Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas in Cornwall

On Tuesday morning after Lea dropped me at Milton Keynes Central, I got onto the 08:21 train headed for London Euston. From Euston station, I got the taxi to Paddington station and at Paddington I got the 10:06 train to Truro, Cornwall. It was a 5 hour journey on the train, which went pretty quickly as I had my iPod playing The Libertines and Babyshambles. Pretty cool that I got the Libs second album and Babyshambles ‘Shotters Nation’ for £5 each on Play.com when they usually go for £16 at HMV or Zavvi.

Tim and Harry picked me up and we drove through Truro and Helston to the farm. I had been warned that the place was been renovated, but I was still surprised to see the bare walls and concrete. It’s an old large farmhouse surrounded by hills with sheep and cows grazing, baah-ing and moo-ing.

Harry is a sweet 3 year old who has taken his parents separation rather badly. He’s generally well behaved, but he needs a lot of attention and to be played with a lot. We’ve spent a lot of time building houses out of blocks of wood left over from the wood work and I think we both enjoy that. Tim was particularly impressed with my architectural skills!

Christmas was a good day. Helen, Tims wife, arrived on the 24th and spent the night. On Christmas morning Harry came through very excited about his mommy been here, the lights on the tree, the presents and his filled stocking. We had a large breakfast of salmon, brioche, ham, eggs and tea. When that was all done, we sat in the drawing room with the enormous fire and opened up presents! I got some lovely pjs from Lea and John, a tin of chocolates and a hand made glass coaster made in Cornwall. Lunch was ready by around two o’ clock and consisted of roast goose, ham, carrots, brussel sprouts, roast potatoes, sausages, onion stuffing…I forget what else, but there was loads to eat! That was followed by Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies I made the day before.
The goose, which was my first, was delicious! When lunch was over, we got to open some more presents and I got a small pouch with hand creams and foam baths and body scrubs. I did pretty well for myself, especially as I didn’t expect to get anything this year! One of the things I really like about Christmas is the stream of text messages with well wishes for the day and the new year! It was a very good day, but by the time it got to nine o’ clock I was ready for bed, so I excused myself, and went to bed with my book and my tin of chocolates. So that was the end of Christmas 2008. And so my time in Cornwall has begun on a fairly positive note and I’m already 4 days in. I have a few things to look forward to while I’m here, including a trip to the Eden Project, some pretty Cornish coastal towns and the joy of living on a farm with cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.


Tim and Harry on Christmas.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Reflections on NOT been a rock star

I guess I'm paying the price for too much Irish merriment. I can't seem to take the pace, late nights, beer, cigarettes, song, Irish people. It's been a week and I'm still coughing up phlegm and looking like death. I'm considering packing it all in, getting a job, a cat and a sensible cardigan. I'm mourning my rapidly slipping away youth and am wondering what I will do when I can no longer get away with stuff, just 'cos I have a youthful appearance. I'm hoping that I will be able to fall back on been quirky instead. At what point do I need to put away my cds and stop painting my nails black I wonder?

I'm feeling a little ugh-y due to the fact that I'm still coughing up yellow phlegm and have no job. I should be sitting in bars mingling with interesting foreign people in exciting cities, been flattered something stupid and drinking too much beer and embarrassing myself by saying silly things and doing even sillier things. Sigh for been sickly and poor.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Diseased!

I woke up on Friday morning feeling so rotten I was surprised I had woken up at all. I lay there, practically drowning in phlegm, and the inner most circles of hell couldn't quite match the fieriness of the inferno going on in my throat. Needless to say, this weekend has been spent in bed, slugging back mouth fulls of Jagermeister-tasting medicine Leanne so kindly bought for me, reading my 'Booky Wook' and just generally day dreaming. I'm happy to report that today I am much healthier, and may even make a complete recovery.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Badly behaved in Belfast

One wonders if I've learned my lesson regarding picking up strays in hostels, but the chances are pointing in the direction of no, I've probably not. Where do I begin? Well, the 'Stuart Situation' as I began to call it quickly got out of hand. I had figured that I'd be able to lose him pretty quickly when we arrived in Belfast, but when it turned out that we were in a mixed dorm together, my plans were beginning to go a little pear-shaped. It became intolerable, culminating with me having to check out in a spare moment I had to myself, getting a taxi to Belfast's George Best airport and getting on a flight to Manchester. This was yesterday, today, by lunch time I was back in Milton Keynes, warm, safe and dry and thankful not to be in Belfast anymore! It turned into a 'by any means' sort of show with me taking just about every means of public transport known to man, with the exception of a hot air balloon and horse drawn cart. Taxis, buses, trains, planes, trams all in the space of a day. It was worth it in the end.

