A Travellerspoint blog

United Kingdom

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Working to Airline Baggage Restriction Guidelines

semi-overcast 10 °C

Somehow I had accumulated stuff, although I don’t go shopping a lot and was practically a pauper, when the time came to pack up my life, suddenly I had stuff.

I was entitled to 20kg on my first flight home-bound and I figured this was ample as everything fit in without any major zipper strain and I was able to lift and carry it to the bus stop.
Oh how wrong I was, apparently it weighed 23.7kg.

I watched the top of the girls head as she processed my passport, hoping she wouldn't look up and notice my bag.
"Be cool," I thought, "it's early, what's a few kilos between friends?"

She finished, looked up and...
“Now you are currently at 23kg”, the girl said cheerfully, “it’s ₤14 per kilo you are over…” She looked at me as if she expected me to hand over my credit card.

"I respectively disagree," I wanted to say, "I'm not that strong and this has been on my back for the past hour on two buses and walking down the road".

“…ah, right,” I say in a real-bummed tone, pretending I hadn't noticed the extra almost 4kg the second I put it on the scale.
“Would you like to do that?” she asks hopefully,

“Um, no… thank you, I’ll just…sort it”, I mumble as I drag the heavy and getting heavier by the minute bag off the scales and motioned that I was going ‘over there’, selecting a piece of white reflective floor by the ropes.

So I sat on the floor of Bristol International Airport at 6:30am surrounded by all my worldly possessions. I was heading home after 14 months. The majority of the flight was made up of middle-aged holiday makers, families and excited girls weekends away, all of which have been pre-prepared, booked into resorts and were super psyched to get drunk and sunburnt, they had all already checked-in when the airport opened.

There I was, a bit tired from my early start, hungry from skipping breakfast, sad to be leaving my new home and just sitting on the floor in the middle of the airport looking at my luggage, thinking a) how amazing I am at packing given everything was neatly stacked inside and it closed with ease, but also b) what the hell am I supposed to put on, there really isn't that much in there, and I didn't fancy messing up my killer packing.

So out comes my woollen jumper from my zip lock back which had all but re-inflated. On it goes.
Keep in mind; despite it being a chilly Bristolian morning, my destination forecast was edging towards 32 degrees c.

It was still not going to do the trick I needed to get rid of 4kg, and couldn't put it in my carry-on because there was a good chance that would soon be weighed and was most certainly over the limit.

I took out a few items and spread them around me taking up a 2m radius by the check-in ropes, creating a mini-transit 'shit haven'.
I took it up again and I had lost a kilo. The girl had saved herself the anguish and disappeared so her male colleague asked again if I was happy to check that then and pay the excess.
“How much is it again? ₤14?” I ask, hoping there had been a last minute 100% fee reduction.
“Yes”
“Haha, no”

Back to my junk pile on the floor. I decided the summer dress I was wearing, with trousers underneath was far too light and comfortable, so off it comes in the airport and I throw on my wool dress that was the only thing that jumped out to me as being potentially weighty.
I put it on, then the wool jumper, then my jacket, then my coat and scarf.

In the mean time I had taken a few random items out that I could sacrifice if need be. Not included in this pile was the 1 litre bottle of Polish vodka I bought last year that was clearly weighing me down significantly, but by this point we’d come so far together there really was no turning back.
I had also put two notepads, two adapters, a camera charger, earphones, an old phone and a phone charger in my jacket pocket that was already housing my phone and keys. My travel wallet and journal were already out as ‘housing important items’ so can’t be part of my weight limit.
I dragged it back up and it was 22kg. How does this still weigh so much? And how can all the stuff I’ve taken out only collectively weigh a kilo and a half?
I tinkered about in my open bag pathetically like a unskilled surgeon looking for his lost wristwatch in a organ pool. Careful not to dislodge anything. My bag was still sitting on the scales next to the check–in agent. He no doubt wanted to go get a cup of tea as mine was the last bag to be checked on. I heard him loudly say this over his phone.

Unable to find anything to put on and unwilling to dig deeper and risk messing up my packing I looked up at him with sad eyes,

“So, how strict are we with this 20kg thing?” I ask hopefully

On more than one occasion I've found that being a sweet and charming individual can do you wonders at airports. When approaching the airport desk this has a much better chance of flying with peers and men, don’t attempt it with a middle-aged lady; just assume she is having a shit day. SHE will make you throw out 4kg and then assign you the seat next to the toilet, and divert your bags via South Korea. She will also shoot daggers right into your soul with her eyes.

