From 21 to 23 October, 2010…
Today was a day of slow beginnings, and slower ends. A day of long sleep and dreams of what feels like long ago. Back to Bio Laden café today for coffees, pasta, cake and internet. Total indulgence. Three hours flew by and the afternoon’s regular peeks at the sun rolled on, throwing cloud shadows over the colourful awning at the front of the shop. It was definitely time to find a court indoors with some game action. I’d found a few leads around town by trawling through forums where people talked about games and where it happened. The first court was small and located in a school, tucked away at the end of a corridor, and as I described in my last blog, was being used by handballers who wouldn’t share.
So, today I tried another option. It was in North Berlin, Max Schelling courts. The underground UBahn system is so efficient here. Efficient has been the word of the week, Tim and I generalising Germany as the capital of efficiency. But the three train changes required to get to the spot were easy and twenty minutes later I was across town. The courts I could see through the windows were actually part of a stadium with massive centre court and maybe twenty smaller courts around it, some already in use. Stoked, I charged the doors but was instantly stopped by a security guard, telling me that only people who are members of clubs can play and only during a proper practice session.
Most of these indoor courts I’ve ever found anywhere are restricted to teams only. They’re multiuse with other court sports like netball, handball, football, but streetball and other informal sports games also need to be added to the mix. Informal game encourages regular and random interaction with a community of people who share a common interest, without having to be part of a team. Like most things, formal is favoured over informal. Yet it’s the informal that many of us desire and need to balance out the more structured aspects of our day to day.
So I headed off, a different way, skirting around the building. And there was a door down the other end that was open. Letting myself in, there was no one around, so I headed for a court. Twelve rings to choose from, my version of heaven. I got about 40 minutes in before anyone came in. The guy, not security, was surprised I was there and agreed, a little reluctantly, to another 20.
Afterward, flushed and with legs stinging from having worn thermals for the past week [sorry if that’s too much information], I met Tim at Studio 54 for a beer. There was another party on, so we joined a fire and enjoyed its constant refuelling from some hidden source.
The next couple of days are a bit hazy. It was time to head back to the UK, grab my bike and head off toward France and the rest of my journey. To get there first required a long train ride through the night, thanks to my poor planning when booking a ticket online.
5am in Mönchengladbach train station is COLD! It’s negative celsius I’m sure. Apparently Europe generally is entering an extremely cold winter, with the temps being experienced in Autumn usual of wintery conditions. Damn. So, I’m sitting at the end of the tunnel leading out of the train station, on one of three seats that are the only ones in the station. With my bags beside me, multiple jackets, thermals, scarves and hat, I’m typing away as people head in and out of the station, seemingly either to or from work or returning from a night out. Only an hour from Aachen, but a few hours to wait for the connecting train.
Trains are such an interesting experience while travelling. Long uninterruptible, faraway stares, quirky facial expressions, the immediate look away upon eye contact and occasionally a shared smile. The other night in Berlin a guy jumped on the carriage in a full leather outfit, complete with hundreds of studs, big black boots, black tight bandana and cowboy hat. It’s not that I haven’t seen this look before; just that it’s usually worn by someone young, into metal and with a tough look to match. This guy was in his fifties I’d guess, and looked more like a country singer. Tim immediately lost control, so I had to turn away to avoid laughing with him, in the guy’s face. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m totally down with people dressing however they want. Hell, I’ve been wearing a puffy jacket around this last week, in total cold prevention over fashion caring mode. But this outfit, mainly the cowboy hat, was pretty funny. Most people in the vicinity were having discrete smirks. He seemed, however, to focus on Tim’s laughing. I guess it WAS the most obvious reaction in the carriage.
It’s later now and I’ve caught the train to Brussels. A young guy at the Lebanese Pizzeria in Brussels is nervous….he seems to have just started working here and the art of pizza is daunting for him, I can see it in the unsureness of his eyes. I thank him profusely and he seems pleased enough. I spend much of the day in this place, on the upper storey where there’s an accessible power point, writing, planning future travels and reading. It’s warm, not just in temperature, and the owner and his fresh assistant spend much of their time between cooking and serving customers. There’s a group of English guys who spend a while, eating pizzas and talking loudly about their days tourism plans, some observations from previous days wandering, buying, photo taking. It’s been 32 hours since sleeping and I’m bodily tired but wired awake from the ten plus caffeine stimulants I’ve had. Seven more hours and I’ll be back in Brixton, feeling very much like home right now. Then it’s all about setting up the bike and heading off. A mixture of excitement and nervousness about it all…
Ahh Brixton, it’s been real. I love this area. But today, to France. Last night was a great farewell. Kim and I checked out Neville Staple, of Specials fame, in Camden. Great gig, good peoples. The next morn, I picked up the bike from About Town, who’ve done a little work for me, and am now doing final checks, loading up the bags of which I seem to have many now. Mind you, the gear includes full camping setup and a basketball, so I’m fine with the big haul….