August 27, 2003

the trip Back Home

Then we cycled across town to the Aquarium Gallery to see the Situationist Internationale exhibit I also read about on the net. There was to be a video at 5pm which we were in time for. We actually got there early and had a quick look at the 'art' upstairs. There were all sorts of images, pictures of graphitti and slogans covering the walls. quite a mess! In the corner a pile of beer cans and wine bottles, used over the month of the exhibit, a tribute to Guy Debard the alcoholic founder of the magazine of the movement. We went out to grab some food before the video then returned. We were directed to the basement where the video was amidst a library of esoteric and valuable books. There were 8 people or so and on the table wine bottles, they immdiately gave us glasses and chips to eat.

Well, we finally made it back home. Here I am sitting on my dad's computer running Mozilla in Knoppix3.2 version of linux that I got in amsterdam for 2 euros... works quite well actually. [hate to say I rebooted in windows at the *** because it runs off the CD and keeps refreashing the limited memory and would move the cursor when it did that which disrupted my typing, however there was a lot of help documentation and i'm sure i could figure out how to fix the memory better]

I finally went to bed Friday night after writing the last blog in London.

Saturday we slept in a little and then went into london. We took our bikes on the train from East Croydon to London Bridge station. We rode ou bikes to near Elephant and Castle and then tried to find the 56A anarchist infoshop which I found out about on www.eroding.co.uk. it was very difficult to find because the streets in london are all crazy and not at all like a grid...we had a map but it was right at the very edge of the map. london is so enormous it is hard to have a decent map of the entire thing. eventually we found it after asking several people. we did discover that there are a lot of bike painted routes around the city and people do indeed cycle in london. it's not so bad as everybody complains thought it is a big city, too many cars etc. people cycle with helmets though it is not the law. just like everywhere that cycling is not well accomidated (amsterdam, germany, china) many non cyclists will tell you it is almost impossible and impractical. even cyclists who only do it recreationally often think this...

the 56a was very tiny and not what the description on the web had indicated though *** it was all true but the fix it yourself bike shop was closed and the seed bank was a small shelf of plants and seeds. It was supposed to be open run by a volunteer but actually was opened by someone else, coincidentally, jason just when we showed up. he kept it open for us and we browsed the books. they had lots of amazing stuff all of it very cheap, an archive which was lots of obscure anarchistic publications from all over the world... We bought 13 pounds worth of stuff but a lot of it only cost 50p each.

Then we cycled across town to the Aquarium Gallery to see the Situationist Internationale exhibit I also read about on the net. There was to be a video at 5pm which we were in time for. We actually got there early and had a quick look at the 'art' upstairs. There were all sorts of images, pictures of graphitti and slogans covering the walls. quite a mess! In the corner a pile of beer cans and wine bottles, used over the month of the exhibit, a tribute to Guy Debard the alcoholic founder of the magazine of the movement. We went out to grab some food before the video then returned. We were directed to the basement where the video was amidst a library of esoteric and valuable books. There were 8 people or so and on the table wine bottles, they immdiately gave us glasses and chips to eat.

We watched the video and it was really weird. Pictures of a landscape painting done on the inside wall of a circular tent in the middle of a field and strange noises recorded and repeated from the community. The woman talked about it first, it was related to her PhD Thesis in Archiatecture. The topic was about gentrification of housing and development to erase the existing community. It was about Somewhere around Brighton on the coast South of London which was the major coal distribution point for the British Empire in days gone by. Now there was development to destroy the poor housing that the community lived in, to displace the ethnic communities from Somolia that had lived there for 100 years, to build upscale condos instead. This sort of gentrification pattern is much more regular and understood in the UK where the population is dense and land redevelopment has happened for generations. The project was an 'intervention'... and afterwards there was a lot of political discussion.

Then another woman did a slideshow of modern graphitti in Huxley borough of London and talked about wandering around and looking at the streets as a disattached critic of the spectacle, all in the tradition of the Sitiutionist Internationale. Michelle was a man there who was a strong character who had been friends with guy debard and was loud and he told us his views on the movement...

More people came and we moved upstairs to the larger space for the next talk: Situationism, is it a boys club or can anyone join in? There was a lot of debate on this topic since it was given by lucy a woman involved in the movement and michelle was a man involved who had a lot of personal opinions on the topic, his own involvement. Jane waded into the debate. All in all it was a fun night where lot of people met and had really interesting political discussions in a lively and very passionate way, and shared some drinks. it was very loud at some points. We got 'expelled' from the SI movement when the stamped out arms with the 'expelled' stamp. this was a joke in referance to the history of guy debard 'expelling' people who he didn't agree with. After we had a drink at the pub with a bunch of the people. It was a really fun and interesting thing to bump into. They invited us to a party the next night but we couldn't make it because we had to go the airplane. We took one of the last trains back home from Victoria Station. We bought a daypass that day because it was cheaper than a return fare ticket.

sunday we went to church with marion. it was a very lively service with lots of singing and it took place in a school music room. That afternoon we did puzzles and hung around with pat and marion and packed our bags for the return airplane flight. That night we stayed up talking with marion and pat about religion and other things.

