Tag Archive: europe 2009

leeds castle

sick of castles yet?  i’ve been to two more you haven’t even seen!  but i’m not sure they’ll make it up here tonight… we’ve moved on to scotland (soooo excited) and had an action-packed day of pebbles family history, robbie burns territory, and, you guessed it, another castle.  but i get ahead of myself.  this one is leeds castle (confusingly, in kent), where we spent our last full day in england – actually only day-before-yesterday, but it already feels like years ago.  craziness.

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oh, hi.  did you want spiders?  sorry.  i’ve actually been collecting pics for over a week with plans to sneak in a belated edition back where it belongs, but instead i’ll just line them up here.  afraid i am short on taxonomic info again this week (slack, i know!) but since there are several species involved, we’ll just cover them all under the family heading Araneidae (orb-weavers) and be done with it.  these fat-bodied beauties are hanging in the centers of large webs everywhere i’ve been in england so far – the ones below were sighted in oxford, dover, and along regent’s canal in london.

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dover castle

today i scooted down to dover in the afternoon, to catch up with a friend from tonmo.  we spent about four hours walking around dover castle, an amazing assemblage of buildings and tunnels on 46 acres.  the castle grounds boast, among other things, a first-century CE roman lighthouse (pharos) and 1000+ years of english military and political history.  best of all (in my opinion), a newly opened £2 million project has restored the inside of the keep (built starting in 1180!) to approximately how it would have looked during the reign of henry II.  it was like walking around inside a fairy tale.  pardon the small photographic novel below – i was smitten!

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last week i zipped up to nottingham for a day to say hi to the extended in-laws, their adorable (if quirky) pets, a definitively closed wollaton hall (two days in a row – although a reliable source tells me i only missed out on taxidermy and armor), and some rather tame deer.

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stranger in the night

at the risk of channeling mr wickham (‘it was very good of him to entertain us so eloquently with stories about his misfortunes. with such narratives to hand, who would read novels?’), let me tell you a story.  it has a relatively uneventful ending, but once you hear the rest, you will realize that that’s the ideal kind of ending for this particular story.

last night, pome and i went to the open-air cinema in the scoop, and participated in a screening of mamma mia, with about 900 of our closest friends.  and yes, ‘participated’ is the appropriate verb.


afterward, we stopped off at a pub for a drink with a friend of pome’s who had also been there, and two very entertaining irish folks.  all in all, a fairly tame but enjoyable evening, which finished around 11 and was followed by a chat to the pebbles and a muse special on tv, putting us eventually in our various beds around 1am.

at 3:44, i thought i heard a knock on the flat’s front door, which is next to my room.  a few minutes later, there was definitely a slightly louder knock, and after the third time i figured no one else was going to get up and answer.  i knew pome to be a deep and oblivious sleeper, and hadn’t heard the other flatmates come in, so had foggy visions of them standing outside, keyless and forlorn.

instead, when i opened the door about six inches, a blond guy about my age stood on the other side, staring at me in an unfocused way.  repeated enquiries as to whether i could help him, and what/whom he was looking for, elicited no clear response at first (although he was not swaying, slurring or stumbling).  i didn’t think anyone was expected in the wee hours, and was extremely loath to let him in.  however, i was also aware that he could easily be a friend of the residents and i’d have no idea, and that in fact a friend of theirs had been recently staying with them.  after several minutes of staring at each other in probably equal confusion, and while i pondered whether to shut the door or wake pome, the guy rallied his powers of concentration and introduced himself as luca, and explained (sort of) that he was only here to pick up his sleeping bag.  this actually seemed somewhat plausible, and i was mollified by the fact that he was already inside the building (front door requires a key), and that he looked like the least harmless (albeit unknown) person i could imagine opening the door to in london at about 4am on a saturday.  so (and yes, in the light of day, all the voices of sanity in my head scream stupid! stupid! at this point in the narrative), i let him in.

well, he headed into my room, this slow, confused person.  although i explained to him that all the stuff that had been stored in there had been moved out, his eyes roved ponderously over the walls and stuff on the floor  (creeped out yet?  i am)  before ultimately coming back out to wander down the hall.  in the lounge, he stopped and seemed lost, and i was on the brink of pounding on pome’s door for backup, when the other two flatmates emerged from their room and rescued me.  repeated questioning eventually revealed that our visitor was looking for someone named jay and was quite obviously in the wrong flat, and once this idea penetrated his brain (wherever it was located, deep down in some alternate reality), he was peacefully ushered out.

and that really is the end of this bizarre tale, except that it took me a good long while to go back to sleep, as i imagined all the other possible endings – for example, headlines reading ‘stupid foreigner lets midnight stranger into flat; four bodies found in the morning.’  pome was untroubled by any such ideas, since he had in fact slept through the whole thing, and the others have been very good about it.  i plan to make a pie tomorrow by way of apology for compromising everyone’s lives; that should about cover it, right?  yeah.

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