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I woke up at about 7, Domino was curled up at the far foot of the bed, and I had no intention of getting going that early so I poked around on the internet radio through all the BBC choices, and stumbled upon a live feed from the Queen's jubilee parade - which was a floating down the Thames. Turned on the bedroom TV and poked around until I found BBC America, which was carrying the parade live as well, but it was in SD and the Comcast channel guide sucks puppies for finding the channel line-up, so I went out to the livingroom and found the HD equivalent on Tivo, and watched it there.

My first thought was it doesn't hold a candle to Seafair. Only 1,000 vessels. What a crock. Seattle gets more than that for the yearly opening day regatta. And I guess I'm spoiled, but the royal barge had some fancy gold stuff on the bow, but it was nothing compared to the King of Thailand's royal barge. BTW, he marked 63 years on the throne a month ago.

But there was a lot of music. A lot of very beautiful music. The BBC did not do as good a job as the could have (their announcers talked over almost everything) but you could see a lot of boats fitted out with orchestras, choruses, chanty singers, bands, you name it. The highlight was supposed to be the London Phil at the end of the event, but I haven't looked at the Tivo to see if they made it onto the air. It was pouring down rain by that time.

I missed the ending because it was late and I needed to get showered and dressed and manicured. I phoned my little sister, and that made me even later. She had posted on FB how she did not like Lactaid as a cure for lactose intolerance and I wanted to know why. Turns out she is against taking supplements of any kind. Had I been thinking, I'd have pointed out that the insulin  which keeps me alive is a supplement in the same sense - it replaces something my body should make a lot of, but doesn't.

Off to the manicure place, only two people working, both busy. Read from my Kindle for about 45 minutes before there was an opening. Usually there are 5 people, but the owner said her daughter got mad & quit, and two people were out sick. Two times there, waited both times and both times the manicure was just adequate. Time to try the little place nearest the apartment instead.

Togo's for lunch, then home to attack the patio cat fence project. Cut a piece of fencing, wrestled it into place and gaffer taped it, but it needed something more to neaten it up and hold it against the gate. Went to Fry's and bought some 7" tie wraps. Tried those, they are too short for the top (horizontal) rail (it looks smaller because it's rectangular, not square) but I managed to tighten things up on the smaller vertical rails. That was enough for today, I was not about to do 18 speed bumps just for a pack of 14" tie wraps. The gaffer tape is not holding, so I'll need to tie wrap the top. Tomorrow. 

The TV was still on BBC and they were doing the life of the Queen, probably three hours of it, and I watched two hours before the host got on my nerves, as did all the living PMs except Thatcher raving about how they need a queen and royalty and all that. Most other countries manage to fill the ceremonial role with someone not-royal, and considering the poor track record of her eldest son.... (Thailand has the same issue, but their monarchy is not reliant on direct descent, as I understand it, any prince can be named king).

More cat stuff:
Mixed the Iams dry food she pecks at half and half with Pumpkin's diabetes high-protein dry food, which she vacuums up when I toss handfuls at her, and stocked her food tower with that.
Took care of the litterbox.

I suppose I ought to make dinner.

Plans for tomorrow:
Cat fence
BASFA if there's time. I expect it will be packed.  

howeird: (Default)
Work was a challenge today - most of the tests I knew how to do had been grabbed by the other new guy, but I found a couple of tests which required using a piece of equipment which I'd been trying to avoid. Turns out its login was still my old one, and they improved the user interface so well that it was no problem at all - after I discovered it took a couple of minutes to respond to a command. One of those is running overnight right now.

Ducked out for an 11:30 am appointment to see an apartment only to discover the person who set it up was out for the next 3 days, and had not left any notes for her co-worker. Older building way up by Kaiser hospital. Bedrooms are small, livingroom is big, mini-stack washer & dryer, but mostly the hall from the door to the livingroom does not look like it will accommodate the piano. The price was fairly low. Weird thing is it's gated, but they keep the gates open during the day.

Back to work & more fun challenges.

In other news, one of the perks of the new job is a Caltrain/VTA pass. Free travel any time for any reason. Don't know if Google will continue it next year.

