England and Wales

I’ve made up my mind to get back to scribbling about books next week, this means this is the last about my travels. If you want to read more just ask and I’ll reconsider based on your request.

We flew into Heathrow and took the train out to Paddington Station where they have Welcome to Paddington Station with images of Paddington Bear on the cardboard. We were at Paddington Station a few more times during our trip and noticed an odd thing. Very few rubbish bins were available. We found one rubbish and one recycling bin, we didn’t tour the entire station but did do a decent look and that’s all we found.

We got there fairly early in the day and even with the short walk from the station we managed to arrive hours before our room was ready for us. They kept our bags for us while we walked and even put them in our room while we were out. New SIM cards bought and installed meant we were able to ring and make arrangements to visit a cousin the following day before heading out to Leamington Spa and the UK Discworld Convention.

The problem with visiting the cousin is that we ended up walking down the street to have lunch with her. We were at a new restaurant which didn’t have its processes working well and we didn’t complain about the wait. Three bagels took an hour to come to our table and they were so embarrassed by our wait that they refused to let us pay the bill. The consequences were that we missed our potential connection at Leamington Spa and had to take the bus out to the hotel. I just want to say how nice people are. I made a friend on the UK Discworld Convention forum on Facebook who was prepared to drive back out to Leamington Spa to pick us up and take us to our hotel. Thanks to lunch taking so long she was unavailable at the time we got there. This niceness seems to be the theme of Discworld Communities wherever I go.

The convention itself was awesome. So many people who I knew from online greeted me with hugs. I traded Tim Tams for salty Dutch Licorice, but was given more than I’d bargained for. I’ll be eating this for a good while but it’s awesome. I ended up trading Tim Tams for a shot of vodka. I managed to get into a Klatch with Terry Pratchett’s agent, Colin Smythe. He talked a lot, answered questions and gave us all a printed copy of one of Pratchett’s early short stories. I attended writing panels and learned what I can do should I have issues with my hands and need to start using speech-to-text software. I got signatures from a number of special people on a tshirt from Nullus Anxietas IV which is going into the auction next year at our Discworld convention. I didn’t attend the auction, the one that made £9,000. I figured it was safer on my hip pocket nerve, that and I’d been given so much licorice I wasn’t certain how much more I’d be able to carry home.

Now for some highlights of the rest of the trip.

Having a guided tour of Cardiff by one of the editors of Discworld Monthly which finished some time after we had dinner in a Dalek. It included seeing Ianto’s (from Torchwood) shrine, having a milkshake in Eddie’s Diner (from Doctor Who), having my photo taken at the Rift (from Torchwood).

I’m trying to fade into the Rift. It’s not working, though.

Many highlights going back into England.

Wandering around Cornwall. We based ourselves in Penzance for a couple of days. It gave us enough time to hop on a bus and tour Cornwall. We bought a bus ticket for £12 which gave us unlimited bus rides around Cornwall for that day. I just need to say: those bus drivers are absolutely amazing! The roads are narrow, generally two way, this meant buses would sometimes have to negotiate how they would pass each other. I saw some signage to make me think the clockwise traffic had right-of-way, but if you’re driving there keep a close eye out in case I’m wrong. We saw some bus drivers turn left down an incredibly narrow street without hitting anything, including the cars which shouldn’t have been parked there.

Scrumping. I’ve always wanted to scrump, not knowing what it really meant until I looked it up just now. I always thought it meant to collect fruit from the countryside, I just found out it means to steal fruit from someone else’s orchard. I didn’t do this! We did some walking around the countryside and blackberries were in various stages of ripeness. I’ve now discovered how to tell if it’s properly ripe…it needs to just about fall off the vine otherwise it won’t be really sweet. Seeing an apple tree, and blackberries in plentiful supply made me have some idea of how hard it must have been for the convicts coming to Australia without the familiar plants and their edible fruits.

We had dinner in a typical English pub and I asked for a local beer to go with it. I decided to go typical English and had roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding. Absolutely delicious.

We spent one night in the hotel at Abu Dhabi Airport on the way back. With the way the flights worked out we had 14 hours to pass and one way is to go to the hotel and sleep in a regular bed. This was the best hotel of the entire trip, and even better than any hotel we had in Europe. The only downside was we couldn’t get the shower to run hot water, if we’d been going outside it would have been fine as it was 32° overnight but we were only going downstairs for a lovely breakfast.

We eventually arrived home just before 7am. I’ve only recently realised how hard two overseas trips in one winter can be. Since returning from England I’ve tried to catch up with Convention stuff and Uni stuff as well as family stuff. I denied I was struggling and just kept going but a few days days ago something happened and I realised I was fooling myself. Since then I’ve made a much better effort to get to bed early. I heartily recommend early bed times. This last paragraph feels incredibly self-indulgent but I want you to learn from my mistakes.