Well, I have been to London, last year. Oh, therein lies a tale. That was the trip I had booked, then I got retrenched. Then I got another job, but my leave was all gone, ditto my savings (I was refused a payout because I wanted to roll over my leave and super but I lost those anyway due to fuckups so double loser) and then when I finally booked I had to cancel and rebook twice to fit in with other peoples.
Oh, but I did get there. Arrived in London on Sunday, found trains to Cornwall not running, had to find hotel by walking in door and asking if they had a room (I did, the Novotel near Paddington, they were so sweet), found a place by the cancel that was very wanna-be hipster and served the most excellent Sunday roast for one, with Yorkshire pudding! Booked the first train out which left in the middle of the night (ouch, I had to left the ironing board up in my room because I lacked the wherewithal to fold it up again, I apologised, they understood) and made it down to Cornwall – fell asleep and had to be woken up by porter. Raced off train across to hotel opposite station (good choice), slung bag at them, raced back to bus stop, pushed in front of some German tourists (sorry guys) and bought a ticket to get on the bus that was pulling up, got out at Marazion and got down to the causeway to St Michael’s Mount which was just opening up, and this was the only day. And time of day, I’d be able to get across. The tide finally went out and off everyone started, delivery vans across the sands and hikers across the washed out cobbles (did I go down in a puddle? What do you think?).
Finally made it to St Michael’s Mount after a lifetime of wanting to see it…and the castle and garden are closed due to high winds (80kph or something, had to convert from miles).
Yup. That was my trip. It wasn’t all like that. St Ives was a tourist trap hole, but the day I was coming up the stairs to my room in the hotel and a brochure for the Geevor Mine fluttered to my feet so I decided why not? Good call. Off I set (everywhere by bus) and got there just as it was opening. Nosed about, then, as the sun came out, decided to take myself along the cliff walk to see the gothic old industrial ruins of past mining activity. Funny how something so nasty could become so beautiful. Each time I approached an old mine I wondered if that was the one they used for filming Poldark. Well, finally, at the end of my walk I could go no further as the path was closed by a security man, beyond which were lights, trucks, horses, extras in mob caps. Yep, that’s the mine they use for filming Poldark.
I also booked a minivan tour, because I love those. We weaved about the insane Cornwall roads (they send double decker buses down roads no better than goat tracks) the blackberry bushes scraping up each side of the van (we wound the windows down and kept picking them as we went) and we went to a stone circle, with other stones nearby popping out of hedges, marching over the hills in ways that were far too creepy for someone who watched Children of the Stones as a child (vale Gareth Thomas). Also saw the coit, another prehistoric structure, and more Poldark filming.
Back in London I went to the National Gallery and found most of the rooms closed. Exciting, desperate for a nasi lemak, I found a set up of Malaysian food stalls set up in Trafalgar Square, of all places, and I had my nasi lemak sitting next to one of the lions. And I had a bet I wouldn’t find any nasi lemak in London. Trafalgar freaking square!
I had no real plans other than loose ideas and walking directions, and that’s the best. If I try to make London fit to my plans it all ends in tears. If I let London show me what it wants to show me, it’s the best day ever. And so it was. Started with a mod shop in Carnaby Street, ended with a Jam exhibition at Somerset House (the holy relics of Paul Weller, 16 year old me nearly died).
I had lunch at Fortnum and Masons with the best bottle of stout ever, and found myself in the middle of Open House Day. All weekend. This was happy serendipity. Of course, some the stuff I really wanted to see was impossible to get into or impossible to find, but I did the Chemistry House at the Royal Academy, which was way cool and after much begging they let me play with the chemicals and do spy writing with invisible ink. Because I’m five.
I did the Foreign Office, with the murals that wouldn’t be out of place in a Turkish bath house, ahem, and the big halls, and got to handle Kevlar jackets. I did Banqueting House (scaffolding where the scaffolding used to be) and lay back on the bean bags provided and gazed at the ceiling. I did a backstage tour of the National Theatre, found an open air book market (uh oh, limited myself to spy novels, of which they had none, phew).
I also finally found that darn ‘roman bath’, which wasn’t Roman at all but the plumbing for some 16thC fountain. Ah well, ticked it off in any case, and no wonder I never found it before, I should have missed it again had I not run into fellow open house pilgrims who pointed out the tiny alley way under the pipes, round the corner, past the dirty window and ducking in under the tiny door. Hidden much?
Went to Bletchley Park because Alan. When I arrived at the gates a large silver 5 fell from the sky and landed at my feet. Some escaped party balloon, I know, but weird, huh? It was raining pretty hard so I spent a lot of time in the hunts and no time in the grounds, but the huts were cool and very evocative and they still had the sets and costumes from Benedict’s fillum up at the big house, so that was a cool surprise.
It was Bender Day, because I had to catch the train back, change, dash to the London Museum just before closing screaming ‘The skulls? Where?’ and was directed to the remains from a recent excavation, then off to Hamlet.
As always, the big ticket item was a touch disappointing. I hate the Barbican. I mean, I love the trashy velvet, but the theatre space is appalling, and I didn’t much like the production, not even seeing it again at a NT Live screening just to make sure. Sigh. Benedict was good, but, sigh. I felt his Hamlet was a little over clownish, compared to other more intense and internal Hamlets seen recently, and he was lost in a set that looked like a Vanity fair magazine spread. Ah, well.
The impulse buy, The Beaux Stratagem, was the theatre highlight. It was the last performance and it was a complete riot, and I adored it and most of the cast were kind enough to sign my programme. I saw it again at NT Live, a private screening with friends, as it turned out, as no one else showed up, but never mind, I loved it to bits.
Then there was Edinburgh, with an Outlander tour, which was ever so much fun, especially Doune Castle (sadly I had no one to appreciate why they were selling coconut shells in the gift shop), another visit to Edinburgh Castle, on a sunny morning for once, and a walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood. Walking back the weather went from sunny to very not good so quick, and I had one of the most miserable walks back to the hotel in my life in sideways sleet, worse even than my dangerous cliff top quest for a fridge magnet at Lands End.
So I decided (being a touch unwell at the time, in other word, bent double with cramps) to give up on my ghost walk (sigh) and have dinner in my excellent room. Oh, my room. I had to rebook my hotel and I picked the Old Waverley just because I was reading Waverley at the time. Score. Glorious old faded beauty and I had a corner room with a view of the uber-gothic Scott Memorial from one window and the castle from the round corner window where a table was set up. That was where I had my whisky and haggis, all bundled up. Best dinner ever.
Aberdeen was next, and I’d planned a walking tour but I was unwell and the gallery was closed and there was nothing on at the flicks so I ended up in an Aberdonian tapas bar and was sold pretty much bangers and mash, with a drizzle of jalapeno sauce to make it, you know, exotic and Brazilian. Honestly, it was so sadly twee but just the ticket for an unwell girlie and I snuggled in a corner booth and scrawled fic while I waited for the bus.
Could have caught any bus but I had to be on a certain bus. Had no GPS on the trip out but lovely locals made sure I got off at the right spot and there was Uncle. So sad to think those cosy rooms were completely flooded three months later.
We went to Fyvie Castle, which is haunted by a lady who was locked in a room and starved by her husband, who also slaughtered her kinsmen who tried to rescue her. What they did before the no-fault divorce. Jolly. It had been remodelled from 13thC to Edwardian times so it was a perfect little museum and had an excellent tearoom (always important) and carved stone bears everywhere, just like in the Waverley book (I was bemused to see what they were supposed to look like).
Had a lovely garden, too. Also did the Aberdeen gardens and a view of the harbour, before back to London, Downton on the telly, breakfast across the road at Speedy’s Café and then home. Eventually. Via Singapore and Perth. Yup, finally made it to Perth, not by choice. Bit of a hole. Entirely closed at 5pm. I did find an Oirish bar hidden in a basement that served me, yes, you guessed it, bangers and mash.
Went to Melbourne. A couple of times. Stayed in a lovely hotel, met a dear old friend and went out to dinner at a trendy Asian fusion joint in painfully hip Fitzroy. Bought a loud shirt with a parasol print while I was a bit tipsy (I was extraordinarily crampy and she was having a domestic tiff and the Earl Grey gin cocktails were so nice), but I love that shirt, and finished off the night in Messina, with my favourite gelato and sitting next to the guy from Real Life. Only in Melbourne.
I went to the David Bowie Is exhibition. Oh, I adored that. They had a bar, and it was supposed to be sophisticated but it just ended up being a school disco. Everyone dressed up. It was an experience. I went to an exhibition of treasures at the Greek Museum, saw Pre-Raphaelites at the NGV (so muh better than the stuff they have at the Tate Britain), a design exhibition at the library and the Orry Kelly exhibition at ACMI. They had the dresses from Some Like it Hot, based on Sydney hookers from the 1920s. Too cool.
