Saturday, 25 September 2010

My Snailr Project Postcard has arrived!

Back in August this year, Anna Rickard, who writes a blog as Little.Red.Boat announced she was going to undertake a new project.  She is a British journalist who lives in San Francisco and had always dreamt of seeing more of the States via the medium of the railway.  And she was going to do it properly, a big loop of 7000 miles.

She also had the inspired idea of making it more interesting for herself (as if it wouldn't be interesting enough!) and her valiant readers by sending out real proper postcards to people with observations and comments about her journey written on them, rather than using the more modern and immediate communication channels of email and/or Twitter.  It's all explained properly here.

She asked for people to volunteer to receive the postcards and I immediately stuck my hand up like the big girly swot that I am, going 'ooh, ooh, Miss, choose me, Miss!!'.

I received my postcard this morning!

You can click on the pictures to embiggen them, but I'll tell you what it says.  It's postmarked 'Oakland CA 946' and dated '21 SEP 2010' (shouldn't that be SEP 21 2010?)

On the side with my address there's a very cute little teeny tiny photograph of the Plains and the text reads: "Some times, the Plains look majestic and the skies unending.  Most of the time, however, they were..."

On the side with the map on, around the second photo which has been damaged in transit so it looks like a pillar of ice or very precise tornado, the text continues: "...all much more like this --> Brown on brown on grey.  Grey on grey.  I am over the Plains."

Anna also created a website for the Snailr project which has more photos and snippets of information, including the rail crash.

And this is why blogging and the Internet in general is A Very Good Thing - it creates connections between complete strangers who absolutely get why you're doing something, when everyone else around you thinks you're a looney.

I think the Snailr project is a brilliant idea and I wish I'd thought of it...

Oh, the shame.....

How would you fare as a 1930s spouse?

As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Summer's last hurrah...

TLH and I have been ill, well, he's been more iller than I have.  We picked up a nasty little cold from my niece a couple of Sundays ago which has been hanging around like a bad smell.  I managed to shake mine off in a few days but it stalked TLH all week so we've been confined to the house so as not to spread the germs around, aren't we kind?

It's actually very fortunate that TLH and I do seem to like each other's company because, apart from the cats, we have no other distractions (if you discount the intertubes and the telly) to keep us from going for each other's throats.  And, um, thinking about it, perhaps the fact that we spend hours each day surfing the world through our respective laptop screens and not talking to each other much might just have something to do with it.

But even though our household is a beacon of harmonious existence, there does come a time when The Stircrazy raises its head.  Especially if you haven't been outside the front door for several days.  And the constant sneezing and coughing raises the getting stabby potential to eleventy.

The weather on Monday and Tuesday this week had been pretty nice, and we'd kept looking at it through the windows, commenting on what a lovely day it was, then doing nothing about it.  I decided on Tuesday afternoon Something Had To Be Done.  We'd been getting very bored and had started to throw ourselves around the house like a couple of emo-ridden teenagers.  We needed to get out of the house.  And a decent distance too, not just like to the nearest big town to sit around and drink coffee and look at things in shops we can't afford to buy.

I checked the weather report - tomorrow (i.e., Wednesday) was going to be gorgeous - blue sky, loads of sunshine, and temperatures in the mid 20s/about 73 deg F.  I decided we would go to Brighton.

I love Brighton.  Way back in the mists of time (or the early 80s), The Artist and I hung about with a large-ish group of friends who all (or almost all) suddenly decamped down to Brighton in about 1981 or so.  The Artist and I couldn't go for various reasons and stayed where we were.  I sometimes wonder what would have happened in my life if we had gone down with everyone else.  I imagine that I would be running a little gallery or teashop/gallery or teashop/gallery/artists' workshop down one of the Laines by now.   This is, however, balanced by the realisation that if I had gone to Brighton back then, I wouldn't have met TLH which is, frankly, an appalling thought.  But there's no denying the fact that Brighton is a very arty and creative enclave that has the benefit of the seaside and I think I would have been very happy there.  Which makes it even odder that I don't go down there very often - I think three times in the last 10 years or so?

Anyway, we decided we'd head there for lunch and a general potter about.  As it was midweek and the schools all went back a week or so ago, we figured that parking shouldn't be too much of a problem and we needn't rush - it only takes about an hour or so to drive there.  And the weather turned out to be absolutely gorgeous - a real shorts & sandals day. We've had no 'proper' summer holiday at all this year (nor last, come to think of it...) so we decided this would count.

The drive down was easy and without mishap, having decided to go cross country and through parts of West Sussex that I had never seen although the names were very familiar to me - Billingshurst, Coolham, Cowfold - and seeing signs for places like Warninglid and Dial Post - we passed some beautiful countryside, and then went down the main A23 into Brighton.  Passing through the two pylons on the A23 which announce that you're arriving in Brighton brought back memories of being taken, at a very, very young age, by my parents down to see the London to Brighton vintage car rally:

The 'outer suburbs' of Brighton - Preston Park, for example - has some huge houses that would cost millions around where I live and some glorious parks but it does get noticeably shabbier the closer to the centre of Brighton you get.  A bit like most large cities, I would imagine.

This shop name really amused TLH:

We found the most expensive car park on the planet (£4 an hour, people!) but figured it would have probably cost us more than that to get there on the train which would have taken twice as long to get there plus we were on our one-day summer holiday so it didn't matter how much it cost.

