London, England

Say hello again

Date August 2011
Posted August 2011
...to Siologen Jeeves Westminster III
You won't read about him in Heat magazine, and you certainly won't see his grinning face march onto a Premiership football pitch. It's probably true that unless you're the sort of person that drags themself through sewers, metro tunnels and old bunkers, there's a fair chance you won't even have heard of siologen. Most of us could learn something from this man, and indeed many of us have.

During the last three years siologen has become one of my closest friends, and at times almost a mentor as we drove, walked, scraped and dug our way through the less desirable parts of over 20 countries. This post has been thrown up to celebrate siolo's departure from the UK as he sets off to Canada on what will doubtless be a long but eventful voyage 'home'.


Siologen you staunch bastard, Vienna, Austria (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

The stooping figure staggered out of the warehouse and presented itself in the street. Hand-outstretched and wearing a pair of bright blue trousers (which, it later transpired, had been purchased from a charity shop complete with stains inside, and so had to have the inner lining summarily torn out), this jet-lagged bastion of humanity introduced himself. This, then, was 'siologen'.

He had arrived in Britain just as unceremoniously as he left: alone, carrying all of his worldly possessions (save for a hand-cranked air-raid siren and a box of negatives) in a big blue backpack. A little later that night we piled into my car and drove into London to splash about in the River Fleet, and despite the tiredness which surely enveloped Sydney's pioneering underground hero, two things became abundantly clear: firstly, siologen likes to talk; secondly, siologen is like nobody else on Earth. This became only clearer as we departed for Paris after the 2008 International Drain Meet. Suffering still from jet-lag (so far he'd had little opportunity to rest) he spent half the time with his torn trousers held together with string, still stumbling about and at one point even getting pissed off (the first of three times I can remember, all of which I hand a hand in - sorry!). After these several days acquiring a taste for Parisian misadventure he dispatched himself for a long tour of Europe, returning eventually in the midst of a cold British winter.

Back in the UK, London this time, siolo was ready to go to work on our capital's infrastructure. His preparations were simple: he visited a local bookstore, expert eyes trailing across the colourful spines until one weathered claw reached out and withdrew a spiral-bound edition: "London A-Z". (A year or so later the two of us journeyed to the Baker St lost property office to try to retrieve this greasy volume, carefully annotated as it was with biro lines indicating the sewers, railway tunnels and service ducts that run beneath our capital city. I'm sure he even asked me if I reckoned it would be risky, incase TFL had turned the book over to some spooks given the 'intel' it contained. We weren't whisked off for questioning but alas the book was gone, left on a train seat and thus swallowed up by the same system it had once helped its owner to infiltrate.)

With sporadic employment and little else to do siologen battered the Tube, exploring however many abandoned stations at a time when few others would touch it. And herein lies one of his greatest qualities: the motivation to just turn up somewhere, and just go and find stuff to do. No endless organisation, no requirement for accomplices, no car, no money. No fear, some might say. Just a bottle of Glenn's vodka and that tireless dedication.

From our first little car trip to our adventures behind Niagara Falls, it was always unreal, always insightful. In fact for 4000 miles or so in 2010 we were stuck with each other's company, piloting an increasingly battered Opel Astra through as many countries as we could in pursuit of far-flung curiosities ranging from abandoned missile bases to huge defunct coal mining complexes. It was probably during this (and the subsequent Balkans follow-up) that I learned how to travel, ridiculous as that may sound. Becoming used to different customs, seeing a country from the outside-in (yes Moses, I threw that in just for you!), and working on not being phased when things fuck up. Because they always fuck up. Near the end of the Balkans trip I summed up my admiration for the man: "You know, you're like the older brother I never had." The reponse was quick and to the point: "And you're like the annoying little brother I never had!"

So this is as much a thank-you as anything else, for the inspiration to travel far and well, to pack light, to forget about comforts and enjoy the realities of existence. Here's to the countless cans of nasty Special Brew, the famous steaks and the times I slept on your floor ingesting god knows how much dust, rat excrement and sewage as I breathed that toxic air. Last but not least, appreciation for being one of the best roadtrip companions, even if you did actually nearly kill us that time in Bulgaria...


Epilogue

The evening air was warm and the park deserted. My hands grasped the ironwork and I hauled myself over the fence. Streetside I regrouped with my accomplices in this mission: Nel from Montreal, and drain exploration veterans JD and st00p. We cut through the Knightsbridge streets, weaving a path between cologne-soaked Iranians, loudly-revving Ferraris and at least one shimmering Veyron. London's most exclusive party was going on right beneath their feet, and they were all missing it. But we didn't care about them, they weren't invited. We climbed into my somewhat less flashy Seat and I leant forward to start the engine, and then stopped. Where the hell were we going anyway?

Several months prior to this moment of confusion, siolo had made it pretty clear that he wasn't about to end up as the centre of attention at some kind of leaving party. Uncharacteristically miserable, at this time he wasn't taking many visitors and instead spent his free-time engrossed in computer games and the faithful 'big titty porn'. The guy wasn't having the best of times after being caught somewhere naughty and run through the system. Whilst on prolonged police bail he wasn't in a particularly celebratory mood. Not satisfied with this attitude, I decided he'd damn well go, even if I had to drive to his bus depot and goddamn kidnap him. The idea for a send-off gathered momentum with teh Fox and teh Otter (it's like a flippin' zoo around here) pitching-in, and since we didn't want word getting back to siolo, it was to be kept a secret. (And screw me if it didn't stay a secret! No Facebook posts, no accidents! How did you all manage that?!)

Sitting motionless in the car, I'm sure if all the oil tykes had gone easy on the loud pedal for just a few moments we'd have heard the bass thumping down below in the drain chamber. Down there encased in 100 year old brickwork were a hoard of gyrating drain explorers, renegades, characters and friends. The guest of honour was yet to arrive, and now we had to find him. I consulted the satnav, remembering once visiting the depot on the way up north. How had the name escaped me? And there it was, 10 miles north. I pulled out into the traffic and joined the queue at the lights. Ten minutes later and we'd moved a yard, if at all, and we didn't have much time.

To stop this story getting any longer, I'll cut to the chase. We rolled up and siologen was, as chance would have it, skating down the corridor in his work uniform, just about to sign out for the night and go home. He was pretty stunned to find us there, and having just the day before been let off bail, was stoked to see us. Half an hour later we marched into the drain chamber and the place exploded. Literally. Not only were there fireworks but siolo was surrounded by about thirty cheering, happy people. And with all the cameras and lights you'd be forgiven for thinking you were at some kind of film premier. All of us there, I hope, learned at least something from siolo during his time here. And it's only fair that the final words here are his:

"Its been nearly three years here in London. Three very busy,'epics' busting years, full of drama and excitement, sewage and live rail dodging, skyscraper climbing and roadtripping and to those who know who they are, im so very thankful and will miss you all."


Leave it all behind, begin to live

And here's where I hand the baton over properly, because thankfully siolo has been recording his various thoughts and adventures for the last seven years. And because he's an honest, up front kind of chap, he doesn't leave much to the imagination. The Livejournal link is here, or alternatively get started on the following excerpts...

Have about half a kitchen worth of dirty dishes lieing around my room, good thing i dont eat rich food. Soup and steak left overs dont rot, they dry out, unless the rat gets to em first...
What a hovel...

The Premier

Went to ASDA to cash in all the 1-2 pence coins ive collected. The machine counted out just over 3 and i bought a phonecard and a bottle of ASDAIRB.
Nice one there fella!

Bought a street directory(prime directive).
Wandered all around the lower downtown for 5 hours.

The Meeting Place (aka what 'Toronto' means in local Ontarian Aboriginal language)

See, i invented the word 'Urbex'.
Urbex

Dsankts Xmas Email to me: 'Merry Christmas you fuckin Chump!'
'Merry +mas Bitchnuts'

Had a date with Mr Chop Chops last night. It was physical, tiring, my arms hurt, ive got bruised ribs and it was long and sweaty, but in the end our date was a success...
Mr Chop Chops.

Im back in the UK.
So familiar, so small, so miserable, so expensive, so fuckin brilliant.
I missed this place.

WELCOME TO THE BEST small COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

Woke up seedy as shit... its amazing what so much sewage does to your immune system.. but i will come out stronger for it, as i always do... Heres to another 10 years of never needing to go to the doctor thanks to my Big Drain Immune Boost(TM)
You just wish.

Yesh, mish Moneypenny.
Hear that sound? Thats the sound of The Depths, calling to me.

You'd have more luck finding Osama Bin Laden down your local storm drain than you would at successfully climbing the bridge without permission.
75 Year Old Coathanger

London is excellent. Im staying at Loops place, a warehouse in the east end, surrounded by the desolate wasteland of 2012 Olympic construction, canals and the Docklands Light Rail and the rancid stink of plastics factories mixed with the waft from the lids of the huge Northern Outfall Sewer. Not had much sleep to be honest, a combination of jetlag and pulling allnighters exploring the illest, most elicit shit London has to offer with Dsankt, Quantum X, Snappel, Loops and Userscott, has kept me awake. The ASDA imitation Red Bull is flowing freely.

This place will tonight become the meeting spot for the entire English drain scene. If last nights antics down the mighty River Fleet tunnel are anything to go by, it is going to cut. fucking. sick. bro.

The Kerbside Holiday ;D
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