Day 60, September 23rd… and the week that followed: drottinn blessi heimilið!

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq): 2,335 kilos (still working on it…)
Sigurðar saga fóts: 252/252

Wow, and then I went back to Leeds! I left Victoria on Day 58; arrived in Leeds on Day 59; and by Day 60 I’d unrolled my sleeping bag in my new home. The travel was over! And so, by rights, is the travelblogue. But if travel was over, term was starting, and so it’s taken me till now to finish the story—and there’s still a little series of epiblogues to come, about trees, and more bunting, and of course finally working out the carbon emissions.

The trip

Bus to the airport ($2.50 for 45 minutes! Genius!); plane to Seattle; another one to Amsterdam (interesting pharmaceutical researcher next to me to talk to); yet another one to Leeds (further self-abasement about that itinerary to come in the carbon cost post); and finally the bus into town. The best bit was discovering the inspired presence of an exhibition at Schiphol by the Rijksmuseum. What a fantastic thing to do. There you are, between flights, and rather than just being, like, ‘BUY fabulously tax-free, yet mysteriously incredibly expensive smelly water!!’ (which seems, now I think about it, to cover a multitude of airport sins), they’re, like, ‘Or would you prefer to see an attractive selection of original Dutch masters, helpfully selected from one of the greatest art museums in the world? For free.’

Still, I was glad to get out of Schiphol and back to Leeds, extricating myself from the inevitable encounter on the plane:

— Oh, hi!
— Er, hey ho! I’m Alaric.
— Yeah, we met on the way out!
— Oh, I’m sorry, I’m a bit jet-lagged, er…
— You know, on the way over from Leeds!
— Um, actually I came from Canada.
— What? You know, when we came over from Leeds yesterday.
— Oh, no, I’m sorry, I was in Canada yesterday.
— What, really? You didn’t come over on the plane yesterday? I met this guy — and he looked just like you. Are you sure you weren’t on the plane yesterday?
— I’m afraid not. He wasn’t an IT guy was he?
— That’s right! Are you sure it wasn’t you?

Starting Liking Leeds

So I’ve had this project for a year or so, right, to Start Liking Leeds. Obviously the job’s great (give or take the odd hundred million going walkabout in the University budget), but the city? It’s not Reykjavík; and it’s certainly not Helsinki! But I decided I should stop moaning about it (erm, haven’t got very far with that then!) and start doing something about it. Buy a place, invest in the community a bit more, make an effort to uncover the light which (they tell me) Leeds hides under a bushel.

It turns out that coming back to Britain from Canada is a lot easier than coming back from Scandinavia. Coming back from Scandinavia, I’m always, like, oh no. Britain’s so rubbish. But although, you know, Canada’s great and everything, at least it’s not in a whole different league. We both have Tories, and we both vote for them, using ridiculous first-past-the-post systems to do so. Toronto’s still a Victorian industrial town. The good people of Ontario still speak English. Meanwhile, the neighbours, technically ruled by the same Queen but rumbunctiously separatist, still speak French. So riding the bus into Leeds, rather than looking around thinking ‘this is RUBBISH’, I was merely, like, ha ha, this is like Canada but a bit lamer.

And when the bus went over the hill after Kirkstall, where the flash tall buildings down in the city centre flicker into view, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Partly because after the Loop in Chicago they seem so pathetically small; but also because after Chicago I now know in my bones how pathetic it is that they’re trying to look like the Loop at all.

Leeds city centre high-rises

the dream

It’s a double-wammy: like middle class British people who try to be like aristocrats. You laugh at them both for the fact that they fail, and for the fact that they’re deluded enough to want to try. And I laughed and I was, like, oh Leeds, you’re such a loser, I might even be starting to like you.
derelict building with estate agent logo reading 'reality'

does what it says on the tin

Which, despite all my ex-pat-whose-heart-never-quite-came-home posturing, I guess is quite a British thing to think.

Greenhouse!

