Saturday, 19 January 2013

A Late Account of Two Weeks With a Snake From the Internet

OK. OK. It has taken me about four months to actually write this blog post. Which is pretty rubbish of me. I could make excuses, but I don't think they'd be very good ones.
Generally, after four months of failing to write a blog post I'd probably give it up, but this is important to me, even if other people might have lost interest in the interim. Because this post is about Serpentine's last two weeks before departing these shores. I want to be able to look back and remember it properly.
Incidentally, if anyone's interested, you may find Serpentine's own account of her entire time abroad, including the period I'm about to talk about, here. You will see a lot of the same photos in her account as are in mine, if you click the links to them.


Hastings

Let us begin with the arrival at Hastings on the 31st of August. We  came, we saw, we got slightly tipsy. We slept way in the following day.
Given that neither one of us is particularly good at mornings, or getting early nights, it is frankly astounding that we got as much done as we did. But in fact we only wasted a significant part of two days by staying in bed too long throughout the fortnight. And in each case, we did manage to sort out on those days what we wanted to be doing on the remaining days in wherever we were at the time. And went for at least a brief walk. So that was something.
In this case, getting up mid-afternoon, we... OK, I started writing this paragraph and got it completely wrong. I was talking about the wrong day. Fortunately sequence of photos has me sorted out. We went for a general walk around Hastings. Serp admired all the old houses which probably predate her country, Hastings is generally a pretty nice town. At one point I remember we wandered along a rather narrow street with no road bit on it and talked about how we should totally buy one of the houses and share it. I can't remember if there was any additional context to that (Other than me insisting Serp should stay in England, I guess) or if we just really liked that street.
Oh hey, turns out Serp had a photo down that street:

 Not long after that, we got a pretty good view over all the fishing-ness of the town:

Now, I think it was either this evening or the previous evening that we had fish and chips for dinner on the beach and I sadly missed the opportunity to make a hilarious pun and call Serp a hussy, because she was eating huss. I fear the shame will never leave me.

Definitely this evening/night, we got some terrible wine (Why did we get terrible wine instead of something we'd actually like? I don't know, but it was an interesting experience) and drank it on the beach in the dark with Fift-Eyed Fred. Because we're classy like that.
And the night totally didn't end with me trying to murder Fred with the wine bottle.
Nuh uh. I would never do such a thing.

Right, now onto the following day, this paragraph I began to write at the wrong point is relevant. Sunday we planned to go to a couple of museums with Grlump. We managed to get to the Fishermens' Museum before it closed, but not the Shipwreck Museum. The  Fishermens' Museum turned out to be more interesting than I'd expected, because apart from anything else, there was a ship in the middle of the main room.
Damnit, Ralph! I'm a fisherman, not a sci-fi character!
Potential for interesting photos may have become one of my top criteria for places being interesting to visit.
Sea turtles, mate.
We followed up the museum by playing mini-golf, getting ice cream (I think), and wandering along the beach picking up and looking at interesting things and taking some nice photos.
(If you can't tell, this was originally 3 photos, shoddily edited together by me)



Then, we had dinner in a restaurant, went either to the pub or back to smuggle Grlump into our room (Shhh, don't tell anyone) as we did with Fred the previous night, and Serpentine altered the course of history using her boobs.

...by which I mean we played Chrononauts with the house-rule that you have to explain how you change the past instead of just playing the cards, but I find it funny to say things like that without the context, at least to start with.


On Monday, we went to Battle! *Strikes war-like pose*
...Battle is a town near Hastings, where the Battle of Hastings was actually fought. There's an abbey which was built there in commemoration, and as well as being an English Heritage site which you can wander around with your audio-guide and so on, it also contains a high school formerly attended by the erstwhile Grlump and Fred.
Smug git.
So he took us briefly into the school to show us the tapestry just inside, which is - what was it? The largest tapestry on a single piece of fabric in Europe? Something impressive like that. Edit - Serp  reminds me, it  was a painting, not a tapestry.
Interesting unrelated point while I think of it - you can really see how much the town of Battle was built around Battle Abbey. We got the train to Battle and then for most of the walk from the train station to the main entrance of the Abbey we were actually walking along by one of the Abbey walls (Though we didn't know it at the time).
And of course we also went around the tourist-y English Heritage bit. You can go round some of the area where the actual battle was fought, and also the abbey, obviously. Wherein I continued my previously established habit of hiding in random nooks and crannies for Serp's amusement (Well, and mine).

Seriously. Not that English Heritage sites and similar old places aren't  interesting anyway, they are, but you can also get so much amusement from them if you go round with friends who will laugh at and take photos of you doing silly things in them.
Well, I mean, I guess things in general are better if done with good friends. But this is definitely a specific example.


