Thursday, February 14, 2013


Most importantly, there are sparkly stars in the roof of the plane that they turn on when it's dark.

I'm flying over Brisbane at the moment, on the fourth of my five flights home. The first three were around seven hours each, and this one's only 3, which seems incredibly short. Soon I'll be in NZ again, 21 months after I left!

My timetabling didn't hold up that well (I planned everything out to minimise jetlag. I hope) because there were more movies than I expected, and of course timetabling sleep doesn't often work. I had a cold shower at Brisbane airport and a nap on their nice couches, but I feel I will be in need of caffeine at some point.

My last few days in the UK were full of packing and going to see people. I returned to Stafford, and this time had a lovely dinner at an old pub and visited the High House, a four storey half-timbered building from the 1590’s that stands in the middle of town. The rooms are done up in styles to match different ages, one room with a beautiful four-poster bed and replica hangings and another as an Edwardian shop. The floor made me feel I was on a boat, it was so wavy. It snowed while I was there, too, my last blast of winter until I meet it again midyear in New Zealand...

It's always strange leaving somewhere. Even if you come back, it'll never be quite the same as it was. I said goodbye to people and house and garden and road and park and railway station, pulled into London Bridge, said goodbye to the Shard, got my ticket for my luckily-late-departing train and arrived in plenty of time for my flight at Gatwick. I poured most of the one and two penny coins I've collected into the charity boxes and boarded my flight to Dubai.

I looked out for the Burj Khalifa (world's tallest building, at nearly a kilometre high) as we came into Dubai, and I think I might have seen its lights in the darkness of the front camera. Too dark to see much of anything else, though. The flight was late and I was worried I might miss my connection, but there was time enough to wander some of the airport and get to my Singapore flight on time. The terminal I was in has soaring great triangular windows in the curving walls, and an unbelievable number of people at two o'clock in the morning.

At Singapore we had to get off and wait while they cleaned the plane, go through security again and reboard for Brisbane. I'm getting sick of taking off my belt and extracting my electronic devices from my backpack, but there's only once more!

I should probably be grabbing some sleep. But there are so many movies to watch...


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Zombies, Silent Disco and the Science Museum

I'm getting rather late with my posts. But there's so much to do! Packing, seeing everyone, eating very strange meals to use up all the food I have in my cupboard... On Wednesday a group of us went to the Late Night at the Science Museum, which was zombie themed. I was held up and late, so from South Kensington tube station I ran through the subway and up the stairs to the Science Museum. There were lots of people milling around and a sort of queue, but it was a very haphazard queue and I wasn't sure if it was really a queue or just people coming down the road. I wandered through the doors and got a pamphlet from a lady, then texted people to see where they were.

It turned out the queue really was a queue. Tricky Ricky had waited for half an hour and Twitterboy and his friend were still in line outside. And I, oblivious antipodean that I am, walked straight in.

They had actors shuffling around dressed as zombies, and lots of zombie-themed activities including zombie-rights picket lines. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any that didn't involve waiting for an hour, so we retreated to the silent disco and claimed headphones.

Silent discos are awesome. Everyone has wireless headphones with three channels, and they have at least two djs working at a time. This means that whenever you get bored of a song you can switch channels and hear something else. You can see what channel other people are listening to because the headphones have lights that glow different colours according to the channel. We had two channels going, and it's amazing how fast the crowd can shift between mostly listening to one song and then mostly to another. At one point YMCA came on, and almost immediately everyone was doing the actions.

And if you don't like either of the songs, it's a surreal experience to take off your headphones and hear people singing along to two different songs at once, with no backing music.

One of the things I will be leaving behind in the UK is my unlimited movie card. It seems like there are so many movies coming out on February 8 that I want to see, and now I'll have to pay for them individually! One, Warm Bodies (a zombie movie from the zombie's point of view) doesn't come out in NZ until April, and I was bemoaning the necessity of waiting for it. But then I noticed the advanced viewing at the Science Museum IMAX - this is zombie month after all.

So on Sunday I went back across London to see the movie. The cinema was completely full, with a few extra zombies who moaned and groaned at the screen through the credits and looked generally worrying to sit next to. I enjoyed the movie, though I think I would have liked it better if they'd had an extra line near the end explaining where the main characters were running to (or maybe it was there and I missed it). It's a good movie otherwise, with lots of jokes and ironic musings on life.