Monday we finished our packing then went into Croydon which actually has a big city centre of its own. There is supposed to be the biggest used record shop in the UK there however it was closed because it was a 'bank holiday'. They have two nameless statuatory holidays a year just called 'bank holiday'. (not very creative!) So I have to admit we went to HMV because that is all we could find open, but it was a very good record store compared to vancouver HMV. Lots of really good obscure music a better selection than almost anywhere I've seen, they had God Speed You Black Emperor AND Silver Mt. Zion from Montreal! So we spent way too much money there, the selection was great but the prices were not.

Then we went home and had lunch and said goodbye to marion and pat then rode to the east croyden train and took that to Gatwick Airport.

They were all out of bicycle bags for sale there so they said we didn't need one. We just turned the handlebars sideways. We bungeed our panniers together in pairs to make it easier but they were all 'oversize' luggage in the end. But that's ok I think because the oversized luggage get special consideration and treatment.

We went through security and they didn't tell us what gate to go to on our boarding pass. we had to look on the TV and it said 'wait in lounge'. The lounge was a 2 floor mall area where everything was 'tax-free' because of the captive market, but you had to show your boarding pass to the cashier and they barcode scanned it. There was literally a disneyland theme there. So we bought some overpriced food for the plane (but how can it not be a deal if it is 'tax free'?) Finally the TV tolfd us what gate to go to and we went there and then had to take a short 1970s era monorail to the other terminal for our plane. We arrived there and had to go through another security check. This was double annoying. Also because I forgot to put my screwdriver I used to dissasemble the bike back in the luggage so I had it as carry-on and last february when I flew to the USA they confiscated my bike tools at security check. However this time they didn't care apparently which was good, those terrorists with screwdriver weapons take note of security breech!

We managed to not have a 3rd person sit next to us in our isle seats so we were a little less cramped than it could have been. They showed X-men2 and ...romantic comedy. They had advertising pannels on the seat in front of every seat. I found it was very easy to remove the plastic holder for the advertising, take out the paper ad, flip it over, draw on the back, reinsert, put the ad back with my new anti-advertising message. Especialy with my contraband bicycle tool screwdriver.

We arrived in YVR and collected our bags which took a while. Our 'special' bags were mixed with the regular luggage in vancouver. Also we hadn't let much air out of the tyres because of the last time when Jane's bike was damaged because of that. Somebody had let all the air out of all the tyres which was annoying. Some myths are hard to beat. Also we met Gary in the airport, just returned from San Diego, by coincidence.

Our families had all shown up to meet us and my mom presented me with flowers (eek) and my grandparents and sister and jane's parents all showed up. It was very nice though we were kind of out of it. We got driven home and gave a ride to Gary and now are readjusting and unpacking.

The End.

Posted by rusl at 01:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2003

A week in Ireland

On our way between Bandon and Clonakilty to meet my sister we passed a shiney steel sculptural replica of a Model-T Ford at the side of the road. It was a tribute to Henry Ford who apparently 'came from' near that site. The project was a 'millenium project' and obviously newly built. There was a Ford flag flying. What can I say but yuck. My uncle nigel when discussing this object of car glorification did mention to me that Ford was a big Nazi supporter... So at least people know something.

We cycled in Ireland from the cork airport to meet my sister. We had a road map of all of ireland so there wasn't really enough detail but it was ok, we got there. We tried a less busy route and that was really good. There are no shoulders on the roads in Ireland 99% of the time and the cars drive the curves pretty fast. Also you are confused being on the left. So really it is stressful on any busy road. Ireland is not investing much in bicycles sadly. It is a fairly low density country and the development patterns are totally focused around the car. There are some trains here but much less than England or most European Countries. Apparently the EU is giving money for more roadway construction to 'develop' Ireland. The Irish program is the National Development Program or the 'NDP' which is funny (for people who know BC politics) to see as a prominent acronym all over the place.

On our way between Bandon and Clonakilty to meet my sister we passed a shiney steel sculptural replica of a Model-T Ford at the side of the road. It was a tribute to Henry Ford who apparently 'came from' near that site. The project was a 'millenium project' and obviously newly built. There was a Ford flag flying. What can I say but yuck. My uncle nigel when discussing this object of car glorification did mention to me that Ford was a big Nazi supporter... So at least people know something.

We met my sister in Clon. in the centre of town next to a statue of Micheal Collins (a central Irish patriot) and a abandoned stone church converted to a post office. It was great to see my sister who has been in Tanzania all year. We sat in a small grassy park in the centre of town. She gave us presents of clothes she had made for us in Africa. We talked for a while then had late lunch at a cafeteria style restaurant (common here) in a hotel. Then we rode our bikes with Naomi back to the farm to see my family. These family are related to me by being descended from my grandmother's sister, Hariet. Her sons Nigel and Keith split the farm and live and work there. We first met Claire, nigel's wife, and her 4 children: Aaron (12) Rosien (11? the only girl) Steven (8?) and Keiran (5). They are all very friendly and intelligent children and were very keen to meet us. The next day we went down to meet Keith's family and Caroline (his wife) and kids were there but not him, he is often busy and out. Keith's Children are Luke (14, only boy) Rebecca 12?, Sarah and Jessica both 9 not identical twins. The twins were born more than 2 months early and had trouble surviving because they were born so prematurely. They are both very healthy and energetic now (very energetic!) though i think they are slightly short for their age (I think, I don't really know such things very well)

