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This is a hodgepodge post. Warning it is a photo fest!

I haven’t written a post for a bit and everything flows together and making it difficult to recall everything. I was recently arrived in Manchester last post. Since then I’ve visited London for a night, then Bath for three nights and I’ve settled near Brighton with a day trip to London, a day before the terrorist bombing at Parsons Green.

On GUFF related stuff I went to London to meet up with the TUN, who meet on the first Thursday of every month at the Bishop’s Finger, London Circle. The lovely Claire and Mark put me up for the night. I caught a Virgin Train from Manchester Piccadilly. I had prebooked it so it was 22 pounds, but the train ticket from Holmes Chapel to Manchester Piccadilly was 11 pounds. I don’t know how the Brits bear it. The cost of train tickets here is ridiculous and it’s not even that good.

Claire met me at the train at Euston Station and she took me for a walk to the British Museum. I only had a day pack so that worked well. You have to line up to be searched to enter the museum these days and they don’t allow big bags with wheels. So we didn’t have too much time so we did a quick raid on the Egyptian exhibition. The Rossetta Stone was four deep in people so I only got a passing glance at that. A lot of the exhibitions were crowded with people either taking photos or standing next to the exhibitions. I had a quick fix of mummies and amazing statuary and then we headed to Holborn to the pub. It was great  walking around the streets of London. I wanted to stay in London for a week just to walk around and get acquainted with the place but time ran out when we were booking things.

Claire bought me a pint of cider and we headed upstairs to where the Tun meet.

The TUN meeting was pretty amazing really. So many people coming in and it was quite vibrant and alive with talk. The room they meet in is upstairs and quiet, until it is filled up with SF fans. I met up with Kylie Ding, met Caroline, who I had not met and Patrick McMurray, who I hosted as a GUFF delegate years ago. Fiona Moore showed up and we hugged. We met at Worldcon and were on a panel together.

I wasn’t meant to be meeting there but Patrick’s plans to be in Ireland were tossed on the scrap heap. I met more people, like Nicholas who sounds like Liam Neeson and others but I can’t remember everyone’s name. I had a meal of bangers and mash. The bangers were pork, apple, mustard and were very nice. Here is a pic of me and Fiona Moore.

This is Kylie and another expat Aussie, who embarrassingly I can’t remember her name.

Caroline took this shot of me and Claire.

And I took a room shot later when it filled up.

A side note here. After keeping my weight reasonably under control, I seemed to have ballooned. It must be because my daughter isn’t making me green smoothies anymore. It could also be the presence of so much roasts and bangers and mash.

After the Tun meeting we got on a train to Claire and Mark’s place, where I had a loft room and a great big bed. I was a bit sleepless and I don’t know why. I have had a few of these weird nights on this trip and then after some cold brewed coffee and toast and jam I was on my way back into London to meet up with my daughter in Bath.

I’ve been to Bath a number of times and this visit was to meet up with Cheryl Morgan who lives outside of Bath and for my daughter to take in the sights. Bath was a totally weird experience this time, mostly because we are stupid!

We booked an AirBnB which we found after a post from Craig Cormick. We loved the pictures and we didn’t read any of the fine print. After staying near Manchester in that lovely little cottage that sadly was without WifI or a washing machine, we were hanging out for the next self catering Air BnB with WiFi and a washing machine. This quirky BnB was in a small village about 7.5 miles out of Bath. I arrived by train and found a bus to meet them out there. I getting stressed messages from my daughter. She doesn’t want to stay at the AirBnB and asked me to book her and N another one. I’m like What? And can’t you wait till I get there and at least look at it first.

The AirBnB was a lovely quaint cottage with creaky floors, very weird plumbing and was not self-catering and we couldn’t use the washing machine. I read all the fine print belatedly and realised it was more like a traditional Bnb with cooked breakfast. My daughter is vegan so I hadn’t even communicated that. Anyway, it got sorted. There was a shower in one of the bedrooms, sort of a cupboard space really and our loo was by the kitchen. It was a pump thing so every time you went and flushed, a massive sound clanged through the house that you have just been. One morning we all couldn’t bring ourselves to do serious business because the landlady was in the kitchen cooking and we had to go into to town and find a café. Breakfast was served in conservatory, very pretty, but there was no mobile phone coverage but there was wifi. The landlady said she didn’t cater for vegans. A bit sad really because she didn’t ask what she could do but because I hadn’t read the fine print I take the blame. She did let us put food in the fridge though and we could have asked her to cook my daughter the mushrooms we brought. But basically we spent as little time there as we could. A shame really, I thought it was pretty.

