What I did on my summer holidays

I’m back from England! Actually, I’ve been back for just over a week but I’ve been recovering from a long, horrid flight and the crap that appeared when I got to work so I haven’t really been in a blogging mood.

It was a fantastic holiday. I did all the things that I planned to do, saw all the friends that I’d hoped to and ate a truly epic quantity of clotted cream.

I have a serious weakness for a good cream tea and I managed to fit in several πŸ™‚

I’m torn in picking what the highlight of the holiday was. The day when Mum, my sister and I went on the London Eye and had tea at Brown’s hotel was a definite highlight. We had amazing weather so the view from the Eye was terrific and the tea was amazing. Now that we’ve done Brown’s and Claridge’s, Mum and sis suggested that we need to try all the good London hotels during my future trips. So I think we’ll be working our way through the Savoy, the Dorchester, The Lanesborough and the Langham. We may also take in Fornum and Mason.

The Ritz has too many tourists, so we’ll skip that.

Then in a few years we can compare! And maybe try them all again!

The other big highlight was the trip to Hay on Wye. That was with my parents and we spent two days there, managing to cover around half the bookshops. The town was in preparation mode for the festival that started a few days after our visit and also for the Jubilee, so it was a fun experience without the insane crowds that the festival generates.

Most importantly, between Hay and the local secondhand bookshop I came home with a huge treasure trove of books. I’m still in full-0n Hugo reading mode so I can’t make a start on the stack yet, but I’m excited about them. The hardcover Chalet School books are particular treasures because they’re the full text as opposed to the edited/cut versions that appeared in paperback.

The list is behind the cut. It’s long, trust me. I’ll be posting Hugo reads and movies over the next few days.


We’re all going on a summer holiday…

By the time anyone reads this, I will be in the wilds of south east England. I may be posting a bit or I may not – it’s largely dependent on how exhausted I am by the insane schedule I’ve set myself.

I’ve calculated that, out of the fifteen days that I’m away, only five do not have definite all day plans. Yet. The second week is going to be less frantic than the first week so I could add an activity or two depending on how I’m feeling. There is a solid chance that people will be sitting on me to force me to rest if I start getting that grey-green look that I get just before I collapse.

Many of my activities involve a fair bit of travel (planes, trains and automobiles are literal here) so there is going to be a fair bit of reading time despite my schedule. Thus, I spent a couple of evenings loading up my Kindle and iPad with the following:

Huntress by Malinda Lo
Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett
Feed by Mira Grant (Hugo pre-read)
Deadline by Mira Grant (Hugo nominee)
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (Hugo pre-read)

New Avengers Breakout
New Avengers Sentry

Plus the latest couple of issues of Batgirl, Nightwing, Demon Knights, Stormwatch, Saucer County, X-Men and Wolverine, Avengers Assemble and the new Black Widow prequel. I’ve also got three issues of Asimov’s to catch up on.

As I’m also planning to hit a lot of bookshops while I’m away, it looks like I shouldn’t run out of reading material πŸ™‚

England, I am going to be in you!

Despite yesterday’s sadness at no conventions for 2012, there is a big trip scheduled for this year.


Um, yes, this is my native land and thus the excitement may seem a little odd. Let me explain why I am getting so darned excited about this, via bullet points:

  • Almost every trip last year, barring my England trip for Redemption, had to be cancelled due to illness
  • Almost every day out last year had to be cancelled due to illness or bad weather
  • Apart from the convention and one supervised trip to London, I spent last year’s England trip recuperating in my parent’s house
  • My Christmas 2009/2010 England visit was spent largely trapped in my parent’s house by snow
  • I have got some truly epic plans for the trip that will counter-act all of these disappointments

I am currently in remission from the ulcerative colitis. Unless I’m supremely unlucky, this should hold. The trip is carefully planned to be well outside the radius of snow on either side of the Atlantic so weather cannot disrupt my plans. And what plans!

My itinerary so far:

May 19th: Arrive at Heathrow, return to parents’ house for napping and pottering around

May 20th: Visit Mum’s family

May 21st: TBD

May 22nd/23rd: Hay-on-Wye! Where all the second hand bookshops live!

May 24th: TBD

May 25th: My first time on the London Eye followed by afternoon tea at Brown’s (the inspiration for the location in At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie)

May 26th-29th: TBD

May 30th: Into London for the matinee of Matilda the Musical

May 31st-June 1st: TBD

June 2nd: Fly back to Canada

There are quite a few TBD periods in there and I’m informed that at least one day in each week must be a quiet, restful day so that I don’t overtire myself and get sick again. However, I also need to pack in a visit with my father’s family, lunch with a friend in London (with maybe worship in the halls of Foyle’s and Picadilly Waterstones), supper with another friend, an afternoon in the lovely local second hand bookshop,Β  and visits to a few of my favourite England eateries.

