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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
Dutch newspaper Spits

This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Wednesday, 26 September 2001
Lund (Sweden) --> London, England (UK)

From Malmö in Sweden I flew to London, sponsored by The Guardian newspaper. In exchange for a chat with a reporter of this newspaper who would also be my host with a place to stay-for-day, why should I reject such an offer?

Back to the British overpresent decency, where road signs happily remember you that "there is a fine line between a bus lane and a motorway. It's 80 Pounds."

Back to London, where everybody rushes through their own lives, but always respites in one of the many London parks.

Can that camera be turned off now?

John Järpling woke me up this morning around 8 o’clock, as he had to go work. I had a quick shower and joined him on a Swedish breakfast. Next to normal sized bread in slizes the Swedish have their own kind. You should see it as a smashed down donut, with a hole in it, but with brown dough. It is very rich and it wasn’t really my type of filling to be honest.

John was surprised about the fact that I had never seen this kind of bread before, he thought it would be available everywhere. But I haven’t eaten something like this the last five months before.

I got packed again and John dropped me off at the train station of Lund and even gave me 100 Swedish Krones! He had to rush to his work and I had to get my airplane at Malmö Airport at 11.30am, so we said goodbye at the bus stop for the ‘flybus’ to the airport.

I am thankful to him for inviting me over in Lund and thanked him also for taking me out for dinner last night and meeting a lot of his friends.

At least I got a bit of an impression of Sweden; in the few days I was here.

The Boeing 737 took off with just 20 minutes of delay and within a sigh the plane got ready for landing atLondon Stansted airport.

Culture shock!

I am back on that British island after just a few months and I forgot all about the rush.

People were almost running from the plane to their luggage. Strange, because look out of the window and you’d see the luggage still behind hauled off the plane. Before it gets on the baggage belts, you can easily have a cup of coffee.

But no! Everybody was buzzing around the arrival areas, watching the monitors with the latest information as if CNN had just declared war against the whole world.

While I was sitting in the back, watching the crowd, I noticed how my backpack came on the belt as the first piece of baggage. Probably patience gets rewarded. :-)

I walked through customs and immediately saw this mini-camera filming me coming through the doors. Dimitri and Neil, both working for News of the World, who would follow me around for the whole day, awaited me.

The TV-report will be broadcast in a few weeks on Asian satellite channels of NOW.com and on the website itself (broadband only).

Of course they are not allowed to film at the airport (security reasons), that’s why Dimitri was using this little light thing. But if they were caught filming at the airport, their company would sack them. The fine is just very high.

But nobody got caught and I got into their van as their driver took us towards my today’s host address in London. Halfway the route they stopped and I had to pretend I was hitchhiking along the road.

It is very weird to have a camera following me all the time. And it was funny to see how a car pulled over for me, unnecessary of course.

In the van Dimitri interviewed me and just 30 minutes later we arrived in Islington, a London town, just north of The City centre.

Sean Dodges, a reporter of The Guardian newspaper who had sponsored my flight to London, wasn’t home yet, so Dimitri and Neil treated me on a sandwich in a nearby sandwich restaurant.

Sean arrived and we had to fake me ringing the doorbell and how I walked up the stairs towards his apartment. The camera would film it all as it was so real. It was very unnatural to do.

But once inside and after ‘really’ meeting Sean, we all sat down and had a coffee. Sean welcomed me to London and asked me about today. But Neil would be holding the camera on us all the time and we were both wired with microphones.

As Sean is going to report about my project for the newspaper, the photographer showed up to take some shots of me. Suddenly I had two cameras filming me as I had to pose in the livingroom, with and without Sean and I even had to stand outside as the photographer took shots from a window on the 2nd floor.

Sean came up with the idea to get out of the house for a while and to play some pool in a nearby pool café called The Elbow Room.

The story behind this pooling hall is that it has been created by Arthur Baker, the American producer of the first hip hop record ever (Planet Rock by African Bambaattaa).

