Wednesday, July 25, 2012

And now that I've filled you in on Scotland

... I can start catching you up on Russia!

I haven't actually got a lot to say about Russia, in the same ways that I didn't have a lot to say about Thailand, or the Caribbean. I'm not hear on holiday, it's work, and it does alter the way you see everything. Things I might love as a visitor are just seriously irritating when I'm trying to get something done, and instead of having a food adventure and exploring the fridge contents of a Russian house, I sulk because I can't figure out what anything is, and I just want some damn comfort food already.

Please, don't judge me too harshly for not making the most of it. I know I haven't and I do have regrets, but I can't do everything at once (I'm still coming to terms with this thought, I haven't really accepted it yet).

All these excuses, and no real substance to what promises to be a good adventure, it doesn't bode well. But it is just because I don't know where to start. Perhaps with the day I arrived, and at 10pm or so I cracked, and had to ask when it was going to get dark- this turned out to be some time between 10.30pm and 11pm. No midnight suns then. I was vaguely hopeful, but knew that we weren't really going to be that far north, sadly. It would've been neat.

The conversation that evening also turned to languages- I couldn't understand any of what was being said by anyone, not in itself unusual. What curiosity I did discover was that although I couldn't speak German (apparently this would have been helpful for talking to one woman), my (rather basic, and very rusty) Spanish would be. There is one man who speaks Russian and very little English, so it came as quite a nice revelation to discover that he is fluent in Spanish. I think my Spanish is a little better than his English, although not by very much.

It has been quite an experience for me, having to try and speak and understand another language as the only means of communicating with another person- my poor skill in Spanish is the lowest common denominator as it were. Previously I've got along fine with speaking English and gesturing, but when you know that you share some skill in the same language, one feels a curious obligation to attempt to speak it with them, rather than gesturing like a pair of monkeys. It's actually quite a lot of fun, seeing what I can understand. Although I rather tested the limits at one point by not thinking before using the excellent line "Que significa 'Ye nada'? " which is "What does 'Ye nada' mean?" 'Ye nada' being a Russian phrase I hear often. It sounds very similar to the Spanish 'de nada' meaning 'it's nothing' but the context (and tone!) didn't make sense. Of course his attempt to explain it in Spanish went beyond my vocabulary, and into his English, which he eventually translated as 'No make'. Hehehe. It was an amusing realisation that of course asking "what does that Russian word mean?" in Spanish was bound to give a challenging result. But a fun one. And we did get there in the end. I think, from the context, that 'don't' or 'don't do it' is closer, but hey, it's all learning. And it could just be the funky linguistic counterpart to an English "Child, please don't" is "Child, please no make" in Russian.

On that amusing note, I shall leave you there, as it is past my bed time, and if I'm not asleep soon the small people who live in the cellar and make the house work will come and get me. Apparently. 

St Andrews

I liked St Andrews a great deal, and if were the sort to go for small towns I would have simply fallen in love with it. It was beautiful and charming, wild and yet so historical. Definitely fascinating. And with ruins to explore as well...
Peeking through the cathedral ruins.
A lovely little town by the sea in Scotland, known the world over for golf and Prince William. I mean it's university. Which Wills happened to attend. I did have vague hopes of taking a walk by the sea while I was there, but these were laid to rest in light of my mobility issues. Arriving off the train at Leuchars (St Andrews itself not actually being on the train line), I taxied in, and settled in to my B&B (not as perfect as the one in Edinburgh, but everything else was full). I hobbled around with my sprained ankle and found a surprising lack of restaurants, the one I found and really liked the look of was, wait for it... fully booked.  

The remainders of the grand main entrance.
Some nice Scottish imagery.
I discovered it to be a lovely medieval town perched up above the sea, complete with castle and cathedral ruins. Of which the castle ruins were so lovely, I shall dedicate a post entirely to pictures of it. It was pretty idyllic really. I spent most of the next day either sitting in a coffee shop (needed coffee, and couldn't walk much) or hobbling around the ruins. Ruins are pretty amazing. Oh and the graveyard! Sounds weird, but the graveyard by the old cathedral ruins was quite something to see. It was on a gentle hillside, topped by the cathedral walls and sloping down towards the beach. I don't usually make a habit of touring graveyards, or photographing them, for that matter, but this one fascinated me.

The angel raises his face to the sky, finished. 
In between I managed to find what might be the worlds most amazing ice-cream store, with a variety to astonish the most experienced ice-cream samplers. I believe I went for something reasonably tame, some sort of special Scottish icecream, with caramel swirls and something else, it was very tasty. I even sampled some of the Irn Bru ice-cream, which I was less taken with. But the one I had was delicious! I wandered around the pretty streets (and Butts Wynd as I recall), before realising that if I didn't get my own butt over to the castle I wouldn't get to see much of it. I arrived with five minutes until close, and luckily they were kind enough to let me in anyway, and I wandered around taking pictures. Like the cathedral, it was in an advanced state of ruins, but rather cool to explore, as you shall see. It would have had amazing views when there was an actual building there, it sits right at the top of the cliff above the sea, just where you really want there to be a castle.
I was totally mature enough not to giggle. Honestly.
After all this exploring I went and collected my massive pack and staggered around for a while, until I found a suitable restaurant to loaf about it for the remainder of my evening. I was very well attended by the staff, who were super-kind, and found somewhere to keep my pack, and loaded it into my taxi (which they called) for me at the end of the evening.

