Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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travelling.

August 14, 2012

I’m currently just over halfway through a well-earned two-week break from work, and I’m back in Bristol at the moment with my family. But over the past week I have bounced up and down the country, from London to Peterborough to Hastings then back to London via Heathrow!  During the car journey with Toby and his parents from Hastings to London, I played “the adjective game” with his mother in the back seat, which involves taking turns in saying the following rhyme:

I love my love with an A because he’s _____ (positive adjective beginning with A, e.g. “amazing”)
I hate my love with an A because he’s _____ (negative adjective beginning with A, e.g. “arrogant”)
His name is _____ (boy’s name beginning with A, e.g. “Aaron”) _____  and he comes from _____ (UK town beginning with A, e.g. Aberystwyth)

The next person does the letter B, then the letter C, and so on. It soon became apparent that while I could think of adjectives and boys’ names fairly quickly, my knowledge of British geography is woefully lacking. Apart from when my dad’s mother was alive and we would visit her for a couple of days in Filey, Yorkshire each summer, and travelling to the outskirts of London to see various members of my father’s family when I was young each Christmas, I didn’t really get to know much of England. School trips stuck mainly to the south west – occasionally Birmingham or Wales, but never any further.  In my late teens, when I was doing my university applications, I visited cities such as Oxford and Cardiff for the first time. I hadn’t even gone to central London and used the underground until I was 19 years old. I only like two cities in England – Bristol (more about that later), and London. I’m certainly not attached to anywhere else. Nevertheless, I feel that it’s important to visit cities in my home country (as well as countries throughout the world – Toby and I spent an hour last week making an exhaustive list of desired holiday destinations that will probably take us through to our seventies) to experience new places and broaden my horizons.

During my time in Peterborough, Toby’s mother suggested to us that we might like to go for a picnic at Rutland Water, which is a giant man-made lake / reservoir in the middle of the countryside.  Within that sentence, there are two words which unnerve me deeply: “picnic” and “countryside”. I don’t like picnics because they conjure up images of sitting on grass and mud, eating miserable sandwiches and constantly warding off bugs and insects. My preferred way of experiencing the countryside is through Google Earth or iPhoto – that way, you don’t have to smell it or get hot and sweaty walking through it, and you can turn it off once you get bored. I realise this sounds bratty, and I’m poking fun at myself a little bit – but I’m truly not one for gazing out over endless fields. I see it, my mind takes a picture, let’s move on – the fields do not do anything entertaining to hold my attention, and there’s no focal point. However, I tried to be up for something new, and I didn’t want to outwardly reject Toby’s offer of an outing, so we went along. The first hour of walking along a cycle path through clouds of midges, lumps of poo and flocks of sheep with the sun beating down on me and cyclists weaving all around us did not do much to endear me to Rutland Water, and I felt really bad. While my worst fears had indeed been confirmed, Toby had tried to do something nice for me and I wasn’t being very appreciative – he got a bit upset, I apologised and made more of an effort at conversation, we ate our nice sandwiches on a bench (at first he did come close to breaking his promise that we wouldn’t sit on the grass, but I firmly put the kibosh on that one), and soon it was a much more pleasant experience. We then drove round to the other side of the lake, which was far prettier and felt a lot more like a park.  For the record, I really like parks – we visited Battersea Park on Tuesday and it was lovely, plus we fell in love with nearly every dog that we saw (one of which, a bichon frisé, fell in love with me and followed me for about 5 minutes much to the chagrin of his owner). My mood had lifted a lot and I was actually enjoying myself, and Toby was too – as guilty as I felt for my initial ungratefulness, I am proud that I was mature enough to get over myself, enjoy myself and thank Toby for his thoughtfulness in the process. We skimmed stones (I discovered that I am really bad at this), looked at a very strange metal sculpture (apparently created purely to be aesthetically capitivating):

and walked along a dam made of piles of stones, which was very romantic. I ended up having a lovely time and after my initial disquiet, I appreciated the fresh air and open space.  Would I go again? I probably wouldn’t be the one to suggest it as a destination, but neither would I feel anxious about going. I still majorly dislike the countryside – that’s just me, I’m afraid – but I think I can learn to get along with it.

A couple of days later, we went a long drive from Peterborough down to Hastings for Toby’s brother’s engagement party (his brother’s fiancée is from there). I would personally never choose to live in Hastings, as it’s extremely tiny (I do not cope with tiny towns) and feels underdeveloped and a bit tacky, but – walking along the waterfront at night, and then picking my way down to the shore the following lunchtime, I could see that living by the seaside does have its charms:

Walking along the waterfront with Toby’s dad and Katie’s father as the sun set was truly lovely – people were playing crazy golf, a live band was playing, and there were stalls selling confectionery and ice cream. On Sunday we had lunch at a restaurant on the shore, and we went down to the water’s edge after finishing our meal and being that close to the water did feel a little bit magical. It did help that the weather was wonderful, but the venue just possessed a holiday atmosphere which I was able to appreciate. We drove back up to London and Toby’s parents dropped us off at Heathrow airport, which did feel exciting – we joked about just getting on a plane and leaving the country (and there were certainly plenty of appealing destinations on the departures board), but Toby had to be well-behaved as he is back at work this week. We each had a lemon San Pellegrino at the Caffé Nero there, and then got the tube back to Earls Court – and I ticked another underground station off my list:

