April 1st, 2012

Maritime University Tour with Amy Jones

…was so fun! As the last major block of touring I’ll do for *The Big Dream* (there are still some one-offs to come this spring/summer [and maybe fall]), it was so delightful to have lovely venues, warm hosts, engaged audiences, and a stellar reading companion (basically constant companion). Here are some of the highlights:

The Halifax waterfront--a bit chilly, still lovely.

Amy at the Waterfront--also looking a bit chilly, but entirely lovely.

Post-St. Mary's reading, at the Bistro, with Alexander MacLeod, Amy, Zach Wells, me, and Brian Bartlett

This is one of Amy's mom's THREE cats, Ben. It is a very happy household.

Professor Wanda Campbell starting off the readings at Acadia University.

Amy, batting cleanup at Acadia.

The whole gang from the University of New Brunswick creative-writing team had dinner with us. So friendly!

Me, doing air-quotes, at the UNB reading.

November 27th, 2011

Things Happening

So I went out west to do a bunch of readings and had an amazing time–but I also was in 4 timezones in 4 days, and am now very tired. So this recap will be brief–but with links elsewhere, and a few pictures.

Before I left, the November Quill and Quire went online, including that review of *The Big Dream*. Also the December print edition of Q&Q came out, and if you should read it you might see a gang interview on the short story with me, Jessica Westhead, D. W. Wilson, Alexander MacLeod, and Michael Christie. You should read that interview, because it’s definitely interesting, but you should also take a look at the picture of us (sadly minus the east-coast dwelling Mr. MacLeod) looking confused and friendly, as your garden variety short-story writer often does. (Bonus: there’s an extra picture in the table of contents).

Then on Sunday the Winnipeg Free Press ran a short interview with me by Ariel Gordon, in advance of my appearance there with Ray Robertson on Thursday. But before that, Calgary and Vancouver. Here are some highlights:

Ray reading from his essay collection "Why Not?" at Pages on Kensington in Calgary.

A veritable fiesta of breakfast cereal at my hosts' home in Calgary.

Gorgeous weather in Vancouver.

Me, baffled in Vancouver because I couldn't find the Ocean--where are you, Ocean?

Cathy Stonehouse reading at the Incite series in Vancouver.

Post-reading socializing with awesome friends in Winnipeg.

And home again, home again, jiggety-jig (what is that line from, anyway?)

November 20th, 2011

Readings this week

Lots of book stuff going on this week, in some places I’m not usually in. So perhaps you’d like to join me…

Tuesday November 22, Calgary, Ray Robertson and I will be reading at Pages on Kensington

Wednesday, November 23, Vancouver, Ray, Cathy Stonehouse and I will be reading at the Vancouver Public Library as part of the Incite reading series

Also on Wednesday, Waterloo, you could attend The New Quarterly’s 30th birthday party, with readings, music, wine, and awesomeness. I won’t physically be there, sadly, due to the aforementioned Vancouver appointment. But I will be in spirit, my books (signed!) will be there as part of the silent auction, and I sent a few paragraphs that might get read if there’s a lull in the evening. I think of it as similar to sending a telegram to be read at a wedding when one can’t be there, and truly this is a similar happy occasion.

Thursday, November 24, Winnipeg, Ray and I read at McNally Robinson’s Grant Park.

And then a probably very tired and happy Rebecca goes home, to conquer the mountain of work that will have built up in her absence, and hug her little kitten. It promises to be a very good week.

October 10th, 2011

Tour and Thanksgiving

So the WOSS tour ended on Friday night with a lovely reading at Cafe Bettina in Montreal, hosted by Kathleen Winter and attended by many lovely folks, including a few that maybe weren’t aware that a reading was going to take place until it actually did.

I got the train home at sunrise yesterday (a rather rosy dawn over the “Farine Five Roses” sign) to celebrate several days of Thanksgiving with lots and lots of people, and lots of food. I have to get back to that in a moment, but since I am thankful for the opportunity to go on this tour, this post fits today, so below is a picture by our loyal fan/tour photographer Ray Boudreau, of the team at the Hamilton reading:

And here is a link to a little video that was shown on Windsor Today, taken on the first night of the tour. It really amazes me that the power of video-editing has made us all look so sane and calm. Thanks, Jeff!!

