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Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Wanderlust...London, Paris and Princess Douchesses

 The other day I woke up and realized it’s high time for an adventure. One of those adventures where you just walk out the door and don’t really know quite where you’ll end up, but that’s part of the fun, kind of adventure.

So, like Bilbo Baggins, I packed a small hand luggage bag, yesterday morning and walked out the door. First stop was the 4.5 hour train ride to London, where I stayed last night. Train (75 pounds first class Glasgow - London with Virgin) takes about the same time as the flight all in, is comfortable, has free wifi, coffee, cheese, dinner, free booze, and you are able to avoid the humiliating hell of places like Luton Airport (far and away the worst airport I’ve ever had the misfortune to visit I’m sure you will agree.)

It’s always nice to pass through London – It’s the city I really spent the most mis-spent part of my younger days, and I had many happy memories there (mostly because I barely did any work) But, beware of London, dear friends – it’s all an illusion. It’s amazing how someone somewhere managed to convince millions of people that living in a cramped room in a shared flat, overpaying for absolutely everything, commuting, shoved up like cattle for 90minutes a day, and working like a slave with little or no free time or money is in some way ‘living the dream.’ Mass hypnosis, perhaps?

 Ask anyone who lives here, do they love living in London and of course they say yes. Yes, of course, there’s nowhere else in the world to live, nowhere so alive, so happening. London is the centre of the universe….and in many ways it is. But like a spiders web, it traps its residents, and in time it becomes harder and harder to leave, and you wake up one morning, and you’re 48, living in a shared flat in Bethnal Green, having worked yourself into a semi-coma and have nothing at all to show for it. Shit! You think. You came here 25 years ago, ready to set the world alight, but for some reason, like 99% of the other people who come to London to ‘make it’, you didn’t, you just plodded along like a normal person, and while all your mates back in Leeds have detached houses and Volvos, you have a mild coke habit, cynical nature, and lots of regrets.  An even if you ‘make it’ its not much better – wow, you managed to save up 100,000 pounds. Your lovely wife is pregnant. So you have a deposit for a tiny 3 bedroom terraced house in a pretty mixed area like Hackney, and a million dollar mortgage round your neck for the next 20 years (and a house that would costs 50,000 pounds if it were in Leeds) Well done, Sir. You are indeed a success in life. 100,000 pounds incidentally, will buy you a self-sufficient dream in somewhere like Ecuador, or an income for life of about $25,000 a year if you buy 5 houses in Buffalo.

It is always interesting though to check out the modern day Nathan Barleys round the east end – I ended up out in a pub in Mile End, near where I used to live, and right in the middle of a roughish council estate. When I lived there it was full of cockney football hooligans, but now it was all 12 pounds for an organic hamburger and a ping pong table full of bearded freelance social media nodes cheering a bit too loudly, in order to draw attention to themselves. Imagine Russell Brands' little brother who never managed to get famous. I wonder when the crossover was made? Were these braying fools beaten to a pulp a few times by the West Ham guys before sheer numbers of fixy-bike riding twats annoyed the regular jims until they gave up and moved down the road to an even rougher drinking hovel?  

What I wonder though, is why London has a pervasive aura of deep sadness about the people here – did you ever meet anyone in London who was truly happy? I mean truly content with their lives?  I haven’t. Maybe they’re all too busy. Or it’s too competitive to be truly happy. Any semblance of a kind, bubbly personality, or gentle spirit, is soon bled dry with cynicism, as the reality of having to make a living (or, if you’re Russian) hitch a rich husband, hits. And as a result, here I am, on the Eurostar to Paris, glad to leave the denizens of the soul sucking vampire squid to their 8am sandwiches at their desks and their 3 pints in the Bricklayers Arms bitching about their boss after work on a Thursday. Leave, you fools, before it’s too late! Ditch your job and go to the beach and go and be happy somewhere!

Of course, due to my innate laziness I missed my booked Eurostar train. Actually the bus took 45 mins instead of 21, but hats off to Eurostar, I explained the bus was late and they put me on the next train for free. Bravo!  No free wi-fi on the train but that may be connected to the international nature of my journey….next stop, in 2 hours…Paris.  I wanted to go here again for ages, after watching Midnight in Paris. What a great film! I liked particularly how the very decent Owen Wilson characters’ nasty all American ignoramus wife runs off with the uber-douchebag. Made me think how often when you do meet douches, its kind of satisfying that decent girls also will be mentally noting their douchishness and so, as sure as the sun sets on the empire, they end up with neurotic prescription drug addicted princess douchesses.

When I was there 10 years ago, I remember Paris being a smelly dirty place with overpriced food, scabby cafes, pigs trotters for sale in butchers shops, and rude as hell brown people everywhere. And is it just me, or do all French men look like pimps? Lets hope it’s all changed, and my dream of this kind of inspiring, meandering city of beauty and romance isn’t shattered this time. There’s a decent 500 euro entry poker tournament on in the famous Aviation Club de France, on Wednesday so I’ll go there, and I suppose the Louvre, and spend the rest of the time wandering around randomly. I’ll avoid that nightclub that was in ‘Irréversible’ I think.

Today out of the blue, in London, I bought an ‘inter-rail pass’ – 240 pounds odd for 10 days of travel all over Europe – so a meandering 10 days across Europe ending up in Odessa is the next loose plan…then in October ill be back in the land of the warmonger. 

I can safely say nothing really beats looking out the window on some exotic new city, not knowing what insanity awaits out there…except now i'm sitting on Eurostar looking at fields.


  1. New York City is similar to London in that way. Everything is overpriced but everyone claims it's so great. I don't get it.

  2. Well, if you've upped sticks and left your old life in a provincial city, you'd feel like a bit of a twat telling you'r buddies from school that actually new york was a depressing, dirty, overpriced shithole full of circle jerking pretencious woody allen wannabies and that you'd made an enormous mistake, wouldn't you?