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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Vegas October 8th 2004

When I first came down the stairs, wearing my Witchgrove t-shirt, Elen took one look and went yampy (in a good way). "Witchgrove! Witchgrove!" Her Mama has a mug with the same design on it. LOL

Ages ago, Shonna and I were canting and she mentioned French Toast. By the time she'd finished describing it, I sussed that she was on about eggy bread. This morning I got to sample proper French Toast. It's not eggy bread. It has eggs in it, but it's not quite the same. It has a LOT more in it. There was a weird moment, as Shonna added vanilla to the mixture, when the vanilla made the shape of a five-pointed star in it. We both stared at it in amazement and I know I told half of Vegas in the afternoon about it.

We ate the French Toast with maple syrup, especially imported from Canada, as Frenchie has very discerning tastes. I've only ever had maple syrup once and that was about three or four years ago. Daryl had seen it on a cartoon or children's programme and asked for it for his pancakes on Shove Tuesday. I did the indulgent auntie thing and promised him it, scutted up Sainsburys and nearly had a heart attack at the price! Still he had his maple syrup, but I haven't tasted it from that moment to this. I suspect I'm now utterly ruined for the cheap stuff after tasting the Gariepy's real maple syrup.

The French Toast was beautiful, though it was only after I'd finished that I noticed that Shonna had butter with hers too. I'm not sure if I should have had butter, but it was gorgeous as was.

After seeing Shonna and Elen off, me and the Gariepy males went to the Mirage, a hotel on the Strip. This was my first sight of the inside of one of these huge constructions and Ian had warned me that I'd be totally overwhelmed by the sheer size. The thing is that everything was already so huge in comparison to Wolverhampton that I was already at the point of taking it in my stride. I wasn't overwhelmed, which is another way of saying that I COULD take it all in. I'm personally glad for that! I didn't want to come away thinking, 'What did I see again?'

Stephane explained that everyone entering the hotel HAS to pass through the casino, wherever they are heading. We walked for miles before we even got to the lifts to the rooms for those staying there! In the meantime, there were pretties everywhere. There were full-height trees planted in there and a water feature like a small lake; whole shopping malls; a fish tank which span the length of a long corridor-like hall, full of fish. The casino was full of flashing lights and the such, on the way through I was looking all around thinking that this is what I thought Vegas would look like - slot machines. On the way back, I was too busy watching William, who was attached to Stephane's front in a carrier. His little face as he saw all the flashing lights was a delight to behold.

Once through the hotel, we were in an area where there were swimming pools and a row of trees. This was the queue for Seigfried and Roy's Secret Garden. But evidentally not that secret, given that there was a short queue of people waiting to go in. close to the front of the queue, I listened to a ticket officer greet a customer, 'Hello, honey! What can I do for you today?' I thought she must be an old friend or regular, but eavesdropping told me that she wasn't. This was my first real taste of American customer service. I'm used to British surly attitudes, over there they treat everyone like they are really glad to meet them. It was a wonderful thing to experience.

Once inside, we were in time to see the dolphins training in a big pool. Both males, they were half-brothers and it was pretty spectacular to see. I'd seen a photo of Stephane with some dolphins back at their house. He explained to me that he had been swimming with the dolphins here a while back. The sun was very fierce and so he had to step back, so that William was in the shade. Standing by the pool nearly killed me in the finish, so I joined him and soon slapped some suntan creme on. I'd got factor 30, because I don't do well in the sun, but I think that that was the first time I put any on!

The heat in Vegas is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I caught some of the temperatures and knew that I'd never be able to have stood that in Britain. You just don't sweat! I was equally fine in shorts or jeans, which is something I can't get my head around. If the sun is directly on you and you aren't moving about, it can feel like a lazor is burning into you, but if you are moving, you hardly feel it at all, even in the desert. At night, though, it can get really cold. I tended to be putting a jacket on or wrapping myself in a blanket, when I went out for a fag at night, soon as I was wise to this.

Anyway, back to the Mirage. We went underneath the pool and that was really great! You could see the dolphins swimming around on both sides, as their mother and another female dolphin were there through another window. There was a short film showing the birth of one of the male dolphins, which was stunning to see, and Stephane explained that the noises in the corridor were actually the sound of the dolphins canting to each other.

We went through into an outdoor part, where the young dolphins were. The youngest was four years old and they looked so tiny compared to those we'd just seen. .Stephane and William at the Mirage Past them, we were into an area where the big cats and an elephant were. Part of me went through all the political protest about zoos, but most of me just shut myself up and enjoyed it. Reading some of the information points told me that some of the animals in here were threatened with extinction in the wild, so it might well be a good thing that they were there.

A lot of speculation went on about which of the white tigers was the one which had paralysed one of the two owners. We reckoned it was the white tiger with a huge pen to himself, rather than any of the four in the other pen. Stephane told me that there was speculation as to whether the tiger had mauled or saved the bloke - if he'd had a stroke, then the tiger was just trying to get him off the stage. Apparently his first words had been an instruction not to hurt the tiger in any way.

Once back onto the bridge, it was the first place where I could have a cigarette. I had one naturally. Something happened there which had the goosebumps right up my back.

It was the third significant hearing of 'Losing My Religion' by REM. On the Monday after Mike died, I'd been outside, at work, having a fag, thinking over everything and basically doing my own head in. Right then, 'Losing My Religion' came on the internal jukebox and I GOT it. The scene is seared in my memory, just sitting there singing it to myself and blaming myself for my failings as a HPS, while questioning everything that I did believe in. I was quite literally losing my religion, as might be evident from the blogs of that time.

Skip forward to the Make Trade Fair concert and that was the song with which REM opened, and my mind kicked to that previous moment. By then, I was more sorted. I'd had some really kick-ass Pagans talking me through the spiritual side; I'd had Kate and Eric take me up the Black Mountains, and I'd found my religion again. By that second hearing of it, I was still in the process of thinking through things myself, but more calmly.

Now this, the third moment. Me at the Mirage It was playing over the pool, over which the bridge (on which I was having a cigarette)lead. I listened to it, took in my surroundings and all that had since happened, and knew just how sorted I was now. That picture was taken while 'Losing My Religion' was playing, and my hands are over the railings hiding the fag in my hand.

I think that I breathed out a breath that had been held inside for at least two months right around then.

