Category Archives: United Kingdom

Travelogue Dusseldorf: Colchester


2 – 5 June 2022

Christian had been invited to meetings with clients in London after the Dusseldorf Trade Fair. The dates happened to coincide with Queen’s Jubilee long weekend (2 bank holidays in the UK) and we were able to take that Thursday and Friday as leave between the work commitments in order to maximise the time with our friends in Colchester before having to go to London to resume the work agenda.

Barely an hour’s hop from Dusseldorf to London, there wasn’t much time to do anything besides find space for the in-flight hospitality, which (hardly surprisingly for a morning flight departing from Germany) was a platter of cold meats, cheese, butter and bread.

We had booked a car to take us from Heathrow to the train station and Alex had booked us train tickets online in advance, all to streamline the planes, trains and automobiles required to traverse London – with our 4-seasons-sized luggage – to get to our friends.

For once, everything went more than according to plan and we found ourselves at the train station with an hour to spare, which was a nice change to the usual breakneck high-pressure bolting we’ve been known to do to both catch and miss trains in the past.

The train was very civilised; not too busy, clean and new, with free wifi, so it was a comfortable commute out of the throng of London and evaluating what we could see of the towns at each stop along the journey.

Alex was waiting for us on the platform when we arrived in Colchester Town; fortunately, with a car that could accommodate our massive suitcases.

We were greeted with much excitement, a run down of the plans that had been pencilled for us and a check-in on whether there were any special requests from our side on activities for the coming couple of days.

Our hosts had done a fabulous job of creating shared contribution to our entertainment plan. While we would be staying at Robbie’s house, Alex and Luke were responsible for picking us up and feeding us Thursday’s dinner, Johnnie and Lisa would be hosting Friday’s feast and everyone would join us at Robbie’s for a feeding on Saturday afternoon.

We were taken to drop off our bags at Robbie’s before driving round to Alex’s new place. Just around the corner from the place she’d lived at on our last visit, the new spot was in Lieutenant House, the extensively refurbished officers’ mess of the old Edwardian army barracks. Best of both worlds with new and modern interior juxtaposing the historical building and surrounds.

Although there is much evidence of being a military town in more recent history, Colchester was first an ancient Iron Age settlement, once ruled by Cuneobelin ‘King of the Britons’. Following the Roman Invasion in AD43, a city was established on the site of Camulodunum and designated the Roman capital of Britannia by Emperor Claudius. Its destruction at the hands of Boudicca is well-documented, but the Roman settlement rose up again and the remains of several buildings from this period can still be seen on a trip to the town.

Roman Colchester probably had a population of 10-12,000. That seems small in today’s world but in those days England had a tiny population so, by Roman standards, Colchester was a large and important town, particularly because of its position near the sea.

As far as we know Colchester’s status as a Colonia, awarded by the Emperor Claudius, has never been revoked, however Colchester has been long classified as a town… until 2022 when it was awarded official city status as part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

It was a lovely sunny day so we were able to lounge on the terrace – with Gary, Alex’s long-legged hounddog, naturally taking the best seat in the house and us arranging ourselves around him ? – catching up and catching rays before a leisurely lasagne early supper.

There were several festivities planned in town for Jubilee Weekend, so we decided to make the most of the pleasant evening and take a wander down to our first excursion; to the Arts Centre to attend the 35th Annual Ale and Cider Festival. The location was a converted church and we were briefed upfront that the standard practice is for guests to utilise the church’s graveyard as one would normally relax in a back garden, using the larger tombs as tables and benches.

With over 160 ales, ciders, Belgian beers, English wines, soft drinks and snacks on offer, and open from 12 noon to 11pm each day, we could have been there all weekend!

The countless kegs were arranged along the back and side walls with several servers talking the festival-goers through the options outlined in the printed menus. We had bought punchcards at the entrance, so it was quick and easy to order and start ticking off the options that intrigued us.

More in it for the novelty than the flavours, we tested some real very crafty craft beers that we would normally only order over our proverbial dead bodies… but since we were socialising in a literal graveyard, it seemed as close to those circumstances as we were going to get. It was a lively old time, sharing a laugh and comparing notes on beer samples with some of Alex and Luke’s friends.

Once we’d finished our punchcards, we took a walk into Colchester town to a pub called 3 Wise Monkeys, where we were able to get more conventional options.

Shortly, Robbie joined us. He’d been in Glasgow overnight watching a football match and had just arrived back on the train. And as if that reunion wasn’t joyous enough, soon thereafter Johnnie arrived!

It was quite novel to finish up at the pub and be able to walk home, stretching some of the tastings out in the fresh night air. Everything in Colchester seems such a manageable distance apart too.


Alex had pre-booked us into a 9am Bootcamp class with her. Chris and I weren’t quite sure what to expect – and he feared the worst, thinking it would be quite prancy and aerobic. Nothing of the sort, we were split into teams of 3 and rotated running across the field carrying a sandbag, hoisting weights, lifting and dropping medicine balls… all while the teammate tasked with setting the timing for each activity had to do endless ‘burpies’ (drop to the floor, do a push-up, jump up again sort of thing). It was hard work! But fun.

Alex then dropped us back at Robbie’s house so we could change, grab a bacon sarmie and head back out again for another outdoorsy activity; walking down the river to a little neighbouring village called Wivenhoe. The inspiration was to give Gary a walk, the motivation was the beautiful blue sky and sunny weather, which was a blessing for these parts that couldn’t be squandered.

We set off as a merry group, chatting as we walked and admired the scenery. And telling Gary quite often what a Good Boy He Was.

The walk to Wivenhoe earned us a pint in the lovely Rose & Crown on the riverfront. It was too hot to sit with Gary at the exposed tables in the front, so we found ourselves a shady spot in the secret beergarden at the back.

With an impending feast at Johnnie’s in just a couple of hours, we resisted eating at the pub even though there was the most heavenly aroma of fish and chips lingering on the air.

Good thing too because it real wasn’t long before we’d caught the train back and walked over to Johnnie’s house, which was literally around the block.

Ever the decadent host, Johnnie had decided on a multi-course carnivorous adventure explaining to his wife, Lisa (who had yet to meet us) “Souf Effricans love their meat”.

Ensconced outside the shed in the back of their wonderfully full and green garden, Johnnie lit a Weber to smoke a massive tomahawk steak which was cut into thick and juicy strips for starter samples.

Johnnie had built a DIY pizza oven over lockdown, in which a wood fire was kindled to start off the Korean ribs. They were finished off in the oven – alongside a rather large leg of lamb – and the pizza oven then used to painstakingly manage baking several flatbreads, which Alex had made from scratch at home and carefully wrapped in brown paper to prevent them sticking together.

The food, the weather and the company made for a truly memorable afternoon (even with the bottle of Killeputsch Jagermeister-lookalike we’d brought from Dusseldorf).


The Queen’s Jubilee weekend having given us the 2 bonus public holidays meant that by the time Saturday rolled around, we felt like we’d already had a full weekend. What a treat!

We had committed to do a Parkrun on Saturday morning to sweat out a bit of the indulgent Friday feasting. Showing mercy, Alex and Luke drove us through to Mersea Island which was a flatter course along the water’s edge which should make the 5km track a little easier to manage under the circumstances (a brutal combination of the Bootcamp stiffness and the party effects).

Helped a lot by the weather no doubt (grey and overcast, but clear, and cooler than the previous days) we all ran really well, most setting Personal Best times, which was quite an achievement! … That earned us a Full English breakfast at a local restaurant.