Back at Bristol International Airport, time now 6:45am, the whole of the check-in area is now deserted except for me and my junk – now spread all over the general vicinity and the one guy now left to deal with me. The last passenger.

I tried to make it obvious that I haven’t over packed for a four-day holiday.
I mean come on I was carrying a map in a poster tube.
Show me a little love I thought.

“I can let it through at 20.9kg”, he says, hoping it will solve both our problems.

Also by this point the whole scenario seemed a bit pathetic, I wasn't going to pay excess and I think by this point we both knew this. For me it was the fact that I'd been only quasi-employed and was only citizenship away from being on benefits and he knew because he had a ridiculous person in front of him wearing 10 outfits inside a respectable public place.

I kept eye contact and I pulled out another scarf and wrapped it around me as well.

“I reckon that will do it”, he said, really it weighed nothing but I appreciated his desire to get this show on the road.

  • *Triumphant sound**

I think his generosity was partly out of convenience but also partly out of sympathy knowing that I now was going to have to board my plane to a Mediterranean, almost Middle Eastern destination wearing;

Socks
Boots
Trousers
Singlet
Wool dress
Wool jumper
Zip up jacket
Coat
Large blanket scarf
Scarf
Headphones

He labelled my bag and informed me I had to take it to the next counter over, to irregular baggage. I was ready to roll.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am a hoarder and don’t like to waste things/dispose of perfectly good items. I surveyed the pile of stuff I had pulled out in my haste to make my bag lighter; three sanitary pads and a tampon with a total combined weight 5g, a block of soap, a jar of cranberry sauce, my water proof rucksack cover, a pocket translator and a head lamp.
I pitched the head lamp and sanitary items.
Evidently that’s all I could spare. Obviously I wasn't giving up the jar of Cranberry Sauce from last Christmas.

Then right in front of the man that checked me in and the one about to take my irregular-shaped luggage, I unzipped the bottom of my rucksack and shoved the rest of my items back in.
In retrospect I ought have kept the headlamp as well but really felt I needed to actively dispose of something although I sincerely hope I don’t have to go down any mines any time soon.

With a “HEAVY’ luggage tag emblazoned on it, off it went, (side bar – when was 20kg heavy, OH&S BS, if I can lift 20kg I'm pretty sure the burly guy who’s full-time job is lifting heavy bags can)

With not an ounce of dignity lost from changing in the foyer or sitting on the floor of Bristol International Airport surrounded by feminine hygiene products and winter clothing, I took my boarding pass and said ‘adieu’ with my head held high. Off I trotted, with my combined carry-on, coat pocket weight and wearable clothing weight I was easily carrying an extra 15kg and I began sweating immediately as I stumbled towards security.

In two hours time I was to disembark in the Cypriot heat in my snow gear and carry my 20kg rucksack, though to be fair, 23kg rucksack, as that sacrificed tampon didn't really weigh a lot. Nothing but a sweaty ball of assorted fabrics with phone charges hanging out every pocket.

Welcome to Cyprus where the current temperature is 36 degrees c.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 09:56 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged packing airports luggage baggage Comments (1)

Sun and Son - Bristol Park Life

The Unhitched Wagon Series

There is no place more affected by weather than England. Not only is it a part of everyday conversation but life itself revolves around the weather – it’s all doom and gloom until the sun comes out. The rarity of sunshine means upon its appearance all of life’s plans can be, and are abandoned. Suddenly the t-shirts come off and pale flesh comes out. The coats are left behind (temporarily) and everybody migrates to the parks to soak up the rays and increase their Vitamin D stores like desperate squirrels storing acorns for the winter.

On these sunny days the park looks like a festival – hundreds of people in the same small place, gathered on the grass listening to music, reading and cooking vegetarian sausages on disposable BBQs. There is stay at home mums and dads, nannies, the unemployed and students scattered across the grass. The agile are hula hooping, the hippies banging on bongo drums and smoking splifs. Before long school is out and children also come flooding in, suddenly the peace and quiet turns to yells of frivolity and shrieks of excitement – bescootered kids scootering, balls catapulting towards you. Everyone is lapping up life in the sun there is a distinct aroma 30+ sunscreen and euphora in the air. Even the occasional dad in a business suit will arrive to meet the family at the park for some daddy and kid bonding time if the sun is high after business hours are over. Everyone is overcome with clinical jubilation; they forget their misery and smile.