The story is too long to go into any sort of details but basically think 'Donkey' in Shrek. I couldn't get away, I felt trapped and I couldn't be any clearer with this bloke, but he wouldn't leave me alone. When all else failed, I high tailed it outta the country. Pretty dramatic huh?

Anyway, back to the original question. I asked because at the height of this 'Stuart Situation' I found myself staring into the eyes of beautiful and Irish Lee. While Lee was making plans to run away to South Africa with me, Stuart was getting increasingly more tense, understandably as he thought that we actually had something going, me and him. My point is that, I would have been quite ok with it if Lee had actually decided to pack in life in Northern Ireland and follow me around as Stuart had done. Lee, the (almost) unattainable, Irish man with a sort of Carl Barat air about him, singing along to Babyshambles songs with me whilst discussing my 'pretty eyes' with the rest of the present company, and offering me cigarettes outside. Clearly, I was smitten :)
Here are some of my pictures from Belfast.

Belfast city hall and wheel.
Christmas market outside the city hall. Oh so festive with gifts, food and beer stalls. I was eating cake.
Alberts clock....'if you have the time, I have the inclination...'
Stormont - Parliament buildings.
A street in Belfast with a mural.
Murals.
Posing by the murals.

I did a day trip to the Giants Causeway. I think the day would have been a lot better if the night before wasn't spent drinking Guinness and whiskey until the wee hours of the morning all whilst flirting up a storm inside and outside of Maddens bar. Needless to say, when my alarm went off in the morning, I wasn't feeling (or looking) my best. But, I soldiered onwards and got on the coach headed further up North. In hindsight, I really should have gone the next day instead.

A tourist taking a picture of a tourist - a rough Karen in Northern Ireland.


I found this little boat on the coastal route to the Giants Causeway and liked it.


A little harbour in Northern Ireland.
Yes, I have behaved appallingly this last week or so and I think I am suitably remorseful enough to accept the next job offered to me and go away and think of what I have done and try to be better in the future.

The Cavern Club - Liverpool

On what was my last night in Liverpool, I invited my new dorm mate, Bron to join me for a burger and a pint afterwards at the Cavern club in Mathew street. What was going to just be me, Bron and Stuart, ended up a bit of a larger party when we started gathering up other tourists who were there on their own.
Alex, Stuart, Bron and Melanie
Bron and Melanie. Bron is awesome, tall, thin, pretty and boyish. We got on great.

I was trying to get away from Stuart in this picture, but he kept pulling me back.
The night went by so quickly, and though parts of it may be hazy, it will go down as one of my best nights out in a long time :) I would write more about this night, but as I said, bits are hazy...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A walk all over the city

Day two in Liverpool and all is peachy. I got up pretty early this morning despite going to bed at a ridiculous hour last night. Yesterday, after settling down on the couch in the hostel lounge with my netbook (grin) I made a friend in a bloke who introduced himself as Stuart, we had matching netbooks you see, so it was a good opening for conversation. We went to the Hogs Head for dinner and some beer and after they stopped serving, we headed down Mathew Street to the Cavern, a pub that has Beatles history, though not the actual Cavern where the Beatles used to play at. So it ended up a pretty late night and when my alarm went off this morning I just hid under my blankets and lay there for another hour before getting up for breakfast.

Stuart accompanied me on my tour around Liverpool and together we went to the Maritime and Slavery Museum, drank coffee at Costa, ate sandwiches from Subway and walked all over the city looking at all the ‘alternative and vintage clothing’ stores, taking pictures at the seedy, pretty and interesting buildings and trying to figure out where the ‘banana sheep’ is. It WILL be found!

View from the docks area.
Some buildings I rather liked.