During our 8 days with the family we camped out in the back yard at Nigel's house. Grandmother Hariet also lives in their house and so it is very full so we opted to sleep outside rather than make the kids share a room. It was very nice sleeping outside as it was warm weather and very fresh air and lovely and green. They live right in the country. They have a stone circle and a 2000 year old tomb located on their property which they are very unamazed by, these things are much more common there. during the week we did a lot of things but they kind of blur together. We went to the beach a lot which was really spectacular. Only a 15 minute cycle away, the water is really salty and it's the open ocean so big waves. The water is very clear and there is a lot of seaweed but it seems so clean I could imagine eating it (I've thought about eating raw seaweed since I like sushi rolls a lot, i didn't eat any there but I imagine it would be OK) Also we milked the cows. They have 48 cows and they milt them every morning and evening. They work really hard. They have to gather the cows from the feild every time. It is a lot of work. Putting the sucking machine on the cows nipples was kind of fun but it was difficult as they might kick you and I'm sure the novelty wears off. We stayed up talking late into the night a lot, Nigel will talk your ear off if given the opportunity. one night Ida and Linda and Pearl and Harvey (my other relations, harvey is the brother of my grandma, pearl the wife, linda a kid, ida their direct cousin) came over and we had cake and told dirty jokes and laughed a lot. We played with the children a lot, that was fun but exhausting. We made dinner once for the family, burritos made with kidney beans as the 'meat' which they all really liked a lot and had never had before. Hariet drove us to visit and see things and we ate with her at cafeteria style restaurants which had meat and potatoes type food. We cycled to see a rowing competition (regatta) that Caroline was involved with in Glandore. We saw a competition of the handlers of cattle at cattle shows that keith put on for the simmental (breed of cows) society. Luke was in it and won 2nd prize. Keith has a lot of cattle and breeds them for sale. They are sold as breeding bulls and cows for meat farmers, they are studs that meat farmers use to breed their own stock, so they aren't sold as meat. Luke was raising a calf that the mother cow had died from birth. He fed the calf milk by hand, milk from nigel and claire. Both Keith and Nigel have second jobs and can't earn a full living to support their 4 kid families with only farming. They work a lot. One time we went up with keith to help his sick cow named Emperess (1994) who had mastitis. Emperess couldn't stand up. However Keith gave her food and care and drugs and she was recovering well and walking again at the time we left. I set up email address's for my little cousins Steven (stevenvic @ ziplip.com) and Aaron (tigerclaw @ ziplip.com), you can email them if you want to say hi.

Naomi left Ireland on the 14th and we stayed with nigel's family until tuesday the 19th. On Tuesday we left on our bikes and rode to Old Head, near Kinsale, a touristy town near Cork. We camped on a farmers feild near the sea after we asked them and they were very friendly about it, this is how you camp in Ireland. The ride on the coast was really spectacular. The roads were generally not very busy and so it was really great.

On wednesday we rode to Kinsale and had lunch on a cliff and then collected shells on the seashore. Then we rode to Ringaskiddy where the ferry leaves from. We went to the only pub open and the kitchen was closed at 8:30 but they made us toasted ham(not for jane), cheese, and tomato sandwiches. We had a couple beers. We got talking to a juice drinking former alcoholic named Terry who travelled to Canada and the US lots and was quite interesting. We also talked to James who worked at the Pzifer factory next to the town where apparently Viagra was invented and is now produced. They both bought us beer! Irish hospitality. We camped out in a wild area right next to the Ferry Port. it was sort of a breir patch which was fine until I got up with no shoes in the middle of the night and discovered how prickley those bushes are. We got up early and made the 9:00 am (once a day) ferry sailing fine. The ferry was not very full and it was a really nice old style 'superferry'. Not like a fast Cat. You could go all over the deck and the food was not expensive and there were good seats... It was like a really nice BC ferries. That was important because it was a 10 hour journey which we enjoyed much more than the 4 hour journey from holland. It cost 49 euros for jane and 43 for me the student and 14 euros each for our bikes. There were no proper bike facilities, but it wasn't uncomfortable. ~We watched the movie chicken run for free. the stupid stenna lines ferry it cost 8 euros.