Er, yes, the trip does seem to be largely centred around books and food. Is that a bad thing? I’m cream tea deprived over here so I’m hoping for at least one cream tea in addition to my afternoon tea in the posh hotel. London is featuring a lot and I’m insisting on stopping for cake in Patisserie Valerie at least once. There is also the Chinese restaurant near my parents’ house that served the best duck pancakes and lemon chicken I’ve ever eaten and of course I need fish and chips from a proper chippie as well.

Good thing it looks like there will be a lot of walking during my trip. My waist-line will need it!

Last day of the holiday

Er, I note that my last post said that I’d be back online on Boxing Day and this isn’t actually Boxing Day…

Christmas was lovely and quiet, just the family, and then it was all rather manic as I travelled here there and everywhere to see the various branches of my family, see friends and take advantage of the bookshops in London. I didn’t get to see everyone that I wanted, probably my biggest disappointment about this trip, but at least I got to see a lot of people and had a really fun time. The weather during my first week definitely caused problems but this week has been a lot more like Christmas in England: cold and wet!

Now I’m sitting here for the last time, preparing to watch Doctor Who. My packing has been done (made more complicated by the various restrictions imposed after the attempted attack on Christmas Day) and I’m feeling quite sad to be leaving. Christmas is always a bit dream-like because we’re all home together and doing things together. The end of Christmas has always had me a bit down because I know that I’ll not get this much time with people again for year, but leaving them all 3,000 miles away seems a bit more final this time. So I’m a bit teary, although I know that I’ll be impatient to be in my home once I’m on the plane and happy to be home after a few days in my usual routine and own bed.

I’ve been trying to think of resolutions for 2010. One of them is not to see the inside of an aeroplane again until 2011 when I finally get home! I’d also like to do something to get myself fitter and healthier, after being dreadfully lazy over the last year. Somewhere in there is a resolution to be less of a home-body because I’ve been a bit nervous about actually going out to visit people outside my own home. My sister and I have resolved to Skype more often. After playing a book-related game that I suck at completely (it’s so much fun, though!), I’ve also identified that I need to read more classics and ‘literature’ if I want to call myself a book geek.

I suppose where last year was about settling in and building a life in Canada, now it’s more about exploring my life more, fitting all the bits of me (English, Canadian, knitter, daughter, sister) together more completely and building more confidence about things.

I apologise to the people that I didn’t get to visit while I was here. Things definitely did not work out the way that I had planned, despite trying not to be too attached to plans in case I never made it here! There will be a lot less travelling for me over the next year (I think that I’ve started to distinctly dislike travelling and need a break), but I hope to be back in 2011 at some stage and this time I’m not going to be defeated by a few flakes of snow!

There may be posting from the airport, but it’s unlikely, so hopefully the next time I post it will be from home and I’ll be feeling a little more myself.

I smell spiced ham!

So, yesterday Mum and I made our Arctic trek down to the shops half a mile away for milk. It took us a long time because the sidewalks were so dreadful.

We got home and were discussing the fact that we’d need to do some shopping before Christmas. Dad asked whether we *really* had to and we started listing all the things we’d run out of. As a lot of them were things that Dad likes to eat, he concluded that we needed to go shopping RIGHT NOW OMG. Before the roads freeze, or something.

Mum and I had planned to go today, but as he was actually volunteering to drive somewhere we decided to take advantage.

Um. Scariest. Drive. Ever.

There was a car ahead of us where the occupants were obviously taking pictures. They would stop every now and again to take photos. They stopped just around corners so that we could not see they were stopped until we were almost on them (not the kind of roads you want to do emergency stops on). They stopped at the top of a small rise so that we had to stop on the rise. Our wheels spun for a moment as we attempted to pull away. Yikes.

It was pretty, but not the weather for that kind of stuff. The store was packed and we saw a couple of people collecting deliveries that the store had obviously managed to pack but couldn’t get anywhere. Mum decided that she was glad that she hadn’t tried for a delivery! We got everything in record time, packed up the car and then proceeded home. Slightly less scary (due to lack of photographers) but still not an experience to be repeated regularly.

We spent the rest of the evening at home, recovering while watching trashy TV and drinking tea. Today has largely been about relaxation as well. A cafe has opened in what used to be one of the banks in my village so Mum and I decided to walk up there this morning to buy a paper at the newsagent (I’ve missed The Independent and Private Eye) and get some coffee at the cafe. Then we started working on Christmas lunch: the stuffing is ready and the spiced ham just finished baking. Yummy.

Now I think that I’ll curl up with knitting and Spooks for the evening. It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow!

