Monday morning we awoke, got our things together, and headed down for a last breakfast before starting the long goodbyes that always mark the end of a convention. There were lots of hugs, and “You are coming back next years”, which was very gratifying. At some point, I began singing the third verse of Dougie MacLean’s “Caledonia”, and several people, including cadhla and bardling, and the harmonies sounded just lovely.
The drive down was uneventful, and we got our luggage in, and assigned to our temporary quarters, then got the grand tour. Bardling and Djbp’s house is a three story affair about a quarter of the way down the street, with tight winding staircases that I was sure I was going to pitch down and die before I left, but it really was a nice space. Kit and i were in the very top in a nice spacious bedroom, while Filkerdave took the loft bed on the second level.
After relaxing a bit, we decided to make use of the hired car and make a grocery run. The grocery store was an interesting mix of familiar and strange. On the one hand, a supermarket looks remarkably like a supermarket, but every now and then you’d see something incongruous, like a good selection of liquor alongside the wine and beer. (In most states in the US, hard liquor is sold in specialty stores and grocery stores cannot by law sell them). We picked up some fruit and veggies, provisions for the dinner Filkerdave planned to make Tuesday, and an unbelievable variety of potato crisps.
Eventually Djbp made it home, and we made plans to venture over to the nearby home of demoneyes and oreouk, who were keeping custody of khaosworks and cadhla. P&L have a lovely house, and after we all tucked into huge repast of takeaway Chinese food (which was leagues better than the Chinese we’d eaten way back in Part One), we fiddled about with Khaoswork’s macintosh until we finally got it to display on the television, and set up a slide show of the pictures that he and I had taken at the con.
A brief digression about the photos: when I’m using a digital camera, I tend to take a LOT of photos, under the assumption that only 1 in 10 are going to turn out well. This proved even more optimistic than usual with the camera I had borrowed for this trip, an HP Photosmart 215. While I certainly appreciate the loan of this device, two weeks use of it convinced me that I never want to buy anything like it — the shutter couldn’t have been slower if it was hand-cranked, it seemed indecisive about whether it was actually going to take a photo when you pushed the button, and the battery life left a lot to be desired. As a result, I ended up with a lot more blurry shots and a lot more “10 seconds after the shot I wanted” shots. Some of them still turned out well. You can see the whole dump at http://www.flickr.com/photos/autographedcat/sets/72157617348390757/, but be warned that these haven’t been captioned, and includes all of the many, many duff shots.
Eventually, we piled back into the hired car, and drove over to the place where it was to be dropped off, which was conveniently right next to the train station we’d have to take when we wanted to go back into London. A pleasant 10 minute walk later we were back home, and after a bit more conversation, we all retired.
We had originally thought to go into London with Khaos and Cadhla, but she was feeling very sick and unfit for travel, and we decided to spend the day in Gravesend with Filkerdave, who was going to be returning home on Wednesday, and to hook up with Khaos later in the week. After a light breakfast, we decided to do a little tour of downtown Gravesend, including stopping at several second-hand stores. This was fun, since both Kit and I enjoy crawling through those sort of stores back home, and wondered what treasures we’d find.
First stop was a second-hand bookstore, and the first great discovery. Once upon a time, I had a complete collection of Terry Prachett novels, up through 1998, and all of them were lost in the apartment fire that claimed most of my things up to that time. I’d started working on replacing them, but when my ex-gf and I split, she kept almost all the books, so I was starting on my third attempt to build a library. Well, we walked into this shop, and the first thing that came to my eye was a stack of Discworld novels. In hardback. For four pounds each. I pounced on them, and said “Mine!”
I also found a collection of Tove Jannson short stories set in Moomin Valley, and a young adult copy of Beau Geste, which I’ve never read, but remember fondly the puppet shows Snoopy used to enact of it, so I figured it was worth a lark.
