Today I was out and about shopping on my day off. Whilst initiating a quest for a cheap light source that might restore life to my ailing tomato plant, I was thinking about Samhain and just how unenthused I was about it. Again, it'll be a simple affair. I'll be working that evening, so attending an open ceremony is out. I'm also just not finding the enthusiasm to buy and carve a pumpkin. Costuming, again, is out due to lack of funds to do something serious. In fact, I've just been feeling really blah about the whole holiday, and getting kinda down as a result.
Trying to knock myself out of that funk, I decided I would try and make the best of things and buy something Halloweeny to put on my desk at work, as well as some treats to hand out. Thinking along the lines of getting a wee jack'o'lantern and an artificial candle to go in it, I came across this little guy:
I handpicked him out of a bunch of others. When I finally got a hold of some batteries and got him to light up, I must admit, my smile did, too. :)
Edit: I just HAD to go back today and get the green one, so now I have two. *very silly grin*
Of course, that may not have been entirely my fault; I have reason to suspect that my phone isn't ringing as it should be. I shall have to actually test it, which means putting money on my pay-as-you-go. Blech. A call has to go to tech support anyhow, as I'm getting long distance charges on calls that should've been free as they should've gone through wi-fi. Grrrr....
The suckage continued as my back was still too buggered to go to martial arts class, but, if given lemons, I attempted to make lemon juice and finally made it to the Farmer's Market. At first i was still pretty glum about the whole morning thus far and I wasn't really taking in any of the energetic atmosphere of the market fair. As I cast further and further about for the pagan friendly stand that karibu had told me about, but wasn't finding, I began thinking that I was going to leave the market with nothing in hand save more disappointment. Fortunately, I did finally find the stand in the furthest portion of the mall and made very pleasant acquaintance with the proprietress who was not only able to offer a variety of pagan oriented offerings (I purchased some incence, essential oil, and an oil burner with pentacle designs), but also provide some muchly desired information on local pagan associations, as well as the current whereabouts of a pagan friendly store that I thought had permanently disappeared. Afterwards, I was much cheered up and indulged in odd bits of food, including a honey and garlic sausage bun and purchased what was promised to be a close resemblance to scrumpy jack. Sadly, I am stymied by the lack of a %$#*ing bottle opener and will have to dig the cork out with a knife or somesuch (yerg!). I even got a bead on where I could get some pottery lessons and, more importantly, access to a pottery studio!
So, all in all, today has had a rough start, but seems to be getting much better. (Yay!)
I must make a better effort to keep up with my blog. It gets to be a bit difficult, though, as my leisure time is somewhat limited and often taken up by other pursuits. Alas...
On my way at about 2 in the morning last Tuesday, I had a bit of a disturbing encounter with some of the local thuggery. As I was walking along the street nearing home, a jeep full of young men turned around the corner from the opposite side of the sheet. They swiftly pulled to a stop just ahead of me, after having accelerated through the turn. I continued walking along, though I strongly suspected I was the object of their attention, for a number of reasons; first, they have simply wanted some information, like directions. Second, if their intentions were not so benign, showing fear by stopping or altering travel is a mistake. Third, if it was to come to a physical confrontation, the jeep would have served as a good tactical obstruction by which to limit how many of the little boogers could come at me at once. (Crikey! With that level of paranoia and continuous risk evaluation, you'd think I'd grown up in some crime ridden ghetto.)
There were five young men in the jeep, maybe in their late teens or early twenties. Fortunately, all of them looked like I could drop them in one solid hit. And perhaps that's why, when I finally got fairly close to the vehicle, they peeled away, with but a singular, violent throwing motion (hardly threatening as the passenger window was rolled up) and a menacing sneer from the driver. 'Course, slightly annoyed look I was probably sporting at the time might also have had something to do with it. As mentioned earlier, thugs of this nature prefer a fearful nature and it was actually kinda hard to be fearful of this lot, even if there was five of them.
Still, when I got home, I phoned the event in to the local police. These little hoodlums may have had second thoughts about picking a fight with me, but I have smaller and female colleagues at work, some of whom I knew would be walking these streets mere hours from the point this occurance. That's aside from any other unfortunate member of the public who might've ran afoul of them. In most cases, I'd be skeptical if the cops would do anything about it, but these local ones actually seem to maintain a pretty active presence, as demonstrated on Saturday, so perhaps something good came of that call.