Also, these things happened:
Fred re-enacts the death of King Harold.
On the matter of fun derived through silly things done in historical locations and photos thereof, I rest my case.
And, then we went back to Hastings itself. Went to the penny arcade with Grlump. I'd never actually been to a penny arcade before, so I had no idea what it'd be like. It's surprising how intense it can be dropping 2p coins onto a moving shelf so that they will eventually combine to knock a small plastic toy off so you can take it. We all got dragons!
Dragons!
Don't remember the rest of what happened that day. There aren't any more photos from it.
Actually, correction, I think it may have been this day when we also went round some shops with Grlump? A couple of antique shops and a second-hand bookshop (SO MUCH WANT). Also there was... I think it was a coffee shop or something, though maybe it also sold books? Anyway, the front window of whatever this shop was was a set of shelves filled with old books clearly chosen for their innuendo-laden titles.
One third of said front window.

Following day was another fairly sedate one. We got up late, but in time to go to the Shipwreck Museum. Fairly interesting, as you'd expect, but not amazing. Then... oh, I think I remember this, there was a Town Hall Museum or something? Which we went to but it was closed for some reason. There's nothing particularly interesting  about that anecdote, I just suddenly remembered it and wanted to fill in the timeline. Also I bought a couple of souvenirs for my mum and brother - fossil shark tooth from the Fishermens' Museum for my brother, a necklace (I think?) from an antique shop for my mum.
Also, this.
And a Serpentine quote from a bit later in the day: "Now my feet are full of shoes!" (So glad I posted that on facebook, otherwise I would never have remembered it)

Final day in Hastings! Wednesday the 5th of September. Went to Grlump's for lunch, he drove us back into Hastings so we could go to the Smugglers' Adventure and Hastings Castle. The Smugglers' Adventure is a network of old caves previously used by smugglers which has been turned into kind of a museum. A really cool museum with the atmosphere as well as the artifacts. ne thing I really noticed was just how dark it was when we first went in. In the first bit of cave, it was absolutely pitch black as I've ever seen. The voice-over bit talking about the caves mentioned that at some point after smugglers stopped using them, they became a popular place for young men to bring their young ladies for... activities (IF you know what I mean...) and I just thought, well, one could potentially still get away with doing that, so long as you were quiet about it. IT'S THAT DARK. But then after that voice-over bit finished, some lights came on, so I guess it wouldn't be such a good idea after all. My point is, darkness. Not something we actually come across that much nowadays, living in cities with lampposts and so on.
I probably did something to deserve it.
The Smugglers' Adventure was cool, but I don't actually have that much to say about it. I enjoyed it! If people go to Hastings and are interested in that sort of thing, they should go. We came out, headed over to Hastings Castle... which had been shut for about 10 minutes or so. Apparently it's not that impressive a castle though, so it's not such a big deal. Time for mini-golf! Well, I've skipped over dinner, but nothing that interesting happened during dinner. Mini-golf!
So, interesting thing - in the course of our time there, we played all three courses. Pirate with Grlump, Crazy and Adventure with both Grlump and Fred. I won Crazy in convincing fashion, but fared somewhat worse on the other two. However I proved very good at the end "Get your ball in the top hole to win a free game!" bit. Which is why my wallet contains two free game tickets for the Hastings mini-golf (We took advantage of a 2 for 1 offer for Crazy and Adventure, which didn't allow the use of a free game ticket). I guess I'll have to go back there some time and use those. In retrospect, Grlump felt it would've been better to just give me his balls (A quote just begging to be taken out of context, as I did on facebook at the time). Also Hitler was an imaginary dragon, though that happened later in the evening, in our room, before the other two had to say their farewells to Serp and leave us.


Good times. Oh, and I forgot to mention we saw a badger. Neither me (City person) nor Serp (Australian) had ever seen one before. Couldn't get a decent photo though.



And, onwards.




Wiltshire

We arrived in Pewsey to find the people running the B&B weren't home, so we went for a morning drink in the nearby pub. Pewsey's a nice little village that you can walk across in a reasonably short amount of time. Not so if you want to walk to one of the other nearby villages, Avebury. Which is exactly what we did the following day (Having gotten in). It looked closer on the map, OK? Terrain made something of a difference. We probably would've made it in reasonable time if it was flat all the way, but I suppose that would've been less interesting. We didn't really have enough food and water for the length of walk it turned out to be. Fortunately Pewsey has the best blackberries I've ever tasted. Kept us going a bit better, though we were still fairly knackered by the time we arrived. Let's see, other interesting points along the way...
Pretty sure the mound she's standing on is what's called Adam's Grave. Hard to be sure though since it isn't marked at all.
Former stone circle called the Sanctuary. The stones you see mark where the original (much bigger) stones used to be.
We followed the Stone Avenue from the Sanctuary straight to Avebury.
Avebury is interesting. The whole little town is basically built in/around a big stone circle, which we walked around. It was pretty cool. Unfortunately getting back to the B&B proved more problematic than we anticipated, because buses stopping too early. We got a bus to Swindon, where we found we'd missed the last bus to Pewsey and had to get a taxi back. *Lesigh*
Incidentally, it occurs that I haven't made that big a thing of this whole massive walk - that's not because there wasn't more great stuff about it, but because what was great about it was the general interesting conversations (Which I can't remember specifically) and the companionship (Which I can't convey properly). Go on a rural walk for several hours with your best friend and you'll get some idea of it.

