Sorry I haven’t been as loquacious as usual.

I’m suffering from a combination of writer’s block – or “blogstipation”, according to this “official” glossary – and laziness.

While I hit my head against the wall to clear out the gunk …

Check it. Courtesy of British duo Nizlopi. Soooo cute!

(I’d paste the video here, but You Tube isn’t agreeing with me. Boo-urns.)

Sound Off: Office Slobbiness

    On my last day as fill-in for another job in our office, the people I was working for this week had this yearly meeting to plan their vision for the fall.I was entrusted with the job of overseeing the set-up of the lounge in which they were having this meeting — making sure they had their flipcharts on easels with markers, a portable CD player should they need it, and enough tables, chairs, food, whatever.

    Fine. That went smoothly enough.

    At day’s end, I had to go upstairs to retrieve a few things and lay down a tablecloth as a favour to someone else, whose show was having a similar meeting the following day.

    I get up there, open the door to the lounge and round the corner.

    Good. GOD. WHAT a sty!

    There was leftover fruit from an earlier spread, stuck to the table. Coffee rings. Discarded water, juice bottles, pens. I even found an empty Starbucks cup (I’m guessing it was the “grande” size – I dunno, I don’t drink Starbucks or coffee, period) under one of the armchairs! It’s not like there wasn’t a trash can – it was in the middle of the room. And NOT even full!

    Believe me, I’m far from being the cleanest person in the world. I know things can get a bit messy at all-day meetings. I even know that yes, in our office building, we have cleaners that come in to tidy up after us.

    But just lemme hop up on the old soapbox for a second.

    On my favourite TV show, there’s a character – a villain, if you will – who’s had his hand hacked off with an axe, by another character.

    In the space of three episodes, he’s somehow managed to:

  • wake up from the shock that’s knocked him out
  • wrap his stumpy, bleeding arm and leave the woodshed in which he was amputated
  • stagger through the woods
  • find himself a cooler in which to place – and chill – his severed hand
  • lope off with said cooler for medical help, and had to settled for a veterinarian
  • threatened aforementioned vet by screwdriver to sew on the hand, without anaesthetic
  • did NOT pass out, but vomit after his hand was re-attached
  • kill the veterinarian by lethal injection and take his clothes
  • dye his hair with peroxide
  • take the dead vet’s SUV and is currently driving to Utah

… all with the use of ONE. HAND.

So tell me this: if a fictional criminal can do all that, with all that loss of blood, and LIVE, how is it that, in a room full of grown adults — university-educated professionals — there’s NO ONE that could pick up just a tiny bit after themselves?

Just sayin’.

Pluto, 1930 – 2006. Kinda.

Pluto, we hardly knew ye!

The little wannabe astrono-nerd in me couldn’t help but blink and choke up a little when I read this this afternoon. (Well, maybe just clear my throat a bit.)

Talk about undoing some 20 years of learning and memorization!

But, for real. Despite the runty, ice-cold exterior and wobbly, weird orbit, you must’ve known it was only a matter of time before us big eggheads punted you over to the dwarf planet table.

Imagine – if you didn’t have all those other particles floatin’ around, you might’ve had, what, another five, 10 years or so?

Kinda sucks for your discoverer’s widow, too.

It was a good run, though. Have fun with the other dwarf planets. And remember – in this big interplanetary space park, you’re the big dog now. Play nice! Hugs.

Ah, Edinburgh!

Hey kids,

So, after being about four days behind, here I am in Edinburgh, during the International Festival, Fringe Festival, and every other festival known to man right now.

I got here in one piece (and unwittingly managed to buy first-class tickets for the train rides up – like that’ll ever happen again), and have been staying with my friend Cindy and her cool flatmates, Brad and Lindsay, at their place just off Leith Walk.

For you film-saavy folks, Leith is the same strip that features prominently in the movie Trainspotting (says Cindy). In real life, Leith is apparently dodgy enough that any friend of Cindy or Lindsay’s (well, maybe just a few) who find out they might be walking home after a night on the town immediately orders them into a cab, rather than walk. We were out last night, and (touch wood) we were just fine.

It’s been a pretty lazy stay in Edinburgh so far. I spent the first couple of days just sleeping in, loafing, and then only really doing one tourist attraction a day. On Monday, it was Edinburgh Castle. Tuesday, I dragged Lindsay and Cindy on a tour of the new Scottish Parliament.

