It seems a while since I fell asleep at Franz-Josef Flughafen before making my flight back to London Heathrow for the Christmas break. The holiday was unfortunately just a measly eight days long, but luckily it didn’t fly past. I put this down to what they call in the army “concurrent activity”. In spite of my “kein Urlaubsanspruch” (German: “no right to question why you have zero holiday”) we managed to fit a lot in, despite constantly ticking of the clock. This post is a summary of the past two weeks of fun in which I stay in London and the Isle of Wight but travel to unknown territories including as far afield as the international towns of Windsor, Henley, Reading and Acton. Put on your reading glasses, you’ll need them. This post is ridiculously long. By the end of it you will be well and truly updated on 16 days of Marcus Fabian.
So this story begins by being abandoned by Greggers on a bench at Terminal 2 Munich Airport, so he could connect to the flight from Singapore to Manchester (that well travelled route). We had decided to go up on the Friday night, because neither of us trusted ourselves to wake up in time to catch the train to the airport. Instead we thought, go the night before, get a few beers in etc. I managed to wake up with plenty of time to board my early morning flight and as I settled down in my seat and listened to the sweet British accents of the flight attendants. As I touched down in London I was looking forward to making use of a private luxury service, namely the Terminal 5/Dulwich shuttle. The USS Land Cruiser Amazon has already undertaken many lunar landings in its time and completed many successful return missions, so I was confident when I stepped into the Toyota. Somewhat co-incidentally it is driven by my Dad!
Upon arrival in the British Isles, I was expecting a sea of unhappy faces, kids with cauliflower ears, a faint but sweet waft of BO in the air and of course the dismal dismal weather. I was only right about the latter of these. That’s when I knew I was home. The familiar weather did not disappoint, in the sense that it did, of course, disappoint. I thought gloomy and miserable was bad, but jokes aside, the country had been brought to a standstill due to flooding. The sort of convenient standstill that happened to coincide with the festive season. This weather does seem to be following me wherever I go at the moment. Meanwhile they had the warmest Christmas on record in Munich, it was 21 degrees on Christmas Eve.
Once I was back, I seemed to be out every night with the Fabians. Not your average student house parties, where everyone inexplicably wants to either drink cheap vodka mixed with batter-acid or inhale nitrous-oxide from balloons like annoying clowns. No, this was something très chic, sophisticated: les parties à la Champagne. The first festivity was on the 22nd – it was party time at the Elliott’s!
There was of course much good cheer to be shared around as well as a fantastic and professional Indian-style buffet dinner. Here is a picture of me and my brothers, to prove how fun it was. Apologies for how odd we all look, and thanks to Milo for keeping it together.
We managed to do the religious version of a pub crawl; visiting church thrice in two days. Consider my sins well and truly forgiven. I should have made the cut for purgatory now. It was worth it to Thanks to the Kötterings we had another superb Xmas eve. Then the big day came. I was looking forward to the promise of chunky chicken soup, but we had to make do with a brilliant turkey put on by Aunties Sue and Jill. It really was a feast. The turkey was about the size of a Ford Fiesta, except with more birdpower and less horse. It was great to see Grandpa & Eryll, Auntie Sue, Auntie Jill, Gwen, William, Tiffany and all at Granny’s in the gorgeous suburb of Penge-sur-Mer. Many presents were shared around and it was indeed a logistical triumph. Good to catch up with everyone.
During the morning of Boxing Day, the hearty footballing tradition was honoured. This year was an especially muddy occasion. With all the flooding etc, it was an absolute mud bath. I have long since forgotten the score but it was an evenly matched game and fair play was maintained, well refereed by Dad. In the evening, we made our pilgrimage to the Mecca of Hampshire: an island just south of England. When we arrived at the cottage, we discovered that our house had been broken into! My brothers and I unfortunately saw the funny side of the situation, which is that our technology is so far behind the times, that it wasn’t worth stealing. After a few more slightly insensitive jokes e.g. “Wait! Shall we check if they remembered to write in the visitors’ book?” Before we knew what had hit us, we had Hampshire Police in and the whole place was crawling with detectives within a matter of hours. And by crawling I mean , someone even came off a tea break to come and take a “closer look”. And by detectives, I mean one officer. The thing is, at Isle of Wight Police Training college they take most of their classes are mainly accustomed to dealing with toaster fires. Anything more and it’s frankly escalated quickly up to MI5.