Left a little early to pay a return visit to the apartments at 101 & Lawrence, which cost more but are newer, larger, and always gated. She showed me two of the three units which will be available in October, I'm thinking the third one may be better. #1 is small and more expensive because it has a pool view. Had one of those once and screaming children cured me of wanting one again. #2 looked nice because it has a front gate which opens to the path, but the more I think about it, that's the patio, and the cats would get out. #3 is way in a corner, but this means it is closer to parking & further from the kiddy stuff. hidden for sexist TMI )

The other place I saw 2 weeks ago is too small, and the place I used to live is too expensive.

So I printed out a deposit check and credit application check, and at lunchtime tomorrow will take a look at #3 and choose one.

Since I was on Lakeside anyway, I drove around the curve and had dinner at Sizzler, passing the long-abandoned Peppermill on the way. The building and signage is still there, it must be 10 years by now since they closed. I think they would do well if they re-opened.

Home, yet another bogus bill from Palo Alto Medical Center, and also something online from El Camino Hospital wanting another $375 for a bill I paid in full in June. They did not as much as hint why they thought I owed them anything. Sent a message to customer service  saying I paid in full, correct your records. Sent back the PAMF bill with a NOTE for the 10th time about which insurance company they need to bill, and telling them to try to get it right this time.

Ordered a couple of Unwoman CDs.

Found a moving company which BBB gives a perfect score to, asked for an estimate, got back a form email saying phone them. Which I will do tomorrow. Started picking possible photos for my 2012 calendar. Need to go to Booksellers and buy a few.

Signed up for a photo shoot Saturday (someone dropped out, I was on the waiting list).

The woman I met at the concert Sunday mis-spelled my email address, it was caught by the domain I set up a few weeks ago for that purpose. I emailed her as if I had not received her message (the auto-reply says it's a dead letter box, no one reads the mail there). Two strikes - one for not just cutting and pasting the correct address her friend sent, and one for not knowing how to spell "weird". She's from England, she should know how to spell English.

Plans for tomorrow:
Apartment business

Hove Bakery

Sep. 3rd, 2006 11:46 pm
howeird: (Photographer)

Hove Bakery
Originally uploaded by how3ird.

Fiunally getting around to uploading more photos from my trip. Just added a few from after the wedding festivities, on my trip from Hove to Penzance - got as far as just a little beyond Portsmouth in this set.

howeird: (Photographer)
Making life easier, I've put a link to the recent trip photos on my main web page sorted by day.

Some random thoughts about the trip:

My impression is way more % of Brits smoke than Americans, and they are horribly rude about it. Most ignore no smoking signs on train platforms, and they light up in crowds and hang around doorways. Some of the places I visited had no-smoking laws in place inside restaurants, which were mostly ignored. I understand that Real Soon Now this will be national law, but I doubt if it will stick.

Cell phone madness. Text messaging is the norm, and riding the rails was an education in how many and varied and obnoxious the ring tones can be. There are also almost as many fools there as here who never switch from the horrid cell company default tones. People tend to keep their phones well hidden, and it is not unusual for several phones to be singing at once, with their owners digging them out of pockets, bags and coolers. And as often as not the person whose phone it is turns out to be the only person who does not hear the ringing.

Penzance has a rugby team called the Pirates, and I wanted to buy a "kit" but apparently they won't have them for sale until September, well into the season. And then probably only available locally. However, they unveiled the new design by painting them onto the torsos of male and female staff alike. You can see the art work here.

Often in my travels, I noticed Brits who are at a loss for conversation fill in the gaps by stating the obvious. "That must be a tree over there" or maybe, looking at the 4-foot-tall station sign, "We're at York, now" and the ever-popular "the train has stopped". I wonder if is taken? Nope, I just checked, it' not. Maybe I should ask my cousin to register it for me.
howeird: (Default)
I'm uploading something like 1500 photos and their thumbnails and web pages as I write this. My trip to Great Britain (I didn't hit Ireland, so it wasn't the UK, and I went to Wales and Scotland, so it wasn't just England). I've journaled about half the trip, and will fill in the rest in the next few days. Also captured some maps to give you an idea of the extent of my travels.

If you want to poke around the construction site, This is the parent directory, go there at your own risk. The photos are split up by the day I took them. Click on the dates below to see the corresponding images:

04Aug: Arrival in London-Heathrow, express train to Paddington, tube to Victoria Station, train to Brighton (Hove, actually). See the wedding dress construction party and the reception hall decorating, followed by a picnic on Brighton beach.