We then hit a couple of charity shops, one of which had a marvelous purple blouse that I showed to Kit,a nd after a short deliberation, she bought. We finally ended up in yet another bookstore, where I found a Frank Muir book and picked up a present for my mom.
We then passed by the church where Pocahontas is buried, so stopped in to see the statue, and stopped in the Gravesend visitor’s centre to pick up postcards (which have yet to be mailed. yes we suck. Sorry), and a stop in a nearby shop to get some almond oil, and we then walked back home to unload our goodies and prepare for dinner.
Dinner was Filkerdave’s treat. I’d often heard him talk about his cooking, but never had the pleasure of trying it before now. He made a wonderful pasta dish that was a huge hit all the way around the table. When it was first served, he wondered if he’d made too much, but we got all the way through the first dish and made a dent in the second before everyone was finally full.
Once everyone was well fed, the living room was cleared for tonight’s proposed entertainment: a giant backrub swap. Two areas were set up, so that two backrubs could be done at once, and then everyone swapped with everyone else. The evening culminated with us all pampering bardling within an inch of her life, and, with all of us suitably relaxed, watching a Jethro Tull concert on DVD.
We were all quite ready to head up for bed by this point, so we did.
Wednesday morning we got up and had breakfast, and then accompanied Filkerdave up into London, with Djbp as our native guide. The idea was that we would do some sightseeing in London after we split off from Filkerdave and he went off to Heathrow to catch his plane home. Before leaving, I had checked into Livejournal, and noting that callylevy was feeling a bit down, I rang her up and asked if she’d like to meet for lunch.
We had agreed to meet at Liverpool Street Station, so we rode the train up to London Bridge, exchanged goodbye hugs with Filkerdave, and then set off to walk through the Bank district to Liverpool Street, with me stopping to take a number of photos, including the Fire of London memorial, and a number of anonymous but interesting buildings.
We hooked up with Callylevy at Liverpool Street and ended up in Wetherspoons, which is a sort of chain of pubs, all of which server fairly consistent fare and had a good lunch and fun talk. After lunch, she went off to run errands, and the three remaining, and Kit and I decided we wanted to see some museums, particularly the British Science Museum and the British Natural History Museum.
The British Science museum was very cool, although we actually only managed to see a tiny fraction of it, but it was the fraction on space flight, and included a number of cool exhibits, including the Black Arrow rocket which was an artifact of Britain’s brief foray into the space race. Just beyond the space flight gallery was a huge room which chronicled the march of technology, from about 1820 to the present. As you walked through the room, you were walking forward in time and the machinery around you got more modern. It was very cool.
Having seen these two exhibits, we decided we weren’t going to be able to spend all day here if we wanted to see anything else, and went back out on the street. I knew the Royal Albert Hall was nearby, so we took a detour to see it and get some pictures, and then went to check out the new Earth wing of the Natural History museum.
When you walk into the Earth wing, you’re immediately overwhelmed by the entranceway to the exhibit: a huge bronze sculpture of the earth, with a long escalator rising up into it. Flanking the path up to the escalator are six statues, displaying mans progression from tool-wielding cave dweller to astronaut. You walk past these and then up into the centre of the earth sculpture to the gallery which contains the rest of the exhibit.
The rest of the exhibit contained volcanoes, and earthquakes, and fluid dynamics, and a whole lot of cool rocks and things. We wandered around in it for about an hour. At some point during our wanderings in the day, Djbp reminded us that Thursday was Bardling’s birthday. After a brief discussion with me, Kit informed him that as a result, we would be taking them to dinner tonight, if that was ok. He called bardling and all was approved, so we walked back to the Underground station, made our way back to the National Rail and down to Gravesend.
We met up with Bardling at the station and walked over to a small Thai restaurant. Being largely unfamiliar with Thai food, we let the birthday girl and Djbp recommend things, and settled in for a rather nice meal. We then headed home, and suitably tired, went up for a good night’s sleep.
Next: Credit cards, illness, and the long, winding road home…