Time to move

Union Jack Butterfly

This blog has not seen many updates while I’ve been in London for the past 2 years. Not because there hasn’t been anything to write about but more because of blogging fatigue.

Union Jacks in Hyde Park

Now that our time in London is quickly coming to an end I would like to try and reflect a bit on how it has been living here.

House of Parliament

London was not one of the cities I would have moved to on my own devices. I moved here from Prague because Ann was studying here and we were fed up with travelling across Europe to meet each other and family. However I was ready to leave Prague and was really looking forward to living with Ann so it was not a difficult choice.

Old, empty no 15

Living together has been great and over time I have also gone from a lukewarm to an affectioned relationship with The City. London is an amazing place no doubt about that but it took me a while to figure out how to I could use it.

Gaumont State Cinema, Kilburn

First thing I loved about the city was that I could again talk to most people in the shops and on the streets. Although you hear a lot of non-English spoken everywhere and some thick English accents – I could again speak freely. Another thing that I really enjoyed was that the service level compared to Prague was in a different league – oh the joy of being greeted with a “How may I help you?” and a smile.

Even Central London celebrates with us

The place where London has really spoiled us in the cultural department. We have seen so many concerts, musicals, plays, films, performances, comedy shows and all other sorts of shows that can’t be easily categorized. Many of the museums here have free entrance which we have also enjoyed. Actually much of the stuff we have seen and done has been free. Either on purpose or because there are a number of schemes where you can win or get free tickets. I don’t think we will get anything like this anywhere else.

BBC Proms

There are more advantages to living in Europe’s biggest city. The place is well connected to Denmark, Malta and most other places we have travelled and because of the volume of people going through London we have been able to get cheap tickets most of the time. The size and connections of the city has also meant that a lot of friends have come to see us from all over Europe. Either because London is a good tourist destination or because they were passing through.

Windy BBQ on the roof

Exploring the city on a bicycle has been magical for me. My sense of direction is pretty bad so quite often when I have been going places I have gotten a little lost but that has just meant that I’ve found small hidden places of London that I would have never come across. In Denmark bicycling is just what everybody does. While here in London there is an activism based around cyclism and an enthusiasm about trying to make London into a more bike friendly place. There is still a long way to go but I love the energy that surrounds the biker environment.

Daughter and father

The last thing I want to highlight that I’ve really enjoyed has been the diversity and quality of the restaurants. Within 15 minutes walk we can go to eat food from restaurants of a dozen different cuisines, all good places and for decent prices.

The Walnut in West Hampstead

What I will not miss about the city is how huge it is. In my case it’s probably more of a mental obstruction but sometimes being anonymous, a grain of sand on the beach of London can make me feel quite insignificant. In Prague (and Copenhagen and Ann Arbor before that) I quickly got a big network of acquaintances and a good number of good, close friends. I have not established that kind of network in London. There is probably a couple of reasons for that, first being that we are leading a couple lifestyle and do a lot together. Another reason however is that London is so big that the people we have made friends with live in places that are easy an hour away by public transport. Moving to a smaller place I hope it will be easier to again built up a local network.

View towards Little Venice from Cafe Laville

Being a guy from “the sticks” where the closest traffic light was 20km away I’m use to having a bit more space. The masses of people in London and central London in particular can easily overwhelm me and make me wish I was somewhere calmer. I’m sure when I leave though, that I might also miss some of the hustle and bustle and energy that you see everywhere in London.

Columbia Road Market

We got less than a weeks left in London now and then we head off to Denmark and more precisely the southern town of Sønderborg. Talk about contrast; going from a metropolis of diversity to a place where 90% of the 30,000 people are ethnic Danes.

It’s been 4 years now since I lived in Denmark and I am excited about going back to Denmark. It will be great showing Ann more of Denmark than we can experience on a quick trip. I’m hoping Denmark is nice to her.

To engage ourselves in everything Sønderborg we have set up a new joint blog called Hej Sønderborg. We hope to use the site to tell about things we see and do. So if you are in Sønderborg or want to see what we are up to do go to the blog and say “hej”.

Anonymous Mary Poppins

Bye, London

Up and down Kilburn High Road


We recently moved to a new neighbourhood, Kilburn in London and the last weekend we ended up spending most of the time exploring our new surroundings. It’s only one tube stop or 2.5km away from Willesden Green where we lived before but it’s still something new.

