Tuesday 6th January. London, England.

Quotes of the day:

"I don't eat 'cause I'm hungry; I eat so I don't get hungry." Alex, borrowed from our friend Luther's grandfather.

"I just let my body go limp, and prepare for a collision." Alex, when I asked him if he has trouble crossing the street, with the traffic approaching from the 'wrong' side.

"I don't care which pub we go to as long as it has 'Ye Olde' in the name." Alex, at his finest.

Catching up with Alex has marked a fantastic transition for me. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about life, and I'm coming to the conclusion that it's all about perception. I've always been determined that I'm totally in control of my life, but I'm slowly realizing that life hurtles past us, and the best we can do is exert some influence as it passes. Kind of like a game of blackjack; you have no control over what cards are coming your way, but you can choose when to hit and when to stand, and how much to bet on each hand. Life can change- and does change suddenly, whether it's the result of one careless word, one wrong decision, or a simple random incident, perhaps even something outside your own control. And your life will never be the same, even if you thought it was just a small thing at the time.

I've been kind of down on London since I got here. I had expected it to feel like 'coming home'- a city that was familiar enough that I'd be comfortable and confident, but still foreign enough to be exciting. What I've found is the opposite. Since I moved into London, I realized that I don't know a single soul in this huge city, and yet I feel familiar enough with the town that there's no excitement here for me. Yesterday, exploring the city with Alex and his mate Craig, I saw London through the eyes of a newcomer. Neither of them have been to England before, and for the first time in the last month, I felt like I was in a dynamic, spirited city. We wandered past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, chased pidgeons around Trafalgar Square and across Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. Along the way, we were distracted by the occasional pub. Even the weather was perfectly London- cool and grey with an intermittent light drizzle.

Good to see you, mate. Now called the Polo Bar, this was the bar in Kensington where I worked in 1994. VB- Victoria Bitter, good Australian beer avaiable only in Earls' Court.

Alex and Craig's first ride in a double decker bus. Craig picking his nose while Alex reads the instructions to the board game Cranium.

Now that we're into 2004, it means that almost eight years have passed since Alex and I worked together in Israel. When he stepped into the TV room at the hostel two days ago, it was as if time had stood still. He hasn't changed a bit, and was kind enough to tell me that I also still looked the same. Last night, we met up with Nicola, an Irish girl who was also on Kibbutz Horshim with us in 1996. She'd arrived on the kibbutz just briefly before I left, so Nicola and I never got to know each other very well. Still, when we met her last night, I couldn't believe it'd been so long since we last saw each other.

Alex and Craig, wandering the streets of old London. Contrast between the old and the new, central London.

Big Ben Nicola, with Alex, unsure how to use his One Day Travelpass.

It's 2:30 p.m and I'm off to Red Hill in a couple of hours. I'd better head to the internet cafe now, and get everything up to date in case it's a while before I get access to the net again. I'm looking forward to doing some work, and hopefully when I start earning some money, that'll take away some of the stress I've been under, leaving me free to resume work on the book.

Also I've made the first couple of steps towards one of my challenges. The next time I commute back into London, I should be able to complete the challenge and walk away with some serious cash. So until next time, have fun!

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