We went inside and I was looking for a cold drink, but something on the board caught my attention: Iced Cafe Latte. Say what?! The two just didn't seem to go together at all! So I had that. I was also a little peckish, so I looked at the cakes and informed Stephane that if I'm on holiday, then so is he, so he looked at the cakes as well. Ordinarily, I'd go for something stodgy. I'm a good Black Country wench, so I grew up on bread pudding! I was eye-balling the flapjacks, when something very unexpected caught my eye - strawberry gateaux. I don't normally do strawberries. I mean, they are alright, as far as fruit goes, but I rarely go there by choice. I went for this and so did Stephane... WOW! That was worth it! I enjoyed every mouthful of that! The iced cafe latte was... an experience. It tasted better once I'd added three sugars and it did the job as far as being thirsty went, but I doubt I'd go there again.

Up in the carpark, I noticed that the registration plates all had the names of states on them. From what I can gather, these plates belong to the dude, not to the car, though I think I was confusing the Hell out of Stephane with my questions regarding MOTs and the such. After that, I was looking out for which states people came from and we started the recurring theme of 'Look! a lost Californian.' Throughout the week, I think the furthest travelled cars we found were one from Alaska and another from Virginia.

Stephane dropped me off at Brianne's house. I think he would have stayed too, but William was screaming to be changed. He was a very hot little boy by then, with no bottle left. I knocked on the door and was expecting either Brianne or Pixie to open it. It was a bloke. By a process of elimination, I figured that this must be either Cameron or Dirk, but it totally threw me. I think I just stood there like an idiot, blushing, thinking how can I ask for a guest in this bloke's house?! That's so out of order! I was halfway through thinking, 'Do I tell him that I spoke to Brianne on the 'phone this morning and she said it would be ok?' When Cameron said, 'You must be Mab.' I just blushed deeper, still having not said a solitary word and wishing the ground would open up under me, and stupidly replied, 'Yes... I was wondering if Pixie was in please.' Just on it, simultaneously Stephane appeared behind me and Pixie called from inside, before appearing behind Cameron and I calmed down accordingly.

Brianne, if you're reading this, please pass on my apologies to Cameron! I am actually quite a shy person underneath all of this fuss and palaver and that was one of the moments it broke free! Either Pixie sensed this and went into the expert Mab handling that she's learned over the internet, or else she's just being Pixie, but she collected me and got me inside, then immediately suggested we went outside where I could smoke.

We proceeded to spend the entire afternoon out there, not entirely sober. Cameron turned out to be lovely and Corey turned up as well. The two were in and out all afternoon, as Cameron fetched Misty, then Luke, and Corey fetched Sean. PixieI must have moved as I took this picture of Pixie, but it so summed up the moment, that I let it be. *grin*

I had to keep moving my chair, as the sun moved and I had the lazor effect thing, but otherwise I loved that afternoon with Pixie, Dirk, Cameron and Corey. There was a hilarious moment too - the night before Dirk and Pixie had gone to Kentucky Fried Chicken to be told that they were out of chicken. This afternoon, Dirk drove to Burger King and returned to say that they were out of burgers. We thought it was a wind up at first, but a look at Dirk's face said it wasn't! LOL They ended up ordering pizza instead.

There was also a very weird moment. There was a power cut, which went for two miles squared. We sat there listening to the silence where before we hadn't heard noise. A deep, deep silence but for traffic on some main road somewhere. But even weirder was the feel of the electricity in the air, which pricked against your skin. I experimented with grounding, touching the floor and actually felt the electricity flow downwards. There was a strange sense of relief that made you realize how heavily electricity and noise plays upon you the rest of the time; but then again another strange of relief, more familiar this time, when the electricity came back on. Suddenly the air wasn't heavy with it and the prickling sensation left.

Dirk had a look at my tattoo and he and Pixie confirmed what I'd thought from pictures, there is a line which goes above, which should have gone below on the triskele. He couldn't see how it could be easily corrected, though he did have some ideas about re-shading it. Unfortunately time ran away from us, so I never did get to see those ideas. I'll probably see them in 2006, when Kate and I are in Colorado.

Instead, Dirk tattooed Corey. This was an Ouroboros Corey's tattoo, which Dani and Vetch had helped her design. She'd e-mailed it to me, so that Dirk had a picture, so Pixie got her lap-top out to access it. Draig was in messenger and made us to promise to call her sometime over the weekend and not to forget. I told her we would, then promptly called her. :-D The 'phone got passed around and it was great to hear Draig :-D, but it was time for Corey to be tattooed.

Pixie and I were on distracting from the pain duty, which included jigging and a chorus of 'Corey is a yampy git', while Pixie took progress pictures, so Corey could see what was happening behind her. Kudos to Dirk for doing such an amazing job with all of that going on. Brianne returned half way through, with princess tiaras for us all, and a couple of packets of fags as a present for me. Thanks cariad! It was all pretty raucous, but very distracting for Corey, and she was a brave wench throughout it, more concerned with trying not to laugh than not to cry.

Soon, the debates were on the telly and I ran in to see them, having heard so much about them from Kindly Ones. Initially Corey was in there with me and Pixie had given me a slice of pizza to munch on, but pretty soon it was only me and the kids (Luke and Sean). I was doing ok, until the POTUS said something about what the British were thinking, which was so far removed from what the British were really saying (even those supporting the war), that I started ranting at the telly. It occurred to me that what I was saying probably wasn't suitable for the ears of young, impressionable lads and hoped that I'd said it in broadest Black Country, before going to complain to the adults in the kitchen instead.

However, I found them mid-packing up to go up Shonna's. I had vaguely wondered how I was getting back, but figured that that would sort itself out when the time came. I hadn't realized what the time actually was. So we packed up various foods and Corey offered me a ride back. That was funny, because she was so whacked by the tattoo (it sends you floaty with endorphins), that she took a wrong turn and ended up lost. But I was recognizing streets and already fixing myself a mental map of Shonna's 'hood. Between us, we got there.

I made a mistake in my last blog - this was the night when Judi was there too, with that gorgeous pie. Judi is on Witchgrove as well as the Vegas group, but mainly lurks. JUDI! Post more, we only bite occasionally! :-D I hadn't realized that at the time, I'd assumed that she must know me as Shonna's British mate, but now I realize that as we hugged, she must have known me as Mab off the Grove. Sorry about that, cariad. Chelle was also there, preparing to stay overnight, primarily to watch the kids as Shonna and I did a midnight run to the airport, but also for the next day.