If you’re waiting for a series of CSI Seaview, you could be waiting a while. With utmost professionalism, the police informed us that we could clear up the mess left by the criminal “if we wanted to”. Great advice. Anyway, once that malarkey was sorted (footprints photographed, fingerprints scanned) we could finally enjoy the white Isle. No I’m not referring to Ibiza, but the infamous Isle of Wight, just south of Portsmouth. My parents are very lucky to have a house down there. It means when someone asks you where you summer you can immediately respond in a casual manner: “yar, we usually summer in Seaview”.
An interesting fact about Seaview is that it is the part of the British Isles most recently invaded by the French. I bet you didn’t know that Adam Shaw. Obviously, the French clearly didn’t put up too much of a fight. They landed their ships, started trying to set fire to stuff, at which point the Islanders started wearily opening shutters and wandering out of various drinking holes presumably dressed in grubby brown clothes and throwing “all manner of objects” at the French forces. You can imagine tipsy old men waddling away from their casks of ale hurling pots and pans and peanuts at the French whilst swearing a lot. Fortunately for Britain, the French hadn’t experienced such barbaric fighting for a while and consequently had no idea how to react. As a result, they naturally ended up scarpering back to the land of brioche and brie. Or perhaps a rogue messenger had rushed to them shaking his head and explaining that there were still “no plans to set up a Waitrose par excellence” on the island. Presumably due to this lack of European food, they vanished. Either way, to this day Seaviewers are proud that, whilst the Mary Rose admittedly took a turn for the worse (#awkward, considering how much it costed), they fought off the second sly invasion of the frogs.
A plaque in the village reads:
“During the last invasion of this country hundreds of French troops landed on the foreshore nearby. This armed invasion was bloodily defeated and repulsed by local militia 21st July 1545”.
We watched a few films over the festive period including The Holiday, Blade Runner and Titanic. I would like to share with you Ned’s thought for the day at the time. He grinned at us, completely out of the blue: “There’s a guy at my school who can whistle whilst smiling”. Thanks for that Ned. Now we understand why your nickname at school is Nutty Ned.
On the 28th I travelled up to London to witness 21 years of Brogan O’Neill! She has had such an impact on the universe despite only being alive for a fraction of its existence. Amazing. The location of Bar Rumba did not disappoint. It was a sort of massive basement in Piccadilly Circus with a bar attached to it. Although initially the extravagant London prices took some getting used to, it was great to see all the old housemates and their friends again, especially the girls who I hadn’t seen for ages. It was a good turnout indeed. One memory that sticks in the mind is the look on Angus’ face when he was told that the two sambucas he had spontaneously ordered came to nine pounds and fifty English pence. His reaction was definitely worth more than he paid for the drinks. Shortly after eleven, Angus and I found ourselves a bit strapped for cash (the £19.95 Woo Woos had taken us a bit by surprise) so we ventured outside the club in search of a banking corporation, with which we could negotiate an increased cash injection to fuel the rest of our night. We struggled to find a cash point initially, to our immediate disgust. Then it dawned upon us. We were near Chinatown. Angus and I looked at each other. Pretty much in unison, we realized we must be just a chopstick’s throw from a branch of HSBC. After all it is the world’s local bank, we thought to ourselves. So we trotted on down to the Far-Eastern themed part of town (Felix would be proud). We punched in our pins and withdrew copious amounts of sterling. You’d have thought that was that. But it wasn’t. By this time, our walking had got the better of us and we both wanted to make use of the “lavatorial facilities” available nearby.