It was a wonderful experience, the WOSS tour. But now for some family, some kitten playing, and (yet more) pie.

October 5th, 2011

WOSS on!

After readings in Windsor, London, and Hamilton, the WOSS crew is back in Toronto tonight, reading at Type Books on Queen at 6pm (yes, well before the Coachhouse event!) Should be a fun night–hope you can stop by!

Tomorrow night is the Ottawa reading and then Friday in Montreal–if you’re interested in those events, look right for details.

Here’s us pub-dining in Windsor with our Biblio-escort, Tara. Note candy necklaces for all!

October 1st, 2011

Women of the Short Story Tour Starts Tomorrow

As you may or may not be aware, the Women of the Short Story Tour kicks off tomorrow night, and right on cue, I’m starting to get very very anxious about it. Also anxious about getting laundry done so that I don’t have to wear a bathing suit to Thanksgiving dinner.

But mainly I’m excited to be getting to do so many readings and in the company of Laura Boudreau and Cathy Stonehouse. I’ve read both their books now, so this is not general excitement but very specifically to be in the company of such story-writing talent, and to hear what I know will be 6 nights of amazing readings.

Want to hear some of them, too? It would be lovely if you could join us, so here’s the deets below–or at the Facebook invitation at the link above. Hope to see you somewhere this week!

September 8th, 2011

Vancouver to Halifax (but not in that order)–The Dream Tour

A couple nights ago, I dreamed I was Dave Barry. If you are not familiar with him, Dave Barry is a very sucessful American humourist who has written tonnes of books and newspaper columns, and used to do a lot of book tours and speaking engagements that took him all over the world. Then he would write subsequent books and newspaper columns about how he hated touring.

When I am awake, I don’t think I’ll ever be Dave Barry–as far as I’m concerned, all readings are thrilling. And I have a lot of thrills ahead on the upcoming Dream Tour–I’m a little in awe about hitting 7 provinces and doing close to 20 readings in the next few months. Of the cities I’m slated to visit, I’ve never set foot in 4 of them (I bet regular Rose-coloured readers can guess which). And I’m touring with cool people throughout, so I don’t think I’ll have many dull moments.

If you are in or near any of the following spots on the right days, please do come out and tell your friends and associates to join us. I will no doubt be talking up all of these events individually as they get closer, and of course some things might get added (or subtracted, I suppose) but for now, here’s the plan:

September 20, Toronto The Big Dream Book Launch at the Dora Keogh (141 Danforth), 7pm–featuring a stage interview with Kerry Clare, a short reading, books for sale, and a muffin tray–what more could you want??

October 2, Windsor Women of the Short Story Kickoff event in Windsor at the Phog Lounge, 7:30, in concert with Laura Boudreau and Cathy Stonehouse

October 3, London, with Cathy and Laura at the London Public Library, 3rd Floor, 7pm

October 4, Hamilton, with Laura and Cathy, at Bryan Prince Booksellers

October 5, Toronto, with Cathy and Laura, at Type Books on Queen Street, 6pm

October 6, Ottawa, with Laura and Cathy, at Collected Works

October 7, Montreal, with Cathy and Laura, at Cafe Matina

Then–a nap. Well, then Thanksgiving, then a nap, then some work. And then,

October 19, Peterborough, a solo reading at Trent University

November 6, Toronto (venue TBD), the Literary Deathmatch, Golden Girls edition, with Carolyn Black, Dani Couture, and Grace O’Connell, hosted by Julie Wilson

And then, oh my god, in an airplane. WITH WINGS!

November 22, Calgary, with Ray Roberson, at Pages on Kensington

November 23, Vancouver, with Ray and Cathy (remember her from October?), at Incite (scroll down), 7:30pm

November 24, Winnipeg, with Ray, at McNally Robinson Grant Park, 7pm

Then a whole bunch more work, the winter holidays, 2012, and then (you aren’t tired of this yet, are you?)

