February, 2006

Note to self: the episodes of The Bill being shown here have almost caught up with the ones I saw on my last trip... time to book the next one!!

On my last trip, I really got into reading newspapers while I was away, and it was something I continued when I got back, particularly since I was given a free subscription to one of our best newspapers over the summer. And in it, this weekend, came confirmation that my lifestyle is not so decadent after all. I should also point out that Sydney has recently been voted one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to buy real estate:

"...it is now cheaper to take a trip to Paris, Rome or Stockholm every single month than it is to make mortgage payments on an ordinary house in Sydney."

I rest my case. And I've booked my flights!

February 12, 2006
The website updates from the last trip are just about finished off now. I'm polishing off the last few while I also rework a vest I've bought, adding padded quilting - it seems crazy on a hot summer February afternoon, but I'll need it next trip! It's the best that I can do to replace the black suede vest that I miss so much.

As I sew I'm watching the Metallica movie, Some Kind Of Monster, for the first time - I knew Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) had been in t (and I really felt for the guy - all of the hurt came out), but I had had no idea Pep (that's Pepper Keenan, from Corrosion Of Conformity, to you!) had tried out for the bass job! His special brand of crazy would have fitted in real well...! (I should add that Pep is not actually bass player in COC, he's lead singer and rhythm guitarist.) COC were Metallica's protégés for a while back in the 90s. Pep and his family were also residents of New Orleans and forced to relocate during Hurricane Katrina.
6 weeks out...
I've waited until now to book my tickets, as there's a travel show in at Darling Harbour Convention Centre this weekend. What it actually is is an attempt by one of our shopfront travel agency chains to claw back some of the business they're been losing to the internet, with many people now opting to book online. But I've deliberately waited for this show, because I KNOW they will have great special prices for this day only. The show opens at 9am; by 9.30am I've gotten exactly the flights I wanted, and travel insurance to boot, for way less than I paid for the flights alone last time.

Since I'm already there, I spend a bit of time wandering around the other booths just to see what else is on offer, and become fascinated by the gravity with which people are regarding the humble travel guide. Several famous travel guide publishers have set up stalls, and there are customers solemnly listening to a sales spiel as they figure which one of several are the most relevant for the trip they intend to take, if not more than one! Since when, in this day and age, with the internet at everyone's fingertips, is a book going to be the definitive resource on ANY country? It can only be superficial coverage at best, and becomes dated the instant it leaves the printery. Besides which, ladies and gentlemen, you are going to become heartily sick of a book which takes up a substantial portion of your baggage allowance! A veteran of self-exploration of my chosen destinations, I walk away with a big, big smile and NO book in my hands.

And then I get busy organising my gig wardrobe, including rehemming my new jeans. This time I don't intend to get caught out, and I'm already placing things into my bag - like the CORRECT power supply for the MD recorder, so as to avoid last minute panic packing - like last time.

But do I really need to go? I found a delicious, authentic loaf of brioche in my local supermarket, so you can guess what I had for tea. :-)

 Try and stop me...
4 weeks out...
At this point in time, packing consists of lobbing various bits and pieces towards my bag, ready for the final selection process. It's also a matter of picking out the right cables, battery packs, chargers and media - and there's a stowaway staking his claim already! Unfortunately, at 6.2kg plus, he'd take up far too much of my meagre baggage allowance. The kitty stays behind.

Oh yes, and it also involves subjecting myself to one of life's perennial and inescapable nasties: a trip to the dentist. All over and done with now, thank goodness.

I'm also eagerly anticipating the arrival of the latest gig list - which will let me know where I'll be on the weekends!
2 weeks out...
The giglist is a good one. It's a nice combination of venues I've been to and those I haven't seen the band play at yet, and my first gig will be at The Red Lion in Twickenham!

Practice definitely makes perfect. I'm distilling all the good, as well as the bad experiences from previous trips, not to mention the bits that simply aren't worth bothering with. After all, traditions are made to be broken.
March 22, 2006
As a nice bonus, just as I've finished packing and am winding down for the evening, What Not To Wear has come on the telly. I find this show interesting not so much because of the clothing tips (because a lot of these things I simply would not wear (ho ho)!), but rather the joy of seeing people find confidence and grace and become comfortable with themselves.

I won't say I'm completely organised, but I'm probably the most calm I've ever been prior to flying out.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Speaking of breaking with tradition, I have decided to take the aluminium flight case with me. The effect is a hugely positive one - from red, swollen fingers and the lack of mobility rendered by having the thing, I've gone to a wheeled carry-on bag which I can pull behind me or even lift with one finger! However, my luggage is now ever so slightly overweight because of the power packs, batteries and so on (I shan't mention the coffee and food I've stashed away in there!). It's a good compromise, and I KNOW I'll really appreciate not only the freedom of movement but having utterly unblemished hands at the other end.

It's like a sign. I've booked myself onto an airport shuttle bus, since the taxi fare from where I live is just outrageous. I'm the first one to be picked up, so the bus driver and I have a cosy chat - and as we compare travel notes, he tells me he was living in Ealing in the seventies. "Did you go and see any bands?" I can't help asking.
"Oh yes, I saw Blackfoot Sue!" he tells me. "They lived in Hounslow. They had that record..."
"Standing In The Road," I say with a grin.
"That's the one," he agrees.
We part company after a painfully slow, roundabout trip through Sydney peakhour traffic to pick up his other passengers, and I'm once again at Kingsford-Smith Airport, ready to start my latest adventure.

I arrive in Narita without mishap for my overnight stay, relaxing in my hotel room with the CNN World News on on the television on the background. I have an overwhelming amount of respect for those people, usually women, who translate live news broadcasts on the fly - Japanese sentence structure is completely the reverse of those used in the various flavours of English, and on top of that, consider the complexity of some of the issues being spoken of - it is truly a gift.
Friday, March 24, 2006
I'm off to the airport in the morning just as early as I can get there, very mindful of the nightmare queues I experienced last trip! However it's not quite as bad this time, though there was an entertaining moment while waiting to go through the metal detector. Ah, the perils of wearing trousers so baggy they only stay up if cinched with a belt! Here's a tip: DON'T wear a metal-studded belt, or you'll find yourself in the embarassing situation of struggling to put your belt back through your beltloops as your trousers drop down around your knees in front of thousands of complete strangers. I couldn't help bursting out laughing as I sailed on past the formerly so-terribly-trendy guy as he struggled to regain his dignity - and his trousers.

