Finally feeling better. Actually, yesterday (Sunday) was a good day. We just keep seeing dogs. A beautiful back-and-white English Springer Spaniel interrupted our Italian dinner on a sidewalk restaurant yesterday and brought back a smile along with a non weather-related bit of mist.
Since meeting my research goals Friday, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I took Saturday off with the exception of a "15-minute" walk to the Port Solent yacht basin (the money tied up in that little piece of sheltered harbor is incomprehensible). We had fish and chips and a pint (half-pint for SWMBO) at a two-story pub. we missed the movie theater until we were leaving, but nothing lost that we can't see at home.
Sunday we journeyed back into the old harbor for a quick revisit to check a couple things (ladders and longbows) at the Mary Rose Museum and took a brief water tour of the harbor. Ended up with a visit to Nelson's Victory and saw the spot he died on the quarterdeck (actually was shot by a sniper at that spot and died in the surgery later).
Found the perfect souvenier, a pommander that was designed to draw a ribbon or string through a wooden ball stuffed with herbs and spices. Today women place them among personal items, but the Tudor Era men carried them on their belt to help hide the odor accumulated by their lack of regular bathing.
Tomorrow we move to the Isle of Wight, taking a hovercraft ferry for the first time. We have two nights at the B&B before heading back to London Thursday to gear up for our Friday flight home. On the Isle, I hope to check out the Tudor Era portion of a Newport museum and visit Sandown, where the now submerged castle was the site of the English turning back the main French land assault. More of a draw, but the French realized they would have need to double their 30,000-man army just to hold the Isle of Wight, let alone continuing the Pope's plan to take back the entire country from Henry VIII and his newfangled church.
Well, it must be tea time somewhere.
So Frohike left us. I have nothing to say today. Maybe tomorrow.
So in the midst of a wonderful day visiting Tudor Era sites in Southampton, England (some 20 miles northwest of Portsmouth) and a working Hampshire County farm that dates back to that time, Mousapelli texted me that our beloved beagle-spaniel mix had taken a turn for the worse. She has been house and dog sitting for us during our two weeks of vacation (and my research of the Henry VIII flagship Mary Rose). Fro turned 15 in May and has been struggling with a lung infection and weakening back legs. Now, his only sure strengths (his love of eating and attempting walks despite his legs) have turned to crap as well. A trip to the vet this afternoon leaves me literally thousands of miles away and filled with foreboding.
She Who Must Be Obeyed is equally sad and concerned because Frohike is in truth HER dog and has been since the day I surprised her by allowing the Mouse to adopt the animal while she was still in school. The best I can hope for is that Fro isn't suffering and can hold on long enough for me to get home and fulfill my promise and duty for him.
Maybe tomorrow I can talk about my excitement of being invited to meet with the curator of the Mary Rose Museum about my research. For now, I will offer up incense and prayers to the powers that be.
It's the evening of a long, but satisfying day. Clare Dixon, a local guide, made us in the hotel lobby and stuck with She Who Must Be Obeyed and I from 9 a.m. until after sharing out lunch at 1:30. She gave us an excellent overview of the old city and a thorough walking tour of the key bits of anything left off from the Tudor (especially during Henry VIII's reign) era of the mid 1500s. Actually saw the grave of a crewman of His Majesty's Ship Mary rose, who was lost when the Mary Rose rank in 1545 and whose skeleton was brought up with the remains of the ship back in 1982. It was buried and provided a stone marker within the Portsmouth Cathedral, the orgininal nave of which dates back to that era.
After delightful fish and chips for me and ham hock with piccelli (?) sauce for SWMBO, Clare sent us off to see Mary Rose herself. Everything that SWMBO found in Highclare Clare, I found ten fold in viewing the surviving pieces and relics from the Mary Rose, Henry's flagship which sank in a disaster costing some 400 or more crewmen (only 35 were believed to have survived). Imagine. seeing and in some cases touching pieces from nearly 500 years ago. I waited seven years for this visit and despite not feeling anything below my ankles at this point, it was worth every step.
We walked our feet to nubs before taking the train back to Cosham and in a fit of adventure added another 25 minute walk from the train station to the hotel. There is a hot tub in the hotel that I mean to spend a good deal of time in very soon.