05Aug: The wedding at Brighton Town Hall, a few shots of the Gay Pride festivities, doble-decker bus ride to the reception at The Barn theatre

06Aug: Walking and bus tour of Brighton and Hove, informal drinks with the bride & groom and family at a beachside bar

07Aug: Train ride from Hove to Penzance, via Portsmouth,  Bath, Bristol and Plymouth. Evening in Penzance, moon setting on the sea.

08Aug: Walking tour of Penzance (me in front of the Police Station), train ride to Cardiff via Bristol and Newport. Some shots of Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Castle and downtown Cardiff.

09Aug: Walking tour of Cardiff High Street, train ride to Glasgow via Hereford, Shrewsbury, Crewe, Manchester, Lancaster and Carlisle. Rush hour on Glasgow's motorways, evening walking tour of Glasgow.

10Aug: More Glasgow motorway, train ride to Inverness via Sterling and Perth, and a lot of pretty scenery. Downtown Inverness and the shores of Loch Ness. Boat tour of Loch Ness and Urquart Castle.

11Aug: Inverness to Bourne End (London Suburbs) via Perth, Sterling, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Darlington, York and Peterborough. Cousins Brian & Viv's house in Bourne End, and nearby scenery.

12Aug: More Bourne End, Little Marlow, Marlow, High Wycombe and and the grounds of Bejamin Disraeli's Stately Home, Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire.
Eventually there will be an index page in the parent directory which will take you seamlessly to the photos and travelogues.


Aug. 16th, 2006 09:32 pm
howeird: (Default)
Just a few things I noted about British English vs. American.







Conductor (Train)


For Rent

 To Let





When I showed my rail pass to the "guard" he invariably said "That's lovely".
And they have these areas called the "downs" - in a couple of tours they suggested we "go up to the downs"

The hotels don't have air conditioning, and they are over-heated. In Brighton, though it was 80F outside, the hotel's heaters were turned on, it must have been 90 in my room. Trains were also too warm.

The "To Let" signs really got to me. I wanted to put an "i" in between the two words. I think I'll photoshop one. Later.


Aug. 16th, 2006 02:42 pm
howeird: (Default)
Did I mention that while in Cardiff I bought the four Series 2 Dr. Who DVDs?


Aug. 15th, 2006 11:37 pm
howeird: (Photographer)

Originally uploaded by how3ird.

Meet cousin Shana, one of the most beautiful brides I have ever seen. Lots of wedding photos on flickr - check them out. The tag is "England". Guess which woman I fell in love with, win a prize.

howeird: (Default)
Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid

The alleged "security" precautions at Heathrow. Abysmal. Incompetent. Idiotic. Stupid.

They told us to be there 3 hours before the flight, but the airport "security" would not let us in until 2 hours before. They were not set up to process what turned out to be a normal number of weekend passengers. It took 20 minutes just to get to the boarding pass machine - this part of the trip should have been completely unaffected by the "security" measures, except the idiocy of not allowing us in early meant everyone was jammed in there at once. We all had checked bags, and this did slow things down, but not nearly as much as the ticketing personnel, who are not trained in and should not be part of the screening process, who wasted everyone's time and made the wait longer by giving us a hard time about the meager items we were allowed to bring on board. They need to just do their jobs, and leave the screening crap to the crappy screeners. Took half an hour to get my bags checked, and I was in the express line. What should have taken 2 minutes took 10.

Then there was the idiocy of two pat-down searches. The first one all the passengers went through, done by the usual guards at the passengers-only section of the airport. The second done poorly and slowly by amateurs at the United gate.

The restrictions were Just Plain Stoopid. All we were allowed to bring were:
Prescription medicine (in the original container with prescription label)
Keys (but no electronic key fobs like for car alarms)

No books, newspapers, writing implements, food, candy. Absofuckinglutely ridiculous.

It took all 2 hours to get to the plane.

As a result of this stupidity, the plane was delayed an hour. The flight was completely full.

Other than that, it was fine. Smooth flight, except for having to make a second pass at landing, and a somewhat bumpy landing. The Obligatory Screaming Baby only made a token appearance during the descent, from the rear of the plane, and only for a minute.

