Published: August 1st 2009June 29th 2009 If you go down to the woods today
At Powder Mill woods
So we were back in the glorious motherland once more!
Having been back at Christmas we kind of knew what to expect this time.
Apart from seeing friends and family again, we were looking forward to all the amenities we had missed - electricity, hot water, drinking water from a tap, flushing toilets, fully stocked fridges, huge choices of food and drink, TV, broadband...ok, ok I'll stop now...but having landed, all we really wanted was a nice comfortable bed and some recovery time.
This visit was not a planned one. Sara's sister Ondine had announced her engagement while we were in Ethiopia last year and the wedding had been fixed for July 4th this year.
Fortunately there had been no disasters with the rented house so we had enough savings to make it back over - though we would have tried to come regardless.
This time we were keen not to spend the trip running around the UK and Ireland trying to visit everyone as we did at Christmas.
Much as we thoroughly enjoyed it, it did leave us exhausted come the time to head back
Walking the polar bears
Far more scenic than an ice flow :)
to Ethiopia. 1066 Country
With a much reduced itinary, we started off with 5 days in Hastings (or St. Leonards-On-Sea to be correct) with Chris and Sue from Sara's side of the family (I am not going to try and explain Sara's family history as it would take a blog entry in it's own right!!!)
Chris, Sue and Kate have been very kind in sending us over both packets of goodies, as well as copies of National Geographic (which we read and lend to our friends) and Wired (which we both like).
In fact they have been very kind to us full stop! They all made me very welcome when I was driving down from Bristol to Hastings every weekend twelve years ago to see Sara as the new boyfriend not the husband; and they have been very kind to us ever since.
They have this great house with about 4 floors and a basement plus a rooftop garden just 2 or three streets back from the seafront.
The house is quite narrow which can make it sometimes challenging to navigate because of their two huge dogs. Don't ask me the make and model
Into the enchanted forest
Roll 2d6 for a random encounter...
(they are big and yellowy/white) but Bertie and Archie clearly share a significant portion of their genome with that of polar bears.
Fortunately they don't bark and are much more relaxed now they are getting older.
When 'puppies' - if you can call something 6 foot long and 20 stone a 'puppy' - life was even more interesting - if they wanted to lick you; you got licked :P Hamster laptops, Sky TV and wireless broadband
First day back Sara, Chris & Sue when for a stroll around Hastings old town, while I went about unpacking the 40-odd parcels Chris and Sue had been sent as a result of my eBay-ing.
I had bought myself a cheap reconditioned Acer Aspire netbook online with a bunch of eBay twinkie bits to pimp it up.
My main motivation for joining the netbook revolution was battery life. With the ongoing power issues in Ethiopia I did not want to be limited to a 2 hour battery on no-power days.
Unfortunately the basic 3-cell Acer Aspire A110 battery is pretty weedy - lasts around 2 hours for surfing the web or typing blog entries (even less if
The old oak tree
Who stole the yellow ribbon?
wireless is on) - so I had ordered an extra 9-cell uber battery with a whopping 7 hours of battery life!!
And I liked that so much I went and bought another 9-cell battery!
The Ethiopian Power Corporation can do it's worst and I still have 16 hours of battery life on my netbook; and with the additional Dell battery for my regular laptop, I had just under 5 on that.
Enough for an entire series of 24!
Well with adverts removed...
[we are on hour 20 of Series 1 and boy, do we want it to finish. I can't remember an allegedly 'good' series with so many characters I couldn't care less about!
We are both actively willing Jack Bauer's wife and daughter to get killed just to put us (and them) out of our misery. How stoopid and annoying are they?
And the President guy? You want someone to do his irritating son in and spare us having to watch the pouty miserable fool...
We have an agreement though that once we start a series we will see it through to the bitter end (and we hope it is).
Can't wait to get back to watching something decent like Dexter or The Wire.
I can at least understand the fuss at work a few years back amongst the 24 fans when we installed identical Cisco VoIP phones with that irritating ring tone into the office in Cheltenham...
....are there really 7 more series of this rubbish??? Yikes!]
Anyway, these netbooks are certainly pretty dinky, so I spent the day squinting and fiddling about inside trying to add extra memory, an iPod hard disk and a wireless-N card.
Apart from two hours off to watch the Lions 2nd test vs South Africa.
What a gutter that was.
Winning hands down until about the 50th minute until 4 or 5 big injuries and the Boks inch back into it and win with some gynormous penalty in the last second of the match. Alex
On Sunday I had arranged to meet my friend Alex - a Romanian student studying in Canterbury - who had caught the train across in the morning.
We had been friends since my stag party in Bucharest (we went to see Bristol play Bucharest in the European Shield rugby).
Behind the green door
Where's the piano that they're playing hot?
