Gosh, it's been a while. I would be completely unsurprised if any of you suspected I was dead. There were moments I thought the same thing. I wasn't, though. Mostly I was just drunk (ha. I'm all class).
I spent my last day in Dublin wandering around the city, seeing as many of the sights (or the free ones anyway) as I could. At around 4:30-ish I was pretty well spent, so I went back to my hostel and checked my facebook. You know, people are so ready to belittle social networks, believing them to replace actual interpersonal contact. But, thanks to my generation's inability to stay disconnected and a decent amount of good luck, when I went on one of the first things I saw was Joshua Harris' status proclaiming the fact he was in Dublin.
I met Joshua Harris when we were both back in Australia through my uni friend Courtney, and he's currently spending the year studying at a German university. He was funny and good value and we got on well, so when I saw that we were in the same city I immediately asked him if he wanted to meet up.
We went and grabbed a drink or two and I had dinner with his lovely family who were over in Europe to visit him and getting a little sight seeing done in the process. As it turned out we were on the same ferry out of Ireland the next morning, so we met up again around 8 the next morning, went to the on-ferry bar and treated ourselves to another pint before whiling away the trip playing card games (of both the alcoholic and - once the beer ran out - non-alcoholic persuasion).
It was wonderful seeing Josh. Although one of the best things about travelling is meeting new people, it's always refreshing to spend some time with someone with whom you already have context.
On Friday afternoon I arrived in a town in North Wales that has always played a big part in my life, despite my never having been there. Thirty-odd years ago my Mum went travelling and ended up living and working in a place called Glan Gwna (pronounced "Goona" for those of you not familiar with the Welsh fondness for consonants) just outside of Caenarfon ("Carnarvon"). My whole life I've heard stories of the time she spent there, and our house is decorated with drawings of the Black Boy pub, Caenarfon Castle and various objects bearing the symbol of the Welsh Dragon. And, of course, there were Anna and Susan. Anna had been one of mum's closest friends in Wales, and Susan is her sister.
Although mum only actually met Susan once while living in Caenarfon (at the time Susan was busy being married to the love of her life - a man who would later die in a completely tragic and unnecessary military plane crash in the Falklands and leave Susan sad for the rest of her life) they had later formed a good long-distance friendship. It was this relationship I called upon when booking my trip, and Susan was lovely enough to take me in for a weekend while I had the most incredibly surreal experience of actually visiting the places that had, until now, been the places of my imagination.
My first night in Caenarfon Susan took me out to dinner and showed me around the castle, telling me about the carriage that had plunged into the waters out the front and is said to still haunt the docklands (Britain is full of thousands of small ghost stories - I find them fascinating), before taking me for a pint at The Black Boy pub. The Black Boy was my mum's usual establishment in her heady Welsh youth, and it - much like Welsh wild-child Anna - has barely changed at all in the interim (unlike almost everything else).
I did the castle the next morning. Wow. Honestly, it's easy to be blase about castles in Britain, what with there being one in pretty much every other town. But Caenarfon castle was just breathtaking. According to the legend it was built as one of three castles demanded as a wedding present by a Welsh Princess before her marriage to a far-flung Lord. It reminded me of nothing more than the castle of Cair Paravel in the Narnia books. I lost two hours there without even realising, and had to rush out in time to go out to Mount Snowdon, just outside the town in the countryside.
I often think of Wales as the forgotten country of Britain, but it is an incredibly impressive country. The country is equal parts bleak and beautiful, and it's plain to see why the Welsh are so proud of their myths and legends - when you're staring into a black water lake surrounded by towering slate walls, they're so easy to believe.
I left Wales for Scotland on Sunday afternoon, stepping aboard my train with packed lunch in hand and feeling for al the world like a character from a traditional English story on her way to boarding school. Though happily for me there was no such institution waiting for me at the other end.
I went to Glasgow first, thinking of staying there for a few days with "family" before heading off to Edinburgh to catch a day or two of the Fringe Festival. In Glasgow I stayed with my step-uncle's brother and his family (my familial connections can be described as convoluted at best), and from the first night I just kind of fell in with his nieces and their social activities. Of course I'd been mildly concerned about initial akwardness - there being some kind of expectation that we would hang out and be nice to each other OR ELSE - but it ended up being delieriously easy. They made almost nothing of the fact I was a stranger, and I spent the next five nights casually drinking. And drinking. And drinking some more. They're not lying when they say Scots drink.
If anyone was to ask me what Scotland was like I would likely give them a completely false impression. Not only did I spend most of my time seeing the country out of the bottom of a bottle, on my first day in the city I came face to face with this:
BAGPIPERS! IN KILTS! Casual Scottish. And as if that wasn't perfect enough, I then saw a poster advertising this band:
Possibly the best band name EVAR. Seriously, I almost wanted to find out when and where they were playing just so later I could drop into casual conversation anecdotes about that time I saw the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Apparently it was only happening because there was a international piping championship that weekend. But I'd like to think these things happen all the time.
Also while I was in Glasgow I tried venison. And saw the TARDIS.
Anyway, I woke up on Friday morning and realised I had to be in Edinburgh that night to catch the overnight coach to London for work the next day (NB: NEVER. I slept for about 2 hours and had a strange man fall asleep on my shoulder. Ick). So I finally made my way across, and caught about 10 hours of the festival. Edinburgh was stuuuunning, and part of me wishes I'd gone there for longer (as planned. Ooops). But really I don't mind at all. It's so easy for me to get back up there, and the Festival will be on again next year.
And now I'm home again. And despite the rioting and my hellish 8-hour shift mere hours after dragging myself off the coach, it was good to be home. And even better when I got back from work and was greeted by the ecstatic screams of my kids, who spent the rest of the night falling all over themselves to tell me about their holiday, fighting who would sit next to me while we watched a family movie, and generally letting me know they missed me. It was a good two weeks.