Will be doing the photos and filling in the travelogue during the week. Dinner time now. I need some good Thai food, I think. 
howeird: (Default)
Great Britain has proved they are even more stupid than America when it comes to airport security theater. It isn't security, it's just a feeble-minded attempt at the appearance of security to disallow any kind of carry-on items. The only thing this will do is make Samsonite richer. I'm fairly lucky, I brought a large checked bag with me, and except for my laptop and camera, everything I took with me fit in there. I may not be as lucky about the timing, I'm due to fly out early Sunday morning, my flight may be overbooked or canceled. Missing work will cost me dearly, since I don't get paid if I'm not there. My cousins will put me up for as long as necessary, so I'm very lucky that way. Travel insurance wouldn't cover this, and it's no use anyway because I need to get home somehow, it's not like I can cancel my holiday, like the locals. Big diff between being disappointed and stranded.
howeird: (Default)
Had a leisurely morning in Cardiff, which should have been moreso, except I mis-transcribed the departure time by almost an hour. But at least I got to have a nice mocha and croissant at Cafe Nemo, a popular Italian-esque chain which is the Pete's of England, a poor second to Starbucks. During my morning walk I found three of those. Took some more photos outside the castle, but that was about all. At the train station in time for the 10:10, which did not exist. It was the 10:55 I was supposed to be looking for. There was a 10:25 of the same variety, so I waited for that, except it was 22 minutes late - I probably would have found a better seat on the second one, but since there was only 10 minutes between the arrival in Bristol of the train from Cardiff and the departure of the train for Glasgow, I took the earlier one.

It was pretty crowded, I spent the trip in an aisle seat facing backwards, so no photos. None needed, this train was going back the way I had come. Had I taken local trains through Wales, I would never have arrived in Glasgow the same night.

The Bristol-Glasgow train was packed to the gills, and for some reason they had the cars pointed backwards, so most of the seats faced the rear. When the ticket taker (they call them "guards" here) came around, I asked how I could upgrade to first class. She said I couldn't. I would have to had to do that at the ticket office. But she said there were plenty of window seats facing front in the other cars, so I got up and checked. She lied. I ended up at a window seat, but facing backwards. I hate that. Makes me dizzy. Makes it harder to take pictures, because you can't see them coming.

But it was a long ride, and like all the trains here, the closer you get to the end of the line, the more seats open up. Eventually I got a good seat, back in the car I'd started in.

This was Virgin Trains, the same folks who run the airline and record stores of the same name. They advertise that all their cars have wireless internet. They lie.

It was a sunny day for most of the run, which is not as good as you might think for photos. Some day the genius who outfitted the trains here with bright white seat backs and the windows with ultra-glare glass will be caught, drawn an quartered, and forced to sit in a hall of mirrors under a well-lighted disco ball. I took lots of photos, but I'm not proud of most of them.

It was a long ride, 8 hours. The final two hours were from hell. Sitting behind me was a coarse middle-aged woman from Scotland, who loudly attracted a couple of blue-eyed, blonde English boys wh were amused by her uncultured accent and funny expressions, and when they could not make their ipod share two headsets, she taught them some noisemaking using hands and elbows which was incredibly annoying. Then their mother and sister arrived, with a baby sister in tow, and she proceeded to loudly annoy the baby, making it scream. Then their Da arrived with an even younger baby, whom she somehow managed to tickle into screaming even worse than the first. This kept up for almost the whole 2 hours between Lancaster and Glasgow. Just when I thought it was over she would start in again.

It's not that I don't like children, it's that I don't like screaming.

Arrived at the central station at 5:17, three minutes early. Hopped into a cab for the ride to the hotel, only to discover it was walking distance. No worries, it only cost £2.80, about $6. The nice lady at the desk said they were overbooked, but they had arranged for another hotel, and would pay my cab fare both there and back, and to the train in the morning. She said they would make sure my room had internet access. She lied.

She also neglected to tell me the hotel I was being sent to was out near the airport, a 20-minute ride under the best conditions, but this is rush hour. The one thing I did not have tonight was time - I needed daylight for taking pictures, and did not want to waste my first hour in town on the freeway. I complained bitterly when I got there, but she said they had nothing in town at all. So I had her call a cab right away, dropped off my pack and headed back to town. That gave me about an hour and a half of shooting time before it started to rain. Not much, but better than nothing. Ironically, when the cloudburst started I was in front of a McDonald's, so I ducked in for a chocolate shake. It tasted like coffee. When the rain let up I walked across the way to a pub which advertised food, but as often happens here, I was completely ignored, so I walked a few blocks and found a Chinese buffet. Just the thing for Scotland.

