I spent the summer of 2010 in London, doing part-time jobs. It was my third consecutive summer in London and I decided to write down my experiences. Now, seven years later, I decided to publish them here.
The journey to the Bratislava Airport was fine, we were there on time. Our fears turned out to be misgiving and we arrived two hours prior to the departure. I said goodbye to my parents and walked through all the security checks to gate B4. There we had to wait for forty minutes till 10:30 although our flight was scheduled at 10 am. Finally the gate opened by a man in a black suit with earphone. Passengers with priority seats were allowed first and we, the budget travellers, followed the crowd. The distance from the gate to the plane was about 20 metres. But there was a bus which took us for a 30 second trip around the plane, covering a distance of approximately 100 metres, stopping at the plane. I do not mind such a luxury at the departure but waiting for all the passengers to get on the bus when arriving can delay your luggage pick up and you can miss your transfer.
We were welcomed by typical English weather called drizzle. Unfortunately, we were still in Bratislava, getting out of the shuttle bus and heading for the aircraft. I like this kind of weather; it also accompanied me in Edinburgh last year, which was one of the best trips. Indeed, summer of 2009 was a good summer. Back in 2010, we boarded the plane and took our seats. The cabin crew did the safety demonstration that reminds me of the Macarena dance. One of the stewardesses was called Catriona, which in Gaelic language means Catherine. I didn’t feel like up to asking her about it, probably it would not be polite. I wonder how come that such a foolish thing can cross my mind… By the way she was pretty hot, in her thirties, I guess. But I started chatting up the cabin crew only later in my life so I let Catriona be.
During the flight the stewardesses would walk around the plane selling snacks, perfumes, lottery tickets and crap like that. I did not buy anything because it was expensive – and it was not offered by Catriona. Ryanair magazines were available as well. I took one because they were for free. I opened the magazine and examined the pictures. The landing at the London Stansted Airport was not perfect; it gave us a little shake. As if you jump the brake in a car in gear number three.
We walked into the terminal building, on foot of course as Stansted is busier than Bratislava, and we were waiting for the passport control. It took a long time, there were too many people. Upon showing my passport, I picked up my luggage and headed for the coaches. I lost my way. I could not find them, however I had been there the year before. But the second attempt was successful. I went up to the Terravision Bus with the ticket already bought at home on the internet. I could not manage to buy it for a long time, there were problems with registration. I could not remember the password and log-in info. Finally, I managed to book the ticket in the half time break during the New Zealand – Slovakia match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup from my brother’s notebook.
Stansted to the City of London is provided by several companies. I am used to Terravision Busses to the Liverpool Street. I had a ticket for 12:30 but due to the delay I caught only the one at 13:00. The airport transfer from I walked up to the conductor, a guy in reflective vest with inscription Terravision across his back, which could not be recognized as it was covered by his bag. He told me that the bus leaves in ‘fiftə ‘ minutes. Well the word ‘fiftə ‘ could mean fifti:n but also fifti. If it was fifty I would have time enough to get something to eat. But I did not dare to risk, as my luggage was already loaded in the bus, so I was just sitting on the bus hungry. Neither did I have a newspaper to read. We hit the road in 20 minutes so it was supposed to mean ‘fift;in’. Why on earth does the English have to be getting even more shortened and simplified. By the way, I still stress the fifteen vs. fifty confusion to my students when teaching numbers.
As were travelling to London, cars with flags of England were passing by. Also many houses were decorated in such a manner. My trip was at the time of the FIFA World Cup 2010 and the English had great expectations of their team. We arrived to the city centre, passing by the Canary Wharf a business and economic centre in the southeast London that can compete with Westminster. We got out of the bus at Bishop’s Gate and I headed for the newsagents immediately to buy an oyster card, which is a card for London transport. I topped it up with 5 pound credit and headed for the tube.
My hostel was in the city centre, 15 minutes walking distance from the Oxford Street, which is really central in London. There was a long queue at the entrance and some school children camped there. Most of them were chicks about 15 year olds, from some European country. Luckily, the procedure was quick. I went in an then turned right. There were three people standing behind computers. I was supposed to be the reception. The school children walked past them into the next room, which was the common room for eating, drinking and – at that time – watching football. Someone from behind the computer asked me whether I also belonged to the school children. I told not. They told me to take a seat and wait. I placed my luggage next to the table, grabbed a brochure with travels to all around the Europe and started to read. I would like to go to Paris… After a while I was called to the desk. I submitted the papers printed form the internet, sorted out the finances and paid ten pounds per night. Breakfast included. They topped up my electronic key, gave me the blankets and I left for my room.
There were twelve beds, all of them had three floors. I wanted a bed on the bottom but all of them were occupied. I took one at the top, anyway, this hostel is just a temporary solution. I clean & pressed my bag on the bed and climbed up the ladder. It was similar to the climbing paths in Slovenský Raj national park. Heavier, less mobile or tired person would have problem to get into the bed. I already completed gymnastics I, I, and III, which was part of my studies, so I did not have problems with the bed climb. We will see when I get drunk.
I dropped the content of the bag on the bed and put my notebook in. I locked the bag to the bed with a travel locker. I picked my small bag, which looks like the one used by Bear Grylls, and I went shopping. In the nearby Tesco I bought mineral water, apples, cottage cheese (here they make 300 gram pot of cottage cheese, in Slovakia it has only 150-200 grams), canned tuna chunks and pita bread. Fitness coaches whom I follow on the internet would be proud of my but indeed I just wanted to eat something normal and at a reasonable price. (My shopping basket has not changed much since that time). I came back to the hostel and headed for the kitchen. I wanted to make an instant tomato soup that I brought from home. Homemade is always homemade 🙂
The soup has not much in common with tomatoes, maybe 0.1 percent of the DNA. I entered the kitchen in the hostel. Some girl was cooking pasta and some guys were sitting on the coach, watching football – Spain vs. Switzerland. I poured water into a kettle and placed the soup into a deep plate. While the water was boiling, I grilled the pita bread on a toaster, where you put the read on a rotating grid that moves the bread across the body of the toaster. Once grilled, it falls at the bottom. You can also set the speed of the rotary grill, based on whether you prefer your toast slightly brown, brown or burnt.
I joined the guys in front of the TV with the match. Spain, whom I supported, lost. I left for my room to do the beds linen.