I didn't get a wink of sleep on the plane, but to be honest, I didn't actually try. There's such a fascinating crop of movies on the program, like Lord Of Rings, I'm happy to watch it multiple times to pick up the subtle things I missed on my first (and only) viewing at the cinema a few years back. I also caught the latest Harry Potter, plus a rather nice Japanese period piece on newly post-war Tokyo, and another called Dreamer in which, as far as I am concerned, the star of the show was the horse! And that's not to take anything away from a fine collection of actors - the only niggling point to me was the relegation of the wife character to a compliant, decorative and uncomplaining housewife/mother/part-time diner employee. She was far more of a fifties stereotype than the fascinating and quirkily individual women in the Japanese movie actually SET in the fifties!

The flight seemed to go on forever, probably because I didn't even get a nap, but ultimately, like all things, it passes, and I'm soon back at Heathrow. My minicab will take about 20-30 minutes to arrive, so I detour to grab an espresso before I head outside to wait (gasp!) in the sunshine. It's not even cold! Of course, this is the first warm, spring-like day that's been felt here so far - AND the first rain for ages, so David tells me later at the evening's gig. I'm quite happy to take credit for bringing the weather with me, because it was certainly bucketing down when I left Sydney!

Ah yes, the evening's gig. What better way to start off than at The Red Lion in Twickenham? And no, the boys didn't know I was going to turn up (the smiles were worth it!). It's also the first time I've gone straight to a gig the same day that I've arrived in the country since my first trip in 2003. Because of my lack of sleep I've developed the shakes, but a rousing set of old favourites performed by my "old favourites" banished the fatigue and it was back to normal - albeit fuelled by a pint of lime and soda for rehydration and a Red Bull for a much-needed caffeine hit.

Really great to be back and catch up with everyone... and lots more to come!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Here we go. A very solid sleep after getting in sometime after 1am, but I was up again and wide awake at 4.30am. Still, there's plenty to get on with, like updating this diary!

And what did I forget this time? I knew you'd ask. A USB cable seems to be the sum total - easily solved, as my notebook has a memory stick slot! However, it probably wouldn't hurt to get one. Once it's a reasonable hour to get out and about - i.e., the shops are actually open, I'll head off down the road for a reckie and shopping spree.

In the meantime, I have a raft of documentaries and news broadcasts on the BBC to catch up with - not to mention the all important weather forecasts.

Meticulous planning can get you a long way, but even the best laid plans...

Cry Wolf played at the Goldsworth Arms in Woking tonight. I carefully researched my options for getting there and, more importantly, getting back. This all went fabulously well until the unexpected occurred - South West Trains' late evening timetable was disrupted due to a fatality on the line. This meant that I missed the connection with my last train home from Clapham Junction by a matter of seconds - I could wave goodbye to it across the platforms! Brilliant. Time for a fast rethink... one bonus of my body being in suspension between timezones is that I'm wide awake at midnight (and the downside is feeling decidedly queasy at 3-4pm !), so I'm still focused and alert where most of my fellow travellers are a bit foggy by this stage. But they have undoubtedly gotten themselves home by alternate routes in all sorts of circumstances in the past and have a routine to fall back on, whereas I have to figure it out for myself.

I think of, and quickly decide against, the obvious and expensive alternative of just grabbing a cab from Clapham, and hurry along the underground passage to the ticket wicket to see what trains are still running. There are a lot of people doing exactly the same, staring up at the indicator board at the station entrance. There's still a few South West Trains running, so I head back down the platforms to think through my alternatives while I wait. And then I have a brainwave - I have brought hardly any of my maps and timetables with me (as I had been anticipating a fairly straight-forward trip home), but I DO have my trusty gig notebook, which has my combined scribbles from all my trips - and at one stage two years before, I had hand-drawn a map detailing a potential night bus interchange I hadn't ultimately had to use at the time. But it's perfect for tonight. I alight at Putney, wait a mere 2 minutes for the N10, 8 minutes later I'm at Hammersmith, and then it's on to the trusty N9. I'm home in no time!

And the gig itself? More old friends turned up, and it was great to see them again. Unfortunately there were a few operational glitches - an annoying hum which resulted in everything electrical in the vicinity being switched off, unplugged, and even the lightbulbs being removed from their sockets! Pars' substitute loaner Marshall amp was, unfortunately, a non-starter, so he resorted to his own Line 6, which is just back from being repaired. Unfortunately there hasn't been time to program in the full raft of effects - so he's going to have to wing it - but of course, we are talking about Pars here. He carries it off with his usual panache and the punters wouldn't have known the difference!  Photos
Sunday, March 26, 2006
When I left Australia, the television channels were full of triumphant reports of antipodian victories in the Commonwealth Games, in swimming and track events - but here, of course, coverage is heavily Anglo-centric, with sports like badminton occupying all the airtime!
P.S. Australia won.

I spent the day in central London, walking Oxford Street from end to end... and there's brilliant news for my wallet - I'm not actually that wild about this season's fashions. They're all a bit too pastel and unremarkable for my taste. However, the same can't be said about the music stores - at a conservative estimate, I could easily blow £200 in one go if I snap up just the small collection of goodies I spotted in a quick walk around Virgin and HMV. Despite this almost irresistable temptation, I restrained myself, as there's still plenty of time yet to do some comparison shopping.

And what could be more familiar than The Six Bells in Brentford on a Sunday evening? We had a great evening, and Ronnie got to show off his new digital camera and his beautiful new bass.
A different view of The Six Bells, Brentford, from the upper deck of the trusty 237!
Monday, March 27, 2006
In one hour flat I've made up for two separate losses at The Red Lion in Twickenham - a replacement waistcoat, for the one lost in January last year (I shan't tell you how long I've spent scouring the shops in Sydney - it was hard enough to find ANY waistcoats at all, let alone one small enough to fit me - they all seemed to have been made for barrel-chested bikers), and an earring (lost on Saturday night), PLUS I've gotten a tiny little earring repair kit - I am absolutely delighted.

It's my first night off since I got into the country. Time to catch up, read the weekend supplements, and go to bed at a more "normal" hour. In a way, it's almost like finally having a weekend after a very hectic 5 days, 2 of those spent doing one of the world's longest commutes.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
It's been on the agenda every trip, but I've finally taken myself to Kew Gardens! It's almost a perfect day for it, mild and with beautiful bursts of sunshine, between some rather ominously heavy, dark clouds, and it's not at all crowded, being a work weekday.

In the shop, after hours spent wandering the gardens and greenhouses, I look longingly at all the packets of seeds and bulbs, but I know better than to buy any! Australian Quarantine will whip them out of my luggage once I arrive back in Sydney with all the zeal with which they rip open most packets which get posted to me! I would particularly LOVE to take some daffodil bulbs home.

As I leave the Gardens, the clouds are now very dark and threatening indeed, so I make for the bus stop as quickly as I can. Alas, the rain catches me partway back across Kew Bridge, and a vicious gust of wind savaged my umbrella. However, no sooner had I gotten onboard the bus and was heading home than the sun came back out, but there's no hope for my umbrella. The first casualty of the trip.

