abendgules: (winter arabesque)
I'm in the colonies, visiting Mum in her new retirement home. She moved to this location in Barrie in October, and I wanted to see it in winter, when Barrie is at its least charming.

It's a lovely part of Ontario 3 seasons of the year - but mid-winter is heavy going. You have to love snow, and winter driving...or just put up with 2-3 months spent indoors.

Anyway: what I'm noticing this trip is friendliness.

It's a sign, I think, of how accustomed I've grown to the surly and inconsiderate London tone, that I'm noticing how pleasant the interactions are with ordinary people, in shops, restaurants, in the hotel, in the hew retirement home.

I honestly don't remember this tone, being this friendly before. Either I've really changed in expectation, or Canadians have done another surge in nice-ness.

Possibly, I'm doing more interactions: airport, car rental, hotel, lots of food places. It's a series of small transactions, maybe more than on previous trips - and noticing the tone and attitude.

What made me laugh out loud today is the weather report.

There's been a freezing-rain-snowstorm blow through Ontario and into Quebec and the Maritimes - only about 5cm of snow but temps right around 0 so it's turning to freezing rain and then freezing on the ground and all surfaces. It's like a very mild version of the ice storm of 1998, downing power lines and trees.

I actually opted not to drive back to Orillia (where I was staying w/ relatives) from Barrie, because the stretch of highway between them is particularly bad; it's only about 40min but very windy and unpredictable.

So CBC reporter goes to the weather guy who says:

'Hey, what can you say? It's February in Canada! Winter, it's what we do!'

There was no moaning, no apologies and now whining about the weather, just a clear description of the really varied and difficult conditions across the provinces. God I loved it.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
I came back from the colonies with a lot on my mind.

Summary:

Ageing sucks. Avoid at all costs.

If you cannot avoid, start now to strengthen your body so you're not as vulnerable to falls, fragile bones, collapsing vertebra, and loss of muscle tone. Just keep at it.

Nurses (and other medic types) remain the worst patients. They know it all and are lousy at taking advice from their own GPs.

If you insist on getting old, start downsizing now. Do not leave emotional cluster-bomb crap for your relatives to deal with.

My mum's house is thick with photographs and it feels physically oppressive to me, this celebration of the past; no photos less than 10 years old, most of them much older. Cannot imagine inheriting a stately home, if just a bunch of pictures make me feel loaded down with expectation.

Do it now, whatever it is.

I attended the funeral of a man 2 years younger than me: son to my parents' longtime friends K&A. I grew up w/ Tom and his brothers, though as a teen you stop going to dinner at your parents' friends' homes, so I'd not seen him since late teens.

Tom lost control of his motorbike on a dry straight road on Father's Day. Of the 4 brothers he was the only one with a wife and 2 small kids of his own.

The funeral service was packed with people who, I suspect, were not used to mourning; adults who have not yet seen elderly parents and ageing friends die, who had little experience with death.

I'm not an expert, but it felt to me like there were a lot of people not certain how to mourn; men, in particular, used to being happy, angry, outgoing, but not grieving. It was really breaking them.

Once again I had a chance to observe a good 'court herald' in the funeral home staff - setting the tone and pace, directing people and providing cues without appearing to push - and an experienced minister who was excellent at keeping it brief, and focusing on the joyful life rather than the sudden death.

There's real skill in making people welcome when they're not at their best, when emotions run high, and to make them as comfortable as possible. I was impressed by the funeral home's professionalism.

One slightly eerie aspect: Tom had recently started playing guitar again, after giving up his teen dreams of stardom. Just this week he'd recorded himself playing and singing one song, about 3 minutes, on his phone. His wife found it after he'd died, and she played the clip at the funeral. It was peculiar, but very apt, for Tom to sing a song at his own funeral.

The takeaway message though was - live today like it's your last. Don't put off plans, dreams, goals. Do them now.

My extended family remain a pretty remarkable and cool bunch of people. I caught up with several cousins and 2nd cousins, and am grateful that they are still really awesome folks.

I was deeply, profoundly grateful for old friends in Canada who were untroubled by my phoning them out of the blue, to ask for help. My friend Julia and her household made me welcome and I stayed more than a week, mostly just overnights, as a place to unwind, close to Mum's house.

I didn't manage to reach everyone I wanted to, which was disappointing. Will have to follow up online.

Am finishing this post and going to bed. Hoping to get to sleep sometime before 3.30am this time...
abendgules: (well dang)
Canadians take their summer weather for granted. They have no idea how blessed they are to not have to feel like the weather is out to get you on a daily basis.

I haven't worn sunglasses this often possibly since my last visit - there's almost no point in the UK.

My demographic matches Q107 radio exactly.

Or rather...Q107 has changed to match my demographic, and stay abreast of it. When I listened to it in the 1980s it was relentlessly and exclusively hard-rock. I have no idea what that would mean now to a teenager, if it even exists now.

Today I listened to a Journey song from 1982, which makes it 30+ yrs old. If they'd played 30+ yr old music in 1983 it would have dated to early 1950s, and except for Elvis I don't think there's anyone who would have qualified for their playlist. So the target audience has definitely aged.

It's somewhat dismaying, how nostalgic and happy listening to it makes me.

White, and magnolia ('cream' or 'ecru' to the Canadians) are the new black in cars.

My mum's old car and my loaner car are both white. Everyone and their dog has a white car now, with a handful of distinctly creamy-white cars standing out in the parking lots. Wonder how they're described in the marketing bumf?

Canadians are more wired and online than when I was here last; I don't think Timmy's had wifi, for instance (though maybe it did and I just didn't need it). Even my mother has wifi, much to my surprise.

However, the options available for pay as you go phones are crap. I am pouring money upon the Canadian telecomm economy like water.

For a country with such excellent telecomms skills and services, it's mad that 50c/minute is the best I can get outside the GTA. With a phone 'based' in Oshawa, everyone I want to reach is long distance.