Tuesday night, we went club-hopping. Cindy – who never drinks – had a couple and it was, well, interesting. We made three stops. The first was to this place called Opal Lounge, where apparently Princes William and Harry have frequented when they are in town. Second stop was the biggest, tackiest meat market in town, (almost aptly) called Espionage, which could give Joker here in Toronto a run for its money. The last – and briefest – visit was at this place called Frankenstein Pub, which was almost dead, save for about 25 people in the place. It was thoroughly cheesy, but fun nonetheless.

Today was slightly better. Cindy and I went to the Writers’ Museum, where I took in exhibits on Robert Louis Stevenson (didn’t know he was Scottish!), Sir Walter Scott, who has tonnes of books and poetry to his credit, and a huge hulking monument built to him in downtown Edinburgh (near the train station), and the man whose birthday I share (which is celebrated by Scots here and around the world), Robert Burns. It was good.

Then I went over to the Royal Museum. Meh. I spent way too much time among the stuffed animals in the BioDome, and not enough time in the upper levels. And I ran out of time, so I couldn’t go to the adjoining Museum of Scotland. I might try doing that tomorrow.

This evening, I managed to go on the Real Mary King’s Close tour (yay!), which showed what life was like before part of the old town got demolished and built over. This, I recommend. Partly cheesy, but very infomative.

It’s getting late here, so I should go to bed if I’m going to cram stuff in on my last day in town. I’m not sure when I’ll write next, but it’ll most likely be when I’m back in Toronto. Oh, God. I am SO not looking forward to Friday.

The Midlands: The Abridged Tour

My short weekend in the Midlands was drastically different (and way more quiet) than my previous days in London. And green. I mean, there are green, lush areas in Ontario, and I’m sure in other parts of Canada. But I don’t know if they really hold a candle to the lush, rolling hills of the English countryside. It’s a bit surreal, really.

I also must say, Sabrina and her parents were so good to me – too good, actually. They more than made me feel at home and spoiled me more than I should have been. I owe them big time and hope I can find some way to repay them for the kindness and hospitality they showed me over the two days.

But here we go:

Saturday: After a good night’s sleep, Sabrina and I set out for Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s certainly pretty and picturesque, but lemme tell ya, the Bard’s Country ain’t exactly cheap, either. We went to the tourist information centre to try and find a map, only to find out there were only two types: the ones for 80p, and the ones for 1.25 GBP. Who knew trying not to get lost was so expensive?

We skipped the maps and decided instead to do one of those hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Not bad. We had one of those plug-in guides, so we were trying to follow along as the bus made its way along those narrow streets. First stop: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. How pretty. The garden was enormous and filled with all sorts of plants. They also had staff who gave a brief talk about the history of the cottage in Anne’s day and throughout the ages when her relatives took care of it.

We then hopped back on the bus, where we had an actual live tour guide explain things about life in Tudor times as we whizzed past some countryside scenery (and leaned to the right to avoid being whacked in the heads by wayward branches).

Back in town, I went over to Shakespeare’s birthplace, which actually had an adjoining museum about his life. That was informative, but it was kind of disappointing, only because the room where Shakespeare was apparently born was one of the last rooms I saw before I left the building. I have to say though, Anne Hathaway’s cottage was relatively more interesting.

Sunday: Sabrina took me to her old elementary school, which looked a bit like something out of Harry Potter. She then took me into “downtown” Leek, where we walked around and she showed me her mother’s shop (which is named after her older sister, Sophie). It’s the cutest town, but I’m sure a lot of towns in this part of the country all look picture-pretty.

We then drove to Buxton, an ancient spa town founded in Roman times. On the way we passed Flash, which Sabrina told me was the highest point in the U.K. (I’ve read it’s the highest village. If someone can verify that for me, please do). In any case, the scenery on the drive up was breathtaking.

A half-hour later we were in Buxton. Apart from the lovely Victorian architecture and beautiful gardens, another big draw is St. Ann’s Well, which has natural spring water flowing from its small fountain. I took a couple swigs, and it’s (a) unbelievably refreshing, but (b) also quite warm. Turns out the water is – and has always been – a balmy 27.5 degrees Celsius. Buxton also profits from this, as it also has its own mineral water company which distributes worldwide.

We could only spend a couple of hours here, as I left later on in the afternoon for Edinburgh. But we managed to have some tea and scones at a small tea room in town, which capped off a nice weekend.

But it was off to Edinburgh, and trying to cram in as much as possible during the last four days of vacation …

Stoke-on-Trent, Concluded.

When you last read this blog, I (your twit of a heroine) was waiting for my friend and her parents to come collect me from Macclesfield train station, after missing my actual stop.

I just realized I didn’t have my wallet. A frantic search of my hand bag and person a few moments later confirmed it. Nice.

