In Search of Giant Cheese

Well, it’s been ages since |’ve made an entry hasn’t it? This is of course because I’m still in the UK and…

  1. Have been staying with various psuedo-luddite relatives who don’t have computers or internet access
  2. I’ve been far too busy doing and seeing stuff to be bothered writing

But today I have some time off, and access to a computer so I figured I might as well do a bit of catching up

I’m in Leicester at the moment visiting Helen, Rob and Ali. I’m not staying with Helen and Rob because their flat is a bit on the small side and they’re still on thier honeymoon and hence wouldn’t want me clumping around the place while they’re trying to be newlyweds *grin*, and I’m not staying with Ali because it would just be the two of us which might look a bit suspicious. Instead I’m staying just down the road from Ali with Emma, who is safely married and hence it’s all repectable.

I met Emma and her husband Phil at Helen and Rob’s wedding the weekend before last. I was going to write a long blog entry about the wedding, but I’ve been too busy and it probably needs more care and attention that I could give working on someone else’s computer (that may sound odd, but I’m sure all Geeks would agree with me, you’re never quite as comfortable or efficient on someone else’s machine than you are on your own). So I’ve decided to write it all up when I get home. Suffice to say it was the best wedding/reception I’ve ever been to, even if I did have to sleep in a tent and the toilet block was full of spiders *grin*. Plenty of people dressed up – most impressively Rob’s dad and a guy who came as a pirate ship (did I mention it was pirate themed? The reception that is, not the wedding), and I got to meet plenty of Ali/Helen/Rob’s friends, who were all pretty cool, including the aforementioned Emma and Phil.

I would be staying with Emma and Phil as opposed to just Emma, but Phil is in Belgium building a Coca-Cola plant. He gets back today some time. Then they’re both heading off tomorrow to swim up and down the Thames as practice for a holiday where they’re going to tour the Cyclades by swimming from island to island. Their house is really nice, particularly since I’m sleeping in the spare room which is where the computer is *grin*. There are two slightly eccentric features though. The staircase is incredibly steep, the steps are normal width (or is it “depth” when you’re talking stairs?), but they’re really tall, probably 50% again of their depth. This makes them a lot of fun to climb up and down but I wouldn’t like to try it if I was elderly. The second interesting feature is that the bathroom door doesn’t have a handle. It doesn’t even have a hole drilled for a handle. This makes it rather difficult to close – you have to grab the edge, swing it towards you really hard, then pull your hand away before it gets crushed. And of course with no handle there’s no lock either. The general policy is to keep it closed when you’re in there, and wide open at all other times, which has so far avoided any embarrasing incidents.

(Oh, and just as a point of interest Emma is uncannily similar to an Emma I know back in Australia – same height and build, same speech patterns, even a really strong facial resemblance. If it wasn’t for the fact that this Emma doesn’t have a Scottish accent and is an A&E Doctor [A&E – That’s “ER” or “Casualty” for the rest of us, I presume it stands for “Accident and Emergency”] I’d have trouble telling them apart. I figure they must be psychic twins or doppelgangers or something 🙂

Anyway I thought I’d summarise what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks, so here we go…