And now there's late night rain when I'm cosy at home on a non-gig night... the very best kind of rain.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The daffodils are blooming - spring is definitely here.

After a solid, refreshing night's sleep, I'm heading off to beautiful Windsor for the day.

However, at first it seemed that I was never going to get there! Though the train was in sight down the perfectly straight run of track, headlight blazing, it just never got any closer! Ultimately the indicator board gave up adding another two minutes to the arrival time and simply said "DELAYED". At this point I slipped from the station and went off firstly to grab some fresh batteries for the camera, and then an Internet cafe to give them time to clear the problem.

For this reason I didn't arrive in Windsor until the stroke of noon. The castle is an imposing site, high up on the hill, and today I'm going to do the tour and see it from the inside. It was the perfect day for it - not a lot of people (just a few noisy foreign tour groups), the weather fine and mild. I was absolutely enchanted.

In the audio commentary they take great pains to point out that it's a working castle, a real residence, and it really is something else to be able to wander about at will.

And once I got back, it was a quick stroll through the backstreets to Old Isleworth and The London Apprentice for dinner - fish and chips, of course! - yum.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
My metabolism has obligingly ramped up to meet the challenge of the colder weather, and all the walking has restored my optimum muscle tone after months of a desk-bound existance - just call me "Strider"! Mind you, I'm amazed that so many girls are wearing hipster jeans with their padded black parkas - inbetween is an inch or so of "muffin top" bare flesh! I don't think I'll ever develop that level of cold weather tolerance.

There's something about the colour here - everything is vibrant, not bleached of colour by a harsh, unforgiving sun as it is in Australia.

I caught a record 11 buses today, zigzaging all over the place, including to The Cardinal Wolsey at East Molesey in the evening, to see Cry Wolf. The band's set are absolutely plagued by problems tonight. That annoying buzz is still there in the PA, Pars breaks several strings (and there are no roadies along either!), and the box of spare cables has not been brought along - which ultimately means that David's microphone is unusable, due to a dud cable. And hence any songs requiring a descant to Gary's lead are going to have to be sung by Tom, who rises majestically to the occasion, to our delight.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Cry Wolf are playing at The Grove Tavern in South Wimbledon tonight, but instead of going to see them, I'm on my way to the Royal Albert Hall for the Tommy Vance Memorial concert. I was not going to knock back the opportunity to see "Ian Gillan and Friends" (third on the bill) and one of London's most famous venues. Sorry guys!

What a marvelous evening, what a marvelous experience!

It was disconcerting to see silver-throated screamer (now also silver-haired) Ian Gillan in comfy dark slacks and shiny black dress shoes, but that magic voice was still there. There were plenty of classics from Gillan days, some new tracks, and the set closed with (what else but!) Black Night. Roger Glover was the most well-known "friend" in the band, gaining a rousing cheer when introduced.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Scorpions (introduced by Bruce Dickinson), and they were certainly enjoying themselves! They have never made it out to Australia, in fact are hardly known there at all, but some good friends of mine back home are die-hard fans and will be extremely jealous.

Next up were headliners Judas Priest... well, at least I can say that I'm seen them now! Singer Rob Halford is not one to engage with the crowd (to quote Classic Rock: "His coat may be a glimmering vision, but his gait is that of a bloke from the Black Country off to pick up his wages."), but at least guitarists K.K.Downing and Glenn Tipton make up for it, while the bass player is headbanging away up the back like something out of Spinal Tap.

Between bands I had glanced into my bag and discovered that I'd packed my brand new 75p umbrella - this proved to be a very good thing, as it was absolutely bucketing down when we got outside the hall! I make the two block trek to get to the bus stop which will take me in the right direction for home, taking shelter in the entrance of the pub there.
Saturday, April 1, 2006
That same rain was falling when I woke up this morning, making it look as if it was going to be a dire, wet day, but now the sun is blazing down from a gorgeous blue sky.

Cry Wolf played up in Harpenden, at The Plough & Harrow. It was a long but fairly straight-forward trip to get there, and a great evening, with yet more people seeing the band for the first time... amongst them was local Karen, who, despite being in pain and on crutches after breaking her knee the previous day after falling from a horse, was happily waving her crutches around and hobbling along with the dancers up the front!

I have to leave pretty sharpish as I'm catching the very last train home, but I make it with 8 minutes to spare, wrapped up warmly in a loaned jacket (thanks! XX) after my suede jacket is accidently soaked. I'm especially grateful for the jacket whilst standing in Aldwych waiting for my second night bus, the trusty N9.
Sunday, April 2, 2006
Sunday - the day for rest, recovery, relaxation, recharging (the batteries) - and doing the washing! I'm the only one here in the B&B this morning (probably just as well after drifting in at some late hour last night, having made my way back from Harpenden), and I have the run of the place - the landlord has kindly let me use the laundry, equiped with both washer and dryer.

No sooner do I get it all finished up then I'm racing off for the train, heading for Barnes Bridge - for today is the Oxford-Cambridge boat race! There's a brief, quick shower as I'm standing on the railway station, and then the sky clears up, but it's a hint of things to come. I grab a cup of scrummy hot chips for lunch while I go for a stroll, but I'm keeping a vigilant eye on that sky. There are plenty of places along the bank of the Thames from which to watch the race, but most of them are not under cover. As the dark clouds come scudding over again, I go for a walk along the muddy track by the river, finding a likely tree under which to shelter. Before too long, the rain comes crashing down, so I stay put and wait. Most other people, however, kept right on walking, some of them with mud splashed right up to their knees. After it fines up I'm quick to go back downstream and find myself a good vantage point.

At last the boats clear the bend in the river, and Oxford are way, way in front. As their bow wave speeds towards the shore, all of the people silly enough to have taken up a position on the river bank have to make an undignified dash for the causeway before they get caught by it, many of them teetering in delicate shoes, with champagne glasses in hand!

