Sorting Our Shit Out
19.09.2012 - 24.09.2012 20 °C
Odometer Check: 13,314 kms (Betsy parked in Theale, outside Laithwaites)
Overnight Stays: London (5 nights)
DW - Waking to the fresh English morning cool, we packed up and drove our untaxed Betsy to the nearest DVLA to legalize her again. Whilst in the carpark, the clean-out of her began and we stripped her insides, filling a couple of nearby skip-bins to capacity, it's amazing how much crap you collect when you live. Just down the road we found some Eastern Europeans to scrub her inside and out, bringing her to an unrecognisable state of clean, like never seen before; cleaner than the day we were handed her keys, all for just £25, I love this country.
And so we continued in our spotless sparkling steed, Betsy, past London, to the one-horse town of Theale, where I spent most for my working hours for the past year or so. Standing out like a sore thumb on the high street, Betsy waited while we shared a few ales with Tim Clowser (old workmate) at one (1) of my favourite pubs in the world, The Falcon. This pub is so far from special, and would go unnoticed to almost everyone who would pass; in-fact I didn't even know it existed until this year (I think). I only entered its warm welcoming doors when I explained to Tim and Christian that I wanted to try every pub in Theale (all six of them, ha). And from the first moment I entered I was in love... Picture what your typical English pub would've looked like about 100 years ago, small, low roof, pokey, and a couple of old men straddling the bar; that's The Falcon. We had made the round table in the corner our own and dare anyone else ever sit there, very How I Met Your Mother-like.
Anyway, we had a couple of pints at the 'con with Tim then left Betsy just outside the Laithwaites carpark, ready for a new owner should they be worthy.
We cannot express how grateful we are of Mitch to take us in yet again for another overstayed stay in London, he is such a trooper and legend. Once inside his palace our third home for the year (there was our place in Notting Hill, then Betsy, now Mitch's), unsure of how long we were going to be around for (remember the Brazilian visa problem that wouldn't go away?) Loz whipped up a ripper roast, washed down by some fine vino. The three (3) of us then started watching Troll Hunter, a really really strange Blair Witch-esque thriller about a bearded Norwegian who fights trolls dressed as Ned Kelly, give it a go, it's more funny than anything.
With our forthcoming week in Greece now officially canned, we cancelled our accommodation and posted off our Brazilian visa applications to an agency who would hopefully get them sorted in the two (2) weeks we had until we flew to Rio. At this stage we were almost ready to cancel Brazil altogether as the world seemed against us, even trying to print the extra required documents for the London Consulate was a bloody nightmare. Anyway, we washed our hands of it all when we threw the applications in the post with our passports, waiting for the Gods to decide whether we were Brazil-worthy or not, what a joke.
We passed the arvo with a bit of shopping before meeting Mitch, and his mates Christian (Ledbury Christian, not Laithwaites Christian) and Franko for some Korean dinner. Being slightly sheltered and unadventurist in past lives, neither Loz or I had eaten Korean food before, and this is the beauty of London, you can eat whatever the hell you want. All I can say is that I'm sad I'd not tried Korean grub before, it's bloody delicious, mostly barbecued and just good tucker. We didn't notice cats or dogs on the menu, for those interested. Nearby we finished the night in a great little underground wine-bar, slushing down a nice bottle of Carmenere, a good drop for those who like Merlot.
After another half day of shopping, cleaning up with about 1,000 new uber-cheap and quality shirts from Lillywhites, I received a call from the agency who were sorting our Brazilian visas, here we go. The nice fella told me that there's a huge backlog on Brazilian visas at the moment, and they're taking at least two (2) weeks to turnaround, which would mean the earliest we'd get them (if at all) would be the day we fly out, f$&k! Breathing deeply, and seriously ready to kick Brazil in the balls, we decided the best option would be to change our destination, pick up our passports, and worry about Brazil later, apply on the border of Argentina... This meant we now unexpectedly had our passports again and the freedom to go to Greece in two (2) days, yay the silver lining. So I rebooked the very accommodation I'd cancelled less than 24 hours prior, and spent the arvo writing with a beer by myself at Teddy's, probably equal first with The Falcon as my favourite bar. Loz caught up with her UK besty Liz for a Piggies lunch and we met with Peejay as darkness fell for a bite to eat. Continuing our sense of taste adventure we sat at a nice little Persian place, passed the shishas, for a remarkable feast of exploding flavour, amazing food. Meanwhile, not all that far away, Mitch was getting drunk by himself, like an old poet, at the Royal Albert Hall, drinking red wine out of a plastic cup (not sure if that part's true), witnessing the British Ukulele Orchestra in action, an act well worth YouTubing. Reconvening at home we, with the addition of Soph, we sat around drinking wine and spilling out our Brazilian saga at great ferocity, breathe.
