Spending Time

Travel can’t always be sunshine and uncomfortable beaches. We’ve returned to Cambridge and are having a quiet week. I’m teaching myself to crochet, with surprisingly swift success thanks to YouTube tutorials and enough time to actually focus on it without distractions. I’ve made a rectangle, circles, a square, a ball, and a tube and I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of stitches to make a range of shapes. Although travel is challenging on organisational levels I haven’t acquired a new skill in quite a long time. It’s been a very enjoyable exercise for my brain and it’s also a craft project I can take on a plane, which makes it far more convenient than knitting needles, which everyone knows are the tools of crafty terrorists (boom tish!).

I’ve been annoying people by posting photos of my crocheting on facebook, but since Mum doesn’t use facebook some people are just going to have to admire them twice.

They’re not perfect, but I couldn’t even do a single crochet stitch three days ago so not a bad effort!

Right now I’m just working on technique ¬†and getting my stitches all an even size, but I’m aiming to make a blanket out of squares and some amigurumi dolls.

Luke is sporadically working on videos, we’re both watching lots of Star Trek: The Next Generation (brought on by reading Wil Wheaton’s autobiography and we’re enjoying it enormously) and I’ve been drinking tea and enjoying it for the first time in my whole 37 years. Up to three cups a day! What with the crochet I think I might buy myself a rocking chair when I get home and be done.

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Here Comes The Planet 31 – England 05

Luke spends some time with his relatives in Dedham, visiting Flatford Mill and “Constable country”, where the painter John Constable created most of his famous works. He also attends the “Strawberry Fair” festival in Cambridge with Andrew.

Also, is there any food that comes on a stick which ISN’T awesome? We have yet to find any.

Friends and Food at the Cambridge Beer Festival

This past week has all been leading up to the big weekend of the CBF and Leigh and Nikki visiting from Edinburgh. I managed to rope Jen in at the last moment and Matt made it down too, so add to that two days of blazing sunshine we ended up having an absolutely brilliant weekend.

Nikki and Leigh arrived first. Luke and I picked them up from Stansted on Friday and took them back to Bar Hill briefly before catching a taxi into town to maximise our festival attendance. The festival was absolutely rammed with people and everyone was indoors due to the evening being freezing and wet. We ate, talked and jostled for space until it was 10:30 and we were all kicked out. We repaired back to Andrew’s for much drinking and talking.

The most difficult way to drink.

There’s something very cathartic about talking to people (and I’ll be honest, a girl) from home. Nikki and I drifted off to the kitchen, then the bedroom, then back to the loungeroom in a night of epic conversations and catching up. A lot of drinking took place too, which meant a rather slow start the next morning.

I ended up asking Jen to catch a taxi from the station while I dealt with my headache (and felt monumentally guilty) then, mostly recovered, we all headed into town to make the most of the afternoon in the best way possible.

Punting on the Cam – a classic Cambridge experience. Normally I think photos make events look more pleasant than they often are. This afternoon was not one of those times.

It was gorgeous, just as pretty as I remembered, though it was a shame we missed out on hiring a punt and doing it ourselves. We had a good laugh at some guys who’d punted themselves into a willow tree and couldn’t get out but were shouting out to everyone going past that it was completely intentional.

Next was the final day of the festival. The ground had dried out enough to sit on and then eventually we got a table and drank and chatted until the sun went down and the cold started to seep in.

Back at Andrew’s Matt had just arrived and we stayed up for a while eating pizza and sharing youtube clips but we were all rather tired and couldn’t manage another huge night.

Pancakes for breakfast the next morning before waving off Matt, Leigh and Nikki. Jen joined Andrew, Mum, Luke and I in a trip to Colchester to have an enormous and delicious roast lunch at Andrew’s parents’ place. It certainly brought back memories – I used to go back every Sunday with Andrew when I lived there and we’d gorge ourselves on the amazing food then lie on the couches all afternoon.

Three Yorkshire puddings each!

We sat in the sun after lunch and played with Ferris, the family dog. It was just so nice. If I could be guaranteed weather, food and (most of all) company this good every weekend I’d leave Australia in a second. I love a warm day and a cold night. It’s just a shame there’s so few of them here.

We left Luke at his uncle Mark’s place – coincidentally Mark lives about 5 minutes away from Andrew’s parents – and drove back to Cambridge. A quiet evening watching ‘Bridesmaids’ with Jen and Andrew before a relatively early night in preparation for the big drive the next day.

Cambridge Beer Festival.. this time with pictures!