I'm very glad I'm headed west afterwards - the platform for the train heading back into London is absolutely packed with bodies - this is probably the busiest day of the year for sleepy Barnes Bridge Station.
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
The £3.50 all day bus ticket is absolutely brilliant. Since I'm generally in no particular hurry to get where I'm going, I can take any one of numerous round-about routes, seeing the many, many fascinating faces of London from the front seat on the upper deck of a double-decker bus. Sometimes the journey is as much fun as reaching the destination. Today, ultimately, I end up in Camden Town and spend a lovely afternoon wandering through the markets, with a diversion to my beloved Pret for a scrummy afternoon snack.
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
There's another thing that's been on my list of things to do since my very first trip to the UK - walking Hampton Court maze. And today I finally did it. It was a perfect day for visiting Hampton Court Palace - there are so many things to see, with costumed guides taking tours through various areas both inside and out. I was running around right up until closing time trying to see absolutely everything, dropping into the Tudor kitchens a couple of times for sustinence - delicious and warming homemade soup for lunch, and a heavenly slice for afternoon tea. All of the food is made on the premises, and I can highly recommend it.
Thursday, April 6, 2006
As a qualified chemist, I'm somewhat horrified by the shelves and shelves of homeopathic remedies in Boots. In fact, I spent quite some time pouring over the shelves investigating the variety of products available, meanwhile wondering how suspicious I look on the store's CCTV cameras.

setting up sat The Marne InnFriday, April 7, 2006
I'm back off to Kingston University today to catch up with their IT staff and see how all their projects are going, and compare notes. It's a marathon 4 hour session, but still we hardly seem to scratch the surface. It's definitely great to catch up with Len again. And then I have the bonus of going window-shopping in Kingston afterwards!
Saturday, April 8, 2006
This is by far my longest commute to a Cry Wolf gig, to The Marne Inn in Bishop's Stortford, and it's going to be a special one, because I'm meeting someone who's commuting even further - Kate is coming all the way from Birmingham! The band make it even more special, because they've got a surprise up their sleeve - Pars has taken them all off to the rehearsal studio this week, and there are four new songs in the set, including the long-promised Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
Sunday, April 9, 2006
I couldn't resist sharing this photo. Yes, that's right, I was up in Birmingham for the local derby at Villa Park, Aston Villa versus West Bromwich Albion. Though it was disappointing not to see a goal scored, it was still great to be seeing a match, and from so close to the pitch!

Not too long before the final whistle, it started to hail (not the kind of hail we get in Australia, at least marble-sized, usually bigger, but a very light hail, rather as I imagine falling snow to be), which quickly covered the ground. We trudged through it from the grounds to the car park, only to sit motionless for the best part of half an hour while we waited for the traffic to disperse. On the plus side, the accumulated hail had melted from the windscreen and my damp clothes had dried out while we were waiting!

Then it was back to the warm house and a welcoming committee of three beautiful cats, followed by a delicious home-cooked meal by my wonderful host for the weekend, Kate, and then all too soon I was heading in to Birmingham New Street for my train home.

The rain has drifted southwards over the course of the evening, so it's a wet night in London when I arrive at Euston. I have three buses to catch to get myself home, and after heading off briefly in the wrong direction, I get myself sorted out and am soon on my way. As we pass along Gower Street, to my amazement, I see huge ghostly words projected onto a building... it's not until I read the newspaper the next day that I discover that this is part of a week long project by American artist Jenny Holzer, creating a series of light projections of contemporary poems on buildings around London.

It looks marvelous and just adds to the magic of this city for me. London has fascinated me ever since I found a huge photo book of it in my school library - I used to pour over that book for hours at a time, determined that one day I would explore its many streets for myself - just exactly as I'm doing now.
Monday, April 10, 2006
I sleep in, but not enough that I miss out on my breakfast! A fast shower, and I'm dressed and across the road in time for my morning nosh-up. In the afternoon I head off for London, for I'm meeting my friend Jan for dinner after she finishes work. We head for one of my favourite restaurants, Food For Thought, in Covent Garden, and have a great catch-up chat, then we walk through the dusk to the bright lights of Leicester Square for a coffee and hot chocolate at Starbucks, before going on our separate ways.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I will fill in the gaps, promise... just as soon as I get the chance! I'm having too much fun being out and about to find time to write it all up, not to mention do much with all the photos. This has certainly been my busiest trip so far.

Today has been a quiet one from necessity. It's cool and rainy outside, and I've mostly spent it in reading, writing, relaxing, and in sleeping off the last vestiges of the cold I picked up last week.

I see on the news tonight that there's actually a name for the slangy way the youth speak, which has been driving me mad - Jafakin' (if that's how it's spelt?)! Some of the conversations I'm overhearing on the bus sound so crazily contrived it's hard to believe it's any more than a fad - not to mention that they're punctuated by howls of giggles as if even the speakers aren't taking themselves particularly seriously.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
I can spend hours in bookstores, and that's exactly what I did today. The five storey Waterstone's bookstore at Piccadilly is filled with fascinating books, but I dare not over-indulge myself and buy all the ones I want to read - I shall use up far too much of my hard-won holiday funds!

On my way there I lucked out on catching one of the few remaining Routemaster buses, still ploughing the route between Hammersmith and Aldwych. I also walked through still more London streets I had not yet visited, including a stroll through St Jame's Park, as well as a trip to Notting Hill Gate, then Shepherd's Bush markets, finishing up with a magnificent, early dinner of scampi and chips and peas in a little diner there, which gave me the strength to endure the lengthy bus trip home in the rush hour - and over an hour it was.

As I got off the bus I noticed a billboard which asked, "Is technology killing the art of conversation?"
To which I can answer an unequivocal "No."
Not after sitting next to a girl who was on her mobile phone that entire bus trip. The only breaks between calls were to dial the next number. Fortunately, most of her conversations were conducted in a foreign language, so I didn't have to actively concentrate on not listening to her, but I DO wonder what her phone bills are like, who pays for them, and does she have withdrawal symptoms when the battery goes flat? What on earth did her kind do on bus trips before mobile phones?
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Though I didn't travel very far, I got through lots of things, including planning out what's looking like quite a busy week next week.

I'm also all organised for the Easter weekend - though the kitchen is closed for the duration, I took off with a breakfast bowl and sufficient cereal to tide me through, plus got myself a carton of M&S pink grapefruit juice - I'm sorted!
Friday, April 14, 2006
Good Friday started out drizzling and stymied my idea of going for a long walk, but then all was forgiven as I was given the run of the laundry again. In the afternoon, as I had hoped, the weather cleared up to a most beautiful spring day, mild with bright blue skies. I set off fairly early for the evening's Cry Wolf gig at Queen Mary's Sailing Club in Ashford.

On the way there I passed a pub which was at first vaguely familiar and then vividly so - The Three Horseshoes at Feltham - I'd never noticed the name at the time, being jetlagged and rather over-awed, but this was the very pub to which Eddie and Lynn had brought me on my arrival in England in 2003, for a welcome drink!
It was a great gig, and an excellent venue, with a fabulous view of the sunset across the reservoir. I was early and able to tuck into a strawberry cornetto while the band were setting up - luxury! The club soon filled up, with so many familiar faces it was like a reunion! It was especially nice to catch up with Michelle and Phil again, and hear all about their European cruise - lucky things. The new songs are even more comfortable and went down a treat, with the second set stretching to almost an hour due to crowd enthusiasm.