A sunny street and seedy buildings.
China Town section of the city
Clearly, China Town

Stuart and me
'tis I...approaching China Town.
Just a grotty looking building I liked :)
The Royal Liver Building
Albert Docks.
Liverpool is apparently the Culture Capital of 2008 and the city has allegedly been cleaned up a fair bit. A lot of it still looks a bit run down, with seedy looking streets and buildings amongst some newer, nicer looking ones. It has character, as do the people who seem a lot less polished than those in London, York or Milton Keynes. You know the type, a fair amount of black clothing, dyed hair and piercings :) and hardly anyone seen wearing a track suit!

Liverpoooool - day 1

I got the 10h17 train from Milton Keynes Central to Crewe, and then the 12h08 to Liverpool Lime Street. It started to snow when I arrived at Crewe station, and I sat on platform 11 waiting for the next train with my hands wrapped around a cup of hot tea. The weather had cleared up by the time I got out of the Lime Street station and it’s just as well too as I did my usual thing of walking in the wrong direction for 15 minutes before realizing that I should be 30 minutes in the other direction. I found the YHA Hostel eventually, but only after wandering around Liverpool for an hour or two with all three bags, having chatted to a boy called Felix looking for donations for Hare Krishna and ending up at the YMCA which is over a mile from where I wanted to be. On the up side, I did find where I need to go on Friday morning to get the Ferry to Northern Ireland.

After checking in and finding I seem to have the dorm all to myself, I set out to explore the bits of Liverpool I had not yet discovered. My first stop was of course, Albert Docks as that seems to be where things are happening…including a whole lot of construction work. On my way I got snowed on and took shelter in the Beatles Story Museum which I was actually saving for tomorrow but thought what the hell anyway. It was pretty impressive and done rather well I think and it was a good two hours spent there. On entering you get handed the audio guide by two blokes, dressed in 60s style clothing with matching hairdos and oh so pretty. Afterwards, it doesn’t really go downhill from there :) but you get to walk through the ‘Beatles Story’, look at photos, admire the displays all whilst listening to 60s rock music. All in all, pretty awesome and well worth a visit.
Judging from how quiet this hostel is, I would have to agree that maybe I really am the first person ever to visit Liverpool as a tourist, surely, and hopefully not as it might be a tad lonely.

Ooh, what’s also exciting is that I’m typing this all on my new Advent Netbook which is actually just a laptop only smaller and lighter and cuter. Very sophisticated, just like take away coffees.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Happy days

I'm off again tomorrow, not for long this time, or rather, I'm not sure where I'm going after Belfast. Hopefully I can make my way further North and Scotland.

The weekend was good and relaxing and comprised mainly of Christmas lights, kittens, telly, late morning lie-ins and some damn good music. I’ve been branching out a little and listening to the likes of Adam Green and Ben Kweller, taking time out for the Babyshambles and the Juno soundtrack which I too, have sadly been sucked into.

I’m feeling remarkably well, all healed, rested and stable. I’m truly quite embarrassed by my previous behaviour displayed on first arriving in this great country. I can understand it, what with the frustration and just been damn fed up. Still, I never want to feel that way again and it was a good lesson to learn. More good than bad has come from this trip of mine, and really, this is just the beginning still.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Shopping :)

Coming back to Milton Keynes is like coming home in a way. There are many reasons why I like it here and to name just a few...
  • I know where things are and how to get there...mostly.
  • I have 'almost' family here.
  • The shopping centre.
  • The pretty folk.

I went shopping today, I spent the whole afternoon at the MK Centre and I bought everything except for what I actually set out to buy...a new pair of boots.

By yesterday morning, walking to the bus stop, half of the sole of my boot was flopping behind me. When the quick fix of chewing gum didn't suffice I ended up having to glue the sole back in place whilst sitting on the coach. It's still holding...for now. I tried on many pairs of boots, but was undecided, so I bought none of them. I did, however, buy a lovely charcoal t-shirt dress, a black woolly cardigan, some make-up and black nail polish. After buying my purple hoodie in York, I feel that I've had my colour fix for a goodly while and have reverted back to black.

