Friday October 3
Quick Summary: Water, banana peel, short, pigs, a bear of very little brain, sandwiches, meerkats, OMGFREEWIFI! ON A TRAIN!, degrees of cousinship, shopping, shower, sparkles, still short, fire!, conker, cold. Now you know everything.
As we left our last instalment of this gripping saga, Our Heroine had made it safely to the OMG Yotel hotel in Heathrow. The room was truly tiny – 7 square metres – and the rooms are stacked so that they can get 2 bed pods on top of one another. Mine was the lower pod. I failed to take the squillion photos I had intended – mainly because it took a while to get internet working, but also because my main priority was the OMGSHOWER.
Impressions of the Yotel: Great idea, clean but a bit dingy looking. I had expected it to be a bit more bright and shining and space-age looking. Still, a great idea – and who really needs a big hotel room? It was also very noisy, with people coming and going all the time. They did offer free earplugs at reception, but I wasn’t wanting to do more than nap, so I was reasonably happy to be a bit disturbed.
Funny moment: When I arrived, I got a bottle of water. “We’ll put it on your bill when you leave,” the guy said. Well, I had pre-paid the room, so when I came to leave all that was owing was the £1.50 for the water. Only problem? They didn’t take cash. I had a very very small VISA card charge.
On leaving the Yotel, I grabbed stamps for the girls’ postcards, as well as a banana to eat, then headed for the express shuttle train to London (OMG£16.50!!!). Unfortunately, I had forgotten that rubbish bins don’t exist in London stations – so here I was, wandering around with vast amounts of luggage and a banana peel. Fortunately I found a friendly cleaner and slipped it into his rubbish bag.
Into London Paddington Station and I met up with Greg (Lardarse) who I know from BSW. It’s always reassuring to meet people and find that they are just the same in real life as they are online. I had reasonable confidence that it would be that way, and it’s holding up so far. (I just hope it is the same for people meeting me!). Greg was surprised that I am so short (maybe I need to borrow an expression from a University friend who, when asked how he was, always replied, “Short and fat”). He also suggested that my pink jumper made me look like a pig. It’s a favourite, though, so oink it is.
Two important stops at Paddington station: the Paddington Bear stall and the statue of Paddington. Greg mocked me mercilessly because I was fascinated by one of the food take-away places, where the little bowls of food went round and round the side of the stall on a little miniature conveyor belt. OMG if we had one of those in Melbourne I would probably eat there just so I could watch the teeny tiny bowls going round and round and round. Too adorable!
We took a taxi over to Kings Cross station, through a part of London with ABSOLUTELY NO FAMOUS LANDMARKS WHATSOEVER, and collected our tickets. With less than an hour till our train was due, there wasn’t a great deal to do and (true to the email I received when I booked) we couldn’t talk our way into the first class lounge, despite holding first class tickets. Sigh.
By now, I was starving, so we went to one of the joys of visiting England – a pre-packaged sandwich bar. This may seem an odd joy, but remember the fascination that a teeny tiny conveyor belt can exercise. In this instance, I was fascinated by the range of sandwiches on offer – especially because, despite being almost lunch time, I’d still eaten only a banana since breakfast on the plane around 3.30am local time. I settled for “chicken and stuffing” for second breakfast and then also bought a “mixed cheese and red onion” in case I needed something later.
One of the wonderful things about King’s Cross station, of me, was the departure boards. There are big electronic boards on the wall where they announce, about 15 minutes before a train leaves, which platform it will be leaving from. Until then, people stand in the departures hall watching the signs and looking for all the world like a tribe of luggage-carrying Meerkats. Once a train is announced, there is a mass exodus for the appropriate platform.
We travelled up to York in first class, which was very comfortable. Greg had traded me some games for the ticket, so we played Monopoly Express. Unfortunately he wasn’t feeling very well, due to not having slept the night before, and the changes in air pressure as we went into and out of tunnels really put him off, so we put the game away. I had a flurry of text messages and then turned on my eee pc to enjoy the OMG Free Wireless internet!!! On a train!!!
About half an hour before we arrived in York, I had a call from my cousin Michael. Now, technically, the relationship is a bit more distant than cousin. Michael is the second husband of my dad’s cousin Sheila. But they’re both cousins to me, and they’re Uncle Michael and Auntie Sheila to my kids. More importantly than being cousins, they are also some of my very very favourite people in the whole world, and they’re a huge part of what makes York such a special place for me.
I first met Sheila and Michael when I turned up unexpectedly at my great-uncle’s house one day in early 1989. My great aunt had rung them to say, “George’s daughter is coming over” – and they arrived and announced that I was spending the weekend with them. Since then, I spent 3 weeks with them at Christmas 1992, then they flew to Australia especially for Fraser’s and my wedding (Sheila did one of the readings), and we saw them again in 1998 when we took baby Biggie to the UK. I don’t have the exact dates handy, but it had been 10 years and about 5 days since I had seen them.
I couldn’t stay with them this time, because they have Sheila’s daughter and her 7 year old son living with them, so was in a York hotel instead. But we’d made lots of plans to catch up, which is the important part.
Michael was ringing to tell me he’d meet me at the station and take me to my hotel – typical of him, he’s a very very generous person, and always goes out of his way to make people feel welcome. Greg was disappointed, as he’d been hoping to wander around town together for a couple more hours, but family – especially family that hasn’t been seen for so long – especially OMGFAVOURITE family – wins. Hands down.
In fact, Michael left me at the hotel once I’d checked in, after he had assured himself that the room met his standards. It certainly does mine – spotlessly clean, simple but everything’s there that you could need. Exhorting me to rest, he said he’d be back later that evening to pick me up for dinner.
I whizzed up the street to the off-licence (note: Ooo, I am speaking English already!) and picked up a couple of bottles of Aussie wine (no way was I going to carry them over), then found a postbox for the latest card for the girls. I put my feet up for a little while, then decided exercise was probably the best way to tire myself out, so headed into town and exercised. My VISA card, that is.
Not really, but I did find a rather gorgeous pink jacket that I’d seen on the company website and wanted. I also picked up some fruit (OMG Nectarines are in season! Yay!) and some more painkillers for my still-achy tooth.
Conversation in pharmacy.
Me (thinks: they never call pharmacy stuff the same here as they do at home. What’s in Nurofen Plus, again?)
Me: Um, I need some painkillers. But I don’t know what they’re called here. They have ibuprofen and codeine in them.
Sales woman: Oh, Nurofen plus?
It is so nice to be back in York. I need to try to find time to just wander through the streets. Gorgeous.
Back to the hotel – card from Sheila, who had stopped by while I was wandering – and I hopped in the shower. Well, I tried to hop in the shower. I couldn’t get it to run on any setting other than “bitterly cold”. Eventually I gave up and rang reception. Of course the answer was simple: Turn it the other way, you dill.
Changed to go out for dinner, then Jon Power (EYE of NiGHT on BGG) came by to visit. Again – Jon is just like he is online, and it was fantastic to meet him. Another of those “feels like we have known each other forever” moments (I searched my email a couple of weeks ago and the first real email exchange I had with Jon was just under 3 years ago, after Spiel ’05). And not just because he bought me OMG the prettiest necklace which is silver and sparkly and just so gorgeous that I had to put it on straight away!
Jon also told me that I was shorter than he expected.
While Jon was visiting, as readers of comments here will know, there was a fire alarm. We had to leave the hotel and line up in the back courtyard. It slowly filled up, first with fully clad guests, then one poor woman in a bathroom, hair in a towel, who had clearly been in the shower. She got a cheer from the rest of us. I did see one other towel head and also a woman in her pyjamas. The staff took a roll call of hotel guests, while explaining that they didn’t know what was going on, and eventually the fire department arrived. Soon, a fireman appeared and announced, “Room 319?” and a woman went over to them. The other fireman announced that the problem had been caused by someone smoking in a non-smoking room, and we all filed back inside past the OMGTROUBLEMAKER who was being Severely Spoken To.
Sheila and Michael arrived not long after (Jon tried to persuade them to come to Beyond Monopoly! but with no luck) and took me off to their place to meet daughter and grandson. OMG he is adorable!! Daughter is lovely too and we think we may have met when I was 3 (!) but the grandson was the star of the show. He had a special gift for me – a conker, which he had found at school (sadly, I will have to discard it – customs and quarantine would not appreciate the conker one bit) – but the really special part was that he had made wrapping paper by taking a piece of paper and writing “I love you” all over it. Can we all say awwww together? 🙂 He loved his gift and it was really wonderful to meet him. I’m going to beg Jon to be my mule after OMGESSEN! and bring back a couple of kids’ games for him.
Dinner at a pub with Sheila and Michael was wonderful but by the time we finished eating I was really woozy. Not surprising, when I hadn’t really slept for around 2 days. It was OMG 0.5 degrees Celsius when we came out of the pub. Yikes! Mike drove me right to the hotel back door by pressing the intercom to get into the hotel car park and announcing that he was my driver. Hee!
I washed my hair, then logged in to check email and say hi to bsw friends while my hair dried enough to go to sleep. After that, I was asleep within seconds, although I woke briefly a couple of times during the night and again around 6 this morning. Tooth throbbing 😦 — I am still hoping it will pass. Meanwhile, there is OMGNurofen.
Internet access is frighteningly expensive here. I bought an hour total time last night and have 16 minutes left to use today. I’m writing this offline and will log in, upload photos, add them to this post and that should be it.
On the agenda for today:
– get up, get dressed, do hair
– breakfast (included, just down the hall)
– quick walk if time (most important: Buy postcards for kids!)
– Beyond Monopoly!
– lunch with a friend
– possible dinner plans
on the agenda for tomorrow:
– little J’s football match
– lunch with family
– possible games at Jon’s
Update: can’t get into the wireless network here. Will take eee into town with me and see what I can find in there (unlikely to be MORE expensive than this place, anyway). If necessary, I will have a drink at a McDonalds and use the hotspot there.