After the gig I headed off to catch my buses back, going in a direction that I'd not gone before - I trekked off down Staines Road, and at the bus shelter came across a chatty Chelsea fan who regaled me with plot details from Australian soapies (which I never watch!), told me all about the Australian players who are doing so well in English football, and was also an expert on bus runs - his "...and just walk around the corner," for when I reached Sunbury Cross was icing on the cake, as I then knew exactly where I needed to go for my interchange. This was a very good thing, as I was aiming for the very last 235 of the evening, due at 00:02. I had already seen a bus pass in the distance, and my watch (unreliable, with a battery on its last legs, losing 15 minutes a day) said 12.01pm; my phone, running a few minutes late, said 00:00. Had I already missed it?

Just as I was beginning to consider my alternatives, the bus came round the corner, and I was on my way!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Weather: beautiful. After a cosy breakfast in my room, it's time to get down to work. I muster enough self-discipline to catch up with this trip diary, and a few other pages which needed edits, and then it's off to the Internet cafe to upload them.

After a leisurely stroll up the street to pick up a copy of The Times, and a walk around the shops, I come back for a brief nap - which became a three hour snooze - I obviously needed it! There's just time for a quick dinner at the local cafe, and then I quickly round up my gear and head off to Shepparton for the evening's gig at The Barley Mow.
Not only did David finally wear his Cry Wolf T-shirt, but I wore mine, and John had his! So here we are, Hughie, Dewie and Louie.

Other notables who wanted to get in the shot but were excluded were Gary, for wearing a plain black singlet top, and Tom, who argued unconvincingly that his T-shirt said "Cry Wolf" in Japanese. Since it actually said something about a drunken monkey, he was out of luck as well!

Another excellent gig, and the new songs are getting tighter all the time - not to mention receiving a rave reception.
As Tom said to me, it's interesting how there are songs which take ages in rehearsals to thrash through and get right, and yet it's the quick and dirty ones which often go down the best with the audience.

For my part, when the band are playing, and I'm immersed in the music, I just want it to go on forever. I lose all track of time and it simply doesn't matter any more. It's awfully hard, when they finish, to come back down to earth, particularily when I need to get myself packed up in a hurry and head off for my homeward bus or train.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Aston Villa 3 - Birmingham City 1.
I went and did something quintessentially English - went and sat in the pub and watched the football, with Villa scoring a decisive win in their home derby this afternoon. "Bye Bye Birmingham" indeed, as the commentator said!

Tonight's excellent viewing - "Balderdash & Piffle" - a television show respendant with lots of panoramic views of Oxford, my destination in a few days' time - and a delightful exercise by people fascinated with words, like myself, to find the earliest written evidence of new words and trump the OED - that's the Oxford English Dictionary, for those who hadn't figured it out. I just love it, but I have to say it - only in England. Unfortunately most of my fellow Australians are very casual with language and probably "wouldn't give a toss". ;-p Of course, I'm still prone to using quaint Australian expressions - most notably the general purpose greeting "G'day."

Followed, of course, by Match Of The Day 2, where I can watch those fabulous goals again. Go the Villa!
Monday, April 17, 2006
I'm heading off to Birmingham again for a couple of days. I'm catching the coach from Heathrow Airport, and I get there so quickly I'm able to catch an earlier bus than I'd planned. I munch on my "full breakfast" sarnie as we head on up the motorway, and a few hours later I'm at Digbeth Coach Station, a hop skip and a jump from Reddington's Rare Records. (However, being Easter Monday, it's closed, and there's nothing more that can be done other than admire the faded album covers in the window.)

There's definitely a bit more of a chill in the air than there was when I left Middlesex, and my early start has caught Kate on the hop, but before too long she's arrived, and it's great to catch up all over again. Birmingham is already much more familiar to me after my previous trip, and it's nice to be back. After we drop off my bags we head back off to the city centre to explore. The day warms up and it's very pleasant indeed, except for one strong rain shower, which catches us down by the canals without any shelter! However, we dry out before long as we keep walking around. It's the delectable Drucker's for afternoon tea (coffee, and meringue with cream!!!) before we settle on take-away fish and chips for dinner.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
It's a lovely day in Birmingham, sunny and bright, and we're off around and about all over the place, as I'm curious to explore the birthplace and early stamping grounds of Blackfoot Sue.

Along the way we stumble on some Black Sabbath history as well! Never strangers to accusations of being anti-religious devil worshippers, the title of their 1989 album Headless Cross had raised the ire of the usual suspects, although singer Tony Martin had explained that it was in fact named after his home village - and here's the proof!

In the evening there's a yummy home-cooked dinner, lots of great music and chat, and I show Kate a bit of what it takes to build a website.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
We're off down the motorway after breakfast, heading for Oxford. In no time at all we're back in the elegantly beautiful city. No sooner do I land on the doorstep of OUCS (Oxford University Computing Services) I'm being offered a coffee, but first we have to head off and do a RAM upgrade on one of their servers, so I dump my bags in the office and then it's straight off to the machine room!

In the afternoon I sit in on an installation of Groupwise, and we spend quite a bit of time working on configuring the server. Some people have a home away from home, whereas I also seem to have work away from work!

After quite a late finish, I head off with most of the IT Department for a cosy dinner at "The Big Bang", which serves - you guessed it - bangers and mash! It is completely packed out with customers, and there's even a live band downstairs - but we are talking acoustic quartet, not Cry Wolf style entertainment! Lyn and I then stroll back through the picturesque town centre to catch the bus back to her house.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
A leisurely breakfast, and a pleasant relaxed chat over a second coffee with my host Lyn, and then I catch the local bus into town as she heads off for work. I have enough time for a bit of a stroll around the town, a delicious lunch, and then it's off to the coach station for the first bus trip of a number I'm going to take, making for a very long journey this evening! With the advantage of having done it all before, it doesn't seem long at all before I'm hopping off the bus at Shepherd's Bush and changing to the 237. I also cagily buy a Day Bus Pass, because there are a few more trips to be made yet!

It's back to Isleworth, to shower, change, and load up the cameras, and then I'm quickly off on my way again, this time heading to the north-east, for Cry Wolf are playing at The Vault in Waltham Cross. I was there nearly exactly two years ago, and two things leap out at me. The map I was working from last time was wrong - I didn't walk in the wrong direction at all. And secondly, they have completed the refurbishment of the front of the pub - anonymous no longer!

After the gig I'm off to Waltham Cross bus station, to catch a bus all the way back to Trafalgar Square - all on that same day pass, meaning that this journey comes to an average cost of 70p! There are a lot of interesting landmarks on the route south - we pass both White Hart Lane and Arsenal's home ground, before passing what used to be The Rainbow Theatre, and then rolling on through into London via Camden Town.
Friday, April 21, 2006
It's the Queen's birthday. This will come as some surprise to Australian readers, as they "celebrate" the Queen's birthday in June, and always on a Monday - it is, in fact, the equivalent of a Bank Holiday Monday for us.

