Sunday, March 04, 2012

one cocktail too many - Part I: my own prohibition in Newcastle.

Part II is here:

This is where it all started. No, in fact, this is where everything ended, and re-started in a different shape. Everything new that made this story possible. Everything that happened due to events prior to it (or lack thereof). 

When I left the office around 5:30 PM on Friday, with the plans to head to Christien's magazine launch within the next half hour, I thought I'd give Can the usual LSE Friday evening calls to see if he wanted to grab a beer. After an unsuccessful attempt, had he not called me back and decided to come down for a drink, none of what I am about to explain would have happened. Neither would they, had we been not joined later by Pinar, Kara, and Oya; and decided to head back to another pub because Oya felt cold and spend enough time there for me to ditch my magazine launch plans, at the expense of disappointing Adam, Christien, and Olivia who I had earlier invited to the occasion.

Had Kara and I not had long, long, long, deep, and enjoyable conversations over some white port and red wine after a huge sausage meal at Herman ze German, I would not be writing any of this at all. And if we were not in London and a place like Gordon's Wine Bar had to close down its outer space on a fine late winter/early spring's evening, we would not even have though of moving on to Freud's for some cocktails. I am still a confrontational person but my patience skills have taught me how to deal with annoying offenders and this way I could avoid a fight with two guys who were being cocky, yet showed them I was not a pushover. Maybe that helped me and Kara stay for another couple of cocktails, in stead of heading back home wearily. And that brought us to polish the night at our local speakeasy whose creative cocktail menu and the setting we just fell in love with, which you can see in the picture.

Were I not cycling the whole night, and in fact, had I not re-started working at LSE Cities; might have I not forgotten to buy myself a new set of earplugs since I lost the others two days ago and borrowed Adam's amazing earphones which I forgot to return to him; then I would not have started taking a walk after getting back home, because the music felt good, I wanted to cool-off from all the night's movement and walking my bicycle home and the patchy sky was inviting me to watch a lonely sunset. At that moment, I thought of walking all the way up to Wood Green to catch the sunrise from Alexandra Palace. It did not take too long before I realised I'd get cold and bored pretty soon and that if I really want to go further north, it should be worthy of the trip. This is when I decided to head to King's Cross. I picked up my iPhone charger and my passports, knowing that if I took the next bus to King's Cross, I would have about an hour before the trains heading north of England started the day's service. Plenty of time to start a recovery from the hangover, decide on my itinerary and find something to eat...

It had been a while since I have done trips on my own. Obviously, Dani's presence, as well as my change in travel preferences over the years have been key reasons to enjoy my trips in the company of others; but circumstances have somewhat forced me to take matters into own hand, lately. I did a small cinema-oriented trip to Berlin (although I have friends there) two weeks ago, but this one came totally out of the blue and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

I know I wrote this before, but no harm in stating it again. When my father was taking me to Sirkeci Train Station before I took the early morning train to Thessaloniki to start my 30-day solo travel on the rail tracks across Europe at the age of 19, I had a cramp in my stomach and almost decided to ditch the trip altogether. I had second thoughts 7 days into the trip in my lonesome experience of Barcelona, and on my last day in Paris when it started raining down the sky and down my eyes for reasons that are difficult to comprehend, let alone state. But, that trip changed so many things in my life and if I had missed any day of it, it would not have been the same. Irrespective of the location or of their length, some trips are better off, not fiddled with. Yet, many will start with a funny feeling in the stomach until you actually hit the road and the sunflower-filled fields start passing through the tilted windows.

First train up northwards that fit my desired itinerary leaves London King's Cross Station at 06:15 on a Saturday morning. As bizarre as it may be, the return ticket to York was much more expensive than that to Newcastle, which is a farther distance than York is. I had heard some interesting things about Newcastle. While I was confirming my PIN-code at the ticket machine, I was not in a position to remember whether those "interesting" things were good things, thanks to the 6-digit alcohol volume level in my blood, but alas, I was to find out, and as a saying goes in Turkish (and in many other languages I am sure); it is not the one who reads more, but the one who travels more, learns more about life.

I disagree, at large, with those who claim iPhones limit mobility in the sense that it constrains you heavily into social activity and frequent email correspondence and limits your ability to adapt into the physical setting you are in. True it may be, in some senses, if it weren't for my iPhone, I would not have had the chance to check the train times and ticket prices without actually heading to King's Cross and, unfortunately, when you don't plan your itineraries well, when traveling in London, things can get so frustrating that you give up in the 1st minute. This time, I had enough time, and just about enough consciousness to stop by home, take my iPhone charger, 6 tablets of Alka Seltzer, fill up a bottle with filtered water and head to the station. 4 Alka Seltzer pills just about had enough in them to help me endure a 3.5 hours train journey on cramped East Coast route seats, following my somewhat uncanny selection of honeyed turkey and butter sandwich. I barely remember any stops we made along the way, I certainly missed the sunrise, and I am sure it was hidden behind clouds anyway, I have no recollection of the scenery (although I took this route to Edinburgh once before) and I could barely keep myself awake before reaching Newcastle to make sure I didn't end up where I wasn't supposed to, the end station of the route.

I stepped afoot outside the train and all I knew was that there was a river with a few bridges on it, which I saw, on my way into the Central Station, on the train. The path near the river was called Quayside, and thanks to my experiences in other British cities on riversides and water streams (Liverpool, Oxford, Cambridge, Belfast, Birmingham, not least London), Quayside should take me somewhere interesting. It also looked like streets encompassing Quayside were more dense and narrower and more crooked around Quayside and that should mean an urban centre, and I knew all this thanks to the tiny city maps outside the train station and the Google Maps.

So I started my Newcastle-upon-Tyne discovery, walking down a hill that curved past a Chinese restaurant, superimposed by a dominating large, blue bridge. A couple of young lads, probably on their night's after-hours tours at 10 AM, buzzed their friend's security-gated apartment. I turned around the corner and rolled down the hill to reach the waterfront, after this first and brief human encounter. I could see the early joggers and fishermen setting the scene in what I was about to set myself into... (more to follow)

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