We wandered around for a while, went down to the seafront, then back up through the Laines before stopping to eat.  Bearing in mind that central Brighton is encrusted with little independent cafes and bistros and other places to eat, sadly we have no imagination so ended up at a faceless multichain food emporium where we knew what we would like and that we'd get served quickly (no, it wasn't a burger joint....)  Next time, we promised ourselves, we'd try somewhere with wooden floors and the menu on a blackboard but, for now, we just wanted to eat and go.

Plus I had done a bit of research before leaving home and had discovered that Brighton had a branch of Choccywoccydoodah.  The most godawful name for a chocolate shop, I grant you, but apparently home of the best milkshakes and most amazing cakes.  And I'd promised TLH a milkshake for pudding.  We went to find it.  It turns out there are 2 of them - one is the proper cake and chocolate sculpture shop, the other is more of a cafe with a boudoir attached (you can hire the boudoir for chocolate-sauce-bathing activities, I believe, or something similar - parties, anyway).  We found both.

The shop has the most extraordinary cakes in the window (please to be forgiving of the reflections):

(This is the best wedding cake I've ever seen)

 Cheeky chocolate gnome (this is specially for Katyboo's mum)

We wandered further and found the cafe/boudoir:

 Inside the cafe

 The 'boudoir'

Isn't it pretty?  As we walked in, a woman and her friend were just being served three small pots of chocolate sauce (white, milk and plain) with a fondue fork and a selection of things to dip in - strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, but we just wanted milkshakes.  There's a menu here in pdf format for you to drool over.  TLH had the vanilla one, but I went all out and had the double chocolate truffle one. It didn't look like much so I didn't take a picture - just a large domed plastic cup filled with thick brown liquid with a swirl of cream on the top but.....Oh.....My.....God.  It was so good I couldn't actually speak for a few minutes.  And thick?  You automatically get two straws to suck it up.  TLH said he thought his was probably the best vanilla milkshake he's ever had.

Each clutching our very own mouth orgasm in a cup, we headed off back to the beach.  I wanted to wander along the promenade a bit more before going onto the Pier.  We'd noticed large noticeboards along the prom with huge beautiful photographs on them.  Turns out it was the Natural History Museum's Wild Planet photographic exhibition that will be touring cities in the UK (although the website doesn't tell you where it's going next).  The photographs are some of the most amazing I've ever seen:

 I didn't take photos of the photos as that would be weird but I've found some of them online:

This last one is a monkey seeing its own image for the first time in a car wing mirror

So we strolled along the prom, prom, prom (sadly, there were no brass bands playing tiddley-om-pom-pom although there should have been) but we saw other stuff:

 Three juvenile seagulls with the burnt East Pier in the background.

 Young gulls have beautiful feather markings

There are benches along the prom, and I found this plaque to be really quite poignant - he was only 23 when he died.  Mind you, TLH speculated that he might, in fact, have been a dog (because all dogs love chips and doughnuts), which is a thought....*
 A very, very large prawn

 Taking it very easy indeed

The burnt East Pier.  As you can see, people were sunning themselves and there were a few brave/foolhardy souls actually in the water.

Yacht at sea

This is quite a large sculpture on the prom.  I've just looked it up on the 'tubes and it says that it was a gift from the Mayor of Naples.  Quite why, it doesn't say.  Apparently its official name is The Big Green Bagel but locally it's known as the Seasick Doughnut.  Although, knowing Brighton, there's bound to be a reference to gloryholes somewhere....

Shadows on the steps leading down onto the beach

This totally adorable little black dog was getting very excited about chasing a tennis ball, and was having THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE!!!!!

We sauntered off to the pier which was pretty busy but not oppressively so, and decided to walk up to the far end, where the heart-stopping funfair rides are, then come back through the amusement arcade bit in the middle:

Flagpole at the entrance to the pier

I believe this structure is called a groyne/groine and is something to do with sea defences? I just liked the colour of the sea....

Lovely Victorian railings on the pier

We were heading towards one of those ridiculous fairground rides where you're winched high up above the ground, then just dropped and left to swing like a pendulum.  Just looking at these pictures makes my feet go all tingly, like my shoes are about to fall off. You couldn't pay me enough money to get on this:

I couldn't take any more pictures of this as I was just shrieking and clutching at TLH's arm as they came swinging down past us.

There were more traditional funfair rides there, and I was most taken with the horses (and, um, big fierce mutant chicken?) on the carousel:


 There was also a large Ghost Train that looked suitably spooky:


By now it was heading towards 4pm and we thought we'd call it a day as we didn't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic going home, so we headed back through the amusement arcadey bit in the middle of the pier, which is actually prettier inside than my pictures make out, it's all seagreen and lavender coloured:

 And headed off back to the gold-plated car park, passing on our way -

 ...some pubs with interesting fronts...

 ...a garage door with extremely desirable ironwork hinges....

 ...and possibly the best sounding coffee and cake in the world.
We had sunshine all day and a fabulous time piddling around not doing much in Brighton, and I'm damn glad we did go because next morning we opened our curtains and it had turned into winter.

Remind me next year I really ought to go down there more often....

*PS.  Okay, I'm humbled now - I did a search on 'Adam Horn + Brighton' and it turns out he was a young lad who died of leukaemia but who raised money for the Teenage Cancer Trust: