Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tick!

I forgot to mention that when I got back from visiting the Coylet, I found my first ever tick embedded in my leg. How exciting! Actually, since I had no idea what exactly I was supposed to do to rid myself of a tick, it was exciting in a bit of a worrisome way for a while. I pretty much just dug it out with my fingernails. That seems to have worked. I have since read that the best method is to extract the tick "carefullly with small tweezers".

Good times I've been having, eh? I mean, how could I forget to tell you about a tick?

Classes are coming along alright here. I'm now used to being addressed as "a Mhegan" which gets pronounced as "Vegan" but with a softish v that's closer to an f-sound than normally. In case you didn't know, in Scottish Gaelic I would say that my name is Megan, but then names can change when you address someone, hence "a Mhegan". That's where the name Hamish comes from - it's actually how you pronounce Seamus (which is Gaelic for James, I believe) when you address him.

Monday, July 30, 2007

One of the things I love about the Island...

... its news. See this story on CBC PEI (one of the day's top three stories, at that).

I especially love the quotation from Mrs. Wagner in the third sentence.

Gaelicking

I'm on my lunch break after my first Gaelic class. I had such a big breakfast ("full" breakfast of bacon, sausage, hashbrown (not potato scone! :( ), tomato, mushrooms, beans, egg, toast, missing the black pudding too bad) that I don't think I'll be eating lunch. We get a morning and afternoon tea break as well so it seems all I've been doing is drinking tea. I can see where the Maritimes gets it from.

I guess I should say that the class went fine; a bit of a review for me in terms of vocabulary but working on my pronunciation and intonation so that's good. This afternoon we're going to learn to talk about the weather, which my teacher tells us is crucial for Gaelic conversations. Again, not so different from the Maritimes. If you can talk about the weather, where you're from and who you're related to, you're set.

There's a girl from Antigonish here (that's in Nova Scotia for my non-Maritime readers), one of the first Maritimers I've run into in a long while. We've already found one person that we know in common, of course. I'm sure there will be more if we keep trying.

People at the college here all know where PEI is. I guess if you're paying attention to Gaelic culture the name crops up, even though there's not many speakers there anymore.

I've caught myself pronouncing things a bit differently since I've gotten back into Scotland. I've been speaking a hybrid English for a while - sort of UK vocabulary with a Canadian accent. Recently I've caught myself saying "gair-age" instead of my usual "grage" (that's for "garage" as it's properly written) and "toe-maw-toe" intead of "ta-mah-tah" (i.e. "tomato"). I'm slipping.

I read in my Scotland guidebook that it's the only country in the world where neither Coke nor Pepsi is the favourite fizzy drink (pop). It's Irn-Bru (pronounced iron brew). Given the sort of "energy" nature of the drink (it has quinine in it, and I notice that it certainly perks me up more than something like Coke would), and it's popularlity amongst kids, it's amazing that I don't find Scottish children as annoying as English children, as they should be unnaturally awake all the time. Even when working in the Coylet restaurant, the majority of the Irn-Bru drinking children weren't too bad, and if they were, it was really their parents' fault for not controlling them.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Speed, bonnie bus

Tomorrow morning I'm off to Skye on a coach. And I'm using that as as segue to mention something I forgot before - on my brus trip from London to Edinburgh, they brought a sniffer dog on to the coach, presumably to sniff out explosives as I doubt they're concerned about drug smuggling within the UK. I've never seen a sniffer dog brought on a bus before - I don't even know if I've ever even laid eyes on one in an airport. When the dog handler brought the dog down the aisle, I thought he was bringing someone's pet on board, and thought to myself - "oh, I didn't know they let people bring their pets on board with them". Then the dog was hauled back off (he seemed to want to stay with us at the back) and that was it.
My Edinburgh to Glasgow coach had no dogs brought on.
I spent last night in Argyll. I went their yesterday morning with the mission of collecting a bag of stuff that I left there (winter clothes, dress clothes - things I didn't want to carry around for the summer travelling but didn't want to give away). I took a walk in the hills for old times sake and then went to the hotel. The management has changed there because the place has been leased, and then there were new staff on for the summer season, and some had left, so there were some familiar faces and some new. Julie, who I worked with when I was there, is now working at a hotel up the road until the end of the summer and since it was her day off I spent some time with her getting caught up. She convinced me to stay the night, so we hung out together and then I joined some of the current Coylet staff at a party.
It was a fun time, but it was also strange being there but no longer being an employee. The area feels like a former home does since it's so familiar. And sitting in the hotel, I felt like I should be jumping up to answer the phone when it rang or greet customers as they came in.