And yeah, sometime on Day 50, after a full nine months’ faffing with trying to get a mortgage, I became a homeowner! Only I was, er, in Canada at the time. But by the end of Day 60, I’d made it to Greenhouse, just in time to get my keys before the office shut. The salesman looks at me, sweltering beneath my rucksacks, and says ‘You’re moving in today? Normally people get the keys and then sort the rest out later…’

Greenhouse

Greenhouse!

the lounge

the lounge! In the foreground, sofa and bed.

And so far I really like it. Just in case I haven’t bent your ear about it before, it’s an ecotastically renovated building. Admittedly it does look a bit like a starship that just landed in Beeston (NB, before you make any foolish comments, that real starships are square, because in space, there is no friction). But before it looked like a starship, it was an eyesore, so, you know, could be worse. I’ll spare you the rest of the spiel: details here and here. It’s not quite as socially radical as LILAC, but I’m still impressed. If I’m going to sell my right arm to a bank, it might as well be to exert my market forces in a direction I’m committed to. (I had to take the any-bank-I-could-get option, but hopefully in due course I’ll be able to switch mortgage to a nice environmentally friendly bank.)

Yeah, so I move in on Day 60, and that day I see on Facebook that this ex-student who now lives in Liverpool is going to be reading at some arty happening type thing here in Leeds, so I’m like, I’ll go! And it turns out to be not 300 yards from my own door, at the BasementArtsProject. Turns out this couple from Beeston decided to turn their basement into a gallery/arty happening place. Winner! And I arrive, and I just shuffle in through the back door and get offered some home-made cake, and I’m like, I have neighbours! They’re cool!

I’m talking to one of my noble basement hosts and her face lights up: oh, so you’re local? Well, sort of. I just moved here yesterday—to Greenhouse. Her face clouds over. I understand that. I mean, it’s potentially this shiny regeneration project, but at the same time, it’s also slap in a district none of whose other residents could afford to live there. And it does, partly by inheritance from its previous incarnation and partly by just needing to be a secure building, have this fortress-like look about it. But I tried to make a good impression and she was very nice, and I came away feeling I’d made a good start. The art was quite fun too! They’ve got another event on tomorrow, so I’ll go along for that too.

On Tuesday, I put in my first appearance at Green Drinks, which I’d have been going to for years if I’d known about it. Some of the LILAC people put me onto it. It’s this monthly pub meet for greenly inclined folks. I was sort of expecting long-haired twenty-something djembe players, whereas it was mostly middle-aged entrepreneurs in suits. Fair enough though. Suddenly I find out about all these small businesses trying to be ecotastic in Leeds. I find out loads of cool random facts, and meet more small business folks than I’ve ever met in my life. Interesting. I’ll be going again.

paintings by Alaric

art!

And today was Greenhouse’s first birthday, and the developers, not being the cut-and-run type, had this sort of Greenhouse equivalent of a village fete. I met more small business folks (some of them again, some of them working in the office space in the building), and my MP; agreed to go to the Beeston in Bloom AGM on Monday (!); and made these paintings! My first decorations in the flat! And I met this guy here who’s, like, you like Icelandic? Have you heard of Sigur Rós? There’s some guys having a Sigur Rós night on the sixth floor this evening. And they were! We sat and watched the Icelandic rockumentary Heima. Although my trip really ended a week ago, it was cool to find myself watching this film all shot in Iceland, here in my new place, with my new neighbours. It gives a pleasing envelope pattern to the travelblogue (epiblogues notwithstanding).

And for those who don’t already know, heima is Icelandic for ‘at home’.

About alarichall

http://www.alarichall.org.uk
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4 Responses to Day 60, September 23rd… and the week that followed: drottinn blessi heimilið!

  1. A lovely homecoming (with a real new home thrown in!), very glad for you!

  2. Hey, cool! Neighbours, they rule! And watching films about Iceland is great. Looks fantastic, anyway. Congrats!

  3. Oh, good for you! Brilliant to hear about all the Leeds stuff you’re discovering. And if you do get fed up with Leeds again, just remember how easy it is to get out to the surrounding countryside…

  4. Kath says:

    Tee hee… you reminded me of the day I realised I had come to regard Manchester as home, as my train pulled towards Picadilly between the grimy buildings and over a rather depressing overpass, and I thought, ‘ah! here we are at last!’ with a tiny little glow in my chest.

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