It carried on being raucous there, with me sampling a vegetarian gumbo, which Brianne had made especially for me, and us all running around with princess tiaras on. William was upset. I think that he'd just had too many days of a lot of people around and was over-excited, over-tired, so Shonna ended up in the parlour for ages calming him down to sleep. There was also the small matter of the house and Shonna (as priestess) being prepared for the next day, so Brianne, Pixie, Dirk, Corey, Judi, Luke and Sean left early on.

Immediately, Shonna went upstairs to sort herself out for the next day, while Chelle had a tidy up and I went into the parlour with an athame. The energies in that room really were kicking, once I tuned into them fully. The problem being that there's a front door in there, through which everyone comes, so the energies are really swirling around there. Most of what was there was fully appropriate for a parlour, but not for a ritual space. But this is what I do and, as a witch, one end of the realm it could be said I'm best at.

I sorted the room itself quite easily, as Shonna had instructed me on where she envisaged the action taking place. But then I sat and looked around, preparing to be very smug. Wrong. That bloody door area! I strode over to it and REALLY worked at it, but the energies were too disturbed. Call me a perfectionist, but I wasn't happy with it at all. So I solicited Chelle's help. I had in mind me and her stabilizing them between us, but soon as I explained the problem, she had an herbal solution in mind and got on the case with that. Next thing you know, she's outside the door with her herbs and I'm inside the door with the subtle knife. It looks and feels much, much better when we've finished with it. Understand this - those energies weren't bad, they were just busy. Way too busy for a ritual space. After that, we could be smug. It all felt much more settled, though, it being a front door and all, it was always going to be a temporary solution.

We got talking about the energies of things and I remembered that on Monday I'd been afretting. (No! I hear the peanut gallery cry. You afret! Never!) I'd had it in mind that I was never going to see my Wolverhampton again and what happened if I was halfway across the world and I got hiraeth really bad? I'd spotted stones at my feet, swooped one up and put it in my bag. Then forgot about it. I scutted in my bag and there it was. Covered in congealed soil, but there it was. By now, Shonna was back down, looking as calm as her parlour, and she had it off me to feel Wolverhampton. She told me that it looked like malachite! Next night, I handed it to Bella and she confirmed that it was uncut, pure malachite. :-o I've left that with Shonna to put around her front door, but we were all pretty stunned that at my moment of panicking about hiraeth and needing protection, Wolverhampton just handed me malachite from herself. I didn't even know that malachite was part of the geological make-up of my hometown!

Chelle had already sat in the parlour and concentrated upon her feelings for this house and family, then channelled those feelings into the room. I sent Shonna to do the same. Over the course of the next few hours (including the next morning), I was sending a procession of people to do just that. Though I was simply telling them about it and figuring that they would, there's the potential for Chelle, Shonna, Stephane, Georgia, Anna, Pixie, Bella and some of the Vegas people to have all done that. I should imagine that that parlour is just brimming with love and security now! I even got Elen on the case. She'd been at the desk and had dropped her crayons. I went to help her, simply so we could cant in there. I asked her if she liked this room and what she thought about it, she told me; then I told her that she was very, very loved by her Mummy and Daddy, and by auntie Chelle and me, and by all the people coming to her house tomorrow. She got a huge grin on her face and I got her canting about her Mummy and Daddy and little baby William. She was so enthusiastic! I even took William in there and got him giggling. :-D

But back to that Friday night. It should have been winding down and time to think about bed, but instead there was another BIG adventure. Georgia, then Anna, were flying into Vegas! Shonna and I got caffeine down our necks and I tried out my new wetting solution to rehydrate my contact lenses. Georgia, I was really looking forward to seeing, though I thought I might get a smack up the back of my head for not letting her into the secret when she was in Britain! That week nearly killed me for not telling her!

Anna, I was looking forward to meeting, but also really nervous. Before I'd left, Kate asked me who I was the most nervous about meeting and I'd said Shonna and Anna. Shonna because all of this is for her and I'd be in her house; Anna because... well... she's Anna! Not only were we all gatecrashing what was originally the only time in a year when she gets to meet up with her best friend from way back; but she is one of the four who have moderated various groups together. I spend half of my life wondering if Anna likes me, then deciding that she does and relaxing. Having met her, I'll now just relax for the rest of my life. ;-)

By the time Shonna and I were in the car going to meet them, we were wide awake. We stopped at the coffee place for drinks (where the Boobar went off in Shonna's bag... LMFAO!) and went to wait... and wait... and wait... Georgia was half an hour late getting off the plane, because of the other planes waiting to unload, by which time I was absolutely knackered! My back was hurting and my legs were getting shaky, but that all disappeared when Georgia's finest meandered on out of the gate. She's a gorgeous wench, is our Georgia! This was the first time that Shonna had met her, so that meeting was amazing to watch. I LOVE STUFF LIKE THAT!

By the time we'd been to baggage, it was time to go back to where we'd started to meet Anna. I nipped outside, first off to have a fag, but also because I realized that there would be precious little time for Shonna and Georgia to be alone. I think I was right, looking back, because there would have been at least me and Anna there throughout the rest of it. This was me giving them time. A lot of time, as it happened, because I got lost finding them again!

It seemed like forever that we were waiting for Anna too and the knot of nerves in my stomach getting bigger. I needn't have worried (which is the story of my life and one day I will learn that lesson...). I was the last person to hug her, but it was the hug of me and Anna finally meeting. :-D That was pure magic, the four of us in one place, at the same time, for the first time ever. And yes, it was precisely like being in the Mods lounge (except the huge hole that Roxanne left by not being there), particularly when we were back with Chelle.

Shonna, Georgia, me and Anna at Vegas Airport!

I might have been tired before, but I was downright hyperactive and over-excited by the time we were in the baggage area again for Anna's stuff. I'm glad that these are three of my best friends, because they would have watched me go through about three personalities within the space of one airport and one journey home, via the Strip!

