June 26, 2005

Hitch–hikers Guide to M45

Saturday, 11th of June

Both me and Suvi were absolutely knackered after the late night on Friday caused by overwhelming excitement and general nervousness about hitching. However, we managed to crawl out of bed around 9 o’clock. in the Saturday morning. I made a major discovery on Friday night about 5 seconds before falling asleep – I had given my Internet banking details to my friend Helen who generously promised to store some of my stuff over the summer when I’m not in England. I realized also that I have to pay the deposit for the newly-found next year’s house before arriving in the UK, and this obviously was made extremely difficult by the fact that I would not be able to access my bank account without those significant little codes. In addition, I also remembered I had forgotten to give my duvet cover for Helen to store and I want to keep it for next autumn and those horribly chilly October nights. So I would have to go and do a lovely extra tour to Helen’s before starting our journey to London.

“Fortunately” Helen didn’t answer her phone – fair enough, it was early Saturday morning – but I desperately needed to drop my stuff off and get my bank details asap. I decided to head to Kenilworth regardless. I got to Helen’s house – still no answer and the front door of the block of flats was locked. When peeping through the window on the door I discovered there was a back door open so I just invaded the garden and got into the house that way. Nobody opened the flat door even after a frantic door-knocking session, so I concluded Helen must be at her boyfriend’s, Colin’s, house. Luckily Colin was in and he even had the bank details I was after! So that was finally all sorted and I could eventually return to the campus and start the hitch.

A distinctive smell of a permanent marker-pen welcomed me at the door. Suvi had used our pillow sheets to make 2 tops for us saying “London” and “Suvi/Laura” on them. Also she had turned our bed sheet into a massive Finnish flag, which to be honest reminded greatly of a pirate flag or similar since the cross was black rather than blue. Oh well…

I returned the keys of my room and off we went!

It was a boiling hot day and we were exhausted by the time we got to the Tesco’s kiosk. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the campus I can tell Claycroft and this kiosk are located less than half a mile apart. Bought some water and bumped into a nice guy who offered to take us to the Coventry railway station. So we got a lift before we had even properly started hitching!

At the station we realized however, that it was a very bad choice of the place. After being stared at by other people in traffic for about an hour an old guy came to us and told us to find London Road rather than using Kenpass Highway/A45 we had intended to use.

Bored of waiting, we decided to walk to London Road. Note, that we had heavy suitcases of weight of 20 kg each and in addition we both had 2 bags. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of getting perfect arm muscles by dragging these horrible bags around Coventry.

We only had been on M45/London Road for maybe half an hour when we saw a police car drive by. We obviously were terrified as hitching on motor ways is illegal in England. Conveniently, the police car stopped and the officers came to talk to us. This is one of the brilliant situations where is a big advantage to be a foreigner. Putting a barely understandable accent on we explained we are trying to go to London and pretended we don’t understand what a train is, when the police suggested that as a preferred mode of transfer. Anyway, they wanted to see our ID’s and then told us to get on the police car! Scary! I thought there are going to take us to the police station but they kindly dropped us at the train station where we had started the hitch maybe an hour and a half before. I did ask them if I can take a photo of them but they didn’t let me, surprisingly. It must have been pretty obvious that we were just pretending to be brainless and know no English…

Our arrival arose attention at the station. I presume it is not a very common scene to have 2 blonde Finnish girls be dropped there by 2 police men, even if it’s Coventry.

Scared by the encounter with the police, we decided to travel by train rather than hitch. There were 2 different ticket options and you are probably not surprised to read that we chose the cheaper one, 20 pounds, which is still a rip-off. This was supposed to involve 2 swaps, but when we got to Rugby, we just simply got on the more expensive Virgin train which took us to London in an hour and no-one noticed any difference. So eventually we ended up in London more than an hour earlier than expected.

We had sorted the accommodation earlier through GlobalFreeloaders website, where people from all over the world can contact each other and then stay at each other’s houses when they travel around. We found Mark from this website and headed to his house in North London, Bounds Green. The London Underground is Jurassic- they apparently have never heard of escalators! It’s great fun having traveled for 6 hours and then trying to lift your suitcase up the stairs, poooh!

We got to Bounds Green using Piccadilly Line and had a little shopping session at the Costcutters near the tube station(we are loyal to this chain and always use the one on Warwick campus even if it may be overpriced). We were supposed to give our infamous pirate Finnish flag to Mark but since we had been traveling for so long and the sheet was really scratty and smelled of sweat we somehow thought it might not be a good idea.

We got to Mark’s, had a shower and had some lovely pasta cooked by his French freeloader guest, Flo. We also had some wine. Mark was really funny and good at putting on different accents, especially the Chinese one sounded pretty authentic. We had a chat about Finland and I informed him about essential wacky competitions we have, such as a wife-carrying competition, mosquito-killing competition, sauna and ice-swimming competitions.

Soon it was pretty late and we got ready really quick to go out to night clubs. After being lost in the underground and desperately looking for my friend from Warwick, Selina, we ended up at Leicester Square where we also found her. Then we started a frantic discussion about which nightclubs we should go into and after standing there for about an hour, me and Suvi got bored and decided to choose a nightclub for just 2 of us. We went for Rouge, and I confused all the night club information people by saying that I had been promised to be let in for a discount price. Eventually we got the entry for 8 pounds, when it should have been 15 pounds. The night club information manager gave me his number and offered to buy me drinks but I was happy with just the discount price.

Rouge was good fun, though unreasonably pricey like any club in London. We stayed there till 4 o’clock when the club closed. It was already bright outside when we left the club. We were absolutely starving and wanted to get some food but a group of dodgy, Indian-looking people tried to steal the contents of our bags. Shaken by this, we didn’t want to eat and tried to find a night bus instead.

We didn’t have a slightest idea which bus to take and where it would depart. So we were just wandering around and ended up in Trafalgar Square where a kind bus driver took us on the bus. We both fell asleep on the bus and at some point I woke up panicking that we had missed our stop. We discovered that the bus wouldn’t go to Bounds Green but to Wood Green, which according to the bus driver was only “5 mins walk away”.

Just before the Wood Green bus stop Suvi saw a bagel shop and since we were both really hungry at the time, we have been craving for bagels ever since. We were really tired anyway, so couldn’t be bothered to walk back for bagels. It took us ages to walk and we didn’t know where we were going anyway. My shoes were extremely uncomfortable and I walked bare-footed. Suvi was singing about the gorgeous bagels all the way and tripping over her own feet all the time. Horrible foreign guys were stopping their cars, whistling etc. other annoying stuff and we told them to F* off in Finnish as we couldn’t be bothered to reply in English. We were back at Mark’s house at 6, 2 hours after leaving the club and collapsed to the bed.

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