I said goodbye to Aalst, goodbye to Belgium last Thursday. The stars aligned in a certain way, and a pre-planned weekend trip to visit a friend in Germany became my farewell to that nice little country between France and the Netherlands. My plans for the next couple of months meant needing to be in the UK early December, so I decided to come here earlier that I’d originally intended.
I sat next to a dude with a wig on the train.
It was a nice weekend in Karlsruhe. Not much to tell, really; just really nice to see my friend and ex-neighbour Silke and her other half. Plenty of sitting around drinking beer and smoking cigarettes which, quite frankly, was the best way to spend my weekend. Here’s some pics of a nice park behind the schloss in Karlsruhe.
And we did a Saturday afternoon trip to Strasbourg, about an hour southwest of Karlsruhe, across the border in France. They’ve got a pretty cathedral there, and plenty of pretty girls (and boys).
(It feels weird writing about “stuff I’ve done” again. It’s like, after not doing much of it since all that swanning-around-the-Americas blogging, I’ve forgotten how to make it interesting. Ho hum.)
Leaving Karlsruhe, a nice old fellow stood outside the train station ignored my headphones and started talking to me. He asked for a light, heard my English-accented German and began talking in English. Told me of lovely places he’d seen in England, then telling me how great Germany was, which was nice, considering, in my experience, Germans aren’t that forthcoming about the nice things about their country. He offered me a cigarette from his soft pack of cheap-looking fags, tried to flick the pack so that a cig poked out, like he was James Dean or something, but ended up sending five of them flying all over the place. We both leant down to pick them up, and he smiled a cheeky smile like a child. We said our goodbyes, and I got the first of my three train journeys to London.
Amongst other things that kept me occupied on my journey (chuckling to podcasts, semi-dancing in my seat to the Prodigy, sketching out how the next few Pigeon strips will look), I read a great piece in the August issue of (American) Esquire that I’ve been carrying around unread since I left San Diego airport back in July. It’s about some prisoners in Michigan who dug an escape tunnel. Fascinating stuff, and online here; well worth your time if you’re into that kinda stuff.
Time for a quick smoke at Köln station, time to admire the pretty doggy that was with its parents waving goodbye someone sat in front of me, then I was off on my way back for a brief time in Brussels to get the Eurostar.
The Thalys train that took me there prefaces each announcement with a seven note tune that was very familiar and stuck in my head for a long long time. It wasn’t until after a good three hours sat around at Bruxelles Midi station – a lot of it spent staring at the griddy roof (picture below) – that it popped into my head that it was virtually the exact same melody as “Thank You” by Dido.
Anyway, back in London for a few weeks. Today I walked passed a book shop in Islington that has windows at street level which allows one to look down into the ground floor of the shop. I’ve been in this shop before, so I know where the various sections are. As I walked passed the window, I saw the sports section, and in that sports section, an over-sized baseball book poking out. It wasn’t ’til afterwards that I realised I just smiled at the book, like I’d just seen an old friend. Those three months and three days until spring training begins are gonna be long…
Annoyingly, my happiness with that store didn’t last long, cos when I handed over a ten pound note to pay for a book (Remainder by Tom McCarthy), the dude behind the counter told me that it was an old tenner, one that’s no longer valid currency. I apologised, superfluously muttered stuff about not living in the UK, and he just looked at me like I was, for want of a better word, a complete spaz. As I left, I saw him and his colleague laughing, and the paranoia kicked in. For a moment, I considered being an arse and demanding to see the manager regarding the lack of respect for the paying customer, but thankfully, I couldn’t be bothered.
I stomped off to the bank to get the tenner changed to a valid one, and the lady behind the counter was dead nice to me. Like the old fella at Karlsruhe station, she too thought that Germany was a lovely country. And she’s not wrong.