Busy Willesden Lane

Above is the view from the living room looking down Willesden Lane towards it’s intersection with Kilburn High Road. Kilburn is centered around Kilburn High Road which is one of the main arteries into London. These days it’s part of the A5 but it dates back to what the Roman’s called Iter II and even further back in to the haze of history as the road between what is now Canterbury and St. Albans.

Martin, a friend of mine from university was in town and Friday we embarked on a trip up the High Road to try some of the many interesting pubs. We managed to tick a few but there are still some left to visit another time. The best surprise was the 5-6 musicians playing traditional Irish music at Sir Colin Campbell, a very unpretentious pub as you can see below. The low point must have been the horrible karaoke at The Cock Tavern.


Sunday the Gaumont State Theatre was open to the public. This is the theatre is right next to us and every time we take the bus into central London we drive by it. I was very curious about what was inside so since there was a chance to get inside we went for it, and wauw was it impressive! The place was finished in 1937 and at that time it was the biggest cinema in Europe with room for more than 4000 people.


Throughout it’s heyday the cinema has hosted an impressive list of stars like Frank Sinatra, Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who.

Wurlitzer by @LollyGee

The cinema also has one of the few remaining and operating Wurlitzer organs. A Wurlitzer is an amazing musical instrument with four keyboards, 1200 pipes and 2000 electro-pneumatic motors that can create all sorts of sounds. We got a couple of small samples of what the organ sounded like on the day it opened by David Neale one of the few people left who actually knows how to mend these incredible machines.


The cinema was used as a bingo hall for 20 years until 2007 when that was closed. Many local Kilburnites (that’s what we are called) were worried that the place would fall into disrepair and eventually be torn down. In the end that didn’t happen. A christian group called Rauch Ministries bought the buildings and has since been working on renovating and converting it from a bingo hall to a place of worship. A similar fate has come to Kilburn National Ballroom up the road that was once a grand music and cinema venue and today is used as a church. As our tour guide later told us when we were walking up the road: These mega churches seem to be the only type of organisation that can make a viable business out of filling these huge venues on a regular basis.

The people from the church that we talked to were all friendly and we heard one song from their big choir which sounded good. Martin was very impressed by the set up for the amount of technical gear they had with cameras and a boom crane. Some day I should to go check out a service there, they said that they usually get around 2000 people attending. Maybe even one of the “Ruach Super Sunday” – it sounds more like a boxer promoter gone mad than the what I’m used to in a church.

After seeing the Gaumont Cinema we met up with Orkida and went for breakfast at Small and Beautiful before going on a guided tour down Kilburn High Road.


Our guide was Ed Fordham local historian and politician who knew a lot of the history and development of the area. I expected it to be a 30 min walk around a block but it turned into 2 hours very interesting local history from Roman times to today.

He told of how the river Kilburn and the Roman road had fared through the area up through times. Some of the pubs are still in more or less the same places as they have been for many centuries since this was the last stop before leaving the guarded area and venturing into the dangerous woods on the way to St. Albans. The Red Lion Pub can be traced back to 1444 as can be seen on the front. And is probably near the site of where Kilburn Priory once was.

In modern times Kilburn has been a transitional place for various groups of immigrants as they arrived to London. And you can still see this today when you take a walk along the road and look at all the different shops.

An old cigarette ad on the side of a building

Ed told stories of many of the buildings as we walked by them. I especially like the story of William Friese-Greene who is one of the pioneers of motion pictures. He was grated a patent for his invention of a chronophotographic camera in 1889 but eventually went bankrupt and died poor. A local property developer was a patron of Friese-Greene and on a couple of buildings he built in the late 19th century there is a small ribbon by the window with a film roll. Probably as a tribute to Friese-Greene and his invention.

Ribbon of a role of film on a house in Kilburn

An interesting walk in an interesting area that’s our home for now. Not sure I got all the facts right but I have tried to link to pages with more in depth information.

Later we went for a walk in the park where Kilburn Festival was on before we said goodbye to Martin and Orkida. Ann and I had a grand finale of the weekend at the Royal Albert Hall where Ann had won tickets to Camina Burana.