When Baker ended up living in London he couldn’t find a single place where he could play American style pool, as the British pool tables are smaller. Even the balls are smaller. So Baker just opened his own pool café. Why not, huh?

I tried to show off my greatness in playing pool against Sean, but that didn’t really work as I lost the first two games. Probably the filming camera around us was distracting me. Good excuse.

When Dimitri and Sean ended the filming, we played two against two with them, until they had to go.

The fun thing with British television is that Sean and I had to sign a piece of paper, stating that we were aware of the filming and that we agree on the use and broadcast of all the material. If we wouldn’t sign this, we could both sue News Of the World for filming us. Of course we would have to play that very dumb and say that we never saw a camera all day!

It’s bizarre that people would sue a TV-network even when they would have known about the filming. I wouldn’t.

We played on a little while until both our belly’s started making noises. Sean bought some vegetables for tonight’s dinner and we got back at his apartment again.

Somewhere between Sean preparing dinner in the kitchen and the start of a Champions League European Football game on TV, I dozed off on the couch. Let me call it the jetlag for the 1-hour time difference – just too have a good excuse.

My host had made two big bowls of pasta for dinner and while watching the football game with unique British excitement we enjoyed a bottle of white wine.

Liverpool (England) was playing versus Kiev (Ukraine) in the Champions League, but after one goal by Liverpool the players fell asleep on the grass.

Well, that’s what it looked like. Can’t remember how they eventually managed to move that ball across the field without anymore good results.

Near the end of the game Sean flatmate Kenny arrived home and joined us. I told him I wasn’t really a sport fanatic, but I like watching football games. And I always have the right answer to people who ask me which club is my favourite. “I always select the team which plays with the best results in a game. That why my favourite team would always win and that is a way to always be a happy supporter.”

That amazed Kenny. “But you can’t just select the best team in a game!?” he stumbled with awkwardness.
“But it makes it so easy. Look, I am for Liverpool today! Isn’t that great?”

After the game I found out that Kenny is a publishing manager, mostly publishing academics books. But that profession interests me very much, also because publishing in common is different wherever I am.

Kenny gave me some great advices on how to publish my story in print, about this project and how to deal with publishers and agents. But he thinks it won’t be a problem for me at all. “You are travelling the world, things will happen with all that media exposure in every single country.”

With Kenny watching television later the night, Sean interviewed me in the bedroom where I would sleep this night. With a tape recording our conversations we talked about my project.

Maybe I gave a little bit more information to a journalist than I normally would do, of course hoping that it would also result in an interesting article for everyone.

“Okay, that was it. Let’s go out for a pint,” he suddenly said and we headed down the street to a pub called King’s Head, where by incident the best jazz band I had ever heard, was playing live.

A brilliant drummer, a base guitarist, a saxophonist and a trumpeter were playing southwestern American blues. They amazed me.

Even Sean said he had not heard a band playing that good for a long time, while sipping from a pint of Guinness beer.

Drum solos don’t always impress me that much, but just 10 feet away with me there that drummer made my mouth fall wide open on the floor!

Sean is a staff writer at The Guardian newspaper, one of the best selling newspapers in England, and writes 95 percent of his stories for this publication. But next to this he loves European football and cricket, loves to drink a few pints and enjoy life with friends.

Remarkable he also lectures at a local University, teaching students the basics of Journalism. What a life! I was getting jealous.

“I also love to walk through Hyde Park, here in London,” he told me. “Just because it is so very much relaxing. Love to feed the birds there.” And so on we got a bit more personal in that London pub, talking about women and dating and whatever always goes wrong or right happens between those vital factors.

But it was getting late and the band had stopped playing and the place was going to close up pretty soon.

Tomorrow Sean would fly ‘with me’ from London to Amsterdam, as he and his best friend are going to spend a week of vacation in The Netherlands and Germany. Of course, it will be October soon and that means Oktoberfest in Germany for everybody who loves to drink beer.

We got back to his home again where I crashed on the bed after a splendid and very recorded day in London. Tomorrow I will go to my own home. Wow.

Good night London!

Ramon.



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