Driven back to Robbie’s, we had time to shower, relax and watch a bit of telly (lots of coverage of the Jubilee festivities in London) before heading out to get last minute supplies for our reciprocal hosting duties later that afternoon, where Robbie had promised everyone roast chicken and chips.

We took the scenic route to the shops, ending off in Castle Park with its Roman ruins and War memorial statues. SO much history in this town-recently-turned-city!

By now the sun had come out and it was another beautiful day, which could not be wasted on chores alone, so we grabbed a cheeky pint at The Castle pub for time to absorb our surroundings. This included spotting that they did a Sunday Roast and, always being a meal ahead in the planning stakes, we immediately mentally committed to return the next day for our final meal before needing to leave for London.

Robbie’s house had a courtyard garden, which we took advantage of on our return home, setting up at the table outside so we could easily man the kitchen as well as bask in outdoortime opportunity.

The remainder of the group trickled in, and, being such engaged eaters, each stopped to peek at the stove, stir a thing, sample, add a something, offer some sage advice, sample again. It was wonderful and the kitchen smelt like heaven.

Robbie had recently bought an airfryer, so even I was able to contribute, offering to man the chips and showcase the wonderment of this modern domestic miracle machine. I cheated a bit, splitting the bag of oven chips into batches, pre-cooking and seasoning each batch and then throwing them all in together as the more sophisticated bits of the meal were nearing readiness.

Robbie had outdone himself! Prosciutto and green asparagus starters, followed by the golden roasted quarter chicken legs with bright green steamed broccoli stems and TWO sauces; a traditional bread sauce (which was a childhood favourite of his that none of us knew about) and a heavenly white wine and mushroom sauce.

We ate, we laughed, we shared stories, we debated the playlist, we drank, we laughed, we ate some more. What a brilliant day!

Once the others had all left, Chris, Robbie and I turned on the telly to watch the Jubilee Concert being held outside Buckingham Palace. We had tuned in quite well into the show and were greeted with Rod Stewart belting out “Sweet Caroline”. Not his song. How odd.

That was not the last surprise in the eclectic collection of performers, young and old, classic and contemporary, British and international. No clear golden thread of who or how these artists had found themselves on this line-up, interspersed with speeches by Prince Charles, Prince William, an Attenborough and the likes.

The lights show, projected onto and above the Palace, was truly spectacular in quality and pure magnitude and we wondered how they could have practiced it without giving the game away.

It was soon lights out for us; having had a very long and very full weekend.


Sadly, Sunday was our time to leave Colchester. We held true on our last hurrah being the Roast at The Castle and were seated at a big table at the window (the weather had turned and it was most certainly indoor conditions) by 11h30, ready and raring to go.

We had the most delicious plate of roast lamb and ALL the trimmings; Yorkshire puddings, 3 veg, roast potatoes, sage and onion stuffing…  and 2 large gravy boats provided without even having to ask. If we lived in Colchester, this is where you would find us every Sunday for sure.

Alex and Luke drove us down to the train station for our 1pm train that would see us in London within an hour.

With a train strike on the go and heavy luggage in tow, we didn’t hesitate to grab a cab to get us to our hotel, the Dorsett in Shepherd’s Bush.

We had made arrangements to go and visit friends of ours from South Africa for Sunday sundowners at a Jubilee street party in their road in Hampton Hill. Although only a few miles away, it was still a good half hour in an Uber so we headed straight out so we’d be able to make the most of our time.

They were delighted to see us! We spent a couple of quality hours at their kitchen table, catching up on the 5 or so years it had been since we saw them last (when we’d done a flyby visit past their old house in Twickenham on our way out of the previous UK flit), before testing out their street party.

Good on the UK government; they had encouraged citizens to celebrate Jubilee in style by not only closing off portions of the roads that applied, but also providing an allowance to be spent on party requirements like food, marquees, equipment etc! It was such a great opportunity for neighbours to get to know each other, and very patriotic with Union Jack bunting and party favours.

Such a pity it was a Sunday and this was a work trip, because we had to be sensible and return back to our hotel at a reasonable time in order to accommodate the Monday workday – a particularly early start since the UK was an hour behind South African time, so we’d be logging on at 7am to keep in sync.


Largely uneventful as a working day, I had logged in and been glued to my laptop all day while Christ went off in a taxi (thanks to the train strike) to his work appointments. He did have a very successful day and returned with gushing stories about the sites he’d seen and how many innovation ideas he would be able to return home.

We were supposed to have met Faye for an after-work drink and a catch-up, but with us in West London and her in East London and a train strike to contend with, the logistics would be so cumbersome to get from A to B that we might as well not have been in the same city at all.

With no commitments, we decided to rather take a walk around our neighbourhood and find a curry house to enjoy the last meal of our trip. We lucked upon the Rajput and had a(nother) very large meal with a BYO bottle of red from the convenience store next door.

Again, we revelled in the opportunity to walk off our meal on the way back to the hotel. So much so that we bypassed our door to do a lap around the Shepherd’s Bush Green across the road.

Travelogue Newcastle 2

08-11 Nov 2015

Our walk to the bus station in Reykjavic at 5.30am (!) was easier than both our arrival walk and our expectation. Apparently bloody cold doesn’t feel any bloody colder bloody early! As if by way of an approving farewell after our awesome adventure, the Northern Lights blinked green flashes on the few clear patches of the otherwise cloudy sky, by way of farewell.

We made good time and immediately boarded the bus (with 15 minutes to spare) to nap on the 40 minute commute to the airport which, as usual, was a waiting game with little but foraging for breakfast to keep us entertained until departure.

It makes good sense to be knackered for an Easyjet flight though. The seats are wide and comfortable enough but with no reclining and no entertainment, it’s best to be tired enough to sleep away the journey. Fortunately, my niggling cold and antihistamines from the airport rendered me unconscious, so I’m sure it was a lovely enough flight for those that were “there” to enjoy it.

Manchester Airport is another thing entirely. The car hire is at an off-site ‘village’ so we were guided to a shuttle bus stop that would lead us to the chariot that would get us back home to The Toon. It took forever to come…

And then – horror of horrors! – I found out that Alex had booked with Europcar… which anyone who lived through our Spain Great Car Hire Saga of 2013 would know was questionable territory for us. But, when we made Christian co-driver on the rental agreement our agent, Yakov, said he was already loaded on the system and upgraded us to a large Skoda stationwagon “for all our luggage”, which totalled 2 small carry-on cases and 2 togbags. Still, it was very roomy and comfortable so small mercies from the karmic wheel turning.

The English countryside is prettier than its given credit for and we all wondered why we never road trip the journey rather than mapping the destination.

We made it back to Tynemouth in one piece, largely thanks to Alex’s tireless driving and navigating (with a small special mention to the Burger King at the truckstop), in time to refresh and jump on the Metro to Newcastle Central for our concert.

The concert venue, the O2 Newcastle, has the feel of a converted theatre in size and layout, but must’ve been a concert hall for a fair amount of time based on the lived-in wooden flooring and the smell of stale beer.

The tickets had advertised starting time as 7pm – which seemed fitting with Bad Manners’ frontman (Buster Bloodvessel) well into his sixties – so we were relieved on arrival to see it was still a supporting act on stage. There was, in fact, still another supporting act to follow – a band called The Extra Specials, who specialise in covering The Specials’ songs – and soon the fatter aging fans were huffing and puffing from their pogo’ing and carrying on.

Most of the audience had made efforts to dress the part for the evening and there were more Oxblood Doc Martens in one place than I can remember ever seeing, even in our heyday. Braces, brogues, monochromatic outfits – the uniform for the non-conformist!

