half goon half god

Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page

New Forest

In Lancaster Trip on September 23, 2008 at 1:19 am

We went to the New Forest this weekend. It’s this region down in the south of England that was set up by William the Conqueror to hunt in back in the 11th Century, and it’s been the same ever since, all natural wilderness and little villages. It’s beautiful. The residents are allowed to let their horses and cattle roam around and graze, and they’re given right of way, so they just wander through the villages and cars have to stop for them.

New Forest
New Forest
New Forest
It’s pretty awesome to be able to have a drink outside a pub and have a horse come up to say hello. I did find the town of Burley to be sort of odd, though. They have two shops based on witchcraft. It’s only a small town. How do they support two?

It’s a really beautiful area, the New Forest. You can drive for five minutes and go from clifftops over beaches, to dense forest, to open scrubland plains. just beautiful.

New Forest
New Forest
Those rock formations off the coast in the first picture are the needles off the Isle of Wight. It was a really good view out there from Milford-on-Sea. Again, great weather. Incredibly sunny. Yesterday was the last day of it apparently, so it was perfect for getting about the place. Unfortunately that also meant that it was perfect for the New Forest Marathon. We were held up for a good half hour or so as they all straggled past. We’d only passed them about an hour beforehand and they were all in a big group, but that was only five minutes from the start. By this time, they were spread out for a mile or so, and there was no sign of the three in Spongebob Squarepants costumes we’d seen at the start.

So yeah, a very nice little part of the world. Pity about their weird accents.

We also stopped by Chichester to see some more of the extended family. The cathedral’s massive and is full of dead bishops.
Chichester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral

London (Days 3 & 4)

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2008 at 3:19 am

Day 3:

Went to the London Zoo! Took the tube to Camden and walked up there. Perfect weather. It’s been so sunny. I was there early-ish so for a good hour or so I wasn’t bugged by other people. Which meant I could take pictures of pigs and meerkats and giraffes!
London Zoo
London Zoo
London Zoo

And a tapir! It wasn’t nearly as interesting but they have a habit of looking funny.
London Zoo
It just seems so depressed.

They’ve got a really cool rainforest building. It’s full of tiny monkeys.
London Zoo
London Zoo

Sadly I didn’t get pics of a lot of the zoo because the camera’s battery died. But I did get a pic of the penguins. These are the little dudes that fascinated Russell Brand.
London Zoo

I also went to the National Gallery and got lost. It doesn’t help that every room has religious paintings in it and all have multiple entrances. I constantly went around in circles. Very beautiful works, but damn, did they really need all those images of Jesus?

Outside the Gallery, on the steps of Trafalgar Square, there was a massive squad (over a hundred or so) of football supporters. I don’t know who they were but they were in red and white. They were all chanting in something that didn’t sound English and were surrounded by police. They were attracting quite a crowd, including one homeless dude who ambled up, stared for a bit, then started chanting back at them.

Day 4:

Went to HMV to buy CDs (I needed new music for the new iPod touch I bought…) then took the train back to Leighton Buzzard. The walk to Euston Station was terrible. Everything felt heavier (probably because I had new things) and the heat just made it uncomfortable. I sure was glad to be on that train.

I think London was a success. It’s a beautiful city. It’s very busy but didn’t get too bad outside of the rush hours. And people don’t know how to walk without getting in other peoples’ way. But I really do like it. I just wish that they didn’t have so many H&M stores in Oxford St. The store’s good (I got my gloves from there, as well as my new bag), but do they need 3 stores in 3 minutes walking distance of each other? I tried using one as a waypoint and the other two baffled me. I ended up walking in the wrong direction for ten minutes because of that.

London (Days 1 & 2)

In Lancaster Trip on September 22, 2008 at 2:45 am

Day 1:

Got into London about 11. Going to wander about for a few days. After dumping my bags at the hostel I went down to British Museum. I must admit I expected it to be better. Sure, I’ve seen the Rosetta Stone and Cleopatra’s mummy and a bunch of other old stuff the Brits stole, but it seemed to be lacking something. Maybe it was the lack of stuffed animals. And quite frankly, there was too much pottery for my liking.

So with that done it was time to explore Oxford St and its surroundings. Most of the larger stores are confusing. They have odd layouts, with escalators hidden in corners or menswear departments hidden underground or doorways that seem to lead in three different directions. I got quite lost. But I was successful in finding leather gloves. And a bag. But still can’t find a decent jacket.

