Sunday, January 1, 2012

And in the end...

So. Travelling is over, and it's 2012. Well, travelling is not really over, and we won't stop writing here.  So far we have been travelling not just to see the country, but to have a very much long overdue break. Now we change our mindset, and our practices, and begin to live here rather than visiting here.

The last week was a mixed bag. After staying in a very lovely hotel in Edinburgh and eating ourselves into a food coma for Christmas, we made our way down to Newcastle. This was selected for no particularly strong reasons, other than a desire to hopefully meet up with the blokes from Hotspur, and because and it was a convenient distance. Our experience of Newcastle was a resounding "meh", which is not fair. The hostel we were in was underwhelming, although very clean and modern, and there was no way to cook in it. Combined with the post-Christmas shutdowns, this meant that it was difficult and expensive to find food while we were there, and this threw a pall over the time we were there.

On the other hand: the surviving keep is very interesting, and has a great view; the bridges and Tyne are perversely attractive; and the Laing and Baltic galleries were very good - in the latter we saw installations from the four short-listed artists for the Turner prize. Three out of four were interesting...

Newcastle proved difficult to get out of - all the trips were expensive, and lengthy. In the end the best option (found by Bob) was to go back to Birmingham and thence to Warwick to see the castle. The downside was that it was a late trip, and we didn't get in to Warwick until around 23:00, leaving us grumpy and out of sorts. Still, the Lord Leycester hotel we stayed in was lovely, and Warwick itself is small and delightful.

The castle itself was... odd. What remains of the original bits (a somewhat murky concept given that it went through continuous building and modification for 900 years) are interesting, but a lot of the site is not accessible. There are weird juxtapositions of horrid Disney-like fantasy with some quite good static presentations and montages of 15th C life, a fairly good acting team next to the Princess Tower, and a very good presentation of falconry (featuring owls, for complicated reasons) in the spaces between the loud piped music throughout. The castle is sort of worth visiting, although it's expensive, and I suspect it's pretty awful in summer during peak tourist times, but don't have high expectations of the historicity of the site.

Bob chilling out in front of the castle
We came back down into London a couple of days ago, and have been kindly put up by Bob's sister and her family for a few days while we sort out a studio apartment in Hampstead. The way that the public holidays and bank holidays have fallen out have made all this a bit complicated, but we're going into the place on the 3rd. Oh yeah, that's right. It's the 1st today isn't it. Somehow midnight GMT on New Year's Eve feels a bit more official than anywhere else. Sorry, but having the clock tick over at zero degrees longitude, zero hours offset from GMT... that's the real New Year folks.

Our evening was quite pleasant, involving Irish folk(ish) rock(ish) music in and Irish(ish) pub in Soho, a few hundred meters from the statue of Eros there in Picadilly Circus. Also there was beer and cider. Bob pointed out that it was like being in the Guinness tent at Woodford without the hippies and mud.

So that's our travel concluded. This part of it anyway. Now we start living here. We've got the studio apartment for a month or so while we sort out work, then we work on a real apartment, then we work on kittens and puppies. It's been nice to travel, but it will be nice to stop moving as well.

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