At this moment I am on a train to Stafford - my last UK trip for a while. The sun is out and shining into the carriage and all the fields are spring green.


Lincoln and Burns Night

Why is it, whenever I try to catch a train, the buses and tubes unite against me and deliver me to the train station with breathless seconds to spare? I have not yet missed a train (touch wood), but pretty much all of them I've almost missed.

Today I am off to Lincoln. I've only got a few more weeks in the UK (I will return in September, if all goes well) and I've been squeezing as much as I can into them. This morning I was trying to make my room presentable for potential new flatmates, but I still left in good-ish time.

If only the bus had come when it said it was going to, not ten minutes later (they're supposed to come every five to eight minutes). If only I hadn't just missed the Jubilee train and had to wait four minutes for the next one (I've got used to tube trains every 1-2 minutes). If only the train hadn't been held at Canary Wharf to 'regulate the service'. If only I hadn't chosen the wrong door, adding precious seconds to my change at London Bridge. If only I hadn't missed the Northern Line train by five seconds, and had to wait five minutes for the next one. If only the driver of the Northern Line train hadn't decided to wait stupidly long at every station. By the time I got to Angel, I was convinced I was going to miss the train, so much so that I was a bit relieved I wouldn't have to run through the warren of King's Cross at high speed in my coat and backpack. There were four minutes until the train left, and I still had Euston to go before we got to King's Cross.

Or... not.

I'd mixed up King's Cross and Euston. King's Cross comes first. I sprinted off the train, trying not to collide with too many people, up the escalators, and the next escalators, and the next escalators. As I was reaching the top, the lady on the loudspeaker said that the next train to leave from platform 3 would be the 10.08 East Coast Service to Newark North Gate. My train! At least now I knew which platform, which is one of the things that takes up time to figure out.

I still only had about a minute left, and hadn't collected my tickets. I ran for a ticket machine, stabbed in my code and almost ran off with half my tickets before I remembered there were more to come. I followed the signs to platform 3, ran through the barriers (they were open, no need to figure out which ticket I had to stick in them! Hallelujah!) and skidded down the platform to the first open door (first class). I was on the train!

I was only 30s late, but the train was later. If it had been on time, I wouldn't have been able to catch it. Now we're speeding through snowy countryside with fields blanketed in white. In central London the snow has disappeared, but out here it's still a way from melting. Very pretty. And there are bunnies in the snowy white fields!

I stayed with my lovely hosts in a village a little outside Lincoln, beside a Roman archaeological dig. The smaller roads were very icy and we slid a bit at one point. Someone had tried to build an igloo using an umbrella as scaffolding, though it was only half-done.

Friday was Burns Night, when much of Scotland celebrates the life of Rabbie Burns and eats haggis. Though Lincoln is in England, my hosts have Scottish connections and were celebrating too. I had a great night, with Scottish smoked salmon, proper sheep's stomach haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes). Though we didn't have a bagpiper, we had an iPod to pipe the haggis in, and the Ode to a Haggis (great chieftan o' the Puddin-race). To finish, there was cranachan and clootie pudding, and whisky, of course.

On Saturday we went for a turn around Lincoln. Lincoln Cathedral is one of the largest (if not the largest?) Norman cathedrals, and is set high on a hill looking over everything. It's fantastic coming across the low hills towards it in a car, and it must have been incredible to be a pilgrim in the medieval times, approaching this colossal building on foot. The inside of the cathedral has beautiful vaulted ceilings and high windows. Footsteps echo and you can hear the stillness.

Right outside the cathedral is the castle, which was once used as a prison, and is in fact where the court house still is. It's having renovations at the moment, but when it's not you can walk all the way around the tops of the walls. Instead we walked some of the way down Steep Hill, an old medieval street with original buildings stepping down the hill. The shops along here are wonderful little boutiquey things with crafty jewellery and clothes and knickknacks that you could spend hours and hours in. We peered in a few, then went down into the main town for coffee in a half-timbered café on a bridge that has been open for business for about five hundred years. The beamed ceilings were low, the casement windows glinting in the light, and if you squinted a bit and imagined folk in doublets and hose you could almost believe you were in the sixteenth century.

There was a lovely winter barbeque for dinner, and soon it was time to get the train back to London. The rain had come in the night, and the fields were a patchwork of greens and browns, very different from the white landscape of Friday.