Saturday, June 05, 2010
Before I get into todayís adventures, Iíd like to report that last night, as I was sitting at the computer with the French doors open, another one of those beetles flew in.† This one was a little smaller and didnít have the huge horns that the other two I saw had, thus indicating that this one was a female.† They are called a stag beetle, and the males are harmless, as their mandibles are weak.† The article I read said the females could inflict a painful bite, though, so I freaked out again and swatted the poor thing out the door.† I felt bad doing it, as I had read that their numbers were in sharp decline and they are approaching threatened status.† I most definitely did not want it in my little cottage, though.† The thought of it crawling around or flying around while I slept gave me the creeps for sure.† After that I closed the doors, although I had been enjoying the breeze.
So, I survived the night without being attacked by the giant flying beetles, and I packed up all my stuff this morning and loaded the car.† I had about an hourís drive to get to my London flat, and I had the route all mapped out, with written directions for each turn.† I went over it on Google Maps a couple of times, and it was pretty straightforward, except right at the end, and I had a detailed map of the actual neighborhood where I am staying, that I had printed out before I left home.† I collected my damage deposit from the friend of the owner who had let me in, stopped at the neighborhood grocery store to get some cash from the ATM there, and hit the road for Central London.
The traffic was fairly heavy, but not terrible, on a Saturday morning.† I did okay except for one wrong turn, and I immediately realized it, turned around, and got back on track.† I was glad that I had had a lot of practice with this car, though, as there were narrow bits and cars to dodge around.† I got across the river okay, although I came very close to taking the wrong bridge.† I stopped to consult my map, and verified where I was before crossing the river.† Once I crossed the Vauxhall Bridge, there was a very complicated intersection that involved at least two roundabouts and also traffic lights, and I realize now that I took the wrong street as I exited that complicated intersection.† I didnít realize it then, though, so I kept looking for my next turn, and it never came, of course, as I was on the wrong street.† So, I found a place to pull over and figured out where I was and how I could get back to where I wanted to be.† I managed to do that without any more detours.
My flat is the daylight basement of a house that is part of a whole street of attached houses.† On the east coast of the US, I think they call them row houses.† No front yards or garages.†† The street was lined with cars on both sides, but I found a disabled parking place a few doors down from my house, so I parked there Ė another chance to practice reverse parallel parking.† This time it took me two tries, but there were no other cars coming, so it didnít matter.
The owner, who lives upstairs, showed me around the flat and gave me the keys.† I got all my stuff moved in, with only four trips.† It is going to be interesting to get everything packed into two suitcases and a backpack (plus my CPAP machine) when I leave, but it all came in them, so it ought to go back in them.† This morning I threw away my old bathroom scale, which had broken on the way over.† That will save about 4 or 5 pounds and some volume in my suitcases.
The flat is quite nice, in a sort of old fashioned way.† The bathroom and kitchen are modern, though, which I appreciate.† I will be perfectly comfortable here for my five nights.† The only table is in the kitchen, and I would rather type in the bedroom/sitting room, so I am perched on a couch with the computer on a large rectangular wicker hamper with a lid.† Not the most comfortable position, but it will do.† If I get tired of it, I can put the computer on the bed and sit in the wooden chair, for a change.† My only complaint about the flat so far is the smell.† There are several of those scent thingies you plug into an outlet, and the place reeks of the sweet scent.† I unplugged them, but the smell has probably permeated everything, so I doubt it will go away while I am here.† There is a large bay window in the bedroom/sitting room (which opens into a well, as I am below street level here), and a window in the kitchen, in back, but I doubt I will get much air circulation, and it is too hot out there now anyway, to open the windows.† The scent annoys me, and my nose has not gotten used to it.
It is hot here in London today, probably high 70ís or even 80.† It is also humid, and I heard thunder a while ago, so we could have showers.† Yahoo weather says it is 81 currently in London, I see.† Anyway, my basement flat is a very comfortable 66 degrees, which is great as far as I am concerned.† I donít like the heat; it takes all my energy away.
So, after unloading all my stuff, I headed off to turn in my car.† The car rental place is fairly close by, maybe ĺ of a mile, and it was very easy to find.† You may remember that I was expecting to have a discussion with them about a One Way charge that it appeared they planned to charge me.† It got more complicated than that, though, as last night I noticed that Europcar had charged my credit card 35 pounds two days ago, and that is exactly the amount of the One Way charge I was worried about.† The guy was very helpful and sympathetic, but he said his computer didnít show that any such charge had been made on my contract.† I then mentioned that this was my second One Way rental with Europcar, and he was able to look up my first car, and it appeared the One Way charge was made against that contract.† It had been made by the Edinburgh office, though, so he couldnít really do much.† He called customer service, though, and they ended up initiating an investigation, and if it turns out that the charge wasnít due, then they will issue a refund.† That is supposed to take 7 to 10 working days.† I also had an issue with the charges I was paying today, but I would have had to take them up with the people in Edinburgh, and it is only about 40 bucks, so I am just going to forget about that.† They charged me for an upgrade, and maybe the car I had was actually an upgrade over the one I had reserved, it is hard to tell for sure.† The one I reserved wasnít supposed to have air conditioning, and this one did.† It was a good car, though, so I am just going to pay the upgrade charge.† Now, wasnít that exciting?† Why do I bother to write about such minutia, anyway?† I guess it is all part of the Big Adventure, and by sharing all the details, I feel more like my faithful readers are here with me, keeping me company.
I walked back to my flat and on the way I stopped at a neighborhood grocery store and got some chicken, some bread, some cheese, and some Kettle Chips for my lunch.† I still have some Waitrose Olive Spread, which looks and tastes like butter, which I have been carrying around for a couple of weeks, so I was all set.
