Wednesday, September 23, 2009


So, I'm in London. Exciting. Daunting. I like my neighbourhood - I live not far from Portobello Road, where I spent far too much money at Saturday's markets. Hello, red mohair circus jumper. Hello, fake indie hipster idiot glasses. Hello, calf-high boots. Apart from exploring markets, I've caught up with my uni friend Julie (and bumped into my uni friend Jeremy at H & M on Oxford Street - bizarre!). We've been to museums - the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern, where there were more Picassoes, Pollocks and Warhols than you could poke a paintbrush at. Amazing. It reminded me of going to see an exhibition in Sydney, where a single Warhol piece was the centrepoint. In London, they have rooms overflowing with Warhol and then some. I also went to the Tower of London, one of my favourite places in the world. I got myself an annual membership so I can go back and nerd it up whenever I like.

I've spent plenty of time in pubs. Nearly any pub you walk into is guaranteed to have fantastic decor and delicious food. I was worried about not being able to find fresh produce and everything being expensive here, but the fruit and vegetable section at my local Sainsbury's is excellent, and everything is quite cheap. Cultural propaganda lied to me! I'm living in a set-up kind of like my dorm in first year: my own lockable bedroom with a little fridge, and shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. The area is nice, with lots of round-the-clock transport.

I'm slowly exploring the nightlife of London. Old Compton Street is like Sydney's Oxford Street, but cleaner and nicer. Although a friend and I got kicked out just after midnight last night (a Tuesday) and everything was closed. Sydney keeps pumping until the wee hours every day of the week! I thought London, a city hosting ten million people at any given time, would do likewise. I also went to see Charlotte Hatherley, former guitarist with Ash, one of my favourite bands, last night with my friend Matt. That was pretty great, although there was a pole blocking my view. I did the whole fanboy thing and got my CD signed afterwards, and a photo with her, mainly to make my friend Hanna jealous ;D

I had my first job interview on Monday. I feel really good about it: it was one of the best interviews I've done, really chatty and relaxed. But now, I'm questioning what I want to do. Do I want to work in a pub so I have more flexibility to travel and party? Do I want to stick to what I'm experienced with - administration, content management, picture editing - although I'm not passionate about it? Do I try to break into the already-congested music journalism market, and make nearly no money? Do I try something totally different? Or do I live it up in London for as long as I can on my savings, before heading home to start again?

I'm already formulating plans for when I head back to Australia, but I'm trying not to focus on that. Living in London has been a dream of mine for years, and I'm trying to enjoy the experience now, whatever it turns out to be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Denmark and England

I don't have time to update too extensively, but I wanted to blog a bit about the last leg of my trip before I forget it all. I'm now in London, and am trying to focus on finding a job and figuring out how this damn city works, and the happy memories of travel are fading so quickly.

They really are happy memories. With no exaggeration, the month of August 2009 is the happiest I've ever been. Every day was amazing: even when I was lonely while travelling solo, I always felt confident and excited. Now, as I settle into a regular life and start looking for work, everything seems a little less sunny.

The rest of my time in Copenhagen was incredible. The people who were kind enough to offer me their hospitality were just stupendous people: they gave me maps, cooked me dinner, took me shopping and dancing and sightseeing, and introduced me to other wonderful people. It was all so much fun. Highlights included a visit to Copenhagen's unsurprisingly tidy red light district (although bestiality porn is legal there, so the sex shops were a bit of an unpleasant shock) and shopping (where I bought an enormous turquoise raincoat that looks like something Kate Bush would love and a black and coral jumper with double length sleeves). On the Friday night, I went to a dance party in the beautiful National Library, an imposing structure aptly nicknamed the Black Diamond. It's an enormous glittering black building next to the canal, and it was turned into a nightclub for the night. Beautiful and bizarre.

After Copenhagen, I went to Aarhus. I only had a couple of nights there, and it was not nearly enough. I couchsurfed there for the first time and stayed with a Lithuanian girl, her Danish boyfriend and their Slovakian cat. They were so interesting and welcoming, cooked me amazing food, plied me with exotic liquor (including 85% mead, with anaesthetised my mouth) and let me sleep on their incredibly comfortable couch. I only had one day of sightseeing, and I forgot to take my camera. I was gutted because, outside of Canada's Icefields Parkway, the area around Aarhus is the most beautiful place I've been. I went for a walk in a forest that contained restored Viking buildings and monuments, and arrived on an enormous bay. I don't have the words to describe how beautiful it was, how huge and wonderful and full of possibility the world seemed at that moment. And that's about as close to a spiritual epiphany as I'll get.

I also went into a museum that had the body of a guy preserved in a bog who I had studied in high school, so that was awesome. From there, I went to The Old Town, which is like a Danish version of Old Sydney Town, to those Australians who remember it. They had people dressed up as Ye Olde Danes, but the public floggings were conspicuously absent. From there, I visited Aarhus University's lovely modern campus, and trekked back to my couch to get a good night's sleep before flying out from Aarhus Airport to London.

