I don't think I forgot anything.
I don't think I forgot anything.
I don't think I forgot anything.
After our QANTAS flight was delayed for a whole day (due to, and I quote "a rotational issue downline", our train to Newcastle has also been redirected from Central to Strathfield at 10pm on a public holiday evening due to "operational issues." Stu and I are in an immaculate mood considering we have just done 22.5 hours of travel stretched over 40 hours of calendrical time. We did at least get through customs and security breezily. And the Heathrow Hilton was gorgeously deluxe.
I was in a good mood and okay health for most of the flights. Maybe I am really starting to develop as a person.
Maybe it was the codeine, atenolol, ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine. Who can say?
I watched a Michael Bay dumbfest called "Ambulance" and ate a Margarita Calzone on the plane. I liked the name so much, I toyed briefly with making that my drag name. Apart from that it was naps, self pity, dissociation, and watching the screen of the woman in front of me watching "Seven Years in Tibet."
Home in a few hours. Everything now is pure logistics, without a shred of sentimentality.Read more
Sitting in the Hilton Airport Hotel, having just checked in to our morning flight, and organised a taxi to the Terminal. The afternoon sun is very gentle. I've just been crying in our hotel room, which is fine because everything has been very intense.
Besides, these tears were nothing compared to the full body sobbing I did in Sydney's airport hotel on the way here. I was really upset then. I was crying because 1. I knew the trip would change me and I was scared of that, plus 2. I couldn't believe that I'd actually made it to a trip after so many months of denial and numbness. I honestly didn't believe it was going to happen. Surely something would prevent it, some drama, some tribulation.
Anyway, today was a sweet day. I'm getting sick and have a sensitive throat and a few sniffles, so I woke up feeling a little bit spacey. We went to Dolci for breakfast, and I actually ordered eggs instead of just a "pain au chocolate" (that's French for chocolate coated pain, it's very existential). We went home and had a nap for a while before cramming our bags full of the crap we've been lugging around for a month, then going for one last tube ride to Victoria Station for a beer and some people watching. With the industrial action disrupting the train network, there were plenty of people crowding about to watch.
Home after a too-strong coffee in Kensington... wait, did I say "Home"? I mean back to the Prime London to pick up our luggage, and get an Uber to Heathrow. Today was soft transit.
I'm sad to be going, but I have to remember that tomorrow's taxi, flight, train ride, and taxi home are going to be adventures in themselves.
I feel very bonded to Stuart by this whole experience, and when it comes to the idea of coming back, I wouldn't want to come back on my own.
Life is sweet.Read more
Stuart pointed out that it was raining when we arrived, and now it's raining on our last night in London.
QANTAS got in touch to say that our flight had been delayed. I also noticed that there is industrial action tomorrow and that the Piccadilly line to Heathrow will not be operating. Small inconveniences, and no doubt not the last of the trip. We have booked our stay in an airport hotel, at the Hilton no less, but only because the Aerotel was all sold out.
I woke up feeling like crap after a bad journey home from Upton Park last night. In fact, I feel like I"m on the brink of a cold, which is also a nice bookend to the trip.
We caught the tube this morning to the Natural History Museum after hearing from a girl working at Foyle's Bookstore in Bristol that it was "UGH-MAZING". And you know what? It was ugh-mazing, from the very moment the building curved into view. It is preposterously, monstrously, palatially large, and even from the moment you walk in, the very first exhibit is of a Blue Whale skeleton, which is also preposterously large. (In fact, it's the largest creature that has ever existed.)
Many of the exhibits in the Natural History Museum were interesting, but the building itself was the prime exhibit. Stuart and I walked around with our jaws agape photographing the architecture rather than the suspicious didactics of glass-case taxidermy. Everywhere we looked in that "German Romanesque" building we saw little statues and decorations of animals and plants. There were very few statues - one of Charles Darwin positioned in a provocative placement so that he looked Messianic (I didn't approve) and another of Thomas Huxley with his knuckles clenched ready to fight for acceptance of the theory of evolution. (If only he knew this fight would still be going on!)
I slouched and trudged and winced through the place, high on painkillers again, and ultimately spent as much time in the cafeteria as I did at the exhibits. Of course I went briefly apeshit in the giftshop. (Stuart: "Why are you buying an Ankylosaurus?" Me: "Because it is my FAVOURITEST DINOSAUR!" Stuart: "You have a favourite?")
After the Natural History Museum I limped over to the V&A but didn't have the muscular strength to go in. I offered to Stuart that he could have a look through while I went to a cafe, but he was tired too. We tried finding somewhere to eat in Harrod's but it was too posh to endure, so we went to Thunderbird Chicken in Earls Court instead. Beer and chips, food of the Gods I tell you.