Tim Horton's looks more and more like McDonald's and less and less like a coffeeshop; 'breakfast sandwiches', 'lunch menus' hardly a mention of bagels on the board. Sugar syrups, coffee drinks, and smoothies, whipped *things* everywhere.

Humph, mutter mutter mutter... at least the coffee is intact, so long as you ask for a small.
abendgules: (Romanesque rules)
Robert and I are back from a short break to Spain: he started in Santiago, then met me in the south where we spent 3 days in Grenada, 1 night in Jaen and 3 more days in Córdoba.

While he was in Santiago, I'd detoured via Polderslot for their autumn event, to catch up with my favourite non-Thamesreach shire.

Lots to write, not lots of time. Short version:

I'm going back to Spain. Lots to see, not enough time. We'd thought we might reach Seville but it needs its own trip.

In Grenada we stayed within the Alhambra, not at the Parador there (most expensive hotel in Spain) but the small not-very-well-known Hotel America.

The drawback of choosing a hotel on the top of a steep hill chosen for its amazing views and defensive capabilities is the walk down and up, to see anything that is *not* on the hill.

The Parador hotel in Jaen, similarly, is positioned on one of the hills' peaks, next to a (rebuilt) castle overlooking the valleys of olive trees, ringed with other hills.

You can totally see how tiny kingdoms and chiefdoms could sit up there, thinking, 'this is my world, and I'm damned if anyone will make me yield it'.

It was like a James Bond Evil Hideaway set. Awesome.

The Córdoba Mezquita (prev a mosque, now a cathedral) was one disappointment; all the photos and impressions I'd seen had hidden just how much of the mosque has been converted into a Christian shrine. There are very few spaces that still really reflect the original Islamic construction, which itself was expanded and improved over several hundred years, til 1492.

It made me realise all those past views and pics were very carefully selected!

Late period Gothic architecture just cannot compete with the classic Islamic designs.

The major cities' taxi fleets are now all Toyota Prius cars. This could make, I suspect, an amazing difference to the noise and air pollution in dense, medieval cities with narrow streets.

Imagine if all London black cabs had battery/gas assist fuel systems...

We arrived in Córdoba during the 3rd annual citywide tapas competition. We got the map and list of participating restaurants a bit late, on our last evening. Next time I'll know to ask for one from the outset.

We came back on Sunday, into driving rain and grey skies. Huddled on the airport shuttle bus headed to the train station, we stared at each other, thinking, 'why the hell do we live here again?'.

At home, Haggis was very glad to see us, but we suspect there's a bit more Haggis to love now; we have to institute some kitteh exercise time. When we moved she lost the benefit of 2 storeys of stairs to race up and down, and doesn't go out as often. Also wonder if some unauthorised treats were on offer from the catsitters!

Laundry still needs doing, dust elephant herds are roaming the floor, kitchen still a mess. I thought I'd cleared the fridge well, but hadn't counted on some preserved food not preserving very well. Sigh.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
Everyone and their dog says Bath is beautiful. And it probably is.

I wish I could confirm this, but I couldn't tell because the damn tourists were in the way.

We went to Bath after goncalves and J's wedding. I've been meaning to visit for ages; partly to feed my Roman bug (nurtured since childhood visit to Hadrian's wall), partly to take the waters for myself.

It's a good thing I knew what I wanted to see, otherwise I'd have given up and gone home.

From the train station onward, it's a wash of tourists; people jamming up the station exits ('where did my ticket go? why didn't it come back?') to those walking too slowly ahead of you, to the buses swinging round narrow streets trying to avoid gormless goggling pedestrians, to the relentless promotion of Bath itself.

I can honestly say I've not seen any location so given over to tourism since I was last in Niagara Falls.

Aside from standard upmarket shops on the main pedestrian mall, and the pubs, restaurants and places aimed at tourists, I could not see any businesses that were run for their own sake, for the people of Bath. I didn't even spot an accountant office or a bookies, at least not between the train station and our destinations.

We did find an excellent pub, which would serve both locals and guests, and seemed to have a goodly share of locals in it: the Raven of Bath. We liked it so much we went twice in one day - once for lunch, once after visiting the spas and before the train. Recommended.

Itinerary:

Roman baths: my first reason for visiting.

Crammed, crammed with people, with a worrying long queue outside, which proved to be for tourbus groups. But still packed.

The advantage of modern portable audio-tours, I guess, is that the people packed into exhibits are mostly quiet. They're not talking to each other or even to their kids. They're listening. So if you're not listening to an audio tour, you can enjoy the visit relatively quietly.

The Baths are impressive; they're layers upon layers of building, Roman, Georgian, then Victorian idea of what Roman would look like, then reconstructed Roman. The baths have been restored so you see the Roman water level and layout and piping of the main bath, and the water system that fed the hot bath is maintained. It's quite bright green with minerals and oxidisation.

The supporting exhibits are good, but I really don't like crowds so I didn't linger where it was cramped. The exhibits do, though, emphasise this was a liminal location - it was about visiting and socialising, but also a spiritually connected place, where Romans set up plinths to demonstrate they'd held their end of their deals with their gods...and threw in curse tablets to make the lives of thieves miserable.

The displays of waterworks, brickmaking, carving and building were best, IMO.

There is a water fountain at the museum, so you can indeed take the waters of Bath. It's chock full of mineral content, and tastes a bit iron-ish, sulphur-ish.

Fashion museum: second reason for visiting.

I'd heard other clothing mavins really running down this museum and wanted to see it for myself.

And certainly it's small. It's in the basement of the assembly rooms, a lovely Georgian building restored to Georgian condition (but w/ modern heating and lighting), and so when the dance hall is in use it sounds like a herd of elephants are doing the maraca over your head.

Right now there's a detailed display of Georgian clothing, which is one of this museum's strengths. And here I did get the audio tour, as I don't know much at all about Georgian clothing.

The pieces on display are in beautiful condition, AFAICS, and the exhibit points out where gowns have been remade and reused - several examples of gowns cut in one style but with fabric from 20 years earlier. One bright gold dress has clear hemlines where it's been let down for someone taller (or who needed a longer skirt for a different style).