On a sunny day me and my fellow part-time employed friend lie out on the nice, green English grass and work on our tans and sun screen applications respectively. Spending our afternoon reading books, doing the crossword, drinking coffee and eating baguettes with pesto and generally acting like the ladies of leisure we are. Sometimes reading and chatting gives way to lying on the picnic rug and watching the people and then making up stories and generally judging our fellow park goers for their life decisions, or rather, their alleged life decisions.
My local park lies just off the UK’s longest independent high street in a veritable melting pot of Bristolian society, a park forming a cusp between the neighbourhoods of the hippies, hobos and students and middle-class families. These neighbourhoods are made up of double income families and grown-up hippies rearing the kind of children that eat soya margarine, sushi and hummus and who are ‘expressing themselves’ when they stamp their feet and have a hissy fit.

The park is also a natural habitat of the local “yummy mummies” which is what they I believe they refer to themselves as. They roam around the city park between 3-4:30, socialising, judging, and social climbing, oh and picking their kids up and giving them a post-school run-a-round the park. It’s a ‘be seen’ type environment. We sit from our picnic rug and observe, staying quiet so as to not startle them. The ‘yummy mummies’ are the ones who have their shit together, they have probably just come from a quick Zumba class or coffee date with the girlfriends. They might be in their designer gym gear or something that says ‘I’m a mum, but I’m still hot’, some casual high street fashions. They are all pushing expensive strollers that are aerodynamic, turn into space ships as the child develops and have a compartment to cure a ham. Roughly the size of a Smart car.

As they mingle you quickly get to see the social circles form, the cream rises. Obviously there is a small window to prove yourself before little Felix and Tolly have to get off their scooter and get to tennis practice. The yummiest mummiest of the yummy mummies are drawn to each other to chat about Quinoa and the need for 3 year olds to learn Mandarin. These ones are obviously affluent and work from home or have home help. Then there is the rung below, who have the opportunity should they play their cards right, to integrate with the upper echelons. These yummy mummies are nearly there, they are working a lot harder, there’s no time for a Yoga class but they could probably juggle a few things and meet for coffee. These ones went home and got changed before coming to do the school run. Have thrown together a casual ensemble that says, ‘no I’ve been wearing this all day’. If you look closely you can see the few flyaway hairs pointing to signs of distress and panic leading up to that school pick up.

Then you have a third category around the external perimeter. They are a hot mess, trying hard, they probably work or are full-time mums or both. They are doing the right thing, doing the after school park socialise, the kids are in Kung Foo and Yoga for Kids classes but they are a hot mess. They attempt to penetrate the circles. They just do not cut the mustard in a sundress and runners and unkempt hairstyle. They have pulled on a pair of pants over a pair of leggings and the leggings are hanging out underneath. This will not do. That is not living up to the yummy mummy code, no visible signs of exhaustion or despair are permitted. They are trying not to scream as Sam the little shit is ignoring polite requests and is zooming passed on his scooter and Florence is pulling off the heads of the daffodils. How unkempt.
This awkward hour of mingling and trying to casually drop in on conversation, make new friends, set up play dates and generally impress fellow mums soon ends with jiu-jitsu classes and guitar lessons to get to and before long they all disperse leaving us park dwellers to get back to sunning ourselves and not eavesdropping and judging others.

Suddenly it’s not as fun and its getting dark, the sun is setting. Some families arrive bringing their dinner to the park for some al fresco dining, some couscous salad and wraps. On plates. No fish and chips, on the newspaper in these parts.
I think of runners and sundress lady as I wander home. Wondering if she goes home to her husband and says, “no honey, not today, little Florence will have to play with the poor kids for another week”. She looks hopelessly in her cupboard and says, “Do you mind if I spend ₤100 on some lycra running leggings? Jennifer Smythly-Finch was wearing them at the park and she’s lost all her baby weight in 6 days drinking smoothies of wheatgrass and elephant semen and she swears by them. I also overheard her telling the others that if your children are not watching Human Planet documentaries and eating micro-greens they will probably be bad at maths and you may as well teach them how the plumbing works now. Get a head start. Do you think we should get Sam a tutor? Or change his name to something more hip like Erkin? Maybe I should enrol him in a Business for Tots class, I think he has strong entrepreneurial skills, I saw him steal a football and try and sell it back today. I think he’s got a head for business…”

The sun sets and with some luck it will rise high above the clouds again tomorrow so we can continue to speculate on the intricate lives and social cliques of yummy mummys.