We arrived in Swansea, Wales about 7:40 after the boat did a 180 degree turn and reversed into the dock about as slowly as it possibly could (it took 45 minutes). Swansea is a lot bigger than we had anticipated, a lively university town, we went to the train station and found that trains were actually direct to London twice an hour, but the last one left half an hour ago. We decided to go to a B&B instead of camp because there was no camping possibilities nearby that we could see or hope for given how developed and big it all was. We went to the Marinasomething BnB for 43 which is supposed to be a competitive rate. (not in Canadian dollars). It was nice enough though it was small.#

This morning we got up for the BnB breakfast: beans, bacon, eggs, tomato and toast, before 8:30 when it ended. We used the internet at the BnB just for a quick time because TAO.ca wasn't working in Ireland at all, but this morning it works. Then we went out to try to find a better Internet place. We found a strange "XL family fun centre" store which had a lot of computers station in the window. However it is only for children with their parents supervising. They have also massive LEGO and other toy construction kits for kids to play with, and toys for sale, and they don't allow you to eat food inside not purchased there. They keep a detailed file on computer of each kids and have heavy video camera surveilance. It costs 1 pound to enter. We didn't go in. It was a strange mix of family theme park and corporate big brother. Anyway then we were going to go to the mall but it was 3 pounds an hour and it was also icky mall mall so we decided not to.

We caught the 11:30 train and used my mom and dad's last day on their britrail flexpass. It was actually really conveinient. They had a bike storage cargo mail type car and we sat in the car nearest which was a 'quiet' section which only meant cell phones weren't allowed in that section 8) We arrived in Paddington London at 3 and then cycled to Victoria station through Hyde Park and buckingham Palace. We took the train to East Croyden here where Marion and Pat live. This time the train was much more modern and not so busy, even though it was 4pm, should be rush hour more than last week was at 10pm. Perhaps this train was more expensive? We had a system pass so we never knew. Anyway it was altogether much better than we anticipated because of how we had heard the British Railsystem was terrible and our last experience (the week before) had been not great. We phoned Marion from the station and she directed us here.

We ate some dinner then went to the park and saw this kind of bird called a Grube (or something?) which the tiny babies ride on the mothers back swimming in the water all the time. The babies sort of wedge themselves under and between the wings and sit on the mom like a boat. It was neat-oh! Then we came home and watched a video of a film of my mom from 1952 when she was 2 years old. Now I am on the computer and have finally been catching up with the email we couldn't access for a week. I am getting kind of tired and out of it and will go to bed soon. Tommorrow (saturday) we will go into london and try to see what fun is to be had, I was looking on the internet for activist things to do and found lots and lots (try www.eroding.org.uk and www.schenews.com) We are looking forward to coming home a bit but are also sad that this thing is ending so soon. It will be nice to be stable and relax, but then school starts soon and moving and people.... It's going to be busy.

---
List of how to say 'Cheers' (toast a drink) not in English:

French: Salud
German, Dutch: Pr-o-st
Hungarian: E-gays-shea-gays-re
Czech: Naz-dtrav-ee
Russian: Naz-dtrah-vey (same as above but a more deep throatey 'ay' instead of 'ee')
Gaelic (Irish): Sloin-ta
Japanese: Cum-pie

We learned all of those except the cum-pie one on this trip. I'm just writing this now randomly so i don't forget it. i don't think I'll learn any more now since they definately say 'cheers' in england.

Posted by rusl at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Amsterdam to Ireland

The next day we packed up and said our goodbyes and made our way to the 2 pm train to Hook Van Holland. The train was very confusing because the front went to a town nearby and the back split off at the second last stop and then went to the Ferry Terminal. We got on the front then rushed to the back at the last minute after realising. Turns out we could have gone from the back to the front of the train as they waited before it split, but anyway it worked out. The ferry terminal was totally in fog and much colder than amsterdam. There was a large 'check-in' building with a huge lineup inside and a no-bicycle sign.

Here we are now in Ireland. We left Amsterdam last Friday.

After my initial slight dissappointment at not finding instant Utopia when I arrived in Amsterdam, I began to appreciate more how deep the bike usage is there. While I was initially finding that on the surface the city was not super different from Munich and Koln, I later realised how much it really was. Bikes are deep there. Literally. I think the German cities made a lot of effort to accomodate bikes. Equally however they tried to accomodate cars. I think the removal of cars from the downtown city core in the German cities was accompanied by building of very large (public?) parking lots, so people could drive downtown and then walk. These cities have large electronic signs around the city which display how many open parking spaces are left in the 3 or 4 major car park areas. Sometimes it would read more than 2000 spaces in a single lot unused at night time. Very much the stereotype of Germany being super organised. Germany is also one of the major centres of manufacturing of automobiles. There are loads of fancy cars there, all made in Germany. Hitler made Volkswagen, the Autobahn, idealised Henry Ford... He basically started the automobile age in a popular way that Eisenhauer in the postwar USA continued and expanded upon. The German Autobahn served hitler's ideal of the Nazi superman with super mobility in - each man his own auto. However the German are not so radical about it as the americans were, they also accomodate bikes, and they are organised enough and can afford to do a good job with the bikes. The Dutch thing is different, I don't know the history so well there. I do know there is still a big resentment remembered from the Nazi invasion when bikes were taken and melted down for armaments. They also could not dig down because they are basically at or below sea level. So there were no underground massive car parks to be built. They are not trying to accomodate cars. It is both the carrot AND the 'stick' which is effective: good bike facilities and 'punishment' or non-accomodation of automobiles. (even though I don't think non-accomodation really counts as a punishment, though most Car-minded North Americans would think of it that way). Anyway it was lovely biking there.

