My Journal on a home exchange in London

Apr 18th, 2004, 07:01 AM
  #1  
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My Journal on a home exchange in London

I'd like to share with you my journal--the first day appears in Keith UK trip so I thought I'd follow the form

First Day
I'm a 76 years old and have done five home exchange.

As some of you know every time I travel I am pulled aside by the security people and given a long serious inspection. What is it about me that makes them suspicious?. Also, I have developed this tremor in my hands which makes me look nervous all the time. Was that what triggered another search, scanned by a spatula device and, of course, they didn't find anything.

I'm fuming but suddenly I had an epiphany. What if I were a Muslim or Arab who didn't look much like an Arab or Muslin, and my sons and friends came up to me and said 'look they'll never think that you are a human bomb, an old gentleman going on a trip. We can fix you shoes to go off and when they do you'll go to heaven and 77 virgins will be yours. It an offer I couldn't refuse although I remember the trouble I had with one virgin--but that's a story for another time. Seriously, I think anybody could be a suspect.

Waiting to board the plane I went into a pseudo Italian place and I saw a chicken Parmesan and macaroni and cheese...comfort food for me. I said I would like it...she said oh the Mac and Chick. They gave it to me in one of those plastic containers common to fast food places. I sat at the the table and I could not open it, I couldn't figure how it came apart, my bony fingers trembling until a young man opened it for me.

I thought how the hell could I look likea terrorist if I can't open a plastic container.

I love British Airways, but when there a strong north western wind and the plane is racing down the runway and gets airborne and suddenly it's the wind hits. The plane was buffeted t was close to the ground...bad combination. I thought Hell we don't need a bomb the wind will do it. We got off (DUH). And the wind made a flight a very short one.

There were two women, both in their early twenties, very attractive, very much like Friends kind of women, sitting in front of me, During the trip they were reading something and giggling about it. I sneaked a peek and I thought it said Scientology (sp?) They read and giggled and read and giggled. Why the giggles? I looked again and I realize the tome is Sexological something.

One of the male attendants came over and talked to them, took the book back into the kitchen. I had to see what was going on. I went back to the kitchen pretending I needed some water, I didnt want to say vodka because it was early in the morning. They were passing it back and forth like some teenagers with a nudity magazine. And they wrote down the book title and author. It humanized flight attendents for me. I usually think of them as Barbie dolls.

The two Barbie dolls in front of me kept giggling throughout the night and they didn't have the sexology book.

I just got here In Holloway, the neighborhood is not so great. The house is lovely. More on that later.


My second entry. I don't do one everyday

I'm in a home which reminds me of the brownstones in Manhattan, rows of identical homes, three stories high, on a curving street--Sussex Way ( How British). The homes were built in the Victorian era--around 1850 give or take a year or two. They were made for workers. They look like Council homes in Britian--low income structures which are not very attractive.

Everyone who lives on Sussex Way today are middle to upper class workers, professors, teachers, computer people. They have added touches on the facade of thier homes too make them a bit more distinctive. I read somewhere that the facades of British Homes like the British are pretty dull, however, beneath the facade a whole complete complicated life exists. (Forgive the reference, but it sounds good to me)

My home has a small treee, and a small garden in front of the white painted facade, a vivid garden with iris and I think daffodils, but it's pleasant to walk through it. There is a small hallway, a living room complete with books, CD, radio and TV about the size of a front room in a NY Brownstone.A small gas fireplace which doesnt work. The kitchen is modern, with a huge ceiling window which makes the kitchen bright and sunny even when it rains. Yes, it sometimes rains in London in April.

The kitchen opens out to a garden which reminds me of the ones I can see from my apartment, Ruth, the owner, has a garden with flowers | don't recognize and herbs which I do. There is a redwood table and chairs which look like deck chairs. So far, I have not been able to sit out there or breakfast but I will.

The bathroom is on the ground floor which is a disadvantage when you are a geezoid and have to sleep on the second floor. I'm sure that during the Victorian age there was always a chamber pot.

There are two floors, my bedroom and a computer room, and on the next floor two bedrooms and on the third floor there is simply a huge bathroom, and a sky light from which you have a view of rows and rows of similar homes.

The area is called Holloway. On a Fodor's search, many people said it was dreadful, dangerous and not a pleasant place to be.

I its a polyglot place...Poly..A lot...glot...Languages. The first day when I arrived jet-lagged as I was, I went to see the area where I plan to spend two weeks. There were Greek, Turkish, Korean, Chinese, Egyptian, restaurants. It buzzes with different languages, women in durkas (sp), and Indians--with a dot not a feather--, and swarthy Islamic men with the usual beards and mustaches and gesturing like windmills as they seem to be shouting to each other. After a while, I was sort of shocked when I heard English spoken.

On a mile plus walk, I saw ten or twelve produce stands much like the ones we see on Columbus Avenue, but these are not on wheels, they are at street corners. What surprises me is that the vegetable boxes and pilled on the corner. At night, when the stalls close, the boxes are still there and some people pick through them to find overripe fruit. They are picked up late at night since I hear the garbage trucks.