Bad Manners gave an excellent (and lengthy) performance and the crowd gave an equally enthusiastic response, with some of the older fellas taking survival breaks along the way.

We shouldn’t point fingers too much though since after the concert, early hours of Christian’s birthday ‘n all, our after-party of choice was to go home and midnight snack on toasted cheese sarmies!

This weekend’s arrangements in general were much looser since we’d done all our sightseeing the previous weekend. We’d already made plans to meet Natalia and Uncle Bill at Lui’s for a coffee at 11 and Lucy, Mick and the kids at the new fish shack on King Edward Bay for lunch, so had the luxury of a lie-in and breakfast of choice for Christian’s birthday, bacon sandwiches. Alex and Robbie had been nice enough to sneak out and drop off the car (in Newcastle Central) so met up with us at Lui’s.

It’s always nice to meet in person people who you’ve heard so much about or sort-of know from Facebook. Feels like you’ve got so much catching up to do with people you’ve never even met before!

Our coffee date went all too quickly so we convinced Natalia to come to lunch with us. Uncle Bill was having none of that (“in my day fish ‘n chips were for poor people!”) but was easily talked into a lunch date for noon the following day for a carvery at The Gibraltar Rock, so there was no need for long goodbyes and we all had something to look forward to.

The fish shack was quite a surprise – far off the usual greasy chippie, the choices were mackerel, red mullet or monkfish all served in a paper basket lined with a wood-fired oven bread akin to a naan, with the fish and 3 scoops of 3 different salads nestled around the edges and an artistic swirl of 2 different sauces to top it off. Everything was fresh and crunchy and between the naan-like bread, the sambal-like salad and the curry-like sauce swirl, Christian was pleased as punch with his birthday lunch!

We’d been very lucky with the weather (enough so that there had been half-naked swimmers at the fish shack! Not that it was anywhere near warm enough to warrant that, mind!) so decided to make the most of the clear day and enjoy a beer at a pavement table in the sunshine on Front Street. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea and the only available table was at the Working Man’s Club, which was good enough for us.

As soon as the sun started setting behind the church it started to get chilly, which was perfect impetus to get us moving to get home and into warmer evening gear for the trip to Newcastle for the New Zealand vs Tonga game.

It was the last game of the day so, at a 7.45pm, allowed us opportunity for a civilised dinner in Tynemouth, rather than competing with the crowds in town.

The pie, mash and gravy at the Turks Head was so good it felt like it was MY birthday! The menu format is very simple and effective, guiding you through choice of pie flavour (chicken & mushroom, steak & ale, venison or potato & leek), choice of mash variant (plain, cheesy, horseradish or mustard), choice of side (peas, mint peas, mushy peas or beans) and then sauce (gravy or red wine sauce) so you get the exact combination you want. And for a fiver it was a quality bargain meal! It was so filling that we were all a bit sluggish on the journey and the boys didn’t even have a drink in the first half of the game!

There had only been 2 rugby tickets for this game so Alex and I had a wander around the town and the fan park then cut through the China Town to get to Harry’s, where we’d planned to meet the boys later. Even with our walking, we were still a bit full so nursed a drink while we people-watched.

The boys joined us soon after and showed us a video of the stand-off between the Kiwi’s Haka and the Tongan equivalent. The stadium was pin-drop silent during the performance but roared in appreciation when the players were done. I zoned out on the rest of the feedback from the game since NZ always win, don’t they?

We caught a cab back to Front Street, where it looked like things were winding down… but we still managed to get in last rounds with Mick at a spot we hadn’t yet tried, called Lola’s.

Our last day allowed us a very leisurely start, only needing to be at the carvery for noon. Of course, this also meant we were *ravenous* when we got there and dished up *way* too much food… and finished *all* of it. Three roasts, four veg, two (types of) potatoes, Yorkshire pud; all swimming in gravy and all gone very quickly!

The Cain contingent across the table (Uncle Bill, Natalia and Aunty Mary) had dished more conservatively, but seemed to enjoy their meal just as much so we can conclude that it’s a winner even when the meal isn’t as much of an emergency life/death situation. (And a bargain at 2 people for 10 Pounds!)

Even with the frenzied feeding upfront, we still enjoyed a leisurely lunch date and a lengthy chat. We bid farewell to Uncle Bill and Aunty Mary from there, but Natalie caught the Metro into town with us because she had a shopping date planned with her friend, James. She also tipped us to visit the Grainger Street Market if time allowed after the game.

We made it to the stadium in the nick of time, hearing the Samoan anthem as we were walking in and getting to our seats just in time for the opening bars of “Flower of Scotland”. Our seats were near the front of the section behind and just to the right of the posts that saw all the action in both halves – the Samoan offensive in the first half and Scotland’s in the second. To my mind, we could not have asked to be better placed for a game that seemed to have more than the usual tryline action.

After the game we made our way back to Grey Street so the boys could watch the Australia game while we went to investigate the market. It was relatively late for the market so most of it was shut already, but there were still a few shops worth investigating.

Intent on (another) curry dinner, we made our way back to Tynemouth to have a sit-down at Gate of India. It had other ideas however and we were put off by the long queue for both in-dining and take-away so cut our losses and headed for home for sausage sandwiches instead.

Our quiet night had us up and fresh early on Sunday for our final packing and cleaning before meeting Mick and Lucy at Lui’s for breakfast at 9, so that Alex and Robbie could be off for their 10.30 train, Mick could get to work and Lucy and the girls could get Christian and I to the airport for 11.

Another brilliant holiday all wrapped up; thanks to all the people that made it possible and special!

Travelogue Newcastle 1

01-04 October 2015

Having sworn I’d never holiday in the UK again (because of the dreadful state of the Rand and a worldful of as-yet unexplored destinations), the last thing I’d imagined was breaking the pledge to attend a sporting event, of all things.

But Christian was very excited to have been (a bit too) successful (if you ask me) in the IRB lottery and had secured tickets to all 3 matches being played in Newcastle. Since I’d never been to Newcastle, wanted to see birthplace, would get to see his favourite cousin and had our trusty travelmates joining us from London, it all seemed like a swimming idea!

Better yet Christian’s aunt and uncle offered to house swap for us and (favourite) cousin Lucy volunteered to fetch us from the airport so, since it was homeground and there was no “what to do” research to be done, there was little else to do but book flights and wait impatiently for what promised to be a cracking holiday.

The wait was well worth it and we were greeted with warm welcome – by the Newcombe ladies: Lucy and her daughters, Nell and Effie – and warm weather, which I’m told is a rarity.

The airport is close to town and it’s a pretty scenic drive through the countryside and winding village roads, so it’s more of an experience than the chore it is back home. We were soon at our holiday digs, a charming home in the very lovely Tyneside; parallel and one road in from the beach and a short trot into the action on Front Street.

Since it was such a perfect blue-sky day, a quick shower and change later, we were out the door and headed on foot to see some of what our locale had to offer.

Tynemouth is beautiful and quaint, like a slice of history untouched by time. Some effort and dedication must have been put in to maintain the turn-of-the-last-century-and-before buildings and retain the elegant facade of the much-prettier architecture from a time where form surpassed function.

We took a turn down Front Street, which was a buzz of activity with patrons from generous helping of coffee shops, pubs and restaurants spilling outside to pavement tables, enjoying the sunshine. Lucy pointed out the highlights as we listened intently and mentally mealmapped feeding times for our short stay.

