Over a month without a diary entry, I guess I have some catching up to do.
On my birthday weekend I drove down to Dad’s, and he took me out for a meal at a pleasant pub in Tillingham. A good time was had by all and I got some good loot, including a photo-mosaic jigsaw, a globe, some books and a millennium bug.
On the Sunday I drove over to Mum’s, arriving just in time for the start of the Spanish Grand Prix, accompanied by beer, cockles, smoked salmon, and other munchies. After the race I opened more presents (Jack Daniels, jeans, more books), then sat down to a sunday roast.
The rest of that week I spent finishing off the small bedroom, which is now a nice sunny yellow colour. I still have to do the woodwork, but it’s already looking much better.
Jen arrived on the Friday, accompanied by Lisa, after what sounded like a very turbulent flight. Lisa headed off with Davey and I took Jen home. The plan was for Davey and Lisa to join us the following evening, with Alex, for a meal which I had booked at a local restaurant. However things didn’t quite turn out that way…
Davey and Lisa arrived during Saturday afternoon, and I was sent off to pick up Alex. On the way back from Alex’s house, he said he’d forgotten his wallet, so we drove back for him to get it. When we arrived back at my house, Jen ushered me into the living room, where I was greeted by a bunch of people yelling ‘Suprise!’ and taking photos. Jen had spent the previous 3 months planning a surprise birthday party for me, complete with 30th balloons, and Star Wars party hats, plates, napkins and blowy things. I was greeted by Jim, Lynne (who had baked a terrific South Park birthday cake), Jen from Australia, Cockerz Dave, Gav, Will, Davey and Lisa, with Jen and Alex standing rearguard in case I bolted for the door.
Highlights of the party include various poses for the lambicam, Alex showing off his DJ skills with a specially mixed CD, Jen and Will cooking stuff (and Will breaking my oven), and Dave falling asleep and getting a lovely make over from someone who shall remain nameless.
More good loot too of course, including a can of spam (recipe for Spam Carbonara appearing soon on a website near you), a bounding kangaroo (guess who that was from…), an R2D2 3D jigsaw from Jen, some R2D2 soap, a Discworld luggage ornament, a globe paperweight, and the latest Crash Test Dummies CD.
After the excitement of a great party, it was back to work routine for the rest of the week, but with the big bonus of having Jen to come home to. A meeting had been arranged in Cardiff for Monday, so I took Jen down with me and she went sight-seeing while I was stuck in a conference room. That evening we went out for a nice Portugese meal, although Kev suffered from a particularly spicy steak!
The biggest excitement of the week, other than the party, was a letter which arrived on Tuesday, telling me that Quebec had accepted my application. Read more about that on my Immigration page.
The next weekend we were off to Davey’s for a BBQ, followed by another BBQ at Dad’s. We arrived late at Davey’s after a fairly unpleasant journey, and were greeted by almost the same group of people, with the addition of Kel, and later ‘littleflower’ Jen and her friend. Jen and Alex had a little bit too much to drink and ended up in a bedroom, hugging buckets, with Kel baby-sitting. The rest of us had a great time though!
Dad’s BBQ was a little more sedate, even though Tim and Suzy were there with their tribe of children, along with Manda, Hayley and Liz. After most people had left to head back to Ipswich, we spent the rest of the evening playing silly games with varying degrees of success.
I had the rest of last week off, so we were heading up to Scotland for a holiday. Before that though we dropped in on Jen’s friends Neal and James in Golder’s Green for a pleasant lunch, and lots of chat about greeting card sales.
After a night spent back at home, we headed North, stopping at Chester for lunch before heading up the coast passing through Southport, and stopping at Blackpool for a wander around the tacky amusements, along the tacky pier, around the tacky souvenir shops, stopping for tea in a tacky tea bar, and walking out onto the not so tacky beach (which nobody else seemed to be interested in using). Finally we went for a quick go on the log flume (Jen’s favourite) before heading up the coast a little further to Morecambe.
Bill Bryson visited Morecambe in his book Notes From a Small Island, and I certainly agree with him that it is a much more pleasant resort compared to Blackpool, although he was a little too generous when describing the Midland Hotel (I’m sure it was nice once…). The promenade is very well maintained, and virtually devoid of people. The views across Morecambe bay are outstanding, even when it’s grey and rainy. The beach isn’t really a beach though, just mud.
After a night in a pleasant room with a sea view at the Clifton Hotel, we carried on North, heading through the Lake District, along Windemere and Ullswater. We stopped at Bowness on Windemere for a wander around the various Beatrix Potter shops. It was raining, but not heavily, and rain was something we would have to become used to over the next few days..
That evening we arrived in Glasgow, and after driving around the city centre for at least an hour we gave up looking for bed and breakfast establishments and headed for a hotel. After checking in to a reasonable priced hotel, we went out for a meal at DiMaggio’s, an American Italian restaurant outside the Museum of Modern Art, had a pleasant meal, and then opted for an early night.
The next morning, before heading out of Glasgow, we went to the Burrell Collection. This is a museum in the middle of Pollock Country Park to the south of central Glasgow. The exhibits were all donated in 1944 by the millionaire shipowner Sir William Burrell, who amassed around 8000 items over 80 years of his life. The collection includes paintings, tapestries, furniture, architectural features, armour and weaponry, sculptures, and many other artifacts. As with many Glasgow museums, admission is free, and I would certainly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.
We headed out of Glasgow, up towards Fort William and then along the Road To The Isles to Mallaig, a small town on the mainland coast, just south of the Isle of Skye, where a ferry runs between the mainland and the island. We arrived at 6PM and discovered that the last ferry had left, so went in search of a place to spend the night. We found the Marine Hotel, which offered us their last room. This turned out to be a family room, and very comfortable. We wandered around the village for a bit, but soon realised that the Marine Hotel was about the only place to get something decent to eat. We had a fresh seafood meal there, and went to bed.
After rushing around eating breakfast and getting ready the next morning, we arrived at the ferry terminal to see the first ferry of the day just closing it’s doors. We had to wait an hour for the next one, and it was raining, so we sat in the car listening to the radio.
The actual crossing only takes about 15 minutes, so no sooner had we boarded and it was time to get off again. About a mile from the ferry terminal on Skye is the Donald Clan Visitor’s Centre, where we spent a good few hours wandering around the gardens, visiting the museum, and perusing the gift shop. It’s a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon, and well worth the 3.80UKP admission fee.
We decided to head up to Portree, which is the biggest town on Skye, although it’s still only village sized. After a brief wander, we found The Pink Guest House, where we took the last room, another family room, and very pleasant and comfortable. Surprisingly enough, we discovered an Indian restaurant hiding on a back street of Portree, and decided to eat there. It was a very enjoyable meal, tinged with a slight feeling of guilt for not supporting the local fishing trade.
On our last day in Skye, we drove to Dunvegan Castle, home of the local clan Macleod. The castle looked a little disappointing from the outside, so we didn’t bother heading inside, but instead we took advantage of a boat trip to see the local seal colony. There are around 300 seals living on the shores of Dunvegan Castle, and we saw quite a few of them. From there we headed to the northern coast of the island, all the way around the top and back down to Portree, before crossing the toll bridge back to mainland Scotland.
Although it was a particularly gruelling drive, I managed to drive all the way back to Shrewsbury that night, arriving home at about 2AM, so we had a pleasant Sunday at home before Jen headed back to Canada.
I had a fantastic time while Jen was here. The parties were excellent fun, and the trip to Scotland, despite being very wet, was really relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable. Jen went back to Canada on Monday, so I’m just looking forward to the next visit now.