Walked back to the hotel, where they called me a cab and confirmed they would arrange one at 9 from the other hotel to the train station.
howeird: (Default)
Greetings from Cardiff, home of Dr. Who 2005-6. The day started in Penzance, with too much of it spent on the train, thanks to misinformation from the info booth at the train station. They told me the 10:25 to Cardiff arrived at 14:47, but in fact it arrives at 4:47 pm. For those of you who are 24-hour impaired, that's 2 hours later. So instead of taking the 9:30 to Bristol and changing to a train there which actually does arrive in Cardiff at 14:47, I took an hour to write postcards and have something to drink and buy a sandwich for the trip. Oh well.

Penzance is a lovely town, combo of quaint seaside harbor village and third-rate business center. Kind of like Livermore, the latter. Small enough to walk around in an hour or so. I did manage to find the police station, which is un-marked as to where it is located. Very odd, it only had the one little street lamp-shaped object above the door saying "Police" and nowhere on or around the building doe sit specifically say "Penzance". So when you see the photo of me in front of it, you'll just have to take my word. It was easy to take the photo, because there's a nice flat-topped wall about 4 feet tall around the parking entrance, and I was able to use the self-timer. So that fantasy is fulfilled.

Lots of eye candy this trip - young women wearing short skirts, the Peter Pan style is popular here, and it's almost obligatory to have a bare midriff, and below-the-hips waistline. Flip a coin between push-up bras and bra-less being the more popular. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, it's clear that  most of the teenage women here are overweight. Few flat tummies, few bubble butts. Few toned legs or arms. There is not the large number of seriously obese people here that you'll see in the US, but also not a large number of fitness enthusiasts.

The scenery outside the window is pretty consistent. Farm lands are all separated by hedge rows, often built up on earthen walls. It makes the landscape look something like a game board. As far as towns go, you can't swing a cat around by its tail without hitting an Old Stone Church, or a New Stone Church, or the ruins of an Old Stone Church. They seem to come in two models: Spires and square parapets. Housing is cheek by jowl - everyone seems to live with at least one neighbor's home joined at the hip, usually two. The large port city of Plymouth looks like housing development gone mad. It puts Levittown to shame.

This time I took a single train from point A to point B, and it was not so bad. Not crowded, and room in the baggage rack for my pack. Only had someone sitting next to me for one short hop, a girl of about 10 whose grandma parked her and her brother across the aisle from each other.

Arrived in Cardiff a few minutes early, went outside and there was Millennium Stadium right in front of me. Got the required photos right away, and since I knew my hotel was on Castle Street near Cardiff Castle, also near the stadium, I just kept walking along the river front alongside the stadium until I found a castle. Looked to my right and the hotel was a block away.

I'm happy about that because Cardiff is huge. I'm guessing it's as big as Oakland.  Maybe bigger.

And it's chock full of beautiful women. Maybe tomorrow I'll point the camera their way more. Today's photos were mostly of the impressive clock tower and wall-top guardians of the castle.

After shooting around the castle, I went in search of a Starbuck's, since the hotel internet access costs $6 an hour. Found one in a local mall, but it was about to close. Found another a few blocks away which was open till 7, so I went back to the hotel, grabbed the laptop, and sent the last day's LJ, checked email, and sent some more wedding pix to my mailing list. Just in time for closing.

I'm now back in the hotel, and will probably send this on the hotel system, while I double-check trains to Glasgow. Something the last couple of days has taught me is the train schedules are not the whole story. Which train line you take, and whether it's high-speed or locl makes a huge difference. My rail pass has been a wonderful tool, have had no problems with it at all. Which means I can change plans with impunity, with no monetary cost.

howeird: (Default)
Fully recovered from the weekend activities, I was up at 4 am, with the gnawing feeling that I had told cousin Brian to come for my suitcase at the same time my train was supposed to leave. So I got out the schedule, and saw I was wrong. It was two hours. So I went online and checked for other train departures, and found a couple which would get me into Penzance at 5:30 instead of 3:30. It's daylight here till after 9 pm these days, so that was okay. Leave Hove at 10 instead of 8. No big whoop. 