The end of Front Street brought us out at at The Priory, where we turned left and walked along the coastline to Longsands for a nibble at Crusoe’s on the beachfront – delicious steak pie and sausage roll (made with real pork sausage).

Little Nell had a lovely runaround in the sand but – lacking the necessary play paraphernalia since our excursion had been spontaneous and on foot – had to settle for the promise of a return visit the following day for a proper beach playtime in the “sandysandsand”.

It was only a short walk back to the house, to my surprise still moving in the same direction as we’d come from; revealing we’d walked in a big loop and reinforcing my shocking sense of direction.

Wanting to make the most of our time together, we tagged along with the Newcombes to their house, where we had a leisurely mooch-about until Mick got home from work and Nell insisted on a “walk around the block”, so we went to the shops. Another lovely neighbourhood, we enjoyed the stroll around Whitley Lodge, appreciating how different everything was to home and feeling quite content with clean and open suburbanness of it all.

With the girls fed and off to bed, we called in for a curry and settled in at the diningroom table for a yummy dinner and quality time with quality company.

On Friday morning Lucy called in for us just after 9 and we took an amble to Front Street for breakfast at Lui’s.

And what a breakfast it was! Cumberland sausages, Lorne sausage, black pudding, white pudding, doorstop toast, eggs, beans, mushrooms, tomato… spoilt for choice! We vowed a return over the weekend with the London contingent.

… who were due to arrive imminently, so we made our way back to the house…

… with 20 minutes to spare.

The usual joyous reunion, our friends were as delighted as we had been to see how lush our accommodation was and just as eager to see what Tynemouth had to offer based on our enthusiastic reviews of what we’d seen and done so far.

We took then down the now-familiar route to Front Street, where they oooed and aaahed as we had about the prettiness of it all.

We started the walking tour with a stop-in at “The Land of Green Ginger”, an old very traditional-looking church that had suffered waning parishioners and thus had been converted into a shopping arcade in 1980, despite religious influences wanting the church to be demolished rather. It’s quite comical to see an old school church with a giant plastic ice-cream cone model at its door, beneath a banner pronouncing the church to be the home of an ice-cream parlour.

As you walk into the church, there’s a big brass plaque with a list of names of parishoners who volunteered to fight in the second Anglo-Boer War (the one that the British won), counting among them Christian’s great-grandfather, Peter Slater.

We then walked the length of Front Street – pinpointing establishments we intended to sample – and walked up to the Priory. We decided to forego the tour, opting rather to walk the length of the pier to the lighthouse at the end. The pier is quite a length and has a twin eminating from the opposite bank of the river, together guiding ships safely into the mouth of the Tyne.

From there our next stop was the Collingwood Statue – a monument to the Admiral who led the first British ship into the Battle of Trafalgar. The statue of Collingwood himself is set high atop a stone column, with wide stone steps below flanked by four of the actual canons from his ship, The Sovereign. The view from the monument’s park looks out to sea and was particularly spectacular with the sunny clear day contrasting the bright green grass with the backdrop of blue skies and seas.

From there it was a stone’s throw to our ultimate destination, Northshields Fish Quay, for lunch. A bit hot under the collar though, we stopped in for a Magners cider in The Quay Taphouse before making our way to have fresh and plentiful fish and chips at The Waterfront restaurant.

A bit overspent on time, we hightailed back, deftly navigating a shortcut through town, to Longsands to meet Lucy and the kids.

The beach was quite busy, with people clearly making a plan to come and enjoy the quite unseasonal summer’s day in Autumn. While warm and sunny, it certainly wasn’t swimming weather by home standards and we didn’t want for swimwear nor regret being in jeans.

On the beach Lucy had spotted people she knows and on our way out we all bumped into some people Christian had met when he’d been out a few years ago so, combined with our confidence at navigating around the town, was as warm as the weather to feel like a local on our first full day of holiday!

We celebrated our good spirits with a stop in at Copperfields, a traditional pub located behind the – one would guess aptly named – Grand Hotel, and then were back on the road for a sunset walk along the waterfront.

Not really sure of where we were or where we were going, but knowing we couldn’t go far wrong as long as the sea was on our right, it took encountering a tourist sign to realise we’d walked from Longsands, through Cullercoats and almost missed Whitley Bay!

We turned inland and had a pint at the King George pub, momentarily homesick from other patrons who had their dogs with them. That said, none of our lot would behave well enough to socialise in this manner, so we’d miss them just as much even if we had brought them with us!

We decided our next stop would be the Avalon biker bar that Christian had visited and enjoyed on previous visits… but were disappointed when we found the venue and the bar had been closed down. The entire street was largely boarded up pubs and clubs though, so we surmised we’d stumbled into the graveyard of what had previously been the thumping heart of The Best Stag Do Destination of not so long ago.

Never known for dwelling on disappointment for too long, we went into Fitzgeralds instead – a large pub, oddly empty, especially bearing in mind there were 2 burly bouncers manning the entrance. That said, they spent the entire duration of our pint denying a girl access to the pub despite her heatedly and stubbornly negotiating at them.

Turning the corner and going into the Fire Station, we got a taste of what the Stag Do phenomenon was all about, thanks to a large and rowdy group of lads circling their victim – a poor chap in a fullbody penis costume – goading, issuing dares and plying shots and beers at a rate of knots (no doubt enabled by the crazy “buy in bulk” drinks specials).

We escaped to the pub next door, The Victoria, only to be exposed to more of the same. Literally. Penis Man and Friends had trailed in behind us.

Christian, in a well-timed display of voice-of-reason, bundled us into a taxi back to the far more civilised Front Street, where we ticked Cumberland Arms and The Priory off our list with quick nightcaps before walking home.

Saturday was grey and overcast, but fortunately still dry. Christian and I were up early so we wandered up to the shops to source orange juice and such, and were rewarded for our efforts by a magnificent find: Heinz tinned pork sausages and beans! Which made an excellent pre-breakfast, in advance of the brilliant bacon butties that would ensue when the others rose.

Fed and feeling far better than we ought to, we headed out to see what Newcastle Upon Tyne had in store for us.

The Metro station hosts a market on weekends which, with a random mix of bric-a-brack new and old, looked like it warranted some time to be earmarked for a proper look the next weekend.

The Metro is quick and easy – but quite pricey at 3 Pounds some change for one way – and we were soon in Newcastle.

Right in front of us was the first sight of relevance – the Earl Grey Statue. We stopped to take a group photo and a kind passerby offered to take the pic for us so we could all be in it. Sadly, she was more enthusiasm than talent so, while she was painstaking about getting the 4 of us all into the pic, she cut off poor Earl Grey. Since she was so nice about being part of the whole moment, we were too polite to reset for the pic… and I’m going to have to settle for including a Google pic into the photo album for the holiday!

Grey Street is a very elegant road of serious buildings, unfettered by modern glass skyrises, that leads down to the river at the Tyne Bridge (which Christian revealed is an exact replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built for practice at exactly a third of the size).

Walking along the river took us to Millennium Bridge, where we were highly amused by a busker passionately singing (clearly a song penned with his own ink judging by his emotional and animated delivery) about how London is full of aliens, paedophiles and Tory twats!

We were still laughing when we got to the other side of the bridge… and were still humming his tune as we walked around the Baltic Art Gallery on the Gateshead side of the river.

All our walking necessitated a whistle wetting, so we popped into the Pitcher back on the Newcastle side of the bridge, near to our busker who unfortunately seemed to have run out of steam and apparently had no more eccentric episodes to share. No mind. His one hit wonder was unexpected and unforgettable.