Being along Loch Eck again made me realize that it's still one of the more beautiful places that I've been to in my life. It's hard to compete with it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nothing really exciting happening...

Not much new with me, just been hanging around Glasgow. It hasn't rained except overnight, so maybe that counts as exciting (sun is rare here, especially this summer).
 
I'm going to Loch Eck tomorrow; figure I'll take a walk in the hills and then go by the Coylet to pick up some stuff I left there. Sunday morning I'm off to Skye for my course there. Depending on what happens I may do some travelling around the island when the course finishes on August 10. I've applied for a job at a hostel in northern Skye, Uig, so if I get that then I'd start there. If not, then I'll come back to Glasgow at some point to get work.
 
I've read the final Harry Potter book, which I'm sure you have hear came out last week (the day after my birthday, so my present to myself). I wish I had magical abilities for travelling alone - not the Apparating (just popping into a new location), but for making things very light and small. That way I could travel with a stack of books, loads of clothes, and whatever other things I fancied, without having to worry about weight.
 
I'm not sure what my interent situation will be like my first week in Skye, so if you don't see any updates from me, that's why.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Aye but nae

Sorry to anyone's who's been missing my posts for the last while. I've been doing a lot of thinking instead of writing, I guess.
 
I'm in Edinburgh today, where I've been for 4 days. In order to do some job-hunting and trip planning, I wanted an internet cafe pass and since Easy Internet Cafe had a £10 for 5 days (internet use generally costs between £1-2 per hour), I fell victim to them again, despite having sworn off of them. I have managed to get around not being able to post to my blog (I e-mail it to an address that does it for me), but the computers have several other problems. I keep crashing them by doing nothing more than trying to: modify a WordPad document and save it, use Google Documents to modify a document and save it (this is my CV/resume I'm talking about), view bus timetables that are in PDF format, use Facebook (which apparently has "dangerous" ActiveX content, etc. Every time I have crashed them and had to ALT-CTRL-DEL, I have gotten messages that says that in the "unlikely" event that the computer crashes, I will have to wait 5 minutes to log back in. This unlikely occurrence happens to be at least every hour.
 
I've managed to meet up with two people who live in Edinburgh that I met, on seperate occasions, at Vaughan Town in Spain. I met up with Andrew on Saturday and we grabbed something to eat and viewed a film that happened to be on when we went by the Cameo Theatre called Golden Door (we'd been hoping for La Vie En Rose but the timing wasn't good since Andrew had to work later in the evening). It was pissing rain that evening, so by the time I got back to my hostel which is in Leith (port town that is now part of Edinburgh; known to me as the setting of Trainspotting) I was absolutely wringing.
 
Sunday I met up with Diane, and she took me out to the Falkirk Wheel, which is a nifty lift used to connect the Clyde and Forth Canals with the Union Canal (used for leisure craft these days instead of transporting goods). The wheel is really efficient - they quote it's energy use for half a turn (lifting two boats and bringing two down) as the amount used by 8 tea kettles. It uses Archimedes principle in order to keep each arm of the wheel balanced. It makes almost no sound (since it's so efficient), so that gives it a very subtle air. Check out the link, it explains more and has pictures. We went up on a boat and then down again, and then watched a bird show that was taking place with some baby owls and a tawny eagle named Floyd. When the bird-guy called his eagle back, I turned to watch it come in and then all of a sudden all I could see was the silhouette of a huge bird right above me. The trainer estimated that the bird had come in at 50-60 miles per hour. It was remarkable. I guess that's the last thing many a small mammal has seen in its life.
 
Edinburgh City council has campaign posters up right now that have given me a chuckle - the idea is to get people to not throw their cigarette butts on the ground, and the slogan is "Aye butt. Nae butt". The first person this made me think of is Fraser from the Coylet, as he often started off speech with a combination of "aye, but nae, nae" which we would tease him about (in case you haven't figured it out; "aye"="yes", "nae"="no"). It's common enough for Scottish people to end sentences with "but", just as an extraneous word. People will also end sentences with "like", whereas we Canadians put the "like" (or sometimes a "but", I suppose) somewhere in the middle of the sentence). I may be wrong, but in my observations, ending sentences with "but" is more of a west Scotland thing, and ending with "like" is more of an east thing. Using "aye" and "nae" is much more common in the west, where it seemed universal to me.
 