NB. In actuality, since this Spring heatwave it has rained constantly and it has been 3 months since we have last tuned into our favourite park soap opera, when the sun returns I am expecting eye patches, evil twins and at least one scandalous affair.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 11:05 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged park summer sun soap_opera bristol gossip yummy_mummies Comments (1)

What is the deal with…Ugg boots?

The 90's stand-up "what's the deal with..." Series

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“Fashionless hobo declares war on UGG fashion. Says is fUGGing disgrace. Then wears socks and shorts”

It might seem of late that I have nothing positive to say about living in London but that's not entirely true and i'll write a full page article on Minstrels the chocolate Smartie at a later date.
Meanwhile back at the negative ranch...

I have a fashion issue. "You, a fashion issue?" I hear you mock. Shut up and listen.
My issue is this ridiculous London trend of wearing UGG boots outside. Look, I said nothing when camel toe jeans came in, or jeggings were a thing but I’ve tried to ignore it, get passed this disdain, but it’s hard when I find it disrespectful and offensive to something I truly believe in, slippers and indoor comfort items.

For the most part London is trendy and I regularly feel like a homeless person with a penchant for colour but recently I saw a girl working in H&M, a somewhat reputable fashion store, who had worn black leggings and black UGG boots to work. Now I’m not a fashionista but not only should you not wear leggings as pants to work, you shouldn’t even wear them outside the house. And to team them with slippers!

You're fiiiiiired!

UGG boots are not shoe. They are slippers and slippers are to be worn either with pyjamas or teamed with a dressing gown ensemble. Inside. Preferably in front of the TV or on a couch while reading a book. Look I realise UGGs have become fashionable in the past few years for some such reason like Mischa Barton etc. being snapped kicking around L.A in them pretending to drink a frappé or they were one of Oprah’s ‘favourite things’ or some such nonsense but this my fair feathered friends, is where the issue lies. Even Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz realised this in The Holiday, L.A and London are two very different places, for many reasons but namely, the weather.

See here in London it rains a lot. Like more in a day than my home town gets in a year. So as the rain falls and the pavements fill with puddles, the trend of wearing ₤100 gumboots actually makes some slight sense, still idiotic, but acceptable for those with dispensable cash but not UGG boots.
UGG boots are not water repellent. Londoners walk the streets in these slippers which by a days wear out in the elements are all disgracefully floppy and wet because they are indoor shoes. Basically, you can’t wear UGG boots in the rain because they are made out of sheep. Australian sheep at that, an animal very unfamiliar with the concept of being dragged through puddles.

It’s the horrendous sight of someone walking lopsided in a pair of damp slippers that sticks in my craw. They are slopping along, standing on the backs as they walk because there is no support in the heel. Their foot slips off the sole with every step. They are all soggy from walking the filthy streets in the rain and dirt sticks to the boot because, again it's sheep and not shoe leather. It's really quite repulsive.

This is how I imagine this issue began, back when UGG cracked the UK market and were on a flight home after securing a deal:

Graeme UGG: “Ah, shit, did you tell ‘em they were slippers?...”
Trevor UGG: “…Nah mate…they’ll figure it out...I mean, they are lined with fluffy wool. The outside is made of animal skin. The soles are a piece of foam. Trust me, they’ll work it out…”

Oops. It’s like all of Australia is sitting back and laughing. Oh man, this is super awkward we can’t tell them now. It's been too long.

So to sum it up. Stop wearing slippers as shoes. It’s just gross.
Shut it down London, just shut it down or we I'll see a ban on all Australian exports, and that’s includes Neighbours and Home and Away and any other mediocre programming we give away.

Don’t think I won’t do it.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 18:03 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london fashion ugg_boots Comments (2)

Dear London

A "Love-ish" Story of Girl Meets City.

semi-overcast

This is not a love letter in the traditional sense. I am not going to compare thee to a summer’s day because you provide them so infrequently I cannot be sure what they are. Instead this is an exposé of the tired, sometimes strained relationship we share.

Where to begin? You, London and I have always had a melodramatic and tumultuous love affair. While there has undoubtedly been happy times filled with fun and laughter there has also been several tears and hate-filled words hurled around. I'm not proud of it but I know it's not unusual to see you cower in the corner as I threaten a healthy dose of domestic violence if you dare offend me again. But at the heart, at some level anyway, there is a lot of love between us.