And now I am back in Bristol. I am having a lovely time seeing my family and friends, and it is good to be home… but at the same time, I really feel that London is also my home now. I’ve lived there for a year (which has flown by!), and every time I return to Bristol, I notice how small the city feels, how tiny the buildings are, and how a considerable amount of the people look a bit… idiosyncratic. Obviously, you get dodgy-looking people everywhere, but I guess that until I started to see more of the world, I didn’t notice it in my own city as much. I always knew that the public transport in Bristol was a joke, but today I paid £2.90 for half an hour’s bus journey. The bus driver was on his mobile phone at the bus stop and I had to wait for him to finish his conversation before I could buy a ticket; I then asked how much it cost (as he didn’t tell me the price of the ticket – he just assumed I would know), and upon paying the driver, he practically threw my change at me, slamming it into the little money tray. I know that Bristol is a very friendly city, and that London is notorious for its rudeness and impatience, but the London public transport is far superior not only price-wise (a bus journey is less than half the price, and even the tube is considerably cheaper), but attitude-wise too – I’ve never been sassed by a London bus driver to date. So sort it out, Bristol! It’s sad that unless something major happens, we’d never be able to afford to buy somewhere in central London, because that would be a dream – but I’m looking forward to Toby and I moving into our own place (we are renting our own flat together in the next couple of months – I’m so excited!) in the next couple of months.  My sense of exploration is blossoming.

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London tube extravaganza: Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus

March 19, 2012

Yesterday Toby and I headed into central London to avoid the hordes of people descending on the Earls Court Exhibition Centre for the Ideal Homes Exhibition (although we did bump into Said, which was lovely), the Chelsea fans, and to see Nana for a nice catch-up. We firstly headed to Leicester Square and walked down to the Strand via Covent Garden:

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We had a yummy lunch at Leon (Toby has collected their recipe books, but I’d never been and was very pleased by their falafel wrap), I wished my mum and my grandmother Happy Mother’s Day, and then we wandered up Regent’s Street (visiting Guess and H&M on the way) towards Oxford Circus, via Piccadilly Circus:

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We also went to Carnaby Street, and during our journey we saw some of the Fabergé Eggs which have been “hidden” (i.e. sprinkled liberally in plain view) around London for Easter / the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. I particularly liked the Postbox one, which apparently was stolen! But it’s back now:

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We met up with Nana and went to Vapiano’s, where we had a really good chat (I swear I didn’t stop talking for an hour – there was a surprisingly large amount of ground to cover since we’d last met up in January!), coffee and tiramisu. 

I have nearly finished the western half of Zone 1! I can’t believe both how long this is going to take (there are many stations – which I already knew, but touring them all is really bringing this hope to me), and how many places I am exploring as a as a result. Which was the point! Nevertheless, I am aware that my blog has lately become London-travel focused, and I apologise for the lack of non-Underground-related material. I am hoping to learn to make an omelette before the end of the month for my cookery project, and I have also been writing some articles for a project I am currently developing… All will hopefully be revealed fairly soon, I just have to keep on writing and plotting! But rest assured I have plenty more in store 🙂 Much love xx

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criticism.

May 13, 2011

So a couple of weeks ago, E (with whom I do a car share for work, alongside two others) gave me a lift halfway home along with another member of staff, H, who normally doesn’t travel with us – however, they were all attending an event in Bristol so we were all travelling together. The first thing that H says to me upon meeting to get in E’s car is “So Alan, how is your lead foot?” I was a bit taken aback, but just smiled and said “It’s all good!” However, this bothered me.

I am a new driver, and I drive at the speed limit, slightly over it on the motorway, but no more than anybody else. My car is small and quite low down (because it’s a cute sporty thing 😀 ) and I can appreciate that I have been getting the hang of slowing down to go around corners a little bit. But I’m getting a lot better. Now, it’s not the comment of having a “lead foot” that bothers me – I have not been caught speeding and in fact, rarely do speed – so it’s nonsense. What irritates me is the fact that E and other people seemingly have chosen to spend their free time criticising my driving.

In the past, I would have simply said “well I guess I just stay on their minds, which is a compliment.” Which is true. But I have noticed that lately everyone seems to be competing with one another for the prize of “being right”. If you mumble your words, there’s somebody there to make fun of it. If you don’t know where a famous landmark is, there is somebody there to not only tell you, but boast their superiority and make you feel small. I appreciate learning things I did not know from other people, but I don’t understand why being right is so important to some people. Nobody is right 100% of the time, and gain-saying others doesn’t make you a richer person. Life is too short – rather than making other people feel small to feel better about myself for an instant or so, I would prefer to work hard on my own life and reap the lasting benefits. Now, I’m not holier than thou – if I know the correct answer to something, it makes me feel proud and I am not afraid to express that. But not at the expense of others’ self-esteem or confidence. At the end of the day, I am my own worst critic and I would rather criticise myself to improve myself, than be hard on others to momentarily appease my own insecurities.