It was the restaurant above the bank that tempted us inside as we stood in a waterfall of wafting ginger. Our sole objective was to utilize the toilet facilities. When Angus suggested a small sit-down, I thought nothing of it. But once we were both sat down and menus were placed into our hands… we shrugged at each other and wrinkled our noses, for we both knew: it was Game Over. Ten hot pancakes, six chicken skewers and a half of duck later (no, that’s not the Chinese version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) and we had filled our boots. Half an hour later and we were back in the club. What’s more, it wasn’t even midnight yet! You shall go to the ball Cinderella! But the London ladies inside were no fairytale princesses. After a few more hours of tiresome Gangnam style (how can one video make so many idiots think that they can dance?) a punctual minibus convoy back to Windsor was organized, where a kebab and a hotel room would await us. You know you’ve made it into the big time when you wake up in Travelodge overlooking Windsor & Eton Central Railway Station. Living the dream! Again, many thanks to beautiful Brogan and her great parents, a fab night was had by all. On Saturday morning, I was lucky enough to be able to accompany Angus to Henley to see Mother Wooding and all the hilarious birds that she keeps. Twit twoo!
By the afternoon we were ready to take the train to London from Reading. Of course we ate at Aberdeen Angus Steak House in Leicester Square. After a witty check-in, within minutes our incisors were chomping through delicious Scottish-reared red meat. The only downside being that unfortunately, they missed the vital ingredient to garlic butter, namely the garlic. But the butter was good. It even had green stuff in it, to distinguish it from normal butter.
Actin’ up in Acton Town
During the day we had been in touch with Alex and Robbie (aka the Kittler Youth) and we were privileged enough to be invited along to one of their mate’s houses for pre-drinks. Just a nice, casual pre-drinks. It of course wasn’t long before drinking games started and absolute chaos ensued. After agreeing that the Russian Vodka was in fact fairly Standard, I could tell we were well on our way. We took the tube somewhere. We weren’t lost, but we just didn’t know where we were at the time. Until our knight in Pakistani armour arrived, that is. A rickshaw driver appeared out of nowhere and just in the nick of time. Long story short, we took a rickshaw to tigertiger. Definitely one of the best touristy things I have ever done in London.
Wooding dusting off his French skills and became the eleventh Englishman to approach a French girl in the history of time. He had a French girlfriend so it comes fairly easily to him. But I didn’t let Angus show the rest of us up. Keen to butt in and shake up the dynamic (no change there then), I opted for a joke which is always a risk when it comes to the French.
And it worked an absolute dream. Within seconds the French girls were giggling away. They loved it. After a good night of unleashing balloons on people and paying £33.20 for two double vodka cranberries and two Jägerbombs (yes, I have got the receipt) we eventually staggered out of the club onto the Circus and did the standard post-club, pre-crib fast food run. Our chain of choice was McDonald’s in this case. Robbie and co finished the night very relaxed indeed and we were all glad for those that came. So the weekend drew to a close as we woke up a bit hungover in Acton Town. I still owe John for the taxi, but I have promised to get the first drinks in when he comes to Leeds next academic year. A tube, a train, a ferry and a lift and I was back on the Isle of Wight.
It was during this train journey that I started to wonder: what made Britain great? The tea, the sugar, the Indians, the double-decker buses, the fox-hunting, the industrial revolution, the slaves, the sandwich, Bond? All of those things. But what stands out for me, having not been around for the past four months, is that we British are unrivalled when it comes to Customer Service. Now whether that’s because we’re basically polite or because we actually care about people or both – remains to be debated. But people selling you things will actively seek to help you out. They will try to get you the best deal, even though they don’t get paid extra for it. Nine times out of ten, they will be genuine and friendly. Of course the Germans have lots to learn when it comes to being nice. This aspect of British culture is something that really stood out when I returned over the Christmas period. No bloody wonder then, that we took over the world. We probably charmed our way into anchoring up in the world’s harbors. Once we’d made clear it was “an imperial thing”, we then started to give people helpful directions in their own countries. Making them do everything on the left, so that we could raise our swords on the right hand side. This management, it’s in our blood. When people look back at the various empires throughout history, I bet the British one will get the best score on TripAdvisor. Oh the great sea-faring, peace-keeping and directional-assisting nation we are.
