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Sep. 18th, 2014

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Belated Birthday Catchup

I had a lovely birthday! Thank you all for the good wishes, and to st_crispins for the virtual puppy!

I had lunch with a friend from boarding-school, whom I've seen more often since she moved to San Francisco than during the preceding decade. I didn't feel like telling people at work it was my birthday because I've been especially hacked off with work this week (I am typing this in 5pt Terminal for fear of prying eyes, that's how bad things have got), but my designer friend spilled the beans and at ten minutes to EOB I was presented with a card and an Amazon voucher.

After work I took myself to see Flower Children in the Blinding Light: the 60s Films of Anthony Stern, which was pretty much as trippy as it sounds, before proceeding to the pub I'd informed people I would be in from eightish.

The Hole in the Wall was a little rougher than I remembered, but nobody got knifed, and we shared a table with two gentlemen who were fresh from a beard competition on the Alan Titchmarsh show. slightlyfoxed arrived shortly after I did and presented me with Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, with a handy marker indicating the point where things cross the line from spooky to disturbing. gerald_duck and porsupah both travelled from far-flung cities to be there, which was lovely. Everyone else present is not on LJ and thus does not exist for blogging purposes.

I arrived home shortly after midnight to find several cards, and also a copy of Professor Branestawm's Crunchy Crockery from loganberrybunny, who obviously knows me well.

My birthday present to myself has been an iPhone, as my old phone gave me the gift of pegging out last week. I'm quite scared about being on a contract after 12 years of PAYG. I also spent an hour last night trying to find a way of transferring my contacts over, in which time I could have typed them all in. (My old phone is so old that my computer refused to acknowledge it over either USB or Bluetooth.)

I will leave you with the image callmemadam chose to post in honour of the occasion. After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same, as Paul Simon said.

Huskyteer age ~7

Sep. 15th, 2014

Dogfight [by the_gneech]

War Horses

Saturday was the Romsey Show, a traditional country show with livestock, cage birds and fancy rabbits on display for judging. This year's had a First World War theme, and we went along mostly to see the Great War Display Team put on their mock dogfight, but once we'd committed to the entry fee we discovered they had already been and gone.

Still, we had a good time trying to persuade the alpacas they wanted to be stroked, and talking to this Red Cross reenactor and her Mercy Dog, Pups. Mercy Dogs were trained to find casualties and bring a small item of clothing back to their handler. You can read more about them in the excellent Dogs of War graphic novel.

At the end of the day there was a display in the arena featuring a replica tank (built for the War Horse movie), chaps dressed up in uniforms from each year of the war, a demonstration of training horses for war service (Romsey had an important remount depot, with horses arriving from all over the world and departing for the Front), and, most impressive of all, six draught horses pulling a gun carriage at the gallop.

Mercy Dog Tank

Sep. 10th, 2014

Must Control Fist Of Death

The Process

  1. Need to look up Day Eau de Toilette on work website.
  2. Type 'day eau' into search box.
  3. Get Banana Boat Song earworm.
  4. Really fancy a Trio.

Sep. 9th, 2014

Cat Air

The Czech List: Sunday 31st August

The Road Stop boasted a Sunday buffet breakfast well worth 10€, well-attended by non-residents. I've never had smoked trout for breakfast before. Or rice pudding. Or chocolate mousse.

With four hours until the return ferry left, and 45 minutes less until the supposed last possible boarding, we were cutting it fine for the three-hour journey even with the splendid German motorways. Heavy rain slowed us down, and we pulled in to the next services to put waterproofs on. Howard beckoned me over to admire a puppy in a dog carrier; when his owner returned to her car, I tried "Er ist schön, Ihre Hundchen!" (I know there are at least two things wrong with that sentence) and she told us he was a Border Terrier.

I'm not sure when we crossed into the Netherlands, but here we were following 'Hoek van Holland', then leaving the motorway in pursuit of car ferry signs. The daytime crossing felt more crowded than the overnight, since fewer passengers were occupying cabins, but we sat first on deck and then in the restaurant while I read The Good Solder Svejk (which I still haven't finished).

Land came in sight as the sun was going down, and we travelled west in deepening darkness. Howard and I said goodbye at Thurrock Services, unable to believe how much we'd done since meeting there the previous Thursday, and parted after the Dartford toll bridge, he taking the M25 lane, I the A2 for London. I got home just before ten PM, Howard a couple of hours later.