But the written and audio info, to me, didn't provide a fraction of the detail I wanted. I wanted to know what it was lined with, what the pleat style was called, how many yards went into the skirt, how many panels in the bodice, and how it was hooked or laced up. None of this was forthcoming.

The written bumf put the styles in context (ie. in this year Mozart was resident in Salzburg, in this year the American civil war started, etc) which are useful references. But I dearly wanted the 'advanced' setting on my audio tour for all the gory details.

The next section was a dressup area - not of interest to me, but clearly in use every time Robert or I passed through.

Then the exhibit about how the collections are stored, with illustrations of items from each decade from 1820(?) to 1910. I thought this was very effective, both displaying items, and showing how to store them - hats, shoes, gowns, coats, everything. Each decade had a relevant quote from a novel from the appropriate era (not historical fiction, but written at the time as contemporary, like Austen or Dickens or Bronte or Forster), which was another good contextual tool.

The last exhibit was wasted on me: 'design of the year' from 1960s to modern day. Yawn.

Thermae spa: the modern Roman baths

These were a treat, because I hardly ever go to a spa, but I love saunas. This spa features baths using the same hot spring as the Romans used.

So for a 2 hour session you have the very social experience of sharing your bath with several hundred other people. YMMV.

Closest I got to the sauna was the scented steam rooms, which were ranged from not very steamy to very steamy. But not the same as the penetrating heat of the dry Finnish sauna. Sigh.

It was now end of day, and I'd had my fill of people and crowds. We retired to the pub again for a reviving drink before braving the train home.

I'd still like to visit again, to see the distinctive architecture, maybe take one of those bus tours. But maybe in a blustery February, sometime that will really keep the tourists away.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
Bristol feels sharply different from London: the main parts of it are dominated by the university and its population, and the university year is just starting here.

So from the outset it feels very young; young, smart, and cycling. The centre of town is awash with cyclists and buses, and there's a genuine effort to make space for cycling. It's not perfect, but damn it's better than where I live now.

The centre has lots of student-friendly shopping: charity shops on the high street (I saw 3 Oxfams on one street), cafes, bookshops. There's lots of places to eat and drink, but we found just one real-ale pub, the White Lion, at one end of the West Quay, with tasty beer and cider.

The Wetherspoons, which might also qualify as real-ale, on the high street was packed with people - folks were clustered around trying to get in every evening. It must be noticeably cheaper than all the other drinking spots to get that kind of crowd.

Bristol is hilly; my hill-walking muscles are seriously out of shape and told me so all weekend. The steepest hill we found was near Hotwells (neighbourhood name shown in Googlemaps), a set of stairs that required a break in the middle to get up. Fortunately there was a friendly pusscat near the break, who gave us an excuse to stop.

We got a cab to our hotel, which was up the street and round the corner from [livejournal.com profile] goncalves and J's wedding venue. Unfortunately it was not quite as shown on the website.

I suspect the building of being listed, and thus hard to upgrade easily. Wonky floors, single-glaze windows, smallish bed, poor water pressure. The staff were very good but I think if you're going to run a hotel out of a rundown building you have to excel everywhere else, and this didn't quite pull it off.

We met up with [livejournal.com profile] goncalves and J and several other guests for a pint, dinner (Mexican!) and frozen yoghurt that evening. It didn't feel like the night before a wedding to me - seemed too relaxed, more like the night before a family reunion or something. Most night-befores the wedding couple are still running around madly; Gonz and J seem to have it all in hand.

We got the happy news about [livejournal.com profile] pogbody and Etienne's firstborn, a girl, born 2 October. So glad to hear of it: they both deserve all the happiness they can find together.

With a mid-afternoon wedding we had the whole Saturday morning and early afternoon to ourselves. So after breakfast we ventured into town, to find the Matthew, stopping to browse here and there.

The St Nicholas covered market is a trendy spot for food, coffee, jewellery, crafty stuff, hats and assorted treasures. It's reminiscent of the new Spitalfields market, or a smaller less seedy Camden Town. I found some yarn on sale and have been knitting it (and ripping it out) into a Tudor flat hat ever since.

The Matthew is a replica of John Cabot's ship, which sailed from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497. There was a big fuss over it in Canada in 1997 when it did the trip again to celebrate the anniversary.

Usually, the closest I come to sailing is reading Patrick O'Brian novels; I can count my boat trips on my hands (other than ferries). But this seemed like the most medieval 'thing' to see in Bristol.

The shocker is that it's tiny: the Toronto Islands ferry is bigger than this. It only held 18 men + captain and even that strikes me as pretty cosy.

It's staffed by volunteers, and Robert had a long friendly chat with one who was a retired Navy man, who clearly still loved to sail. The Matthew still goes out (they'd been filming something for Disney last month), and you can book it for parties and social occasions, and it still stands up to tough serious sailing, though it now has a power motor to manouvre in harbours and in emergencies. One of the kids visiting while we were was more interested in their tea kitchen than in the details of the medieval ship.

We walked on along the harbour, past the SS Great Britain (Brunel's ship) and along the marina to a pub that the volunteer recommended, the Nova Scotia. This proved to be the other decent pub we found in Bristol, with excellent food as well.

Heading back via this monster hill with steps, it passed through what's marked on the map as 'birdcage walk' that takes you through an old (Victorian) graveyard. There's a stone to mark where the church used to be, destroyed in WWII.

I forget sometimes that places other than London and Coventry were bombed, but I expect all the ship-oriented cities on the coasts were attacked.

We prepped for the wedding and strolled to it, in good time, finding a crowd of SCA guests almost unrecogniseable in non-medieval clothes. Gonz, Aylwin and R (one of Gonz' workmates) looked very dapper in their suits with gray top hats, though they kept taking them off and fiddling with them, possibly because we kept teasing them: 'I'm so sorry for your loss'.

I ended up wearing Gonz' hat for the first half of dinner.