Tomorrow we meet Clare in the Southampton train station and visit the only restored original Tudor house (a big example since it was the home and business of a merchant who provided stores for the ships throughout the area. After another lunch, she will send us off to visit a farm which should give us a clue about how the landed gentry lived in the Tudor era.
Monday, Aug. 26, did indeed turn out to be Banking Day in England. My dear Mouse can appreciate this fact in that I have made my only other trip to Ole Blighty ten years ago last spring and managed to hit upon the same rare bit of made-up holiday that are scattered throughout the British calendar.
Still, the day set aside for banks to square accounts and to allow urchins another excuse to avoid any learning also allowed She Who Must Be Obeyed to make her dreamed of pilgramage to Highsclare Castle. This impressive manor is better known to its TV fans as Downton Abbey.
After wasting four hours of our day-long bus tour learning about Oxford University and its 36 colleges that make up one of the most respected pieces of educational real estate in the world, we pulled up the famous driveway several dozen miles west of London. Ah, the unadulterated joy of the middle-aged women and the eye-rolling of their long-suffering husbands.
We missed the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who were traveling, but we still ended a brilliant tour of the 130-room manor house with tea and cake on the lawn. The Carnarvon line was supremely interesting in its own right, but the people who handle the visitors managed to even mark each room used as the bed and sitting rooms of the actors in the series. The walk through their extensive and even some supposedly secret (God bless Dave, our pirate of a tour guide for ignoring signs) gardens was an important piece of the tour for everyone who chased along the back lawn.
Our return to London allowed us to walk past Kensington Castle (Mouse, you may recall our jaunt by Queen Victoria's seated statue in Hyde Park that was stationed behind the castle (more of a hotel-like house). Of course, fans of the royals know that William and Kate have been residing there with new Prince George.
Along the way, I talked SWMBO into joining me in a real pub meal of fish and chips in a real pub named Glouster Arms. Of course, I had a 1664 (Kroensburg) on draught and she managed to find another glass of prosecco
Finally, we traded our refreshing showers in a wonderfully hot shower with a BBC production of Dave, a weird little show hosted by Stephen Fry in which his comic friends make strange and hilarious responses to a series of unusual questions such as how many trees are felled to make pound notes each year (none, because it is made of a linen product) or what sound does a mute swan make (apparently quite a number including regular swan honking).
Tueday, it was off to Waterloo Station and a two-hour train run south to Portsmouth to begin my research for completing Surviving Mary Rose, a novel about Henry VIII's fledgling English Navy. The cab rides and train trip went well and we enjoyed sandwiches at the hotel lobby where I found free wi-fi and am posting this.
Tomorrow we meet Clare Dixon, my guide and helper on all things Tudor so I can get serious about the Mary Rose, whom I will officially meet in the afternoon after a tour of Old Portsmouth.
OK, so it seems my Wi-Fi hotel service in the Lancaster Gate (nice place by the way) is not so free. The good news is that we found a fish & chips/kabob place just a block away and it is happy to give it away. So here I sit, knoshing and typing greasy keys.
To start out well, we took the $250 update to enhanced seating on British Airways for more legroom and extra pampering (they had four blankets on my seat for goodness sake). Of course, I still couldn't sleep on the seven hours of overnight flying, making Friday and Saturday into one super-long day.
However, we got through Heathrow customs and the van trip to the hotel quicker than expected. Naturally, that meant waiting three hours for our room, but a Stella Artois, a visit from some funny football (soccer) fans and a walk-about the neighborhood to get our bearings killed the time.
The highlight was finding the Noel Coward Theatre with. a minimum of panic and our tickets to The Cripple of Inishmann (starring Daniel Ratcliff) were waiting as promised. Wonderful show. No autograph bu I got this picture I managed as he dashed out of the theatre afterward to his normal-sized auto (with driver).
Up early today (Sunday) to get a 7:15 a.m. bus trip to hook up with the Harrod's Vintage Bus (50-year-old double-decker) tour. In four hours, we had photo stops at Westminster Abbey (where Will and Kate hooked up) and Buckingham Palace (wrong day for changing of the guard, darn). We also got a short boat ride on the Thames and saw Big Ben, St. James Palace (Charles and Camilla's digs), Kensington Palace (where baby George has joined Wills and Kate), Trafalgar Square, Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral and the houses of parliament before having real Italian pizza at a bar in Harrod's.