I'm so tired that I'm back at the B&B with my M&S salad for lunch in time to watch the Queen's walk around Windsor live on the telly, and then it's back up to the Internet cafe for some research and some catch-up emails.

And then, of course, for the evening's entertainment, we have Cry Wolf at The Red Lion in Twickenham. I'm wondering what I'm going to accidently lose this time, as I walk up to the pub.

Oh! what a circus! Gigs at the The Red Lion are always packed to the rafters and as fascinating offstage as on; this time some of the light entertainment was having two members of Swedish band Pink Lips in the audience, two very tall lanky blond boys who were reminding people very much of Hanoi Rocks. What they lacked in their grasp of the English language they certainly made up for in enthusiasm, including drummer Matt air-drumming away in time with David.

New song Vertigo really shows off the power of Tom's voice - it's the perfect range for him to hit full stride.

Apologies, there aren't any photos from this gig. It's just way too crowded. For the first half I have only a limited view of Gary and David; for the second half I can't even get back to my seat, but at least I can see Pars and Tom - and coincidentally end up in exactly the right spot to hear the vocals, crystal clear. It's very cramped, though - there are some very enthusiastic dancers here who throw themselves around, and whose windmilling hair is razor sharp when it strikes those of us standing right behind them.

As I leave the pub I discover that the zipper on my camera bag has been lost - it came loose while I was in Birmingham, and has been subject to make-shift repairs all week - but there's no chance of that any more, the actual zipper mechanism has fallen off.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
On weekends I have to organise my own breakfast, so when I wake up, I generally boil the jug in my room for a cup of coffee - however, nothing happens this morning when I toggle the switch - and then the significance of the beeping coming from the smoke alarm becomes clear - there's no power. Or lights, I discover, when I check. And not just in my room. There's no heat in the radiator in the bathroom either - but there is, thank goodness, hot water. I have my shower and then turn it up for long enough to get some hot water in my coffee cup!

I haven't got time to wait until the pub opens to let them know, so I write a note and leave it taped on the laundry door where they're sure to see it, and then I leave for the bus - because I'm heading off to the BBC this morning!

BBC TV Centre I haven't been able to see a weather forecast this morning, for obvious reasons, but happily it's a bright, sunny, perfect spring day when I step outside.

I arrive in Shepherd's Bush early enough to score myself a hot breakfast, and then detour via the markets where I quickly snaffle a replacement camera bag for all of £3.99, and then it's off down Wood Lane.

What an amazing tour! I have passed by the BBC Television centre on those odd occasions when I've caught the Hammersmith & City line, and always wanted to take a look around inside; today, finally, I'm going to get the chance to do it. It's really quite a moment for me when I'm standing looking down into the studio being set up for Top Of The Pops.
After that I head off to Hammersmith for a little while, and then into Central London. My route takes me back through St James' Park, where the barricades and flags have been set up in preparation for the London Marathon the next day. I get to the visitor centre with ten minutes before closing time to snaffle the maps I'm after, and then I'm off again, with still a long way to go yet.
Common sense prevails when I get home, though. I've figured out how to get myself to Sutton and back to see Bad II The Bone, but I've been running around the country for six days in a row now (hence the delay in keeping this diary updated), with another evening out planned for tomorrow, and it's probably time for a quiet night in - besides, the second episode of the new Dr. Who is on tonight. :-) AND I'll be able to watch some of the BBC shows with new eyes tonight. And yes, power has been restored - it was a problem outside in the road (undoubtedly related to the large hole across the road which was recently dug by the local electricity authority!), but luckily all sorted out by the time I got in, so I CAN watch the telly tonight.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Happy St George's Day!

It's dawned rainy but not too cool, in fact great conditions for the London Marathon being run today - not so much for the spectators, of course. It's fabulous to watch, as it's a moving panaroma of London as well as an inspiring race.

The Cry Wolf gig tonight is at The York Club in Windsor Great Park, and at first I think I'm not going to be able to get there - as the crow flies, it's some three miles from the railway station. And then I think, "Why not?" I have to go somewhere to get some dinner, after all - it might as well be Windsor.

So I pack up my bag and catch the bus to Feltham Station and then the train the rest of the way. In the very shadow of the castle is a scrummy little cafe whose evening special is vegetable soup and fresh bread - it's just what I need before I head off on my long trek.
Though it's been raining all day, it stays fine for my walk through the park, fortunately for me, as I've not brought an umbrella. Instead of taking the shortest route, I've ended up on "The Long Walk" according to my Ordinance Survey map, and a long walk it is. But it's also a glorious evening, with lots of families heading home after a day out, joggers pounding along the path in both directions, and a large herd of very curious, unafraid deer who stand and stare at me as I pass by.

I've probably walked five to six miles rather than three to get there, but eventually I arrive at the club - and I beat the band there to boot!

The staff are lovely, and I'm soon sitting in the private bar with a restorative cup of coffee while I wait for everyone else to turn up.

Windsor Great Park: the Long Walk
It's a "proper" hall with an actual stage for once, tastefully draped with red and white St George flags.
Monday, April 24, 2006
I've been looking forward to today all weekend. I meet up with my friends Helen and Steve outside South Kensington tube station, and then it's off to the Science Museum for the Pixar animation exhibition... well, first we stop at a cafe for a catch-up chat, coffee, and in my case, a scone with clotted cream! Then it's off to the museum. Many hours later, after we're seen both the exhibit and had a wander around the galleries, we catch the tube through to Holborn and spend some time at Forbidden Planet, as well as strolling the streets of Covent Garden (always a favourite area of mine!) before we head off to a curry house in Soho to meet up with another friend.

It's a delicious meal, great company and great conversation, and afterwards we head up Tottenham Court Road for our respective routes home. Steve can't help ducking into one of the bookstores there to check the 99p bargain shelf, but I'm the one who makes the great find. It's a photo book called "ROUNDABOUTS FROM THE AIRish", and it's just exactly what I need to take home with me for proof.

Proof of what, you ask? People who've never been to Britain just don't believe me when I tell them about the size and variety of roundabouts here (and of course I'm intimately familiar with Chiswick Roundabout, its 15 sets of traffic lights, the park with the path running through it and the motorway passing over the top - I've been in many traffic jams which have crawled slowly around its perimeter, giving me much time to contemplate its majesty). I have quite a giggle on the bus going home as I flip through the book, but alas, Chiswick is not featured.
Chiswick roundabout from the air...
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I had nothing in particular planned for today, except for getting my first parcel of goodies posted home, an internet session, and a few phone calls, but as I browse through the morning's edition of Metro I discover a little article about a show called Journey To Infinity, being shown at the London Planetarium. In the same article it also mentions, to my dismay, that the Planetarium is going to close for good on Sunday, to make way for a cinema complex of some sort! I'm off to the bus stop at once, with only a brief detour to pick up a fresh book of Saver tickets, and then I'm off to Baker Street.

