Christmas Day

Craig
England
December 25, 2003

   Today was the first Christmas day when I haven't had a younger sibling aged 6 or less in the house, and consequentially I didn't get out of bed until 10am.

Santa's Plate
A mince pie for Santa, a carrot for Rudolf
Santa had managed to find me despite me being 10,000km from home right now, and among the edible goodies in my stocking was a cool snowman chocolate mold, to help me with my Christmas cooking next year. Jo has a simple recipe for a fruity jelly thing that I'll be testing (tasting?) out in the months to come :-)

   
My New Hat
My New Hat
Peter gave me a nice warm hat, which is going to come in very handy in Ireland next week. I'm really hoping for snow there. He also showed his ingenuity by wrapping this crazy shape without the use of sellotape, and it held together very well.

   I saw a little bit of the Queen's message, but frankly it bored me. I've watch a fair bit of telly and eaten plenty of turkey. After lunch I was completely stuffed and I couldn't eat another thing but Peter that shocked us all by taking another helping and finishing everything on his plate. Dinner is on the way now, and I think I finally have room for more.



best wishes from
   Craig
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  24 Dec
03
 

   Yesterday evening was the annual Christmas party at my old house in Takapuna. My brother Peter lent me his video camera, Nivi lent hers to Mark who took his laptop to the party and thanks to the wonders of the internet (and iChat) I was able to see and talk with the people there. It was very cool to see most of my friends back in New Zealand, doing the Christmas things that I was involved in last year and will be again next.

Christmas Video Chat
Christmas Video Chat
Someone thought it would make me all sad and lonely because I'd be missing them (which of course I do) but I was thrilled to be able to do this and it was much better than just calling them.
   Last night I was in Lewes after dark (which is 4pm here) and things were really seeming Christmasy, the shops were full, the windows were brightly coloured and lots of
Christmas Puddings
Homemade Christmas Puddings
people were carrying big bags or presents. This morning I walked around Ringmer, with the hope of catching up with my old nextdoor-neighbour-but-one and someone from school. But Christmas Eve isn't a holiday, so they weren't in, which means more Christmas Puddings for me :-)

   There is no way it is going to snow here tomorrow, but hopefully early in next year (possibly in Ireland) I'll get to see some of the white stuff like olds times, but I have to get a better coat by then.


best wishes from
   Craig
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Ahh the royals

Bronwyn
England
December 24, 2003

I just had a great experience, I went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. There was no one speaking english around me, the guards did their thing. It takes about an hour and gets a bit tedious but then the band started to play christmas carols. It was so nice seeing all those faces smile. It felt like christmas then.



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   Bronwyn
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  22 Dec
03
 

London is crazy, I just had to queue to get out of the tube. As if it isn't enough being packed like a sardine with strangers pressed against you!!! Today I am gonna go look at the christmas lights. I can't find Wellington Arch though, I know it is lit up with sunflowers (my favourite).


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   Bronwyn
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Liverpool to London

Bronwyn
England
December 21, 2003

I left Wrexham, John and Doreen drove me to Liverpool where more of my relatives live. Dil and Bob took care of me for the next four days and they were great. I took my pills, watched heaps of TV and I even made it to central Liverpool and saw The Beatles story, Liverpool Life museum, shops and the St Georges Hall. I wish I had taken more photos as I feel that Liverpool has got a bit of a reputation it doesn't deserve and the people are really nice.

I left Liverpool and planned to go to Manchester but in the end I just went to York. York is really pretty and everyone should go there. The York minster is the largest Cathedral north of the alps and it was really, really interesting. York has been inhabited by Romans, Vikings and Saxons and I saw examples of all of this around York. It was just beautiful and it was one of the first times it felt Christmassy. Me and an australian girl did our sightseeing together and we agreed it was like being in a christmas movie with carol singers and the salvation army brass band. Now I am back in London, it is cold and busy and the hostel is full. I walked down Oxford Street this morning and nothing opens till midday (except starbucks) and there were queues forming at 11am. In England there are Sunday trading laws which say that you can only trade for 6 hours on a Sunday, I thnk they picked the wrong 6. I am glad I can go back to the hostel and do my laundry to escape the crowds. Pills are finished and I am almost healthy, just the occasional headache and stuff now.