  • Friday/Saturday/Sunday – Helen and Rob’s Wedding at Ashingdon, and pirate reception at the Museum of Power in Maldon. Got there and back to London via train. Met quite a few people – most importantly Helen, Ali and Rob since we’d never actually met up in real life before, which was slightly weird but seems to have gone OK 🙂 Also Helen’s brother John (he of the beard and drums), Mark (he of… well I was going to say Kevin Sorbo but that’s just cruel ;), Emma and Phil, Will and Harriet and Rachel and Matt (who for various reasons I probably shouldn’t put as an “and” but it makes them easier to remember so I will for the time being). Arrived back in London on the Sunday just in time to see my brother off at Heathrow, and meet up with my Aunt Mary from Southampton.
  • Monday – A fairly lazy day in and around Warsash with Aunt Mary. Did some shopping in the morning then visited Tichfield village and abbey, and Lee-on-Solent.
  • Tuesday – Caught the bus into Southampton and did the city walls and some of the museums. Large parts of the walls were closed off for renovation which was rather irritating. Also found an internet cafe and checked my mail.
  • Wednesday – Train from Southhampton to Bristol, then bus to Glastonbury. Climbed the Tor (which almost killed me), visited the Chalice Well Gardens, then spent several hours wandering around the ruins of the Abbey taking way too many photographs. Then bus back to Bristol, train back to Southampton and dinner at the pub in Warshash with Aunt Mary.
  • Thursday – Driven out to Avebury by Aunt Mary. Visited West Kennet Longbarrow, Silbury Hill (which is BIG), Avebury itself and then Old Sarum on the way back. Took way too many photos yet again despite my camera battery being on the verge of death. In the evening Sheila and Mike dropped around to say hi.
  • Friday – Visited Fishbourne palace with Mary, then she dropped me off in Portsmouth where I did the historic shipyard thing. Had a quick look at the Warrior, did the Victory tour (which was good although it left the really interesting questions unanswered – such as “Why did Nelson ask Hardy to kiss him?” and “Is it true that the sailors tapped into the barrel holding his body to drink the rum?”), and the Mary Rose which is still being sprayed despite them promising us 18 years ago it would all be done by now. Then caught the Gosport Ferry across the harbour and got a bus back to Warsash.
  • Saturday – Driven out to Stonehenge by Aunt Mary. Did the whole Stonehenge tourist thing, despite the fact that I probably knew more about the monument than most of the people gawking at it (conceited? moi? ;-). Then headed off to see the Great Cursus, which proves my point because I seemed to be the only tourist who knew it was there – everyone else just stood around gawking at the barrows on top of the hill. Then did Salisbury and the Cathedral.
  • Sunday – Caught the train from Southampton to Birmingham. Had to forciably stop myself from singing the “Manchester England England” song from Hair all day because my brain seems to think they’re one and the same. Tried to catch a train from Birmingham/Manchester to Leicester only to discover they were working on the lines and I had to take a bus instead. Went to buy a bus ticket to Leicester only to be sold one to Worcester instead (apparently British Rail are now employing the hearing impaired in customer service areas, which is admirable if somewhat inefficient) but it didn’t matter because in the confusion of trying to fit a trainload of people onto one bus no-one ever bothered to check our tickets. Eventually arrived in Leicester and was met by Helen, Ali and Rob. Went shopping and bought Mexican food for dinner, including two avocados for guacamole. Rob and I made the guacamole, but had to “force-ripen” the avocado in Ali’s microwave, which resulted in an extremely frightening grainy green paste that no one was really willing to eat – although I did try it for reasons of science. Had dinner at Helen and Rob’s flat before heading back to Ali’s and retiring at Emma’s.
  • Monday – Still alive despite the guacamole. Went into the city with Ali in the morning. Had a look around the shopping district, and then did the cathedral and guildhall. Were ambushed by a predatory “Welcomer” in the Cathedral who gave us a 20 minute lecture on Richard the 3rd, Saint Martin and the Leicester Tigers (the regiment, not the football team) and then forced us to sign the guestbook. Had reheated Chinese for lunch. That evening we went out to dinner at a carvery that everyone calls the Foxhunter but actually isn’t with Helen, Rob, Mark and Rachel. There was a semi-amusing man doing the carving who said “Good Morning” to everyone. Ate far too much and got to bed far too late, so overall a good night 🙂
  • Tuesday – Met up with Helen and Rob at Ali’s in the morning and tried to figure out stuff to do. Ended up on a quest to find the giant cheese shown on the tourist map of Leicestershire. This took us to a pleasant market town with a name like “Stratford” but which wasn’t called “Stratford” where we critiqued an “Australian” shop (the food was authentic the rest of the stock was rubbish) and had luch at a cafe where you have to ask for mayonaise. Then we checked out the Library and got rather wet on the way back to the car. Next we went to a historic church (at a place called ‘Tickencote’ I think) with really impressive carvings, and also got rather wet on the way back to the car, me in particular since I’d left my jacket in the car to dry out from the last time. Then we drove around for a few hours looking for the giant cheese, but couldn’t find it. We did go past Belvoir castle and Harlaxton Manor (where they filmed the external shots for The Haunting) though. Then we dropped in on Harriet and Will and had apple crumble before returning home. Dinner was spicy pork at Helen and Rob’s, where Ali and I assembled flat packed shelving in return for food 🙂
  • Wednesday – Did a load of washing then walked into the city on my own in and spent too much money buying books and CDs. Purchases included the Killers, the Thrills, The Fiery Furnances and an Ash CD that somehow managed to contain all the songs I like by Ash, thus in one fell swoop eliminating the need for me to buy all their albums (good thinking Ash marketing department). I then checked out the castle gardens, but didn’t actually get up onto the mote as the steps were being occupied by a large number of threatening looking young people who glared menacingly at me as soon as I came into view and continued to glare menacingly until I fled. I looked at the canal instead. Walked back to Emma’s, then over to Ali’s for dinner with Helen and Rob. Had shepherd’s pie which wasn’t actually shepherds pie because it was made with beef, carrot and bacon (and potato obviously). Apple pie, custard, Uno and fake Jenga for dessert.

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. No idea what I’m going to do today, but dinner at Ali’s seems a distinct possibility. Well, whatever I decide to do, I’d probbaly better go and do it 🙂

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