Metal Days trip: Day 2 (London to Trieste)

Not a hugely eventful day today. Up at a reasonable hour to thank my kind hosts Katie and Nick for putting me up (and putting up with me) for an evening, and then Nick escorted me to Liverpool Street Station before the trains got too busy.

Better photos tomorrow, hopefully

I was an hour early for my coach to Stansted, but as it was almost empty, the nice man from National Express told me to jump on the earlier one rather than sit on the pavement for sixty minutes. A short journey later and I was at the airport and going through security. Belt off, shoes off, waving my arms in some scanner things… the usual.

There then followed three hours of sitting on my arse wondering why the airport put about twelve plug sockets on little seating things outside Burger King when not a single one of them works. I’m just glad I have an additional battery pack for my phone.

Then there was the usual stampede for the gate when it was announced. Followed by people standing and queuing for ages when everyone has an allotted seat anyway. It’s not like getting on first makes any difference at all. I sat until the queue vanished and pretty much just walked straight to my seat.

As we were taxiing I noticed that the chap next to me was just a little bit nervous. Well, very nervous. He was gripping the (cheap plastic – this is RyanAir) headrest in front of him so tightly I thought he was going to leave handprints. It turns out he doesn’t fly well, and when most of us are making our ears pop, he gets incredibly dizzy and feels like he’s falling. Very much not a pleasant way to travel.

He also was heading for Slovenia, to play at a rockabilly festival. We talked for the entire flight, keeping his mind off things, and I hope I made the ninety minutes or so slightly more bearable for him!

On arrival at Trieste, the passport queue took an age to get through, and my phone data wasn’t working. This was an issue as my only means of communicating with my couchsurfing host and navigating to his flat required internet access… With the help of my lovely wife (because the phone bill’s in her name, so BT wouldn’t speak to me), we managed to get it sorted and normal business was resumed.

The train into the city was less of an issue, only €4 for the half hour journey.

Of course, I was flustered to had to stop for a drink at the very nice Hop & Rock café, where I chilled for a bit as the sun began to set over the ocean to the west. Lovely. Trieste at first glance, is typically Italian. That is to say, gorgeous and full of too many nice places to drink outside when the weather’s this nice.

I made it to Alessio’s at around 8:30pm, only 2 1/2 hours late. Like many before him, he’s proven to be a wonderful host and – after a pasta (of course) dinner – we sat up to the early hours talking about… well… stuff!

So, after keying around 350 combinations into my luggage lock to open it (it changed combinations – the one that eventually opened it was one digit out on each of the wheels in various directions, so I’m not impressed with that) I was able to get my phone charging and rattle this off.

Tomorrow I will mainly be walking. A lot. I’ve got a handful of sites I want to see and a lot of local food and drink I want to sample!

Metal Days trip: Day 1 (London)

Day one was mainly spent nerding out. Andy mentioned that the building he works in plays host to the Terry Pratchett archives so I took a trip up in the lift on the off-chance I’d be able to have a gander. However, the archive is stored off-site and requires 24-hour notice for archivists to bring the required items in… and as there are almost 3000 of them you don’t get to delve through the lot! Maybe another time.

Senate House

Instead, I wandered over to the British Library, somewhere I’ve meant to go in the past but never quite managed it. I am really glad I made the effort. A beautifully modern building – I confess I was expecting something much older – it’s airy, cool and a very pleasant environment. Access to Reading Rooms where many specialist texts are stored requires a pass, but there’s still plenty to look at, including pop-up exhibitions.

One permanent exhibit is the Treasures of the British Library and this was worth the trip to London all by itself. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a book nerd. I’m no expert, I just love books. I can’t even explain why (except possibly, “thanks, Dad”) but I’ve always had a massive appreciation for the written and printed word.

Walking through this collection, I was getting goosebumps and it wasn’t due to the air conditioning. Some of the items they have there are of massive significance. Some due to what they are, some because of their age, some down to how they were printed.

British Library

Everything is behind glass, obviously, and carefully controlled in terms of light, moisture and so forth. But you are still mere inches from some utterly enthralling chunks of paper with ink on them. Which, let’s face it, is all they are. Yet because of what is on them, every single item in this collection is an incredible part of history.
There are subsections focusing on religious texts, music, historical documents, science, maps and so forth. I only spotted one spelling mistake on a single placard (I won’t spoil it for you, see if you can find it), because I am that sad individual who reads all the information about the items he’s looking it.

The age of some of the exhibits is staggering, when you think of that they’re made of and how long some may have lain discarded until they were rescued and restored. The oldest item I spotted was from the third century, some scraps of a Bible discovered in Egypt. Right next to it is St Cuthbert’s bible, the oldest known surviving example of European bookbinding. It’s from the eighth century.

Other items that jumped out at me included the first letter detailing the concept of a computer program, from Ada Lovelace to Charles Babbage), and John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “A Hard Day’s Night” which he knocked out on the back of a birthday card belonging to his son, Julian. The maps are also stunning, especially some of the older examples from the 15th century. They look like they could have been drawn in biro barely a few weeks ago, they’ve been so well cared for.

Secret Weapon, Stratford

You can tell I was enthralled. Yes, it’s nerdy, but it’s a wonderful collection and definitely something you should see if you’re a bibliophile.