The next night after I last wrote we went to the Africa Squat with Anton and Carla. Anton was going to try to true the wheel of a Bakfeits that was there however it was so old and rusty he could not and he decided he would have to return sometimes with a heating torch to expand the metal and allow the spokes to turn and be trued, also he did not have the right size spoke wrench for the old fashioned obscure oversized spokes. Anyway we went in with the two of them to the Africa building for a tour. This building is a large warehouse built in 1890s out of concrete and now 'preserved' because it was historically unique at the time. It is right on the water that used to be connected to the ocean, the edge of amsterdam right next to downtown. This perticular warehouse was for storing Coco and it still smells awful (no, not like chocolate). The concrete is fireproof. There are loading doors all th way up so Coco could be loaded onto cranes and then swiveled around and dropped down into a Cargo Boat. Since the building was 'historical' the couldn't tear it down even though they wanted to build a 2 lane bridge accross the water there, only a couple years ago. So they cut out the support pillars and installed a 'temporary' metal hanging structure so highway goes right underneath. Then some people noticed the building and the one beside it (both Africa) were empty and they came to squat it. The city tried to evict them saying it was 'unsafe' however they dropped the position for now because if they said that they would have to close the road under the building and they don't want to do that so for now the Squat is safe. We climbed up the very narrow staircase and looked at the large cavernous rooms. It was dark and musty and the squatters' living room setups in the middle of the floor of the large rooms was comical. It was about 7 floors up and quite a climb. Unfortunately there are no water mains anywhere nearby so they haven't hooked up the plumbing. The electricity is from a car battery. We saw on the top floor a large rubber water bag which holds about 5000L and is normally used on boats for drinking water. They hadn't filled up the bag yet however. There was on the roof a computer and wireless internet installed already. It was a grand view of the city from the roof and amazing that this was a squatted building right next to downtown, flying a fed and black flag and all sorts of funny political slogans painted on the roof. That night they were having a punk show in the ground floor which was much more fixed up and had new wood and glass doors.

That day Jane and I were riding Antons classy old fashioned tandom bike, a beatuful antique, build like a granny bike, new 5 speed hub, chains totally enclosed. We took turns riding front. Jane was better than me at riding in the back and not getting nearvous trying to steer the bike when I couldn't. We also dropped by ASCII which is an activist computer centre. They offer free internet usage most days of the week in a squatted storefront building. They also sold for 2 a CD which had a version of linux ("knoppix" or something like that) that you could use to boot your computer straight from CD-ROM. This program is also on the internet but it save the trouble of burning yourself and makes it much easier for newbies to be introduced to Linux. I bought one and we'll see how it works in Vancouver.

That night we went out to the Vrankyrijt (pronouced Frankwright) which is a squatted bar in Amsterdam which is quite old now. It was nice, a regular bar. We went with Steven from England (who was at the CIA earlier) with his roomate and co-worker (at a anti-globilisation research group kind of like the Vancouver Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) named Claudia (from Uruguay) and her friend ... from East Germany. We all had a lot of fun and drank a lot of tiny beers (that were only 90 cents each) until it closed at 1. We went to another bar that was kind of snobby and it cost 2 euros for the same tiny beer but it was open until 3am. Jane and I gave the two women rides on the back of our bikes (steven had his own bike) to get home. It was amazing, many other people were doubling home on bikes. There was a women carrying a man much larger than her and they were both fairly drunk so it was funny to watch. But not so many cars, only bikes. Amsterdam people asked us why we were wearing helmets. We got home fine.

It was very hot all week. The next day we made some dinner for everyone in the house: a mushroom sauce pasta. That night it was showering a little even though it was still hot at 10pm. We jumped in the canal for a swim with Anton and Nina (last name Holland, currently building robinson crusoe tree forts near amsterdam to prevent logging). After the swim we rinsed off in the showed because even though they regularly flush out the canals there is a lot of dirty garbage on the bottom and people were talking about duck dying of Botulism swimming in overheated stagnant park ponds.

Thursday, our last full day, we tried to go out for Pannakoek in the morning for breakfast. However the restaurant in our cool guide was closed because of the heat. We tried to find another place and eventually found a place which had pannakoeks but not nearly as fancy as the ones in Vancouver. It was good nevertheless. In the evening we went back to Africa for a swim by ourselves. The people already swimming in the lake there (the former sea, cleaner and bigger than a canal) were very friendly and the water was warm but refreashing. The bridge had a conveininent pedestrian ramp so we could climp up it and jump off into the water. Three other boys and I jumped off at the highest point (9m) of the bridge where it was very deep. A private swimming dock for the squatters! That night Nina put on a birthday party for herself and we had a fire and feast in the 'garden' (squatted abandoned lot) with a lot of other people. We didn't swim but it was lovely. Talked to the people in the activist marching samba (percussive) band that nina plays with.