The wedding was short and to the point, a civil ceremony with civil vows administered by the registrar.

As often happens at these events, I kept thinking that the herald in charge, while he had a good speaking voice, had missed a trick because he was telling people (audibly) where to stand and which direction to face; shouldn't he have gone over this with them already?

In his defense though - royals do court over and over in a reigh. Wedding participants usually do a wedding...ok, if not only once, then not very many times at all in comparison.

I did a double-take during the procession because the lady attendants preceded J the bride by a minute or so, and of the three, J's near-lookalike sister was the last one to walk in.

So I'm looking at the last woman walking in who looks remarkably like J, thinking, 'that's weird, why is she wearing exactly the same dark blue dress as her attendants? and why doesn't she look very happy?' It took me a beat, when they all stood looking to the back of the hall, to twig that J was still to arrive, in white, to process on her own. Her dad walked her to the aisle, but not up it, and noone gave away the bride.

The registrar did introduce them as Mr and Mrs [livejournal.com profile] goncalves, but on the menu they had their married names reversed, which was a nice touch.

Post-ceremony drinks included bubbles, and bubbles: the groomsmen distributed small containers of bubbles to blow in place of confetti, which was clever and festive. I asked Roger, circulating w/ both hands full of trays of blowing bubbles, what the difference was between the trays: 'this one's cocaine, this one's ketamine', he said. Must be medic humour.

Robert and I sat with 2 of Gonz' household, women we've worked on Raglan with in past years, who had glammed up something wicked - they looked awesome - and then 2 mates of J's, and then one of Gonz' coworkers and her family. Every table had a mix of people, obliging you to get to know someone new, which was pleasant since they all seemed excellent folk.

The food was very good, chosen from a set menu, and while the service was leisurely I think it was intended to encourage you to chat. I had the salmon starter, the steak main and the sticky toffee pudding and I think I got the best combination, though the pea soup starter looked huge and yummy. Robert thought he got robbed on the Eton mess, which was tiny.

Like in the wedding, I spent most of the dinner waiting for the toasts to start, my inner herald twitching. But Gonz and J had opted to have no toasts and no speeches, to avoid any awkwardness for either of them, or their guests. I totally understood, but it definitely felt strange without the public speaking, whether good or bad, and Robert and I weren't the only ones missing the 'feel' of speeches and toasts. It's funny how strongly it struck us.

Upstairs drinks and dancing was a bit of an anticlimax: I wanted to dance but the DJ was the one disappointment of the day. He'd get 2 or 3 songs in a row sorted, and then manage to clear the dance floor with a discordant change of pace and era, and didn't seem to pay any attention to what people were enjoying. That was a bummer, because the dancing could have been brilliant.

Towards the end of the evening they cut the cake, which Gonz' mum had made; 2 very rich chocolate cakes, one traditional one, all gorgeously decorated, and then a monster 3-tier 'cheese cake' make of huge rounds of smelly cheese.

Here (like the DJ) the staff should have taken a cue from the crowd, and moved up the cheese-cutting step an hour or so, so more people could enjoy it. But for some reason folks were fading and clearing out (lack of decent dancing material I suspect).

The next day Cernac asked if it was typical for English weddings to end so early, remarking that it's not unusual for the main party to wrap up at 1am, but most people could stay til 4am for a good party at an Irish wedding.

(English licensing laws would wrap most venues up shortly after midnight.)

Since we left at 10pm (my contacts weren't cooperating and I couldn't keep my eyes open) we were clearly part of the problem, but I didn't know if we were typical or not.

Outside, the youf of Bristol were just starting their evenings, and the touts were out to find custom for drinks and music. Again, I felt old and a bit out of place.

I remember such crowds in Kingston at Queen's (though I didn't spend a lot of time in clubs or bars there)...but mainly, Canadian students wore more clothes when going out - men and women both. My frosh week was full of coveralls.
abendgules: (15thc_worker)
Flat out at work, full brain engagement. Not a lot to spare.

New contract staff started last week, to help 'transition' the bulk of the content from one website to another.

Our list of authors (scientists who wrote up their own content to publish online) who we were preparing to train to use the publishing software on the new website has been slashed.

We supported 200 authors and editors who published their own stuff on the legacy site; we'd cut the list to 67 still-active users who actually logged on regularly.

We're allowed to train 10 - about 14% of our original estimate.

Guess who gets to pick up all the rest of the publishing? while continuing to 'transition' 135 websites onto the single platform? Joy.

All while we're going through a restructuring consultation about our team, which is the most blatant example of change management w/out admitting to it I've ever seen. This is pushing my 'how dare you?' buttons pretty firmly.

As a result: fewer posts. Still have to write up Coronation (short version: excellent castle, yay for doing court again, I love our pavilion even in the rain, and we have awesome scribes.)

Haggis was lovingly cared for by our new neighbours who doted on her while we were away; well, she's easy to dote on.

Friday's coming, thank goodness.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
One of our most painless journeys for an event: travel to Frankfurt via London City airport, the small 'business' airport in the east end, just 20 mins cab ride from our flat. No trekking via Tube to Heathrow, no 2 hr lead time before even reaching the airport. Bliss.

Frankfurt is one of the civilised cities that has a train station *at* the airport, making the next part painless too, though it's stinking hot. We spot Sir Peregrine in the airport and manage the train ticket machine ok, though with too little time to visit with him or with Ozbeg and Kat, who are somewhere in the airport.

Instead we bump into Duncan and Helena from Harplestane, who have backtracked when their train didn't go to the expected destination and are standing on a platform halfway to Witzenhausen Nord, on our way to Burg Ludwigstein.

Arriving we find the castle shuttle waiting and hand our bags in, and the shuttle drops us off in town to browse. It's a picturesque town built on a hill, with cobbled streets and small boutiques in the highstreet, and no chain stores I can see. (The Aldi, Lidl and other grocery store are on the flat wide ground on the other side of the river.)