I also visited the Regent St Apple Store. Jesus, it’s big. Just tables full of iPods and Macs and iPhones, spread over two floors. And it’s constantly busy with people using the machines. Even at 8pm Tuesday night. Crazy.

Found a little restaurant/cafe place for dinner. Then came back to hostel. Fairly basic room but as I’m out all day, all I need is a bed and shower so it doesn’t matter.

Day 2:

Wandered all the way from Waterloo Station to the Tate Modern. Quite a nice walk. Was long, though. Probably could have found a closer station.
London

The Tate was very interesting. Some brilliant artwork. But some was just plain retarded, like the pile of bricks in one room, or the empty room with a shipping container in the corner. I watched people enter the room and they didn’t even realise it was a piece of art (allegedly). It just looked like a shipping container in the corner of a room.

Walked over to St Paul’s Cathedral after that. It’s rather large.
London

But there were roadworks all over the place around it so it was just unpleasant to be around. So I decided to go to the Natural History Museum instead. I managed to work out how to get the tube there and everything. Not so confusing at all, really.

The Natural History Museum is full of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are incredibly awesome. So if we use simple mathematics, that means the Natural History Museum is also awesome.
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum

Of course, the stuffed animals I was looking for the previous day were here. Obviously. They seemed kind of weird. I think it was the eyes. They don’t seem right.
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum

And the sheep looked way too smug for its own good.
Natural History Museum

The only problem was that it’s Fashion Week in London at the moment, and the main venue is a pavilion outside the Museum. So the place was full of snooty people in stupid clothes. Boo.

London

In Lancaster Trip on September 19, 2008 at 2:08 am

I’ve been in London the last few days. It’s brilliant. I’ve just been wandering about visiting things and exploring streets and seeing whether I could get lost on the Underground. So far I haven’t but I’ve come close. It’s mostly a matter of knowing whether you need to go north or south. It’s also been absolutely perfect for wandering. So sunny and warm! Normally I don’t like it when it’s this warm but really it’s not too bad.

I’ve sort of been writing stuff but got a bit lax last night because I was tired and haven’t done any today ut I’ll do it all when I get back on my computer (I’m in an internet cafe right now). I’ve also taken heaps of photos but that was cut short by the battery running out while I was taking pictures of meerkats at the London Zoo. Sadly, that not only meant no shots of gorillas , but also no shots of Russell Brand, who I bumped into while watching the penguins. First celebrity sighting! So glad it was Brand and not the Pussycat Dolls who were apparently just around the corner of the hostel yesterday. There’s a radio station there or something. You could hear the paparazzi shouting at them from a mile off, and the place was covered in photographers. Complete madness. But that’s why I’m here – I wanted to go somewhere where things happen and I suppose that was something.

Back to Bill’s tomorrow. We’re going down to the New Forest this weekend. And that’s about it until I hit Lancaster next Saturday. Feeling somewhat nervous about it at the moment, but that’s to be expected, I guess.

That’s it for the time being. Photos and words will appear at some point or another. There’s heaps of dinosaurs!

Jesse.

UK Travels

In Lancaster Trip on September 13, 2008 at 2:02 am

I can’t really be bothered writing anything right now, so I’ll just chuck photos around and write about stuff later.

These are from Woburn, where there’s a park with a whole bunch of deer in and a massive mansion that was involved in just about every major war that England was involved in:
Woburn
Woburn

And here’s some more of London – We went there again yesterday and even though it was cloudy, it didn’t rain (apart from just before we went on the Eye and got water all over the glass).
Red Phone Box
Cavalry Guard
London
London
London
London
London
London

And this is the M25:
M25

I’m going down to London for a few days next week so I’ll be visiting all the museums and galleries and such. Also, I’ll be staying in a backpacker hostel in the middle of the city. I don’t know what to expect but apparently it’s pretty good.

Oh, another thing – UK radio is weird. It sounds more processed than Australian radio. I don’t know what it is but their voices are odd and almost robotic, and they’re always backed by electronic swirls of sound, kind of like how some of the stations in Project Gotham or GTA are. And the best TV channel here is Dave. It’s all repeats of awesome TV shows like Top Gear, Q.I. with Stephen Fry and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. If only Spicks & Specks was more like Buzzcocks. It would be so great. I don’t know why we don’t get Q.I. It’s not like interesting facts can age. And who cares if we recognise the guests or not? They’re still hilarious.

That’s all for now. Time for some dinner and then down the pub.