The nerdiness continued as Andy took me to Secret Weapon in Stratford, one of a chain of gaming bars. There we imbibed a couple of expensive (for me, I live in Glasgow) beverages while he thrashed me at Injustice 2 and I destroyed him at Rocket League.

Lovely place, very comfy with a decent range of beers and ciders (but no alcohol-free ones, just soft drinks) and plenty of games to play, including the board/tabletop variety.

I am currently in a comfy bed at Katie’s where I will nest until tomorrow morning and panic about getting into Liverpool St on a very busy train…

Couple of days in London

Fired Earth burger and two rather delicious co...

Nice start to Thursday night

Just before lunch I drove over to Chunky’s. He works on the railway in and around Bradford and had offered to look after my car while I took the train to London. With typical northern generosity, his mum foisted tea, cake and biscuits on me as I waited for him. He then insisted on paying for my lunch in town before dropping me at the station.

The journey down was uneventful and a couple of hours later I stepped off the carriage and onto the platform at King’s Cross. A short tube ride later and I was at Andy’s flat where I got to meet his girlfriend (and now fiancee) for the first time. Shalene is crude, contentious, stubborn and lacking in shame. So – pretty cool, then.

I was in perfect time for dinner and we headed for the Grand Union along the road where I indulged in their “hot” Fired Earth burger loaded with chillis. It wasn’t bad at all. The cocktails I washed it down with were rather tasty also.

Next stop was the Stinging Nettle where there were only a few teams for the pub quiz. It was pretty tight with only 6 points or so between the six teams and we came in around the halfway mark. Andy and Shalene managed to get gree drinks in the tiebreaker rounds, too.

The Thursday was a lazy day. I had a slight lie in and then met Ben for lunch by the Lyric Theatre. It was a lovely day as we sat and caught up. Last time I’d met ben was for drinks one night in Melbourne a year or so ago – we originally met in Hanoi.

Helen picked me up from there in the mid-afternoon along with one of her friends. Also in the car was her friend’s 13-week old son who’d just had a cast put on his leg. I ended up baby sitting him while the two ladies had a natter and Helen tidied her flat up for her birthday party.

The party itself was a giggle even though I only knew two people there, but it’s always nice to chat to new folk.

I was walking back to Andy’s later on when I bumped into Shalene at the bus stop. I ended up joining them to go bowling… only they alley had just closed! Instead, we walked around the corner to the Tiroler Hut where we sank a couple of very large drinks while what seemed like the entire Australian population of London (bar Ben) sang very bad karaoke.

And then to Andy’s and to bed. I had an earlyish train to get back to Bradford in the morning.

A short trip, but as ever an enjoyable one. Sorry to those I didn’t get a chance to see and there are quite a few of you. Next time!

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Quick weekend in London

Number 42 ticket barrier

One of 4 pics I took. I am sad.

It’s travel-related and I don’t want this blog to stagnate, so just to let you all know I do still get around a bit! Helen very kindly invited me down to London for the weekend and I managed to get a return for under £80 by air. Around the same price as the train with a much shorter travel time.

The flight down was with BMI who have a wonderful paperless system. Check in online and they SMS you a 2D barcode which is then scanned as your boarding pass. Only in my case it didn’t scan so I had to run downstairs again and pick up a paper one. Ah well. Nice idea in principle.

All on time and then just along the Picadilly Line to meet Helen, and grab a few drinks. As ever, I was pooched so it wasn’t a late night.

Saturday was spent in the city before we headed back to Helen’s in the evening where we had some friends round. More beers and then I was antisocial and crept off to bed early. I honestly think this teaching lark is taking a lot out of me!

That's more like it...

Om nom nom

On Sunday morning I was up moderately early (I woke at 7:30 both mornings, but realised it wasn’t a school day so could lie in!) and did some coursework while Helen caught up on sleep. Andy met us for lunch in the afternoon where we each enjoyed a traditional Sunday roast (with slightly underdone vegetables) before I legged it back to Heathrow for my return flight.

Despite checking in online I still had to get a boarding pass as British Airways don’t offer the paperless option. The machines refused to give me one as check-in had closed, despite the fact that I was checked in and just needed my boarding card! With 4 minutes to spare, I bounded through security (without shoes on – in case I was carrying a nuclear device in my knackered trainers, I guess) and then waited for my slightly delayed flight.

Free newspapers were grabbed as a drink and snacks downed. Not bad for a fiver – the actual cost of the flight before taxes were added!

And then back to one of my temporary abodes where I fretted over Monday’s lesson plans. A short break, but an enjoyable one. Thank you so much Helen for your hospitality and to Andy for lunch!

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And we’re off. Again. Almost.

I will be in a few hours anyway. I’ve been rather busy since getting back from Graspop (details when I get the time to type it all up) and I will be lucky to get four hours’ sleep before I have to be up for the walk to Hammersmith; the Tube to Heathrow; and my flight to Bangkok (via Abu Dabhi).

And then my flight to Ko Samui and my ferry to Ko Tao. I will be very relieved once I dump my bags at the Sunshine 2 Bungalow Resort on Wednesday afternoon!

Once more, a big thanks to Andy for putting me up / putting up with me for a night in London. I hope the scraps of the KFC bucket I left is enough for rent.

There may be a couple of tweets from the airport before I leave, and then we’ll see what access is like in Ko Tao. Catch you all from the islands!

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