We got back to over-excitement with another meeting - Chelle with Georgia and an historic moment in time! I did what any good British wench would do in the circumstances, put the kettle on. But by the time I'd made it, Georgia and Anna were abed and the rest of us weren't far behind. I crawled into the room, in the dark, and just hoped that I didn't wake them and that I'd find the camp-bed alright. I did, though the gits had nicked my teddy bear. Huh!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Vegas October 7th 2004

I was up again around 7, but this time not afraid to pop the kettle onto the hob. I nipped out back for my first fag of the day (you realize all of the Americans reading this are tittering because fag doesn't mean cigarette there?). I heard the bin-men were coming around. I peeped over the wall and instantly decided to be one of them when I grew up. The bin-man was holding onto the side of the wagon and riding it around the corner before jumping off. I want to do that!

I heard Shonna stirring so had her a brew on by the time she came down. It was sad having to say goodbye to her every morning, because I kept thinking on that Wednesday when Georgia was here, how I just blew at work and poor Sarah got the full heat of my temper. Shonna seemed to either be naturally good-natured, or very good at the brave face thing. I had William off her as she sorted Elen's breakfast, then off they went.

I had the most beautiful eggs ever for breakfast. Eggs, in America, are white, not tan. I closed the box and read the top to see if they were quail eggs or something posh, but they seemed to be out of a hen's arse, just like in Britain, just a totally different colour. They've got a great pan. The eggs were cooked in butter and didn't stick to the bottom. I've tried that one since I've got home and nope, they don't come cleanly off and onto the plate here like they do there. Here I ended up with bits of egg and burned bits, before having to scour the pan; there, I got two perfect eggs. And ate them while watching 'Charmed'.

Stephane and I scutted off to Albertson's (with William). Because I'm a vegetarian and none of them are, I wanted to ensure that they didn't have to buy extra food because I was there. I didn't want them to be any more out of pocket than they already were, because of me. So the plan was for me to buy veggie food for my stay. In we went and ended up standing in the middle of a massive grocery area. Fruit and vegetables of all kinds, including pumpkins so big you could scoop out the insides and house a family of five inside. There's cool, except Stephane was just looking at me quizzically.

So we weren't in the middle of all this healthy stuff so Stephane could shop for his family then. This had something to do with me. Ok. It occurred to me that he thought I could cook. I was halfway through explaining that I was actually after ready meals or Raman noodles or something, when it occurred to me that I didn't actually recognize most of the fruit and veg around me. Squash I'd heard of because of Roxanne's Indian Squaw story, but most of the other things...?? I ended up fascinated by all this unfamiliar stuff, roots and the such like. Americans actually have DIFFERENT food! :-o

Just to the side, there was a big fridge full of fake meat. I got a few things which I knew would fit most occasions. Like fake sausages and bacon, in case of a fry up; fake slices of things in case of sandwiches; fake joints of things in case of meals. Then I could fit around whatever was happening with them. (In actual fact, I didn't touch any of it from thereon in, so if there are any Vegas vegetarians reading this, it's worth nipping to their house for tea, as all of this is still in their fridge-freezer!)

Next, the shock of my life. EVERYTHING IS SO CHEAP! Contact lense solution, which is about £20 here, worked out to about £3 there; Jameson's whiskey for about £6; cigarette's for about £1.20. I was quickly wearing out my 'OH WOW!' quota for the day, I swear.

Back at the house, I went on Operation Delete E-mails (and put myself on no mail on the groups), while Stephane cooked a sauce in preparation for the Wiccanning. Mid-way through that, William was in need of changing. I volunteered and picked him up to take him upstairs, then realized I didn't know where his clean nappies were. I asked Stephane. 'Nappies?' he asked. I knew the American for nappies! Everyone knows the American for nappies! It's the first American word everyone learns! But do you think I could remember it? I ended up holding William up and pointing to his bum. 'Oh! Diapers!' RATFLMFAO!

On the subject, later on, I managed to block their toilet. *blush* I'd been having trouble with the flushes, because it's like a suction thing, not a ballcock thing, how their toilets flush. I wasn't sure if you hold it down or one push and it's done. Whichever, it wasn't going away. I had to take a deep breath and go downstairs to ask Stephane if he had a plunger. He knew immediately what had happened and tried to reassure me that it was Elen blocking it before me. But he wouldn't let me have the plunger and was upstairs before I could argue the point. If that wasn't bad enough, the next day, I managed to block the downstairs as well and this time Shonna wouldn't let me have the plunger! After that one, I made it my business to find out where the plunger lived, but didn't actually need it again. I did a happy dance the first time I managed to have a number two and flush it properly! By then, I'd mastered the flush. Such small skills gratefully mastered...

Corey 'phoned to see if I wanted to come out and play, but Stephane and I had just decided to go out for lunch. It was agreed for Corey to meet us there again, then take me off for the afternoon. Stephane gave me a front door key, so that I'd be able to get back in. Yes... the same key as is sitting on the desk in front of me, on the wrong side of the world, as I type this.

We went to Sweet Tomato, which was self-service and pay at the end. You took your plate down and chose whatever you want from loads of salad-type things (bit like Morrison's salad counter, but a lot bigger... Hell of a lot bigger). I was just working out which of this strange money would pay for whatever the lady behind the counter had just said to me (I couldn't lip-read and was trying to surrepticiously read what the till said), when I was ninja hugged from behind by an excited Corey. *big grin* This was even better, because I could cover my money/hearing troubles with, 'Sorry, how much did I owe you?' Then letting Corey deal with it with my purse. LOL Great timing there, cariad fi!

Corey got me as far as the fizzy drinks counter, then went to sit with William, so Stephane could get his dinner too. Had she hung on a few seconds more, she could have told me that the root beer I'd just poured wasn't root beer. It was the sodium filled yucky stuff that comes out when the root beer has all gone. How should I know?! I've never seen root beer in my life and I was only trying it because it's American. It was only when I took a sip at the table and thought, 'Urgghh!' that Stephane and Corey asked what it was. When I said root beer, they quickly dissuaded me of that idea and it got replaced.

Afterwards Corey took me to her house in her truck. She wouldn't let me have a ride in the back because of the small matter of that being illegal, despite me thinking on the bin-man from earlier and wanting to play. But I got to ride in the front with Corey instead and that's great too. She offered to carry me over the threshold of her house, then bottled out. :-(

Corey's flat is great. She's got interesting things dangling, perched or squirrled away on shelves everywhere. I'm standing there thinking ''kin Hell! I'm in Corey's house! She's famous!' and Corey's immediately on the computer telling the Grove that I'm in her house! She also told me that the dude I sat next to on the plane could be a famous ice-skater named Brian Boitano. She googled for his picture and YES! There was my plane friend, Brian! Ok, I'd never heard on him beforehand, but Corey informed me that he'd won Olympic gold medals and was an amazing skater. There's cool! It shed new light on part of our conversation, when he'd basically been canting about backing off from the killing wheel for a bit. I just hadn't sussed at the time how big the killing wheel was he'd been backing away from.

