More crazy nightmares

Holy crap my head.

First Penn from Penn and Teller knocked on our door, came in, and started telling Nighthawk all these wild stories about getting a hamburger, and a couple other things I can’t remember. I couldn’t hear most of the conversation because I was concentrating on a cardboard box full of games (which was sitting right next to them on the couch) that I thought had a Playstation 3 game in it I wanted to show Penn. I pulled all kinds of gadgets and books and magazines out of that box but not the missing game, and just as he was leaving I remembered that all the playstation 3 games were in a box behind me.

As he left I asked him why he’d decided to visit us and he gave me a huge loving hug and said, “Because you’re you!”

I pulled out my phone to tweet about it, but as usual for my dreams I could barely read the phone, forget type. All the keys had been rearranged so the backspace key was above the letter R, there were three different kinds of cancel keys depending on what you were trying to do… It was a nightmare and I remember thinking that it was some of the worst usability I’d ever seen. I also remember thinking that this had to be a dream for the keyboard to be so bad, but my dream-self remembered that the new phone OS had just dropped and this must be the new version.

And then just when I thought I’d finally gotten the tweet written I tried to look up Penn’s Twitter handle and I couldn’t because a) I kept launching the picture-attacher accidentally and b) there were flowers growing out of my phone. Something akin to very small carnations, just big enough to block my view, were growing out of the phone. This was annoying, but somehow not unexpected.

Then I found out that Nighthawk had already tweeted about the experience for me, with pictures, which made me both happy and annoyed. He had also let Herbie and Basschica in the house. They were there to – ok I don’t know why they were there but they insisted on feeding the dogs, which Herbie had to learn how to do for some reason.

Once the dogs were fed (raw chicken is all we had, but it was in dog-sized portions) the conversation turned to what we wanted to eat. Magically my mom arrived and we all got in the car, following mom’s directions, and ended up at this old house (Victorian style) that used to sell crafts, but now sold seafood dinners, called “The crab tree” or something equally weird.

The restaurant had a large cement porch with a wooden roof, big enough to hold a couple of picnic tables and smaller bistro tables. We weren’t the only ones waiting for a table inside – there were other couples and families (all older than me but I think I was roughly 20 again) that were also waiting. After a short wait the restaurant staff gave up on seating us inside, and since it was a beautiful night they just started bringing out the food items of their choice, family style, and setting them on the table.

We had green beans in risotto, mashed cauliflower, mashed turnips, shrimp in a pasta, a different kind of shrimp with a spiny shell that was done in a garlic sauce, fried popcorn shrimp, and strange things. Strange things like live man-o-war babies (I could have my fish wrong. Round thing with a long tail, supposedly poisonous, had a shell covering one side. Maybe I invented it.) that were a bit scary to eat until my mother showed me how to pull them apart alive. (note: nothing like my mom to do such a thing.) Every table got different food so we spent a lot of time passing bowls back and forth and getting to know the folks we were sitting with.

Then things got weird again. I asked for something – or maybe they just recognized the name on our credit cards (Herbie and I were splitting the bill for father’s day) and we were ushered in this side door that looked like a closet, but had a door in the back, to see the rest of the building.

We discovered that this little house was just the tip of a much larger complex filled with science experiments being done regarding Jurassic, Cambrian, and pre-Cambrian era creatures. Even weirder, the were all kinds of robots and machines of a sentient nature in the complex, many of which appeared to be preparing for some kind of attack. It was like the TV show Sanctuary crossed with the comic Girl Genius crossed with a Discovery channel special on dinosaur-era sea creatures. Aunt G was showing us around and helping us get settled.

I knew somehow that my cousin Plantnerd was sleeping a few rooms away but I could see the shadow of someone sinister hovering over her bed wih a gun, so I sprinted through three or four doors in a hallway marked “no entry” until I reached her room. I found Plantnerd lying in bed half asleep with an IV in her arm and sugar around her lips. She’d had a sugar crash while on the tube (she lives in England) and the man at the foot of her bed had saved her and brought her back home.