I may well have killed any amusement-factor of those poster by having explained it all.
 
An advertising campaign that has irked me somewhat is one by Oust (a product similar to Febreeze), with its "Go smoke-smell free from July 1". You are probably wondering now how this could possibly annoy me. Well, some background. I first saw these ads on the sides of buses in London. There, they make sense, because England has just gotten a smoking-ban in public spaces (bars, restaurants, shops - anything with walls except your home, basically) staring July 1. So Oust thought they'd tie their product into that. All well and good. What irks me is that they are using this campaign in Scotland, where the smoking ban has been in place since March 26, 2006. So Scotland has been "smoke-smell free" for well over a year, but the Oust marketing people just overlooked that fact (or were never aware of it) because they just considered Scotland to be another part of England, and put their advertisements on the buses up here as well.
 
I'm off to Glasgow this evening, staying until Sunday morning. I'm thinking of working in Glasgow after I come back from Skye, as I wouldn't mind being in a city for a bit where there's other people, maybe a fencing club, and good transportation links for travel on my days off.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The weird ways people find this site...

I mentioned that I'm using Google Analytics in a previous post, and showed you the different locations that my site had been visited from in the last month. Well, another bit of information that Analytics will report on is where visitors to my site are referred from. In the case where they arrived after a Google search, then it shows me the keywords that they searched.

In the last month, I've had 13 visits from search engine hits. The most common search is just my name, as you can see in the chart below (take that all you other Megan Glovers - who's at the top of Google now?).
I'm guessing number 2 on the list is someone who met me, heard I had a blog but didn't know my last name, but then who knows. I'm puzzled by number 3 on the list - why would you crush snails for money? Who would pay you for such a thing?

The real kicker for me, though, is number 7 - someone searched "dunoon porn". I guess I've used the word "porn" at some time in a post - I won't argue that. I do find it absolutely hilarious (I'm using italics so you know it's hilarious) that someone would search that combination of words. I don't know much about porn, but from what I know, I wouldn't search for porn from Dunoon. If there's any produced there, I have a feeling it's an inferior product to the rest of the market.

I'm really rendered a bit speechless in trying to explain why I find it funny. Dunoon? Porn? Who puts those together?

I actually just searched that combination and I don't see my blog anywhere, so I guess I won't be getting hits that way any more. I'm sure the searcher was disappointed when they got to my site anyway. I may have photos up, but not the kind they were looking for.

Not working afterall

Just another quick update - I said that I had applied for a job. Well, it was a direct sales job, we'll say, which I thought I would give a try. I did a trial of it this morning with other sales people, out on the street pitching a product. It was intimidating stopping people to talk to them, but I could overcome that with time, I think. I did decide, however, to not take the job because I felt like a conman. I felt that to make sales I would have to put on an act and be insincere, and I don't want to be that. I also don't want to be that person who I dodge away from on city streets.

Since that was the only job I really considered in London, I'm going to head north tomorrow. I may stop along the way or I may go straight up to Edinburgh; I haven't decided yet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

London update

I mentioned yesterday that I had a job interview today. Well, I went, they did a sort of group interview that involved asking us very few questions and more explaining things to us (I found that process very interesting after I knew what was happening at the end). We were told to call back this afternoon to see if we'd made the cut for a second interview.

I called back and was told that I'm in for tomorrow, a "trial" as they put it, to which I'm to wear "trainers and a college shirt if possible" (I assume that means like a sweatshirt).

In the vein of being mysterious, I'm not going to say what the job is just yet.

Other than that, I've just been wandering around town, feeling money evaporate from my wallet. I visited the National Portrait Awards exhibit for free (there were some good portraits - oddly enough at a portrait exhibit). Visited a history of photography in Britain at the National Gallery not for free (and had to pay full price as they wouldn't accept my expiration-date-free student card - the buggers!).

I walked through St. James Park yesterday, the one that is sort of between the Parliment buildings and Buckingham Palace, and in a pond there are many pelicans or storks (are they one and the same?). They are so tame that one waddled up on the bridge (it was funny to watch it walk) and wandered around, letting one man pet it even.