The next day we packed up and said our goodbyes and made our way to the 2 pm train to Hook Van Holland. The train was very confusing because the front went to a town nearby and the back split off at the second last stop and then went to the Ferry Terminal. We got on the front then rushed to the back at the last minute after realising. Turns out we could have gone from the back to the front of the train as they waited before it split, but anyway it worked out. The ferry terminal was totally in fog and much colder than amsterdam. There was a large 'check-in' building with a huge lineup inside and a no-bicycle sign. We figured that you don't need to check in your luggage as a bicycle and you bring your bike on with the cars. However we did have to buy a 10 euro each ticket extra for the bikes which was not included in our train fare. Anyway we rode out bikes on and showed our passports. The ferry did have a good area for securing bicycles and motorbikes, seperated from the cars, so at least we didn't pay for nothing. The ferry was a twin hulled 'fast cat' ferry. Probably similar to the BC ferries of the NDP fiasco. We got up there and it was commercial disneyland. There were only two small sections with regular seating. All the other seats were in shops or stores or a 'disco' or a 'casino' or movie theatres... Mcdonalds... Blah. You could only go outside in this tiny little area at the back which seemed to be located right under the engine exhaust. Everything was a rip off, supposedly the biggest/fastest ferry in the world whatever that combination means... They had a puppet show for the children halfway through, it was a Punch and Judy show. Apparently this is a traditional British Puppet show with always the same characters, a man with a stick beating his wife and an alligator biting her: the more the kids yell the more violent it gets... That was a long 4 hours. Especially because we thought it might be three only but there was a time zone change. The one good thing was that we were goiong to an English speaking country.

On the otherside we got off first with the bikes and I got my passport stamped then we went to the train. We had to load our bikes on the last car in the cargo hold area. About 6 cyclists from the ferry all got on and we all sat together on the mostly empty train. The conductor was very nice. He didn't check tickets and he let us eat food off the concession cart (chips, pop, candy bars) for free. We talked to the others, young London cyclists going home, they said the train system was terrible and the perticular company that owned the train were on was one of the worse ones.

We got into Liverpool station and went outside and rode our bikes Southeast (without a map) until we got to London Bridge station. It was confusing to ride on the left! There were some small painted bike lanes here and there which were a little confusing and not much to mention after Amsterdam. At London Bridge we asked and found that bikes are not allowed on the subway. We went upstairs to take the overground train, it was confusing and at first the train person thought it was going to cost 13 pounds each... about 60 dollars, in fact he heard our destination wrong and it was 3.30 each. Also the phones were a rip off and swallowed my 50 pence when I got a busy signal! The train was very packed at 10pm on a Friday and there was no designated bicycles place, so we squeezed on. We met Marion (my second aunt) at the train station. We went to her house and saw My great aunt pat who was very lively and talkative, even if quite small and not very mobile. We had a good rest and got up early to try to figure out our transport to Ireland. It turned out the trains were very expensive and supposedly don't run on Sundays in Ireland. We phoned RyanAir and after a lot of waiting on the phone we booked a flight for both of us and our bikes at 150 euros total. However it didn't leave until 7am the next day. So we had a relaxing day with pat and marian, did a jigsaw and crosswords. We dumped a lot of luggage we didn't need there. We had Chinise take out for dinner which was quite good, better than what we ate in Koln. We got up super early saturday morning and Marion kindly drove us to the airport north of London at 4:30 in the morning. We were worried because they said to bag out bikes but said they didn't sell bags there. We were going to try to put a contraption of taped garbage bags on it but at the airport check in they said it was unessesary so we had to turn the handlebars and bleed the tyres only. The airport was only for Ryanair and EasyJet, two budget airlines and it was kind of a strange, one brand only airport. We bought a lunch of two sandwiches and a tiny chocolate pudding for 8 pounds or about 20$$$! The flight left only 10 minutes late. The seating was first come first serve not assigned seating. Jane and I managed to get two seats together in the emergency exit row at the left wing of the plane which has more leg room. (but the ramrests don't come up). They only offer food at a price which was fine for our 1 hour flight. We got into Cork Early but discovered Jane's bike was damaged. The front wheel rim was seriously dented and the frame was also dinged. We filled out a form.

We rode our bikes towards Rosscarbery where the family lives. The roads are narrow with no sholder and there is traffic. It is stressful on the left. The scenery is beautifully green. We managed to take a less busy route one third of the way. The air is fresh and cooler than London, though still sunny and pleasant.

Posted by rusl at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

Amsterdam!

Regarding Bicycles in Amsterdam I have surprisingly not that much to say. Amsterdam is supposed to be the Bicycle Utopia City and we had grand expectations before we came. It is indeed a city where bikes are used very very much. There are tons of bikes. At the train station there is a bike lock up area that stretches off and as totally packed, there is a winding kind of parking ramp parkade building. I am totally guessing when I say there may have been 10000 bicycles parked there.

well the first thing and most boring thing to say is now we have a regular, english based keyboard. hooray. we have no expensive time limit like koln also because they have a fixed connection to the internet here where we are staying with Anton and Carla. A very amazing and huge place with a kind of loft style apartment in a 'former' squat, very big. Enjoying listening to Talking Heads and now Queen on Vinyl.

We stayed in Koln much longer than planned because we enjoyed having a place to stay that was stable and thought it would be more complicated here, also because we were trying to send email to a bunch of people and for some reason they all didnt get back to us quickly - all for different reasons really - but it made us hesitant to proceed because everything was up in the air that we were planning.