Dreaming spires

Before the snowpocalypse, Mum and I made plans to have our traditional Christmas shopping trip to Oxford. We booked tickets on the National Express coach and thought happily of dreaming spires, Blackwells and pretty streets where we could finish off the odds and ends of our shopping.

Then the snow hit and we started to feel a tad concerned.

This morning we got up bright and early so that we could get a bus that would get us to town insanely early for our coach to Oxford. We bundled up (thank goodness I brought my snow boots), grabbed the walking poles and tramped down to the bus stop to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Forty minutes later, a bus finally arrived. We were just a bit cold.

The bus took another half hour to get to town and we were feeling concerned that our coach would have already gone. No fear! The guy trying to repair the NE coach going in the other direction (to Standstead) assured us that the Oxford bus hadn’t arrive yet and he’d been there since 8am with a frozen bus. Er, not that reassuring really.

The doors for the bus station had frozen open and it actually managed to be colder there than up in the village. Thankfully our coach arrive half an hour later, just as we were debating how long it was practical to wait bearing in mind that our coach home would be leaving at 2.15pm. It took the entire trip before we regained feeling in our toes.

The contrast between home and Oxford was amazing. No snow! Warmer! My big job was finding a present for my father. Someone at his work had gone onto his Amazon wishlist, seen what he wanted and then bought the presents elsewhere. Note to people: never do this. Seriously. They bought the only two things on his wishlist and I now have to send my original presents back because they’re duplicates.

Thus I needed to find something. Anything. Something that he might like. He had no ideas. HMV in Oxford has a very good DVD section, though, and I’ve picked up two things that I’m 99% certain he’ll love. Phew!

People, be very good about how you use peoples’ wishlists. Buying elsewhere really screws things up for other purchasers.

Anyway, Mum and I did a few other bits and bobs and had some lunch. I took some pictures, spent a few minutes in Blackwells (not long enough, but several days wouldn’t be long enough) and generally soaked up the Oxford-ish atmosphere before we headed off to find our coach home. It was only a couple of minutes late so we were quite pleased.

I dozed off for a few minutes on the coach. When I went to sleep, we were driving through rolling green countryside. When I woke up, we were back in a winter wonderland and it was foggy. Then the snow started as we drove through one of the outlying villages. As we approached the bus station, the driver got a call on his speaker phone advising him to change his route because the next town was completely snowed in.

Er. Yeah.

England in the snow isn’t the easiest place to get around. It was hard enough finding a bus this morning, we were a little concerned this evening. Several buses came down to town going in the wrong direction. Buses going to our village proved to be thin on the ground. Eventually one appeared and we joined the masses trying to get onto it. Thankfully everyone squashed on – someone told us that three previous buses simply never appeared and that was why this one was so packed. Between all the people and all their shopping, it was tight but we did it. And at least it was warm.

The snow got worse as we went. Mum and I were both really pleased when the bus finally got to the top of the big, steep hill outside town: if it broke down, at least it would only be two miles of relative flat to walk home! Not that we wanted to walk home through the snow that was now coming down pretty thick, but we wanted to walk up that hill in it even less!

Thankfully the bus made it to the village and we wished everyone a happy Christmas (and good luck!) as we got out. Our walking poles were very much needed because a couple of inches had already settled on top of the old snow. It was so nice to get home. Dad had been calling our mobiles because he was worried and he kindly made us cups of tea…while we put the paper stuff out for the recycling collection tomorrow. We’re both a little unsure of whether they’ll find it under the snow…

Theoretically I’m going up to Manchester tomorrow. I’ll have to call the inquiries line tomorrow morning to find out whether the train is running and see what lines are open between here and London. This travelling concept is proving interesting.

I think that I’ll spend the evening working on a cowl and watching TV in my nice warm house.

Sunday must mean more snow…

Well, only another inch or snow and it was the light powdery stuff that fell. Nothing is expected tomorrow so my shopping trip to Oxford may now happen. That’s good because I have to buy my Dad another present – someone at his workplace bought things from his Amazon wishlist but not at Amazon! So I’ve duplicated, damn. He’s got no ideas (grrr) so it’s time to get creative.

The roads are pretty nasty in places. Sadly, they’re particularly bad up near my church and the church is too far to walk. So Mum and I aren’t going to our carol concert, instead we’re going to the church up the road for a “Hogroast and Carols”, whatever that is. Sounds kind of weird. But we want carols, damnit, even if I seem to be getting my cold back so my throat is kinda scratchy. It’ll be fine when it’s limbered up a bit with a good, rousing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”.

I am so glad that I brought my snow boots with me. They’re definitely needed.

I’m doing a Flickr photoset of my trip and you can see the first few pictures here.

A taster:


I’m appreciating Canadian snow-clearing so much right now

I’m in England! Ra ra!