Today I had lunch, after my interview, with Tracey and Shonay, and tonight I'm hopefully meeting up with Patricia from Vaughan Town and some others to show one of the Spanish ladies' friend a good time in London (that's convoluted, I know).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Roadtrip to West Country and southern Wales

More photos can be found at my Picasa Web Album (photos from other places will go up there when I get the time).

So on the weekend I met up with Tracey and Shonay, two sisters from Australia, and Terry, a Welshman now living in Luton, and we headed out for a trip in a hired car. The car was a Renault M├ęgane, incidentally - Karen at the Coylet called me Renault for a while when she had trouble remembering my name, and when I meet people from countries on the continent I sometimes refer to that car as a way of helping them pronounce my name (it's how my name ends up getting said in French, afterall).

I should mention here that this was a "mystery" tour - Terry planned it out and gave us an itinerary that looked like this:
Leave Blackfriars 0608 for luton (cheap day single £11.90)
Arrive Luton 0656 - where I will be waiting.
Leave Luton 0700 and head for 1st secret location. (approx 2Hrs 30mins.) -
Catch up on some sleep.
Leave at 1000 for second secret lcation. (approx 1 Hour)
Leave at 1300 for scenic drive to third secret location with stops. (approx
1 Hour)

Head for Wales. (approx 2 Hours)
arrive at fourth secret location.
Leave at 1600 for scenic drive through Valleys and Brecon National Park.
Arrive at Final secret location when ever! & crash out for the night.

Set of around 0900 for sixth secret location (approx 2 hours )
Leave at 1200 for final drive and possibly one more stop before arriving
back at Luton before 1600.
Say our goodbyes and reflect.

So our first secret location was Stonehenge. Then we drove into the West Country, stopping in the town of Warminister for breakfast. Then into Somerset where we visited Wookey Hole, where there is a series of caves, some with really big chambers (see the link for stats on the size as I don't remember - they were big to me). There's also a legend of a witch living in the caves, that was explained to us by our hilarious, deadpan-and-monotone tourguide.

Then it was up though Cheddar Gorge - the sun roof came in handy for viewing the cliffs as they're high.

Into southern Wales. First mystery stop there, Caerphilly castle, dating from near 1300. It's tower leans due to being hit at some point.


The town of Caerphilly was pretty, and the sun certainly helped it out.


From Caerphilly we drove up through some of the valleys and Terry told us about the times he'd spent running up those hills loaded down with gear in his military days. Wales is very pretty; I'd like to see more of it.

We stayed the night in Monmouth, ate at a pub and hung out at some others. This is the river running through town (river Wye I think?).
It was a day of cool clouds for me - coming out from dinner I took this one.
Sunday we drove to Tintirn, famous for its Abbey.
As you can see it was not sunny Sunday, but you take what you get. We had breakfast (2nd full English in two days! I like the beans at breakfast thing) at a cool hotel called The Anchor with great staff.

Then it was a drive out of Wales, into the Midlands, where we stopped in Stratford-upon-Avon and wandered around the high street, the market, and the river before heading back to Luton.

I'm still in London a few days more. I have a job interview of sorts tomorrow, so I could be hear longer - I'll let you know about that if it pans out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My favourite hostels

I had a discussion with someone on this subject not too long ago, so I thought I'd put this up. These are my three favourite hostels that I've stayed at in my lifetime of travelling. All of them are hostels that I've stayed in during the last couple of months - I did think back to 2002 when I first stayed in hostels, but the ones then could not beat these hostels either.

All of these hostels were of course clean, had sufficient bathroom facilities, weren't over-crowded - the normal things that I expect in a hostel. However, these ones went above and beyond the normal, so that's why they're on my list.

3. Oasis Backpackers' Hostel in Granada, Spain
Free breakfast (not just toast, but also waffle batter and iron provided), free welcome drink, free internet. The building has a nice roof-top terrace, and also a courtyard. Dinner parties every few days with a three-course, tasty meal (soup, salad, and main course) for 3.50 Euros. Free city walking tours, tapas tours, Spanish lessons. Friendly staff and other guests friendly as well. Price: 15 Euros per night.

