Thursday, 25 June 2015

Some Durham

Well, my stay in this University town with its 'typical' English rain, and quite frankly miserable Summer weather, is drawing to a close. I have two more full days here and then it's off to Germany to hob nob with Nobel laureates.

Although I didn't manage to make it to Edinburgh or see my friends in the UK during this trip (why do you all live in the damn south?!), Durham has had its charms. My photo-taking abilities are nothing to covet, so I have little to show for the few times I had to stop and just marvel at a moment. Mostly it was the fauna and flora. I have yet to see a squirrel in Durban, so the few that I saw here were a pleasant treat. And they reminded me of the Redwall stories by Brian Jacques that I grew up with, and still have on my bookshelf at home. Seeing the "wildlife" scamper around here in the green (and wet) English grass, I could quite easily picture Mr Jacques sitting on a bench somewhere watching it all and making up stories for each creature. I met two horses (twice!) and even saw a rabbit once, just chilling on the lawn on my way into the department. On my way back in the evening, it was more or less in the same place, but taking refuge from the rain under a tree.

Then there are the birds. I've seen wagtails and S.B.J.'s a plenty, but I have been particularly enamoured with some rather large starling-type thing. I don't know what it is, but there was one by the college in which I am staying and he/she is so comical hop-hop-hopping about. Always looked like he had a pot belly that he maneuvered around. Beautiful plumage. Here's a truly bad photo of it.

Camera-shy bird of unknown species. Any ideas...?

I am not really used to seeing such large "garden" birds. Even the doves/pigeons I've seen here seem larger than at home. Is there less gravity up here???? :P The one species I will not be sad to leave behind are the crows. Holy crap. Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out. Those birds have one of the worst calls. 'Caw' is perfectly appropriate. Creepy. Thank goodness I haven't watched The Birds yet.

I have also seen bawdy orange people who need to be instructed as to the proper application of fake tan. Here's a hint: it's not meant to look fake, or that you've rolled around in Nik Naks. Really, you don't look good and anyone who says you do is lying to your face.

I've had some of the tastiest nectaries from a weekly farm stall in Market Square (aptly named) and some of the highest calibre 'res' food I've ever seen. Granted, these past two days have seen the morning's scrambled eggs with a bit too much wateriness, but on the whole a darn decent spread.

Finally there's the cathedral and old English buildings you expect from any small town here. I didn't have the gutzpas to climb the tower, but the cathedral was beautiful and I even sneaked a snap of one of the stained glass windows...

One of the many sets of windows in Durham Cathedral. These are in much better condition than others.

I do enjoy traipsing around and breathing in the history. I find the graveyards interesting. All the different people and families with their long lives or early tragedies; I wonder who they were and if they liked their lives, and ever wondered if future humans would look upon their headstones and wonder about them. I did.

All in all the work's been good, I didn't embarrass myself in front of important people, and I've seen things I wouldn't have seen otherwise. So, yay Durham. I'll come back when you sort out your weather.

Every time I travel now though, I realise more and more how bad I am at socialising and integrating. But that's a story for another time.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Disorganised jet setter

It's come up so fast - I leave for the UK tomorrow, followed by the 65th Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany. I'm so disorganised. Perhaps it's because I managed to navigate Moscow, where English was rarely spoken, but I am not as "ocd" about all my travel details as I usually am. Haven't looked at maps, haven't really looked at train schedules. Trusting that I can arrive and find my way.

Still haven't gotten Forex - checked the exchange rate today and OUCH! Almost R20 to the pound. Thank goodness my food over there is being paid for, although it'll be after the fact. And just watch, when I get back, the rate would have dropped and I'll end up losing money. Typical. On the other hand, I found 60 Euros on my desk today :) Hoorah for clean-ups. Must be left over from my France trip last year. Guess I can pay for a 1-way train now, or food in the airport. Wait, do the Swiss deal in Euros?

Still need to phone my bank so they don't freeze my credit card. That would be a bit of a disaster. It's on my to-do list for this afternoon. That, and shopping for meds, because apparently I can't travel anywhere without needing a mini pharmacy in my bag. I have written a list though, so that's some organised forethought.

I have a wedding the day after I return to SA - haven't even thought about what I'll wear to that, but at least the present is all sorted. So it'll be something like land, home, sleep, wake-up, find a dress, go to wedding. Nice and streamlined. I feel more excited for my friends' nuptials than I do for these trips. Think the vast difference in money-worth gets me down. Can't afford to do many (any?) touristy things while I'm over there, well, not that I have oodles of time anyway. Business business business. I had wanted to go to Scotland but now not sure I'll have the dough. Sad times. Money makes the world go round, and SA is effing up it's political standing in the eyes of the international community, so goodbye investors, and hello rising prices and exchange rates.

Going to sidle away from the rant I can feel building and go get my butt to the bank. See you in Europe!