Next I was treated to a first-but-no-chance-last experience at Gregg’s Bakery, a chain of pie shops. I had a baked bean, cheese and banger pie. What an epic combo!

Our return journey up Grey Street was quite different since everywhere was heaving with rugby supporters – lots confusingly in Bok jerseys and kilts – and the Samoa vs Japan game was being projected on a big screen at the base of the Earl Grey Statue.

We paused to enjoy this new atmosphere, taking in a pint at Harry’s and grabbing a pulled pork roll from one of the food stalls (who were coining it, churning out rolls at no less than 5 Pounds a pop).

The Stadium was conveniently located just up the road and we’d timed it perfectly, arriving minutes before the opening ceremonials.

The atmosphere was electric, with quite an even representation of South African and Scottish fans fuelling the friendly rivalry of warcries and chanting. Even I, not one for sport at the best of times, couldn’t help getting swept up in the moment and yelling at the field, mostly encouraging but with intermittent exasperation when the Boks hinted at lagging performance. Either way, we won the game with a convincing 34-16 and all of us but Robby were thrilled with the outcome.

The roads were carnage after the game so we quit while we were ahead and jumped into a cab back to Tynemouth.

… which was also heaving when we got back, thanks to (what felt like) the entire town’s contingent in the pub to watch the England vs Australia game.

We had a quick drink in Barca and then moved over to The Turk’s Head pub across the way because it was conveniently situated next to the Gate of India restaurant, where we planned to source dinner from.

Our thinking was solid and our order placed at halftime was ready just as the game concluded, meaning we could escape the air of disappointment in the pub following England’s loss (and consequent ejection from this World Cup) and retreat to our very lovely holiday house with (another) curry feast.

Sunday was slated to be a late-start morning, with nothing to do except be ready for our cab, which was booked to collect us at 13h30 to drive us to Edinburgh to fly to Iceland.

We’d scheduled a brunch with Lucy at our now-favourite Lui’s and were well-rested and spring-stepped when we left home at 09h45 for the short walk to the breakfast heaven that awaited us.

It was just what the doctor ordered and we thoroughly enjoyed the blur of eggs and pork products that constituted what can only be described as a “generous” breakfast.

Bursting from our feasting, we volunteered to walk the long way home, up toward the local Sainsbury’s, overshooting past the soccer fields and emerging opposite the far end of our road and were still home with an hour to spare to pack, relax and have a laugh with some Friends reruns on telly before our cab driver arrived bang on time.

There’s something to be said for the comfort and convenience of door-to-door cab service… especially if you’ve got 4 people to share the 120 Pounds fixed fare. We were delivered to Edinburgh airport in perfect time with nothing to worry about except being excited for the next episode of our adventure.

Travelogue Canada 10: Preston

November 2009


let’s set the scene for pre-preston to get things into context…

thursday night went south. then further south. tres typical considering the guest list. was a laugh tho, including beers, stories old and new, nostalgia, giggles, jagerbullets, photos, snacks, haircuts, cider, towel capes, seeing the whole of the moon, brandy (?) and OJ, leftover lamb, rocky horror picture show and much much more ’til 4 in the morning.

unsurprisingly thursday morning was a dog show. and the first morning i had to wake up with an alarm at 07h30.

faye and i trotted down to the corner shop which, mercifully, is on the closest corner to the house, making for a 3.5min round trip including acquiring the shopping – bread and tins of All Day Breakfast. yes, finally sampled it. although was a different brand so it had ‘egg omelettes’ instead of ‘egg nuggets’ and didn’t have the ‘chopped pork’ so this still remains a mystery. the verdict? it’s like tinned beans, but with bits in with a different texture to the beans. not unpleasant, but not something you’d crave (distinct from craving for tinned beans).

felt a bit better of brekkers, but this clearly isn’t saying much. the (usual and inevitable) teary farewells as was once again parted from some of my favourite people in the world 🙁 fortunately, retained custody of faye, who accompanied me to the tube station and all the way to stockwell, where we parted way none too soon as was suffering from an extreme bout of claustrophobia from being squished on the tube with too much clothing and luggage and not enough space or air. was all too rushed a farewell from the last of my merry london friends, but probably for the best in that more time probably just opens the door for more trauma.

took a moment or 2 to catch breath, regain normal body temperature, attempt composure, realise 2 out of 3 was god enough, and head for Heathrow. largely uneventful and, for once, had planned so much buffer time, that arrived and 15 minutes ahead of time and headed for the check-in counter.

am not sure why they bother with the self-serve check-ins seeing how much time the baggage check-in takes anyway – had plenty of time when i started in baggage queue and left with 5 mins until boarding closed… with my backpack which i’d planned to check-in but they made me keep since my suitcase was overweight. got to the security queue at the gates and realised that i had all my toiletries in my backpack as this was the bag i was using for the weekend so as not to have to repack my suitcase.

what a process!

they emptied the toiletry bag, individually bagged the liquid items (which i still don’t understand seeing as the bags are clear and the toiletries can still see each other, so surely if they’re the aggro types they’d find a way to still box each other??) and put them through the scanner. everything passed except the body lotion. maybe because it wasn’t rose-scented aqueous cream which we know is the lotion of love…?

this mission left me VERY late. high-tailed to the gate – typically the furthest gate possible – complete with PA announcements telling me of last warnings and such other totally unhelpful things. so very almost missed that flight.

was hot, bothered, tired and miserable by the time i sank into my seat. fortunately a relative empty flight so i had my own row and could whimper softly to myself with no obvious loss of dignity.

was yet another delight to be told that the flight was to be delayed because some starter function on the plane wasn’t working (very reassuring) and they had to wait for some outside unit to come and start the engines. of course, said miracle starter was busy starting another plane (again not assured that there are so many flying machines out there requiring the AA) and by the time the starter thingie was ready we’d lost our take-off spot <sigh> ended up taking off after we wwere scheduled to land in manchester! (which sounds a lot more dramatic than it is seeing as it’s a half hour flight). managed to grab a nap en route, which did me a world of good.

my cousin, mikayla, fetched me at the airport and it was a giggly and excited reunion with lots and lots news (from the 16 years – yes, half a lifetime! – since last we were in the same place at the same time) to catch up on, making the drive from manchester to preston feel a lot quicker than it is (or should have been in my unfortunate state).

back to mikayla’s to chill and couch a bit while she went off to fetch her daughter, Isla (2,5 years), and whizz past her goddaughter’s birthday while i showered and tried to regain personality.

was a gloriously chill night in, with couch, telly, easy company (Mikayla, her other half Dave, and Isla til her – very envious – bedtime at 19h00) and perfectly-spot-hitting curry take-aways.

saturday we did some grocery shopping (still excited by the prospect of finding a new weird and wonderful that we don’t get at home) and some banking for me and then headed off to visit our great grandma – a spirited little (literally, she’s like a tall midget!) old lady who turned 99 in june! i don’t remember her really, having only seen her when i was an infant and then for a quick visit in 93, but i’m glad to have touched base with my namesake (the middle one i don’t talk about) nonetheless. and a bonus to be there during the ‘Birds of Prey’ matinee.

was a bit of a family reunion all in all as marie and paula (my father’s mother’s sister’s daughters, so technically our second cousins although they’re mid-30s so feel more like cousins) came as well along with paula’s 11 year old son, brandon (a strapping lad who looks more mid-teens). lots and lots to catch up with them not having seen paula since 1998 nor marie since 1977 (!!!)

we retired to McD’s (light snack: deli sweet chilli chicken sandwich and Caramelicious McFlurry) and more chatting and catch-up. as usual, no problems with conversation flow or speech speed, so i think that we’ve covered more ground than the amount of time normally would allow! :o)