This afternoon was a bath and some KFC. We are ready to go home, I think. The rain is gorgeous. We have had such unexpectedly and such uncharacteristically fine weather, from Surrey to Inverness, that some tears from heaven on the final day seems sweet and apropros.
We might watch Lord of the Rings tonight before conking out. Off to Heathrow tomorrow.Read more
All the pressure is off now. It's delightful. Stuart and I woke up yesterday with every intention of being spontaneous, and the idea that spontaneously occurred to Stuart was a trip to St Paul's. I had heard of it - wasn't it a cute little English church? - so we got on the tube at Earl's Court and made our way to St Paul's Station.
It was funny turning down a little alley and seeing a juggernaut Cathedral staring down at us. London is planned around this church; its streets and buildings defer to it, and even in some cases lean to one side to ensure there are uninterrupted views of it. Now I'm just glad I'm not some anti-religious heathen who thinks that every Church should be deconsecrated and turned into a public secular space - haha, what kind of insufferable bore has *that* for an opinion? - but even so I didn't feel much like going inside a Church again.
My feet were aching and my quota of Christianity was full. Stuart was gorgeously amenable to the prospect of me going to a cafe while he did a tour, so I found a sweet foxhole in Caffe Nero, bought an Oat Cap, and sat down to read a book of poetry I had bought in Berwick. The tour went way overtime, but ultimately it worked out well because I got to decompress a bit, and read a powerful queer book too. Plus, did you know that St Pauls is right next to the London Stock Exchange (God and Mammon are neighbours!) so all the financial types in their tailored suits were walking past or buying coffee, so I got a great perv on all the Tory guys. (I'll disavow them all three times before sunrise, but they do look good in a tailored suit).
After that we went to Covent Garden because Stuart's Dior Sauvage was Dior Boring and he was running out of chances for a really great niche perfume in one of the perfume capitals of the world. After a quick burger, it was back to Bloom Perfumery to see the lovely Sarah, and she got to work trying to target Stuart's taste. It didn't take her long - only fifteen minutes of sampling was enough to get Stuart down to "Vetiver Santal," "Rasputin" or "Liqueur Charnelle." Stuart chose the latter, liking its spiciness and subtle cognac notes. It's a great smell. (I liked something called "Ciel Immobile" but I will not be buying any more perfume until 2047)
Back to The Prime and our luxury Georgian cupboard of a room for a nap before I got on the train to Upton Park to meet my friend Nick at The Boleyn Tavern. I got lost on the way there (tube, cab, tube) and lost on the way back (walk, walk, uber) but at least I got to see a fair tranche of London at night, with a fox roaming quiet streets, a bunch of men in tuxedos outside a fancy hotel, a drunkard dancing, and the lights of a bridge - possibly Waterloo bridge - changing colour beneath the neon magenta of the London Eye.
Even when it's not being special, London is special.Read more
I don't have to ask if I'll ever come back to London again because I've already gone to London twice. I'm here now.
The fabled addictive quality of London is no fable at all. As soon as I got the chance, I came straight back. Stuart and I sat in The Drayton's Arms pub tonight enjoying our beer and feeling absolutely at home.
But it has been a long hard day getting here. I'm really glad we didn't try to go from Cornwall to London on the day of our flight. We would have been shattered before even getting on the plane.
We got up at 6.30 and looked at the sun rising over Bristol and Castle Park. Bristol is such a hilly place and so full of terraces and tenements, it had a weird echo of San Francisco about it. We immediately set about packing up our whole existence into our collection of bags, tidy organs in our tidy luggage body. Everything for the next 8 hours was pure logistics and plans. We were stalled by the need to settle a bill for some furniture back home, and stalled again by a fire on the M4, but otherwise it was a continuous run from Bristol to Euston Station.
We had our first London Black Cab from Euston Station to our hotel, The Prime. This was a really lovely tour experience in many ways, as we both relaxed (He the driver, I the navigator), and looked out the window at Hyde Park, at Royal Albert Hall, at Madame Tussauds.
The Prime London is a converted Georgian Terrace, very tidy and tight, small and spare, but absolutely canny. The paint job is immaculate, the marble is new, everything feels renovated and trustworthy. The concierge lady is a laugh a minute. ("The password is Welcome To Prime, not Welcome To Crime!" and "Did you find a pharmacy? I think the medicine you need is a bottle of Jack Daniels!") The whole place is disgustingly instagrammable, and I am going to instagram the shit out of it, no doubt.
We have not discussed what we will do in London. I guess the London Eye is a possibility again. So is the Natural History Museum.
I am not sure if I need to get a new suitcase so I can fly without anxiety. I'll think about that tomorrow when I'm stronger.Read more
We left the alarm off this morning, and slept in for an hour and a half. Today was to be a day without obligations or commitments.