In other news, I've racked up a bit of a bonus by working a day of overtime yesterday. Yeah, I'll be working a six day week, but, honestly?, that's not at all that taxing. The only issue is squeezing in time to get other stuff sorted in my off hours. Today, for example, I took a bike ride out to a local charity used goods warehouse to check into possible furniture for my flat. Sadly, that seemed to be nigh a wasted effort as they were charging quite a bit for what was quite slim pickings. I'm better off shopping for stuff at Walmart and Zellers. This was especially disappointing because I really wanted to pick up something I could use as an altar (I've been feeling somewhat spiritually amiss) and it was over an hour's worth of time I could have devoted to other things. I at least, however, came home with a rice cooker/veggie steamer in reasonable condition for a mere four dollars.
I also got a bit of exercise on the bike, which helped clear out the lactic acid burn from yesterday's run. It was a pleasant enough run that took me through a lovely marsh and allowed me to soak up a luxurious amount of sunshine. Sadly, though, my nipples got chafed (owie!) and, alas, there was no one about to kiss them better for me. *melodramatic sigh*
The rest of the photos to be found at: http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y220/Ca thartesAura/Calais/?albumview=grid
I do apologize to anyone who has been eagerly awaiting this post; recently I've been getting a lot of pits from the bowl of cherries that life is purported to be, but I'll get into that later.
First, allow me to describe my second day of adventuring, in which I hopped a ferry from Dover, England, to Calais, France. It started off quite reasonably with stuffing myself with a tasty English fry-up, followed by a brisk morning walk to the ferry. Sadly, it was still misty and cloudy, so there were no great shots of the cliffs to be had as we sailed away.
I have to say, after many merry memories of sunny afternoons spent on the broad, open observation decks of BC Ferries, those of Sea France rather decidedly sucked, especially given that the tiny patio area that passed for an outdoor observation deck was frequently filled with smokers desperate for a fag, killing off any opportunity to appreciate fresh sea air, not that the cold wind and mist made it any more pleasurable. From outside, only a vague idea of what was happening outside could be gleaned through the film of water deposits that crusted the windows.
I was rather amused to discover a Space Invaders game in the video arcade, though.
The ferry ride took much longer than anticipated though, teasing me with a view of the French beachside for about half an hour as the ferry sat in the harbour waiting for its place at the dock. Between that, and discovering that there was a one hour time difference that everyone neglected to tell me about, my day in Calais was a bit shorter than anticipated.
My next consternation came as I left the ferry terminal building to discover that the next bus to town would be about forty minutes in arriving. Thankfully, I'm not adverse to walking, and after taking a minute or two to get my bearing, I predicted, quite accurately, that it would take me a hell of a lot less time just to walk into town from the terminal and I promptly left behind the group of folk despondently settling in for that long wait for the bus (What's wrong with your feet, people?!?)
Many architectual delights awaited my camera lens and I spent a great deal of time snapping and striding from one place of interest to the next. I got some delightful shots of Teddy with the Town Hall, which has a most impressive clock tower. Other nifty subjects of the shutter included a roundabout topped with topiary shaped like a peacock and many attempts to capture the little public busses that can only be described as "cute".
Realizing that I was running out of time, I opted out of checking out the hypermarkets, which tend to hold the interest of most English visitors to Calais. I've since been told that I haven't missed much in that regard. 'Course, if I had gone, I might have actually found some souvenirs to purchase, something which was strangely lacking in the shops of this port town.
I took in a nice meal in an actual French cafe (Le Cafe de Paris, no less!), which included a decidely French appetizer I had not had since I was a child, escargots. And, yes, I sipped une cafe at le cafe.
My final visit in Calais was to the beach. In Dover, the beach consisted entirely of small pebbles without a grain of sand to be found. This, I discovered, is because the French stole all the sand for their own. The beach of Calais was a broad expanse of fine, clean sand that formed dunes in the wind. When I say clean, I mean CLEAN. I imagine it might be different in the summer when this beach is likely cram packed with beachgoers from a variety of nations, but, during my visit, I saw nothing of the usual flotsam and jetsam found upon beaches, no driftwood, no seaweed, no partial remains of any critters, save a singular pretty clam shell (cardida?) that, due to its very uniqueness of presence on this beach, was an offering from it to me (as there weren't any rocks to be found, interesting or otherwise!).
