acquired’ it from France’s Napoleonic forces. It was probably on its way to The Louvre!

In terms of food, I didn’t have anything too adventurous but I did have fish and chips outside the Tower of London, what could be more British I ask? Although, to be fair, the were among the poorest I’ve eaten.

A quick note on costs: it would be higher but a few London things are free, also my transport costs are low because I was only in London and not really travelling around.

I also feel like I should elaborate on the lowlight: the beggar. I was waiting at a bus stop (after, I’m sure, the first of many logisitical mishaps!). He’s after money to help treat a wound on his leg. I say “I’m sorry, I haven’t got any cash (I try to limit what I carry).” To which his response is “How are you getting on the bus then you c**t?” To which I say “With my card!” That’s London for you…

Strawbs – written 9 July 2016, published 14 July 2016

P.S: Mum – sorry about the swearing but they were quotations in both instances!

London by night 

Rosetta Stone

Well played Just Eat!

Imperial War Museum guns

We can but dream, hust ignore the Zimbabwe bit!

One of Churchill’s maps

An interesting piece from a museum, an artist and doctor put this together.  It’s all the pills an average person takes in their lifetime.  It’s about 11 metres long…

Crazy London I – naked cyclists

Crazy London II – pretty sure the above cyclists don’t give a…

# hostel life

Now I see where George R R Martin got his idea for Daenerys’s multiple titles. Interesting fact a magnum is two bottles, but a Nebuchadnezzar is twenty, he must have been a right lad!

Tower of London 

Firstly, it’s hard to believe I spent most of my twenty eight years on this planet in this country without actually going inside this place. Where to start? It’s pretty hard to sum up nearly a millenium of history with a five hour visit. Pro tip: if you go make sure to take the Yeoman (Beefeater tour), it’s great, especially if you get the man I had who just ripped the piss out of the American tourists! Although, to my shame, they knew more about our history than I did.

So, I still haven’t really started yet have I? The highlights are The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (circa 1,500 executed traitors were buried there); the Crown Jewels (I thought it was just the crown, it turns out it includes each monarchs crown (it’s one each apparently…) and loads of other things including a gold bowl that holds 1,400 bottles of wine; the tour of the White Tower (which William I ordered the building of) that includes the amouries and the history thereof (Henry VIII’s armour is in there and let’s just say he thought quite a lot of himself regarding a certain area…); the Yeoman’s stories including the Bloody Execution which required five swings of the Headsman’s axe and the neck still wasn’t severed!  Also, the inscriptions on the walls by prisoners, some of which were being tortured and most of which are circa five hundred years old is really something.

All that and I haven’t even mentioned the lions, the polar bears, the elephants and the huuuuge cannons. Also, Guy Fawkes was tortured on the rack there to reveal his co-conspirators, although I think I’d prefer that to the Scavenger’s Daughter (if you don’t know, look it up, or don’t if you’d prefer!).

P.S: If you don’t like history, especially the gory horribe parts I suggest you stop reading my blog.

Strawbs – written 10 June 2016, published 11 June 2016 (posted on new blog 14 July 2016).

In case you don’t know what it looks like!

The Scavenger’s Daughter

Good idea…

Worth a shot I suppose…

Nice try Henry VIII!