I met Cheryl Morgan on Saturday for lunch and we had planned to take in the Dragon Exhibition as a thing to do. We met at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. I bought a book for my granddaughter, Madds, Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. From there we found a nice café for lunch. Cheryl thankfully requested an inside table as she thought it would rain and it did, quite heavily. Being Bath it fined up again pretty quickly. We caught up on stuff. We were both at the Worldcon in Helsinki but didn’t get to talk much. Cheryl had been busy organising the web text feed for the Hugos. Cheryl talked a bit about her radio spot she does in Bristol and how busy her work as been. I was very privileged to be a social outing for her as she had to come into Bath to meet me. Thank you Cheryl! Cheryl has come into town on previous visits and has always been a wonderful native guide.

A shot of cider from lunch, a selfie with Cheryl and the lovely view from her special spot under the Pultney Street Bridge.

We walked down to the Victoria Gallery to see the Dragon Exhibition. There was some wonderful work there. The exhibition was centred on children I believe and a lot of the illustrations were from children’s books. As it was raining when we finished, we took in the permanent exhibition too. Here are some of the art that was painted on the wall. There was an app that went with this exhibition where you find eggs. We hunted around for a couple and found them. I later found all but one before leaving Bath.

Meanwhile my daughter and N had done the hop on hop off bus and been to the Roman Baths. There had been a queue at the Bath’s which was off putting. They told me they pulled up in the bus just have the rain and the queue had disappeared so they got straight in. Cheryl and I walked around to the Putney Street Bridge and Cheryl showed me her favourite spot where I took these lovely photos. Cheryl also took me to an independent  craft beer place where I bought some cider before we said good bye. I met up with my daughter and N and then we did more sight seeing before heading back to the village and the pub for dinner.

Here are a few shots from around Bath and the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms. Also it was the Jane Austen Festival so I got a few shots of the parade. It was huge, all the way up Milsom Street.

N had to leave us on Sunday to go back north for work. He dropped us to our bus tour, which was going to take us to Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Combe with a few things inbetween. My daughter woke up sick and it was a close call whether we would go, but she rallied and we went. We had a bit of an issue with Beanie’s sickness at Avebury and despite this Beans had a fab time. I’ve been to all these sites before but I hadn’t been to Castle Combe. It was a delight to see that and also to experience these places with my daughter. Here is some photos from all of these places.

I hope you don’t go crazy seeing all these photos. There is so much to see in the UK and it’s impossible to do it all. This first lot are from Stonehenge. It looked smaller than I remembered. There is also a new set up now that you park and shuttle buses take you to the stones. There is a museum and cafe now. Apparently visitor numbers have skyrocketed to millions. Soon they will build a tunnel so you won’t see the stones from the road. People slow down for a look and it causes traffic jams. They were right we saw one.

These next are from Avebury. I love this place. We didn’t get to go to the manor house which is worth it, but we did get to walk among the stones and the guide was good too. The last two shots are of the shop.

It was quite cold so I invested in another set of beanie and mittens.

Next stop Lacock. We didn’t get to go into the manor, not enough time and they were filming in there. Also there is the Talbot museum which I’ve seen before but not this time. We did the film tribute thing having a tour of the town. Some of the buildings are very old.

This street shot above is where Harry and Dumbledore materialise in Godrick’s Hollow.

The oldest house in Lacock.

This house has witches crosses on the roof.

These are from the small village of Castle Coombe, with the small market cross and the Norman knight buried in the church.

When we got back to Bath after the tour we wondered around for a bit, not for a moment thinking we should check what time the buses left. It turns out that the last bus departed at 6.00pm and we were stuck in Bath unless we caught a cab, which we had to do. It was $26 pounds plus a tip. We then rocked up to the Butchers Arms for dinner to be told they stopped serving food at 3.00pm. We were over it by this time and just went back to the BnB and bed. Next day checkout. So checking out is always a hassle.  You have to pack, gather up your crap, check that you have your crap etc. Complications include being in a remote village with a less than frequent bus service and schizo rain storms and wild winds. We sat in the observatory and watched the weather and formulated plans. We were to check out at 12 but our train didn’t leave until 2.36 from Bath Spa. We had our massive bags so no chance of doing anything. Watching the weather we both decided it was a cab job. Unfortunately we had not counted on the lack of mobile phone coverage. Eep! Just as I said this to Beans, I had one bar on my phone. I dared not move so I sent Beans running for the taxi’s phone number and booked a cab. Phew!

We arrived in good time with a nice, chatty private taxi driver who delivered us to the door of Bath Spa train station. Then we tried to sort our tickets. Beans noticed that our taxi driver couldn’t restart his car. He still hadn’t started his car when we moved upstairs to the station. We felt bad for him. There is this little café called Dashi on Station number two at Bath Spa. They have vegan sushi and their sandwiches aren’t bad either. We settled in there. Bean’s tummy was still a bit unsettled unfortunately. Lots of acid pain for her. Me I enjoyed my chicken and corn sandwich that was so fresh. We stocked up at that café for the journey, a lucky thing as none of our trains had food services on them.