We went for morning coffee at Bristol's Oldest Cafe in Corn Street. I imagine the building has seen better days, but I was aware that in the 18th Century that coffeehouses were centres of economic and political decision making.
From there we walked the Christmas Steps to Bristol Museum, greeted with a very welcome display about anti-racism, and about Bristol's long connection to slavery, slave money, and white supremacy. It's not just the "great men of Bristol" like Wills and Colston who derived their wealth from slavery, but the very buildings and assets of the city were funded from sugar and tobacco plantations in the Americas. Bristol's riches are Black riches. It's great to see Museums pivoting from Nationalist mythologies to egalitarian truths.
I enjoyed the art gallery, especially the chance to enjoy another Hubert Robert, and a spectacular statue of Daedalus and Icarus. The Gift Shop underwhelmed us for free, but we still gave a 10 pound donation to the Museum. It looked a little worse for wear.
The rest of the day was unremarkable. Some shopping at Next and House of Fraser. A beer at the art nouveau Clayton Hotel (with its magical Kubrickian toilet). A few griffin sightings. Some squid. Paying the congestion tax for tomorrow's return to London. And a nap.
Stu and I are starting to reflect on the trip as a whole, and reminding ourselves that the important thing is to look forward to the future, not dwell in the past. We've just been through such a riotous hurricane of hedonism, exoticism and inconvenience over the past four weeks, it's hard not to be captivated by Whatever The Hell Just Happened. But we are making plans for work, for Stu's retirement, for my mental health, for our physical health. And I have been nurturing the seed of another trip for years now anyway - back to San Francisco, down to New Mexico, and then to wherever Stuart wants to go. It's important to have something on the horizon.
I've just paid the 15 pound congestion tax in the middle of typing up this footprint. We discussed tonight that we probably won't want to do another driving holiday. It is a world of trouble for us. So far from liberating our movements, it has lumbered us with this huge chunk of metal we're supposed to care for, protect, and pay for. Parking has been a nightmare. Driving has been a needless stress. And catching buses, trains, ferries, taxis, and ubers is such a great way to get to know a city.
It's our last night in Bristol, this deliciously imperfect place, everything just a bit scuffed and scarred, but pointed resolutely toward the future. I hope I take some of this energy with me.Read more
"Bath is a façade city," said our tour guide Charlotte. "For wealthy Georgians, this place was Las Vegas or Monte Carlo. It was all about tourism. So the money was spent on the front of buildings, not so much on the back."
She really did look a lot like Imogen Stubbs, did Charlotte. But her tour was progressive and electric. She wasn't trying to sell Bath's image as a place of Austen-franchise romance. She wanted to take us behind the "honey coloured sandstone" to the impulses and real stories behind Bath's architecture and existence. She started with the myth of Bladud, a leper whose pigs were cured of leprosy in the spring waters of Bath, and who founded the settlement the Romans later called Aqua Sulis. Then she talked us through the Roman settlement and the Georgian appropriation of the Roman myth, before talking about more modern controversies - like the overpriced and overdue Thermae Baths, a privatised venture selling "Taking the Waters" in modern architecture. Stuart and I had nearly gone to the spa instead of the tour. We were right to change our minds. A walking tour of Bath, starting at the Abbey, taking in Pultney Bridge, the Circus, the Crescent, Beau Nash's Theatre Royal, the Thermae, Jane Austen's house in Trim Street (Austen hated it, and I loved her for hating it), and the medieval wall just around the corner. It was 90 minutes of ocular delight and intellectual thrill.
I was in a lot of pain walking around Bath, though. My foot was screwed. I took my last codeine tablets just trying to stay good humoured, but I still cracked the shits when we embarked on tour number two at the Roman Baths, an interminable trove of audio devices we all held up to our ears, shuffling through the (Georgian restored) Roman Baths. I could barely stand the longwinded audio tour after taking such a great walking tour. I turned the damn thing off. Stuart had one of the biggest smiles I've seen on his face this whole trip - he loved the Roman Baths! I felt more in common with the slutty teenage girls taking ass pics by the baths themselves, next to a paid model dressed as a Roman Matron photobombing everyone's instagram. I wanted to take some slutty shots myself, but I didn't want to throw my back out.
We had Sicilian for lunch. Our waiter had platinum curled hair and dark brown eyes. I had an espresso with lemon and sugar in it.
Anyway, I loved Bath. And the fact that we got a parking ticket for 25 pounds because their own parking system was broken didn't depress me. Stu is disputing it. He is right to dispute it, but I am more "this river lives in Mombasa anyway" about it all. And let the record show: if the council hadn't been so shitty with their parking, we would have spent a LOT more money in their little town, so, lol. #TooBadSoSad
After we got home, I went and had a quick shave (just with foils, not with a blade) at Exposure Barbers, then Stu bought a book, we had a beer, and some KFC for dinner.Read more
Day 30 of this bizarre Odyssey. Who knows what's going on back in Ithaca. I'm sure Penelope and Telemachus have everything in hand.