We had planned to leave Friday first thing but it took us quite a while to pack everything back up because we had unpacked everything and done laundry in koln. we decided again to put it off because we didnt want to arrive in amsteredam so late at night so we did are final errands and planned to leave early in the morning (saturday) because everything was already packed. Perhaps this was good because we went to pre buy our train ticket and it was very busy with a long lineup and also many police and some areas closed off perhaps because of a bomb threat, so somewhat chaotic and maybe the train would have been delayed. That night we looked into some live theatre and found 3 possibilities in the tourist guide but two were very posh and expensive which we didnt want because it might be hard to understand the german. There was also Improv but that was already sold out, I think a lot we would not understand because of word plays and such comedy would obviously go over our head but improv also has some physical humour and it would be interesting... So in the end we went to the movie theatre and saw terminator 3. What a silly thing to do! We figured that it would not matter very much if we could not understand the dialogue and we were right. (it is dubbed in german, in holland they use subtitles instead). The ticket was 5.50 euros for rows 1-4 and 6 euros for rows 5-13. Huh? The theatre was very small, perhaps this is why it was not so tremendously expensive. The screen was only 2.5m wide but it was a small theatre so everyone could see. The theatre had only a dozen or so people in it and almost all sat in the back row. I don't understand why? Were they making out back there and that privacy is why it is preferred? We didnt actually look. They only have sweet sugar popcorn which was a major dissappointment for us. also the drinks are bottled soda or beer or a kind of slurpee thing. Seemed like a theatre more for children. However the advertising at the beginning was all for lucky strike cigarettes and beer, then some movie trailers, one of which was repeated twice! The movie was what we expected, so we were happy. There were no late night movies starting after 9pm here, it was a sort of mall thing.

Anyway the next day we went and caught the 9:25 train out towrads amsterdam. Our next connection was in Monchen Hbf. and we had only a few minutes to change trains. We were on time for the train but we could not get on because it was totally full of bicycles. The conductor didn't let us on, not because he was mean but because there actually was no more bike space left in the whole train! The train car was all full and as we went up the train in every doorway area there was one pair of bikes already on the train. The conductor was trying to see if there was a little space in one compartment but there really was none. There were two other cyclists in the same position. Oh well, all the trains on this route to amsterdam are hourly and once in the Netherlands they run every half hour so we waited for the next train. Jane had an adventure trying to find a bathroom in this train station, the only one was in a restuarant and the stall was for a long time occupied by a nursing mother. (strange that she should feel the need for total privacy while nursing)

We caught the trains and the last two were dutch trains which are very good for bicycles, though only a little better than the German trains really. We saw a few windmills.

At the amsterdam central train station it was very busy. We went to the tourist info office outside but it was too busy with such a long lineup. There was internet thing in the tourist office that was a super rip off 20 cents a minute. I checked for 3 minutes just to see if Randy had finally sent us some contacts for here in amsterdam but he did not (or I was so rushed at this point I missed it). However outside the train station we met an american expat called John who explained the city to us fairly well. We went in town to watch the Gay Pride Parade which was co-incidentally going right then. It is not a regular parade with car floats on the street but real floating floats with boats because amsterdam has canals everywhere! Exciting: Except not at first because we just found a spot to sit and lock our bikes and it was very crowded everywhere and we sat and waited for the parade almost two hours before it finally came. Nobody knew when it was going to actually come. I think the start was delayed a lot for some reason. Anyway we really got to observe the canal system quite well and it was quite nice except for the sunburns we got because we thought it wouldn't be such a long event. When the parade finally came it was very interesting and we took many pictures of the floats so I wont elaborate here. We left before the parade ended after watching it go by for 90 minutes. We got some food then we were going to figure out our housing. We planned to go to the campsite for 9 euros each and perhaps leave somethings in the train station lockers because there is a lot of theft. But then we tried phoning Randy on his cell phone and that worked well though it cost 3 euros for 10 minutes!

We decided to check out a squat called the academy that randy told us about with a infoshop in it called the CIA. We went there and met two women leaving. This place was closed but they told us about where the CIA is now and that they were open having a talk about feminism and the isreali women wroking for peace. We ent across town to this place and it was over but they let us bring our bikes in and we stared talking to them and had some Grolsh beer (for only 80 cents, they ain't capitalists - sorry donald it was not in the reusable flip top bottles) We met huzzan and carla and anton from amsterdam, and annat from isreal and steven from england. Also we met Anna from Sweden who was one of the people that Randy told us to try to contact! Anna and Anton and Carla all offered us place to stay! We went home with Anton to this large building which use to be a squat and now 5 people live upstairs in very big lofts and downstairs is a kind of community centre sports room. Anton has lots of cool old bikes and is a mechanic whos pecialised in good old stuff! He had an awesome tandem and there super heavy duty cargo trikes (yes, several) that are ancient.