2. Kismet Dao Hostel in Brasov, Romania
Free breakfast of just the toast and coffee/tea variety, but free laundry! Free half litre of beer per day (or pop or juice). Balconies off most rooms, basement lounge to be noisey in during the evenings. TV room with satellite and loads of DVDs. Awesome staff - they'll do whatever they can to help you with travel plans and then take you out with all their friends when they're off duty. Everyone ends up knowing everyone at the hostel. People end up staying here many days longer than they planned.

1. Gregory's Backpackers Hostel in Varna, Bulgaria
This place feels like a home. Like number 2, everyone ends up meeting everyone else because there's only about 20 beds. The Gregorys, husband and wife Terry and Georgie, will pick you up in Varna and take you out to the hostel in a nearby village. They show you around the place, learn your name and a bit of your life story, and make you feel welcome. The breakfast includes more than toast - there's some cheese, orange, tomato, and sausage. TV room with satellite and loads of DVDs. Various tours organized and nights out in town held. Great place to relax and have fun. Another hostel where you'll stay longer than you planned.



Ads, ads, everywhere an ad

I never realized how free of ads the Island is until I started travelling elsewhere. I mean, we get ads on TV, but they're not plastered along the roadsides or on streets, and we didn't have public transportation when I lived there so there was no way to put ads on that either. (Incidentally, if you don't know, it's provincial law in PEI that you can't put up billboards on the roadsides - if you want to advertise you business, you can get a standard government-made sign that will be put up like other road signs.)

In London, ads are everywhere - on posts, on taxis, on buses, inside the buses, in subway halls, on the subways. You know how if you're watching a television show and they repeat a commercial a few times, it gets annoying? Well, I've been seeing the same ads repeated over and over again in every Tube station, and I'm getting bored of them after a only a few days. I know many of them by heart now.

I'm staying at The Generator, which is the first hostel I ever stayed at back in June of 2002 (I was so young!). It's still as crap as it was then. It's clean and all, but it's huge (500 people) and feels very industrial, but I think they're trying to go with that theme. It advertises itself as a party hostel, but it's not even a good party hostel, meaning it just doesn't have a friendly, casual atmosphere. It's the kind of place where someone would pull the fire alarm at midnight. We didn't have to go outside because someone turned it off, thankfully since I had enough of standing around outside at night due to fire alarms back when I lived in East Campus Village in Edmonton.

I'm heading on a roadtrip for the weekend tomorrow, if I haven't mentioned it already, with some people from Vaughan Town.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I was sat on the Tube

The London subway system, or Tube, is an amazing piece of work. I have been on it and been enchanted by all the places that you can zip around too. However, go on the Tube during rush hour and one can quickly learn to hate people. At least I can. Everyone shoves their way around, you're crammed in amongst people, it's hot.

I don't know if it's a new thing or if I just never experienced it when I visited London many a year ago, but on the platform for the Circle and District lines yesterday evening, there was actually some guy (who I couldn't see anywhere) whose job it was to announce the incoming trains and to provide instructions regarding where on the platform you should wait ("plenty of space down to the left of the platform folks"), how to board ("please use all the doors"), when the train was departing ("please step away from the doors as this train is about to depart"), and at one point, he chastised someone like a mother shouting at a child with a shrill "LET GO OF THAT DOOR!"

Small English children, though they can be the kin of the devil, seem very proper and grown up to me. In part it's the accents - they speak the way that only educated adults in Canada speak (and those ones are putitng it on). Then there's the school uniforms, so that you see 10-year-old kids in blazers and ties.

In Hampshire, where I was a few days ago, the people play with their tenses. Stacey told me "when I come to Varna" where I would have said "when I came to Varna", as it was in the past. Two gentleman on a bus discussed how they were not going to give up their seats for some elderly people because "there's kids sat", i.e. there's kids sitting. It's typical to hear "he's stood there" for someone who's currently standing. I even picked it up at one point and referred to a woman as being "sat" at the table.

It's a mystery to me how I can hold a marker pen for only a second, in just my right hand, and yet I managed to get marker ink all over both of my hands. Do marker molecules tunnel?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

London and money (or Easy Internet Cafes suck)

The second title comes from my attempt to post this last night from the aforementioned chain of internet cafes, and I was once again unable to (it's happened in other cities as well). I've learned my lessons - goodbye Easy Internet Cafe. You're easy, but you don't work.