Also, STARS! By which I mean, Serpentine suggested we wander to a field on the outskirts of Pewsey and look up at the stars, which obviously were much more visible than they ever would be from anywhere in a city. Also a really nice thing to do with someone.

Saturday was our Wiltshire day of sleeping in late. If I had to estimate how late, well there are forum posts from Serp at 12:15pm, and me at 2:46pm. The former was probably soon after we woke up. The latter, we were probably still in bed, though we might've ventured far enough to get breakfast. We had no particular plans for that day, having given up on trying to get out to the Uffington White Horse, since it would've been a very absolute 4 hours on buses for 5 hours wandering around there. Nice as Pewsey is, it's not the easiest place to get to or to get to places from, and we  didn't really feel like going for it, especially after the problems we'd had with the trip to Avebury. But when we eventually emerged from our room, Serp insisted that we at least go for a bit of a walk, just in a bit of a loop near Pewsey. So we went and saw the Pewsey White Horse instead:
And had  lunch there.
From there, having met a nice Belgian couple who by a remarkable coincidence turned out to be staying at the same B&B as us (Though we didn't discover that until the evening when we saw them again there), I was persuaded under some duress that we could get away with going for a bit more of a walk and still get back in time for Doctor Who (I have my priorities straight). So we went to see another long barrow, through hedges, over stiles, and across a very difficult country. Nice walk, though for a fair bit of it we couldn't really walk together, as the path was too narrow. Narrow enough that spiders had made webs across it, which I think we mostly walked through, while Serp scared me by telling me about some sort of spider they have in Australia (Golden orb weaver possibly? That rings a bell) which would do a similar thing with, IIRC, such strong webs that we wouldn't be able to walk through and would have to go around instead. Something like that, anyway.
These ones I think we went around.
I probably also told my one vaguely interesting spider-related story - that being that a spider once made a web between my glasses and my desk during an exam. Twice.

And so we continued, saw the long barrow, started heading back towards Pewsey. That's when things became more interesting. I totally lost my bearings, and then found the path I think we were supposed to be on entirely by accident, thus finding them again. But then further on, we began to have the problem one tends to have with rural paths in England, that one becomes uncertain as to the point of "Is this the right path, or just an area where the vegetation has coincidentally been flattened?" And "Should I be going this way, or am I just walking across a farmer's field?" Under which circumstances, of course, the best you can really do is hope and head along what may or may not be the path, even if you don't really think it is, so long as it's heading in the right direction. I'm pretty sure we must have lost the path somewhere, I'm just not sure where. We got back to the road into Pewsey eventually though, just a bit further along than where we'd been stargazing the night before. And even after stopping briefly on the final way back in to eat a couple of wild strawberries, we were still in time for Doctor Who (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship). So that worked out alright in the end.
Oh, also feathers.
She was sneaking them onto my hat without me noticing.

Then, let's see. Sunday was Bath.
I can't help but consider this to be tempting fate...
Why are the angels climbing the ladder? THEY HAVE WINGS.
Nice as the architecture is, I'm going to restrict myself on the number of photos of it I put in this post. Anyway. Nice as the city itself was, the big attraction was the Roman Baths from which the city takes its name. Expensive as such places go, but really interesting, actually, with the audio guides and stuff. I particularly liked that the audio guides for the Roman Baths had, as I recall, three different audio tracks - one with the standard stuff talking about whatever you could see, one alternative to that for children, focussing on characters representative of the people of the time who would have frequented the Baths, and in some places they had comments from Bill Bryson, who apparently really likes Bath. And of course not all of it was about the Baths themselves - some of it was about the Roman city which stood around them, the Roman way of life - with links obviously to the place, but a lot of other information.We went around for, what, about 3 hours? Didn't finish going round. There was still more. Not that much more, but still.
Clavdivs!

We got ourselves a Minion!



Extra company, also nice. Especially extra company who has some idea of what things are like in the place (Not saying Lesser Minion's an expert on Bath, but he knew more than me and Serpentine).
Extra especially extra company that buys us dinner.

