Friday, 28 February 2014

Road Trip 2014 - Part VI: Caerdydd

Here be dragons.

Just completed the final leg of my pre-departure road trip.

Going to run myself a hot bubble bath and sleep for a couple of days before the packing begins.

It's been a mad couple of days, which saw the resurrection of THE MAGGOT!

Forgot how hard the floor is. Takes a couple of nights to get used to it again, but the maggot is sooo snugly and warm. Had some crazy dreams, probably due to the alcohol, guacamole, and the nostalgia of liquorish rizlas. Yeah, I'm still not over that nurse yet, and, when in Rome... No harm reliving your youth now and then. 

"OMG, liquorish rizlas! [later] I only want a couple."
"So we didn't need to buy 200?"

I've been visiting my beautiful friend :JR: for a couple of days.

We met in a bar down Charles Street about eight years ago and instantly hit it off, which is kind of unusual as, back then, Charles Street wasn't the kind of place boys and girls went to meet each other. Despite that, we soon became firm drinking buddies. Some of the bars along there are the type you can lose track of time in. I remember one morning we crawled to the surface, squinting in the dazzling morning sun, only to find the streets filled with suits and ties on their way to work.

We did briefly contemplate heading into town, but Charles Street apparently died years ago, and after a couple of bottles of wine I was pretty much asleep on the couch - what with having just driven to Belgium and back.

Besides, there is a certain age at which you don't relish wading through pee to get to the bathroom, shouting over crap music to be heard, or standing at the bar awkwardly wondering whether anyone's checking you out.

Those days are, thankfully, behind us.

Instead, we got an early night, then went for a drive the next day.

Remember Tinkinswood? Site of the musical lunar eclipse and Beltane fire festival? When I lived above the gypsy jazz musician, I used to drive out there every full moon around 11PM.

It was such a beautiful sunny day that I decided to take :JR: 

Looking out towards the fields.
(click to enlarge)

Looking back towards the wood.
(click to enlarge)

It's been raining a lot recently and a pool had collected inside the tomb. When the sunlight hit it, it created an incredible ripple effect on the back wall. As I squatted to take a photo, the wind stopped, so I had to blow on the pool myself to create the pattern.

It was a bit of a ritual thing. Before I left for Rwanda in 2007, I spent time there, so it seemed natural to return before embarking on another tour of Africa. Took a moment to bless the beads my friend sent me.

We also pinned our hopes to the clootie tree, though it wasn't as impressive as the ones in Armenia or Ireland.

Clootie Tree, Armenia

Slightly depressed clootie tree,

Fred's cousin?
From Tinkinswood, we pootled up the road to St. Lythans, former location of Cow in a Dolmen.

Me in a Dolmen

After paying our respects to the stones, we headed off to the seaside for a cheese and bacon toastie in an upmarket surfer shack at Rest Bay, Porthcawl (check out their webcam).

When we got back, I left :JR: to chill whilst I wandered into town to get a few things. 

It was so weird being back. I know I was in Wales in June, but it wasn't quite the same. I was on the go the whole time then and didn't really have a chance to take it in. There's something really crazy about having lived somewhere for so long, having done so much there, and then coming back to find you can hardly remember where anything is. Like you never lived there at all.

One thing I love about Cardiff is that you can walk to the end of the high street and there's a giant castle.

There's a tourist shop opposite which specialises in Welsh Lovespoons and all things dragon, daffodil, and leek related.

Largest lovespoon ever made.

Smallest lovespoon ever made.

(click to enlarge)

After that, I took a slow wander back through the pretty part of Cardiff, up near the campus where I did my MA.

The courthouse, where I listened to a chilling case during my
Forensic Linguistics module.

Cardiff Town Hall

Notice the dragon on top?

(click to enlarge)

Cardiff Student Union
and how you pronounce it when you're drunk

I believe the above is where I would have collected my degree if I'd stuck around long enough. By that time I was already being led astray in the bars of Kigali by the lovely Madam Martine.

:JR: is as much a fan of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as Paul is a fan of Max Keiser. I love my friends for exposing me to new things, even if I don't always 'get it' at first. I'm now a convert to all of the above, and also to an amazing film called Shortbus (trailer). It made its name because the actors aren't acting the sex scenes. Ten minutes into it and I was rolling my eyes and reaching for Words With Friends. Half an hour into it and I was utterly hooked. I think it was around the time I noticed Daniela Sea (Max) from The L Word. It was funny, heartbreaking, excellent goodness. I found myself in spontaneous giggles halfway home on the A48, thinking about the love egg incident.