The last place I remembered having it was the phone booth, so I went back out there and checked. Not in sight. I suddenly knew what it felt like to be one of those people in those credit card commercials who go on vacation and lose everything.

I thought I was going to start shitting bricks (pardon the expression). I was looking around, in front of me and behind me, trying to find anyone who looked suspicious enough to swipe a wallet with money and credit cards. I saw this young guy in a gray hooded sweatshirt with a load of grocery bags and immediately my mind started jumping to conclusions. I was like, Oh my God, some yob probably swiped my wallet to buy food and will probably run up my credit card. I’m screwed!

I did snap out of it, went to the ticket wicket and asked them if they had gotten a wallet and daybook turned in. They said to go to the customer service office. I got there, to find an older man just chatting away with the men inside the office. When he finally moved enough for me to pop my head around his shoulder, there they were. My daybook and wallet. Thank. God.

I thanked the man at the office desk profusely for his help, and apologized for being such a twit. I also found out that he thought I’d gotten on the train back to Stoke-on-Trent and put out an announcement for me back there. Hoo, boy.

Things were sorted out in the end. My friend’s parents — bless them, they’re the best! — elected to come and pick me up from the station, since it would take an hour for my friend to drive from Stoke all the way to where I was, and they took me back to their place, where I did eventually see my friend.

The mini-nightmare was finally over. It also made me kind of paranoid, as I vowed I wouldn’t let the same thing happen to me when I finally headed up to Edinburgh on Sunday.

Aimed for Stoke-on-Trent. Kinda missed.

So my trek northwards began Friday afternoon … managed to lug my suitcase onto the tube and up to Euston train station, one of a number of railway hubs in the city.

Got my ticket printed, chilled for a few minutes, and then boarded the right train at the right time. So far, success.

It was at my stop that the trouble began. I noticed the train start to slow down and seeing the signs for Stoke-on-Trent, so I jumped up and began the slightly arduous task of trying to wrestle my suitcase from its hold behind my seat. By the time I got it upright and was making my way to my seat to get my backpack, the train had stopped and passengers were getting on.

It was a nightmare. I couldn’t budge, so I had to stand at my seat, blocked in by my suitcase, while other people passed. Finally, the coast was clear, and as I started lugging my stuff down the tiny, tiny aisle, I got my first lesson about Virgin Trains.

Seasoned travellers, please skip this part, because you all know far better than me. But for anyone ever planning on coming to the U.K. and making part of your trip overland: Virgin Trains is NOT like VIA Rail. The train doesn’t stop and wait to make sure everyone has boarded or gotten off, that has to. Virgin’s Pendolino trains run on a tight schedule, so tight that sometimes, some of its scheduled trains may actually stop longer than expected because they’re ahead of schedule.

I found this out the hard way. The train probably stopped for a total of maybe three or four minutes, tops. As soon as I finally made my way towards the doors to exit, the train slowly started pulling out of the station.

“No!” I said to myself as I saw the train moving out. “No! No! Shit! No! Shit! SHIT!”

It was too late though. My friend Sabrina, who was waiting for me on the other side, would have seen people get off, and then would watch as yet another train pulled in a short time later, with no me in sight.

In the meantime, panicked and upset, I first went to find the station manager to explain what had happened to me and which stop I could get off at next to get back on track (so to speak). Went up and down the entire train (I had stashed my stuff on a non-reserved seat in my car). No manager in site. I returned to my “new” seat near the door, very frustrated.

I asked a nearby passenger if she’d seen the manager, and if she knew which station was coming up next. She said no to neither. But bless her heart, she lent me her mobile to try and call and text my friend. No luck, but it was the gesture that counted.

Turns out the next station was Macclesfield, which was about 15 minutes away from Stoke-on-Trent. I stood in the little area between cars with all my gear, and as soon as the train stopped, I was off there like a hobo off a freight car. I went up to the first train staff member I found and explained my predicament. He told me that there was another train going back to Stoke-on-Trent in about 20 minutes and that I had to go to the opposite platform across from us, via elevator.

Great. So I went up and over. On the other side, I looked for a payphone. No phones. Because they were on the way out. On the other side of the platform from which I came. Twit.

So back up and over I went, through the ticket/waiting area, outside where cars waited to pick up people. The phones were on the other side. I made a call to Sabrina, but I got a message saying her phone was off. I called her house and talked to her mom, who told me to stay put.

THEN my that’s when my second scatter-brained nightmare of the day took place. After making my calls, I went back into the waiting area and sat down, trying to chill out for a few minutes. After what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes later, I jumped up with a start.

My wallet!