Only it wasn’t really a sugar crash, it was a milk crash, because she required some kind of special sea cow milk, and the man wasn’t really a man… The best way to describe him would be take a leprechaun and cross him with a little grey alien, make him as tall as a short woman with normal eyes and a pasty face. He looked a bit like a sea creature himself.

We needed to go get something for Plantnerd but it was risky to get to and required crossing the loch in the back of the building. I didn’t even hesitate to do so, even though the only way to cross the loch was to jump from one tree root to another where they made a natural bridge down the center.

I don’t remember what I went to get. I do remember that the equipment rooms on the other side were full of robots hiding themselves so they’d be more effective if they needed to ambush the expected intruders. (I had been accepted by the system.) the was also a giant 6-tired amphibious vehicle that Aunt G showed me how to drive in case I needed it to escape.

When we returned to the loch, the water had risen and the roots were obscured. I knew that an amphibious creature that looked like a cross between the Loch Ness Monster and a rowboat lived in the water and was tame (and very smart). His name was Doodle (I think) and he very happily carried each of us across the pond. I remember being annoyed, though, because I expected to ride on his back and instead he’d only let me hold on to his neck.

Then I woke up.

The weird part of all this is how much of the loch felt familiar, like I’d seen and dreamed it before. I’ve been there before, to the loch, anyway, though the buildings and my family running things all felt new.

I slept for 11 hours last night. I’m still a little tired this morning, but it’s mostly because I’m dehydrated I think. The dream still feels like a real memory, and I’m a little afraid to go to sleep tonight for fear that I’ll land back in the same dream in time for the attack.

Now it’s time to start my day, and hope it’s less exciting.

No pudding! Ice cream, coffee!

This post was actually written on June 5, but when they pertain to a specific date, I’m backdataing them.

Sunday the 30th we took a long walk around London, starting with a ride on the Northern Line of the Underground into Embankment. From there we crossed over the Thames by foot and walked up to the London Eye. I quickly learned a few things:

  • Copyright of Disney characters is pretty much ignored. We saw a number of Donald Ducks and at least one Mickey Mouse in costume in the path along the Thames entertaining. (We also later saw carousels and a number of other random objects with Disney characters airbrushed on them.) Let’s just say anyone who took their Donald Duck mask off in front of the public at Disney would be fired, but it wasn’t at all unusual on the streets of London.
  • Dressing up as a silver statue and standing on a box on the sidewalk is an acceptable way to make a living, apparently.
  • The London Eye is extremely busy on the first Sunday of half-term.

We walked up to the National Theatre in London, past the Blackfriars Bridge, and stopped at the Tate Modern art museum. I enjoyed the museum more than I expected to, not being a big fan of modern art. I still stand by my statement that the most beautiful thing I saw at the Tate was the view from the restaurant at the top, where the sun was shining on the Thames and making London look amazing.

From there we walked down to the Globe Theater and took a quick look inside, crossed the Thames back to the north side at Millennium Bridge (which is awesome by the way) and took a look at St. Paul’s Cathedral on our way up to Chinatown.

We got totally distracted by St. Brides Church, where the crypts were open for touring. There are few things I’ve experienced as awe-inspiring as standing in a crypt where I could reach out and touch (though I didn’t) the walls of a church that were dated to the 11th century.

From there we hiked it to Trafalgar Square, popped into the National Gallery for about 5 minutes, and finally made it into Chinatown.

We found a great little restaurant offering an 8-course meal for 9£ a piece, ate ourselves full of duck and chicken and shrimp, and laughed ourselves silly at some of the antics in the restaurant.

Behind us, a table kept asking about dessert. They kept asking for pudding. The waiter kept saying, “No pudding! Ice cream, coffee.” It took about a minute for everyone to agree on vanilla ice cream, but we’ve been chanting “No pudding! Ice cream, coffee!” ever since.

When we got our ice cream, by the way, it was as much chaos, because the waitress forgot about us, then seemed annoyed we’d asked for dessert, then didn’t know the term for vanilla ice cream, then finally delivered 3 bowls of ice cream, where each scoop was about the size of a ball of butter.

Thoroughly exhausted, we made our way back onto the tube, and home again.

Culture shock. Well, a little.