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  21 Dec
03
 

I have done lots recently but due to the price of internet access I haven't made a post. I left London and I went to Bath (in England). Bath is an amazing place and the easiest way to describe it is like a giant, georgian sand castle. The city is made out of bathstone which looks a lot to me like sandstone but I am assured it isn't. The city is realy different and would have been a lot better if I hadn't gotten sick and just wanted to die. I went to the NHS walk-in centre and had an experienced and trainee nurse pull at my ears. They decided I needed a decongestant inhaler and so I bought some oil thing which I had to put in hot water and do the whole steam vapour thing. Unfortunately, it didn't cure the ear infection and the Bath Costume museum experience, although impressive, was somewhat impaired by being unable to listen to the audio guide.

I left Bath and went to Cardiff. Cardiff was really cold and not at all what I expected. I arrived at about 4:30pm so it was dark and I got on the bus for the youth hostel. I was amazed at the beauty of this city, the bus route took us past Cardiff Castle (all lit up for Xmas), the town hall and municipal buildings (which all look like wedding cakes) and the skating rink in the public gardens. Everything was so pretty under the lights and it really took my breath away and I was lucky as I feel that this is the best way to experience Cardiff, at night. In the light of day it just becomes another city. The same shops as everywhere else in England and the only difference being the large number of rugby shops. The welsh are obsessed and there are badges which not only have the welsh flag but the welsh and NZ flag crossed together. I also never found anything with my name on, I feel ripped off!

I then chose to go to Llangollen (pronounced chlangochlen, with phlegm at the ch's). The place was a mission to get to and I was going here as it looked a convenient stop on the way to Wrexham. It turns out that the bus stop advertised as 'close by' was 3 miles away, which was horrible with my pack and since the bus driver didn't know where it was it was down to a welsh lady on the bus giving me directions. It would have been fine except the welsh accent is very stronog and I was deaf in the ear she was talking to. Llangollen was a pretty town though and I met the local doctor as by the next morning both ears hurt and I couldn't hear properly out either. He prescribed 'strong' decongestants and told me to take ibuprofen as I needed.

I caught the bus to Wrexham to meet the relatives. Wrexham is a town with very little going for it but my relative made it a warm and hospitable place. They were quick to point out that there was little to see but John, Doreen and Lynne took care of me and we went out to dinner, I saw photo's of the family and learnt the family history. I there saw the next doctor as sby mow my nose was bleeding and my throat hurt. He prescribed antibiotics and pain killers and Doreen made me stay inside where I couldn't get sicker. Thank goodness for family as they took care of me, fed me and made sure I was taking my pills which had dumb conditions like 'must be taken on a full stomach' but I wasn't hungry!

For those who are interested John is or was my grandmothers brother and Lynne is my fathers cousin. Doreen is the one who keeps them all in line :)

Next installment to follow, but I plan on going back some time to see Chester which I missed due to illness.


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  21 Dec
03
 

   After a week of in activity I went out last night with Marko and James for Christmas drinks at The Volunteer in Lewes. Just the three lads, it was great. But the best thing about it was bumping in to two girls I knew ages ago and both of them recognising me straight away. Gemma White was behind the bar. We were friends from Ringmer Community College and had a few classes together. Michelle Kerry was called Michelle Slyman when I took her to the leavers prom at Ringmer, in a suit that was three sizes too big. Both of them are nurses now (though Gemma has two jobs it seems) and were surprised to be looking up at me so much more than when I left. I think it is something in the New Zealand water, or perhaps all that bungy jumping.

   I stayed the night at Marko's and got to use a bed this time, I'll be moving in there in mid January and I think that will be my room. As I was sitting at the bus stop in the morning a car pulled in and wound down the window. Russell was at the wheel and drove me all the way to Brighton, he would have taken me straight to the door if I hadn't needed to do some Christmas shopping first. The weather here is pretty grotty and I don't like going out in it, but I hear it is snowing in Newcastle, perhaps I should go there for a white Christmas :-)


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   Craig
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  11 Dec
03
 

   It is roughly eight hours drive from Brighton to Newcastle-upon-Tyne (not to be confused with Newcastle-under-Lyme) and it is all heading north. Thus I was not surprised to find it really cold up there. On Sunday morning I went for a walk along the bridge over Jesmond Dene (I think it is called the Archer's Bridge) to see the crafts for sale. There were some great photographs of local landmarks, and some from further abroad. I also really liked the giant mirrors one lady was selling. The frames seemed to be carved MDF and then painted to look like flowers, dolphins, starbursts etc etc. I think Jo is going to need one for her downstairs loo.