Sean came home while Corey had just popped in her room. I was on the settee and he looked like he was going to cant at me like I was his Mum. Then he gave a double-take, there was a pause and he said, 'I thought you were my Mum!' I informed him that I was his Mum. I'd done a spell this afternoon and changed into this, but I was working on changing myself back. Corey started giggling and gave the game away. Tsh! LOL

Sean did his homework, while Corey and I sorted her bed out and generally chilled out. Sean was asking me about Edward Longshanks and so I was in history mode canting away, until Corey pointed out that his homework was maths, not history. After he'd done, I showed him Wolverhampton and then Dudley Castle on the internet and he gave me a tattoo. After that, we nipped up the 'Psychic Eye' to find tokens to give the children at the Wiccanning. I'd got them the teddies, but already given them that, so I wanted to find something to put in the boxes with their Aud-made cards. I settled on small pentagrams to go with the Welsh pound coins I'd already found for them.

Psychic Eye reminded me of half the shops in Glastonbury. Full of witchy type things, but with no atmosphere. Corey told me that Shonna calls it the Metaphysical Wal-Mart and I could see what she meant. To be fair, Corey had warned me of this beforehand, saying that there is nothing really witchy in there. I disagreed. Me and Corey were in there.

Next we nipped into Albertsons again, where Corey discovered that I'd never heard of Krispy Kreme Donuts and had never tasted pumpkin pie. She bought both for me to sample, with a view to taking them back to Shonna's, then dropped me off there. First I couldn't find the key, then I put it in the keyhole wrong. Corey and Sean didn't pull off until I was in and, at the last minute, got out of the truck to see if I was alright. Yes, just a bit useless! LOL But I got in then ok and hadn't been in five minutes when Shonna and the children were back.

Stephane, bless his cotton socks, had left us our tea, so we dug in and canted away. I never lost the sense of the magical the entire time I was there. All these characters from legend come to life and myself stepped into a story. I was sitting at the table, eating my tea, with Shonna at the table with me. You know how surreal that was?! But she, like all the others, is an old friend. There was never a moment of awkwardness, it felt as though we'd always been face to face, other than that magical air. *grins in memory*

Corey and Chelle arrived, with Sean, a little while on. Both of them dressed up and looking stunning. They had wine and I had whiskey, plus the kettle was on. Judy from the Nevada Pagan gang was there, with the most gorgeous pie ever. It was really gooey and lovely. I soon got that down my neck!

Chelle and I were outside having a fag and putting the world to rights, when Brianne called to say she was on the way with Pixie. I didn't find out until Pixie was practically at the door. I just froze and said to Chelle, ''kin Hell! I think I'll just give up being nervous at meeting everyone, it always turns out ok.' Chelle laughed at me and said, 'There's no need to be nervous about meeting Pixie, she's lovely.' Point taken, but THIS WAS PIXIE COMING HERE!

We walked in just as Shonna was opening the door to Pixie and Brianne and I hid behind the wall in the play-area, while they tried to convince Pixie that I'd gone home. Therefore I had a view of the room and a sudden moment of an even greater unreality - a taster of what the weekend would be - as I watched Shonna, Pixie, Brianne, Chelle and Corey, part of the Grove come to life. I was so busy staring, thinking, 'wow', that I forgot about being nervous about meeting Pixie. I wish I had words to describe what that scene felt like, or how it felt to be me on the outskirts looking into it and knowing that I was part of it too. But before I could be swept too far away into watching the dream, Pixie was there hugging me.

Pixie is the only grown adult in the world shorter than me. LOL She is exactly like she is on-line (in fact they all are) and a complete force of nature. She handed out beer and CDs, and presents for Roxanne, and we all tucked into the Krispy Kreme donuts that Corey had bought.

To be honest, I could hardly hear a word. Much of the time, folk were talking over each other, so it went into white noise. I'd hear one in every ten words or so, and so was lip-reading from one conversation to another. But that gave me time to step back and really feel the bouncing energies in the room, and realize fully where I was and who I was with. I felt like a child on Christmas morning; so touched, so honoured, so utterly disbelieving that I was there, in that time and place, with those people. People kept catching my eye and we'd exchange grins. I know they were all feeling it too and I remember sitting there and it occurring to me that I must be the stuff of legend in their eyes too. That gave me pause. I just tingled all over and went out for a fag.

Shonna and I were still buzzing when everyone went home. It was knocking on half 11 by then and we bounced around tidying up, before sitting canting. We were both tired, but determined not to miss a moment! Yes, we were still there when Stephane came home again, but we had to sleep sometime. So we went abed.

Vegas October 6th 2004

I woke early and did one of those 'OMG I'm in Vegas' sitting ups within the first second. I sat there grinning, then decided to go and find caffeine and nicotine. The clock said it was just past 8am, but I wasn't wise to the fact that it was an hour out at that point. It was actually just past 7am.

I dressed and went down to find myself the only one up. I inspected Shonna's kettle, but it was the sort on the hob, not plugged into the wall, and I didn't trust it not to whistle loudly and wake the whole house up. I was still trying to impress them, so I figured waking them all up with a shrill whistling was out. So I went out for a fag to think about it.

It was so peaceful out there! Warm, beautiful. I went on tip-toe to peer over the wall and discovered something which looked like a cut, but without the water. I later learned it was a run for flash floods. I grinned at Shonna's 'hood for a bit, then finished the fag and went inside. I'd decided on a glass of water. Got that and sat at the computer, which is always switched on, to look at e-mails. I found that I'd got over 700 in there. I was just going to answer the first one, when I caught the glass of water and knocked it everywhere.


I scrambled for a tea-towel. Couldn't find one. Found a sponge and got it up, but in the process knocked the water over again. It was going all over their papers, heading for their keyboard. I whipped the photos out of harm's reach with one hand and dammed the flow of water with the sponge with the other hand. I considered myself dead as soon as Shonna and Stephane got up. I cleaned the whole mess up and took things outside to dry. The desk looked very clean when I'd finished, but also very empty. It hadn't reached the keyboard, but about half a pint of water had been on that desk.