Totally worth watching, but not in a room with anyone you'd feel uncomfortable watching a blue movie with.

Stayed up gabbing until around half-one. :JR: was gone by the time I woke up, so I locked up and headed over to Canton to see my friend Mari. We hadn't met up in about three years, and it was her birthday the day before, so we went out for a very yummy meal and catch-up at a lush place called The Pear Tree.

Mari lives on Claude Road, and it's kind of fitting that my very last photo of Cardiff is of the very first place I lived when I moved there. We were a bit further down the bottom of the street, and we didn't last long as it was a dreadful flat, but I still remember it.

I'm off to soak myself in Cathryn's birthday present: luscious Pure Pleasure bath bubbles, 'a blend of geranium, rosewood, sandalwood, ylang ylang and sweet almond oil.' Perhaps if I ask nicely, my body will forgive me for the way I've treated it this past week. No more cake, no more booze, no more toking - lots of sleep.

Claude Road

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Road Trip 2014 - Part V: Quick Nap

I have been so completely spoilt this birthday!

Four birthday cakes!

Had a wonderful time in Belgium, London and Northamptonshire.

Spending one day recuperating in Gloucester, then off to Cardiff tomorrow.

I. Am. Knackered.

Unfortunately, my body seems to think it's allowed to relax now that it's back in its own bed. Went out for a lovely meal last night with Dad and Marilyn to The Bumblebee. One pint and I almost fell asleep face-down in my sausage and mash.

Feeling a little better today. Sorting out banking and paperwork, but also catching up on The Musketeers and Inside No 9.

Before leaving Hampty, I managed to dig out my other passport. Completed the set of three...

Passports one, two and three.
Aged 16, 24 and 32.

I love owning a passport with a unicorn on the front.

Still think the latest holographic photos are creepy as.

"Could you just confirm your name?"
"Yes - Corpse Bride."
"Very good, welcome to Asia."

Anyway, it's been a lovely birthday, with lots of cake and lovely cards. A couple of my favourites:

My friend's son, Ryan, made me a Lion King card with Simba as both a cub and an adult. It even included a picture of me in it!

It reminds me a little of that guy who did those self portraits on drugs. Particularly reminiscent of Klonopin. 

Ryan decided to stick his name in the window so that I would always know where their house was.

Crazy li'le rock dude =o)

Continuing the theme of Africa, I received a stunning card from my friend K in Kenya. It's so amazing because she took the photo herself.

I love the tiny wee tree!

That's sort of how I'm feeling at the moment, embarking on my travels.

She also sent a necklace made from basil wood, which is supposed to keep me safe on my travels (from airline food, flight delays, visa issues, dicks listening to their ipod on full blast whilst you're sitting next to them... all that stuff) and came with the cryptic message:

Assuming it didn't mean Castrol GTX, I left it to soak in olive oil and now they're all golden. Think I'll get garden Ganesh to bless them too before I go.

Very much looking forward to catching up with this beautiful and talented lady later in the year.

Finally, one that made me grin.

I've been sorting out some paperwork for a small group I run. We need to change a couple of the trustees and bank signatories around because Martine, who was our Secretary, has moved to Laos - which is where I'm headed on 11th April.

I asked my friend H to step in, and she agreed.

She sent back all the bank forms, along with a slip of paper with the logo for BISCOES - Your Local Lawyer on the front.

I sat scratching my head, wondering why she had sent me such a thing. The only conclusion I came to was that she reckoned I'd need a lawyer before too long, so she thought she'd recommend a good one. Cheeky madam!

Then I dropped it on the floor and realised it opened out.

Awww, shucks.

I'm going to fold this up and put it in my pocket when I leave, just in case I run out of love... 

...or need a good lawyer.

I am feeling totally loved at the moment, so it's time to pay it forward. Currently putting together an aid parcel for a friend who moved to a country where they don't sell Green & Blacks. There was only one thing she wanted...

I was going to deliver it personally, but I think I might need the space in my case, plus the chances of making it through Laos without it melting are slim.

A funky few days ahead, but come 1st of March the madness is over.

