Thought I'd send a quick update on the fun so far. i've been in England for 12 days so far and it's been pretty nice. Even the weather has been nice. The only time it rained wsa yesterday when I was stuck carrying all my luggage thru the streets of London looking for my friend Cindy. Even that wasn't too bad. We hooked up before I got too soaked.
After a pretty interesting ride across the pond with a woman who wsa travelling by herself to Angola to teach people about AIDS, I found the bus I needed at Heathrow to get me to Cambridge and I was there in just a few hours. Here's where it gets uninteresting... Baff, The friend of my roommate the other other Dave who lives *near* cambridge had just lost his license so I had to take a 19 GBP cab ride out to his house out in a town called Swavesey. Baff lives with his parents in a 15th century tudor estate that has walls surrounding it that date back to the 10th century. Baff likes playing a lot of video games.
So while the surroundings were pretty amazing, I didn't really have a lot more to do than sit around and talk with his parents about Bush and Arafat, Bush and Star Wars, Bush and the UN, Clinton and Ireland, and Germany and Brazil. They were pretty strange conversations and I'm guessing they're pretty typical of the kind of conversations I'd have with about any set of parents outside of London. I think the best way of summarizing it is that the Brits used to have this big ol empire and then they lost it and they're pretty sad about it. They see the U.S. as being the inheritors of this empire and since despite the Clinton and Ireland thing and the Faulkland Island thing, they kind of hope we're still their friends and hope that we don't mess up our empire and that they don't get sucked up into the European Union so much that they finally lose control of their own country. So a strong America to them seems like a good idea. Here I've been thinking that the more the U.S. listens to other parts of the world and tries to not become a completely evil empire, the better off things will be in the long run. But Baff and his dad thought that wsa silly and that ew should continue to make sure we keep holding the trump cards and keep playing them regularly. Anyway, i think dad got it from WWII while Baff gets it from playing too many video games. After a few days, Baff finally got his dad to drive us into Cambridge and I got to see Kings College and the tree that dropped the apple on Newton's head among other wonderful chunks of sculpted rocks with windows. We met up with a bunch of his friends and drank a bunch of great bitter beers before we had to meet dad at 9. I then proceeded to get bored enough to start hammering away on the family antique grand piano and to take long hikes thru the fens or moors owr whatever they're called. I even got us invited to a party down the street from the house, but Baff didn't want to be seen out in the little town for fear that the neighbors might find something to hold against him. But hey, at least I was living pretty cheap and the folks were feeding me and the surroundings were very plesaant.
Finally after a few more days I asked for a ride to the train station and took off up north to York. York of course is an old Roman town that got fought ovre a bunch of times by various groups like the Vikings and Normans and Scots and then settled nito being English for the last half millenea or so. The cathedral is the biggest north of the alps and gracefully dominates the quiet town. I just strolled the narrow streets and old Roman ruins the first day and found a pub with a couple of guitarists in it to spend the evening... til 11 when the pubs all close. In the morning I went down to breakfast at my B&B and met a sweet Canadian woman who lives in Barcelona. We chatted it up and then decided to go off to the city museum to spend a few hours. Gillian is now off teaching to some kids in the Yorkshire countryside and I hope to get to meet her again in Barcelona before she goes to Hong Kong. She advised me not to return to Cambridge, so at the train station, I found myself buying a ticket to Manchester.
Cambridge and York were both pretty flat, but the trip across the country took me thru some beautiful almost mountainous scenery. I didn't reall;y have much of a clue of what to do in Manchester, but I was travelling pretty light, so I just started walking around. Soon enough I found a music club that was going to have live music that night and next door was a pub that rented out rooms. Perfect! So I got a room, hung out in the pub talking to some great people until my money ran out. After getting to the bank and getting the mixed kabob for dinner, I headed to the club and got treated to this 14 piece band that wove together a mixture of afro-techno-jazz that started out really wiered and eneded up getting everyone off their seats and flying around the floor. I made a few friends and then headed next door to crash out.
I woke up the next morning and turned on BBC to find out that John Entwistle, the bass player for The Who, had died. Aftre worshipping the band for 20 years, I wsa pretty sad but couldn't really find anyone to comiserate with. I think they moved on here a little faster than I did.
But anyway, I managed to get out and hike thru Manchester which is a strange mix of very old and very new architecture. Some 3000 pound bomb was set off in the old part of town a few years back by the IRA and so they've been forced to upgrade. I hiked over to this technology museum and was awed by the old textile processing machines and trains and cars. It was interesting to see it from the other side. They said that slavery was ended due to the advancement of technology. Here I thought that it was because people thought it was wrong.
That was about it for my little sojourn. I thought about heading into Wales and over to Ireland, but I really didn't have the time. I had to get back and do some more nothing in Cambridge. At least we got to go out into town again and we found clubs open at least past midnight and crashed out at Baff's friend's house.
...Then it almost was now, so I had to get another ride to the train station and get myself down to London, or else I'd be lost in some parallel universe. I finally got a hold of my friend Cindy who used to work with me at Organic in the very early days. She's been working at a company called Lateral here in London, and I found my way over to her office. We cabbed it back to her place and went out to a stylish kabob restaurant and talked about old times. Now of course it's today and I bought a all day 3 area tube pass spent the day being a tourist. I hit the national gallery of art in Trafalgar Square and saw large quantities of everything from Giotto to Van Gogh. Pretty awesome. Right as I was walking out, I got a call from my brother, Tom (I borrowed one of Baff's mobile phones), who had just arrived from Portland and is staying with an old friend of his from Milwaukee, Sue Wenzler. It was a great moment looking over the stunning Nelson's Column in Tralfalgar from the balcony of the National Art museum and talking to my big brother who I was going to adventure with for the next three weeks. Especially since I didn't even know my phone was ringing, I just wanted to check it out as I left the museum. He's laggin, so I said hi and then tubed off to look at Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliment. The Abbey of course is stunning with graves of really rich and important people dating back to the 13th century. Darwin. That completed I went and checked out a Dali exhibit on the other side of the Thames next to the Eye of London. And now both my feet and my fingers are tired and I'm back at Cindy's office. Now it's time for some curry and get off to the pub. Tomorrow I'll meet up with my brother and we'll head down to our friend Pat's wedding in Dorset. So it's been quiet so far but with 8 weeks left, I'm sure the fun is just beginning. I'll be in touch!