The CIA is a squated building. These people know all about squatting. Carla is an expert and teaches workshops how to do it yourself. There is a real squatting movement here. Partly it is because the laws are different here in high density Holland and they have (somewhat) legal squatting allowed to combat land speculation and waste of space. Carla explained a lot of it to us last night actually. Very interesting. Things are of course quite different because of the law and culture in north america. however the problems for squatters here are often about education and misinformation about what squatting is and is about. Probably it is more possible in Vancouver than we previously assumed. However one thing for certain about squatting in Canada that is very different is about the history of it and in Canada there was a lot of legal squatting which was very bad because this is the way in which the public land belonging to the first nations was stolen from them. But it is great to meet such passionate people about such an esoteric seeming cause. It is somewhat like bicycles and Cars. People think cars and paying rent is the only option mostly because they are misinformed about it. Actually cycling is more easy and much better (in a selfish way also) for the rider. Similarly Squatting can be very easy and better than renting, housing is so much demanded here in amsterdam that renting can be very terrible and competitive, Carla finds often that squatters usually have more permanent and stable housing than renters! Of course this is also because it is quasi legal to do so. However the laws changed in this regard in a positive way not that long ago and the change was a result of grassroots pressure, somthing other places could try also. There are many good websites about squating in the netherlands and amsterdam. Look there for more. There is even 'Anti-squatting' here which is not a political movement at all really but a common business practice where landlords get people to house-sit for (theoretically) cheaper rent and thereby prevent a space from being unused and suseptible to squatting, the anti squat phenomenon however has become so big and uninformed that it sometimes is just a way of landlords trying to rent a house to people without having to extend full 'renters rights' privledges.

Regarding Bicycles in Amsterdam I have surprisingly not that much to say. Amsterdam is supposed to be the Bicycle Utopia City and we had grand expectations before we came. It is indeed a city where bikes are used very very much. There are tons of bikes. At the train station there is a bike lock up area that stretches off and as totally packed, there is a winding kind of parking ramp parkade building. I am totally guessing when I say there may have been 10000 bicycles parked there. That number may be too low or too high, I cant estimate well with such a large number and they are all parked very close, and dense together. There are bike facilities everywhere and cars are polite to bicycles and it is very integrated in the culture, young and old ride bikes here. However it is not so surprising because munich and koln are also cities with very good bike facilities as well and it is not totally different. However I do think there are more here and that is wonderful. It is very flat here. Also the city is old and built on canals (which was heavy transportation roads before train tracks and steam engines were invented). The canals put water and boats in the centre of the public space we call the street. Cars are here also and sometimes they are annoying but it would require a lot of change to accomodate them better to make them increase a lot more. This is good. People use bikes instead. Apparently there is tons of bike theft here. Most people have 'Old granny' bikes which are the practical curvey high handlebars, fenders and chain guard and dress guard, heavy as a tank bicycles. There are nice sturdy old ones of these and newer, cheap and crappy versions of these. Apparently during world War 2 the Nazis came and stole many of the bicycles for the steel to make weapons. There is a strong anti-German prejudice among some people here and this story is related to that. Scary history.

Police here are much more aware of bicycles of course. They actually tell you to walk in the pedestrian only area (well to me anyway). And some people say they will enforce laws about having a light in the night time but Anton thinks they normally wouldn't. It makes one have a different perspective on the bicycle of course. It is not so radical to have and use a bicycle daily here. This is nice but also different for Jane and I who have often spent so much of our lives as outsider cyclists, having the same position as the majority makes you think about your politics in a different way - that is good for our knowledge.

Perhaps after more time away from here I can have more understanding of the profoundness of the bicycle here. On the other hand it is great that it is just a tool and taken for granted because it is practical, what we keep on trying to tell everybody back home but somehow they can't understand. They do not have a Critical Mass here. Anton was involved in this some years ago and it was a large group at first but there were many problems with the police who wanted the CM to squeeze into the bike lane. The groups got smaller to a group of quite dedicated people but then it was not growing and people weren't having enough fun so it stopped. I think partly people didn't understand the anarchism that is required to make a CM work but also mostly this is such a different place than an American Big Car city that the idea must be adapted to make sense here. Just as in any city the San Francisco model is useful but will not make it relevant in a local way unless it is changed a little, Amsterdam is extremely different, it is a tourist town in many ways also, so it cannot be the same as SF. However I think eventually it will work out here if some more people want to try it again. People here from the squatters movement have the right kind of energy I think, because the squatting movement is so practical here and not overly ideological.

Anyway so we got home late and then got up early late yesterday. There was a Sunday brunch/gathering at the CIA which we went to later on. We met Tibor who was cooking crepes for people and also does a lot of interesting computer work involving FM radio also. He also helps run a free internet access place and helps with IMCs and such. He is from Transylvania!

Anna gave a book called 'the cool guide to amsterdam' which actually is nice and has listings of vegetarian restaurants and squats and women run sex shops and all sorts of things. We went to a nice Vegetarian Restuarant called Flying Saucer which gave nice big portions, kind of like tha Naam in Vancouver.

...

We went home and talked for a long time late into last night with Carla and Anton about the squatting things I've already discussed earlier.

Posted by rusl at 02:58 PM | Comments (2)