After the show I head back up to Oxford Street for a stroll - and a slow one it is. I'd forgotten how slowly the tourists amble along, always three or four abreast, depending on how wide the pavement is and how many of them will fit. I slip off Oxford Street down a quiet little side passage to make a phone call, and keep wandering while I wait for my call to be returned - ending up quite by accident on Carnaby Street. Not a bad diversion at all - I continue on through another interesting passage and ultimately end up at Piccadilly Circus. By now it's a good time to head home, as I want to try and get another internet session in today, but despite good connections and reasonable traffic flow for the time of day, the cafe is all closed up when I eventually get there! Ah well.

And now I have to get all my batteries charged up tonight - not for a gig, but because I'm going to Wales tomorrow!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
It's an early start for me, as I'm travelling quite a distance - I'm off to Cardiff for the day.

The weather is absolutely perfect. It's an uneventful journey, taking less time than some of my weekend trips across Sydney! From New South Wales to South Wales - it seems inevidable. I can't resist sending a postcard home.

After a brief spot of confusion at the bus station, I'm on my way to Cardiff Bay - because my first stop is going to be the Dr Who exhibition.

It's smaller than I expected, but it's fascinating - and there's always an eiree thrill at coming face to face with a dalek.

I then head on down to the bay itself - after a strawberry sundae for lunch, I wander all over, visiting and learning about the Welsh Senedd and various other places. Then it's back to the city centre, where I am absolutely captivated by the remains of Cardiff Castle, and spend quite some time wandering about. I also visit the lovely Indoor Market and the beautiful old arcades with their high, arched ceilings, and plenty of new shops as well (including the biggest Primark store I've ever seen!), before heading for the station and my train home.
In less than 3 hours I'm back - that's less time than it takes me to get across Sydney some weekends!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Housekeeping. Literally.

I was so early for breakfast yesterday I got to help out with setting up the dining room - this meant I beat the rush and was able to bolt my breakfast before heading off for my bus. Today I borrowed the housekeeper's keys in order to use the laundry, but the washing machines and driers were all full - so I finished off all the towels and teatowels and so on, getting them into the driers and neatly folding them up afterwards, while my own washing was on. I also reset the boiler, as I've been shown how, since it has a habit of cutting out, which it apparently did early the previous night. The day involved no travel but a lot of activity, including posting off my second parcel of goodies back home, confirming my flights home, and sorting out why my phone has been barred from making any calls despite being linked to my bank account!

The short answer is, no, no-one has hacked into and drained my bank account, but rather, there is a credit limit on my monthly usage which I have never hit before. That will teach me to make a cheeky phone call from Cardiff. A call to the mobile company sorts it out very quickly - that was once I had found a public phone that would accept my coins, and the right number to call!! The message I had received included a number to dial, but from which all the phones I tried announced was barred. Most peculiar.

BBC2 should be retitled The World Snooker channel - that's all that ever seems to be on!

Why is it, I wonder, not for the first time, that basic cosmetic products cost so much less here? My hair has a tendency to turn to frizz here, but the cheapest product back home was $8 for a tiny pot/bottle of 50ml or thereabouts, of course given a fanciful name like Something-or-other Wonder Serum. What I've picked up here is a 200ml spray can of anti-frizz stuff, simply branded "M&S", for £1, and it's doing a great job. Shame it's not also anti-cigarette smoke.

Other brilliant £1 bargains for the day include a pedometer (wish I'd had that on Sunday!), and a universal remote control small enough to slip into a pocket - it rated 5/5 in a recent Metro review - recommended use: secretly taking control of the television in any pub. I shall try it out some time soon...
Friday, April 28, 2006
Another perfect spring day, another All Day bus ticket, meaning I can go everywhere and anywhere, on as many buses as I want, for all of £3.50. After all the day's wandering, I end up back at Shepherd's Bush, as I frequently do, but even when I walk my own beaten track, I like to do things a little differently. This time I visited a little organic cafe tucked away beside Goldhawk Road tube station. What a find - the food is delicious and it even has its own private grassed in courtyard out the back, a quiet little oasis while commuters thunder by on the line above, oblivious.

I'm steadily winding things up. The third parcel is now heading on its way home. They're all smaller than on previous trips - I learnt my lesson with the big packet which arrived ripped open last time, and with my Berkshire street atlas missing.

I recognise that view - Hounslow High Street is on the BBC1 news! It's a report on the new novel Londonstani, set in Hounslow, showing high school students pouring over its pages with amusement and delight, and an interview with its young author Gautam Malkani.

While I'm getting ready for the evening's gig, I'm listening to Gillan's Inn, kindly lent to me by roadie Dave. Interestingly, a lot of these tracks are what I heard at the Royal Albert Hall last month. A highlight is the reworking of Trashed - I can hear the lyrics clearly at last!

Right at the very last minute, just as I'm gathering myself to head off the bus for Slough, and the evening's gig at The Rising Sun, there's a phone call to say that I won't be able to get a lift back after all. Ah well. Plan B is a rather nice one anyway - Bad II The Bone just happen to be playing at one of my closest venues, The Castle in Isleworth, so I'll go for a walk in a while and catch Gary's old band in action.

It was a great evening. I was part of a small but appreciative crowd, as a core of Middlesex regulars had also turned up. I always love to hear the Thin Lizzy tracks, and Smithy's gutteral growl on Highway To Hell is a treat. He's not got the Rickenbacker tonight, but a Musicman bass, to my disappointment, but it's always great to watch a bass player play without a pick.

Pedometer reading: 5.00km
Saturday, April 29, 2006
It's Anorak Day. I've booked myself on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Transport Muesum at Acton. This not only involves walking around the depot floor amongst a plethora of buses and trains, from prototypes which have barely seen service to lovingly restored older rolling stock, but also a chance to view the vast collections or material rarely seen by the public - including many beautiful posters created over the years to advertise the tube, original pieces of artwork, and signage from long vanished stations. I had been afraid that the tour would have been filled with family groups and children, but there are only nine of us in my particular group, all adults, so there are no little tear-aways to run riot through the exhibits and get squashed between the buffer stops.