I eventually made it back to the ferry terminal where, upon attempting to enter the British Customs area, I was nearly given a heartattack along with the proclamation that my passport had expired. GLAH!!! For some reason, I thought I still had time on it, but, apparently, as scrambled as my brain was before the holidays, I mixed up my driver's license expiry date with my passport expiry date. Fortunately, the customs officer was really good about it and, after checking out my (still valid) entry visa and asking a few questions about what I was doing in England, he waived me on with signed declaration and the emphatic advice to get my passport renewed post-haste (got the photos shot yesterday). Yep, THAT was excitement I didn't need!
THEN (yes, there's more) there was the last second panic over not having a proper boarding pass. Apparently, I was supposed to have gotten from the lady at the counter when I arrived at the terminal (my return ticket wasn't good enough?), but I didn't know that, as there wasn't anyone AT the counter when I had arrived some time earlier. This time, though, I wasn't alone in this bit of stupidity, as many folk had to race back to the ticket counter for their boarding passes. Yerg!
Add to that a choppy, and subsequently nauseating, ferry ride and a couple hours of train ride, and you've got one very exhausted Vulture arriving home late and very glad to see his bed. Thus ended an otherwise lovely couple days out. Oh and hey, I've now set my feet upon THREE continents! Yay me!
As I mentioned earlier, I would have got this post out sooner, but the last couple days at school have been utterly exhausting (wretched hellspawn!). The creative energy just to even write a decent blog response has been quite lacking, let alone something like this. I am exceedingly glad I put in my notice for the end of this term; it's going to be a test of my mental fortitude just to last THAT long. I've only been teaching two days and I already feel as physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted as I did before the break began. Ugh! Fortunately, there's going to be a lot of breaks inserted here and there, including an inset day next Monday and an Easter long weekend, to help stave off insanity during my last remaining weeks at this school.
We explained that we were just looking and, as she was rather cute, we carried on the conversation a bit further into the topic of lobsters and the cooking of them.
She told us about how she learned to make lobsters "go to sleep," before putting them in the pot, as she felt uncomfortable just putting them in whilst still moving about. This involved curling the lobster's tail under itself and stroking it until it stops moving.
"Dwayne," I asked, "if I remember correctly, those tiny paddle-like legs on the underside of a lobster's tail are its gills, are they not?" Being a brighter fellow than myself, with a biochem degree to prove it, I can usually count on him to at least have an educated guess about such things.
"Yep," he affirmed, just moments before sprouting a wicked grin, showing that he just realized the implications of the situation.
Alas, the poor cherubic store clerk's face flooded with dismay when I asked her, "Did you realize that, when you curl the lobster's tail under like that, you're effectively suffocating the lobster to death before plunking it in?"
Dwayne and I can be such bastards...
Now I have to go; she's calling me to wash her back. (chuckle)
This is something I had noticed some time ago; it seems my back, after over 15 years of constant backpacking, seems to have grown very accustomed to carrying a load. I think I've adopted some form of posture that my back is uncomfortable being out of. This bears further investigation.
I also watched one of those films that every serious movie critic will tell you should be on your must-see list: Lawrence of Arabia. The cinematography is exceptional! The acting and characterization were excellent! It is definitely a film that must be seen at least once.
I'm not sure why I'm so pleased to finally be using PayPal and e-Bay. It's something that many people take for granted everyday and that I've been capable of setting up for well over a year. But somehow, I feel a little more "with it" now that I'm actively using them.
As for my very first e-Bay purchase, I'm into hour 2 for the day. The gut feels firmer to the touch, so the belt is doing something. According to the manual, there should be visible results in two to four weeks of regular use. I think I'm already beginning to see some reduction, but that could be just wishful thinking on my part (grin). I hope the rain clears up tomorrow, so I can go on another walking tour.