And that is what our relationship survives on. This morsel of hope is what we cling to and is the basis for my letter today. Those glimmers of hope; those fun summer days in the park, the frivolity and fun of sightseeing, the sandwich meal deals.

It is a love affair that London and I have, but a 21st century one. Not so much Singing in the Rain but arguing with each other while waiting for a bus in the pouring rain, soaked and miserable but at the same time somewhat content because we just had delicious London Indian food. London was the first international city I visited. I was just a young carefree 20-year old with hair as big as my dreams. It was a lovely August summery day in 2005 with Big Ben towering above and an African man following me through Hyde Park.

It can be a wondrous, joyful city when it wants to be but it's not all puppy dogs and rainbows. There is a dark side to London, a side you don’t want to take home to meet the family. A side that annoys, if not enrages.

One minute London life is peachy keen, then it clouds over and the rage consumes me again.

Suddenly my friendly city of fun and love is grey. Grey. Permanently grey. It sets in and stays for the rest of your lifetime until you just couldn’t possibly take it anymore, you’re tightening your noose, “goodbye cruel w’…” …and then a bit of blue sky peeks through to remind you that there is a world out there.

The city for the most part is grey, grey roads, old grey buildings, new grey buildings – the newer ones are just fancier gradients of grey and glass which reflects the rest of the grey. The Thames is that murky brown that looks quite frankly, grey. The sky is grey and together it all just merges together into one giant smear of suicide inducing smokey, gunmental, Early grey.

Then there’s the rain. If you leave without a jacket or umbrella it will rain. Sometimes it starts and doesn’t stop until you are about to hammer that last nail into your water tight ark.

But that’s all to be expected. It the truth universally acknowledged that London’s weather is dare I say it, shit. Some locals claim otherwise but it’s for no other reason than that they have never learnt that it the sky is supposed to be blue.

Teacher: “What colour is the sea?”
Children: “Blue”

Teacher: “What colour is a bus?”
Children: “Red”

Teacher: “What colour is the sky?”
Children: “Like a stucco, whiteish, stone grey with hints of depressive smokey grey”

These are trivialities and it’s not something London controls but it doesn’t stop me blaming it for all my, and the world woes. On a personal level our relationship can be strained.

Sometimes London and I want to go a date. Maybe go out for some coffee? Which sadly only ends in me throwing the scalding milky coffee in London’s face and screaming, “you call this coffee!”.

It’s awkward when we are in public together because London is very fashionable. Its finger is on the pulse with fashion. Clothes are ripped from the catwalk, then teamed with a simple high-end corporate blazer and a slightly indie fedora hat for an edge. It’s always a topic of contention with London and I because I want to leave the house in some baggy pants, Converse and a Santa jumper and then pull on a beanie. London disapproves. It’s written all over its face.

The trouble is our relationship has been off and on now for the past 6 and a half years. We know each other’s flaws which can bring us undone. I know and can, I suppose, accept that London will never provide me with decent lollies, coffee or sunshine and it knows that I cannot use a key or unlock a Barclay’s bike the first time round.

It’s true sometimes I think why the hell am I here? this city does nothing but cost me money and make my skin and hair uncharacteristically dry. I had no intentions when I relocated to relocate to stinky old/lovely old London. But here I am. And for all its flaws and all our harsh words, fist fights and black eyes there are equal amount of time where I love this city.

It is a great city.

We just have our problems. But all relationships do. And we are working on in it. Someone suggested couples therapy so London’s seeing a shrink because to be fair, it it’s problem, not mine. I’m charming.

I have seen West End, there’s a lot of singing and dancing and being faaaaabulous going on, so maybe London’s gay?

We will have to wait and see how it plays out, and if these differences end up being irreconcilable, I'll move on to a younger, more charming city, one that plays the guitar. I have no doubt London and I will just stay friends, see each other every now and then when there's a band in town or I need a lift to the airport.

Whether we can survive together is any ones guess.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 04:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london love weather drama london_life hate Comments (0)

Happy New Year Assholes!

rain

For some reason we, members of the human race, feel like we should do something, anything to celebrate the New Year. Now, some people love this event, I don’t relate to these people and probably on multiple issues. The rest of us that find the whole event something more akin to obligatory than appealing.

Oddly enough I prefer to spend New Year’s with people I actually like and at a house so I can go to sleep promptly after my social duties are done. I brought 2011 in with my friend, some gin and a toficken burger and was in bed by 12:45pm. A perfect New Year’s.

