Tag Archives: London

Forgotten Concert Tickets, a Towed Car and Freezing Rain – Another London Disaster

In the freezing London rain after losing my own jacket....

It’s not that we weren’t listening to your comments a couple posts ago.  But we’ve had another disaster and we haven’t even boarded a plane for our year of savvy, global do-gooding.

This past Wednesday, Jammie, my parents and I got in our car for the 1-hour drive to London for a family tradition.  The tradition is going to a Christmas concert at Royal Albert Hall (one of the best-known concert halls in Britain).

“You’ve got the tickets, right?’

The car was filled with excited pre-concert banter as we drove out into the rainy winter night.  This was Jammie’s first experience of Royal Albert Hall and we were going to see the quintessentially English, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge – probably the best-known boys’ choir in England.

All was fun and games until my mom turned to my dad, “You’ve got the tickets, right?.”  He didn’t.  My mom fessed up that she had forgotten to grab them on the way to the car.  Our healthy time buffer evaporated immediately.  We were 20 minutes into our journey and it was time to find an exit and turn back.

Just made it!

Celebrating that we arrived on time!!


After a quick turnaround at the house we sped back into the rain and headed for London.  My dad dropped us outside Royal Albert Hall with 5 minutes to spare.  Jammie, my mom and I legged it to our seats.  We had made it on time.  It was a Christmas miracle.  And the hall was a beautiful as always.  The concert was great and the choir was in top form.


The amazing Royal Albert Hall


Picture with Choir Boy

But then things started to go downhill.  As soon as we started to make our way out of Royal Albert Hall, Jammie saw one of the choir boys (pictured below).  She made me go up and talk to him and ask if we could have our picture with him.  He agreed.

But here’s the crappy part: there was nobody to take the picture.  So I had to take it.  And there you have it:  I stuck my neck out and in return I get to be the photographer instead of having a brush with fame. That would have been fine were it not for the fact that a few years ago the same thing happened when Jammie and I spotted Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and the same thing happened… I got to take the picture:)

Who's missing??

So, where’s the car?

And here come’s the worst part of the evening:  After our (their) picture with the choir boy we headed out into the rain again for the ride home.  We hustled over to the street where my dad had parked the car.  No car.

My dad thought that he had the wrong street so we walked some more.  But Jammie was in heels so she and I were sent to a cafe while my parents looked further for the car.  By about the time we took the picture below, we got the news that the car had been towed and that my parents had been picked up by a police car that was taking them to the towing yard.  The car cost over $600 to retrieve….

Killing time after the concert...


Freezing in the rain

The car retrieval process was not only pricey, it was slow.  We FAR outstayed our welcome at the cafe and then ended up rushing from one semi-dry/warm spot to the other.  It was so rainy that we ended up switching jackets so Jammie could have mine which had a hood.  The picture below is one of the last we took before switching jackets:)  And then I spent the rest of the night in the super-snug female jacket at the top of the post…

Putting a semi-brave face on a very cold night in the streets of London...

All’s well that ends well…

Luckily we got picked up by my parents soon after.  A toasty car ride on the way home dried us off and provided a happy ending to the unsought-after adventure.
Next week, Bangkok!!

Stay tuned next week as our year of world travel begins in earnest.  We fly to Bangkok midweek.  We’ll keep you posted.  If you have any tips for cheap apartments in Bangkok, let us know… we are going to be checking out a lot of them over the next two weeks as we pick where we will live for our first 3-month stint…



Bjorn Karlman

We Screwed Up – Five Tips on How NOT to visit London

You’d think I knew better than this… I did, after all, spend six years of my life living near London.

To start our year of “savvy”, global do-gooding, Jammie and I headed out for our first big touristy trip to London yesterday. It was a train wreck.

This is how it all went down, summed up in 5 tips on how not to visit London.

Here goes: DO NOT:

Do it on little sleep

... yawning on the WAY to London...

Jet lag is a terrible thing. Since we got to England a few days ago, we’ve been waking up at random early morning / middle-of-the-night hours, not being able to go back to sleep.  Then fatigue has hit like a sledge hammer in the middle of the day. It is seriously frustrating. This said, we headed to London anyway, determined to get the most out of the experience. As the picture proves, I was already yawning on the 1 hour train ride to London. It was downhill from there.

Assume that an Indian buffet is exactly what you need to power through

We could barely walk after this buffet

Our first stop was an Indian restaurant with a respectable buffet spread for 6.98 pounds ($11.30). We were hungry so we attacked the buffet like our lives depended on it.

The combination of heavy starches (potatoes, rice, breads), curries and other rich sauces about knocked us out. We staggered out of the restaurant near Euston station in north London already feeling defeated. As we walked past a hotel on the way back to the Underground (tube) station, I sooo wished we were staying there because I was already dying for a nap.  A bad start indeed.

Think you are in a marathon

Super exhausted at Harrods

England is not a cheap place to travel. Our train tickets cost us a combined price of 38 pounds ($62). So we were absolutely determined to get our money’s worth. So much so that we were planning to see as much as physically possible before taking the last train home at 11:50 PM.