Before I could worry myself into a panic attack, I heard a sound and there was Shonna with a big grin. 'Hello, cariad!' She came over with a hug attached. 'You're still here!' I gushed out about the water incident and she just laughed at me. 'Don't worry about it.' By the time I went outside to show her what was wet, they had all dried! :-o Yep, it's warm out there!

Poor Shonna had to go to work. I really felt for her throughout this time, because I remember how excruciating it was when I was at work while Georgia was in Wolverhampton. First we had a breakfast of pink things and lots of tea and coffee. The kettle doesn't whistle.

Once Shonna was gone, I sat at the computer and worked my way through some e-mails. Chelle 'phoned all excited, but she had her grandson and so couldn't come and play. We weren't sure if Corey was coming to get me or not - in the excitement of the night before, that hadn't been established - so we potted around for a bit waiting after leaving a message on her answerphone.

It was soooo good being there! I finally understood what Georgia had been trying to say in Wolverhampton. Just because a 'hood is familiar to you, it doesn't mean it's not a different world to someone who's travelled halfway across the world to be there. I was in this legendary place, with these legendary people, and I would have been content to just sit there in wonder. I remember desperately thinking where I could take Georgia, after apologizing for her being in Wolverhampton in the first place, and her smiling that gorgeous smile of hers and saying, 'I'm just happy to be here.' Yes, Georgia, I get it now! Sitting in the Gariepy's house... yes! I get it!

Stephane had just invited me out to lunch, when Corey 'phoned. She'd been at her chiropractor, which I think is something to do with her neck. I did ask, but I don't think she understood what I was saying at the time, seeing as she said, 'Yes' and grinned at me in response to 'so what's a chiropractor?' But that was later. She said she'd meet us at the restaurant and off we toddled. But first, I think this was the moment when I took this great photo of Stephane and William.

William is such a brilliant baby. For a start he's far cuter than the baby on the 'Huggies' nappy bag; then he has that killer smile; and he spends more time snorting and laughing at you than crying. I could munch both him and Elen up, they are such beautiful children.

Stephane took me to Marche Bacchae, which was established by French Canadians to teach the Americans about wine. ;-) You walk through a huge wine cellar, before reaching the seats out back, overlooking a man-made lake. We ate there and I discovered that the waiters just keep coming and filling up your drinks. I later discovered that this happens everywhere, in every restaurant, cafe and diner in America, but it was a surprise the first time it happened.

We had just finished eating when there was a beam of Corey through the window of the restaurant. She was bouncing before she even got outside, and I didn't have time to worry about whether I was going to babble or do something stupid before she was there and we were hugging like long-lost sisters.

We sat out there for an hour or so, I think, canting away. I learned how both Stephane and Corey had come to be in Vegas from their respective homelands. I learned some Californian Valley Girl talk, but I couldn't quite get the right inflection on the 'God' in 'Oh! My gOd'. I didn't get that until Friday, when Pixie explained it was gawd.

Then Corey had to go to get Sean; and we had to go to change William and get Elen, then Shonna. But first, I had a massive shock. A couple went by and paused at the door, and the wench looked at William and asked about twenty questions - how old is he? What nappies does he wear? etc etc She told Stephane about her own four month year old son. That just wouldn't happen in Britain! If someone sees a cute baby, they might nod, smile or say, 'He's cute', but there wouldn't be a whole conversation about it with a complete stranger. I caught myself staring and just smiled. It was refreshing, even as it was disconcerting. I found myself inwardly tensing and thinking, 'You touch that babby and I swear to God I'll...', then slapping myself inwardly, because this isn't Wolverhampton and she was genuinely friendly. Besides, Stephane and Corey seemed quite at ease.

It was a bit of a wake up call on the general differences between Americans and the British. I'll do a later blog on that, but suffice to say here that I saw in wonder that most of the Americans I encountered were the nicest, most genuine race of people I've ever met. I expected that of the Grove and families, but the rest of the population...? Got it.

We picked up Elen, then drove across Vegas to Tomcat, via a carpenters to get their repaired chairs. The only time in Vegas that I remember thinking that the sun was too hot was in a traffic jam on that journey. It was only 10 mins, but the sun was burning my bicep through the window. I just put my hand over it and carried on with the wide-eyed look where I am stance of before. It really is a different world.

I had to smile at Shonna's office. I've seen it before, just not in ways you could explain to muggles. ;-) Then hehehe I was in a car with Shonna! *grin* *grin*

Shonna took us straight to Chelle's flat. CHELLE IS GORGEOUS! Chelle is the only one I got wrong, in how she looked, because I was expecting her to be heavier and more mumsy looking. Nope, she looks like a model. She is so stunning! I was out the car and happy dancing as she ran down the steps, and then hugging her. I love Chelle to bits! Another creature from legend, stepped from a storybook. I've known her for four years now, e-mailing all that time.

William was getting antsy and the bottle just wasn't cutting it, so after a bit of canting, we started back to Shonna's. We nipped into Albertson's (their supermarket) to get veggie food for me, but came out with something totally different. LOL The kids needed feeding and settling, so it was home then.

They were soon abed, worn out, then Shonna and I canted until the early hours, still both in utter shock that I was there. We were still canting when Stephane returned from work, with my athame still in its box in his hand. That had been posted out to the Bellagio about three weeks previously, as I didn't think I'd get it through baggage on the plane. (I could have and I did on the way back, though I wasn't searched on the way back.)



Monday, October 18, 2004

Vegas October 5th 2004

I think I'll remember that final bit of the journey as long as I live - Stephane driving me through Vegas, telling me that Shonna hadn't got a clue what was about to happen, and the realization that we'd pulled it off. All those months of planning and waiting and now it was real. He had been torn between opening the door and letting me walk in with him or the other. He'd gone for the other.

It was their wedding anniversary on October 4th and Shonna thought he'd gone out to get her anniversary present. He had, but it wasn't a gold necklace or a bunch of flowers. LOL

It was simply magical driving through streets which I'd come to know over the next few days - Buffalo, Cheyenne, Gowan, Gilmore. I'd had a minor heart-attack when he'd pulled out into 'on-coming' traffic... except the rest of Vegas agreed with him. I was prepared in advance for sitting in the 'drivers' side as a passenger, but not for being on the opposite side of the road! LMFAO! But otherwise, and completely after the initial OMG!, I started to relax. This was real, it was happening and Shonna hadn't found out in advance.