Final day in Wiltshire, we headed off to Stonehenge, Minion once again in tow.
Stonehenge is Stonehenge. It's neat to see, and have some explanations of what it may have been built for and so on. But of course it's too significant a historical monument for them to let people actually go right in and walk around among the stones themselves, pretend to look for the Pandorica in the underhenge, take silly photos, etc. I don't know that I'd be that bothered to see it a second time, but at least I've seen it once, and can say so. The greater appeal of this day, however, was that it became another day of walking around losing track of rural paths in good company. Only this time for considerably less than seven hours, plus I think we were better supplied for it.
Oh no! She spotted me in my amazing hiding place!


Got back, had dinner in the B&B, which IIRC was free of charge because they were moving us into a different room - actually, their room - so they could rent out both the upstairs rooms to a large group. We were happy to take it. It wasn't exactly a downgrade, plus free food is best food, so...

Or it might have been breakfast they gave us for free. Either way, though. We stayed our last night, had breakfast, left behind the mysterious Muppets display which appeared at some point on Friday night,
And went for a walk through a little park before catching our train to London.



Also stopped off for a drink in the pub while Serp wrote all her postcards, which for some reason she then sent, despite the fact she could've just held on to them and posted them once she was back in Australia, making about 2 days difference and much cheaper. Anyway.


London
Arrived at London... Paddington I think it was. Three hours or so to wait (I think) before Succubus could come get us and take us back to sleep on his floor. Fortunately there was an Archon in the train station waiting for us so we could change some more history while we waited. Turns out he had this week already booked as time off well before we made our plans, so that was good. And then after that we made our way to Succubus', played more games (Eminent Domain - pretty cool), and slept on the floor (On an air-bed) as planned.

Following day, British Museum. Despite the factc I lived in London for almost seven years and have been back to visit on many occasions, I had actually never been there before. It's pretty great. And there's so much of it! I think it was Onasuma who said one could probably keep going round it for a week and still not see everything. Especially true if you want to actually stop and look at each thing, and think about them and stuff.
The five of us spent all day wandering around (With a break in the middle for lunch at GBK). It's amazing.
Also, of course I mentioned Onasuma above, and "The five of us". That's because we picked up a Nameless and an Onasuma in addition to me, Serp and Archie. First time me or Serp had met either of those two, as they are notorious meetup-dodgers.
Clearly they were envious of my stylish behattedness.
And after all that we wandered around geek shops for a bit, Nameless got ponies, and then we headed to the station. Said goodbye to Onasuma, and GOODBYE FOREVER to Nameless (Unless he proves me wrong and actually turns up to a UKitP Meetup some day).
Onasuma did this deliberately to make Archie uncomfortable, and then had to hold it for ages while we took pictures, until he was uncomfortable as well.
GOODBYE FOREVER.
Before having dinner with Succubus and heading back.
Final day! :'(
Succubus got up bright and early, and mistakenly thought we got up at a reasonable time when in fact we were just continuing to lie there dozily. Thus we were late in our arrival at Mornington Crescent to meet Archie and Onasuma. Though Onasuma was also late because he got lost on the Northern line. So, then Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And then one might say it was time to play OotS and eat doughnuts, and we were all out of doughnuts. #YeahOKit'sacliche #hashtagsaretotallyalegitmeansofcommunicationnow #eventhoughIdon'tevenhaveatwitteraccount #man,rememberingnottoputspacesintheseisreallyhardforme #OKI'llstopnow
The five of us played the Order of the Stick game, with both expansions, in a pub for however many hours it turned out to be.
Does anyone remember who won? I feel like maybe it was Onasuma and he attributed it to beginner's luck? But I could be completely wrong about that.
Regardless, a suitably nerdy way to end the trip. Back to Succubus' to get Serp's stuff, realise we never got round to drinking the two random bottles of K2 she'd brought with her, so they became a present to Succubus (Whether he wanted them or not), and we headed to Heathrow.

End of the line. There's not a lot I can really think of to say about this. It turned out Serp's flight was actually cancelled and she'd be leaving the following morning and have fre accommodation that night. Not such a terrible thing, but it meant we couldn't exactly have our final goodbyes properly, and I couldn't stay with her right to the end like I figured I would when I agreed to come on the trip down south with her. It also added a little to the feeling of the whole thing not being entirely real, me being a tad disconnected from it all. So we saw her off onto the bus which would take her to her hotel for the night before me heading back in to Victoria coach station to head back north. Teared up when I got on the metro, because that for me is one of the indicators that I am now home again and back into my regular life, and I'd come back without my Australian. Phoned her a bit after I got in, at 7:30am, to check she was up and getting ready to leave (which she was).
I'm sadfacing again just writing this.
She texted me at about 9 complaining about Australian accents, which apparently were annoying her and how did we ever put up with it? I guess she'd become acclimatised to us Brits. And then about 40 minutes later a final goodbye, presumably as she was just getting onto the plane.











And thus ended the not-really-a-honeymoon of not-really-Mr.-and-Mrs.-Fuzzbottom-of-Norway.

...I miss you.

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