I know. I’ve got an essay due – what am I doing here? Figured I needed to take a break and write about the fun happenings after my previous post (and my, what a while ago that was). In a nutshell, I found myself touching rock more often and encountering the bustling London life in a self-declared-fuck-everything-reading-week-break-thing after submission of my formative essays (of which I’ve come to regret ever so slightly in hindsight now), but I’m still enjoying myself tremendously here (but yeah, the weeklong in London coupled with essay-hell-rush meant a complete and utter depletion of fitness levels prior to coming here – consistency and discipline is key, of which I still have not mastered.
But that aside: Rocky crags and indoor boulder competitions, new friends made and finding/found my place within this larger place… It’s been enjoyable. It still is.
Chronologically, prepare for the visual vomit.
Not long after my previous CNY post I came down with a bout of homesickness, to which I cured with googling for answers, talking it out with my other Singaporean flatmates and buying myself a £3.99 world map (little outdated, but it is very pretty). I figure wanderlust would solve uncomfortable and depressing feelings budding within me, and strangely enough it has. Seeing how small Europe is in relation to the rest of the world, and how small I am in the wider scope of things… I’ve got much to do and see in the upcoming days, weeks, months ahead.
Let’s begin with a rocky weekend at Sheffield.
Not strong enough to dyno to the top of the rock, handholds too slopey/crimpy to pull myself up to a proper heel hook. I wonder if I was supposed to mantle but aside – Peak District outdoor bouldering in Sheffield. First time I’ve touched natural boulders in a cold and windy outdoors. Completed a few easy climbs, topped out (still fearful) before succumbing to the utter cold and wind. Too much for me it seems – and I was already bundled in four layers and two bottoms.
But it was beautiful nonetheless and makes me psyched for Font that’s coming up in two week’s time.
Scaling up a traverse rote (grade 4). It’s nothing difficult to be honest, but it’s frightening when you’re up there and knowing when you fall there’s nothing below you but spotters and crash pads and proper earth (not the squishy kind you can roughly scrape from with a sprained ankle – the surface is hard enough to properly fracture something). But I took what Clarice said to heart and trusted my footwork – you sure do learn and grow a lot when there’s really nothing but you and the rock. I guess this is where commitment comes in, something I need to work on.
The Peak District trip happened over a weekend, but the night was the fun part cause the University club had its traditional climbing games. My flexibility got me far into the game but not enough for the final round. Stretch more then, and maybe I could grow just the tiniest bit in Ashima Shirashi’s full split-strength movements. Overall I enjoyed myself though, got to meet more people, open up to the others a little more and not feel so awkward with myself around them – they’re all such supportive and friendly people, and that comforts me when I keep putting myself down because of my perceived lack of ability (I’m okay, but there’s still a tremendous lot to improve still).
I need to shut up and not overthink more often.
And then, the next weekend was a beauty of a trip called London. Skipped a good few days of classes to run off to London and become a full-blown tourist. Splurged quite a bit but I’m insanely happy – I can officially tick it off my list (except I haven’t climbed there yet so… soon).
Binky at the British Museum. I strongly believe you need at least two days to really cover this place. There’s just far too much to see, but I got to see Egyptian Mummies and so many artefacts that weren’t British at all so I think I covered quite a good bit that I’m interested in.
St. Paul’s Cathedral on Millennium Bridge. It’s insanely lavish when you stand before it, towering over you with its intricate details and grand presence. I kept turning back to look at it because it’s just too beautiful when I was heading over to Borough Market.
The London Eye. Well, to be honest I think the Singapore Flyer kind of spoiled this one for me. I can’t seem to remove that image from my mind, but it’s still amazing to see it with my own eyes – the real life inspiration for my home city, sans the cooling weather. Still beautiful.
The beauty in itself. I think I subconsciously came to London just for this one landmark alone – Big Ben, which isn’t so big in all honesty, but big enough symbolically to represent “all” that is London. I was in awe staring at it because I really didn’t think I’d ever see something like this with my own eyes, when all this was just colour printed on glossy paper. But here you are, staring up at the splendid structure so utterly famous it was crowded with tourists left, right, centre.
I’m reminded of V for Vendetta – what it would have been if it did explode before your eyes but that’s only confined to green screens and visual effects.
Walking down busy streets: I pretty much walked everywhere and all day really, to save fares on my Oyster card. Also it helped that I planned my itinerary geographically and everywhere in Central London is relatively nearby to each other (about half and hour to an hour’s walk, but hey more to see).
London sure is bustling, nothing new from Singapore but still so different. The weather, the sights/scenery, the people, the food, the atmosphere. You’d get caught up in the whirlwind of enjoying life, if you’re lucky really.
I bit the bullet and walked the streets at night as well. Though I wouldn’t really recommend it, I just had to (but was wary and cautious the whole way). London sure is different at night at differing parts of the city. In the daytime Oxford Street is a shopper’s paradise, but at night it’s all glowing advertisements and empty streets. While peaceful, the element of danger is still present but lucky me nothing happened. I was prepared to run, on the safe side.
But that aside…
This place. I adore this place. The Natural History Museum of London, brimming with so many exhibits of animals, plants, rocks/stones, fossils, earth, people and different time periods. I spent a good four hours here but still couldn’t cover everything I wanted but was immensely satisfied with dinosaur exhibits, taxidermised animals and fossils of prehistoric creatures. I’d live here if I could, no kidding.