It was a brilliant holiday: three new countries, plus one I'd never visited by bike, many exciting things eaten, and some lovely riding. Howard said he liked the scenery more than anywhere else we'd been, which surprised me, since we've seen the jawdropping mountain vistas of the Alps, the rocky Dolomites, and the Italian lakes, but I knew what he meant; the rolling countryside felt consistently pleasant, and had a constantly exciting feel of foreignness without being overwhelming. It's a small country, so we felt as if we'd seen a fair bit of it, but I'd still like to go back and do some more.

Miles: 272.8
Total mileage: 2443

Czech road sign

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Sep. 8th, 2014

Pertwee bike

The Czech List: Saturday 30th August

After another swim to work up an appetite for an outstanding Czechfast, we checked out and got on the bikes. In less than a quarter of an hour we had left the Czech Republic behind and were belting down a German motorway. Prices were a shock after the Czech cheapness; Howard announced at elevenses that he could no longer afford coffee in Germany, and I subsequently discovered that I couldn't afford to go to the loo - at least at motorway services, which wanted 50 Euro cents for the privilege.

We passed a sign for Colditz and I rather wanted to go and have a look. We don't have radios, but Howard had had the same idea. We parked by the castle, peeked into the courtyard, and had a sandwich in the town square. Also in the car park was a group of bikes from Devon Advanced Motorcyclists, the first UK plates we'd seen all week. Everyone's right - the British really are obsessed with the war.

After this we spent a fair bit of time going round in circles in Leipzig, so that I was concerned about the mileage we had to get through, but once back on the motorway we made it up. Once again, rain descended as we neared our destination.

I'd told Howard that we were spending the night at an American-style motel, but I hadn't told him I'd booked the Harley Davidson-themed room. Luckily he was as amused as I was. The room wasn't hugely practical - there was no wardrobe - but who cares when there's a Harley sign in the loo and handlebars for taps? We dined in the bar downstairs on burgers, and I had a pint of 'Diesel' (lager/Pepsi shandy). Then it was time to creep under the tent and get into bed.

Miles: 394.5

We escaped from Colditz! The Harley Suite. Selfie, with handlebar taps.

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Sep. 7th, 2014

Lapland

Sniffing Out An Agent

Battersea is having a Literature Festival (name me a town that isn't), and one of the events on the programme was an Agent-Led Dog Walk at which, in return for a £5 donation to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, you could go on a group walk in the company of a literary agent and their dog.

Obviously this is the kind of thing I'd sign up for even without the added incentive of an agent, so I got my name on the list right away, and this morning I joined the other participants at the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.

We were introduced to the four dogs and their agents, and invited to choose our group. I went with Maisie, a medium-sized brown dog with setterish ears who had brought Jo Unwin, because she (Maisie) looked like the kind of high-energy dog I enjoy. Sure enough, I spent much of the next hour throwing an increasingly soggy and ruptured tennis ball, and remembering every now and then that I probably ought to be networking or something.

It was lovely to chat with other aspiring authors about our ambitions and works in progress, as well as a variety of other subjects including dogs, Classics, dogs, jobs, and dogs. Jo very fairly made time to talk to each of us individually, and we also sat down as a group to drink coffee, ask questions and receive advice (I tactically sat where I could receive a warm doggy shoulder against my back).

So, dear readers, did I go home inspired by this golden opportunity and get some writing, or even editing, done? Or did I wash my bike and make a date loaf? Take. A. Wild. Guess.
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Cat Air

The Czech List: Friday 29th August

This was our last day in the country, so I insisted on a supermarket stop to purchase sweets, chocolate, and Fernet Stock Mango & Ginger. It's probably just as well my foreign purchases are limited by luggage space.

The roads, though scenic, were filled with lorries, but as we headed north into less inhabited areas the traffic thinned out. We stopped at a roadside bar which didn't look very promising, but a friendly landlady helped us out with the menu and soon we were eating fried cheese with oven chips. Howard continued his journey of discovery through the native lagers, while I had Kofola, which was formerly Communism's answer to Coke and tastes like an unholy mixture of cola and root beer. The radio shifted from something incomprehensible in Czech to 'Black Velvet', and I smiled at the foreignness of it all. (When we left, it was a rather nice Czech cover of 'The Boxer'.)

The border with Poland was close, and we crossed it to see what we could see. I immediately felt a lot further from home and a little anxious, especially when the tarmac on the road we were following vanished into mud and we had to turn round. Then we arrived in a beautiful national park with a smooth road surface, allowing Howard to enjoy the corners and me the views.

We refuelled before returning to the Czech Republic, and a nice petrol station attendant gave me a zloty for my collection of small-denomination coins from the countries I've visited.

What we returned into was the area known as Bohemian Switzerland for its forests and rocky mountains. Evening sunshine alternated with driving rain, and we stopped to don waterproofs. I was amused by the sign for Turnov at which, beautifully, we did indeed turn off, and by the town of Horní Police, then we took smaller and smaller roads upwards to our hotel.