After scrambling aboard the Caledonian Sleeper train I had an epic adventure night of awful proportions. The sleeper train broke down in Edinburgh, and after moving us to new carriages, we were then allowed to 'sleep' for a few hours before they woke us all up to tell us "This train isn't going anywhere" Ummm yeah, figured that out a few hours ago guys, what with the not moving and all. Eventually with much kerfuffle I managed to obtain coffee from the plebs who open the Costa Coffee in Edinburgh Waverley at some truly unreasonable hour of the morning (I was there at about 5.30am...) and get on a train to Lancaster? Somewhere in the North, starting with an L. Eventually arrived there at about 8am, changed to a new train to Birmingham, only to be told I *still* had to get off a Crewe anyway and collect my tickets for onwards travel. Sigh. Crewe was difficult to navigate, their ticket machines useless, and the elevators slower than me going down stairs with a sprained ankle and a pack my own size and weight. I was not happy with Crewe. Oh and they denied the existence of my tickets until I eventually got my phone (with dying battery in its very last moments) to show an email receipt that I had indeed paid for the tickets. At which point they were obliged to concede their existence, and eventually relinquished them to me. After Crewe I eventually got to B'ham, where they proceeded to change my train platform (after I had arrived at it, of course) not once, but twice. Way to mess with someone who has a heavy pack and can't walk.

I am honestly surprised I made it without hurting somebody.

Friday, July 20, 2012

(somewhat delayed) T in the Park!!!

Apologies for the delay. Blog posts to follow thick and fast in the coming days I hope!

Thursday: We made it in, and actually got sunburnt waiting to get into the camping ground. Not putting the tent up in the rain- WIN!!!

Fairy trio! There was a fancy dress theme for the Friday night, which we (clearly) put a lot of effort in to. 
Friday was actually pretty amazing. It was glorious and sunny mostly, there was the requisite mud that any festival must have, but basically fine. I got to see The Darkness live, meaning I have now seen Franz Ferdinand and The Darkness, the soundtrack to my last year at high school. I even had S2 (a friend from school) with me to appreciate The Darkness too, it was perfect. I believe in a thing called love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fairys in tent city! (Note the lack of mud now...)
Fairy make-up was a lot of fun, Jo did an amazing job of drawing on the side of my face. If only you could actually see it...
Oh so also there was the Kaiser Chiefs, who I've loved for a long while now, but I was surprised at the crowd reaction to them. The Darkness inspire people to rock out in a hair metal totally-I'm-taking-this-seriously-buahahahahahahahahahahah-just-listen-to-the-rhythm-of-my-heart sort of way (i.e. have an awesome time tossing their hair about play air guitar and trying to hit the high notes of a would-be metal love song). I guess the Kaiser Chiefs are just that bit more melancholy and strike a chord with the younger, frustrated generation who mostly comprised that part of the crowd. Their rather tongue-in-cheek lyrics I think were taken rather more literally than really intended too ("every day I love you less and less"). Either way, Jo started to get seriously squished and was in danger of being maimed, so we left after a couple of songs, it was just too rough. Which is a pity, I really like them, but there's no way we could've stayed, she's just too small for a crowd in that sort of mood.

After mooching about for a bit, going to get something to eat, we meandered back around the end of their set, and I decided I would like to go back in. I'm not really into mosh pits, but I'm okay with the crush around the main stage, it's a part of the thrill and is really quite fun, if you can hold your own (which I'm sure you all know I'm more than capable of with a mixture of elbows and fluttering lashes). I'm not really familiar with Example, I only knew the song 'Changed the way you kiss me', but I like it well enough, so I was up for it, and managed to get in really close without too much difficulty. It's a bit of whirlpool effect once you get into the crowd, I started quite far out at the side, but only about two songs in I was right in the middle, without any real intention of getting there, that was just the way the crowd sucked me in. Unfortunately Example wanted to get a few mosh pits going, and actually requested the crowd to 'get a few circles going here' and then the real squishing started. I suspect it was somewhere in here that I got a bit damaged, but I didn't really notice at the time (thanks Adrenaline- Threnaline), so just carried on. I actually got pulled out the front barrier at the end of the set, thanks to some kind (and tall) guy in front of me who asked where I wanted to go and when I said 'out' he got attention from the appropriate plebs and got me hauled out over the front barrier (quite literally). It was the only way out at that point, the bands only got bigger and better after that, and the crowd correspondingly bigger.

Anyway, enjoyed an amazing set from Florence + the machine. AMAZING!!! I love that woman! She owns the stage pretty damn well for one lady, and is a security nightmare with all her jumping off the stage to go right up to the crowd. She has such a powerful voice, and such a range. Sometimes seeing people live is disappointing, and sometimes you appreciate them more. In her case, she definitely came across even more awesome than I realised she was (and slightly drunk, but that's entirely forgiveable), such enthusiasm too. I was very happy.