I spent most of my time in London alone (since no one came with me) but where’s the fun in that? Through Couchsurfing I managed to meet up with some people (I wonder why they were all guys, but that didn’t really bother me) and they are truly interesting and genuine characters who were so nice as to spare me their time and conversations, and offer me cups of coffee as well. It was lovely meeting up with them and talking about anything and everything really, recounting our lives, the fun things we did, the adventures we had – really hope to meet with them again.
But I need to get my shit together first.
The triple M squad, from left to right: Marco, me and Mark, who I didn’t really plan on meeting together but things happened to fall into place and we all met up for dinner and had fine chats about work, life, and all the fun bits in between.
Initially we were supposed to grab Mexican food, recommended by le foodie Marco, but the place was closed for a party but we headed down the street to this pizza place that was PACKED. But somehow because we were three people (three’s a crowd they say), we got our table before couples (who were waiting around for their private tables). Fantastic luck and fantastic food as well – this whole pizza (bigger and wider than my fat head) only cost me £7 (SGD$14) and it was so good – fresh out of the oven with melted cheese and melt-in-your-mouth ham and tomato sauce… Ugh.
Yeah I got fat after London. I’m not gonna lie. I conceded my fitness levels have indeed fallen and I’ve gained weight / lost muscle, but I still retain my strength so… I guess this is the tradeoff?
It was a great night though (: Really nice to have company and make new friends (who are interested in the one thing you are in too: FOOD). I wonder what gastronomical delights the next few weeks will bring :9
One of the days in London. Trying to walk off the pounds, but sadly weight isn’t lost as easily as the financial currency. I was surprised how sunny London was when I was there, except for the last few days before I left where it poured. Well, I’d like to think I’ve grown accustomed to England weather and come to love the grey skies.
Outside King’s Cross Station where I checked out Platform 9 3/4 – far too touristy and too many people queueing up for a shot with the trolley going into Hogwarts for me, so skipped it and just wandered around the area instead.
These are things I can happily avoid.
Honest Burgers. Last meal before heading back to Exeter. SO GOOD. Although the caramelized onions was a little too overpowering for my inexperienced palate, the meat was so tender and juicy, and the fries were generous and crispy – down to the last piece when I practically devoured my plate. I didn’t get to try Shake Shack or Five Guys cause… you know I still try to maintain my figure and my stomach has a capacity after delicious and filling market eats. But they’ll be things I’d definitely go back for, as the people ^^
Back in James Owen Court. I don’t know if this was meant to be an artistic shot or I lost it for a second, but something about this sight captured my attention and I had to grab it. Maybe it’s knowing that things never really changed much even though I left for almost a week.
Going for a run in the countryside. Though my stamina is considerably weaker, Exeter is flat and such a beaut to run through.
This was a long time ago, but visited a farm with Mandy. It was beautiful, knowing that the countryside is just a 20 minute drive from the University – and it is glorious.
Then came the bouldering competitions, the ones I went for even though I didn’t train AT ALL for them because I ran off to London. One was pre-planned, I asked if I could join that competition (and I was asked by the Boulder Sec before if I could compete for the University) so I knew that was coming. It was at Sheffield’s TCA and it was good fun. Unlimited tries, but just trying to score as many points as possible in the 20 so routes they provided.
I found that pretty all right – within my ability range sans the few that were really out of my zone. Overall it was still fun, but then Thursday night came and I was asked if I would like to replace someone who dropped out of an upcoming competition last Saturday. Unprepared, but sure why not. Nobody told me it was the LUBE or London Universities Bouldering Event, which was pretty prestigious in my eyes. These routes were more challenging but still immensely fun.
I surprised myself quite a bit during these competitions. I think bodily I’ve grown more aware of my capabilities and limitations – like there were routes I knew I could do, just required different betas and multiple attempts to get that a certain move when I wasn’t slipping or falling off the wall. Flashed a V5 which surprised me because I’m normally within a V2-V3 range, but that one was interesting and didn’t feel very hard at all.
This is cool. Why can’t Singapore have this?
Overhanging lead wall. Also cool, and super colourful.
Attempting barefoot and being all action for my Instagram shot hahah, but really I’m hopeless without my chalk and my shoes. Chronic perspiration will be my downfall.
But now the storm brews and I really need to focus on academia rather than stave off and think about climbing, Europe… I’ve got one last essay to complete and exams to study for (I know, I know, who studies while on exchange? Well I realised I’m not happy with minimal effort and borderline-pass-shitty results so I STUDY).
Sadly. Not my best effort as I will put in back in NTU, but it’s enough for me here.
And of course, more food hahah. Salmon is considerably cheap here compared to Singapore so… spam the fatty fish!
And a lovely dinner made for us by Quyhnnhu – vermicelli, fried Vietnamese spring rolls and fresh veggies. Her friends and her also shared with us some traditional folk dances in the UK which was eye-opening. Culture sure can be colourful and interesting, and it makes me wonder should I join dance in my final year hahah
And so, my adventure ends. Only for now. One last essay to complete, but even that has to wait cause this weekend I’m technically packed with a 10K mud race in a few hours’ time and a flatmate dinner on Sunday. Then after that, need to plan accommodation and what to see in Europe (transportation all planned, and I realise I only have 1-3 days for each city).
What have I gotten myself into? No idea – time to run. Allez.