Alas, I am in London and I couldn’t be bothered going anywhere because I truly dislike this ‘event’ but I can’t spend New Year’s in London at home on the couch watching TV? Could I? I know the answer is a perfectly respectable “yes, yes you can” but instead I fought against my own antisocial tendencies and all logic and thought I should at least go to the Eye and see the fireworks.

So it’s late Saturday night, I was walking along the Thames eating a packet of Fruit Pastilles about to ring in the New Year alone. (Don’t be jealous, you can never be this cool)

There are people everywhere ruining the scenery. Many are intoxicated, why remember the last part or the first parts of a year? As I walked along, hoping my Fruit Pastilles would never end and making a mental note that in 2012 I would eat them more, I saw one drunken idiot fill a homeless man’s cup with vodka from the bottle she was casually carrying and I thought, this might be an interesting night...

This cannot be too bad. Can it? I had been down here before to bring in 2006 and survived.

So what I worked out as I got deeper into the thick of it all is that anyone with any sense of dignity and decorum has other plans on New Year’s and only London’s scum is out on the streets to see fireworks. And a few misguided families who won’t ever do it again.

So as I push passed the crowds of people standing and being big fat drunk sidewalk blockers I got down to the Eye a bit too early. Great I am going to have to stand here for an hour.

It was naturally raining on me if for no other reason than to increase my outrage and fuel my hate.

I was bored. I was standing with a family because they seemed the sanest around. The police manned the barricades in front of me. Idiotic youth gangs walked up and down yahooing and being a nuisance to society.

The police dragged a fool over the fence and away on average every 4 minutes. People were being gross and carrying on. I was embarrassed and horrified that there were families around while grown adults were being dragged away by police and boozing in the street. As I looked at them ti made me realise I wouldn’t make a good cop because I would have hit every one of those assholes over the head with my baton by now and enrolled them a social etiquette class.

I waited. Waited. Waited in the hotbed of moral depravity that was the banks of the Thames.

Finally the moron from BBC Radio One London that kept saying “put your hands in the air London, only 1 hour and 45 minutes to go” announced it was nearly here.

2011 as a year was ok, ups and downs and I believe it finished in a style that brought it down to 2010 level.

This ladies and gentleman is how I spent my last 15 minutes of 2011:

I was nearly there soon I would be home. There is a barrier blocking the road from a bigger fence creating a cage for policeman if you will. A cop playpen between us, the public and the area surrounding the Eye and explosives. I stand a few steps from the barrier next to a family. Close enough to pretend I’m with them but not close enough to make them uncomfortable as there was space around us.

A man pushes passed, of all the places in the street and bends over in the gutter literally in front of me and begins heaving.

Oh hell to the no, I was thinking. What are you 14? Take yourself home you moron.

Thankfully he leaves and we breathe a sigh of relief but 30 seconds later he came running back and vomits in the gutter at my feet, in front of me, and this poor family. He has obviously decided it was still a prime spot for a chuck.

He was a grown adult.

Great, that’s filthy, won’t be standing there. We all shuffle slightly. The vomit just sits there staring at us.

It wasn’t long now. A group of somewhat respectable looking but tipsy adults standing nearby decide to crack open a bottle of champagne, the cork goes flying as does the champagne, showering me and my family. Like a hose for an extended time period. They laugh and apologise.

I give them a glare that says “Haha that’s great, super amusing, thanks asshole”.

Still waiting. Who can I pay to end this year early so I can go to bed?

Next, three girls appear probably aged about 16-17 and a bit drunk. I overhear them saying that one needs to pee and the other two were saying just pee here. Like we are drunk no one will notice. I interrupted and said it my most polite and helpful voice, “there are toilets just there under the bridge, about 50metres away, you can see the sign”

There were not convinced that was a good idea. She had about 8 minutes before midnight. It was definitely doable.

I stopped short of saying “Please don’t piss in the street you filthy bitch, what would your mother think”
Too late. In the last 5 minutes of 2011 a girl is squatting next to me with her two friends trying to cover her while she pisses on the road, in public, while the security guard nearby just watches on like a creep.

Filthy bitch.

I am shocked and appalled.

At least this family was sharing my utter disgrace at humanity. I wanted to pull aside the 10-year old daughter and tell her to make a conscious decision never to be the kind of girl that intentionally pisses in a gutter.

With mere minutes to go before I can go home, a young guy slips between me and the family to the 30 cm of space in front of me which we were leaving clear to avoid the obvious human bodily functions.