Unfortunately by the time Snow Patrol came on I was starting to feel the full force of my time in the crowd, and my ankle was getting really sore, so I headed back to the tent early, not wanting to fight the main crowd and mud to get back with a sore ankle.

Please observe where we could have pitched a tent...

Jo and I

Saturday: Cut forward nine hours, and I woke up to rather upset friends, whose sleeping bags were wet, thanks to a leak in the tent. Leak in the tent was fixed (drunks had tripped of guy ropes keeping the fly away from the tent), contents of tent sorted out, and then I tried to stand up and walk. Suffice to say that 'tried' is the important word. 'Hobbled' is the correct term for what I managed, with the aid of S2 and Jo, until we reached a help point, and got some medics. To make a long story short, I spent ALL day either in first aid posts, the site hospital (yes, apparently a festival this size has an actual, on site, army-style hospital), except for a while in the Cabaret Club. Which had stand-up comedy. Grr. Also, dear god, festivals are FULL to the brim of stupid people. Absolutely full. There were drunk people with hypothermia left, right and centre, wearing foil blankets and vomiting into cardboard tubs, or passed out on stretchers. I realised that people who're high as a kite are actually way more tolerable than drunk people, mostly. Whatever party drugs they were on just made them very love-y and actually pretty hilarious for the most part. And they don't vomit so much. Also, anybody who volunteers at these sorts of things deserves a gold medal. I don't have nearly that much patience! They're angels really.

Also, they should sit in a corner of these tents with a camera, filming. It would make awesome reality TV. People who pay £250 for the privilege of getting themselves fucked up, cold, muddy and ill in close proximity to awesome live music are just crazy. All that amazing music, and they aren't going to remember any of it. Admittedly that's because they didn't see it, but that is directly due to their own stupidity (except for a few, much more worrying and sad cases of drink spiking). It's a strange phenomena really, but it seems quite common- S2 reports that she has encountered this attitude from workmates and such here. Really odd. If you want to go mess yourself up outside, camp-grounds are a lot cheaper!

Anyhow, the end result of all my time in festival A&E was that I was *eventually* helped out of the place and onto a bus back to Edinburgh, with my pack. Many thanks to many of my friends for all their help. E sorted out a B&B for me to stay at, as my cellphone battery was dying, and Jo and S2 helped to carry me and my stuff to places I could be rescued from. I made it to the B&B by about midnight, where I showered (*with* my boots, it was the only hope I had of removing the mud from them!) and collapsed into bed after re-bandaging my ankle. Yay I still know how to do up bandages properly! They are awkward on yourself though.

Festivaaaaaaaaaaaal power!

Sunday: Next morning I got a taxi to S2's flat and grabbed my stuff, in order that didn't die of boredom in the B&B room. It was a nice enough B&B (Smith's Guest-house, if you're interested, I would definitely recommend it!), it's just that with no phone and no internet, there's really not much to do. After retrieving my travel entertainment (oh Netty, how I love thee), I settled in to a café for the remainder of the day, taxing back to the B&B (sprained ankles while travelling are expensive) in time to paint my nails before hobbling to the Chinese restaurant down the road for dinner.

Anyway, the festival was good, even if I did get a bit broken and have to leave early. I got to see the bands I was most after, and my friends, so I'm happy. I was able to catch up with S2 and Jo (who can be found over at her blog) on the Monday, and they filled me in on the remainder of the weekend and all the mud and music I missed. Sounds like I missed the most of the mud-fest!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Okay so I know I haven't even updated on Scotland yet, but RUSSIA! It's a bit wild, and we are way out in the middle of nowhere (2 or 3 hours drive from Moscow). But there is internet. No cellphone, but internet.

I am itchy, and it's a bit cold. Also, I think this is the furtherest I have ever been from the sea. I realised this looking at the river that people seem to think I am going to swim in. I'm not yet convinced. I don't like swimming in rivers, especially the muddy, weedy variety which also have fish and frogs in them. Ewww. At least it means it isn't toxic I suppose. But still, eww. Give me my stony mountain rivers and lakes please!

Anyhow, time for lunch. Raiding the fridge is an interesting prospect here, I can't tell the butter from the sour cream until I open it. Never mind the fact that I don't even have names for half of what is in there!


Sunday, July 1, 2012


I have been a bit lazy with my blog recently, mostly due to a lack of things to say. I've just been preparing for the summer ever since coming back from Sardinia, and now it is upon up.

I got sunburnt in London.

Also, three days of work left before I go up to Scotland for a massive four-day party on the farm, otherwise known as T in the Park, one of the most awesome music festivals on the circuit. Upon returning from that NEXT Thursday, I will get one short nap in my bed before flying out for Russia on the Friday. 

Then I explore Russia, fight off mosquitoes, and life is all summery. Then some time after that I fly to the US of A for the first time, and spend the remainder of the summer in San Francisco, returning to London early September.

Overall it is looking like an excellent summer. I expect I shall be most pleased with it, and have many adventures to report back. BUt until then, it's time to go and PARTY!