Restaurant review

Belgo Centraal, 50 Earlham Street
London
10/09/2016

The noise rattled, reverberated through my cranium. It pressed the infinite planes of its fingers onto...not my skull that was bypassed but onto my conscious thoughts. It compressed the airy spaces of my meditation and chased my reason down collapsing synaptic corridors. A single question is a cattle prod to my mind and they were as a swarm of bees, which beer out of a thousand? Are you having a starter? Wanna share? Which moules out of.... since when did choices go beyond white wine sauce? And all in what is essentially a dungeon.

3/5

RTN

It gasps me, what is that sound? Its not a thud, once a thud, now a hollow resound, a drum beat for nothing. The surpringly vast chamber of my heart reverberates with echoes of feelings disavowed yet near fresh as the day they were born. Into which wind were they thrown? The wind of my time? Her time? The time bearing us all...boats beating ceaselessly? Too often it seems to me in the hopeless squalor of my perpetually drunken mind, the relentless selfishness of my abashed need, that I have lost. It seems to me the simplest sadness, not hateful sadness, not vengeful, no fuel for a fire to outburn the burning desire to be loved. Only absence describes the cavity in my heart and the caving through my soul. But the absense of word and meaning desolates me, I pick through the bleached landscape of dessicated rock and I'm in another world. But I know this place, I spent some time here, summers and winters, half a lifetime, spring and autumn if you seek completeness, dry but the patterns on the stones were interesting if you studied them closely enough. I gasp because it chokes my throat if i let it, the dead hand of sadness, it grants no air to breath whilst the other hand wrenches the gutteral vitality of my being down, down , unloosened by the determined veneer of joy. I gasp, I smile, I cry.

Alex and Charlie's Wedding Reading

Love draws us inexorably towards it. Towards the flames of creation, the fire of destruction. We should dance by its light ... not be sweated by its heat. For it is the twinkling star in the blackest of nights, the glint in a diamond's heart. It whispers to us and screams at us. It is the echo in the vast cavern of time, a teardrop on the face of eternity. It is 1000 ships, 205 miles, 12 years , utterly unquantifiable.

All we are we give to its pursuit, our heart speeds then slows - every thump a punch. Love gilds us, girds us and wraps us in its beauty. It wracks us and scars us, it is a needle through gossamer. Frivolous and vital it is corrosive in its absence.

We arm another with the means to destroy us and everyday must pray they do not. You too, never be casual with your love or neglectful with your affection, you carry another's hopes and fears . Love is no mean feat. It is not one thing, sometimes the big bang, sometimes slow evolution, never tidy. It is so much more than these words could ever be. When you find it you want the spin to stop, the horizon to end, a deafening silence to stun the plane of existence. Let the Universe expand no more because the only thing that will ever really matter has happened.

It is everything and it is yours.

The iron curtain of freedom

Day 11 - Luxembourg

I awoke in room 410 with enough time to throw my clothes back in the pack, bid farewell to Munich, I barely knew thee, and begin the end of our journey. We only had one stop left, that of Luxembourg, the sovereign tax haven straddling the borders of Germany, France and Belgium. It was a tiny dot on the horizon and we'd have to cross most of Southern Germany to reach the place. As James steeled himself to six hours behind the wheel with equal fortitude I took up the pen again, every epic journey needs its chronicler right? But my mind, never the most biddable beast, drifted from the empty page. It stared wordlessly at the passing hills and trees as for the first time on the trip the car pointed towards home. The landscape was imbued with a glow, as if the softest and most gentle tune followed its contours and weaved through its verdant forests. A thread of gold too thin and fine for all to be able to see glinted in the sun and stretched off into the landscape pulling me one way as the road relentlessly pulled me the other. It wrapped and gilded my feelings even as I laughed at their slight absurdity. All things must pass but I exalted in the moment, breathing in the scent of fresh linen, wriggling my toes at the bottom of the bed as the early morning sun crept around the edges of the curtains. I corralled my romantic and soporific thoughts by and by and threw them back to the preceding days, though the former affection complimented the latter. It had been a great trip, restorative in a way I probably didn't realise at the time. I was never between places, leaving behind a past that wasn't what I hoped it would be and stretching for a future that absolutely, positively was going to be everything I dreamed of. The moment had value and wasn't to be endured until a more favourable one came along. I approached my 48th country and still I move, still I ponder its meaning and ask myself again why I do it. It seems so utterly caused by chance, by answering an unexpected question with an unexpected answer. A 'yes' when every ounce of my timid being screamed 'no'. Maybe I doubt the authenticity of my experiences because of that and suspect that it is all just the cold compilation of a list. Am I still striving to be defined by travel or does travel unavoidably or naturally define me? As ever I seem to have more questions than answers, what the hell is this blog for? But if I narrow my eyes I think I can almost see the answer, just beyond the horizon. What is it? I'll have to go there to find out.
Luxembourg City will not be my most effusive and excessively floral rendition of a place. It is one of, I was later informed by a learned friend, Europe's seven micro-states, the others being Lichtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, Malta, Vatican City and Monaco. I had only previously visited the latter of these which burns my burnished travelling pride a mite. But then I've barely done half of Europe at this point, 26 of 51, that horizon ever leads somewhere new. Anyway as I was saying, Luxembourg City, well there's not a lot to say. It has a funfair in the city centre, it is populated disproportionately by wealthy people (the city, less so the funfair), a gentleman could more than adequately outfit himself in the ateliers and his gentlewoman would be looked after too. We took dinner in the Place d'Armas to the background of Luxembourger folk music from the bandstand, possibly in Luxembourgish. The sky darkened to cobalt and little bulbs flickered to life above our heads. It felt a pleasantly dull place, unrocked by the currents of the continent, let alone the world. It was a model village surrounded by waves that heaved greater each passing day pulling men, women and children back and relentlessly forth and often, tragically, down. They crash against hasty defences and pour through gaps to find a level ground. Just as a tsunami reaches its full extent as you stand before it on the beach so we have slapped the waters many miles away and seen the ripples grow.
The exquisite ease of our passage through eleven countries was well illustrated the next day as we sped like Greg Rutherford towards the ferry, our schedule not enhanced by a detour around Gent. Razor-wire topped fences (so thoughtfully donated by the British Government) lined our passage and segregated us from the camps sprung up to either side. These weren't there the last time I came through Calais, the fences, but to an extent the camps too. It made me wonder if the ignorant transitions between the...politically united...nations of this continent would be there the next time I come through. It made me wonder if we have idly lifted the corner of the snooker table and are starting to feel the thunderous crash of simple physics across the red-stained baize...