I cooled off in my nice cool flat and had a sandwich and chips, and then I set out for the big supermarket, to lay in some real food for the next couple of days.† There is a large Tesco only a half mile or so away, which is convenient.† I got a couple of prepared meals (cold, not frozen), some veggies, and other supplies for the next two or three days.† By the time I got back, after a stop in the local park for a rest, it was 4 oíclock, and I decided to call it a day.† Walking around in the heat was wearing me out.
It is interesting to be in London again.† I have always loved London, and I love walking around here.† I like the parks and the river and it is the best place for people watching I have ever been.† There are always lots of languages being spoken and people from very diverse backgrounds.† I didnít much like driving in the traffic, though, and I am glad to be rid of the car.† I like the Underground, and I am looking forward to using it again.† It was a little overwhelming today, with all the people, all the cars, and the heat.† It definitely feels like I am in the middle of millions of people, all crowded together beyond what I would prefer.† I expect that overwhelmed feeling will diminish rapidly, and I am looking forward to visiting the places I am familiar with.† I am staying in Kennington, which is south of the river, and I have never even been in any of the neighborhoods south of the river, so I have not seen anything familiar yet.† There is a tube station about a block away, so it will be very easy to get to the parts of London I am familiar with.
There is supposed to be a big rain storm tomorrow, so I donít know how much I will get out and about.† There is an umbrella in the front hall, which is nice, as I donít have one with me.† Nor do I have any rain gear with me.† I donít mind getting a little wet, but I donít want to get soaked through.† The umbrella should help a lot.† After tomorrow it is supposed to be a little drier, but there still are supposed to be showers for the next several days after tomorrow.
I had an interesting email the other evening, maybe last night.† In one of my Photos albums (from Scotland) there was a picture of a Pied Wagtail with colored rings on its legs.† I think I mentioned about ringing (we call it banding in the States) in the Ramblings that day, too.† Well, Alan, my Edinburgh birding buddy had emailed me a few days ago that he was going to see if he could trace that bird, from the rings on its legs.† The whole idea of ringing is to learn about the movements of birds, and that can only occur if people report it when they see a bird with rings on it, so there is a whole system in place to funnel those reports to the people who did the ringing.† So, Alan sent on my report and my pictures of the bird to the system, and it got to the guy who had done the ringing of that bird.† He emailed me, partly because he had a question about one of the bands Ė he wasnít sure if it was yellow or orange.† He ended up deciding it had to be orange, and that meant that the bird I took a picture of in Scotland a couple of weeks ago had been trapped on the south coast of England in the autumn of 2008.† Some or all of the Pied Wagtails migrate to Africa for the winter, and the point of this guyís ringing is to trace their movements.† So, I contributed to the font (or fount, if you prefer Ė both words are used and it is controversial which one is ďcorrectĒ) of human knowledge in a tiny way, with my picture of a Pied Wagtail.† I thought it was all pretty interesting.† People spend their time on such interesting things.
Well, it is 5 oíclock now, and almost time for a drink.† I donít think I will have many more adventures today, so I will put this up on the website now.† No photos today, and I donít know if I will take pictures of London or not.† They would just be pictures of the same tourist things that there are already untold millions of pictures of, not pictures of things that I have experienced that most tourists donít experience.† We will see how I feel.† Maybe I will carry the camera around and see if I feel like taking any.
Life rolls on.† Just five more nights, and I head for home, hopefully.
Iím going to add to this and replace the version I already posted, so if you read that one and thought you were done, you were wrong, and you will just miss out on some of the fun.
I did pour myself some Scotch, and I took it upstairs and sat on the stoop for a while and sipped at it.† It was great.† There were people coming and going, cars and bikes going by, children playing down the street.† There was a parking place one door down, and at one point a new black mini-van pulled up and backed into the place.† The driver got out and walked a couple doors down and threw a banana peel in a construction dumpster that is sitting in the street there, in front of a house with scaffolding on it.† As he walked back to his car, tying his tie, a dressed up couple came out of a house a couple doors down and they got in the car, the driver got in, and they went off for their Saturday night out on the town.† Just a tiny slice of the London life.
A guy walking a really ugly dog, a corgi or some other one of those ugly dogs with weird faces, came by.† The dog stopped and looked at me, and didnít seem to want to go on.† The guy, who had nodded at me as he approached, †said to the dog, ďNo, weíre not stopping at Simonís todayĒ.† Simon is my landlord and this guy was obviously a local and knew Simon.
A young black woman pulled up and took the parking place next door, making an extremely competent job of parallel parking on the opposite side of the street.† They donít care at all which side of the street they park on, so there are cars facing both ways, on both sides of the street.† The street out front is barely wide enough that two cars can pass each other, in most places, although sometimes one has to wait for the other, depending how close to the curb people have parked and how wide the approaching vehicles are.
Three people came by who were speaking a language I couldnít identify.† Maybe Portuguese?† A woman was in front, pulling a suitcase, and a man and a woman followed her.† He had no suitcase, but he had a man-purse over his shoulder, a very European thing, I think.† Who were they, where were they going, what were the relationships among them?
People came along pulling suitcases on wheels.† People were walking dogs.† Kids were riding bikes.† It was all quite interesting, and I spent some time wondering what kind of lives did these people have?† Did people love them?† Did they love?† Did they have children?† What kind of jobs did they have?† What was important to them?† Had they ever seen a Purple Heron?
It was very much a London experience.† What an interesting world we have created.
Okay, I will update the website with this version, and if you read the old one, maybe you just missed out on a bunch of really profound philosophy.† Or, maybe you got lucky and didnít have to read this last part.