We had reserved seats, supposedly near the luggage racks. When our train was on the notice board it said no reserved seats and that the train was formed of two coaches. It was the Portsmouth service and we had to change at Fratton. I’d never heard of Fratton so looked it up. It’s near Portsmouth. I was concerned about the two coach train and the number of people on board and the no reservation notice. When the train came it was every man for himself and every woman. I was surprised how aggressive people were getting on the train. The woman in front of me was trying to push the train conductor out of the way to get in. Obviously he stood still for two long. We had two big bags and other luggage and it was hectic getting on board. I made a comment about Brits and queues and this old lady turned around and sneered. Not likely. What has happened here? I looked up the population statistics and the population had increased by 6 million. That can put pressure on infrastructure.

Anyway, on the train we tried to move along the aisle to put our luggage in the little space. There was a Japanese man with his bag in the aisle and I couldn’t get passed and he wouldn’t move his bag. I had a crowd of people behind me so couldn’t move. A man switched seats so I could sit down but basically there were three huge bags blocking the aisle. People could squeeze past which worked but basically it stayed pretty packed behind me with people standing. Beans was standing and I wanted her to take my seat because she was sick but she wouldn’t. Eventually the ticket inspector came and said we couldn’t block the ailses with our bags. By this time I was pretty cranky. This is a private train company. Why on earth were there only two coaches for all these people? What the actual? This is a joke. It’s expensive and it’s bad. Great Western Railway sucks donkey balls.

Then we missed our connection. We had seven minutes to climb up the platform and change trains. I stressed about that but we were ten minutes late. Then we were told the train was coming, then it was cancelled and we were told to go to Barnham. We were on a Southern service so Great Western Railway weren’t interested in us. There was a big issue with the trains due to a breakdown so it was chaos everywhere. We rang Nick to tell him where we were and where we were being sent. We weren’t alone so that was actually comforting with other passengers equally bewildered.

Once in Barnham we caught a Brighton train and all went to plan. We arrived and then collected by Nick. Nick is Mathew’s cousin and he is spoiling us. It’s wonderful and relaxing just to be hanging here near Brighton. We’ve been to the Laines, the Brighton Museum and I had a prebooked sewer tour. Beanie bailed on that so I went alone. Here are some shots from around Brighton, then London.

Big storm brewing over Brighton and Hove.

This is where I climbed out of the sewer.

We did a day trip to London on Thursday and walked from London Bridge to St Pauls where we got on an tour bus, then we walked from 221B Baker Street to Marble Arch via Marks and Spencer. Marks and Spencer is bra heaven. It was also cold so I bought a jacket and a scarf. I could not bring myself to buy another beanie and gloves. We did not use the metro but we did see lots of police activity.

We saw the Tower Bridge Open from the Thames.

Next morning there was a bombing at Parsons Green on a metro train. We watched that on the news for a bit but it gets too overwhelming so we turned the tv off and continued with our plans.

We went to the Bluebell Railway in nearby by Sheffield Park. Steam trains! It was an amazing set up. They have a train station, actually they have three and the trust bought up the tracks and restored them. We took a steam train to East Grinstead. We checked out the shed with all the old engines and the museum. We were a bit confused about the time the train left and I heard the whistle and said what’s that? We went outside and saw the train pull away. You should have seen our faces. So we went back to the museum and then had lunch as there was a later train. I now have a book on train history. It’s a very broad overview. The bookstore there had so many books on different lines and trains and well my half price overview book suits me fine.

These are some photos from the Bluebell train day. Today we are off to Eastbourne and an art exhibition and probably a nice lunch. Tomorrow I meet a long lost, newly found half cousin and we are heading into Brighton.

I have one more SF fan related thing. I am meeting Patrick McMurray and possibly Claire on Wednesday in London to see the Sloan museum. Nick lent me a book on the Sloan Museum so I’m all up on that collection. We are then meeting some SF fans at the Old Cheshire Cheese Pub in Fleet Street. I went to this pub in 2000. I remember this because Tony was on the phone and I was reading a book. I read in the book that the people were meeting at the Old Cheshire Cheese at the same time Tony said to a friend, Okay we’ll meet at the Old Cheshire Cheese. And the next day I’m catching up with Barbara, who I have known since the old Purple Zone days on the Harper Collins Australia bulletin board. Takes me back. Barbara moved back to the UK a few years back.

This may be my last post on this trip. I’m not sure. I head back to Australia on the 24th of September.

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