Top Ten UK Moments (5-1)
In a blog entry I posted earlier yesterday (Saturday, January 17), I listed five of my top ten moments during my sixteen months in the UK. Actually, I would have like to put all of my top ten moments in that blog entry but my it was already big enough. So now, here are the rest of my top ten moments during my stay in the United Kingdom.
For the most part, my running exploits were confined to Leeds, which was perfectly fine. But just as there are always more fun and interesting places to visit, there are always more interesting races to participate in.
And one of them is the Great North Run, the world’s largest half-marathon in terms of participants. I’m fairly certain I had heard of it before coming to the UK – but it’s a race I never thought I would run in. And because I was uncertain if I would be in the country for the 2014 edition, I didn’t register.
But lo and behold, Nishant told me a buddy of his that registered was unable to partake in the fun and if I wanted to, I could take his place. So several days after handing Nishant £25, I was on the starting line in the centre of Newcastle with 57,000 others. Or maybe it was Mark Symmonds on the starting line ;(.
In any case, running 13.1 miles through Tyneside was quite relaxing – well, other than the fact I had to zigzag around so many slowpokes in the beginning of the race. I ran quite well and I was never leapfrogged by any other competitors. Although 272th place may not sound impressive, that was out of roughly 57,000 runners and I never came close to hitting the wall – despite not being in my desired half marathon shape.
And better yet, I learned that (a) the Great North Run could be a day at the beach 🙂 (b) there are good beaches in the UK and (c) fun times can be had outdoors without the threat of rain.
4. London Calling
For the longest time, my UK was pretty much limited to the classrooms and libraries of the Leeds Met/Beckett campus(es) and some other places in Leeds. I was perfectly content with my Leedscentric UK life as I obviously came to the country to study.
But in late summer/early autumn, a fellow Responsible Tourism Management student at Leeds Beckett (she’s actually a distance learner) arranged a work placement at Four Communications, a PR firm in London with a large number of clients in the travel industry. I was quite excited about the opportunity as I viewed it as (a) something good to put on my CV/resume (b) an opportunity to make contacts and (c) maybe a future employer if (of course, that’s a big if) I enjoy my time there and put in productive work.
While the latter unfortunately will not turn out to be true (I’ve been thinking that if certain things had happened, I could have landed a job at Four Communications), I enjoyed writing press releases, composing pitches for the company’s clients, researching fun activities in locations such as the Barbados, the Netherlands, and London, etc. Of course, there were moments when I was clumsy but working in the Four Communications office was fun.
But quite possibly, the most appealing aspect of conducting the work placement was the setting itself. While I can’t say I’ve always dreamed of living in London, the major, iconic large cities like London, Paris, New York and Tokyo do carry a special appeal for me and my brief London life was quite fun (Well, it helps that I didn’t have to worry about finding a flat although I had no luck in finding a CouchSurfing host). I enjoyed commuting on the Tube to/from my hostel, discovering Borough Market (and its delicious vegetarian options) and playing tourist on my last full day in the capital, wandering around the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.
Despite living in France, I had never experienced the Tour de France in person due to not spending a summer in the country (Four days spent in the south of France during July 2001 definitely doesn’t classify as spending the summer). But thanks to the persistence of several corporate big wigs in West Yorkshire, the start of the world’s largest annual bicycle ride came to Leeds in July 2014.
For a long time, I never thought the Tour de France would be an exciting sporting event to view in person because the cyclists seem to zoom in and out of your view quickly. But as it isn’t everyday the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire, the organizers did a magnificent job of making le grand départ a major event. A parade was held two days prior to the start of the race (which I attended with my coursemate Trish) and numerous other events (such as a bicycle show in the Leeds City Hall) were organized to commemorate the arrival of the race.
As for the actual le grand départ, like roughly 230,000 others, I was in the streets of Leeds to see the cyclists take their first steps to victory. Which was great – except that I couldn’t see any of the Leeds portion of the race because I had taken up a spot on the Headrow that only gave me a view of the back of other people’s heads 😦 But fortunately, le grand départ fun was not limited to the streets of Leeds. Immediately, after the start of the race, all of the city hopped on the train to Harrogate to catch the end of the first stage (I actually didn’t have to wait too long to board a train). The Harrogate portion seemed like a rock festival as most of the spectators watched the race off a jumbotron surrounded by stalls selling overpriced food. But the Tour de France certainly deserved the rock star treatment.
2. Seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a long time
One thing I was looking forward to in the U.K. was seeing folks I first met in either Japan or France. Prior to arriving in Leeds in September 2013, I hadn’t been in the UK since May 2006. So I once got settled and found some free time around my studies, I was sure to have some ça fait longtemps/久しぶりですね moments.
If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet up with everyone I would like to have seen for various reasons or didn’t seem them enough 😦 But I am thrilled to have meet up with Genba (I don’t think I would have seen a documentary named ハーフ if he hadn’t told me about the screening), Sian (it was so fun touring the Natural History Museum and the British Museum with her), Yassin (I dined with him the evening after I learned about a personal tragedy and I needed people to talk to) and Clare (I finally got to meet her cute kids). I certainly hope to see them and others the next time I am in the U.K.
This is a bittersweet top moment of my UK stay. My father’s visit to the UK to see me was somewhat unexpected in that I wasn’t exactly sure that he was coming until three days prior to his arrival at Manchester Airport (I knew he wanted to come. I just didn’t know when he was coming until he told me).
But anyway, he came at the perfect time as I had a blast showing him around Leeds (including a couple of museums and Light Night) and York (I think he enjoyed the National Railway Museum). His visit was the first time either of my parents had visited me abroad and I’m so glad I could show him my world. And he showed me his world (of sorts) when we attended a trial and explained to me what was going on (My father worked as a defense lawyer for a long time).
Unfortunately, those who read this blog regularly will know he passed away shortly after his visit. But I will always treasure the memory of him coming to see me.
VERY IMPORTANT: I will probably retire this blog after this entry. I created Getting Pounded to document my life in the UK. While I certainly wish my life in the UK was still continuing, I greatly enjoyed my journey there and I hope you enjoyed the ride I took you on.