Icy leaf
An icy leaf
 

   It was about noon when I got down into the Dene, and the grass was still frozen. It was slightly crispy to walk on and the ground beneath it was solid. It didn't take long for me to start losing the use of my fingers after I took my hands out of my gloves to use my camera. I can't remember the last time I ran along a street and had to slow down at the corner because it was icy. Such were the simple pleasures of my youth. It totally has to snow this year, if it doesn't land in Brighton I am going to go find it.

   I took a look around Killingworth, Jenny's home ground and liked the place. Most of it seems to have been designed as one super-estate, which apparently looks like a castle from the air. There is a ring road around the outside acting as a moat, and Garths (blocks of houses) as the turrets. The big man-made lake looks pretty well done too, I can imagine that place freezing over quite soon and it becoming a skating rink. But possibly the best part of it is hidden from most routes. The Village, as it is known by locals, is the old part of town and has suitably old buildings in it. A far cry from the recent development a few streets away this place looks like it should be miles away in the country side, not a quick bus trip from Newcastle. The have a big wheel there too. It commemorates George Stephenson who pretty much invented rail travel. So I guess I owe him thanks for all the trains I took in Europe.
Cherrytree Close
Cherrytree Close

   Later that night (well it was only about 6pm but totally dark) we went walking to Cherrytree Close. Here all the residents put on a big light display for christmas that would impress Tim Allen. There was even a dancing Santa to collect money for charity.
Glowing reindeer
Glowing reindeer

   I left on Monday night after a catalogue of disasters that I couldn't help but laugh at. Rory was going to drive me to the bus station but since he had missed rugby practice he went on a bike ride for exercise. Along the way he got a flat and had to run back pushing the bike all the way. Then his car wouldn't start. We gave it a few pushes up and down his street but nothing was happening so I decided to take the bus. As we were standing there at the stop, me laden down with my big back-pack, the bus came up. The driver shrugged his shoulders and kept going! There was one other person on it, so it wasn't out of service, nor too full. grrr! I had allowed plenty of time and got there early anyway. The ride was good, seeing as I could sleep through most of it, apart from when the driver announced our stops along the way. At about 3 am I was staggering around some motorway services looking for a vending machine.

   I am back in Brighton now and hoping to finally put up a selection of photos from Europe, the only thing stopping me is me, I'll have to get over that.


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   Craig
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  6 Dec
03
 

   On Saturday Jen and I went to Durham. We were only intending to see the cathedral and take a look at the castle but we happened to visit during the town's Christmas Festival. There was a big tent put up on the grass in front of the cathedral and inside there were loads of local craftspeople selling their creations. There were fudge stalls, knitting stalls, glass jewellery stalls and celtic art stalls. I bought some fudge :-)

   Down in the main town there were

Durham Town Hall
Durham Town Hall
more stalls and it had a real Christmas feeling to me. In what I think was the town hall they had put the more elaborate (and expensive) arts. Some really good paintings, a few fairy costumes and a number of glassware/pottery things. It was a pretty decent town hall as well, with olde Englishe writing around the walls commemorating the important locals. If I remember to do so I will look the place up in the Lonely Planet to make sure it gets a good mention.

   Someone here had hit upon the brilliant, but possibly dangerous, idea of serving hot chocolate in the streets, enriched with Baileys or brandy.
Durham Chocolate
Durham Chocolate
We walked along the river there and past the university boat sheds. Despite it being a really cold day there was a team out rowing. I would guess they were tourists because they were doing pretty badly. We didn't actually go into the cathedral after all and I have since been told it is a well known gothic master piece. Maybe I will go back there some day and check it out.