Back to sleep, woke again at 7, this time unwillingly (the alarm did it), and had a Full English Breakfast™ at the hotel. As an appetizer, they have a very American array of cereals, which I never touch, and several varieties of canned sliced fruit and real fruit. I had some canned peaches and mandarin oranges. The full breakfast is a panoply of bland. Two eggs with no seasoning, fried, poached or scrambled, with all the flavor removed. A slice of what they call bacon, which is the same cut of pork as bacon, but parboiled instead of fat fried. Much healthier, I suppose. Oh yes, and with all the flavor removed. A sausage, slightly bigger than your standard American breakfast sausage, made with 1% actual meat, 99% filling, with both the flavor and texture removed. Half a beefsteak tomato, baked. Someone's head may roll, because this one did have a modicum of flavor. Mushrooms, those generic canned ones, boiled, with all the flavor removed. Beans - the ancestor of Boston Baked Beans, in an ancestor of that same sauce, with all the flavor except a mild hint of ketchup, removed. It was quite filling, but so is a plate of sawdust.

I was way early, so I sat in the lovely lounge and read the Argus, the local paper. Lots of photos of the Pride Parade. And an article bemoaning the fact that the festival is in the red from lack of major sponsorship, and an editorial telling the greedy pub and hotel landlords to give back to the organization some of the $12 million they made over the weekend. Good stuff, and since it's Monday and some news stand down the block ought to be open, I went and bought one for myself and one for  [ profile] cinchntouch. I'll mail it when I get back.

Brian was there at 9 am sharp, put my suitcase in his car, which is when I got a text message from his wife Viv telling me he was on his way. We said so-longs (no goodbye because I'll stay with them Friday night and Saturday) and he drove off. I put on my knapsack and hike to the train station.

Reading the schedules, I saw that the train I'd picked actually went most of the way back to London, which wasn't what I wanted to do because London is NE of Hove and Penzance is SW. So I hopped on the first SW train, which was to Portsmouth Harbour. That was my original plan, so no harm no foul. I was rewarded at Pourtsmouth with a tall ship in the harbor, which was so big it took two wide angle photos to fit it all in. The nice guy at the info desk gave me two variations on how to get from Penzance from there, I took the first one, a Great FarWest to Bristol, then a  Virgin Train to Plymouth, and then another GFW to Penzance.

I was let down by the Virgin. She was late. The last time I heard that line was from my high school girlfriend. Scared the bejeesus out of me. But that's another story. The Bristol to Plymouth train was 22 minutes late, and there was only 20 minutes between trains. Except they held the Penzance train for those who wanted to get one. Not me, it was hanging-out-the-windows room only. Another 15 minutes and a long train (the high speed one from London) came along. It was also packed to the gills, I found a seat next to a kid with a GameBoy, had to keep the pack on my lap because all the luggage racks were full and it was too big for the overhead. Little by little, that train emptied, and an hour to go in the trip there were only three of us in my car.

The BritRail system is packed with easy transfer points, and they are well used.

Due to the crowded conditions, I didn't get as many pictures as I'd wanted, but I did get to see the countryside.

Thanks to the delays and change of plans, I didn't get to Penzance till 7:30, and when no taxis showed up I walked the mile to the hotel, and have the blister to prove it. I'm at the Queens Hotel, which I swore advertised either wireless or modem dial-up internet, but has neither. So I'll send this next time I have access.

After dropping off my stuff, I went on a short walk, ostensibly looking for the police station and post office, but finding a park which has a small open air theater, and caught the tail end of a pantomimed melodrama. Looked good. Did find the post office at the bottom of that street, right around the corner from the hotel. Also found a place to eat, Lugger's Hotel bar & restaurant. Very pricey menu, but it all looked good. They also had what they call a "carvery" which translates as the same kind of buffet you get at King's Table - your choice of turkey, beef or ham, and about 10 side dishes. The service sucked, it took the waiter 15 minutes just to see I was at a table, and when I asked what a carvery was, he told me he would lead me to it, but halfway there he took a side trip to chat with someone at the bar, and after I'd showed myself and told him I would order from the menu, instead of following me back to my table, he ran off to another table for 5  minutes. I asked for a glass of water, which didn't show up for 20 minutes. Very poor service, totally screwed up my plans to get to the police station before dark, and to the ice cream place before they closed. The food was okay, but not worth the wait or the price. $14 for seafood soup, where they did not bother to shuck the shrimp or the  mini crawdads. $26 for baked cod wrapped in bacon in sherry sauce. Needed salt. :-(