I have a half-written post on the iPad I can’t fetch because of wireless restrictions, so you’ll have to take it from me that you’ll hear about our flight here later…. probably when I’m on the flight back.

The family I came here to visit had to put their cat down today, on a wet, miserable day, so the stay has started out a bit odd. We’re making the best of everything and everyone’s being very patient with everyone else, so I’m sure that while things won’t be quite what we all expected, they’ll turn out to be pretty nice for what they are.

Things I have learned in England so far:

The electrical system is so controlled that when you blow a circuit breaker in your hotel room, nobody knows how to go flip the switch to turn it back on. We were moved to a new hotel room instead. So that was a bit interesting.

The elevators (lifts) count up from zero…. but the sign in the elevator says that everything (lobby, restaurant, etc.) is on floor G so if the 0 button on the lift wasn’t raised above the others, I don’t know that we’d’ve ever guessed.

There are very few true intersections on the roads…. most things are merge points or roundabouts. There are no stop signs. Dashed lines are painted on the road itself if you’re supposed to stop. Whereas in the States we’re expected to accelerate to merge into traffic, in the UK you’re expected to be prepared to stop.

And wow, it is difficult to adjust to people driving on the left side of the road because you constantly think that there are drunks barreling toward you. It’s most especially scary when you’re at the front of a double-decker bus. The bus drivers are very very good but it really does look like you’re going to hit everyone and everything. The roads are particularly insanely narrow.

We ate at a pub for lunch, and it was delicious. Sticky toffee pudding is wonderful, the curry is very good, and the smoked herring and cheese cakes are interesting. We won’t starve to death, that’s for sure.

The money’s more accessible, because all the bills are different sizes, but that does make finding a wallet a bit odd. I learned you don’t tip in a hotel until the end of the stay, you don’t tip at anything short of a full restaurant, and parking at the supermarket is on the supermarket’s roof.

I don’t know that I have the personality to wander into a foreign country on my own, with no local guide. (It took the trip to Boston for me to be comfortable traveling in my own country, for pete’s sake, although I think I did very well on my own going to Seattle.) It’s the little things that build up to the point that your brain goes, “Are all these people out of their minds?!?”.

Tonight was Eurovision… think American Idol where every country gets their own entry, and everyone calls in to vote for their favorite acts (the call cost 10p from a land line and “considerably more” on a mobile phone, the TV said) but you can’t vote for your own country. They then announce which acts each country voted as the top 10 for that country, individually by country, until all the votes have been tallied…. and then the top act is expected to sing their song again. The country where the top act came from is expected to host Eurovision the following year.

Apparently this has been going on since the 50s although I’m not sure it would ever take off in the United States because the music is all pretty much bubblegum pop and not enough anorexic singers. Plus, some of the costumes remind me more of the Mummers Parade than they did of an international talent show.

Topping all this is the fact that since it’s a live show, the show itself has an announcer, and then there’s a second country-specific commentator speaking over the main announcer throughout the whole thing. England has apparently taken on the tack of using their announcer as an homage to MST3K, or at least, that’s what it sounded like to me.

Laughed our asses off, learned a bit about the world and a lot more about politics than I expected, and actually heard one or two songs that didn’t make me physically nauseous.

Tomorrow we’re going to tromp all over London and do the tourist thing. We have to be up at 9 and it’s now almost 2 and I’m not tired at all. Not sure how I’m going to sleep, and my brain’s starting to speak with an accent when I think too much, so I might just go play The Sims or something until I crash.

Filling in the gaps: How do you say “I blew a fuse” in British?

This post was actually written on June 5, but when they pertain to a specific date, I’m backdataing them. Also, in the tradition of protecting my family’s privacy, as usual, Internet aliases are used instead of names.

Just as I gave up on staying awake on the plane, they started raising the lights. We were less than 2 hours out of London and it was time to feed us breakfast. I don’t remember what breakfast was, just that I was thoroughly disinterested in it and wanted to be off the plane.

We landed in Heathrow without incident and walked through what I still swear were the employee entrances (lots of long skinny corridors of plan wallboard) until we were finally herded into passport control.