This kind of marathon approach would have been exhausting even if we had been sleeping well and lived in London.  In our sleep deprived state and with the added travel time to and from the city, it was torture.  By early evening (around the time the above picture was taken at the world-famous department store, Harrods), I was ready to fall over.  And I knew I still had another 5 hours to go….

Settle for crappy places to nap

Jammie taking a 45-minute nap at a cafe in London's Tate Modern

There comes a time when you have to take a nap.  For Jammie this coincided with our arrival at one the world’s premier modern art destinations, Tate Modern.

Tate is amazing as it is the most visited modern art gallery in the world.  Instead of standing in awe of the huge, renovated power station that houses Tate, we found Jammie the first warm bench available: in the foyer of the main cafe.

This turned out to be a horrible decision as there was constant foot traffic, the bench was hard and the lighting was anything but conducive to a nice nap.

After her impressively long, 45-minute nap we found several superior sleeping options in various galleries with padded seating.  But by then we had the added pressure of squeezing seven floors of gallery into the hour and a half we had before closing time.  Needless to say that did not happen.  We barely covered sections of the top and bottom floors.

Think you will get out of Hamleys without taking ridiculous pictures

We did not want to leave London without visiting Hamleys, the largest toy store in the world.  This place was amazing.  We went to the flagship branch on Regent Street which gets 5 million visitors a year.

We forgot how tired we where and became kids again, playing with remote controlled cars, looking at random stuffed animals and taking pictures with these awesome Royal Guards.

If I had been under 10 it would have taken forever to get me out of that store.  It was truly amazing.

But it was late and after checking out a few more shops we’d had enough.  We abandoned our plans to take the last train home to my parents’ place and instead took one that left an hour earlier.  We were asleep in no time and it is a minor miracle that we didn’t miss our stop at Bracknell station.

Over to you – have any tips for us as we visit London again next week?  I mean, apart from getting some sleep…:)



Bjorn Karlman

Should You Give to Beggars?

The most recent run-in I’ve had with someone begging was last week when I gave a man a dollar outside CVS in my current hometown of Chico, CA.  He turned around and said, “to be honest, if I scrape together enough tonight, I’ll go get myself a beer.”  I regretted my donation.

Beer and Begging

I first started seeing signs about beer and begging in downtown LA several years ago.  “Broke and Need Beer”, or something to that effect is what one guy’s sign said at his regular station just off Wilshire Boulevard.  I remember thinking it clever and worthy of some spare change but then as I started to see the line used in other parts of California and I got over my amusement and grew indifferent to the signs.  Was my indifference wrong?  A lack of compassion?

Agonizing Stories

Begging takes on different forms in different parts of the world of course.  I remember being horrified as a disabled man begged on the streets of Bangkok and was forced to pull himself along on his chest, using his hands to move forward.  I’ve seen similar situations in other parts of Asia where you cannot help but pity those that beg because they are blind, mute or suffering from some other very obvious physical calamity.  What is the compassionate thing to do?


It gets even worse when children are involved.   From asylum seekers in the UK, carrying babies and begging in London’s Leicester Square to the children that would crowd around me even in richer areas of the Peruvian capital Lima, children are often used with great success to prey on the good intentions of the passerby.  I remember a friend of mine who felt like he needed to give and took a whole flock of kids out to eat in Buenos Aires.  I felt bad for him first.  I had grown used to almost ignoring requests for money.  But then I second guessed myself.  Was my cynicism wrong?  What if they didn’t have shady overseers that they had to hand all of the money to at the end of the day?  What if their stories were true?   I brushed my questions off as guilt-induced naïveté.

No Answers?

I don’t feel like I have ever gotten a satisfactory answer to the question of whether or not to give to beggars or the homeless.  I have heard a lot of the quick commonsense reactions – “give to specific charities instead”, “buy them food”, “tell them to get a job”, “show them how to get to a shelter”.  Depending on the situation, each of these common reactions are helpful to an extent.  But none of them make me feel much better.  They may lift the guilt I feel about walking by but they don’t fundamentally help.

A Little Help from Government?

Is the answer legislation?  Some of the left-leaning friends I used to hang out with in college were sure this was the answer.  A bunch of us worked in a very economically depressed town in southwest Michigan called Benton Harbor.  A lot of us felt that, as nice as it was that we were out there tutoring, mentoring and delivering food, nothing would change until there was systemic change in the form of government programs and better educational opportunities.  On some level I still think this is true but the abuse of public welfare that was also evident as we worked with family members that refused to even look for work made me cautious of looking too confidently to government spending for answers.

What do you think?

As much as I write CultureMutt to advance what I call “savvy, global do-gooding”, I don’t like pat answers to complex problems so I am simply going to admit my deep confusion at how to best help when I encounter homelessness and begging.  I have given at times and I have not given far more often.  I have helped out a half-way home.  I have talked to homeless people on the street and at shelters to try to understand their stories.  I’ve tried to read up on what to do.  I’ve talked to those “in the know”.

I don’t know that I am any closer to solutions.  What are your thoughts?  What do you do when you are approached for money?  Please leave your ideas in the comment section



Bjorn Karlman