Original plan was to be out of here by 9:30 and in Cardiff at 2:30 tomorrow, but don't think I'll make it. Depends on when the PO opens, and when the souvenir shops open.  I need a T-shirt and a visor or cap, both for the nostalgia value and because I left all my T-shirts home.
howeird: (Default)
The word they use here is "brilliant". It describes the whole wedding weekend. More than worth the trip. Way more. Here are the events I attended:
Friday night:
Wedding Dress Construction at Auntie Hazel's hotel room
Reception Hall Decorating session at The Barn Theatre
Picnic on the beach with friends & family of bride & groom
Saturday morning:
Meet great-aunt of the bride, and her son Howard M.
Take great-aunt to wedding - picked up in cab by cousin Howard P. and wife
Pre-wedding gathering outside Town Hall
Wedding - civil ceremony in Town Hall
Double-decker chartered bus to the reception at the Barn Theatre
Personal vows exchanged, speeches by both dads, bride's and groom's older brothers (a roast, actually)
Karaoke till 11 pm
Chartered bus to hotel
Drinks with bride & groom & friends
Breakfast with bride & groom
afternoon Drinks with bride & groom, family & friends at a beachside bar
evening drinks at hotel bar where parents of bride were staying
(I was invited to dinner there too, but chose to try the local Thai place instead)

The bride is a very special person to me, the daughter of a cousin I have been connected to since childhood, and his wife who has been my pen pal since age 7 or 8. She's a theater and music professional, a green-eyed redhead (and she has the freckles to prove it), very bright and pretty and fun, assertive and confident. Finding a man who was her equal and worthy of her - who would be a partner in the best sense of the word - would be nigh on impossible. So I was surprised, delighted, and cry-in-public happy to meet Spike, who is all of that and more. They have been living together and running a business together for a while now, this is real and no flash in the pan.

Spike has a HUGE family, most of them were at the reception, and they welcomed me into the family as warmly as did my own. Even more touching because as close a connection as I have with the bride, we're fairly distant relatives, both geographically and in relationship (my great-grandpa was her great-great-grandpa).

Karaoke was every bit as fun as you would expect from two theater families, onstage with super professional lighting. Several professional quality voices, including the bride's duet with her Dad. Sally, the wife of the bride's brother, a midwife by profession, blew me away with a gorgeous alto voice and magnificent stage presence. Turns out she was a theater arts major before changing careers. Sammi, a dance teacher at the school Shana and Mike run, could walk into any lounge show and bring down the house. And so on. I sang My Way, which was just barely in my key on the machine, and nailed it. The compliments ranged from "brilliant" to "glorious" to "I've never liked that song, until now". Major applause, for which I am such a whore. I was tempted to sing another song, but decided I really couldn't top that performance.

Wedding dress photos behind the cut )

Tomorrow I'll have breakfast at the hotel, meet cousin Brian at 9 and give him my suitcase to hold onto (with my spiffy Colonel Sanders costume inside) and then head for Penzance.

howeird: (Default)
Before I fall asleep at the keyboard...

Had a wonderful afternoon & evening surrounded by family and extended family. The train from London to Brighton is fast, clean, roomy and free with my railpass. Got to Brighton in an hour, walked across the platform and 20 minutes later was bound for Hove, a 10-minute ride.

Thanks to having the address and a map at the train station, I found my hotel in about 20 minutes of walking, amazingly making all the correct turns. My room was ready even though I was way early. Nice single room with loo & shower.

Phoned cousin Viv, who was at the reception hall helping decorate. She said to find her mom and sister Hazel, at their hotel about a 10-minute walk from me.Which I did. It was a dressmaking party, with Brian & Viv's son Mike and his wife Sally.

The reader's digest version:
after a room service sandwiches lunch, met Hazel's daughter Carla, her mom Heidi, Carla's husband Taz, their baby, and Carla's sister(?). Mike & Sally drove us out to the reception hall, a gorgeous theater in the shape of a Tudor barn. Met bride to be cousin Shana, groom-to-be Spike, his brother Neil, Neil's daughter Gabby, and patriarch Harold, whose late wife was my mother's cousin.