February 5, Hamilton, at Lit Live, Line up TBD, 7:30

February 6, Toronto, at The Rowers Pub Reading Series, Line up TBD, 7:30

Then work, and snow, and then OMG another airplane! Hopefully this one has wings too!

March 27, Halifax, with Amy Jones, at…details to come

March 28, Wolfville, with Amy, details to come

March 29, Fredericton, with Amy, details to come

Ok, that’s a lot of readings, but stretched over 7 months it should actually be just about perfect–no Barry-esque kvetching from this corner. I also do the occasional school or book club visit, but I’m not including those here since they aren’t public. If you want to talk about that possibility in your school/book club, please drop me a line.

Also, if you are distant from all of the above readings and wish I were doing one closer to you, please let me know. Not just because it’s an ego boost for me, but because it’s helpful to know where I could schedule a reading and not be faced with a sea of empty chairs. Obviously, if you’re knowledgable about good venues to read in and that sort of thing, that’s helpful, but no problem if you just want to say, “Come read in Saskatoon (etc.)!”

Really hoping to see many of your lovely faces at some of these events!

July 19th, 2011

Days 8 to 11–Manchester, London, and Home

After a delicious breakfast in the hotel of Crunchy Nut Clusters (the heroin of breakfast cereals; seemingly available only in the UK; contains *caramel*) eaten dry and straight from the box–I never did get the hang of the English habit of eggs and toast and everything else for breakfast–we headed for the delights of Manchester.

M’s great goal was to see the Anthony Burgess Foundation, as he is a tremendous fan of that author. I, on the other hand, have not read any Burgess. When I’d thought the foundation had a museum, which would teach about Burgess, I’d plan to accompany him, but then I found it was just an archive, preaching pretty much entirely to the converted. So I set off for The Museum of Science and Industry.

I saw on my tourist map that there would be a church called “The Hidden Gem” close by my route, so I tried a detour to find, and failed–hence the name, I suppose. But instead I found Manchester City Hall, which is one of the loveliest buildings I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t totally clear on what it was at first–maybe a church–so I went in to find a busy, businesslike place of work. There’s a desk where you can sign in, though, and they tourists are allowed to look around, at least in certain areas. I signed a waiver to take these pictures, which had me slightly worried–not really sure what I agreed to. Except I did promise not to photograph the murals in the mural room (second picture below–I don’t know why it’s sideways, and I can’t seem to fix it. Sorry. Please just tip your head.). That’s too bad, as they really were stunning, depicting highlights of Manchester’s history over the past 500 years or so. Really, it was just an incredible place.

So I eventually got over to the Science and Tech Museum, which was also pretty interesting. I was there mainly for the older technologies, the spinning machines that the industrial revolution was founded on. I was less interested in the air and space stuff, though I’m assured Manchester had some wonderful accomplishments in that area. I actually snuck in with a kindergarten (called “reception” in England; I’m learning!) demonstration of the various IR-age machines–it was fascinating, if loud.

Right around the time I was tiring of MOSI, it started to pour outside. This was very disappointing, as it meant that I had to forgo the intriguing fast-food options that would have required a soaking 5-minute walk, and eat lunch instead in the over-priced museum restaurant. 6 pounds for soup and some bread and soda–urgh!

Of course it cleared as I was finishing my last mouthful, but at least then it was an easy stroll to the People’s History Museum. I was a little confused about this one, as I had thought it would be a history of labour unions, and work in the city in general–some of my favourite topics! And there were certainly allusions to that, but it was more earlier stuff, about the fight for the vote for working men, and then for women. Very very interesting, if not exactly what I expected.

Then I went off to meet Mark at the Manchester Art Gallery, a lovely if smallish gallery in the heart of town. At this point, I may have been a bit tuckered by all the looking-at-stuff (I gave up taking pictures), but I still really enjoyed the exhibits, particularly the collection of pieces by artists and designers native to the city.

Then we had tea (on a tiered tray!), a nap, a stroll, dinner in a pub, and then the drizzle and exhaustion were too much for us and we went to see Bad Teacher, which I would not recommend, but that’s another blog post.