Embers

Day 10 - Munich

So many people have become just portraits hung only with cobwebs in the attic of my memories. Passing acquaintances and fleeting passions created by chance intersection of different paths criss-crossing the world. And so I thought it was with her. I hadn't seen the girl since those last days of Margaret River, part of the sturm und drang that fires the memory of it. There is a delight in the dramatic recall but memory is just our internal storytelling function, malleable to the narrative that we want to hear. Is all history oral and shaped by Chinese whispers? Maybe this blog will act as my corrective to that, once stripped of the requisite flourish. Even now those events seem improbable, like EastEnders in Oz. After a hasty goodbye shielded from inflamed eyes, and one prompted by belated decency on my part, I welcomed the escape of the road. But they were great days for all their filthy, haphazard melodrama and I tear a little at their remembrance. I guess not all things stay in the box in which you put them though, no matter how prettily wrapped. Proof of that was in the very fact that the autobahn kissed our worn wheels again and I was heading for Munich.

"You're such a tourist!"
It was hard to disagree with the fräulein. Matt, James and I had arranged to meet her in Mariensplatz which, according to the guidebook, is a square (platz in German) in the city of Munich. Okay I didn't read the guidebook but being first there we found a place that satisfied our simple criteria of being in a cellar (keller to the Germans) and served beer. She wasn't enthralled at having to meet us in Munich's equivalent of the M&Ms shop. Not a great first impression - I imagine after two years I'd probably have to make one afresh. In perfect contrast to hers as she walked down the stairs...memory does not always embellish, sometimes it does not do justice. We ordered a platter of mixed meatstuffs from the heavily illustrated menu and listened to a large table of large Americans loudly enjoying the curiosities of 'Bavarian Culture'. We may be Brits abroad but we are not American tourists and, authentic German meal finished, we implored our hostess to take us somewhere a little less obvious. So we found ourselves in a large beer garden in the west of München. It was also the oldest in the city I am reliably informed. Heaving for a Thursday night the clientele ran the the gamut from young to old. A couple were dislodged from a 4-seater table for the promise of our more lucrative business though the waiter soured on our revelation that it would be drinks only. Nevertheless four litres of excellent beer was shortly slammed in front of us in a displeased yet pleasing manner. Of all the good reasons to move to Bavaria, you'd be allowed to support Bayern right?, the beer must be the best. She was also a fan of beer and football, regaling us with memories of the summer of 2014 and open top buses and the best party ever. Well she wasn't born in 1966 but that was pretty great too as I remember. We also learned how to drink like a Bavarian - strong eye contact, slight grip adjustment, wastage. And we learned the international sign language for describing various sizes of boat. What I didn't learn was how to perform the dance commonly known as 'The Postman'. It was performed in my absence to Matt and James' great amusement. Requests for an encore were met with an unequivocal 'nein'. The waiter presented some sausages and a handshake as an olive branch, happily accepted, and the time flew by in a happy haze until there were two people left in the oldest beer garden in Munich. It was a night I'll box up and put away, to be opened again in years to come, a time capsule of flawless enjoyment.
Ich bin ein Municher. Maybe.