Our last night in the Czech Republic was spent just a few kilometres from the northern border with Germany, in a spa hotel whose welcoming receptionist let us park the bikes outside the front door. This was by far the nicest place we stayed in terms of staff, facilities, room and food; I enjoyed a swim before a dinner which included wild boar and Aperol ice cream.

Miles: 256.3

Poland, looking all Polish Carved figures outside a hotel in Poland Ha ha, Horni Police.

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Sep. 6th, 2014

Of Rassilon

Bring It On

I am all caught up with Doctor Who, just in time for tonight!

ThoughtsCollapse )
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Alice Street

The Czech List: Thursday 28th August

For our last in Brno, we had a proper day off the bikes, walking from our apartment to the city centre. We took a tour of the mediaeval cellars under the vegetable market, where I framed Howard for an unknown crime (watering down the wine?), inspected the stuffed crocodile who once terrorised the town as an alleged dragon, and checked out the astronomical clock. To my joy, I discovered a shop dedicated entirely to hosiery, and bought a pair of thermal socks with motorcycles on.

I'd been very excited to find I'd serendipitously booked an apartment a stone's throw from an open-air swimming-pool, and since it was a hot day, this seemed like the time to try it...until we checked the website and learned it was closed. We walked instead to another pool, where I paid and got changed, then tried to get from the (hot, crowded) indoor pool to the outdoor area, only to be told that they were separate and I couldn't. I found Howard enjoying a beer in the cafe, and with his help and that of the kind cafe assistant I got myself to the right place and paid again.

The outdoor pool was a very different experience, all concrete floors and wooden changing-huts. Nearby a sound system played 'Where Do You Go To, (My Lovely)?', and I felt like a good Communist sent for their annual healthgiving holiday.

I was ravenous by dinnertime. We branched out and, instead of going to the Indian restaurant next door, tried the Italian one two doors down. (We first investigated a building with a red lantern further up the street, but all it turned out to be offering was free entry and nice girls.) Perhaps in honour of the city's mascot, the restaurant had a small but real live crocodile in a tank.

Miles: 0 (a couple on foot and, in my case, swimming)

Stuffed crocodile Howard in chains

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Sep. 5th, 2014

Casino Royale

The Czech List: Wednesday 27th August

More rain, and Howard took the opportunity to have a lie-in while I wrote my postcards. Better weather was forecast for later, however, and we decided to persist in our plan to visit Slovakia.

Sacrificing scenery for speed, we hit the motorway (car drivers need to buy a pass, but bikers don't, although probably some do just to display it on their windscreen) and had crossed the border in an hour. Stopping at a service station to fill up, I was delighted to discover that Slovakian HobNobs are called 'Hobbits'.

Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, is the setting for part of The Living Daylights, one of my favourite Bond films. The relevant scenes were actually shot in Vienna, the Soviet Union not taking kindly, in 1986, to capitalist propaganda being filmed on its beat, but that didn't stop me singing A-ha's theme song all the way down the motorway.

Bratislava looked a little grotty on first acquaintance, but we followed signs for the Historic Centre and parked on the edge of a pedestrian zone filled with statues, market squares, souvenir shops and cafes. We picked the Zeppelin Cafe for lunch, for obvious reasons. Their menu included a guide to the city's tourist attractions, and I immediately decided that I wanted to see the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising and its UFO-shaped restaurant.

We had to pay for entry to the viewpoint at the top of the tower, but it was well worth it, if a little windy. Motorway to one side, tower blocks to another, a wind farm, castle, forests, and river, seemed to sum up the whole Eastern European landscape. Even the loo had a view, which I found a little disconcerting (what if someone in one of the tower blocks had a telescope?).

It was only another twenty miles to Hungary, so it made sense to round off our adventure by going there for coffee. Coming from an island nation, we found it very strange to have motorway lanes marked by country: CZ, H, and A.

The scenery changed as soon as we left the motorway on the Hungarian side, with single storey houses, chestnut trees, and wrought iron bus shelters. On one bend Howard surprised a hare, which hopped off into the verge.

Maybe we just got lucky, but the town of Mosonmagyaróvár, picked because it was the closest sizeable settlement, was pretty and easygoing. I got some money from a cashpoint to see what it looked like, and was charged the same again in transaction fees. We had our coffee, which came with a shot glass of fizzy water, and watched the inhabitants walk or cycle past.

Returning to the Czech Republic, and eating supermarket fried cheese in our apartment, felt like coming home.

Miles: 212.6

UFO Tower, Bratislava Hungarian signs! Hungarian war memorial

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