The next morning we staggered off to the MetroLink back to Piccadilly station (scoffing at other tourists in our hotel’s lobby, who were waiting for a taxi to the same place). The train back to London was non-local, non-crowded, and with assigned seats–bliss! I even found a bathroom! Back in London, I felt like a tube-map expert compared to my week-ago self, and we reached the hotel in, well, less than an hour, anyway.

For the bulk of the trip, we’d been super-cheap with regard to hotels (no bathroom door/half hour out of town/potato bugs–couldja tell?) but for the last two nights, we swung for something higher end. In London, there seemed to be no middle rung between cupboard-sized basement rooms and the truly posh–the middle rung that happy spots like Best Western and Holiday Inn typically occupy. So we ended up at Tara Copthorne, an incredibly nice (and expensive) hotel in Kennsington. Still, though, we actually *could* afford it, which meant it was the least posh of the posh, ie., in the parent company’s adverts for it’s five London hotels, the Tara doesn’t even rate a mention.

We were celebrated our bathtub and minifridge, functional tv and lack of potato bugs for a while, then headed off into Kennsington, which is a terribly nice part of town. We had an excellent lunch in a kebab shop–just like native Londoners, right?–and walked to where we’d get the airport bus two days later (I was already nervous). Then I thought…why not Westminister Abbey?

Ok, ok, more organized tourists would’ve thought of that before. And they also probably wouldn’t’ve said, “Hey, that’s a big clock! I’m going to take a picture of it…Hey, is this Big Ben?” But the experience of strolling around Parliament and Westminister Abbey was no less awe-inspiring even to dimwits (everything shuts surprisingly early there, so we couldn’t go inside).

Then we walked across the Thames, which I’d been wanting to do, and had dinner in another pub. Did I mention that London pub food is excellent, and fare cheaper than in other restaurants?

We got up early in order to do everything possible with our last day in England. This started with another walk across the Thames, this time on London Bridge, in the rain, but still fun (we’re getting used to it). Then the Tate Modern, where we had not nearly enough time but still managed to really enjoy the Material Gestures display, including the “red” pictures by my heartthrob, Mark Rothko.

Then back to Victoria Station for lunch with friends of Mark’s (my first London pizza=about the same as all pizzas, ie., great). Then briefly to the hotel, then dinner with Kim, who came into town to bid us farewell. We went for a walk in Kennsington Gardens, which later came up in the Martin Amis novel I read on the flight home–now that’s posh. Then we ate some Dairy Milk, watched some tube, and said our last good night to London.

So terrible was our entry into London that I insisted on getting up at 5am in a cold panic about our exit. We were at the bus stop–this doesn’t make me look sane–over an hour early for our planned pickup. The bus driver was mystified and annoyed about this, but finally allowed us onto the bus as the 5:50am bus apparently does not draw that much of a crowd. After the first EasyBus experience, I was pretty relieved.

Gatwick also was more sane the second time round. We were actually present before our flight had begun checkins (sigh) but once they got started it went smoothly enough. Mysteriously, the carryon I’d entered the country with was deemed too big to leave as carryon, so I had to check it. I was worried about my enormous collection of souvenir Dairy Milks being smashed, but let it go.

We wandered the food courts and malls of Gatwick, as our gate had not opened yet, and bought breakfast. My last scone of the trip came with a tiny glass jar of strawberry jam–yes, really! I took the jar home as a souvenir, and it’s in the fridge now. Then Mark bought some duty-free and I bought a 1500mL bottle of water–we won’t be having a repeat of last time’s airplane drought. Then we waited for our gate to open–and waited and waited. Finally I realized that there wasn’t a delay, Gatwick’s system is just different than I’m used to, and one waits mainly in the general seating, not at the gate. I guess that’s ok.

It was a 20 minute indoor walk to the gate when it was at least announced–that’s some airport. And the flight left on time.