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   Craig
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The Solicitors Ball

Craig
England
December 05, 2003

   I went up to Newcastle on Sunday Nov 30th taking the National Express coach. I left Brighton at 9:30am and got into Newcastle at about 6pm. I've been on plenty of long distance trips during my travels, but that was the most uncomfortable land-based one (the overnight ferry from Italy to Greece takes top prize). The seats were small and the head rests were too flat, my head would just roll off to one side. Thanks to my brother Peter I was able to listen to the radio scripts of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. I've read all 5 parts of the increasingly inaccurately named trilogy, but never heard this version before. Thanks Pete.

   I'm staying with Rory again and having a ball. Actually the Law School (a.k.a. The Eldon Society) had the ball, I just attended.

Jenny and Craig at the Ball
Jenny and Craig at the Ball
It was on Tuesday night and a far cry from the engineering balls of Auckland University. This time the girls were in fancy dresses, but at Auckland everyone was in Fancy Dress :-) and someone read grace in latin! There were speeches and toasts and a good feed before dancing the night away until the wee hours. I almost lost my camera in the back of the taxi, but the very friendly driver (who was a Lord Of The Rings Fan) came back and didn't charge me a thing.

   Aside from eating, drinking and dancing, there was also a mini casino available for those who felt we couldn't visit a race track without a little flutter. No money changed hands they just handed out 10 worth of chips and the person with the most at the end of the night won a bottle of champagne. I got up to 51 which was the record when I left the table, but by then I was down to 5 which I kept as a souvenir.

   On Monday I sat in on one of Jenny's law lectures, covering a bit of Public International Law. A bit cheeky perhaps but since the lecturer didn't mention anything I think I got away with it. I even went up and asked him a vaguely relevant question afterwards :-)

   For the rest of the week I've mostly been hanging out in toon. Jen and I have seen Love Actually (very funny, slightly sad, definitely worth viewing) and S.W.A.T. (good action shoot 'em up). Rory and Effie graduated on Wednesday and are now officially Masters of Science, what a cool title that is. I really wanted to do that at Oxford, but had to turn them down coz they thought I was a foreign student and wanted to charge me too much. Now that I am over here the government seem set to allow them to charge even locals an extortionate amount of money. :-/

   I think it was Thursday morning when we walked into town via Jesmond Dene. We took a moment to stop by Pets Corner.
Pets Corner Parrot
A parrot at Pets Corner
It's a free little zoo with pot belly pigs, geese, goats, sheep and lots of birds. As you might expect there ere a number of mums with their toddlers, and a few grandparents wandering around. I hope other towns can get the money together to run something like this, the kids were really loving it and I think it makes it a nicer place to live for young families. A day or two later I discovered a slightly creepy part of the Dene, the pet cemetary.
The pet cemetary
The pet cemetary
Not nearly as creepy as the film though, especially when the names are Winnie, Albert and Lassie!.



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   Craig
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Northern Ireland

Bronwyn
Ireland
December 01, 2003

I did a second tour last week that went into Northern Ireland. It was really interesting seeing some of Irelands most beautiful landscapes as well as it's most fragile political environment. Somehow I managed to choose the time when they were having elections to travel around. The day we left Derry they had bombs at the polling booths and we realised how fragile it is up there. We initally travelled to Donegal which is the North West bit of the island but is still in the Republic (euro's). Donegal was really beautiful and we went to the pub that night. The locals don't turn up until about 11pm as they are farmers and have things to do. We even met a priest at the pub, the next day the whole bus was arguing as to whether he really was a priest but I guess we will never know. The next day we travelled to Derry. Mick the tour guide thought it would be nice to go to the beach, we agreed right up until the point it started hailing and we all got covered in ice. Derry (or Londonderry) was the first real chance we had to appreciate the differences between North and South. There are loads of differences but not as extreme as when we arrived in Belfast. We had spent the day in stunning scenery at the giants causeway, however when you see the huge walls put in place to seperate Unionists and Loyalists it all begins to hit home. This is a country that wars with it's neighbours and there is camera surveilance on every corner. The cab driver (we did a black cab tour) said not to worry about the ones you can see, its the ones you can't you have to worry about. We even went to a pub where they monitor everyone who goes in, it was 1 corner down from the hostel.

Aside from the flu all is well and tomorrow I go back to London. I have been in Kells in the Republic where the Book of Kells was completed and stayed at a hostel with a really nice old couple running it. I was trying to get over the flu but I still have it :( Next plans are to go to Wales!



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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