But...to more important things, like booking my stay in Liverpool.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

York - a tourists take

I arrived back in Milton Keynes this afternoon. I was 8 weeks in North Yorkshire, the last four days of that in York itself. I loved the isolation of the country, but I was excited to be back in a city again when Bertie drove Ellie and myself to York on Saturday. Those four days were full and wonderful, I may even love York more than London. Here are my photos, all scrambled up and with no order whatsoever.This is what is left of Saint Mary's Abbey in the museum gardens. I walked past these gardens every day for three days without realizing there was an abbey. The garden is filled with pigeons and grey squirrels and is very pretty. The museum I was told, is crap.
A much better museum is the York Castle Museum by Cliffords Tower. It was a very big museum which also had the best souvenir and gift shop in the whole of York. The last display is themed 'The Sixties', and I thought it was awesome.
At this time of year, York has an outdoor ice skating rink below Cliffords Tower. It was freezing and I bought myself a Peruvian style hat. It was all very pretty and festive.
Another angle of York Minster from the sight-seeing bus. Such a tourist :)

A festive shop window at Betty's Tea Room.

The Shambles...here's Wikipedias explanation, so much more articulate than my own: The Shambles is an old street in York, England, with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century. It was once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, probably from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (literally 'flesh-shelves'), the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. As recently as 1872, there were twenty-five butchers' shops in the street, but now there are none.
The Shambles again. The second most visited street in England besides London's Oxford Street. Carissa believes that this isn't intentional at all, but due to the fact that all streets lead to the Shambles and whenever lost, you always seem to end up there. I do agree, though, mostly, all of my trips there were intentional...I do like a shambles...

I visited the National Railway Museum nearby the station. It was pretty big, apparently the largest in the world. Naturally, there were a lot of trains. This display was in one of the halls, the entire length of the hall was all display cases like this. I thought it was rather nice.

A street in York, all decorated and lit up for the season.
The great big clock on the street. It was a good street with some of my favorite stores - New Look, H&M, HMV and Zavvi. There were also some pretty cool gargoyles on the wall by the clock.
Inside of York Minster. Very impressive and decorated which only goes to show that people back then had far too much time on their hands. No one ever bothers to go to so much trouble with buildings these days. Which is quite a shame.

York Minster again.
A total rip off at £1.50 per tiny plastic mug, I went back twice though as it was so warm and comforting, so maybe not such a rip off after all.
The shop windows were really done up so prettily, I had to have photos of them...and of me admiring them.
I had lunch at Betty's Tea Rooms. It is the done thing to do when in York. It was well worth the both visits and the queue outside in the rain.

Tea at Betty's.
The first morning in York it snowed, by the time I got out of the hostel though, most of it had turned to muddy sludge. It was very cold and the average temperature was 3 degrees Celsius, which was more like -6 with the wind chill. Each day I had to wear at least 3 warm tops as well as my heavy duty coat just to stay warm enough to keep my organs functioning. I was like the Oros man, barely been able to bend my arms and legs. I had great fun though and did pretty much everything that a tourist can do in a city. The open topped sight-seeing bus, the museums, city walls, tea rooms, dungeons, minster, shopping, ghost tour, the viking centre, abbey ruins, gardens, made some friends, drank a lot of beer in pubs, including the Golden Fleece, York's so called 'most haunted inn' which features on all these 'Most haunted' programmes on the telly every so often.

The Dungeons. Not recommended for those of a nervous disposition or under the age of 15. From the moment we entered, I can't be sure who grabbed whose hand, but Peta and I clung to each other the whole way through. It was a real comfort having her there! It was very well done, and although I knew it was all fake, it was tense not knowing who was going to jump out at you and when. The lights kept going off, doors slamming and actors coming out of trap doors unexpectedly. I had to 'stand trial' accused of witchcraft and Peta was 'operated on' by the plague doctors assistant. It was all very gory and nasty, but fun. I was relieved when I found myself walking through the last doorway, which led to the dungeons gift shop and then, back out onto the street.

But now, I have a whole lot of things to do and sort out, such as laundry and suitcases and the like...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

On leaving the moors.

My time in Lastingham has come to an end and on Saturday I will be arriving in York for a few days of sight seeing and shopping. Last night, as it is the end of season, the staff of the Grange all went to Malton for dinner.
I discovered the joys of Pimms.
We got chocolate.
These are the people I spent the last 7 weeks with, Paul, Little Amy, Ellie, Jess, Jenny, Sandra and Robert. All our goodbyes have been said, email addresses swopped and promises made to write and send postcards. Nice and good folk. I will have fond memories of North Yorkshire.