I'm now in London and feeling my wallet hurt. I'm staying here 3 nights, going on a weekend road trip with some Vaughan Town folks, then probably coming back for a few more days to inflict more financial damage.
Walked through what seemed to be a Middle-Eastern district on Edgeware Road. There was hookah cafes (think the pipe thing that the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland smokes) with groups of people of all ages sitting around (outside now that the smoking ban has taken effect since July 1 in England) having a smoke. Lots of women in variations on Islamic garb. That may not seem like a big deal, but do recall that I'm from PEI so I've never much of other cultures other than where I've travelled to and a few China towns.
I was just into Selfridges, the really huge department store in London (on Oxford Street). Huge is not sufficient to describe it. It is so large (in terms of department stores) that I don't think a suitable adjective has yet been created to describe it. j
The department store had up signs like "I shop therefore I am" and "You want, you buy it, you forget it". That last one doesn't promote spending in me, but I guess I'm not their target consumer since the place is pretty expensive. I felt at times that I was going to be asked by a security guard to show sufficient funds or leave. Especially when I was in the "designer hall". When the sales racks advertise £50 and under, you know you're somewhere expensive.

In the handbag section, each designer had its own little shop within the larger store. Each shop also had one or two men dressed in expensive suits who were not the salespeople, but security guards for the shop. There was no price tags on any of the bags, but I know from fashion magazines that I've been in functioning cars that cost less than most of those bags. If you want to know the price when you purchase one, you can't afford it.
I've occasionally thought about what my spending might be like if I were obscenely rich, and given that I like clothes I've often thought of the sort of stuff that I could buy with lots of money. In the end, I don't think that I could spend huges amounts on clothing. I felt I splurged when I spent £10 on a new pair of trousers the other day. I just feel stupid and guilty if I buy something that I consider to be overly expensive. I guess you have to be born rich to be able to spend like you're rich.

HMS Warrior and HMS Victory visit

The Warrior
I've visited an old ship before, in Boston, that was nicknamed Old Ironsides (can't remember the real name). The Warrior is iron-sided as well, but way cooler. The ship in Boston wasn't all kitted out like the ships in Portsmouth are, so yesterday I really saw how the ship functioned and what a sailors life was like. I am really not eloquent enough to describe how wicked it was, so I'll leave it at that and put up some pictures (I have loads of pictures, so more can be made available upon request).

To try to imagine the scale of this deck, notice that in the upper right of the deck there are two people clothed in black standing to the right of that white lifeboat. The ship is huge. It carried a crew of over 700. (Just noticed the photo is slanty again. I think that's my habit of putting most of my weight on my right leg).

A rope ladder, but quite stiff and with wooden crosspieces, so better than any rope ladder I've ever climbed.

Swords hanging on the ceiling and cannon cleaning and packing equipment hanging in behind. There were guns and swords on racks everywhere. The swords were all locked in, unfortunate since I wanted to hold one to see what the weight of it would be like. I looked around at the staff to see if one was dressed as an officer complete with sword, so that I could ask politely if I could just hold his sword for a moment, but no luck. I could tell just from pulling on a sword while it was in the rack that it's heavier than my fencing sabres, but that's sort of obvious given that the blade's a lot thicker.
Chain for the anchor, and my hand to show you how big it actually is. I could just lift one of the links with one hand. Considering that I picked up a 12 pound cannon ball up with one hand no problem, these have got to be heavier.

A fancy way to coil up your rope. I feel ashamed of all my coils, or piles, of rope now.
Largest gun on the main deck with the metal stripping allowing it to be slid to face pretty much any direction I'd say. Pretty slick.

On to the Victory!
So I finally got to see the famous ship from the battle for which Trafalgar Square is named, and whose admiral, Nelson, has monuments in his honour all around the UK. I didn't know these things prior to visiting the ship, but I finally put it all together. I'd been wondering who this Nelson dude was, and why a square in London had a Spanish name.
I like the colours on this ship. The old sailing ships are incredibly beautiful. The contrast between the Victory and a modern aircraft carrier that was docked nearby was stark to me. Modern naval ships are impressive, but I wouldn't call them beautiful or elegant. The Victory is all three (it's still a commissioned ship if you didn't know, in order to honour Nelson).
Speaking of Nelson, this is his "cot" aboard the ship. I think I would have opted for one of the bunks like they had in some of the cabins below so that my bed wouldn't have been swinging so much. The style of this doesn't exactly match up to the rest of his quarters, with leather chairs and well-made wooden dining sets.