Today was another day of weird delays and detours. There's nothing to do at this point but to lean into it, and to see every plan of action as a mere prayer to some foreign and capricious god.
Our plan was to head out to the Clifton Suspension Bridge at 8am, then have a coffee in Clifton, come home and rest, and I would go for a massage on my legs for which I've been taking pain pills.
What happened instead was we went for coffee at Caffe Nero, took an hour to get the bus to Clifton (our tickets didn't even work), ended up spending an inordinate amount of time at the Visitor's Centre (the charming woman there wanted to give us a free TED talk on the fate of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but it was pretty cool I will admit), then after coffee we got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home because of the Great Bristol Run. At home, we had to change hotel rooms because the toilet wouldn't flush (right when flushing was R E Q U I R E D [I said "Abandon Shit" and Stu said "Shit shape and Bristol Fashion."]) and then we ended up walking to a super scruffy part of Bristol, me holding onto a failing bag of laundry like a body bag (we lost a sock, and then picked it out of the gutter on the way home), and then FINALLY, I went for my massage and the guy used a massage gun and wouldn't stop telling me conspiracy theories.
But you know what? Today was GREAT. Coffee at Bar Chocolat in Clifton was beautiful, and the bus ride was fun. We saw SO many great buildings we would never have noticed driving around. The suspension bridge was astonishing, and I loved seeing the rejected designs at the Visitor's Centre, especially a gaudy Victorian gothic style design by the Colossus of Roads, Thomas Telford. I K Brunel's Egyptian styled suspension design is peerless, and in real life, it takes your breath away.
I got to see two parts of Bristol that tourists wouldn't normally see, a Redcliffe Council Estate and the St Judes market: so much poverty, so much struggle, so much ugliness, and so much camaraderie and nobility.
And after it all, Stu and I went to The Wellhead and recited the rivers we had now seen:
The River Thames
The River Tillingbourne
The Waters of Leith
The River Ness
The River Avon.
Bristol is a jewel of a place. I'm having a great time. And I have a working toilet too.Read more
I guess we must have thought, looking at the EasyJet website five months ago, that since the flight from Inverness to Bristol was only an hour and ten minutes, we'd really have the whole day in Bristol to enjoy and discover.
What's an hour and ten minutes? It's nothing! We'd be practically waking up in Bristol, right? And once there, the airport is just outside of town, we can drive straight to our digs, and strut around town!
This isn't exactly what happened. The flight itself was a masterpiece of genial efficiency, Scottish style. The road from our Inverness cottage to the airport was empty and beautiful. The airport was small. The security were friendly and clear. The aircraft was small. I had nobody sitting next to me. We got away on time. We arrived early.
But the shit and the fan had not yet met their point of encounter.
That was to come the moment we stepped outside Bristol airport, and had to wait for a long time for the bus to the Car Rental Building, located I think on one of the Faroe Islands considering how long it took us to get there. The building was a desolate glass and steel warehouse, and when we walked in, we were the only customers in a huge hall surrounded by competing car rental companies. It was like an abandoned space port.
The Sixt Car Rental booth was abandoned, but eventually an obsequious man in a waistcoat arrived and started spinning us all sorts of complex yarns. My face turned to thunder again. I was having none of it. Stuart was the picture of calm. We were referred to the Europcar booth - useless, and then to the Avis booth - useful, but hilariously slow. It took us around 30 minutes of standing at the booth for the computer to process our rental, a little Fiat for four days to be dropped off at Euston.
The Fiat was a nice size, but it had a strange ring around its gear stick. You had to pull the ring up like a foreskin to get the thing into reverse. We only learned that by Googling it and watching a YouTube tutorial while the car was plonked illegally in the Hertz parking spaces.
Isn't this a great Find Penguins entry?
Anyway, we made it to Bristol and we were able to park the car - but not check in. So we went to Cabot Circus - another lunar bio-dome full of disaffected teens with painted hair and torn clothes - I loved them ALL - where we had the WORST coffee of the trip at Costa Coffee. Still, it was fun to walk around in the glittering sunshine and see how dynamic, how activated, how convivial Bristol is. There's a bit of hollering and hooting, but nothing too spooky.
We got a glimpse of some of the city's charms - Castle Park, a few boats, a dining district - but really we have barely arrived.
The lesson here is: it takes all day to go from one city to another. You might feel like it takes an hour, but it takes all day. The energy required to pack up all your chattels and hit the road is immense!
I'm glad we have a four day stay. Tomorrow: Clifton Suspension Bridge, and better fucking coffee!Read more