The rest of this is not exciting (well, I’m not sure anyone else is finding *any* of this exciting, but if not even I do then it’s a bad sign) so I’ll try to speed up. The flight was fine, the food was edible, no one projectile vomited in my hearing, and though it took a long time our luggage eventually rematerialized (the Dairy Milks, near as I could tell, were fine). Then Mark’s kindly sister-in-law drove us home in her shiny new car. Once there, we bought groceries, and contemplated our mountain of laundry.

A great trip, I think. Thanks for letting me relive it via blog. Next post will be in present tense, and maybe even about a book!

July 18th, 2011

Days 6 and 7, Oxford and Manchester

Oxford is just so incredibly beautiful, full of history and learning, gorgeous architecture and fields and gardens and places to buy books and pubs. But the thing that blew my mind is that this historical place going back centuries is *still* an accessible (well, to some) institute of higher learning. Just as my parents drove me to Montreal with my purple sheets and London Boy t-shirt when I was 19, some people’s parents drive them to *Oxford* and leave them there to increase their brilliance.

It was the summer term while we were there, so we didn’t see all that many students. A young man biking frantically ahead of our bus with his academic robe streaming behind him gave some idea of what the vibe will be there come fall. And we saw a few groups coming into or out of graduation ceremonies: the girls in pretty dresses, the guys in white tie and tails for some reason.

It’s just as well that most of the students weren’t around, as the tourists would’ve completely trampled them. I know it’s terribly poor form to complain about tourists when one *is* a tourist, but it’s also practically de rigeur–everyone does it. There were MANY tourists in Oxford, which surprised me–it’s a university, after all. Most were there, I think, for the architecture, which was stunning, and not so much interested in the colleges themselves. There was also an undercurrent about Harry Potter that I did not understand–apparently there are some scenes in the films set there, but I haven’t seen the films. We saw this broom at All Souls’ College, and people seemed pretty excited about it–thoughts?

Other highlights of the day included the Bodleian Library (though I was very sad that we were not allowed to see the actual stacks), Blackwell’s Books, which has 3 miles of shelving in the basement alone, and where I bought my lone book purchase of the trip, The Book of Other People, which I am much looking forward to reading. (NOTE: If I had not grown to loathe both my luggage and my miserable lack of upper-body strength, I would have bought many more. Consumer responsibility is increased when one will have to carry it.) We also had some really good pub food.

We saw our 7th consecutive sunny dawn the next morning, and were really starting to doubt the rumours about English weather. We left our cosy hotel and it was only when we were standing at the bus stop preparing to depart that I realized we’d be staying next to a Cattery the entire time. A cattery! House of cats must be what that means, right? Certainly explains the cat I saw in the parking lot at the hotel (I chased it; it bolted; I never learn).

We took the bus to the train station, and were very early (as usual). Then the train was delayed. Then we got on the train and it was chaos–no assigned seating, no where to put large suitcases, totally zoo with people still staggering through the aisle 15 minutes after the train had departed, looking for a place to collapse. The strange thing is that I was the only one that minded; the English were quite cheerful about having to stand in the aisle for a whole stop, or sit with their legs sprawled around their baggage. In light of their good grace, I refrained from complaining (much) either.

Still, it was a looooonng train ride to Manchester, and the flapjack I had bought as a genuine English treat disintegrated into a million particles all over me (and Mark) and was much too annoying to eat. Plus I never figured out where the bathrooms were. So I was not in great spirits by the time we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, which I had thought was not actually where we were supposed to be, as our tickets said Manchester Metrolink.

It turns out that the Metrolink is a tram service (basically just like Toronto streetcars, but with tootling little kids-show-style horns), so the ticket saved us 90p in getting to our hotel. Unfortunately, a) some idiot tripped me and walked away as I crashed to the ground, so then my knee hurt, plus I was angry, b) our train had been delayed so much it was rush hour by the time we got on the tram, and c) when we got off at the stop proscribed by the info dude at the train station, it was completely not apparent where we were, and none of the streets were labelled.

So, I didn’t get off to a great start in Manchester. By the time we arrived at the Stay Inn (which is technically in another town entirely, Salford), I was in a bit of despair, and not thrilled to see that there is no entrance to to hotel from the street, and you had to go through an alley and parking lot to get in there. The very helpful and sweet staff working the desk were horrified at my suggestion that it wasn’t safe to be sending pedestrians through a dark alley and lot if they came home late–they assured me both that it was, and that the owners were building a street entrance the next year.