I realised that when I’ve been in Munich, I’ve missed apologising to people all the time, regardless of whether I am actually sorry or not. I have missed walking in a straight line through crowds. I have missed desperately trying not to make eye contact with people on the tube (and if you accidentally do make contact, you are both shamed into looking away immediately again). I love Britain and I love being a Londoner. What a fabulous multi-cultural city we are privileged to live in. But sometimes the city does get a bit too much. It’s at this point that one retreats to one’s hobbit hole. I was back on the train to Portsmouth Harbour calling at Woking, Guildford, Haslemere, Petersfield, Havant, Fratton, Portsmouth and Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour. A family outing had been planned, we went to watch the The Hobbit in Ryde Cinema.
So one of the main characters is Thorin Oakenshield (pictured below). He is essentially Middle-Earth’s answer to Spencer from Made in Chelsea (only with Olly’s former haircut). Thorin son of Thráin, son of Thrór, King Under the Mountain is reported to be auditioning for Season 2 of Made in Mordor. His only discredit being he needed to be airlifted out of battle by eagles. You can’t always rely on Ctrl+Alt+Gandalf to bail you out. Come on Thorin, you’re better than that.
After a nice relaxing New Year’s Eve, it was time to plod on back to Munich. The route from the Isle of Wight to Germany is a well trodden one. It is essentially a competition of how many different types of transport you can use in under 12 hours. Ferry > Train > Coach > Shuttle > Plane >S-Bahn > U-Bahn > Walk. And you’re home. It’s as easy as that. You whack on some Jason Derülo, sit back and enjoy the journey. I have to admit, a tear rolled down my cheek as I watched the English countryside rush past before my eyes. The pastures green, the Guildford golfers. Pomp and Circumstance started to play as I watched the quaint cottages, the private schools and the sheep fly past. The journey went well and I eventually made it back to Bavaria.
Since being back in Munich, I have registered at the driving school and started learning the theory. All in German. Went for an Afghani (doesn’t sound great does it) and I was half expecting to read Road-Side orders of potato, spinach or semtex. Hattie and I discussed a potential Double Date at Dachau (not a blog title anyone wants to be subjected to, however convenient its alliteration). And I spent the best part of Sunday 6th Jan performing CPR on a massive black man as part of a first-aid course.
Munich is of course not the same without Rémi and without Jean-Rémy. Or as I call them, “One and a Half Rémys” (the French version of Two and a Half Men). Nevertheless, Monday morning came and the new interns arrived. And what do new interns mean? They mean new nicknames. Guillame is Jean-Rémy’s successor. It didn’t take long to work this one out. He has invaded and his name is the French version of William. Can you hazard a guess as to what it might be? The nickname Guillaume le Conquérant sprang immediately to mind. That’s that sorted then. Guillame le Premier d’Angleterre aka William the Conqueror aka William the Bastard. Not sure how he will respond to this as of yet. I’m sure it will be fine though. The French know how to take a joke, right?
In the meantime I have set Far-Eastern Felix up with a hot Chinese. And I’m not talking about a take-away. I’m talking about a Chinese woman who I met in Starbucks. Having spoken to her briefly I assumed she’d know him in some way. Yes that’s right Marcus. All Chinese people know each other. Just because there’s lots of them does not necessarily make them more sociable. I’m an international matchmaker! Although I may have had a shocker because as Felix explained, Chinese women seem younger than they actually are. She turns out to be a manager of some kind. Oops!
A big thanks to everyone who has helped me out in the past year, it would be unrealistic to hope for a more exciting year than 2012, but let’s just cross our fingers that 2013 is above average rather than below. Even though, the core few were seen, there were a few people I didn’t get to see at the end of December.
There are so many people I look forward to seeing when I’m next back. It was really nice to be reunited with parents, brothers, grandparents, godparents, aunties and friends. If you made it this far down then – thanks for reading. And also get back to what you should be doing.