Day 3b: Copenhagen to Stockholm

October 25, 2014 Leave a comment

I bid goodbye to compartment-mates at the Copenhagen Central Station and they wish me the best for my long journey.

There is a lift down to the Left Luggage facility at the Meatpacking District end of train station. Payment by coins and you get a large plastic token in return.

The City Night Line was delayed by an hour so i have only a little time to spare before the train to Stockholm at 1629h. Just time enough to revisit old haunts:

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Paté Paté in Kødbyen. Delicious food for a stomach that hasn’t had a proper warm sit-down meal in more than a week. Free wifi. Cheerful obliging waitstaff. Plugs in walls. Clean toilets.

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Democratic Coffee in Københavns Hovedbibliotek. Drop Coffee. La Marzocco.

UntitledPaludan Bog & Cafe. No, not that bog. A visually lovely book and coffee/tea/repast pairing.

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bicycles! bicycles! bicycles! bicycles hanging by walls, bicycles posing in front of shops, bicycles casually leaning.

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The Danes love their hot dogs and apparently voted DØP the organic hot dog vendor at the foot of the Round Tower as the best in the business.

UntitledTo save time, I get a picnic for the train from Andersen Bakery opposite København H instead, and a large bottle of Cocio chocolate milk to go along. “Best hot dog in Copenhagen!” says the man beside me approvingly.

Day 2b – 3a: Amsterdam to Copenhagen

October 25, 2014 Leave a comment

UntitledAmsterdam Centraal Station. The relevant board says the 1901 City Night Line sleeper CNL40457 leaves from this platform, but appears to be going only to Prahn. These two Germans explain that sometime during the night, the train will divide – one part to Prahn, one to Berlin, and one to Copenhagen. One of them is a deadringer for the Girl-With-A-Dragon-Tattoo. They offer me a “goouummy”.

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The train attendant explains that although there are six-beds in my compartment, a maximum of 4 will be used at a time. My bed is on the top and must be accessed using the ladder from under one of the bottom bunks. i make my bed with the bedsheet provided, and toss on the pillow and blanket. There is ventilation, temperature control, the option of florescent or dimmed lighting, curtains, and a lock for the door. There is a also friendly atmosphere and time is easily spent bantering with the two English boys in the next compartment. The train attendant offers to get my mobile charged in one of the washrooms and locks it in for safety.

UntitledAt Emmerich, just on the German side of the Netherlands-German border, serious German policemen board the train. They open every loo door and finding one of the washrooms locked, unlock it with their keys. I hurry down the corridor, only to have a torch shone in my face:
“Is this your phone?”
“Why have you locked it in the washroom?”
Two compartments down from me, i hear them ask someone for his passport. He and his baggage are taken off the train. The English boys stand on the platform watching and banter about the reasons for this.

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Two guys join me in the compartment in Germany. One is Danish but lives in the United States. The other is a German who works in Copenhagen.
“Why do you have an American accent?” I ask the first.
“Why do you have an English accent?” he counters.
The German speaks of Danish politics and how he dislikes a politician who is trying to keep “foreigners” out.

Along the corridor, we hear rumours that this is the last CityNightLine sleeper from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. All around Europe, the tracks are falling silent at night.

UntitledFrom the architecture, we could tell we were now in Denmark.

Untitled*Earworm for the journey: Stuart Townend’s Singing Hallelujah from his The Paths of Grace album.

Day 2a: Hoek van Holland to Amsterdam

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Jolted awake by a member of the crew pounding on the door: “Time to go! Time to go!”

Hurriedly pack and wash, and take an elevator to deck 9 where there is a gangway to the Hoek van Holland terminal. Immigration takes one look at my burgeoning bergen and asks for evidence that i will be leaving the Schengen Area at some specific date in the future.

“So where are you going?”
“Amsterdam.”
“And where are you going after that?”
“Copenhagen.”
“Ok…and where are you going after that?”
“Stockholm, then Riga, then…”
“Are you saying you are travelling the whole of Europe in a few days?”
“Yes.”

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On the track outside the Hoek van Holland ferry terminal, i meet a nice Malaysian couple attempting to get to Amsterdam as well. The trick is to get the train to Schiedum Centraal (“Sprinter Rotterdam Centraal”) and then take a connecting train from Platform 5 to Amsterdam Centraal. Love the double-decker concept.