I find a lovely cafe for coffee and dessert afterwards, and then it's on to Gunnersbury Museum, just a bit further down the road. Then it's on to Chiswick High Street for a leisurely wander, Hammersmith for a cheap internet cafe, and then I need to wend my way back to get ready for the evening's gig. It's a mere two railway stations down the line, so I have enough time to catch Dr Who before I head off. How very civilised!

What a fantastic gig. It's always great fun at The Globe Inn in Brentford, and tonight was no exception. Lovely to see Sue and Miranda again, at last, as well as Andrea and Phil.

Pedometer reading: 7.19km
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Today it's time to celebrate a different form of transport. I'm off to Paddington, and from there, along the footbridge to Little Venice and the Canalway Cavalcade, the premier event of the Inland Waterways Association. The weather is just perfect, the narrowboats all at their gleaming polished-brass well-painted best, and the crowds are enjoying their casual stroll by the canalside.

I head off back to Oxford Street with the intention of catching a bus to King's Cross and visiting the London Canal Museum. However, time's ticking away, and there's an awful lot of us standing waiting at the bus stop, but no buses are coming. A bus driver passing in the opposite direction takes pity on us and shouts that all traffic is being diverted due to an accident. I take that as my cue to head home, as it will take too long to work my way there by an alternate route, and not leave me enough time to view the museum, as it closes at 4.30pm.

Still, that gives me something to put onto the To Do list for next time! Not to mention taking a trip on one of those narrowboats. One day. There's plenty of time yet.

Tonight is my final gig for the tour, and yet again, it's at our old faithful, The Six Bells in Brentford.
David, me, Eddie; Gary and Tom (photo thanks to Kate!)
And what a fabulous gig it was, a marvelous send-off. Eddie and Lynn came along, as well as Lionel and his lovely wife, as did Kate, all the way from Birmingham! Plus Andrea and Phil, Suzanne and Willo, Ted, Budgie, and lots of others, not to mention Joyce and Kim behind the bar! A big thank you to everyone who made it a special gig, what a buzz. I look forward to seeing you all again soon!

With The Six Bells having been granted its late licence, the bar is open till 1am, so we are not rudely evicted as soon as the band finishes. Its great to be able to stay around and chat! Eventually, though, we say our goodbyes and head off in our separate directions for the evening. To our amazement, a creature goes running past the car... it's a fox on the run. How amazing... and it's only the first. There's another when we get to Isleworth! It caps off a very special night.

Pedometer reading: 9.85km
Monday, May 1, 2006
And here we go... it's my last day. Though the weather forecast was for heavy rain, and it's cloudy, dark and damp by the time I get up, there is sweet blue sky by the time I get down the road to Hounslow. I'm off for a last tour around my empire, on a Bank Holiday Monday, but I have to be careful not to wander too far afield. I'm taking an earlier flight out than usual, and the traffic is quite bad. Tempting though it is to miss my flight, I instead carefully take a somewhat indirect route, sampling the excellent shopping in Kingston before returning home via Richmond, therefore missing the inevidable snarl of traffic at the roundabout at the junction of the A308 and the A310 at Kingston Bridge.

All too soon I have to head back and finish off my packing, and it's time to jetison a few things which have served me very well this trip, including my faithful shoes. I'll miss them! They were a great find - they were all of $10, an impulse buy a weekend or so before I left Australia, and they've been fantastic. I squeeze the last few things into my bag and then it's time once again to leave. I've no time to spare before I head off to the airport - this is an earlier flight than the one I used to take - and once again I have to say goodbye.

But I'll be back. Count on it.

The rituals are all very familar. I while away my last hour or so in the UK with a pleasant chat on the phone, but then they're calling my flight to board and I have to bolt. The gate is ominously empty of passengers, and I'm worried that I'm in the wrong place, and I even manage to drop and lose my boarding pass, though I remember my row. Once I settle into my seat though, I realise something delightful - the flight is nearly empty!

Pedometer reading: 5.36km

As I wing my way out of the country, Cry Wolf are playing below at -gasp- a designated non-smoking pub in Wheathampstead. May there be many more!
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Bliss. With three seats all to myself, I can stretch out and sleep. Though I've missed out on a lot of movies I haven't yet seen, nothing can beat a solid five hours' snooze, and soon I'm back at the transit hub of my universe, Narita Airport. A couple of internet sessions, sandwiched between a pleasant coffee and cinnamon doughnut in the cafe, and it's on to the second leg of my journey home.
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Though it hardly seems possible, my garden is even more desicated than it has been on my return from previous trips. There have been miracle recoveries in the past, but I'm wondering if some of the plants are beyond the point of no return this time. There has been all of about 10-15 minutes' rain while I've been away, I've been told!

I'm completely unpacked and have done the washing and gotten the clothes out on the line in under two hours, and then it's off to pick up all my mail. I didn't think to take a big bag with me, and I should have, because there's a lovely surprise - two of the packets I sent home to myself, which should have taken 2-3 months by surface mail, have already arrived! Not to mention that the Dr Who box set which had gone missing in December has finally turned up. The only unpaid bill is a mere 7 days old, and there isn't a reminder yet, so I've gotten off very lightly indeed this time!

I just need to get my cats home safely from the vet, and then it's off to work!
Friday, May 5, 2006
There's so much to catch up on - a lot of trip photos to work through, this diary to update(!), recordings to catalogue, paperwork to catch up with, bills to pay, newspapers to read, and best of all, catching up with the cats, and sleep.

Oh yes, and then there's work, but we won't talk about that.
May, 2006
I decide to make up for the decimation of my garden by planting daffodil bulbs - it will be a lovely reminder of my trip. Their blooming will herald the coming of spring, letting me know that my next trip looms closer on the horizon.
And while I'm back in Oz...
June 17, 2006
Tonight I saw, at long last, Glenn Hughes, at The Basement in the city. I only found out about the gig at lunchtime yesterday, but I was on the phone organising a ticket the instant I had run back to my office. Also upholding the side was Aussie bass player Bob Daisley, sitting in the audience! It was fantastic. The Voice is perfectly intact - what range and power! For the first half it was acoustic guitars all round, and a string quartet, but for the second half - Glenn picked up the white Jazz Bass which had been waiting at the back of the stage (back in Purple days, it was a Precision!) and then it was into the power with a sterling version of Mistreated! The one track I REALLY wanted to hear was Burn - but it may not have worked without drums or electric guitar. However, it was GREAT having the bass turned right up!!!
JJ Marsh, Jimmy Barnes and Glenn Hughes onstage at The Basement.

Epilogue, July 2006
Another trip is officially over, as my last two parcels have arrived home. Astoundingly, they're completely intact, with all the maps, timetables, and my precious book of roundabouts, all ready for planning the next journey.

And, sound a fanfare, here it is! My very first home-grown daffodil!

Continue on to my New Year 2006 UK trip diary

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