Mum was not exaggerating about the snow. Wow. The last time I saw this much was in February 2007 and it melted a day later (photos here. This much snow before Christmas is almost unheard of. The clearance is about what I expected (none) and even the motorway had a bit of slush on it. My road is packed snow. The pavements (sidewalks) are choked. Mum didn’t take much convincing to use her walking poles whenever she goes out to make sure that she doesn’t fall.

I’m so pleased to get here, though. Boston was heaving. I assumed that it was just because it was Friday, the last weekend before Christmas, and only found out after I was waiting at my gate about the storm going through the Eastern USA. They were already announcing that Reagan and Dulles were closing at midnight so I understand now why several people were panicking about Washington flights. I think Boston was scheduled to close some time this morning. I’m so glad that I decided to fly yesterday rather than today (it was an option) because I probably wouldn’t have got there.

No wonder the Customs guy in Halifax wanted to know what I’d do if I got stuck in Boston airport πŸ™‚

Logan is fun to fly into. I had no idea that it was so close to the ocean – the runway starts practically on the shore. We made a different approach to Heathrow, which was fun because we went over one of the large London parks and a large stadium that I suspect might be Twickenham. Hee.

It feels both weird and lovely to be at home with the family. My sister came in for a flying visit so we decorated the tree and now I’m just sitting on the familiar old sofa, waiting for Strictly Come Dancing. Mum is promising me award-winning sausages for supper. I’ve missed really good sausages.

I’ll post some photos tomorrow. The neighbours are building an igloo on the green area in front of my house and it looks amazing. We’re promised more snow tonight, but Monday should be clear so Mum and I are hopeful of getting our trip to Oxford. I need to buy Dad a pressie!

I feel really bad for all the people stuck in the Channel Tunnel. South-east England doesn’t normally need ploughs etc, so it’s understandable that things are bad here. The Tunnel problems sound like they could have been prevented. Grr.

And now to watch dancing and eat fine food. This Christmas is going to be fantastic!

Loving the free wi-fi!

I’m doing that thing other people do that always make me jealous: I am posting from my gate at the airport.

It’s the little things that make me happy.

But anyway. I’m at my gate! I’m going to the UK! Via Boston! And US Customs are scary! And I got selected for extra security screening!

I got here insanely early, due to my over preparation habits. My car is staying at a hotel while I’m away, partially so that I can stay there the night I get back (I hate driving the airport highway in the dark and don’t want to risk the weather) and partially so that my drive can be ploughed while I’m gone. So I had to drop the car off and get hotel transport to take me to the airport. It went far smoother than expected, which is why I’m here so early. Ah, well. I know for the future πŸ™‚

Although I’m safely checked in and waiting, I don’t think that I’ll feel happy and relaxed until I’m on my flight to London, mid-Atlantic, and there is no chance that I’ll get stuck in Boston. The Customs guy wanted to know whether I was OK financially to get stuck in the airport there. Comforting.

So, I’m going to work on editing a story and wait for my gate to be called. Eee!

Christmas in England – the truth

So, in a little over a week I fly to England for Christmas, weather permitting. (No storms between here, Boston, and England, please)

The funniest thing about this process is everyone’s impression of Christmas in England. I’m quite happy to say that I lived in the south of England and things are different up north and in Scotland. Everyone that I talk to (even people who have visited the UK) have this strange impression that Christmas where I lived is cold and snowy and pretty, rather like one of the Victorian paintings.


A hundred years ago, probably even sixty years ago, this wasn’t too far from the truth. Now?

Not so much.

Christmas in my little corner of England is usually warm (5C+ – sometimes low teens) and the precipitation we get is in the form of rain. Bright, sunny Christmases aren’t something that I really remember, although I’m sure we’ve had them. They’re usually damp or raining. There’s a lot of mud. Winter in my corner of England might get snow for one day in February, but that’s it. Last year’s snow was such a big deal purely because we don’t normally get weather like that and the country isn’t prepared.

I blame Hollywood.

Seriously, when is the last time you saw a festive movie set in London (it’s always London or the surrounds – never Bognor or Cardiff or York or some other non-South East location) that didn’t have convenient snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? As much as I enjoyed watching the move Holiday at the weekend, I kept cringing from all the exceedingly unlikely snow in Sussex. If it’s a location that people where people can commute to London for work, there is unlikely to be snow on the ground in December.

I am not saying that Christmas isn’t lovely over there. A crisp, cold, bright winter’s morning can’t be beaten and there are a lot of absolutely beautiful places that I’ll be visiting. That Victorian Christmas that everyone is imagining me having, though, is about as probable as a Labour win in the next general election.

I’m thinking that, to counter-act all this crazy talk about beautiful snowy London, I’m going to take a photo journal while I’m away and try to upload to Flickr each evening. Sound good?

I’ve just jinxed it to snow from the moment I land, haven’t I?

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