He had come over to Bristol for the return leg of the game and we had been back (Sara included) to his family home in Constantia, a port on the Black Sea in eastern Romania.
We have kept in touch over the last few years and I was looking forward to spending the day catching up and showing Alex around Hastings.
I don't know Hastings particularly well, but it was nice to walk along the seafront, shoot some zombies on House of the Dead 4, eat a '99' ice cream and check out the tourists.
We also visited the fishing area and took a look inside the fishing museum which was pretty interesting.
At one point on the wall they have this huge glass case with the biggest damn stuffed seagull I have ever seen. It was about 10 foot long! You certainly wouldn't want to be under that boy when he gets the call of nature!!
After pointing out the size of the monster to Alex I read the text on the case and realised it wasn't some mutated seagull, genetically warped from a diet of fast food and half-eaten Big Macs, but
View from behind
Treebeard would be proud.
an albatross! Doh!
Speaking of seagull's calls of nature, I got the good news from one of the flying rats just past the crazy golf on the main drag. Right down me sweater (my thermostat was still set to Ethiopia so I had been walking around in a long-sleeved shirt and fleece while the rest of the punters lapped up the English sunshine in shorts and T-shirts!!!)
Back at the house I tested out Chris's broadband wireless in the rooftop garden using my new netbook while Alex surfed YouTube and played a selection of good dance videos while we kicked back, shot the breeze and drank some ice cold stellas. The Polar Bear's Picnic
On Monday we decided it might be good to go and visit the woods where Chris has his roundhouse. If they could have talked, I'm sure the dogs would have voted for that too.
Chris and Sue run wilderness quests off in remote parts of the UK and do a smaller weekend versions for the student nurses they teach. Get people out of the 9 to 5 (do nurses do 9 to 5??) and into some quiet time with nature to
Enter anti-clockwise to lose a burden - take a new resolution (+1) out clockwise.
reassess what is really important to them.
Chris had helped build an authentic Saxon (?) roundhouse too, which is used as a base for these weekends as well as somewhere to escape for some quiet time.
I really like the woods. Although I haven't been there very often, I have happy memories of Chris teaching me field archery in the clearing by the roundhouse. Come the revolution I'll be able to hunt down and kill me something...as Antennah would say...like a cabbage :)
We spent a really nice hour or so walking through the woods. Chris and Sue educating us about trees and showing us a couple of ancient oaks.
We tried some plant that used to be used for cooking about a thousand years ago that tasted hot and spicy, just like curry. Clearly tucking into a chicken jalfrezi on a Friday night has been going on for far, far longer than just the last 30-odd years!
We saw the maze that Sue had built and the site of Chris's next project - a blacksmith's forge. Hopefully by the time we get back to England again it will be up and running and I
It's not just cats...
...dogs are stupid too!
can see it in action.
That evening we sat in the garden and ate the most fantastic Chinese vegetarian set meal for 2 (x2) that I have had in years.
OK it was probably the first one we've had in years but even so. Monosodium glutomate, where have you been??? The Godson's Picnic
Tuesday lunchtime we were due to catch the train to London, hop across town on the tube to Paddington and head over to Bristol, but before that we got to see our friends Rob, Kay and their son (our Godson), Charlie.
I remember as a kid how cliched and annoyed I'd get when some distant relative would pitch up and say "wow, look how big he's getting", yet here I was looking at Charlie thinking "wow! look how big he's getting" (I did it to Sara's cousins in Limerick, Jack and Megan at Dee's birthday party at Christmas. How embarrassing!).
Charlie was full of energy and chat, though he was clearly set on going for a picnic, rather than seeing two of mummy and daddy's boring old friends.
We spent a nice hour catching up. In fact, Rob is busy
Always tell your mummy if you'd rather have a picnic ;)
making soundproofing for the US Embassy in Libya!
There is at least a few weeks of work for him out here soundproofing our house in Assosa (PLEASE!!!) but I know which job I'd choose, given the option! Diplomat salary vs volunteer?
Typically Charlie - having spent 30 mins telling us "I-want-a-pick-nick" and looking for the door - come time to leave he decides he wanted to stay after all!
Kids, eh? :)
So we ended a really nice, but far too short, break in Hastings on the platform at St. Leonards, waiting for the 12.32 to London Bridge.
Once onboard I stared out of the window as the Sussex countryside slipped past and listened to the chit chat going on around me.
The steward arrived selling British Rail tea and started up some banter with an old dear who clearly made the trip regularly.
I heard them nattering away about the sunny weather and realised, love 'em or hate 'em, these are my people.
I was made in England. No problems with the language. No problems understanding the humour. No worries about knowing and breaking cultural taboo.
with Godmother and Godson
beautiful and Ethiopians are warm and hospitable; but by culture and (unfortunately) colour of our skin, we will always be Ferengis.
We were home...
There are more photos below