With all our focus now on Greece, Betsy was the last thing we were thinking about, until early the next morning when I received a call, the first response from our for-sale ad on GumTree. It was a Kiwi girl who wanted to check her out, fingers crossed. So I made plans to meet her, with Betsy, at Ealing Broadway Tube Station in a few hours, and started my train journey to Theale to pick up Betsy. With Fes now long-gone stolen goods, it was just me and Betsy and a map to find our way to Ealing, a task much tougher than it sounds for a directional retard such as myself. It took me bugger-all time to get into London but finding Ealing on a Saturday, surrounded by traffic, in an awkwardly large van, can be quite trying. I finally made it to the station within minutes of our planned meeting time and the girl and her husband checked out Betsy, and they liked what they saw... Given that Betsy had been a remarkable buy for us, saving us thousands of pounds in transport and accommodation, we considered anything we could sell her for to be a bonus, and given that we were leaving the country soon, we couldn't afford to be fussy and stubborn on her selling price, we simply had to get rid of her (in the nicest possible way). In a move that absolutely bewildered me, the couple made an offer straight away, and we negotiated a little and finally made a deal then and there. An hour later I caught the train home with a wad of cash in hand, and even more in the bank account, what a bloody morning! Betsy was gone, not gone gone, but gone from our reaches, most certainly not gone from our memories, and most of all not gone from our hearts. She had gone to a good home and I'm confident they'll treat her with a lot of TLC, so long Betsy, may you live forever girl.
Selling Betsy so quickly came as a great surprise to Team W (I don't really like talking in third person, but it's quicker than writing 'Loz and I', except this time because I had to explain that) and with Loz at the shops (again) and a welcomed injection into our bank account we had to show self-control like never before. I celebrated with a beer at Teddy's, this sounds rather sad drinking by myself doesn't it? But I'll tell you what, it's a happy place for me, and when you're sitting outside in one (1) of the world's nicest suburbs, drinking some of the best beer in the world, you'd be hard-pressed not enjoying it either.
Rather than celebrating over-exuberantly I decided to cook for the night, giving home-made gnocchi a crack. Having fallen in love with gnocchi on a plane from New York to Istanbul (weird I know, plane food that's good) and all inspired from the second-to-none pasta in Italy, I tried Gnocchi Caprese (tomato-based sauce) from scratch, surrounded (first and third course) by antipasti, and Seadas (the amazing cheese and honey dessert from Sardinia). Sadly the Seadas was a disaster and ended up in the bin, but the rest wasn't all that bad, nor was the Bollinger and delicious Italian white wine that kept us going while I spent well over three (3) hours in the kitchen (about three times longer than it would've taken anybody else). Mitch came to the rescue with some chocolate for dessert and we finished with Armañac and port, a fantastic night to top off a winner day.
Slightly seedy on Sunday, chock-full of coffee, we hit Grainger's for brunch (oh there's that horrid word again), a little restaurant chain setup in London by renowned Aussie chef Bill Grainger, only a coupe of hundred metres from where we used to live, but we never noticed it. Mitch had rated it as the best brunch place he'd graced his presence at, so we were pumped to check it out, and joined forces with him, Franko, Soph, and her new housemate who's name escapes me. The eggs at this place are beyond description. Think about the best scrambled eggs you've ever tasted, then add the smell of awesome, the texture of wonderful, and the feel of velvet, that's what Granger's eggs are, one (1) of the best things you'll ever eat! Surround it with sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms (yeah, that's right, we're mushroom eaters now), bacon, and toast, wash it down with a fresh Eden Valley Riesling, and heaven starts to sound pretty lame, this place is incredible, the best. Not only that, they'll squash any hangover with the freshest and smoothest Bloody Mary's to grace the earth, I want one (1) in me, stat.
Relaxed, overwhelmed, and exhausted from the best brunch since ever, we set off with Mitch and Soph into town on the hunt for a Primark onesie for my little sis'. Primark in Marble Arch is a strange place, not really comparable to any other store I've been to. You feel like you want to buy everything because it's just so damn cheap, but you want to get the hell out of there as quickly as humanly possible because there are more people in that store than there are sheep in New Zealand, I'm not kidding. If you walk out of the store only having brushed passed and touched 100 people, it's a good visit, a bad visit would near 1,000 touches, it's a nightmare. Anyway, we managed to find a onesie, not the one (1) we wanted, but still a ripper, and we returned home to some of the best pasta we've eaten, handmade by Sophie, so so good. She then spoiled us with handmade apple turnovers for dessert, and we slept like a bull after a day in the heifer pen that night.
There's not many good things to say about 4am, except when you know it's necessary to be awake at that time for something you've been looking forward to for so long. For Loz there were only two (2) places she wanted to visit on the Wombat Tour; Cairo, Egypt (haven't and won't do that, whoops), and Greece. We'd booked a week in Santorini (the island on all the postcards with all the while buildings on the cliffs) more than six (6) months prior to this day, and only a couple of days before liftoff we cancelled the trip altogether. This would've meant poor Lozenge wouldn't have gone to either of the only places she wanted to go, talk about poor husbanding (although, in my defense, it was Loz who decided against a day trip from Sharm El Sheikh to Cairo). But with Brazil now well against our cause, by hook or by crook, we were going to Greece, and how timely it was as we flew out of some horrendous London weather, see you in a week London, for who knows how long.