Passport control was a loooong line that terminated in someone asking us why we were here and when we were leaving. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I’d somehow worked myself up to it being, and by then I’m not sure if anything could have terrified me anyway. I was too tired. We collected our luggage and met up with Viv, who handed us a bag of soda and water and weird British candy and led us to the car.

An example of weird British candy

Because we couldn’t check into the hotel until 2, goatfiend took us back to the flat, where we enjoyed unlimited Internet, soda and snacks, a delicious breakfast bread, and wonderful wonderful naps. We were out so cold that Viv went out for a bit, returned, and had to get the neighbor with the spare key to let us in because despite the fact that the flat is 800 square feet and I was less than 5 feet from the door, neither of us heard her knocking to be let back in.

When plantnerd returned home we feasted on huge huge salads, chatted and caught up and drank tea, and then finally checked in at the hotel.

The room was nice, if small. Two beds, a bathroom larger than plantnerd’s kitchen, and a window that actually opened. We promptly went about the usual tasks of choosing beds, setting up (and paying for) internet access, and trying to figure out how to charge 2 laptops, an iPad, and 2 phones on one UK power converter.

Here’s the wrong answer: power bar. I’d packed an old 6-plug power bar from the house, figuring that we could plug that into the wall and then plug all our stuff into it. When you plug the converter-laden-powerbar into the wall, hear “FFFT!” and smell something almost exactly like gunpowder, you rethink your ingenious plan.

The right answer turned out to be twofold: borrow a second converter from the cousin, and change hotel rooms. That’s right, I said change hotel rooms. You see, everything in the UK is triple checked to make sure that it’s electronically OK to plug in, so they almost never blow a fuse or circuit breaker. When they do (as we did – none of the plugs on the desk now worked, including the TV), the hotel staff don’t know how to fix it. There’s no breaker box in the hotel room. There’s nobody on staff certified to go find the problem on a Saturday morning. The only solution was to switch us to the next hotel room down the hall… which is exactly what we did the next morning.

Above the ocean

10:24 pm (ET) – 3:24 am London time. Some notes:

First, How to Train Your Dragon is awesome.

Second, when you’re tired and hungry enough, even cold corn and cheese salad in some kind of Italian dressing stuff tastes good. Odd, I know.

Third, if you order a rum and coke with dinner, they give you the world’s smallest glass of coke, and a bottle of rum that is better sized for two glasses of coke. So I’m still waiting to get more soda before I finish that puppy off. It mitt just be enough to get me to sleep, though I’m thinking the way I feel right now that if I’m not sleeping yet it’s not going to come.

I have a smoldering headache that feels like dehydration, which is an odd idea for me because I’ve had more water in the last 24 hours than I’ve had for months and still it’s not enough. Guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering I’m currently canned… Meaning the plane…. Dehydration would be the next step in ensuring my preservation I guess.

According to the map built into my seat screen, we’re finally out over the open ocean. Still many hours to go, which feels amazing because I think I’ve been in this seat for a week already.

The seat thing also shows us further south than the original trajectory it drew back in Toronto. We’re about the same latitude as Halifax, or maybe just south, and just north of Boston.

My companion is fast asleep with her sweatshirt hood over her head and her mouth wide open. If I think I’m dehydrated, I’ve got nothing on what she’s going to be by whatever passes for morning around here.

It’s been just long enough since dinner that those who are still awake are starting to have significant interest in the bathrooms. Couple that with a slight shake to the plane and I’m wishing I’d gone right after dinner. 35,000 feet in the air is no place to try to hold it until you get home.

Right now I’m trying to decide whether to switch over to watching another movie (this time on my iPad) or whether to work on the novel.

12:48am ET, 5:48am London time.

OK, I am officially sick of being awake in a chair.

I already watched two movies (the aforementioned awesome How to Train Your Dragon, and the animated Last Unicorn that came out in 1982 thanks to my iPad) and I highly doubt I have the patience for a third. My body’s sending me every single sign it has that it wants me to lie down and take a nap: legs are cramping up, nose is running, head aches, butt aches, and I can’t type to save myself.

I am a grouch.