England, Day 4

In Lancaster Trip on September 8, 2008 at 3:58 am

We went down to London today. Met up with Terry & Joy’s daughter Sharon and took the train from Hemel to Euston station, where we then took the underground to Embankment. It was only about a 30 minute trip. So quick. Quite an introduction to London, as that station’s just near the Thames, you can see the Eye just opposite, and the Houses of Parliament are just down the road.

London Eye
Houses of Parliament
Big Ben

The Houses are just incredible. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to build. It’s beautiful. The little awnings out the front cheapen it for me, though. They don’t seem to be in keeping with the overall design. I’d rather it was left as-is. Big Ben’s also pretty awesome. I didn’t realise it’s actually the name of the bell, not the tower. As for the Eye, well, it’s just a massive ferris wheel. Still, I reckon I’ll go on it at some point. It looks fun. It’s held up by some pretty big cables. It’s also pretty quiet, which surprised me. Machinery that big ought to make some noise. There’s a smaller temporary (like the Eye was meant to be) wheel over in Greenwich that creaks and groans. Not quite the same effect.

We took the sightseeing bus through the city to St Paul’s Cathedral. Jesus, it’s big. Even the door is massive. And like a lot of things seem to be around here, it’s got gold all over it. More buildings and statues should have golden bits, I reckon. It adds a little class.

St Paul's
Yeah, that's me up there. Sharon, too. The place is BIG.
St Paul's

The Tower Bridge is also quite a structure. It’s huge. I’m still coming to terms with how huge these buildings are. If they’re not ancient, they’re huge. And sometimes both. Apparently a bus back in the 1950s was driving across the bridge when it started opening, so instead of reversing, the driver just jumped the gap like a stuntman. How cool.

Tower Bridge
Tower of London
Joy & Terry

The Tower of London is also cool. It’s massive (there we go again) and old (ditto) and made of stone (yup). It was also cold and wet. It just happened to be raining today. Who’d have thought it? Anyway, we didn’t go in because it was terribly busy. It smelt nice outside, though. There was a place selling fish & chips.

The cruise down the river was interesting. I didn’t realise how much of the riverside’s been delevoped into apartments. Which is just about all of it. There are some businesses and pubs along the way, but most is residential now. Doesn’t look like a bad place to live, anyway. Neither is the area around Hyde Park or Belgravia. I could live there for sure. Only a few million (£) a year. No problem. Anyway, the view from the river was good. Saw the entrance to the canal that runs through Hemel, too. The interesting thing here is that the actual business centre is a fair way away from the city centre. I don’t know how that developed but it has. In any case, it’s great, because it means the beautiful old buildings aren’t totally overwhelmed by big glass office towers. There’s new buildings in the old areas, not all of them very nice looking, but at least they don’t ruin things. Even Piccadilly Circus seems to work, because the big flashy advertising is contained to one corner. Pity that none of the ads are for British companies. Ah well.

Piccadilly Circus

Today was mostly touristy sightseeing but it’s given me some idea of where things are. I think I’ll need to draw up some kind of list as to what I want to see and what’s located where, so I make it easier to get to where I want. But then again, I like wandering until I get lost, so I might not. Who knows! All I know is that the city’s not so confusing as I imagined, it’s definitely not as dirty as I expected – the air’s quite clean and there isn’t shit all over the place, and it seems pretty easy to get around. It is, however, as awesome as I expected. I can’t wait to get back (Thursday. Hurrah!).

England, Day 3

In Lancaster Trip on September 8, 2008 at 3:47 am

Met Tom (a cousin) and his friends and went out for a few games of pool, then went out to St Alban’s Cathedral. The place is incredible. Such beautiful architecture. Old, too – the shrine of St Alban is supposed to have been visited for over 1700 years, and the Quire’s been prayed at since 1077. I’m still trying to get my head around just how ancient these places are.

St Alban's
St Alban's
St Alban's
St Alban's

We also wandered through the town by the cathedral – though some of the town’s been affected (like most of the place) by modernisation, there’s still some brilliant Tudor-era buildings in existence. I like how the wood structure’s all crooked, and the way the second floor juts out. I don’t know why it’s so, though.

Berkhamsted

Finally, from there we visited the Berkhamsted Castle ruins. It’s basically just a field with some crumbling stone walls now, but it was once a massive stone castle from Norman times, with a moat and all. The walls are quite impressive, even while mostly gone. They’re just so thick. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to build.

