Same Hustle, New Bustle
At the beginning of October, it seemed like the period between October 20 – November 6 would resemble no other in my life. I had gotten word that a fellow Responsible Tourism Management student at Leeds Beckett had arranged a two-week work placement (a.k.a. internship) at FourCommunications, a London-based PR company. Afterwards, the World Travel Market would arrive on my plate.
Well, I think you all know what happened in mid-October. It just so happened I found out while I was in London at a rather dingy hellholle of a hostel after I completed my first day at FourCommunications (The tragic accident actually happened prior to me first stepping foot in the office). Fortunately, my supervisor informed me I could resume it when I was in the right mental state.
Which I correctly figured would be toward the end of November and I have been as I just completed eventful five days of work in the capital (Unfortunately, I’m not getting paid but that’s another story). I can work a maximum of ten days at FourCommunications and I had already used up two in October, so…
In any case, FourCommunications has a large number of clients in the travel industry – such as Air France, Visit Wales, several cruise companies and luxury hotels and apartments. My duties have included examining newspaper articles of interest to our clients, writing press releases for Visit Wales, and researching December activities in the Netherlands. I’ve been kept busy, which has made my time in the office enjoyable. Then again, if I’m busy, my temporary colleagues are swamped with work, so I haven’t had the opportunity to ask them about the world of PR. However, this is a good chance to make valuable contacts that will be of assistance in the job hunt.
As expected, one of the many awesome aspects of the work placement is that I’m working in the centre of London. The FourCommunications office is within sneezing distance of London Bridge (The London Bridge tube station serves the office), which definitely provides a majestic view of the city. While there don’t seem to be other major landmarks within walking distance of my office, the Borough Market is less than 100 feet from the front door and it’s seemingly a popular place to do grocery shopping. While I was exploring the market on foot one day at around 8:30 a.m., the merchants were setting up the stalls.
Being in London has made me realize how much I miss taking trains (Unfortunately, the price of a Tube ticket will be increasing soon but that’s another matter). During the week, I mostly took the Tube during morning and evening rush hour commutes, meaning that it was shocking if I had to wait more than three minutes for a train. Although some trains I’ve boarded were Tokyo-like crowded, I haven’t had long commutes to/from the FourCommunications office so the crowded train rides have been bearable.
As for where I’m staying in London… unfortunately, I had no luck in securing a CouchSurfing host (Why is it so hard getting a CouchSurfing host in London?). So I did the next best thing – book the cheapest hostel available. It’s just so happened that the hostel I booked was named the Arsenal Tavern and in the same section of town home to the famous football club.
If the information on Wikipedia is correct, the Arsenal Tube Station (located in the Borough of Islington) is named after North London’s finest football club (By the way, the Gunners aren’t my team in the Premier League. My team wears blue and is based in West London). Once I booked a spot in the hostel, I figured after getting settled, I’d look for the stadium. But when I exited Arsenal Tube Station for the first time, I made a right turn – which after seven or eight minutes, took me to the stadium. A wonderful sight – except the hostel was in the opposite direction.
Anyway, Highbury (the neighborhood where Arsenal Tube station is located) seemed relatively quiet on Sunday night (November 23) and probably is on most nights. But Wednesday, November 26 was not a typical night (Well, for me, it wasn’t). Arsenal was hosting Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League, so the neighborhood was buzzing with energy. While my Piccadilly line train back to Arsenal Tube station wasn’t jam packed, going through the gates exposed me to a vibe that was absent during my previous nights in the neighborhood. Of course, the presence of jersey-clad fans in jerseys was one sign this would be a different night. In addition, numerous food stalls were installed around the station leading up to the stadium. And if any fans were unprepared for the match, vendors at other stalls were selling scarves and Arsenal FC tee-shirts.
One thing I like about Emirates Stadium (Arsenal FC’s ground) and Upton Park (West Ham United’s ground) is how they fit nicely into their neighborhoods. Most major American sports stadiums seem rather isolated from their neighborhoods by humongous parking lots and while tailgating in those parking lots seems enjoyable, I prefer the more community atmosphere found at Premier League matches. Fans in this country are much likely arrive at a match via public transport and congregate at a bar prior to kickoff.
A bar named Drayton Park directly across from the Emirates Stadium appears to be a popular pre-match gathering spot – I saw a decent number of Borussia Dortmund fans inside the place. Speaking of beer, I saw a sign inside a nearby Tesco stating on match days, the sale of beer is prohibited from 4 hours prior to kickoff until one hour after the final whistle.
As for the match, Arsenal defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-0. I didn’t have any rooting preference but although Arsenal is not my team, I wasn’t disappointed by the final result. Most importantly, that night told me… I should really attend a match in this country.