We gave him a dirty look and enclosed ranks slightly. His somewhat more polite friend waits a minute then has the audacity to ask me if he can *just* get through to his friend. The barrier is 30 cm from me. This tool is standing in front of me facing me because there isn’t really room to stand there. I look at him like he is a piece of human garbage. It’s tense for a moment because there is no way in hell these two were going to come in at 11:57 and stand in front of us, after all we had endured.
And before I could say “look mate, no chance” mum there just launches at them. Something along the lines of “there is no way in hell you are going to stand there you rude little pricks, we have been waiting here for 3 hours (exaggeration but not relevant, go mummy) and we want to take photos and you are going to stand right in front of her (me)”.

She was furious. She was practically shaking. All the London scum was starting to wear this little family from Bournemouth down. Surprisingly, though I think if nothing else this night taught me that I shouldn't ever be surprised, this obnoxious little shit just launches back at her, a grown woman in front of her husband and children with crap about it being a public place.

The sheer audacity of this douchebag, I just wanted her to slap his face.

This was turning out to be quite a night. I have never seen so many douchebags in one place.

Eventually he leaves and I have a little chat to the family who I think at that point were concerned I was there on my own and for their own safety. I pointed out that the whole time this little punk was standing in front of me he was standing in a pile of chicken soup looking vomit and I was watching it squelch into his sneakers so our victory.

Finally the countdown began, thank god, end this year already.

In all the commotion some more morons had found their way right behind me and man about my own age started screaming and yelling, and counting down and screaming in my ear like Elvis had just reappeared with Oprah and they was giving us all a car.

I was done, at that point I just turned around with a look of disgust and said,

“It’s really that exciting is it?” - motioning to a number projected onto a building that wasn’t even at a good number, it was literally at 46.

And he apologised but kept yelling, directing his screech slight away from my ear.

The fireworks began. They were awesome. I suddenly forgot how much I hated the world and enjoyed the fireworks lighting up the night sky.

They ended, I said Happy New Year to my family and pushed my way passed the morons and powerwalked along the Thames and away from the horror of public events in public places.

Next year I’m staying in and having a Cary Grant marathon.

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as I put distance between myself and the Eye, I even smiled as a group of intoxicated Indonesian youth were counting down the new year 20 minutes late, enam, lima, empat, tiga, dua, satuuuuuuuuu!

So that was it. New Year’s Eve my annual reminder that I hate a lot of people and it’s amazing I have any friends at all.

Oh and London, you are a city of assholes.

Happy New Year no one. I hate you all.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 09:57 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london london_eye fireworks nye new_years_eve 2012 scum Comments (1)

A Hostel Environment

Until last month it had been a while since my last hostel experience and I had found myself sitting in a bunk bed reliving the experience.

Now hostelling isn’t for everyone.
Avoid them if you rate highly cleanliness, personal space, beds without another above your head and your own bathroom.

I am for the most part okay with hostels. Cleanliness, well I obviously don’t appreciate filth but I am not going to lie, my standards are possibly lower than average. Most hostels are tidy clean just not clean-clean, the floors smell feety, the toilets toilety and the showers have mould. The covers are clean but you wouldn't dare look at the pillow and the duvet underneath.

“Why in God’s name would you do it?” I hear you grumble as you puff on your cigar.

There are several benefits to hostelling. The price. Travelling solo means B&Bs and hotels are for the most part out unless you want to pay twice the price and have an empty bed beside you and I ain’t no Donald Trump.

You never feel alone in a hostel. You don’t need to talk to them it’s just nice to have them around.
Hostels are the only place in the world that can get away with vivid, nausea-inducing colour on everything partially to look funky and partly to cover filth I gather. They usually have free wifi, kitchen facilities and even breakfast provided.

They are either walking distance or public transport accessible meaning you don’t have to break the budget to get to where you are going.

Need a hair clip? Why there’s one right here on the window still. There is also probably a spare sock under the bunk in the corner.

Shit things.

Obviously there is a small chance it doesn’t go to plan and you might either be robbed of all your possessions or be feasted on by bed bugs and other such fungal parasitical bacterial nasties. It is uncommon. Hot water is usually an issue, either it’s all gone, the pressure is terrible or it has an automatic timer cut out every 10 seconds. In winter this is a bother in what is most likely already an under heated establishment. I remember running down to a cold shower in an Irish winter, shivering under ice water and running up to my room and sitting with my back on the heater and cursing like a leprechaun. Or if it was hot, stay under the shower and drying one limb at a time while the rest stayed under the warm.