For some reason, it feels like every fourth shop is an apothek - a pharmacy - not just here, but in Worms too, where we wrap up our trip (more later). None of them seems very large, and they're all airy and have most of their stock behind the counter - about as unlike a Boots, chock full of toiletries and cosmetics as you could picture. Apparently pharmacists here don't muck about selling makeup and shampoo, unless it's medicated. And a very helpful lady at one points out where to find lamp oil and the best groceries.

I don't know if the Germans are very concerned about their health, or they just don't have chain pharmacies that are halfway to being grocery stores the way they are in London. Certainly from the numbers, there's no shortage of pharmacists to consult.

So on to the castle - it's melting hot, high 20s C and very humid. The castle is, unsurprisingly, on a steep hill, and the valley is full of cherry trees - this is apparently the cherry capital of Germany, with a cherry queen and festival and all. [livejournal.com profile] edith_hedingham and [livejournal.com profile] jpgsawyer find cherries by the kg on the roadside, and they're beautifully sweet.

Blessedly the early arrivals have set up our pavilion, so we only have to set up our own bed and hangings to make it all mod con. And we have the excellent company of terafan, who is catching up with his pavalino-mates in the mostly-Insulae-Draconis encampment. It was like old times, sliding straight back into company chatting and laughing and hearing about how people recognise his stuff from the internet ('are you sure you didn't buy that? cause I saw one just like it on the internet, on this website called greydragon.org') and have no idea who he is.

He's the premier of the equestrian order in Atlantia (one of his many earlier homelands) and is one of the leading lights in equestrian activities at Gulf Wars. The opening procession, with all the royals on horseback, starts *on time* when he's in charge :-), much to the shock of some participants!

I've told him if he ever stewards the event from horseback, the way he wants to, I'll go to Gulf Wars myself to see it. It would bring the game to a new level to have the guy in charge of the encampment of a war supervising from horseback - NO GOLF CARTS.

We had the happy chance to drive with him from the site on to Worms on Sunday, and visit in the car the way we used to on long trips around Drachenwald - that alone was almost worth the price of admission.

Absolutely sweltering. It's hard to lace into a fitted gown but the skirt is cooler than my jeans.

Dinner is in the dining hall in the castle and it's our first real look at the site - again, perched on a hill, with steep stairs everywhere. Even the closest outbuilding, where breakfast and lunch are served and near the tourney field, is several steep sets of stairs from the castle. It has a small courtyard with buildings all round, and one is the indoor kitchen and dining hall, where we have great slabs of meat, sausages, pasta, and pickled salads.

We catch up there with Bartholomew and katherine from Southron Guard, who are on an extended visit travelling round Europe (unfortunately their colds caught up with them too, and they're voiceless for almost all the event, with K feeling particularly low). And see many others, including Etienne and Melisende. Etienne and Cernac are beginning to resemble each other in a way I'd never have have guessed when I met them. :-)

The Two Barons tavern, in the cellar of the main building and shaded from all directions, proves to be the coolest spot in the whole site! though I'm told the swimming was wonderfully cooling for those who were starting to suffer from the heat. To me, it felt like a heatwave, but it felt *right* - it's late June, it should be hot.
abendgules: (hot choc comfort)
I love visiting Nordmark, and enjoy every trip - even when one of us has been sick. I've always been treated with great kindness and courtesy, and every visit reminds me of the high standards for medieval recreation that Nordmark enjoys and considers routine.

I think it's partly the SCA culture, but partly from the Swedish love of crafts and making stuff, where kids are taught knitting, textile arts, woodwork and other skills in school as core curriculum. Aside from chocolate, the nice souvenirs (not the tat) are linen and wool textiles, woven, knitted, felted and embroidered, along with small wooden items like boxes or cheeseboards. I'd have gladly spent a week browsing fabrics around Sweden

I once told [livejournal.com profile] helwig that I got one year of domestic arts in school, at age 13, and she said, 'that's far too late! we spend one year on knitting alone!'
natter natter )
abendgules: (Mountjoy)
The next day the weather is perfect for spring: bright, sunny, 5-10 deg, warm in the sun, cold in the shade. Couldn't ask for better for fighting. Fighting area is set up in front of the main building, and we string banners between the flagpoles. The processional is not quite a procession, but a calling-up of couples - fortunately everyone was ready! and Padraig did us proud as herald.
Read more... )
abendgules: (Mountjoy)
Does anyone else save up their sicknesses for holidays?

Robert and I do.

No sooner than we're starting to pack for Crown (have flights, arrangements to crash, plans for visiting) than he starts to sneeze and snort...
Read more... )
abendgules: (tea in winter)
Typical explosion of unpacking in the living room, and grateful flopping all round. Robert had to head in to work today, but I booked myself a day. Seeing the drah-ma I left behind in the office, I'm glad to allow enough time for the IT fiasco to sort itself...

Also waiting for a delivery - the blessed and much anticipated operational chip-based cat flap, sent to replace the faulty one. Haggis has successfully taught herself to go in and out, which is brilliant. We now just need a flap that only allows her, rather than all her inquisitive suitors too. Spring is in the air, when a young cat's fancy turns to pilgrimage, at least into other cats' territories...

Unfortunately - at some point in the day or so before our return, there was a power cut in our neighbourhood, and our circuit breaker was tripped. So we came home to a lukewarm fridge and freezer - full of last week's shopping.

Robert was not content to return from Crown only to come down w/ botulism, so most of the contents had to go, leaving only the most robust condiments.Vexing.

Haggis is very happy to see us, campaigning for laps and loves within minutes of our return, as the novelty of having human staff on call wore off (IN! OUT! IN AGAIN! THROUGH A DOOR! MY FAVOURITE!) and she's not leaving me for more than 5 mins at a time.

Stockholm, and Sweden apparently, is dog-focused. I was really surprised at the number of dogs I saw in the centre of Stockholm, strolling about during the day on errand-bound trips with their humans - not obviously headed to the park for the necessary, but just spending the day with the pack leader.