Also did Danish Cool at the NGV, which was a whole lotta George Jensen and cool 60s stuff and yeah, baby. I was already falling hard back into MFU fandom from just seeing the film trailer, so I loved that. So mod.
They also had a Blue exhibition at the NGV, which was in the Asian collection, just a room of blue stuff, textiles, vases, tiles. I liked it, and it lined up similar blue patterned vessels from China, Japan, Korea, Persia, Portugal, Netherlands and England, so never again will snooty English/Scottish Heritage staff tick me off from not knowing my Ming from my Delft from my cheap chinoiserie (I dare you to know the difference, from behind the ropes, while jet-lagged, with the wrong glasses on).
Took myself to see Anything Goes, which I loved, especially the big old tap-dancing number, and The King and I, which was also old school fabulous, because a girl should see musicals when in Melbourne. And shop for clothes, but less about that (ahem).
Snuck off to the Sherlock talk with Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt, which was separate to the Doctor Who day they did in Sydney, which was also fun, though regimented to within an inch of your life as to what you could see, where you could go, and when. Sylvester McCoy ruled that day. He was off the leash but wildly entertaining. And when the dude got in the Dalek and the light came on and the eye stalk went up, four year old me nearly wet herself. There’s a deeper part of me that still remembers when Daleks and Cybermen were terrifying.
Also went to Canberra, all the way from my place (at 4am) to the door of the NGA, by bus (three). Not a bad effort, imo. The Tom Roberts exhibition was good, because he’s a fave, though I’d seen most of them before. Not sure about the new gallery hang. Blagged my way into a high tea sitting by turning up as it opened, so the waiter couldn’t claim with a straight face he had no tables. Later, there was an uncomfortable bus ride home but that’s what I get for making a pig of myself.
The Sideshow exhibition of criminals, including death masks from a waxworks museums owned by Frank Thring’s grandparents (well, of course) was much more fun, if wordy (took forever to read the essay like wall cards).
I also went shopping in the mall, saw Deadpool, which I found much funnier than I dared to hope, and I’m still quoting, had an indifferent dinner (oh well) and watched Ripper Street on the hotel’s enormous telly.
And then I went to Brisbane, to the medieval exhibition, a comic con, which was more queuing than panels, and in the hot Queensland sun, worse and worse, and everything was far too overpriced to buy. Had a better day on Sunday wandering around the markets (almost entirely stinky candles though I bought a red sunhat to go with my cherry print sundress) and deserted comic bookshops. Daily Planet was very girl friendly and I found those MFU comics I was after (did I mention I’ve been on such a MFU fangirl bender I even went and saw it on my first night in London at Leicester Square, after an indifferent ‘Italian’ meal that wouldn’t pass muster at the Rooty hill RSL at home, served by a waitress who dropped a bottle of water on me and a waiter who went the grope, but I loved seeing the film one more time, for the third and last time, on the big screen. J’adore Illya and Napoleon).
Had bad waiters in Brisbane, too, ruined what could have been a good meal by making a nasty fuss about me being single and ignoring me the whole night (in a small room with six other occupied tables, this was a noticeable slight).
Did have a lovely violet cocktail in the hotel bar before I left though. I should always have cocktails before travelling, very cushioning. Much better than when flying up when they had the server meltdown and I spent hours in the check-in queue.
I did Sculpture By the Sea at Bondi, another 4am start, two long bus rides but I got there by 7am, just as the sun was coming up, and snapped my way along the path. It was the second last day so 40% of the sculptures were gone and sold, either way, I was back at my desk at work, booting up the PC at 9.20am. That was fun, because I needed some time out (it was a week of 16 hour days, including missing Himself’s birthday dinner because of deadlines, I am a bad, bad person).
I saw Batman vs Superman at my local cinema, and that sucked, all round, and why do they let someone with a pathological hatred of Superman make, well, Batman films, as it turned out. Oh dear. Did enjoy all the critical vitriol. Well deserved, in this case. (Poor Henry, but he should have done another MFU film because he nailed Napoleon Solo and, well, pout, sulk).
So, MFU. Well, watching the old box sets, watching the film, digging out what remains of my old collection. I was living clean for so long, then I saw the movie trailer while curled up unwell in that gorgeous hotel bed in that gorgeous hotel room in Melbourne (if you’re going to be sick while on holidays, make sure you have a smashing hotel room) and I’ve been gone, baby, gone, ever since. Totally.