Left Luggage, Amsterdam Central StationLeft Luggage in Amsterdam Centraal Station is operated by credit card. Credit cardless types ask fellow travellers to pay for them and then refund them in cash. Because of a flaw in the process, it is important to check the locker number on the printed barcoded receipt – a German family accidentally pay for my locker.

AmsterdamFinally, Amsterdam, the city built on stilts!

Canal in Amsterdam
Canal in Amsterdam
Canal in Amsterdam

Canals, canals, canals!

Then, there is looking the wrong way. Not recognising tram tracks. Almost being run over by a tram. Almost being run over by a tram, then immediately almost being run over by several bicycles.

Bicycles. Dutch-style bicycles, of course. Dutch-style bicycles with wooden fruit crates, or with baby carriers. Riding bicycles with a brolly in one hand.

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cheese for tourists, sausages for tourists, flower market for tourists, dressing up for tourists

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paintings of canal houses, porcelain miniature canal houses, postcards of canal houses, Oud Delft pottery that look like bad copies of Ming vases

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UntitledPipe Museum. P.G.C. Hajenins’ mix-your-own baccy. Weed. Coffeeshops. Weed-growing starter kits in the flower market. Spacecakes. Locals insisting that weed is for tourists. Weedsauce for your fries.

Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis frites

Manneken Pis frites. Eating hot crisp fat frites in the steady drizzle.

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Lanskroon – “the best stroopwafel in Amsterdam”. Their cat comes straight up to me and starts nuzzling incessantly.

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Sweet Cup Cafe. Microroastery. Giesen roaster. Chefke the Bassett waiting for the last member of his pack. Indie-coffeeshops as third places for communities and staging posts for travellers. Specialists. “You don’t want to smell my Kenyan? Don’t you like my coffee?”. Providing counselling for aeropress angst. “We only do single origin coffees. Those people who blend are trying to hide bad coffee or making the price lower.”

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Chocolate milk and a ham-and-cheese croissant and some hagelslag chocolate sprinkles for a picnic for the train. From Albert Heijn after i draw a blank at HEMA.

Day 1 of London to Singapore Over the Surface of the Planet Earth

October 23, 2014 1 comment

London to Singapore over the surface of Planet EarthWho knows the minds of men? Not the men themselves, obviously.

At 1900h on a Thursday in October, i find myself in a flat in Bermondsey, the Shard framed in my bedroom window. Inside the room, a bergen is stuffed full of tokens of my life in London, and i am rushing to catch the 1932 Abellio Greater Anglia from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International.

Bergen packed!Somehow, i will be travelling from London to Singapore, without getting on an aeroplane, over sea and land, by ferries and trains.

But first, i stop to hoover the room for Ben who will be moving in on Saturday.

This is the contents of the bergen:

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i am incredibly thankful that Bus 47 arrives 2 minutes after i scramble to Jamaica Road, and surprisingly for that time of the evening, we encounter no traffic jams.

1932h Abellio Great Anglia from London Liverpool Street to Harwich InternationalA few minutes to spare, my bergen and i locate a seat each on the 1932. Finally resting a little after the mad sweaty rush of the day, i find my mobile contains photos of people in the church office waving and shouting goodbye and farewell texts from my RML group and other friends.

My nose starts to bleed.

People in the twin seats facing us stare embarrassed at their newspapers.

At Harwich International, we turn left up an escalator and a disorderly queue forms. There’s an x-ray machine and plainclothes police. We collect our room cards and trundle up the gangway to the Stena Line. Quite a number are using the Rail & Sail Dutchflyer Service from London to Amsterdam.

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There’s a telly and free wifi, a towel and bedlinen with short dark hairs of the previous user. The bathroom is spacious enough and the shower dispenses hot water with good pressure. After a good half hour of listening to people wandering past my cabin speculating on where their own might be (“the numbers are ascending here…”), i leave to chat with several Filipino crew before tiredness drives me to a hot shower and a dreamless sleep.

Homeward Bound

October 11, 2014 Leave a comment
“Don’t go home,” she said quietly, away from listening ears,”We don’t want you to go home.”

“We would very much like it if you could possibly stay,” said the Rector, my blushing face spotlit by the glare of assembled eyes.

Over the last few months, those first kind remarks became several, a refrain, a chorus, a torrent, said in different situations and various ways – some surely mere pleasantry, and some more polite than others – the latter involving allusions to church furniture (not a compliment at the best of times and certainly not when the church building has been around since the Vikings terrorised the island!).

“But what makes you think I am going home?” I did not, at any point, say as I hurried on to another topic in embarrassment. London is as much “home” as Singapore. Because…what is home?