The room was nice, if small–the tv was on top of the wardrobe, which meant you either watched flat on your back, or with your neck at a 45 degree angle. Odd. The kindly hotel staff misunderstood our desire to see the town and sent us toe Piccadilly Gardens, which reminded me of Yonge and Dundas Square, with spray fountains and artfully arranged cement plazas, and nothing much to do but shop. Actually, as Mark pointed out, Manchester is a lot like TO, down to the tram/streetcars.

Instead, we strolled the Chinatown, and had a nice, very authentic meal in a room full of Chinese people–always a good sign. I kept thinking I would learn about the Chinese population in Manchester when I went to the People’s History Museum the next day, but I never did. That’s odd, too.

The next day was much better and I didn’t fall down once.

July 15th, 2011

England Days 2-5: Dagenham, Romford, Windsor, Camden, and Oxford

One thing that has always marked me out as a Canadian with American roots is that I don’t care much about tea. I mean, I’m happy enough to drink tea, if you’re putting the kettle on anyway, but I don’t find delight or solace in it the way so many of my fellow Canadians and, I’m told, Britons do. I don’t even care what you put it in–I’ll drink tea with or without milk, sugar, or lemon. If I don’t feel like getting up, I’ll drink it black.

But it was kind of delightful to drink a “proper” pot of tea on our first morning at Charlie’s. Given the extremely basic level of the room, I was shocked by the quality and generosity of the morning feast. Eggs, bacon (very strange looking bacon), all the toast and jam you could handle, tomatoes, cheese, croissants, and lovely tea–it seemed *richer*, without being stronger, than the Canadian bag-in-cup kind. Thus fortified, we set for the heart of London.

Everyone I talked to who’d been to London said the best part was just walking around looking at stuff, so instead of going straight to Russell Square, we got off the tube at Covent Gardens and just wandered around. It was a bit early to see much action there, but the day was lovely and fresh, and the buildings and old markets really are gorgeous. We wandered somehow to Piccadilly Gardens, which was terrifying–the most traffic ever in the world. We went to the Waterstone’s, a nice giant bookstore, and I finally got an A-Z map–then we immediately got lost. Or perhaps we’d already been lost, but hadn’t known it until we looked at the map.

Finally we gained Russell Square–Bloomsbury!! I tried to imagine Vanessa and Virginia Stephens, Duncan Grant and Maynard Keynes and all the rest walking briskly among the old townhouses (less old, then), having brilliant conversations about the next great thing in art, literature, furniture, economics. I didn’t entirely succeed, but enjoyed myself. We found a bookstore devoted entirely to the works Swedenborg, sat on the grass in Russell Square and watched the pigeons, and finally went and got something to eat from a grocery.

We carried our food to the front yard (garden?) of the British Museum, which was an absolutely perfect place to picnic. See?

The inside of the museum was pretty great too. Mark had wanted to go, and since it was free (well, a 3 pound donation is recommended, which is still pretty reasonable) I had thought we could just drop in for a little bit. But both the space and the exhibits were pretty enthralling. What I couldn’t get over was the Enlightenment Exhibit–the British Museum actually *existed* during the Enlightenment, and took on some of their collection on an as-it-happens basis. I have never seen anything like that.

After another grocery-store meal (they have really nice prepared foods in English groceries–who knew?), we went to see *Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead* at The Royal Haymarket Theatre. We had gotten the tickets from of the 8 bazillion discount ticket outlets in central London, after seeing a single tiny poster for the show on the subway. Apparently, most people want to see *Shrek the Musical* or *Legally Blond, the Musical*, but I loved this play when I read it/saw the film, and wanted to finally see it live.

Totally great! The film, with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth’s portrayls of the title characters, is pretty firmly entrenched in my mind and I think many others’ minds, and it was so delightful to another brilliant interpretation that was so *different*–bawdier, goofier, just as weird but differently so. If you’re in London this summer, I recommend.