Of course the locals who are free to stroll around the town centre during the week are at leisure, rather than headed to the office - seniors, women with kids mostly - but it was still evident it was routine to take the hund along.

I met just one cat on this trip - the resident cat at the Crown tourney site, who seemed completely relaxed and untroubled by dozens of visitors. He might have been a norwegian forest cat - med-large, longhaired, with a long face, and classic dark tabby markings,  ideally equipped for stomping through snow along a frozen lake in Sweden.

Will post more of the event and the trip soon after sorting household bumf.
abendgules: (abbey_cats)
The past couple of weeks have been full of company chez nous.

Nerissa and Alaric have used our space as a staging ground before their departure - appropriate as they used our flat much the same way on their arrival in Thamesreach, after wandering around the UK for a couple of months.

On Friday we also welcomed Alex Darlington and his lady to ours, passing through en route to Oxford and to TORM.

Sunday we had [livejournal.com profile] aryanhwy J, and walker Gwen to visit; Ary and I kept Gwen (mostly) occupied while Robert and Joel worked on creating a mould for pewter casting. The results were excellent - Robert teaches well, and Joel asked thoughtful questions, so they both had a fine afternoon and evening working together.

I had the pleasure of introducing Gwen to her first chicken and pig, at the local city farm. The catch was that it started to rain, and was quite cold, though she seemed oblivious to it...and did not want to be once more stroller-bound, and even meeting the charming goat wasn't sufficent to make up for being trapped in the stroller. Do Not Want!

Back at ours, the only consolation was meeting Haggis, who bore up with some toddler loves for awhile, then absented herself from further attentions. I was relieved she (Haggis, not Gwen!) didn't swat, scratch or bite, but simply moved out of reach as needed.

And this week Alaric and Nerissa were staging through ours again after a last-minute squeezed in trip to Cork. We caught up with Kev, Ozbeg, and Soph at dinner at the Dove, and I had the most delicious honey stout from St. Peter - it smelled like a jar of honey, it was amazing.

I love company. I also love saying good bye and having the flat back to ourselves and the puss.

Here's to home this evening!
abendgules: (Mountjoy)
We're now registered for spring Crown tourney, just have to figure out how to get there. Oh, and tell the crown.

Site looks amazing - I didn't realise there were any castles to speak of in Sweden. Awesome. Even the website for the event looks well planned. 

We've decided to aim for early arrival (w/ slightly cheaper fares), and are hoping to throw ourselves on the mercy of friends for crashing on Thursday evening. We want to enjoy the event, and not be rushed, and Nordmark is a lovely place to not be rushed in.

I've seen many of the sights in Stockholm, but Robert has not. I didn't reach the open-air museum, which also looks charming, though probably weather-dependent. 

Folks in Nordmark - if there are any must-see exhibits in Stockholm area in April, please let me know.

To practice being somewhere it snows - I get to go home early today.

Snow has started to fall even in superheated London, and will keep it up this weekend. In a country where drivers think 'snow tires' are the ones with chains on, and noone owns real winter boots, it's safer not to be on the roads.
abendgules: (rearview_runner)
For all that the SW quarter of the country is under water, and people are still risking their lives driving through floods over roads, there was sunshine at lunchtime. Not as brilliant and crisp as in the icon, but noticeable. Parts of the park were swamped so my run was shortened, but I was still out for half an hour or so. Knee ached, but not as much as on Tuesday.

It makes a big difference to me to get out and run at lunch, and see the sun, and run over grass, and generally look at things in real daylight. Going home in the dark (ie anytime after 4.15pm) is a big depressor for me, and it won't change for a couple of months yet.

Waking up in daylight for some reason isn't nearly as rewarding as going home before the sun goes down.

We're planning a jaunt into Bath this weekend, but looking at the forecast, I wonder if we're tempting fate on the trains? Certainly won't be much in the way of sightseeing weather...
abendgules: (Default)
It's strange feeling both at home, and a foreigner, in two countries, which is how I feel upon returning to my Thamesreach home.

Stuff what I miss from my first homeland:

1. Fresh local (mostly) fruit and vegetables: I ate absolutely as much local veg and fruit as I could cram into myself without doing myself an injury.  The SE of England just doesn't have an equivalent of the Niagara region and the farms of Ontario, that seemingly effortlessly generate huge quantities of yummy fresh food.

Strawberries and raspberries are in season near my mum's house, and her region is very well served by local markets.

2. Real seasons: for all that I was on a trip for greatly stress-making reasons, I felt like a cat basking in the sun and heat of an Ontario summer. Running most days for 1/2 an hour generated a minor tan, the first I've had in years.

Britons spend a lot of money and time on holidays 'away', and don't feel like they've had a 'proper' holiday unless it involves flying to a beach location. It took me awhile to understand this fixation. I'd never flown somewhere *warmer* for a summer holiday; isn't 30 deg C and 95% humidity hot enough? Cdns retreat to the cottage instead.

3. Humidex estimates, that tell you how hot it *feels*. I think this would be a useful addition to the winter forecasts in the UK, because I'm convinced the dampness of this region makes 0 dec C way more miserable than I ever remember 0 deg C feeling in Ontario.

4. Stoop and scoop that people actually pay attention to: Canadians simply buy into this more than residents in our corner of Thamesreach. Makes recreational running into an urban obstacle course. 'Nuff said.

5. Cream routinely offered for coffee. It's milk or nuthin' here (except perhaps in hotels used to N. American guests) and it just doesn't taste the same. 

6. Can-con: I hardly recognised any musicians featured on the CBC, and I think it's the continuing support of Canadian content rules that enable Canadian talent to compete and survive. I know it's protectionist, and I know it's not perfect, but I love it.