Squeeze everything together: this is the sick ward, a dining area, and that's a cannon in the background. Healthy crew lived in similar circumstances, except that there hammocks were not boxy like these. The mugs on the table are made of horn, just as are the powder horns hanging about the ship.

It takes a lot of ropes to rig sails.

Here's some freakin' huge ropes. They were fenced off, so to give you the scale, imagine this: if you took my torso and squeezed it so that it were round insteead of the flattened off shape that I have, it would be about the same circumference as the bottom rope. So about 28 inches, give or take an inch.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Crushing snails

Sign on Portsmouth dockyard:
I think I read that that is a lowered level from "critical" last week. It might also be why it took me about 40 minutes to get through immigration at Luton airport even though it was late at night. I think the Non-EU passport holders line should be divided into two: countries the UK likes (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) and countries whose residents slow the line down.

Went on a Portsmouth Harbour tour yesterday, thought this cloud formation was cool.

Here's another interesting cloud behind the Spinnaker Tower. The tower's not as impressively high to me since I've seen the Toronto CN Tower but it's a lot more attractive.

The main bus station and ferry terminal in Portsmouth is called The Hard Interchange, commonly referred to as just "The Hard". Since I've actually been staying in the town of Fareham, I've been taking the bus into town each day. Today when purchasing my return ticket, I tried to make a joke out of it by saying "Hard return" please but the driver gave no indication of getting it. Not that I blame him :)

Stacey and I went for a walk to the town of Wickham last night when it was just getting dark. The sidewalk became a narrow path out between the two towns, and were brushing past bushes and crunching on what I thought were tree cones. On the way back, I heard a crunch and Stacey said "there's another snail!" I was shocked - I'd no idea that I had been crushing snails! I've had snails as pets (working pets, mind you). For a moment, I seriously considered sweeping my path like those monks who don't want to kill anything. The moment passed.

I went to the Historic Dockyards today to visit the HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, but I'll write about that in a separate post because I have a lot to say.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fifty's nifty

On the bus to Portsmouth, I noticed that English motorways give you a lot more information than elsewhere in the world. Where there were some pylons ("cones" as they were called) blocking off some sections for some sort of road work, there were signs advising drivers that in the event of an emergency they could drive in that section. There were also signs telling drivers of wide vehicles that they were to straddle the white line on the shoulder. The transportation departments in the rest of the world just leave it up to the driver to figure out how to do these things.

Then again, roads in the rest of the world don't go from being straight to being circles every few hundred yards. Yes, I'm talking about roundabouts again. I am just plum astonished by their frequency.

I have seen road signs that rhyme over here. One is "Twenty's plenty", referring to speed in miles per hour (doesn't quite work in Canadian cities: Fifty's nifty?). Another I saw on the bus from London to Portsmouth and thought it was quite good, but oweing to my mental fatigue I didn't retain it and I'm kicking myself for it.

Maybe I just haven't been around children in Canada much and they are snot-nosed little punks as well, but English children seem to be an ill-behaved lot. In the centre of Portsmouth, on the high street, my bus drove by two young boys who appeared to be opening packets of sugar and sprinkling the contents over the bottoms of their bicycles, which were overturned on the sidewalk. They were then tossing the papers on the ground. I could not figure out any purpose to it. I've had children crawl over me while their parents were seemingly powerless to stop them. English parents in particular always seem to be shouting at their children in shrill voices.

While waiting for a lift from Stacey on Saturday, three boys who could not be much more than 10 years old each sat near me and one expertly rolled a cigarette. I was stunned. Upon hearing my accent, the boys asked me if I was American, and then asked me to say "potato chips". They seemed to find how I say it funny.

I met two Brummies (fellows from Birmingham) for the first time the other night. Stacey was making fun of their accents, as most English people will tell you that they dislike the Brummie accent the most, but I thought it was pleasant. It reminded me of the Beatles, even though I knew they weren't Scousers (Liverpuddlians). They also said "pop" like me for things like Coke, instead of "fizzy drink" so that made them ok in my books.

