Reporting in quickly from London. We’ve been so busy having fun I haven’t found time to write any blog entries, so I’m way behind, but while everyone else is off on the London Eye we’ve retreated to an internet cafe for some much needed on-line time, so I can at least give you a brief update to tide you all over.
Number one bit of news is that Lytteltonwitch and I went to NZ House this morning, and they said that yes I would have to replace my passport. At first they said it would take 7-10 working days, then when I said it was urgent they said if I wanted to pay more they could do it in three, or even same day if it was really urgent. It was £140 for the 3-day service, or £270 for same day. I blanched a bit at that, but then when I thought about it, if I had to stay in London for an extra 3 days it would probably cost at least a hundred pounds anyway, by the time I added up the accommodation and food and stuff, so the £270 super-urgent fee started to sound like the more economic option (plus I wouldn’t have to miss out on Spain!). So I rang my insurance company just to check they’d cover it (answer: probably, but they can’t say for certain until I put in the claim form when I get home), and bit the bullet and paid the £270. Then Lytteltonwitch and I raced around for a bit getting photos taken and forms filled out (I was really lucky she was with me, because she’s known me for more than 5 years, and has a NZ passport, so could act as witness to identify me), and I had a brand new passport in my hands by lunchtime.
An expensive exercise, but I’m so glad I got it sorted out. And yes, I’ve put the new passport safely in a plastic bag!!!
After sorting that out, we went back over to Kensington to the convention venue. The convention doesn’t officially start until tonight, but there were loads of people at the venue getting their goody bags and an early chance at the book buffet. Loads of squeals of excitement as we found friends, and spotted names we recognised. I’ve already forgotten half the people I’ve met!
Actually, the convention really started for us last night, when we arrived at our hostel, and found Atenea-Nike and ConstantWeader on the steps. They were off to have drinks with Sirroy and Yokospungeon (apologies for any names I’ve got wrong – I’ll go back through these entries and correct them when I’ve got more time to search the BC site for correct spellings and capitalisations), so we joined them. At the hotel bar, we found a happy band of bookcrossers already there – as well as Sirroy and Yoko, there was Elimsabhil (I’ve got no idea how to spell that!), and Wyando and several other German and Austrian bookcrossers. Lots of hugs and laughter, and pretty sparkles on Yoko’s finger.
I seem to be working backwards with this entry, so it must be time to describe our day in Bath yesterday. Miketroll, Otakuu and I caught the train from Cardiff, and met Lytteltonwitch at the station. She’d rented a car for the day, so we left our bags in the boot, and set off on foot to explore Bath (if you’ve ever seen how narrow the streets are in Bath, you’ll know why we didn’t take the car!). First stop had to be the Roman Baths. Totally incredible place – I don’t know if I can describe them, actually. Just the feeling of walking around a place that has been used for thousands of years (it was probably a sacred site even before the Romans got there), standing on the floor the Romans laid, was incredible. And such a mixture of the original Roman bits, and the various structures that have been built on top of it over the years. I could simultaneously imagine toga’d Romans bathing in the hot baths, and elegant 17th-century ladies taking the waters in the Pump Room above.
I could happily have stayed there all day, but time was short, so after a few hours we had to move on.
Next stop was Sally Lunn’s, where of course we ate some buns. In fact, we had a very nice lunch, courtesy of Miketroll, of toasted sandwiches on Sally Lunn buns, followed by apple pie with clotted cream. The buns were great, but I was a bit disappointed by the clotted cream – I’ve never had it before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was weird – almost like butter in texture, and with very little flavour. I think I’ll stick to ordinary whipped cream in future. But at least I can say I’ve tried it.
After lunch, we piled into the car, and drove up to Royal Crescent to have a look at a street so familiar from every costume drama ever produced by the BBC. Very impressive. I released a book in the gardens in front of the houses: Questions Kids Ask About Themselves, one of the books I picked up at the Perth meetup. Such a pity I didn’t have any Jane Austen with me!
Then it was off through the countryside to the Salisbury Plains, passing through picturesque little villages complete with thatched cottages (and even one manor house that we were sure had to be home to a Mr D’Arcy). Lytteltonwitch managed to negotiate the UK road rules without incident, and I managed to navigate us through a maze of A-roads to Stonehenge.
There’s an entrance fee to go into Stonehenge, but it’s actually right by the road, so you don’t have to pay to see it, you can just look through the wire-link fence. And the people who do pay can’t go right up to the stones, they have to stick to the path, so we didn’t feel we were missing any of the experience by being cheapskates We left a book about Stonehenge outside the visitor centre.
Stonehenge is… well, it’s Stonehenge. It’s so hard to imagine 5,000 years of history taking place while those stones have stood there. Utterly incredible. It’s smaller than I imagined, though – though that could just be the effect of all the fences around it diminishing it. But I’m so glad I’ve finally seen it.
Avebury, our next stop, I actually found more impressive – it’s a much bigger stone circle (in fact, several concentric stone circles), with a village parked among them. These stones you can walk right up to and touch. Now that was amazing!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long – we had to get back to Bath to return the hire car, and get Miketroll to his train. And of course we hit rush hour as we came into the city… Miketroll missed his train (but was able to catch another an hour later, so it wasn’t too bad), but we did manage to return the car just before the office shut for the night, and then we caught our own train, back to London.
I think that’s all I’ve got time to write for now (we’ve got to find some dinner before we go back to the convention for the official start), but I really will try and add more later, as well as upload some more photos. But rest assured, we’re having a wonderful time!