7. CBC Radio One, and As it Happens: I continue to enjoy the mild-mannered interview style featured on AIH, so different from the very aggressive confrontational style on British radio & TV. I always admired the way AIH interviewers gave liars and creeps enough rope to hang themselves - it assumes the listeners are smart enough to make their own judgements, and do not need leading statements to form their opinions. Long may it last.
abendgules: (Default)
Coronation this past weekend: brilliant. Reasonable travel (it's worth paying for real airlines, IMO, for non-stupid flight dep/arr times); wonderfully hospitable Finnish event staff looked after us; fed and watered and coffeed very well; successful ceremonies almost entirely as planned and pictured, in a beautiful lakeside setting.

The best pictures are on [livejournal.com profile] aryanhwy's FB pages, so far.

Lady Anne produced a beautiful kirtle (black linen with gold silk lower skirt), gown (black wool with red silk binding and red linen lining and a long train) and (with Edith's broidery) headdress for HRM to wear, matching Paul's early Henry VIII gown, doublet and hose. Together they look the part of early 16th c royals.

I can now see why the Finns are so attached to Cudgel wars, and enjoy the venue so much. It reminded me strongly of visting camps and cottages in Muskoka; mixed birch and fir woods, gravel roads, cottages perched on slopes overlooking a small lake with canoes at the dock, birdsong and crisp clean air. There were fewer bald spare boulders and evidence of roads blasted through solid rock of 'Canadian shield', so there may be more fertile farm-able soil in the area, but the memories of travelling to northern Ontario were strong.

However, I'd never visited a Canadian cottage with two saunas - one was modern electric ladies/mens/mixed facilities, the other was a small traditional wood-burning sauna. The latter requires half a day of fire stoking to warm and make ready but I can see the attraction; the woodsmoke atmosphere and the feel of the steam and heat is different from the electric sauna, and I was glad I tried both.

How I do wish saunas were common here! Warm baths are lovely but the all-enveloping sauna heat is wonderful. The Romans had it right from the outset.

I delighted in playing c&t one afternoon - sadly not long enough, but worth it for trying out a hand and a half sword in this form. [livejournal.com profile] goncalves and I both tried against Lord Mikkael, and both of us came away with biiig stuuupid grins on our faces, it was so much fun.  My next serious investment may be such a weapon. Lucky Cernac gets to go back in 3 weeks for Cudgel and play some more.

[livejournal.com profile] goncalves and Cernac triggered something of a diplomatic incident between Insulae Draconis and Arnimetsa, witnessed by too many from all sides to be hushed up. We may have to settle it by hitting each other with sticks in yet a third region, like Nordmark, much as our ancestors did by making war through Normandy and Bergundy. At least, that's what we hope.

The scriptorium had several attendees, and we reviewed my Romanesque alphabet, but we all seemed short of time - even with a four day event there was a lot to squeeze in. However, I did show one lady how to make a reservoir for a quill and she seemed very pleased at trying it out at home.

Once more, I was impressed by the depth of the artisan community in Arnimetsa particularly in the textile and clothing arts. Their standard is high, even for those new to the Society; it must be all those long winter nights that give them opportunity to sew, weave, broider and embellish to such good effect. Fru Johanna continues to develop her repetoire of narrow wares which is excellent, even persuing the art outside the Society.

I had only one serious attack on my wallet among the merchants; I was cornered by a 3m length of hemp fabric - something I haven't been able to find in London and thus hard to resist. The merchant (www.tippet.fi) said it came from a factory in Romania.

I learned a lot in conversation this weekend, about the Pelican order in Drachenwald.

Today is one long round of laundry, followed by errands. I'm away to my first homeland tomorrow, hopefully back in a couple of weeks.

Well crap

Jun. 13th, 2012 02:13 pm
abendgules: (prickly)
Another trip to the homeland likely, probably next week. Have to see Mum, and her condition, for myself.
abendgules: (tea in winter)
Going oop north while still coughing was a mistake.
Coughed the whole time there, coughed all the way back, coughed my way to another week off work.
Hurrah - not.
Went to the GP last week, who said, yes, you've got a bad cough, no question - though chest was clear, no sign of secondary infections.
SO: more sofa, more laying about. It would be nice, if I had the enthusiasm to enjoy it. Knitting is about my limit right now.

On the plus side - while surfing, I have found the Aladdin's cave of trim sources in Thamesreach - BL Trimmings, just north of Oxford St station, close to the BBC building. I don't know how I lived here so long without knowing about it! AND they do free sample cards, oh joy...