The next morning, we had another generous breakfast, this time including Red Leicester cheese, which I wanted to try because I hadn’t had it before. Turns out, pretty much like cheddar.

Then we hit the tube and parted ways, as Mark was off to Oxford and I was headed east of London to Dagenham. Dagenham is technically in another county (Essex) but such is the size of London that it qualities as a suburb and the tube goes there. There’s also a movie made about Dagenham, but I haven’t seen it and so can’t comment. Mainly Dagenham is where my friend K. teaches grade one (“year one”, I believe they call it), bakes cupcakes and remains awesome.

I was pretty proud of myself of getting myself all the way out there solo (over an hour, and without incident). It was also great to be reunited with K., who had left Canada a year and a half before. We hung out, ate chicken at Nando’s, bought underwear at Marks and Spencer, and went to the bingo hall in Romford. All the typical daily life of the residents there, which I was delighted to try out. Here’s me goofing around in the bingo hall.

Then to bed, because early the next morning, Windsor Castle!! I don’t mind doing touristy things when they are awe-inspiring, as Windsor truly is. After taking a train reminiscent of the GO (but with only one level), surrounded by the gorgeous and the posh on their way to a horse race (I think) also in Windsor, we got to this magnificent…fortress. Seriously, if you declared war on Windsor, you’d have a hell of a time getting in there. We saw all the stuff you’d imagine–Queen Mary’s dollhouse (I am a dollhouse enthusiast), lots of art and lofty rooms, and the best part, the changing of the guard with a random little show from the marching band. Here they are:

They we wandered Windsor proper for a while, before getting back on the train and heading into the heart of London, to the very beautiful Regent’s Park. Not only did the open-air theatre in the park have the most wonderous public bathrooms I’ve ever seen:

They have an amazingly huge and commodious theatre–not that the High Park Amphitheatre isn’t wonderful, but this one had actual chairs!! We saw The Beggar’s Opera. The set was so amazing it was copyrighted, as a very polite usher informed me when he made me delete the picture I’d just taken of it. The show was well performed, but at times hard to follow and…unimaginably filthy. What were people *like* in 1728? Oversexed and amoral, apparently. I was particularly stunned by the mega-meta ending, but it was a wild performance and exciting to be there.

The next morning we got a late start, ate a tasty Canadian breakfast (maple syrup!), and tried to go into town to drop my luggage off at Paddington Station, then go explore Camden Market for a couple hours before I had to get back for my train. This was the plan but…it was Sunday. I had been feeling very bad about how much better London’s subway system is than Toronto’s, but the nice thing about ours is that it mainly works every day of the week, while London’s becomes half-inoperative and entirely slow and baffling on Sundays. What should (I think) have been an hour’s journey turned into 3, with many crowded transfers. So by the time I finally left my bags and got to Camden, I had spent 17 pounds to be free of my things for less than an hour. Camden is very nice, I think, but all I saw of it was the Doc Martens’ store (wowsers!!) and a Pret a Manger, before i had to head back. And then of course the subway station we’d come out of had closed, and we had to walk to another one. My advice is not to use the Paddington left luggage if you’ll only be gone a short time, as it is the same cost for anything under 24 hours, and it’s very expensive.

After all that hassle, it was great to get on a train and just not transfer for an hour. It was still very warm on the train, though, and I hate sitting backwards, so it was even better to get *off* the train and find Mark waiting for me at the station in Oxford. After our merry reunion, we lugged my luggage (which I had grown to loathe) into the centre of town and had a little tour, before a delightful dinner at a centuries old pub. I had the mussels, which were younger than that.

Then we got on the Oxford city bus and went out of town about half an hour, to a place called the which is basically a rest area off the highway, although more advanced than the north American version–this one had restaurants, a mini-park. a grocery store, and hotels. We stayed at the Days Inn, which was very plain and cheap, but clean and comfortable and, thrillingly, had a door on the bathroom. There was a tea/coffee centre in the room complete with biscuits, and Mark had thoughtfully placed a Dairy Milk on my pillow. Hello, Oxford!

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