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Monday 12 December 2011

POV-FS - On the Road - England - Day Twelve & Thirteen: Tourism & Home

     Monday (December 5th)  marks the last full day of the excursion abroad; there was a faint hope of finding tickets for the Fulham-Liverpool match at Craven Cottage – one of the grounds I really wanted to go see – but it proved fruitless.

    Seeing as I had avoided doing the whole tourist thing for the majority of the trip I gave in to the urge to ride a tour bus around the historic districts of London.

    A fine old city, its mix of history and commercialism wrapped into one bus ride; though it only covered one small section of the town. I saw Harrods and Fleet Street, some very old hotels – one awesome gothic one at Russell Square, and some glorious parks. The greenery was important to the city planners, which is nice, nobody wants too much of a concrete jungle.

    The Tower Bridge, the Tower itself, Parliament and the Abbey; seeing them in person was almost surreal and worth the tiny investment of time. Parliament was incredibly shiny and crisp, I could scarcely believe it was real, and the import of history became apparent once again.

    Sitting on the upper deck of the bus was mighty chilly, especially when crossing the river, but it was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.  Grabbing a pint and a pasty to warm up before heading back to the hotel to regroup and figure out the night.

    I mused with the idea of trekking down to the ground – it was a short bus ride from the hotel – to enjoy the prematch atmosphere and possibly find a bar nearby packed with fellow fans whom were without tickets, but I decided to hit up the local pub and catch the match on tele instead of stretching myself.

    There was a certain amount of symmetry about having to watch the last match of the trip on TV, as if circumstance was weaning me back to normal life.

    One of the more amazing things about being at matches in person was the acceptance that it was real. Sometimes, if you watch TV and try and put oneself in a program there remains the sneaking suspicion that on the other side of the room (set) there is no wall; that through that door there is no passageway, just cables and cameras, caterers and director’s chairs.

    At times watching football from afar one can forget that it is a window into a real event. Did you know that on the other side of the stadium from the camera’s perspective there is a whole other stand packed with people invisible to the viewer?

    It sounds rather silly to say this out loud, and I’m not sure I’m properly explaining what I mean, but hopefully you understand. 

    Clint Dempsey scored a late winner for Fulham after Liverpool had gone down a man when Jay Spearing was sent off for a lunging tackle.

    A further measure of symmetry to close the trip for the return home; it began with Fulham almost stealing three points from the Emirates, and ended with them getting one over on Liverpool at the Cottage.

    Fulham under Martin Jol have become a much more solid team. They hang in matches, smothering the opposition before striking when given an opportunity. I was quite impressed with how they held Arsenal and not surprised when they took Liverpool.

    The flight home departed on Tuesday evening, so after a good sleep and a quick pack, it was off to the tour bus again – it was a two-day pass – for the museum tour. It was midday, traffic was a nightmare and our driver was insane – it was actually a little frightening speeding through central London on an empty bus that at times felt like it would tip over, slamming on the breaks only inches from pedestrians and fellow vehicles alike. Had there not been time constraints it would have been lovely to cruise some of the museums – they’re all free, which is cool – but I’ll have to save that for next time.

    London is a huge city, one gets the impression it would take a good year or two to experience it all, perhaps a lifetime would not be enough to really get into the bones of the city; despite the hurried nature of the trip it was a great time.

    A cab to Heathrow, glide through the baggage and security check-stops, a quick tour of the massive duty free, and a short rest before it was back on the people mover headed towards our gate. I crammed myself back into an airline seat, plugged in my headphones and tried to ignore the fact that headwinds meant the eight hour flight morphed into nine.

    London from the air was majestic, the lights from above had the quality of Chinese lanterns, it was all quite beautiful and I was happy to have a window seat. We took a different route this time, heading for Greenland, then southward across Labrador and Quebec. It was rather eerie peering out the window as we crossed Greenland and the vast shadowed landscapes of Northern Canada. The snow and water bathed in the reflective light of the moon was a humbling image.

    It was a long day, nearly twenty-four hours by the time my head hit my pillow back home. A quick ride back across Toronto after skating through customs and it was done.

    It was a bittersweet moment. Glad to be back; sad that the trip was over and had gone by so fast.

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