After decorating and watching the superb light crew  of the theater at work, we went out to the beach for a picnic. We got there ab out 7:30, by 9 (when I left) all kinds of Spike's relatives and the family's friends had joined in. I hated leaving, but by this time I had been awake almost non-stop for the past 30 hours.

Took some pix, but not enough.

Tomorrow: the cavalcade of Howards. The plan is at 10 am to hop in a cab with Harold's sister Joyce, her son Howard and his wife, and ride to Town Hall for the wedding, where, hopefully, cousin Howard (uncle of the bride) will join us.
howeird: (Default)
Did most of my packing last night, and am now all done except for the things that get tossed into the carry-on bag. Didn't go to either of the two gatherings on my calendar, because at the last minute I could not find the AC adapters I'd bought, so needed to hit Rad Shack. Turns out I had bought the wrong ones last time, so it's good I made the trip. While I was in the area, I also hit Walmart for a picture frame. One of my gifts is a 10-inch square of embroidered cloth, which I figured I would frame instead of just giving loose. Wait for the update when I discover whether it made it through unbroken. It's in my checked bag, which is a strong metal shell, and it's packed between a bedspread and my bathrobe. Walmart was unusually crowded, and of course I got into the line with the trainee cashier and extraordinarily stupid people ahead of me. The other lines were faster, but not by much. And of course the register chose my receipt to jam up on, with no manager in sight to fix it. Took 20 minutes all told.

I would have done this trip with carry-on only, except for needing to bring along a suit for the wedding. Sad and boring suit tale below the cut )The cousins have volunteered to hold onto that while I traipse around the countryside, since I'll end the trip at their place. What I've done is packed the presents, which are mostly cloth, and set on top of that a day pack which has my clothes and some sundries packed inside it. By the time I leave Brighton on Monday, the presents will have been given out, a few things which are packed alongside the backpack (because the suitcase won't close if they are inside it) will go into the pack. So will my laptop and the carry-on stuff. So for my train travels I'll be working out of a medium sized day pack.

At lunchtime I stopped by the Microsoft company store and picked up some pens and a Windows Vista baseball cap, and also a T-shirt which will go to my sister when I get back home. It's white letters on black cloth, and it says "elbitapmoc sdrawkcab" in mirror image, in a sort of child's handwriting font.

I've taken out the garbage, run the dishwasher, put out my clothes for tomorrow, topped off the cats' food & water, put vacation food blocks in the aquarium, put away the stack of CDs which were in a pile on my computer desk, plugged in the Sony music player to charge, ditto the cell  phone and bluetooth earpiece.

The question is, what am I forgetting? And will it matter?
howeird: (bells)
Here I am going to England in a month and I had forgotten all about this.
London Calling

Blame [ profile] britgeekgrrl for the idea
howeird: (Default)

Got a new toy, for my England trip (I figure it will be nice to have music on my long train rides). The Sony Network Walkman E507 is a lovely MP3/ATRAC player which came out just after I was a QA tester for the 505. I'm something of an audiophile and major league critic, so it was a big surprise to me how superb the505 sounded, even with 64kbps compression. The 507 adds to this a 50-hour battery (charged via USB cable), 1Gb memory, FM tuner, a spiffy silver metal case, and a most beautiful display. You have to see it, I can't describe it except it looks like a plasma display which magically appears just under the silver metal surface. I ripped a couple of CDs to the ATRAC format (this took about 15 minutes per CD) and transferred them to the 507 - in about 2 minutes each CD.

The headphones which came with this (refurbished) unit are wonderful too. Bigger than earbuds, but small enough to fit in a pocket, very well padded, and they sound great. Less than $100. Better, IMHO, than the comparable 1Gb iPod.

howeird: (Default)

Did a little web crawling this evening, and found out that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is most of August. And it is huge!. And I will probably miss it if I go to Inverness.

Looking at the guide books, there are so many places and things I will miss that if I dwelt on that I'd be very very frustrated.

Reminds me of a going away party we had in Thailand. A bunch of us sat down with a map of the world to show where we would be going. And where we wanted to go. And we did the math. In order to spend one day in each place we all wanted to go to, we would need about 300 years.

And that doesn't count the places we would have liked to go to, except for never having heard of them.

May 2017

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