After 2 days of loitering around and getting in for free, yesterday Luke and I finally got some work at the beer festival – and work we did. We started at about 2pm and worked through til nearly 10pm. We started off on the mead and wine counter, then did some glass washing, then when the festival reopened at 5 we were back to the mead counter but then Luke was taken away to serve beer after a bit.

The indoor area before opening. Over 200 ales on tap.

I had a great time with my lovely manager (actually the deputy but the real manager never showed up while I was there) Jo who was really friendly and thoughtful and organised. At the end of the night I told her what a great manager she’d been and she looked shocked ‘Really? What did I do?’ but it’s hard to put into words just how good it is working for someone who isn’t a raging ego maniac, a control-freak micro-manager or useless hippy – like half the people I’ve worked for at Rainbow (an Australian festival).

Working on the mead counter was very enjoyable. My knowledge of mead has gone from zero to better-than-most in one day. I tried nearly all the meads we sold. They ranged from very light to dark and there was a Christmas mead, which tasted exactly like Christmas, if Christmas was made of honey. There was also a blackcurrant mead, which wasn’t bad. We also sold perhaps 10 wines, all made in the UK. I didn’t even know wines could be made in this sort of climate.

The mead selection with the tiny wine (all English) fridges below. Uncorking wine was my least favourite job.

I think our stall was different to most, in that nearly everyone who came up hadn’t tried mead before and wanted advice. This was a bit daunting as I didn’t know anything, but all people really want is to try a couple and decide for themselves. Quite a lot of people were shocked or disgusted by how sweet it is and made funny faces, particularly a group of Japanese people.

A pork pie and a cheese plate. There was a terrific selection of cheeses – sadly not all were put out simultaneously. I’m still waiting to try a scotch egg. Toni – tried a Wensleydale with cranberries. Delicious!

I’ve saved up my tokens that we get for working and bought a few more in order to acquire a couple of bottles of mead for myself. I think there’ll be one to send home (at least!) and one to have here when a bunch of us get together in Edinburgh in July.

Walking in Cambridgeshire.

After a slow start this morning (due to spending too much time on the internet as per usual), Luke and I finally grabbed the new map and headed out on foot to explore and practice our navigation skills.

A charming country church.

We walked through little copses and along quiet country roads. We saw a number of cute little rabbits but no pheasants. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my favourite countryside game of pheasant spotting. Pretty much every time I’m in a car or on a train going through fields I’m looking for pheasants. Even though Andrew says they’re ‘dumb as a brick’ I think they’re extremely pretty – like birds of paradise, really. They also tend to stand in places where they’re easy to spot (as would I if I looked as good as them). Luke will tell you, should you ever ask, how ridiculously excited I get whenever I see one – and because I’m in a car or on a train there’s almost never time for anyone else to see them too so it’s also like they’re my secret. Which is all beside the point because I didn’t see any today. Boo.

So many trees covered in blossoms.

We initially headed for a nearby village called Dry Drayton but there was nowhere to get lunch so we headed to the next village, where the pub wasn’t serving meals and didn’t even have packets of chips for sale (criminal!) but the guy behind the bar gave us instructions to get to a shop half an hour away. So we walked. And walked. And walked and came across one of those stretches of road that goes on forever, has no footpaths and lots of traffic. We continued along for a while, alternately stepping in mud and almost being knocked into a ditch, before getting quite cranky. At that point, fortunately, we spotted a path that went off between some fields and was signposted as ‘Cambridge 3 miles’.

After a short stretch in which we were encouraged by the signage to stay on the path rather than get shot into a million pieces due to the paddocks on either side being a military firing range (and we could hear them firing), we came across the charming village of Coton. We stopped at the pub and ate some generous tapas portions before heading on to Cambridge and then catching the bus back to Bar Hill.

Blossom trees everywhere!

A not-too-shabby 17kms in total. It felt really, really good to walk a decent distance for the first time this trip.

Almost at the end!

Several lessons were learned today.

Firstly, pack food and water. Feeling compelled to buy whatever is on offer simply because there are no other options is less than ideal.

Secondly, stay on the map. When we took the directions from the guy at the pub they led us off the map and we both felt more anxious.

Thirdly, plan ahead if deciding to stop for a break – make sure the place will be open and serving food if that is what is planned.

Lastly, get off our lazy butts and leave the house before lunchtime. I used to get up before 6am to go walking… what’s happened to me?!

Possibly the biggest disappointment of the day – apparently we’ve missed the opportunity to see some Morris dancing. Shame.