Saturday night we were off to a tapas dinner. just mikayla and me, with dave dutifully staying home to babysit. was awesome. so well suited to my indecision by being lots of bits of lots of stuff. we narrowed our choices to end up ordering:
– fillet (medium rare) with mushrooms and stilton cheese
– king prawns in garlic butter
– sweet chilli chicken breasts with extra chilli
– black pudding with chourico and caramelised red onions (was unsure about this one, but M’s insistence proved right)
– honey-glazed baked baby potatoes
– ciabatta with garlic oil and balsamic (that was interestingly so thick it was more the consistency of runny bovril)

was a great 3-hour+ dinner catch-up. nice and leisurely. and excessive. and yum.

resolved to call grandmother this morning to try and go for a visit. no answer, left voicemail. no reply. so, better option: go for breakfast (at least we know we’ll enjoy that!!)

after that will pop past great grandmother to drop off some lillies and then it’s off the airport (again) to get back to london (again) and head for home. am super-ready – even though i’ve had a blast – after a mammoth trek of a holiday!

Travelogue Canada 9: London

November 2009


nabbed a nap on the train – helped that we got one of those double seats that face each other with the table in middle. light snack of roast ox kettle-fried chips, quavers (chipnik style cheese chips) and a rocking tomato juice that was all spicy ‘n stuff and BEGGING for a splash of vodka!

deftly maneuvered the undergrounds to get to Balham (no mean feat since barry’s new cruise mode is 30 miles an hour, which is 50km an hour… and i now do ‘whoosh’ sounds and motions to anything faster *warning to new party car drivers!!*) and a short walk later were presenting ourselves at Lix and RoRo’s door! and Faye had missioned through for a sleepover so it was reunionreunion! cuddles, giggles, excited chatter… and a glass of red!

lix made a superlative chicken a la king with rice and deep fried chicken skin bits (GENIUS!). i had brought a bottle of jagermeister. barry had sorted bottles of red. there were cameras clicking and flashing and the usual random assortment of (mostly non-PC) conversation topics, catch-ups on who’s been doing what (no movement left unturned, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant just in case it had bearing somewheresomehow), who’s seen who and what they’ve been up to and much general merriment! :o)

one by one, people filtered to bed. except me and faye – seasoned experience at slumber party giggling and serendipitously surrendering to adjoining couches. woke up at some ridiculous hour (like 4 maybe?) with a dire need for a kilolitre of water. en route to the water bottle in the back of the fridge i stumbled across leftover roast pork, so i felt obliged to make sandwiches (god bless kingsmill bread- still the best ever) for me and faye. i think i may have saved 2 young lives (and by that i mean mine and faye’s).

in now time at all, the house was awake and in relay doing tea, toast, showering, the odd bit of ironing etc etc. saw everyone off: barry headed for the tubes, lix and faye cycle to work. yes, really.

me and RoRoRo (did i mention that i gave him a gratuitous Ro from a middle name i’ve never wanted and could never escape?) did something that very few Londoners have ever done – we traversed the city. from south west to north east (E5 to be fey… erm… Faye) to get faye a clean set of clothes. totally my fault <ie: took me minutes to convince her to stay and L&R the rest of the week based on first night’s dinner and promise of confirmed menu for night 2 and 3, on the proviso that i/we would trek the length of london to get enough mix-and-match workwear to make said slumber party practical). ended up being a 3 hour round trip, with a 5 minute packing at faye’s house respite in between… oh ja, and burger king at liverpool station (dbl cheese and bacon whoppers, chips and coke each, 7 chicken nuggets and 4 chilli bites to share).

got back in time to watch lix make dinner. lordylordylordy. roast salt marsh lamb, mash taters, cauli cheese, carrots, roasted shallots, garlic and brown onion gravy. g-sus. more chats around the table and then retired to Couchville for sitcom marathon. nice.

finally the stupid body clock works for me. sat at the table while everyone missioned around me doing the usual ironing, breakfast, head-holding, work-hating, why-can’t-we-be-rich-and-retire-now-ing etc… and then napped on the couch snuggled in purple fleece blankie and sleeping bag for an hour… to be up and fresh and head onto high street to find elusive ‘cheaper’ dry cleaner for B’s dry-cleanables, then grocery shop (too many undiscovered canned pleasures to mention), hit Subway (ham, salami, pepperoni, cheese, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno, sweet onion sauce and ranch sauce on cheese and herb italian bread) and BACK TO THE COUCH *bliss*

the kids came home and we feasted on welsh black beef sirloin steaks, baked taters with butter and cheese, ciabatta and caramelised red onion… and then off to Bonfire Night (which i think is a sad sell-out to the infinitely more marketably-cos-more-opportunity-for-lewd-jokes Guy Fawkes) for very lovely fireworks. stopped at threshers en route of course and almost missed everything for 4 fosters, 4 carlings and some bulmers cider. nonetheless, we’re blessed folk and got there in time for a manageable amount of chinese-badly-marketed (ask Alex for details) pyrotechnics. enough for me finally to get (bad) photos of us with fireworky things (that largely look like dysfunctional hats!).

we’re home now. finished the jager, had midnight snacks, chatting and laughing, laughing and chatting, commenting inappropriately on FB stuff, sending the odd (both sense of the word) sms to home… and photos of course.

taking an ad break. stay tuned.

Travelogue St Louis 2: London – St Louis

April 2008


sooo…. it’s been quite a week. they’ve actually had me <gasp> working. gggrrr. to make matters worse, there was a dark patch from bedtime on tuesday (later than i care to remember, but late enough that i’m constantly getting thooose impression-inspired reminders!) to lunchtime on thursday where there was no computer time at all. I KNOW!!! can’t remember the last time i was offline for that long!!

now, where were we? … mmmm…. at faye’s lounging and slothing.

post watching bubblegum horror film, having a superlative daytime nap (which NEVER happens) and much-needed showers all round, we headed off for Lix and RoRo’s place. Plan A (some schmancy restauranty thing) had been fraught with too many possible temptations for our resident Athlete – who we all know would have been led down the evil path by us, being Satan’s children wildly and freely wherever we can as we do <throaty> hahaha – so we cast aside all idea of going out into public and headed for Plan B – the ‘burbs. what a marvy idea!

lix outdid herself with ridiculously juicy and tender chicken schnitzels, with the most scrumptious mushroomy garlicky white winey sauce. which we made her make twice cos it’s one of those things where you just. can’t. get. enough!! gggrrr (in a nice way). complemented with a great vintage… erm… beer…. erm… or 7.

a great afternoon led to a great evening and into the inevitable grrreat night :o) lots of crap-speak, bonding, larfs and good times. yay us! got to bed way later than expected, after the usual bouncing around the lounge, with the added spice of Alex The Helicopter and a fun chapter called Clarks and Lix Fall Into The Telly. <blazing blushing stuff>

thought i was going to die when i woke up on sunday morning. real early. keeping real still so as not to turn queasy to dry heave (and / or worse). didn’t help. after fighting for hours i had to leopard crawl to lix to seek direction on The Strongest Drugs Known To Man Which Clearly Are The Only Thing That Could Save Me Now.

dunno what them little effervecenty things are, but man oh man – The Bomb. the world stopped spinning, thoughts of solid food (in the distant future of course) didn’t cause shudders and shiverless thoughts of day, outside and bright gave me hope that we might actually make it to the marathon that we’d travelled 11,000kms to see. happy happy days.