A fantasy of the orphan; a mirage in the eyes of the wanderer; a daydream of the alien.

What is home? The sure promise of a faithful God; a place to be rightly yearned for; the blissful rest still to come.

And so all we who live in faith are not yet home; we are homeward bound.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Categories: farewells Tags: ,

Hummable Hymns

October 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Have really enjoyed how many hymns (modern or from ages past) we’ve had in the Evening Service at the Local Church. The university students are not complaining – good tunes, good meaty lyrics, what’s not to like? Feeds the earworms too so the truth gets sung to you for a few days after – more bang for your buck!

Generally good stuff to be had from Stuart Townend and Sovereign Grace Music. Some good scores at Songs For Today with good clear-thinking blog posts as a little bonus.


The Lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want
He makes me lie in pastures green
He leads me by the still still waters
His goodness restores my soul

And I will trust in you alone
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercy follows me
Your goodness will lead me home

He guides my ways in righteousness
and he anionts my head with oil
and my cup it overflows with joy
I feast on his pure delight

And I will trust in you alone
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercy follows me
Your goodness will lead me home

And though I walk the darkest path,
I will not fear the evil one
For you are with me and your rod and staff
Are the comfort I need to know

And I will trust in you alone
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercy follows me
Your goodness will lead me home

Stuart Townend
© 1996 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music

 


The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love
The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love

And the Lord is good to all
He has compassion in all that he has made

As far as the east is from the west
Thats how far he has removed our
transgressions from us (repeat)

Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord

Graham Ord
© 1998 Vineyard Songs (UK/EIRE)


A debtor to mercy alone
,
of covenant-mercy I sing;
nor fear, with your righteousness on,
my person and offering to bring:
the terrors of law and of God
with me can have nothing to do;
my Saviour’s obedience and blood
hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which his goodness began,
the arm of his strength will complete;
his promise is “Yes” and “Amen”,
and never was forfeited yet:
things future, nor things that are now,
nor all things below or above,
can make him his purpose forgo,
or sever my soul from his love.

Eternity will not erase
my name from the palms of his hands;
in marks of indelible grace
impressed on his heart it remains:
yes, I to the end shall endure,
as sure as the promise is given;
more happy, but not more secure
the glorified spirits in heaven.
Augustus Montague Toplady, David. E. Evans (“Trewen” – this is the best approximation I could find of it)

 

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
what more can he say than to you he has said,
you, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
in poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
at home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
as days may demand, shall your strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
for I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen and help you, and cause you to stand
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Richard Keen, Richard Simpkin
© Simpo’s tune – songsfortoday.com
See this rockin’ tune. Or listen to it with electronica craziness at emumusic.

Stewardship of Money and Living in London on a Student Budget

September 30, 2014 1 comment

It’s that time of the year when sunny days get colder and the student hordes throng the streets of London. I’ve had a good time meeting the first arrivals, urging them to make the most of their few years abroad.

rocket, fig, proscuitto, mozzarella salad with linseed vinaigretteIt’ll be a sad thing if all they had to show at the end of their degree was, erm, a degree, selfies in front of tourist attractions, signed menus from Michelin restaurants, and a life partner to eat in said restaurants with. There’s much more to life, boys and girls! Away from the usual societal crutches of home, this is the perfect opportunity to think carefully and independently about life – to investigate properly what truth is and so set valid life goals according to that truth. After thorough investigation, Christian claims, as set out in the Bible, seemed overwhelmingly true:

  1. the deadly problem we all face is that we are all under the wrath of God for failing to acknowledge him;
  2. nothing we can ever do or say will be able to turn away God’s wrath on the Last Day;
  3. but God sent his Son Jesus to save us from this – if we trust that what God promised is true – ie. that Jesus’ death is sufficient to save us from the consequences of our sin.

Because this is such an important thing for this life and the next, I would highly recommend everyone to research this for themselves. A Christianity Explored course is a great place to start! And London universities are well served by good churches like St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and Euston Church.

While the important stuff gets sorted, there are also daily necessities to consider. (Ah but, really, who ultimately provides us with money to buy food with, enables food to grow as they should, regulates the seasons, gives us breath?) As a student at a Bible course, living off my own savings, I had to be careful about spending, but also not let frugality be an idol; to be so able to work the budget as still to be generously hospitable about housing and feeding people. We usually think that “good stewardship” of God-given money consists merely of avoiding conspicuous consumption, but miserliness too fails to properly invest God’s money for his work.