Dirty bastards. Some people are just filthy people. A lot of them frequent hostels and don’t clean up after themselves.

Also be aware that weirdos also frequent hostels especially in big cities where it is expensive to rent.

There is a good amount of people watching that can be done. In a typical hostel you may encounter some the following stereotyped characters.

Noisy Spanish: There are a lot of Spanish people travelling in Europe, they would have to be the second biggest group after Australians. They always travel in big groups and usually don’t talk to anyone else. They go out at around 12pm and come home at some stage during my rem cycle. They chitter chatter in loud Spanish voices when they do return regardless of the hour.

After I had already made my mass generalisation of Spanish people I shared a room with two in Berlin.
This is how it played out.
Asian girl, German boy and I were all catching z's and these two hombres come in turn the light waking us all. I pretend to stay asleep for I do not wish to engage in chitter chatter I wish to sleep. They talk loudly in Spanish. One might have been that little cartoon mouse with a sombrero as it was high pitched and I was under the covers trying to sleep.
Young German boy from Cologne wakes up and Senõr numero uno says
“Why are you in bed so early? Why aren’t you partying man”
“What time is it?” says Klaus wearily,
"Is just a little after twelve”.
"A little after 12!", I think to myself under my blanket "What are you a bloody owl? Go to bed, man"

Klaus makes an excuse about still being wasted from a big weekend as it was a Monday night. Eventually they leave to go out, naturally leaving the light on as they leave giving ammunition to my Spanish people are nuts with the partying and the lateness, loudness and dare I say, inconsiderateness concept.

New bff/stalker: Travelling solo can be quite lonely at times. It can be nice to have a polite conversation with the person you are eating breakfast with or sharing a room with what you don’t want to do is go beyond polite conversation (unless they seem normal). This will result in long winded chit-chat where they will tell you way too much information about themselves, ask for your email or phone number and want to spend every moment of hostel life with you, their new best friend, you, the idiot that talked to the weirdo. Rookie mistake.

The diva: Some people are Hilton travellers on hostel budgets. These people are a pain in the ass. They want the light off. Complete silence. Basically they want what they don’t have or what is not possible in a communal area for $20 a night.

Mumma or papa hostel: Long stayers are a common sight in most hostels. They are the ones on first name basis with the desk staff and the ones cooking roast chicken in the kitchen and not pasta and jar sauce. Many are just working or newly arrived and looking for housing. Others are there because it is cost effective. These are often a bit older and have set up camp in a hostel of 18-30 year olds. The ones who shhhhh people when they walk in. In Ireland, where I myself was a long stayer albeit a normal-ish one, Papa Hostel was an older guy who sat on a chair in front of the TV watching EastEnders, then Coronation St every night during dinner time. He would have the volume so high to drown out the sound people chatting in the common areas. Cursing rude youth. Shhing people as they had a social beer before going out. Mama Hostel was a bag/cat lady, she dried herself with a roll of toilet paper and collected coffee cups to reuse. Don’t talk to these people.

Sleepy jet lag man: Every time you arrive without fail you will walk into a room and there will be someone sleeping somewhere. They are usually fully clothed and will be asleep your entire stay. They either wake during the night hours or not at all. Are they jetlagged? who knows, but I would prefer they got into some pj’s especially because 90 per cent of the time when I do see them wake they go out in the same clothes.

See it’s a myriad of excitement. You don’t get that in a hotel. Strangers provide the greatest amusement. And the best part is instead of £80 per night it costs £12, throw in free breakfast, walking distance to attractions and a kitchen to heat your baked beans and you have a comprehensive experience for ¼ of the price. And the entertainment, well that’s just thrown in.
Sometimes you even meet some really great people who can make your stay so much better than it ever could have been and you have a new best friend for a city.
I mean there is that odd occasion when you come back to your room at night and there is a person sleeping in your bed and your bag is on the floor as happened to me a few weeks ago. A bit of a blow.
Sleepy Spanish dude 1, Regan the schmuck who then had to drag all the activities and essentials possibly needed in the next 12 hours to the top bunk in the dark = 0.

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I particularly liked the way this hostel used sheets which were too small for the bed as fitted sheets. Its nice to wake up with your face a mattress that has had a million other peoples faces on.
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This was some ingenious use of space. The middle bunk. I kindly offered this one to my more agile younger sister. She couldn't get back out.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 13:07 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hostel backpacking backpackers bunks Comments (0)

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