I'd had a shock when we drove past Goodyear, because I'd thought they were a company local to Wolverhampton, but there they were. Everything else we passed seemed like a land from legend come to life - like Avalon or something. I've heard the Vegas lot canting about Summerlin and suddenly there was a sign saying Summerlin. I don't know if I hadn't entirely thought of these places as real, but it definitely felt like a story-book come to life. Stephane pointed out the Strip in the distance, but it was just a blur of lights, I was so rapt in the moment. Besides, I had no terms of reference for all of this. I hadn't really come to see Vegas per se, I'd come to see Shonna and now to share in the gathering of the Grove. That could have happened in Tipton, if that's where Shonna had lived. I hadn't even looked up Vegas in google. I vaguely remembered the Strip as being the place where Stephane worked and where Shonna used to work, and where Ian said that the hotels were. I was mightily impressed by the sign to Summerlin though. *giggle*

We seemed to get there so fast, though there had been traffic at one bit. Then I was getting out of the car and Stephane was pointing me to where the front door was. This was the other plan and I was to knock on the door and say, 'Happy Anniversary'. I'd planned to bring a piece of ribbon and a card to tie onto me, but forgot.

I slipped through the walkway to the door and, too late, discovered the window. I ran past it but had glimpsed someone inside. Had she seen me? I knocked on the door and stepped back in case she looked out of the window. Stephane signalled to the doorbell. It was on the wall, not the door, so I'd missed it. I rang it. Stephane hung back by the pillar and about 100 years later, Shonna opened the door holding William.

Her face!

Tee hee hee!

Her face!

'Happy Anniversary!' I said and she burst out laughing, just looking at me, then Stephane, then me again, before bursting into tears and reaching out to hug me. I got William's head and got as close into the big bearhug as was possible without crushing him. The baby chose that moment to throw up all over Shonna. LOL

We were somehow in the house and Stephane must have got my bags, because there I was in this beautiful, stunning house, with Shonna completely shocked and me completely in awe of living this moment, and Elen rallying from utter confusion to coming over to introduce herself and show me things. You could tell that Shonna really didn't know what to do with herself and the exact moment when the hostess in her took over by default. I gave Elen the boxed card that Aud had made, and which Aud, FT Kate, Ian and I had signed, which congratulated her on her role as a big sister. I also found out the Wolves teddy bears for her and William, then Shonna took me upstairs.

I was just hyper. I think I emptied my entire suitcase and carry-on, and just kept giving Shonna things to hold, while babbling nineteen to the dozen. And there's Shonna just looking at me with a stunned expression on her face! *grin and hugest grins ever*

I can't even remember what we canted about or if it was coherent, or if I just did the hyperactive babbling thing until we were back downstairs again. I'd taken a bottle of Newcy Brown for Brianne, as she'd said on the Grove ages ago that she missed it. Shonna got onto the Grove and told them that I was there. Mab and Elvis - together again. We had pizza and the 'phone started ringing. It was Corey. Of course, I'm Black Country, who hadn't yet learned to slow down and enunciate and she's a Californian Valley Girl. We babbled excitedly not understanding a word of what the other was saying, until Shonna intervened to translate.

Stephane kept tittering to himself. He was fun to watch too. A definite 'look what I did' look on his face. LOL

Shonna and I popped to Brianne's house to take her Newcy Brown and I had that overpowering sensation again of a creature stepped from legend. Corey's already described it in her blog as characters from a story-book come to life and that is spot on. I was still gobsmacked by the size of the houses and the water hydran-thingies that you see in films, then there's Brianne hugging me! I couldn't stop grinning, I just wanted to pinch myself.

We were going to pop to Chelle's as well, but she was out galavanting, so Shonna took me a drive down the Strip instead. She was explaining that Vegas is quite liberal and we'd see open prostitution etc (not much different from Wolverhampton then...), when we passed a Drug Store. Did I get the wrong end of the stick on that one?! LOL That confusion was deepened by the fact that, unseen by me, an illegal drug transaction WAS taking place to the side of it, which is what Shonna thought I meant. It took several days and one Pixie to dissuade me of the fact that I thought Americans had stores to buy their substances from.

The STRIP! 'kin Hell! You have to see it. It can't be described. If you want full effect, take one Black Country wench and add the Strip. It's big and it's full of pretties. In abundance. Gobsmacked doesn't cover it, nothing could have prepared me for THAT!

Then it was back to their house and canting until stupid o'clock in the morning.


That was ONE bloody fantastic night!


The Kindness of Grovers and Strangers

Something I'd like to slip in here is a huge grateful thank you to those who helped me get to Vegas in the first place, or showed such kindness along the way.

Stephane, of course, stands head and shoulders above as the person who got me there. I don't know how to say thank you to him, because it's too big to really express it. I was planning a whole waffle of a thank you e-mail over the weekend and today, but finally resorted to one simply saying, 'Thank you.' That I got to be THERE at THAT moment in time with THOSE people... Filling up.

Then, in no particular order:

Osran, who, when she found out at the eleventh hour, harked back to my panicking about money blog and read between the lines that it was my Vegas spending money that I couldn't afford and offered to help me out. It wasn't, as that money was already dollars and untouchable, it was everything else. It was my usual tri-monthly panic, which would have happened anyway and is usually a result of me being crap at maths and not as bad as it seems. I was able to thank Osran and tell her that it was covered, but the gesture of that beautiful woman... Love you, a'er wench.

But if I'm talking of my Grove sisters, there were two separate-but-related-moments which had me in tears, because I realized just how much I was worth to folk:

First there was Pixie, who said that if I could afford the much cheaper fare to Denver, she would pick me up and drive me the rest of the way. Stunned and touched, yes. Most definitely yes. Pixie is another beautiful woman who has come through so many times. The Sunday night, I did myself a reading, which was all looking very beautiful if a little heavy on major arcana. The ultimate future was the ten of cups, which was great. :-D However, I pushed my luck and did a week-long day-by-day reading only to discover that I was going to die on Tuesday. I 'phoned Pixie and without blinking (by the sound of her voice), she calmly picked up her own cards and double checked with a Goddess thingie and informed me that Tuesday was going to be a day where my friends catch me and the Goddess of Flowers is looking after me. Panic over. That's just indicative of Pixie. She's so calm and down to earth, nothing fazes her at all and she's got a heart of pure gold. Love you too, Pixie fach.