Food
Because the United Kingdom produces its own food and local food is more likely to be less expensive, it is best to eat the season.

Street markets are your best bet for fresh food. I don’t mean the organic hipster places but the “ethnic” sort in East London – for example, along Whitechapel or in Shadwell. Vegetables are usually sold by the bowl – £1 for whatever is in the bowl. And I have managed to bargain for more to be stuffed in the same bowl…

Check London Farmers Markets for more English/continental produce. Although basics are on the whole more expensive, this is for you if you care about provenance. And there are some bargains at closing time or on things that don’t usually figure in the modern London kitchen – like duck hearts, other offal, pork bones for ramen bases. Even the more posh farmers’ markets are worth checking out: I’ve gotten good bags of pesticide-free fruit and vegetables for £1 each at the Marylebone Farmers’ Market and chicken carcasses for stock (but with enough flesh left on it for a meal for one or two) for 25p each at Borough Market.

It’s also worth being a regular at your local butcher and fishmonger who may throw in stuff for free once they get to know you.

wild blackberries wild blackberry tart

Foraging has saved me a bundle on fruit and herbs. But obviously you need to be sure not to poison yourself, especially with the mushrooms. Check out recipes and advice at Forage London.

Marked Down GroceriesIf you really need to use a supermarket, you can compare prices at mysupermarket.co.uk. There isn’t a particularly generally cheap(er) mainstream supermarket: Tesco and Sainsbury’s might sell different goods more cheaply. Lidl, Aldi, and ASDA, although not known to be upmarket, have own-brand products that stand up to more expensive own-brands: like olive oil and charcuterie. Check for Great Taste Awards as well. There are also treasures in Lidl’s wine bins (eg. Bordeaux second growths).

Waitrose does really deep discounts on well-kept but expiring food. I usually snap these up for the freezer – good for lazy evenings and unexpected guests. It’s also worth signing up to be a Waitrose member for free coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latte) and tea daily, additional discounts, and a free well-written magazine every month.
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down GroceriesThe other great thing about Waitrose is that it applies original bulk-buy discounts to stickered items. In this instance, Waitrose technically paid me £0.11 to buy 18 sausages off them!

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Marks & Spencer stores tend to clear out their bakery sections at a good yellow-stickered discount about 6.00 p.m. (store-dependent) every day so you can get proper bread/pastry your dinner/breakfast there. The city center stores are also good for discounts on dairy items like milk and cheese.

Approved Food has a bit of a niche selling food near or past its best before date at good reductions.

Coffee
Brewing your own probably gives you a better cup and saves you loads off Costa lattes. Worth checking out online coffee companies for promotional discounts – eg. Pact Coffee delivers your first order for only £1.

Clothes
By the fact that everyone can tell me a mile away by my clothes, it is clear that I don’t really have much experience in this area. But for fig leaves that don’t look too cheap, TK Maxx has good stuff. There are loads of charity shops around. Also look out for clothes swaps.

For camping/hiking/walking clothes, footwear, and accessories, try the Army Surplus Store

Hair Cuts
Get them free by being a real live model for hairdressing students or juniors. Have a look at this Time Out article for details.

Cookware, homeware and home electricals
Check first if anyone has anything to give away on London Freecycle or Gumtree or a whole list of alternatives on the Guardian Green Living Blog or on the London Re-use Network. Otherwise, compare prices at:
Robert Dyas
Argos
Lakeland
Poundland, 99p shop, 98p shop…

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
Reuse jars as cups and for storage. Reuse can and coffee cups as pen and pencil holders. Reuse fruit crates for shelves. Reuse wine cases for bookshelves.

Transportation
Cycling around London is free, though you’ll need to acquire a bicycle and an all-important bicycle lock.

Bicycles
Freecycle, Gumtree, . Or ReCycling and other sites listed on Bike Hub. Cycle training, if you live in Tower Hamlets, is free.

bicycle maintenance club bicycle repair and maintenance tools

You’ll want to keep your ride in good shape, so pop down to the free bicycle maintenance workshops.

Trains
The Man on Seat 61 has good advice about this.

Leisure Activities
It helps to live in areas that the government thinks need a leg up. In Tower Hamlets, for example, there is free tennis and relatively cheap admission to swimming pools.

For theatre, opera, concerts, check out the TKTS website for discounts, or (if appropriate) hunt for student standby tickets or platform seats.

Lots more tips at moneysavingexpert.com.

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