Then, the packing begins.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Road Trip 2014 - Part IV: Hampty

Finally recovered from my birthday hangover, only to have a horrifying time getting out of London. Usually I'm westward bound, towards Gloucester, but this time I headed north, towards Northamptonshire. This forced me through Kilburn towards the M1. Traffic was at a standstill. The whole journey should have taken me two hours, it took three just to get out of London. I almost lost it on Park Lane. The lane changing was worse than Vauxhall Roundabout.

Still, I eventually made it home to Hampty and cake number three of the birthday. A nommy Thorntons' white chocolate cake - with sparklers! 

After a couple of panadol I was ready to start drinking again. Two bottles of champers later and the world was once again rosy.

I'm taking the rest of the year off to detox.

Yesterday we went for a lovely meal at Foxton Locks Inn with Mum, Merrick, my brother Will, nephew Damian, and his half-brother Leonardo.

Will & Damian (Leo peeking out behind)

Today is a completely lazy day. I've already had cake for breakfast. Managed to get some washing done, got a conference call tonight, but between now and then I intend to snooze, watch trash, and generally act like a cabbage.

Headed back to Gloucester tomorrow for a day, before driving down to Cardiff on the last leg of my farewell tour.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Road Trip 2014 - Part III: Birthday Shenanigans

After chocolate vaginas, you wouldn't think things could get much weirder, but a last mooch around the local supermarket in Belgium managed to unearth fresh cock for sale.

When did Bruges become Amsterdam?

After completing our road trip, Cathryn and I curled up with a couple of beers.

A couple of beers.

It was my birthday yesterday, so I took a pootle over to Eltham to see my uni friend Cassie and her lovely wee man, Ryan. They moved from a small flat in Lewisham to a two-bedroom house with a huge garden about a year-and-a-half ago. This was the first time I'd been able to visit, and Ryan was on half-term so we had fun rockin' out in the park before lemon drizzle cake and hot chocolate.

It was a lovely afternoon as me and Cas rarely get the opportunity to catch up nowadays. She's a nurse and works every hour in the day. Last time I saw them was back in July when we went to Puzzlewood.

Headed back to Cathryn & Danny's after that, where Cathryn cooked a full roast dinner and presented me with cake number two - chocolate with custard - which went down very well with Cas' bottle of wine.

A bottle of wine (each) later, and things started to get a bit mad. I decided that the two things I wanted most on my birthday were a round of tequila slammers and a cigarette.

The reason for the second decision involved an argument I got into with a nurse about a week ago over the immorality of smoking. I hadn't had a cigarette since August, but neither had I consciously quit smoking. The psychology behind the cigarette was complicated, but immensely satisfying.

I was also drunk.

So, we get to the bar and the barman for some reason seems to doubt that I really do want tequila slammers. Instead, he suggests some sort of delicious vanilla citrus liqueur called Tuaca. That's fine, but I still want the tequila - and a beer.

It's the ritual behind tequila that I like: salt lick, down, and bite.

It's fascinating, because you would never in a million years choose to drink tequila if they hadn't made it  so much fun (and slightly sexy, if you've ever played the version where you lick salt from the next person's neck and take the slice of lemon from between their teeth - it might be a Hamburg thing...).

So, tequilas, beer, and then sweet Tuaca to finish up, by which time the bar was closing.

Then home for a double dose of Johnnie Walker (which I don't recall asking for), and an intense round of talking bollox until we passed out. 

The next morning, I was feeling fragile. I'm thirty-three now and there may not be many years left that I can manage this. There is a very real sense of pride in being able to mix your drinks and wake up coherent the next day. It's a real skill.

I didn't get a free pass like last time, I did suffer. We managed to make our way down the road to The Duck Egg for breakfast. This time I opted for Eggs Benedict instead of the full English, which could feed a developing country. It helped resuscitate me a little, and I lay on Cathryn's couch for a couple of hours groaning at the telly until finally managing to build up the energy to tackle the drive to Northants.

I love the attempt at greenery... it so isn't healthy.

Sad to be waving goodbye to Cathryn's wee flat. She and Danny are planning to buy a house, so they won't be here by the time I get back from my travels. Excited about new prospects, but we've had some fun times there and it's a nice neighbourhood.

Cathryn's top-floor flat with the tree.