7 years, 7 cities. Now it's all behind me...
There was also a man behind me for a large part of my journey this morning. Walking very fast and periodically grunting.
I signed on in Aldershot at 9.10 AM, or Kathmandu as my step-mater pejoratively terms it, on account of the large Nepalese population. Afterwards I waited outside the shopping centre for a few minutes whilst the hold up occasioned from a false alarm kept us shopping centre enthusiasts hanging on. Nay, I'm no fan of malls- I just like their toilets. And I was looking to change my red wonga into blue. Back in PEK terminal 2 I was offered 9.15 net sterling for 100 RMB but I was in a bit of a hurry and decided to exchange over here. Bad mistake. The high street (Natwest, Post Office, Euro wotsit) were offering 60-70 pence less per 100, how is that? I jumped on a train to London to get the best deal I could from a little currency exchange in London Bridge (ACE-FX) and their offer was just shy of what I was offered in Beijing (9.115). I have about 1700 pounds to play with, which won't go far. I give myself a month, maybe two 'til I've nothing to dispose of.
Having bought a cheap day return so I had to kill four hours and I wondered round the city. There were some Chinese dignitaries milling outside Dr Johnson's house with some similarly sharply dressed Brits and a couple of lean Community Police cyclists who fidgeted and played with their helmets. I walked past The Olde Cheshire Cheese and across Waterloo bridge, through the BFI (this month is a celebration of Chinese cinema) and to the NT cafe, where I had a sandwich and traditional lemonade as some sort of theatrical focus group on a table behind me discussed something to do with male sexual mores in a distinctly inhibited sounding manner. Then I killed more time in Waterloo Station, which looks a lot better now it has a mezzanine. You can drink wine or champagne with a meal on a comfortable bench seat overlooking the concourse. Or drink in a bar that now sits flush with those large windows that used to be high up above the passengers. After Waterloo I waited over half an hour at Woking for my train to Aldershot and bought a Cherry coke to stay awake. I didn't envy the computers. I don' t know how much they take home but they looked like prisoners of a grinding routine. All along the route into and out of London I saw Chinese. The news today was about how visa regulations have been relaxed but it's all relative.