Again, the illegal hawkers selling CD's and videos but then a lot of them were selling packs of American cigarettes, one even offered me some hashish. I, of course, declined. I watched a while when a young man approached with McDonald, he gave it to one of hawkers and he went to a corner to have his lunch break.

Third entry--hang in there

My powers of observation are failing me. There is or were two fireplaces in my home exchange. I've been here for four or five days and ate breakfast in part of the living room and I would stare at a large yellow fixture with an inset with flowers, photographs, vases, and bottles of excellent wine (which as part of the home-exchange commitment I cannot touch).

I wondered what that fixture and I looked to my left and back again, and I realized that originally there were two fireplaces here. Later in the day, I checked the roofs (rooves?) and there were two sets of chimneys on the homes. What I took for a large living room was actually two small rooms. Two stoves. I'm in the computor room and facing me is the chimney of the second fireplace painted an odd red. (I'm not sure since I am seriously color blind.)

When I do an home exchange, the space becomes 'my space'. Unlike an hotel room, I have a great deal of affection for my 'home'. I quickly learned that there is a short step down to the bathroom and if I am not carefull I will slip and fall. I worked out how to use the stove but not how to control the heat. The stairs become a menace but I have adjusted so that if I have to upstairs I make sure I bring shoes, papers, etc with me and the reverse is true. Remember, gang, I live in an apartment and stairs do not fit into it.

I did not know that Easter was a major four day holiday during which Londoner's leave the city. This year, however, it was complicated by the fact that the national railroads took this time to make major repairs to the tracks. Regardles, London is very quiet.

I visited Picadilly Circus--thier Times Square--and I felt I was in a movie where the aliens had abducted everybody. My neighborhood didn't change much. I had pointed out that this was a mixture of many cultures, but a lot of England remains.

The pubs! The pubs!

The glorious London Pubs! They are there surronded by ethnic voices and faces and if you feel you are in Turkey, India or even, God Forbid, Greece, you can pop in the pub for an escape back in time and culture.

There are two kinds of English pubs, the one for young people, very glossy and noisy, or the other where the working man comes in for a drink and a chat with the barmaids. I prefer the later

. I found a pub called the Cays, built around 1850 or so, the building was about the size of Zabars, with blue facade and diamond shaped windows in which were bottles of beers, and a sign saying that they have so many different kinds of beers. I couldn't resist it.

The bar was made of dark oat, engraved mirrors and at the top brilliant signs describing the beer, ale and whiskey they had to offer. The signs were brilliant, shining, with black type outlined in gold. My first reaction was that the owners had modernized the pub. I was, as is my wont, mistaken. They were the original Victorian signs. Of course, I took photograpahs and some of the regulars eyed me as if I were a Scotland Yard cop.

I ordered lunch. I ordered an ' Irish Stew' and a Foster's draft. The beer was sweet and huge--I could have swam in it-- and I waited for 'me Irish stew'. During all my deciding what to have, their phone kept ringing, and the barmaid picked it up, mutter something and hung up...'must be a popular place'. I thought.

I was reading my Reader's Digest (my easily read, dispoable book) glanced up and saw the barmaid go to what looked like an oven door, she slid it opened, and a bright light shoned on my 'Irish Stew'. She slid it out and brought it to me.

Damn. I didn't travel all this distance for a Goddamn Airplane meal some mucky zapped with a microwave. She placed it in front of me with four slides of soda bread and cubes of frozen butter. I was annoyed. As I said my perception has weakend, I noticed that when the phone rang, she went to 'microwave' door. Now I was curious,I asked.

She said in effect that the kitchen was upstairs and they sent it down in a dumbwaiter which had a heating lamp in it. It was delicious, the carrots were soft, the celery crunchy the way I like it, and the potatoes---ah, the potatoes--I can see why the potatoe famine hurt the Irish.

Sorry gang, I got off the track and rambled. Tomorrow, God willing, the south bank.

I will post more if interested.






FAMOUSUNCLEART is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 07:22 AM
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F is for a fab report. I love the pup culture. My friends have taken me to so many fun ones. There was one where an old parrot held court
I'm waiting for more.
mimi
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 07:29 AM
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tod
 
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You seem to have a wicked sense of humour and I read your post with great interest. Tell me more. Also about YOUR house (in America?)how does it compare, and have you met the person who's house you're in?
I met a lady from Wimbledon whilst on a cruise on the Great Barrier Reef and she had been out to Cape Town on a house swop and loved it. I wish we could house swop but nobody wants to come to our neck of the woods.
tod is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 07:49 AM
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What a terrific report! Please, keep telling us more!
dancintomusic is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 07:51 AM
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I love your style of writing. You call yourself a "geezoid?" I think not!!! I can't wait to read more.
joan_a is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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you're sharp! After too many pints i don't know my pup from my pubs
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 08:03 AM
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Excellent so far Art. Please keep it coming.