Everyone I met in my first few hours in London was grumpy and sullen. Uh oh. So far, I find that Brits are never display the kind of middle-of-the-road, passably-polite apathy of Australians: they're either really polite or really cantankerous. Anyway, I met my friend Mel in Camden Town, and it was so good to see her. She's been here a year but, as we sat by a canal eating in the sunshine, it felt like we'd only been separated a weekend. I strolled the streets while she finished work, and then we went back to her place. I crashed on her couch for a few nights, which was interesting. All of her housemates were lots of fun, and I clicked well with one particularly dirty-minded young lady, but they partied hard and my sleep was oft interrupted. I didn't stay in any party hostels while I travelled, so I gladly took it on board as part of the experience.

Last night, I went to an underground midnight gig by Amanda Palmer, one of my favourite singers. I've seen her and interviewed her a few times, and when she sent out details of this last minute gig to her mailing list, I thought, "Hey, I'm on holiday in London - I'll do it!" The pub it was at was actually the very first thing I saw when I walked out of the underground at Camden Town. The queue was huge, but I got in after about two hours, and Amanda was still playing when I left around three o'clock. She played some of my favourites, and her awesome author boyfriend Neil Gaiman got up and read a story from the book they created together to accompany her album. It was even more chaotic than her usual gigs, as it was just her and an occassional violist. She arrived onstage clad in her underwear and asked the audience to donate clothes. There was lots of banter, and she played one of her old b-sides after borrowing someone's iPhone to check the key and the lyrics. Of course, I was exhausted by the end, but getting home on night buses in London is so easy.

I now have my own little room for a couple of months in a share flat in Ladbroke Grove, which is rather near Kensington, Notting Hill and Hammersmith. It's so nice to put my clothes in a cupboard, and I was so elated when I did a grocery shop and carried it all back to put in my fridge. I've been doing a bit of job-hunting, but it's been getting me down. I realise there's no rush - I've got plenty of savings - and so once I sign off here, I'm going to go and give myself a few days as a tourist. I'm going to go and visit Rought Trade, a record store that I've bought lots of stuff through mail order from over the year, and Oxford Street (okay, so I plan to buy some job interview appropriate clothes there, but that can still be fun). On Wednesday, my uni friend Anna (EDIT: I meant my uni friend Bec. I am a terrible, terrible friend.) and I are heading down to Brighton, so I suppose I'll get back into it on Thursday.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sweden and Denmark

A very quick update before I head out for another day on the town. Stockholm was amazing. An absolutely fantastic city, beautiful and vibrant. It was especially fun because my university friend Anna and I rented a studio apartment for a few nights, so not only did I get to leave my towel, toothbrush and soap in the one place for several days, I got to hang out with a friend! Yeah! Friends are definitely what I miss most on this trip. (Oh, and family, Mum.) Anna and I didn't do anything particularly touristy - no museums or anything - just wandered the town, ate amazing food and got a feel for the city. We had a picnic on the garden island (Stockholm is spread over 14 islands), had drinks at an indie club called Debaser (where they had shots named after lyrics in the song Debaser by the Pixies - Girlie So Groovy, sliced-up Eyeballs et cetera) and ate amazing ice cream and pastries. Everyone in Stockholm is terrifyingly beautiful and obscenely trendy, so my self-esteem was very happy when I caught a train to Copenhagen.

Going over the bridge from Malmo in Sweden to Copenhagen in Denmark was surprisingly exhilarating. The train was thundering through a tunnel, and then suddenly burst out into sunlight. We were high above the water, looking out at the ocean. There's an enormous wind farm out to see, and it took more than five minutes to cross that enormous structure. The whole train trip was pretty spectacular: Sweden looks like a fairytale, full of dark forests that are by turns enchanting and intimidating.

Copenhagen has been even more social than Stockholm. My friend Chris lived and worked here for a year or so, and when I asked him about hostels and so on in town, he sent an email out to his friends to see if anyone could host me. His friend Anders has kindly put me up, and been a most excellent, host. He collcted me at the train station with a bag full of maps and books and brochures about Copenhagen, and has invited me to all of his work-related social functions. (He facilitates social interaction between Danes and American exchange students, so I've been drinking lots of beer and eating lots of pizza with a variety of foreigners.) Yesterday, I wandered the city, and visited the Danish Design Centre (like Stockholm, this did nothing but highlight my own deficiencies as a person), took a tour of the canals, saw the disappointing Little Mermaid statue (but I knew it was reknowned for being disappointed, so I wasn't disappointed), visited the ruins of two castles underneath the current Christianborg Palace and went to see I Morgen Om Et År (Tomorrow In A Year), an electro-opera written by The Knife and Planningtorock that is really the reason I'm in Europe. Pitchfork Media posted information about the performance, saying something like "If you happen to find yourself in Denmark..." and I thought "Well, why not?" It really was that simple, which is quite alarming, because I'm not usually so impulsive. Anyway, the show was okay. I couldn't follow what was going on - the lyrics were in English with Danish subtitles, but being sung in an opera style, I was most confused. The music ranged from very distorted industrial noise to the echoing, tribal sounds exhibited on the Fever Ray album. I wasn't too impressed with the dancers - they never worked as an ensemble, always kind of doing their own thing separately. But I was very glad to have seen it.

Well, I've banged on for long enough now. I'm about to go and visit the National Museum and the Freetown of Christiania, an enormous, decades-old squat in the middle of the city. Not sure what I'll do tomorrow, but in the evening, I'm going to a dance party in the National Library, a beautiful and modern building on a canal that is being transformed into a nightclub for the evening. Fancy. Then up to Århus in the north of Denmark before flying to London on Tuesday. Woo!