Another plus - I'm not missing any glorious spring weather. It's rained daily for the better part of 2 weeks now. This is good, as the SE is officially in a drought, having had less-than-average rainfall for almost 2 years. I don't expect a burst like this will solve it, but perhaps it's the start of the end.
abendgules: (15thc_worker)
Thursday - crack of dawn departure for morning flight. Gatwick is so much closer than Heathrow! and smaller scale, and less faff generally. It's small enough that we can board from both ends of the plane, via the tarmac, which you don't generally do at bigger airports.
Uneventful trip, snooze en route, start beading a veil - there's a depiction of the ladies defending the tower of love in the Luttrell Psalter, and their veils have red dots on the veil edges, so I'm using some very small coral beads, a gift from Lady A[o]sa in Nordmark, to trim the front edge of my veil (finished in time to wear it too!).
Arlanda is the main airport for the capital, but is positioned halfway between Stockholm and Uppsala to serve both, and has train and bus service to both. The express is straightforward, and goes straight to the central station. 
Left luggage console has instructions in 6 languages! and accepts plastic, hurrah.
Off to explore! My hostess Tece had recommended a 3 day pass for Stockholm transport, and this gets me across the city several times. 
Find the National Historical Museum by public transport. This museum (free after 4pm!) has the Gold Room,   the Textiles room (sigh!)   and a significant collection of church furniture and decor. 
Apparently Swedes were sitting in pews as early as the 12th c, because there are extant Romanesque wooden pews in the museum - in fact, carved wooden pews and podium-thingies (the decorated balconies that the ministers preach from) feature prominently in the collection. I'm astonished - you're hard pressed to find any medieval English wood surviving, even in a museum. 
(When I mention this, His Highness SvartUlvR suggests that dry climate, and continued use, enabled them to survive, where they didn't in England.)
It's delightful, because almost all these artifacts are completely new to me. I'd never seen the textiles, not in pictures or books, and the gold was all local (well, dug up locally, rather than being sourced locally).
Settled on only one book from the shop - about the gold room, for Robert - and fought the temptation of the Birgittine embroideries book.
Meet with Tece my excellent hostess, who joins me for a quick view of the National Museum
This calls itself the 'premier museum of art and design' which raised my hopes, but the vast majority of the works were 17th + century. Essentially, art begins at 1500, according to these collections. There were a couple of Cranachs (can't go wrong with nekkid ladies in big hats) and one painting of flemish peasants, but the rest was well post-period. 
One nifty display was an enormous long dining table, set with table settings starting with 15th c jugs and plates, and moving through the periods to 20th c. There were sound effects for each era - don't know if they were triggered by movement, or just running all the time - but the fine glassware and silver tinkling only tinkled from the 18th century onward. 
Tece and I stopped at the station for sushi (popular - I saw three diff sushi places within half an hour of arriving at the station) and on to her own flat, to meet the all-important cats, and the roommate, and finish beading.
Friday - a whole day in Stockholm!
Once more onto public transit, and find my way to Vasa museum, highly recommended by [livejournal.com profile] goncalves, with good reason. The whole of the 17th c ship Vasa was raised, sealed, repaired and displayed, with a 6 floor museum allowing you to view it from bottom to top. 
Half the museum is about the process of finding, raising, preserving and protecting the artifacts, the other half is about the people on the ship, and the artifacts themselves. I enjoyed this bit more - the reconstructed faces of the skeletons are positioned at their estimated natural height, so you can look at them as if they were standing with you.
Artifacts aside, the real glory is seeing this ship, near intact, full size, almost touchable. It conveys a vastness, power, mass that you'll never get from a scale model or a diorama, no matter how beautiful. A replica of the gun deck also conveys the scale of space for the sailors; I can *just* walk through clearing my head.
The modern image of Swedes - cheery peaceful egalitarians - is somewhat at odds with their 17th-19th c reputation. I hadn't realised that Sweden had been at war with Poland at this period - there's a suitably crushed and cowering Pole carved into the curve of the prow, below the foot of one of the carved figures of a king. 
The next museum was the medieval museum of Stockholm (free!), in the centre of town, entirely underground - basically contains all the bits and pieces found while digging buildings. 
In content and intent, it is similar to the Museum of London, though focusing only on medieval stuff - sequence of permanent habitation and construction across all the little islands that form the city.  
The English language books are all from MoL or British Museum. :-) And the knives that Robert and I use, sourced from a contact along the Silk Road, are priced as souvenirs at about £50 each. Yowza.
My last squeezed-in visit is to the Royal Armoury - one of a clutch of museums around the royal palace complex. Here again, I live in hope of medieval stuff, only to find that life starts for Sweden after 1600. (Not really true, but the collection's glories are all 17th-19th c.) 

The glories are glorious, without question - coronation and wedding outfits, everything embroidered and couched with padded gold to within an inch of its life, childrens clothes from 17th c +, and some very sharp gents suits from 1920s onward, that start the 'Jeeves and Wooster' theme song running through my head unbidden.
And again, the emphasis on the bloody side of history - the 17th c buff coat one king was shot in, the 18th c masquerade outfit that a much later prince was assassinated in. This doesn't feel very Swedish!
One unexpected bonus at the armoury is the 'vintage fashion' exhibit - displays of clothing worn by the Swedish royals from 1850 onward, from tea dresses to ball gowns to very chic 1950s/60s day dresses - Princess Sibylla is apparently something of a fashion plate of the 20th c, and favoured Swedish designers (the way Diana wore British). The displays are arranged by colour (very Oscar Wilde), and would have been brilliant, if it weren't for being the end of the day, and my stomach rumbling. But if you like current/vintage fashion, it's a super exhibit.
Gamla Stan (oldest centre of town) in the dark, at rush hour, is not terribly inspiring. It's plagued with slightly tatty tourist-trap shops, akin to the low end of Oxford Street. Must try it again in daylight, on a full stomach and feet ready to walk. 
However, the first bus I took was back to central station, and all the public transport staff I met were lovely and helpful.
After some moderate confusion about finding the site (which had three buildings - guess which one I went to first, second and third?), Tece and I collected my goods from her flat and sought out fast food for Friday meal. The kebab is alive and well in Stockholm, just as cheap, cheerful and garlicky as in London, though perhaps just a bit milder overall.
Observations:
- public transport is teh awesome in Stockholm, and the core of the city is walkable. Commuter trains are electric and quiet and even the Tube is less noisy and grubby than London's.
- Stockholm is all about art and culture - even the building projects have to invest in 'beautification' so as not to lower the tone. It's not all to a single taste, but everything feels...designed, rather than 'just thrown up', the way so many postwar buildings do here. This may be a benefit of not being bombed back to rubble in WWII, or just a desire to make cities pleasant places to live. It's also spotless, which felt refreshing all on its own.
- It feels roomier than London - there's ample walking and cycling space, both in town and in the suburbs. The space allotted to homes, roads and parking lots reminded me of Canada rather than Europe.
- After several years of museum-visiting, I may be growing jaded. It struck me that the museum I enjoyed most was the Vasa, because there's nothing similar to it in London - runner up was the historical museum for its gold room. 
Many of the physical objects I saw reminded me of examples I'd already seen elsewhere. The upshot is that I'll have to keep looking for (medieval) things I really haven't seen before. I'd hoped to see some 16th c clothing - but the Sture clothes are in Uppsala. Next trip!

The one, and only, downside of this trip - my squeeze cheese was confiscated at security on the way home.

I'd bought three tubes of yummy reindeer flavour cheese, and one of whisky flavoured, and, not wanting them to burst in my luggage, put them in carryon...only to discover it's a 'liquid' according to the security staff. It's a small thing, I know, but...I was looking forward to it. Sigh.

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