Ah well, the rest of me is tired, so it's time to head upstairs to bed. Right now, imapunkin's room kinda resembles a bordello, courtesy of the light cast from red Chinese lantern I hung as a light shade (I was actually able to find one single store that actually had some tasteful lanterns). She just loves it! I also brought her other pressies, such as a fan and an interesting Indian style Buddha figurine in a frame. It's good to have a girl friend who is easy to buy for (grin!). It makes me so happy to see her face light up when she discovers a pressie I've left somewhere for her to find.
The next tour was at 7:30, so I walked from Embankment Station to Chinatown (near Leicester Square), pausing briefly at an aquatic sports outfitter to pick up a waterproof carry bag for all my miscellaneous stuff (like wallet and keys) for the next time I head to the beach. I may have to pick up a second (they're cheap), as I've just discovered that I can operate my camera for semi-reasonable shots through the bag, making shallow depth aquatic photography possible and, at the very least, allowing me to take my camera to the beach without worry of sand, salt or sea air doing it damage.
In Chinatown, I looked through a bunch of shops trying to find red lanterns for imapunkin, who desperately wants one (she's into all things Chinese). Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the selection; most were quite tacky. I also couldn't a shop that sells sweet and sour pork buns (a favourite of mine). The greatest tragedy, though, is the confirmation that the Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar is truly gone, leaving me to despair as to where I can find a decent laksa (let alone the heavenly mango and cream pudding that I've seen nowhere else).
London Chinatown, sadly, is quite disappointing in general. Given the size of London, one might expect a really large Chinatown, but this one is maybe two to three times larger than Victoria's. It certainly pales before the sprawling scape that is Toronto's. Visually, even Victoria's wee Chinatown packs in a lot more visual impact. I would have taken pictures to compare, but the view is currently downright unappealing, courtesy of the massive road work taking place. Still, it is a serviceable Chinatown and, more to the point, the only one for quite some distance (do they exist in other parts of Europe?).
I nearly decided against the last walk as I was getting a bit tired, but I was glad I didn't! This was the quite popular Jack the Ripper Haunts tour and it was made especially entertaining by the exceptional story telling talents of the tour guide (the same one from the Ghosts of the Old City tour I did with ekatarina a while back).
All-in-all, it was a great day out with plenty o' (semi)fresh air and exercise.
Today, sadly, I'll have to return home to prepare work for tomorrow's literacy lesson, as well as finish some marking. Ugh! At least this will be the last week of summer school. In a way, though, I'll miss it; the week spent with these pupils was pretty close to what ideal classes should be like. I love these pupils to bits! Methinks I may have missed my calling by a shade; I think I might have enjoyed being a primary school teacher more than secondary. Ah well.
Yesterday we went on a quest for a new TV set to replace the one that died last weekend. It involved going to Argos, buying a TV, bringing it home, discovering it was substantially smaller than the previous, bringing it back to Argos, discovering that they were out of a suitably priced size up, getting a refund on the TV, venturing to Crawley in search of larger stores, braving the crowds at Sainsbury only to discover that they did not have any suitably priced TVs, discovering that Tescos was no longer where imapunkin thought it was, getting lost looking for it, nearly running out of gas, finally finding Tescos only to discover that there wasn't one of an appropriate size and price in the TV section, selecting one that was a bit over budget as imapunkin declared we were not leaving the store without a TV after all the hassle, and, on the way to check out, spying a stack of TVs in another aisle which led us to finally purchasing a lovely 24" wide screen for a mere £100 (okay, so it's a Bush, but it'll do the trick). Good thing it was a lovely day for a drive! (chuckle)
I also spent some time photographing imapunkin's new baby, apparently inspired by me (more specifically, my puppy dog eyes). You can see him here.
I must now return to packing. whilst I'll be able to store some stuff at imapunkin's for a while longer, I have to ensure that I bring all the necessities for the coming week.
Currently, I'm debating whether or not to stay another night in Aylesbury in order to try and visit a couple more friends who will be arriving much later. Tomorrow, I'm headed out on another train trip to visit my new ladyfriend overnight (hence one of the reasons why I'm hesistant to stay another night; all these two-train-trip days are starting to get to me! (chuckle)).
All the best to everyone this holiday season!