England sure does pack a lot of accents into a small country. Down here I find that people talk as though they are reluctant to let their lips touch each other, so it's an open-mouthed form of speech. Many of the women speak in a tone that at first made me think that I was annoying them but I now realize that it is just the accent. It is still a little disconcerting as it feeds into my paranoia about offending anyone.

Photos for the last month

I've finished adding what photos I had that were in the realm of decent. If you go back as far as June 13 (Brasov, Romania), that's where I started adding this time round. Not every post has photos, but a fair few do and those that do have a fair few (going for a rhyming thing there, or something).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

English BBQ

This is Stacey, who I'm visiting in Portsmouth (we met in Varna) barbequeing in the rain. Like any good English day, it was really sunny earlier so we thought we'd barbeque for supper. Then the rain started trickling, then absolutely pissing down. Out came the umbrella.

And the food's just about done and now the sun's coming out. Stacey says the weathers "taking the piss out of her".

More photos should be coming for my posts for the last month, since I've downloaded my photos to Stacey's computer and will be uploading them as I get a chance. I'll let you all know.

You're being watched...

I don't know if you know this, but I've been using Google Analytics on this site just out of interest to see what traffic I get. I started doing it last fall (autumn to those of you in the UK), but then when the new version of Blogger came out it must have intefered with my tracking. For awhile I simply thought that no one loved me and didn't visit my site. I eventually realized otherwise and fixed the problem back in June by setting up things again.

So here's a map of the world showing where I've been receiving visitors from. If you search my name on Google (and why wouldnt't you), this blog now comes up, meaning that people are finding me so I will have to watch what I say ;) But then I've also forwarded the link on many an e-mail, so some of these people do actually know me. Others may be finding me through the "random blog" button in Blogspot. And a few times it is actually me if I view my blog somewhere (I know the eastern European ones are me).

That big circle in eastern Canada is centred around Charlottetown because I get the most hits from there.

Anyway, it's reassuring to know that I'm not writing into the void. Thanks for the visits!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lost phone

While I was in Madrid during the parade, I lost my phone at either a restaurant (where it fell out of my bag, I think) or someone pickpocketed me in the crowd (the master of ceremonies from my Vaughan Town program had his wallet stolen that night, so "is possible" as the Spaniards say in English).

So if you have my 07787 mobile number, I can no longer be reached at that number. I'm using my old 07726 number. If you need that number, just drop me an e-mail or a comment.

Blown away by Pride

I spent the last week doing another Vaughan Town. It was lots of fun although quite tiring - I lost a bit of sleep each day I think and it caught up to me by the end. I didn't lose my voice this time round. Once again, I was one of the people that the Spaniards found hardest to understand. The other Anglos found that a bit puzzling because they think that I pronounce my words clearly. It's not my pronunciation that the Spaniards find difficult, it's how fast I speak. But they also tell me that it's good for them to listen to me because they learn eventually to keep up with me.

At the first of the week, I was unsure as to whether I would enjoy the week as much as I did the first one. In the end, I think I did enjoy it as much, although it is hard to compare as the people are so different from one week to another.

In Madrid prior to my departure was Pride week, and the parade was last Saturday. Given that my hostel was at the parade end (there are sort of two parades - a political one in the afternoon and then a party one in the evening into the night) - there wasn't much point in trying to sleep while the parade was on anyway, so I wandered around the streets with some girls from my hostel. I have never seen anything like it. I was told that there was something on the order of a million people in the street. There were gay people who had travelled for the event but there were also locals of all ages and sexual orientation. Old ladies sitting on the side of the street watching, people out with their kids. It was just a massive party in the streets. Everyone was friendly - people were drinking, but I didn't see any of the aggression that often accompanies drinking.

For a country girl like me, it was amazing just to see that many people having a party. To top it off with the acceptance of homosexuals that was present was even more amazing - there's many places in the world where that kind of event couldn't happen without protest.
After the parade ended at around midnight (the partying went on in some streets all night as there were still people about in the morning), I watched as a whole team of workers moved in with leaf blowers, brooms, bins, street-sweeping machines and garbage trucks and cleaned up Gran Via from an absolute mess to being open in under an hour. I was impressed.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the parade because I didn't have my camera with me (and I discovered that my phone was missing when I thought: I'll take some pictures with the little camera on it).
Now I'm back in the UK, having flown to Luton last night. It's a bit of a relief to be where people speak English in some ways - I can figure out bus schedules and the like.