am so pleased too cos the race vibe was rocking (or maybe that was just me, being noticeably shakier than ever before) and faye was considerately on time-ish so there wasn’t too much arsing about with all them family and athleticky types. dry heave returned briefly when a runner in a Borat cozzie passed us. gave me a new mental image for next time i hear “Jump Around” hahaha.

sadly, had to hit the road straight after seeing Faye in an effort to automobile, train and plane to the States. Burger King saved my life. had a number 1 with cheese and bacon, which was a trifle dry. mental note to self, First World countries don’t give you any condiments unprompted. suck suck suckedy. <how ungrateful am i>

got to the airport on time. and was first in the airline queue, which i have never ever had before… would be the one time i didn’t need it! my colleagues (bless ’em) had checked in my suitcase so i sailed through and had time to chill with an ice cold coke.

american airlines food is superlative. had a chickeny cheesy pasta-y thingy. and a pizza later for a snack. actually, if that’s what they serve you gotta wonder about what Italia serve. mmmmm.

got in about midnight. great time to check in cos there are no queues. i also had no strength and no power of speech and the receptionist clearly no training and no logic. so, all in all, it was a worker of a moment, missing only someone to capture it in a moooooovie to make America’s Crankiest Home Videos.

alrighty, so now that we’ve put the ho into hotel, it’s a good time to take a repose and keep you hanging for the next gripping installment. that and i have to leave for the airport now (or you’re going to continue to get Travelogues cos i’ll never get home!!)

toodles xxx

Travelogue St Louis 1: Jo’burg – London

April 2008

sooo… landed all safely and stuff. the pilot seemed to know what he
was doing (we should really see if his natural talents extend to party
car designated driving) but the food was a bit drek. i think airline
food and hospital food have flip-flopped positions on the blah scale,
which is crap in context of which i am likely to frequent more (nooo!
i meant ‘airlines’ for the pessimists among you)

it’s FREEZING in london and i’ve hence easily figured out what it was
i left behind (you know there’s always something). it’s my gloves. you
know as in the category that i already had too much of and still
bought another 2 pairs last weekend (under something i like to write
off as duress, but that was clearly somewhere more the off-handed
suggestion side of the subtle persuasion spectrum).

spent the day doing store visits. i’m pleased to tell you (more for my
enjoyment than for your edification) that our stores are waaaay
superior. and consistent. and clean. so always good to have a trump
card up one’s sleeve <bright side: don’t have to fight aforementioned left-at-home gloves to get trumpcard up sleeve> when going to one of these conference thingiemes. or i might be COMPLETELY biased… which would ruin it for me, so for sake of argument let’s assume i’m right (that should spark a barrage of protest).

had the world’s best chicken, ham and mushroom pie for late lunch. it
was an unusual interpretation on the whole pie thing, with the base
being big black mushrooms, then the chicken and ham bit being in a
white wine and garlic sauce and the whole lot being topped with a
light and flaky pastry cap. had it with mash…. and an incredulous –
and scathing ‘peasant!’ – look from the waitress when i asked for
onion gravy for the mash. fortunately, i never learned to take the
help seriously so her judgement didn’t hamper my enthusiasm at all.
good thing too cos it was a truly superlative brown onion gravy and
made the mash really be all it could be :o)

met up with Barry in the evening to have farewell drinks with his work
mates. seemingly great bunch of people. real modern day Londoners
<read: few people actually from london, or britain even. good representation of order proportion south africa, australia, new zealand, venezuela, belgium, scotland, wales and someone suspected to be but who be can sure since no clue what the accent is like anymore>

a few swift pints later, we took on public transport and bussed our
way over to faye’s. on best behaviour because of (faye’s) impending
participation in the London Marathon, we nursed a pint. the pub we
were in had run out of everything we wanted to order for dinner so we
beat a hasty retreat, it being 21h40 and most kitchens closing between
21h30 and 22h00. tried a few spots without success and ended up at a
moroccan spot. tres pleasant. had a mezze of all sorts of things (i
ordered lots of bits and pieces wildly and freely knowing barry would
‘sort it out’, despite his protests of not being at all hungry). it
was delightful, way too much… and all finished (of course).

after a great night’s sleep, we’re embracing a (whole day early!)
sloth sunday (on saturday), with duvets and fold-out sleeper couches
and bacon butties and bad daytime tv and chitchat and larfs. later
we’re going to mission out and lunch with alex and robbie (detailed
menu review to follow i’m sure hehe), which holds the promise of
madness and mayhem.

congratulations on surviving Travelogue I. stay tuned for more exciting adventures and misadventures in Travelogue II (to be posted at a time as yet unbeknownst to me). all feedback, commentary and news from home welcomed :o)

Travelogue Canada 7: Wales (Halloween)

October 2009


the day started as every day should – was woken with a “don’t ask questions, just follow me” (barry)… and was led to the kitchen where a full fry-up was waiting! even though it was a heart-stoppingly early 09h30 (which is super-early considering sleep depro the night before and that night’s extended slumber party antics with me and JM giggling like schoolgirls til 3 in the morning) was still an XL YAY! :o)

all fuelled and ready for action, we headed off to town to do the last minute shopping for Halloween, namely costume accessories, pumpkins and a few odds and sods for our dinner feast. mission accomplished, we retired to McD’s for a hearty lunch of a Big Tasty With Bacon (100% Beef patty, streaky bacon, a slice of cheese made from Emmental, onion, juicy tomato, crisp lettuce and Big Tasty sauce – which is sort of like a smoked version of the sauce on the Big Mac – in a sesame seed bun) with POTATO WEDGES with sour cream and chive dip! total awesomeness! mcflurry’s for pudding – with cadbury’s dairy milk caramels oooo!

spent the afternoon around the kitchen table, laughing, giggling, catching up, dying hair, making jack-o-lanterns, decorating the house (with orange spray paint and stensils, plastic bats, fake cobwebs and plastic tombstones) and generally having a grand old time.

was the usual rush to get ready, even though we’d had the whole afternoon to do it. it was all a hubbub of getting costumes on (me morticia, emm vampira, barry a vampire, john the templar knight), applying facepaint for each other, smearing eyeshadow all over the show and (the other 3) putting in wicked costume contact lenses. we were supposed to be out at 5, we eventually left about 5.40. oops.

so, we get to the party the better part of an hour late. and we’re the only grown-ups in costume!! the guy emm works with that had invited us to the party had told emm everyone dresses up, omitting that he meant all the CHILDREN dress up! we felt a bit arse… but was all part of the fun in the end (and the party came to a rather abrupt end about 20 minutes later when, after a short fire-dancing and fireworks display, everyone just packed up and left). the never-say-die people we are, we just adjourned to the pub (The Greyhound, B&E’s local).