After lunch it was a quiet (return visit, mind you) visit to Piccadilly Circus to check out Waterstone book store. Mom found iced coffee and I found a couple books by Compton Mackenzie, whose stories inspired the BBC series Monarch of the Glen. Saw an early copy (NOT first edition) of the English Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Sorry, Mouse, not quite neat enough to net you the copy.
OK, the day is getting long and led to the first meltdown, which occurred at four p.m. (GST) Sunday when we completely circled Piccadilly Circus fountain twice as She Who Must Be Obeyed insisted on each corner that the new direction "did not feel right." She was quietly informed of the arrival of a meltdown and that she indeed needed to follow the master to the right bus stop. (To the defense of everyone, London buses are a disaster with directions on their bus stop maps actually laid out in any direction including the exact opposite of what they mean). Of course, when we arrived at the right stop, the 94 bus that was to arrive every 10-12 minutes, actually came around the corner after a 40-minute wait and than took a hour in wicked traffic to make it the eight stops to out Leinster Terrace exit point.
Hot showers all around and TV in English (Big Bang Theory reruns with some interesting BBC news) before sleep. Need another good night with a second 7:!5 a.m. pickup for our 10 hours to Highclare Manor (where they film Downton Abbey), the villages they used for in Downton Abbey and the Harry Potter series (near Hogwarts) and Oxford University. Tuesday we can sleep in before heading south by train to Portsmouth and research/vacation.
Enough for now.
All right. Since I am taking my laptop for information gathering and storage, I might as well keep a journal of our trip to England. She Who Must Be Obeyed joins me for two weeks of study and such amusements as may be collected in the land of King Henry VIII.
We have set up international cell plan, cleared our credit and debit cards for the trip and even dug out our passports which are as current as need be. The Mouse has been placed in change of the aging, but still moving, Frohike, who vaulted the 15-year mark in May. Son No. 1 has agreed to do some lunch visits to let the poor old guy out during the day. Son No. 3 is dropping us off at the airport Friday on his way back to school.
Arrive in Heathrow Saturday morning and hopefully have time to rest a bit prior to seeing Daniel Radcliffe in a play (The Cripple of Inishmann). We also have a Harrod's vintage bus tour set for Sunday, and a day-long tour Monday that includes Highclare Castle and the town where they film Downton Abbey. Also included are a visit to the town where they filmed Harry Potter and Oxford University. All the above is a bribe to SWMBO in order to for Qwejibo to do some research around Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight for my historical novel (Surviving Mary Rose) set in Tudor England in 1544-45.
The only thing I promise as far as journaling is to account for each and every meltdown as a tribute to the Mouse, who recorded such things when I joined her on an educational trip to the British Isles.
All right, things almost seem back to normal in my life. NaNoWriMo (look it up if you don't know it because you should) starts in two days, and I am sort of almost ready.
Reasons for livejournal hiatus: 1. Retirement required growing into[ 2. the death of a parent should be taken with strong beverages among close friends; and 3. laziness is a disease cured only by hard work.
I am determined to make entries in this area on regular basis just for the discipline of it. At worst, I will make comments on my NaNo efforts. (Must not fall behind word count, etc_
She who must be obeyed will join me on a trip to southern England (via London) in the spring to do in depth research of the novel I will be rewriting from scratch (first attempt was my first NaNo campaign and sounds juvenile now) this time around. Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose is the subject and needs to be solidly edited before the research information can be blended.
In other matters, SWMBO plans to retire and make traveling (sure it's research) easier in about 18 months. The family including our grandson is keeping its collective head about fiscal waters. A collection of die-cast metal airplanes is approaching two dozen, no thanks to hints to family members in search of gifts.
Jon Sprunk (Shadow's Son trilogy, PYR is the publisher, good fantasy-fiction) is preparing to release the first book of the new series and I have the privilege of betaing with some people young enough to actually help him.
Enough for now. Back soon, I promise
hard to believe i've ignored this site for a year. anyway, my beatles' tribute nano story of 62,000 was finished well in advance of Nov. 30. On the advice of a harrisburg forum member, I will designate it draft zero. once she who must be obeyed has a quick edit and advice on a dirty rewrite for the draft one, I will post it as i edit. please don't hold your breath.
Done and done, Mouse. Take that. at 3:29 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2007, I finished printing out the 69,352nd word on 226 pages.