Berkhamsted Castle

And now I’m going to read the Times. I’m trying to work out what’s a decent paper. So far I’ve read the Times and the Mirror. The Times is quite good, very in-depth articles, more like what you’d find in a journal than a newspaper, but the Mirror’s very gossipy, all stories with big colour photos about pop stars or football players. As for papers I haven’t read yet, all I know is that the Sun has the page 3 girl, and the Daily Mail has free CDs from the 1980s with it starting from tomorrow. So they all have their good points I guess? Probably not.

England, Day 2

In Lancaster Trip on September 8, 2008 at 3:42 am

Headed off to Hemel Hempstead today. Stopped off first at Bill’s allottment – he’s got a whole bunch of veggies growing there, as well as raspberries, blackberries and apples. Tried the raspberries. They’re brilliant. It’s really nice out there, very quiet. And so green.

From there we went through a national park – I forget the name – that was part of Henry VIII’s hunting grounds. It’s so dense in there. And again, so green. There’s also a whole heap of deer. I tried taking a photo of the deer but it was just too dark.

One thing I’ve noticed is the incredibly narrow roads. There’s not much room at all for cars to pass, and barely any room on the sides to pull over, either. It’s all rather precarious. That’s what you get when they insist on building roads before cars exist.

Stopped in at a pub by the canal called the Crystal Palace for lunch. The girl at the bar said she’s emigrating out to Brisbane, but was scared of spiders and snakes. We tried convincing her that they’re not really an issue, but she didn’t seem so sure. But then, she also didn’t believe that we eat kangaroos, and when Bill mentioned that there’s only one poisonous spider in New Zealand, she understood that as one single spider who’s been roaming the country and killing people for the past eighty years. So that may explain things. I can’t remember what the beer we had was called but a couple of pints of it and some shepherd’s pie and chips did me alright.

Canal

After another bit of a drive we came to another pub, The Three Horseshoes, also on the canal. But this one’s from 1535. That’s insanely old. We had another pint (Black Sheep Bitter this time) and watched the bridge open to let a barge through. It’s a swinging bridge, so instead of raising, it turned around to the side of the canal. I don’t know how old it is. It’s probably pretty old.

Winkwell
Bill

After that we finally got to Hemel. We drove through to where Mum and her family lived before they moved to Australia. Mum’s old school’s still there, as is the daisy field and her house. It’s still got a garden out the front. Nobody seems to be able to park off the street, so driving through the towns involves plenty of ducking in between parked cars to let others through, or just driving on the wrong side of the road the entire time.
Roseheath
Roseheath
Hemel Hempstead (Daisy Field)
Hemel Hempstead (Daisy Field)

England, Day 1

In Lancaster Trip on September 8, 2008 at 3:35 am

After a long, uncomfortable, sleepless flight from Singapore, in which we were served endless cups of water and juice and not left to sleep for any more than twenty minutes, I finally touched down at 6am.

Getting out was horrendous. You go through endless corridors, some with travelators, soe without, until you get to passport control. And then line up for ages to have your passport stamped. Strangely enough, I got through passport control remarkably quickly. They didn’t even check to see that I’m leaving. They also didn’t check my luggage. But whatever time I gained, I lost it by not recognising my bag on the carousel and had to wait a while for it to come back around.

The bus to Hemel was uneventful. Couldn’t see anything for the hedges. But I did notice that there’s more Minis and VWs here than there are back home. Guess that makes a lot of sense.

I was picked up at the bus station by Bill, and we drove to Leighton Buzzard. It’s a smallish town, but hold some pretty ancient buildings – th church dates back to the 1100s and its stonework has graffiti from the 14th Century (something to do with semolina bread). Amazing.

View from my room 

We had lunch in the pub opposite. I figured that seeing as I’m in England I might as well eat like them, so had egg, bacon and fried bread with a few pints of bitter. It wasn’t bad.

I was fairly tired that night, as I’d only had about four hours sleep over two days. After hitting another pub (one of Bill’s regulars) I crashed. But only after writing all of this down. So that’s probably why there’s a few plot holes.

Apologies

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2008 at 5:56 am

Apologies for not updating the blog for a few days. Basically, I haven’t had real acces to the net. For some weird reason I can’t seem to connect to the wireless network at Bill’s, and I wasn’t sure of what sort of setup there was at the place I’m at now, so haven’t really tried. Anyway, it’s just been so busy.

Never fear, as I’ve been diligently documenting my travels each night. It’s been incredible so far. Blogs (and photos) soon!

Jesse.