(When I see your name I always think about the poster that thought you were famous-unclear-t. )
indytravel is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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Trif report. More please.
sheila is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 08:14 AM
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FAMOUSUNCLEART:

More please. I love your way of writing and I am interested in where you live now.

Thank you.
Sandy
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Apr 18th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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Enjoyed every word. Looking forward to the next installment. I have never done a home exchange and I am considering doing one.
Randy is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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bonniebroad
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More, puh-leeze!!!!!!!!!! Love every tiny detail!
 
Apr 18th, 2004, 10:07 AM
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I can't help but feel that some details have been overlooked.
m_kingdom2 is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 11:19 AM
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Uncle Art,

This is so much fun to read.

Write on!

Byrd
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Apr 18th, 2004, 11:22 AM
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I am enjoying this.

CarolA is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 12:06 PM
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lurking and listening!
margo_oz is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 12:15 PM
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Hiya Gang:

I am flattered by your responses since these email messages on my home exchanges were meant for friends and family. Please enjoy them.
Tod, if you want to see my home got to WWW.Webshots.com and link to ActorZ album.

The next journal entry
I always wanted to go to Canterbury, and I planned it carefully with the help of the internet I found a train that was leaving at a decent time for me--10:00. Tough night sleeping, but got up in time, got to Victoria Station just in time to hop on the train--first class--but a railroad attended said it was okay. I had my coffee and a Reader's Digest--a good travelling book--small, easy to read, lots of games and you can toss it after a train ride. There was some confusion about the number of 'carriages' that some people getting off at certain stops had to move forward or backward.

The conductor approached me and I was scared because I thougth he'd fine me 100 pounds and I tried to distract him by saying that I was worried about placement of carriages.
He ask where I was going to, and I told him Canterbury EAst.He said no problem that I was in the right compartment.. Most British trains and subways and automated announcements.My train was an express train and that Canterbury East was far off, and I was a bit sleepy--in spite of Starbucks best-- I was half dozing and I could hear all the towns by that beautiful of the automated announcer. I knew I would hear even when slightly dosing. Wrong once again.

After a short while, the conductor came up to me and said 'weren't you going to Canterbury East?'
Disaster! I mumbled "oh shit.
He laughed and sighed.
"I'll off at the next stop and get the next train back Okay!." I was still worried about sitting in first class.

He told me that the next stop on the express was very far away. He took me to a door, talked to the driver and left me off the next stop--not one on the schedule.He had to unlock my door, It was a local stop, I crossed the bridge to the other track and in twenty minutes I was back on board. That would never happen on Amtrak.

Canterbury was typical of most small villages, but this one had a long history, and I was excited to see why the pilgrims in his Canterbury's Tales wanted to come here. Never mind what they did on the way.

I walked over a highway with cars, buses and trucks rumbling underneath to a high wall which surrounded the inner city. What surprised me about it were the stones in the wall, they had a crystal look to them, some even looked like seashells. I got the sense of the people building walls out of what was available.

I walked through a long green park, and on a rare sunny day, a lot of people were there, some playing frisbee, young boys and girls of two or three years old in their panties were splashing in a fountain, and as I walked through the park and into the town, I realized that this place was so different from where I am living in my home exchange. Indeed you wouldnt see kids that young playing at the fountain in Central Park.

It was so British.There was not that mix of the different ethnic groups in Holloway.. The older people were typically British. I don't have to put my finger on it, but it's like you just recognize a true New Yorker.

However, when I got to the Cathedral, I realized that there were gaggles of tourists who were not British. They were tourists here because of the site and cheap airfare.

I heard one group of twenty some Italians, one of German or Dutch, and one which I think was Spanish. My language skills are lacking.

Also, there were at least two groups of young school girls dressed in alarmingly short plaid skirts waiting anxiously to see the Cathedral. Thomas Becket must not only have turned in his grave but popped his head to see the site.

I am in love of the Cathedral for all it's history, Becket, Henry the Eight, Thomas More..It is about 2000 years old and the events that happened in this place touches me. I recommend it to everyone.


A minor point,I had to paid a pound to take photographs. I didn't mind that but I realized that my photographs could never catch the awe I felt standing there.

The only museum I liked was the Roman Museum. Lots of facts about mosiacs and you get a chance to cut your own. Understand it is not easy.

The west gate made me realize how dangerous it was to live in these towns.in. There were seven gates and this one remains as an object for tourists to photograph...and some of us know what the gates were not really to let people in keep people out.

I made the train and got off at Victoria Station. I left my Reader's Digest behind for some Englishman or woman to read on thier way home.

If it stops raining there will be more. Again, thanks for comments





FAMOUSUNCLEART is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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What a charming report... a real pleasure to read... looking forward to next installment... thanks for sharing.

Kavey is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 12:40 PM
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Art, ......
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 12:53 PM
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After looking at your site, I see you love trains, as indy's father does.
When in Paris eat at the Tran Bleu, and get seated by a window. Looking down looks like a scene out of Tolstoy.
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 18th, 2004, 01:12 PM
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OOPS! tolstoi..says the husb who speaksRussian.
cigalechanta is offline  

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