2 pints and 2 tequilas down – having been treated to a class joke (john was in a knight’s templar outfit, so one of the locals saw the Maltese Cross insignia emblazonned on the cape and said “how do you make a maltese cross? poke him”. it was funnier when john caught it about 10 minutes later than it was when the local told it though! teehee), watched the kids breakdance, done a modelling shoot in the bathroom using the handdrier for effect – we headed for home to get us fed and Griff to bed. sumptuous dinner of steak tartare and raw salmon (let me hear you say ‘es ki mo’ – see previous travelogue), nachos and sour cream – all washed down with delightful red and to the dulcet beat Shnee Wurt Schnit Shnee Wizey Wize (yes THE SWSSWW that b has been looking for for over half a lifetime!! … which emm also loved in the day… and which i never would have guessed was the song it turned out to be, which i recognise but would never have fitted barry’s fantasy lyrics to!) – and it was bedtime for B&E and back to the pub for J and me.

by the time we got back (about 10 maybe), the pub was more festive and there were at least a few more people in costume. one such being an ‘attractive blonde girl’ that john spotted across the bar and thought had potential, what with her lithe frame and shortshort hotpants… until we got closer and saw the adam’s apple and hairy legs through ‘her’ stockings. we’re still not convinced it was a halloween costume. there were also a fair number of slapper type chicks that i could have sworn were fancy-dressed as pumpkins, but i’m told the tanning salon craze has hit here in a big way. it’s crazy, they’re all orange. orangeorange. like nowhere near natural tan colour. and not – soso very not – attractive.

we made quite an impression on the barman seeing as we ordered tequilas with every round, which is a rarity in these parts apparently. he started pouring us half tots since their standard tot glasses are doubles, until john goaded him into giving us full tot glasses (still at singles prices). eventually the poor man was just pouring for us freehand into halfpint glasses… and having one himself! funfunfun. we calculated 8 pints (and who knows how much tequila seeing as there was no standard measure), which would explain why the details of the walk home (yes, i said WALK home) are a little blurry. we must, however, have decided quite spur of the moment to leave for home seeing as we both brought our glasses home and there was still a considerable amount in them this morning. hmmm…

this morning B&E had to mission in to town as there had been a little mishap with griff spilling water on the tv, killing it dead. while they went to get a new one, me and John walked (yes, there’s that word again) to the corner store (called the Red Shop by emm, have yet to ask why) where i found some of life’s simple pleasures and some great mysteries:
– pringles cheese and onion
– Aero instant hot chocolate sachets
– thick slice bread
– mince with onions and gravy in a can
– All Day Breakfast in a can: sausage, bacon, egg nuggets (intriguing), beans in tomato sauce, cereal (WTF?!) and chopped pork (if it’s not sausage or bacon then what is it?!)

humour restored, i dutifully watched john make omelettes (well sort of, was tres busy with uploading pics from last night) with cheese, ham, onion and bacon. genius, pure genius!

spent the rest of the day much like yesterday, just enjoying the pleasure of each others’ company. we had some really classic moments too. like when john was making comment about my growing mound of clothing starting to impede access to our room and said that we could never live together, expressing very matter-of-factly, with much gusto that he ‘really likes an anal cleaner’. of course, i had no choice but to reply with ‘why? does your anus get THAT dirty?’ … the whole episode cueing all sorts of offers from barry for his plunger to sort out emma’s plumbing in the tradesman’s entrance etc etc etc. hearty guffaws all round and we’ve replayed the joke every which way all day and it’s still as funny as the first time. we’ve had a very non-PC day, but sososo much fun!

tried to get some salt marsh lamb on the way to drop john off at the station, but alas we were too late and the shop had shut. sad to see john off, but not terrible as he’s due home in a few weeks so it’s a literal ‘bye for now’.

back to the kitchen table, Hobgoblins for me, a bottle of red for emm, superlative company for barry, a wheel of camembert with water biscuits (which are completely tasteless but i’m told take more calories to chew than the calories you take in by eating them), ham sarmies (with real butter and mayo) and more chatchatchatlaughlaughlaugh (and some teeter-tottering around in emm’s oh-so-beautiful-but-the-most-ridiculously-uncomfortable-shoes-EVER-made super-too-high-and-then-some emerald green sequined heels).

am loving these peeps and every minute here!! :o)

Travelogue Canada 6: Toronto – London – Wales

October 2009


Niagara was cool. glad i did it seeing as it’s a big ‘natural wonder’ deal ‘n all. lots of falling water (but still i’m thinking that their novelty t-shirt industry would make uber$$$ if they did shirts with upside down falls pics and some sort of Viagra joke – there’s a huge market for that if you think about the ‘I’m with stupid ->’ market) but not enamoured by the drenching of close-up shots… ‘specially seeing as it was a foggy day so there was limited WOW photo potential.

did manage to achieve one of my personal Canadian Bucket List goals by finally finding an actualfactual Wendy’s!! had the Baconator. 3 words: in. cred. ible. sort of like a double McD’s 1/4 pounder, with double cheese and a packet of bacon. no regrets, was TOTALLY worth the wait. (and took pics, so don’t rely on imagination because it’ll so understate!)

got to the airport well in time. and learnt a beaut from tour guide (amazing how the dynamic changes when the older, better-tipping-potential americans and brits alight the ve-hicle). they (younger skirt-chasing torontoes – although, with their awful diction am sure they’d pronounce it ‘trontoes’) apparently have braced the world of sms and they reckon you ‘can’t get tail without text’… to the point that they’ve coined it ‘sexting’!

got stuck next to a big fat mamma on the plane, which made for a world of pain. she not only took over the armrest (we were sposed to be sharing) but also had impossibly accurate elbows, that have seek-and-destroy function for my (poor unsuspecting) ribs. ended up leaning almost entirely in the aisle, meaning that every moving body in the aisle bumped my foot/knee/elbow/head as they passed and i dozed in 5-7.5 min spells over the (already challenging) 3.5 hours set aside for sleepy time. not even the chicken breast with creamy sweet mustard sauce and frilly noodles could lift spirits. although the fact that BFM is a veg and had forgotten to order special meal so was reduced to a dinner of bread rolls alone did marginally *evil laugh*

got thro the heathrow experience and to kings cross without incident and was met at burger king (rodeo king deal – cheese and bacon burger with onion rings) by RoRo. SO much better a brekkie than the banana muffin that air canada thought would suffice! then it was off to barry’s office to dump (ever-increasingly heavy) luggage. newly liberated, me and RoRo headed to find Faye HQ – Guardian London. conveniently close + bud with useful gameplan = Camden!

was heaving! and changed so much since i was there last (worked out it was 1992 – believe it. or not) but all for the good – lots of atmosphere and oozing with the under-promise of over-delivering good times! ;o)

first pint in days…

and then second…

and then faye arrived.

*giggles, chatter, hysteria, nostalia, giggles, snickersnort, wittybanterwittybanter, giggle, PHOTO!*

off to next pub. barry got off early, but has the dreaded lurgy so was a tea for him 🙁

needed to head back towards the office to outrun london peak traffic to collect (dreadedstartingtohatethecommitment) luggage. traversed the city effortlessly to deposit selves at Ruby’s. so very the first people there. was a bit ‘eurotrip’ as the next 2 hours disappeared on fast forward and people filled every conceivable space around us.

then it was off to kings cross and paddington to get on the train to wales (picking up BK en route, Bacon Caesar Angus burgers of cheese, bacon, onion straws and caesar sauce + spicy jalapenos and chewy cheese encased in a crunchy batter).

the train was heaving. we got really lucky finding a table for 2 in first class (and no conductor so not having to pay upgrade!) seeing as there were people IN FIRST CLASS who stood 2/3 of the 3 hours journey! passed the time with ‘spite and malice’ (our favourite card game). was 5-1 down at one point, but we ‘agreed’ to call it quits when clambered back to 5-5 position.

quick power-snooze… and we were there. swansea.

interesting locals. very slapperish uberhighheelpelmetskirts types. waited for john (moir) and headed for ‘home’. couldn’t see much seeing as it was about midnight, but happy to get to <the unpronounceable=”” town=””> and the lovely warm home where we could start our Wicked Weekend in Wales adventure :o)

did the usual slumber-party, catch-up stuff and then had the greatest night’s sleep in as long as i can remember (YAY). to wake up on Halloween…