Secondly, there was a massive gang of Grovers who all, under the organization/suggestion of the Heart of the Grove, Bella, clubbed together to pay for me to go to Vegas. I read that and sobbed my heart out. I just said, 'Oh My God!' for about ten minutes over and over again. I had to decline, because I was already going, but it was all still a secret. My e-mail didn't tell a single lie, but mislead greatly and I felt so evil for that, particularly seeing as I trusted them all to keep it a secret. Thinking back to receiving that e-mail still pauses me. I still get that shiver of 'Oh My God' and the feeling of being so special. If my arms were big enough, I'd hug you all and carry on hugging you until we all dropped down dead of over-hugging (which can be fatal if you can't eat or drink through the use of your arms in the hugging... possibly). I'm all shivery writing this. The gift you lot gave me was far greater than money or kindness, the memory of that e-mail has given me ammunition against the worst of my paranoia, during some dark months. 'kin Hell, I love you all so much. You know who you are.

This brings us to Bella, who found out right at the end too and was full of advice on what needed packing etc. I knew I was going to see 'O' at the Bellagio and had nearly had a heart-attack when I'd looked on the web-site and realized how big it was. I'd originally thought Stephane was in a small band, then had up-graded to a show like at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton. I'd finally landed at it being more like a West End show... nothing on earth prepared me for what Stephane REALLY does. There was me in E-bay trying to find a ballgown, when Bella stepped in with reassurances that it didn't need to be that posh. She's another, like Osran, who offered help and assistance and sent daily e-mails calming me down. She and Stephane between them got me packed and sorted on what was needful.

Then there's Scott, who calmed me during the massive panic attack of the early hours of the morning, when the Grove went up. He talked a lot of sense into me and made me see that I wasn't Judas Iscariot with dreadlocks, whatever I might be thinking.

But the calming down crowns truly belong to FT Kate and Aud. Both of them face-to-face dealing with each panic as it happened, or scutting over here or inviting me over there, just to chill me out for an evening and explain very patiently that the world won't end, even if Roxanne doesn't know she'll be the only Mod on Witchgrove during a bit of turbulance; even if my nail varnish is bobbling; even if there's flaming on Kindly Ones; even if... etc etc etc You'd be amazed at what I found to panic about pre-Vegas. Both of these woman mean so much to me, there aren't the words. Ok, blarting now.

And my parents, who gave me so many dollars and checked and double-checked every detail and ensured I had it memorized. Particularly my Mum, who bought me so many clothes that I had to sit on the suitcase to close it and then didn't wear them all.

Finally the kindness of strangers. Brian on the first plane, who explained things like I didn't have to pay for the cups of tea the flight attendants were bringing around and who bought me headphones when I was dozing and who ran with me, directed me and calmed me during the first Newark madness; the American couple who acted as my ears whilst waiting for the first plane; the New Jersey couple who acted as my ears while waiting for the third plane; the Continental Airline woman at Vegas and the flight attendant on the third plane, who knew how to look after someone half deaf; the lad on the third plane, who put me under his wing and got us both a flight back to Britain, when we'd been told elsewhere that there wasn't another for 24 hours; and the elderly lady at the 'phone kiosk, who showed me how to use a Sprint card to try and warn Kate about the delay; the flight attendant who kept sneaking me packets of baby carrots and pretzels, when he didn't have anything vegetarian to give me; the couple from Stourbridge, who lent me deodorant and gave me sweets on the final flight home.

Those are just the folk before and during the journeys, there was so much more actually in Vegas.

There's so much beauty, so much greatness, so much kindness in this world that I'm proud to be a part of it.

Thank you.


An Awfully Big Adventure Pt 3

5.10.04 (in my journal)

Time is so very relative. I've been asked to believe in three different times simultaneously today, as I left Britain, flew back in time to Newark, then back again to Vegas time. I tell myself it's all a matter of perspective and that seems to be working so far. I tell myself it's one in the afternoon, despite the fact that I've raced to beat a 4pm deadline only minutes before. Yes, it was 4pm despite travelling 7 hours since noon. Maths was never my strong point.

It helps if you don't have a watch yourself. You'll believe whatever you're told that way.

I'm writing this at something daft like 37000 feet up in the air. The pilot just said that we'll be flying over the Rockies in about 40 minutes, which should sort the turbulance out. I'm listening to REM's 'Around the Sun' album and feeling very bouncy and awake.

Today has probably been very long. I woke up on the 4th at quarter past 7am, then went to bed at half 2/3am this morning (British time). Woke up again at half 6 and flew out of Birmingham Airport at 12 noon.

Kate was brilliant. I was so scared and trying not to show it; but as we approached the airport, she put 'Walk Unafraid' on and I SANG it. Sang and meant it. I felt myself rise a level and I wasn't scared anymoe.

It doesn't feel right doing this without Kate. I'm filling up as I write. Kate should be here too. As she put me in the Departures gate, we hugged and it felt like a forever goodbye. As we pulled away, her eyes were filled and I tried not to cry too. Failed once out of sight.

It takes guts to let go at the Departure gate, when you know that the dude you're letting go is afraid. But some journeys you can't take with them, whoever you are. I know Mum's scared too; she's had as many nightmares about this journey as I have.

But it's not been so bad. Newark was madness. I did a lot of running along corridors there; I wish someone had seen the case incident though. I ran in and just saw a flash of Y Ddraig Goch, just about to disappear. I ran the length and whipped it off, another second more and it would have been gone. I ran onto the Vegas plane with 10 mins to spare (40 mins after I should have boarded), and couldn't speak for panting and gasping for breath.

That was 4pm. I'll be in Vegas soon. It's be 5 and a half hours later, but will only be half 6. There's cool! :-)

All I'm thinking now is FUCK! In a couple of hours I'll be meeting Stephane and then Shonna! :-o Please Lady, don't let me do anything stupid; don't let me forget how to speak; and definitely don't let me babble incoherently, like I did with Georgia.

Let me Walk Unafraid instead.

An Awfully Big Adventure Pt 2

From: Mab of Dream
Date: Thu Oct 7, 2004 9:00pm
Subject: Re: Re: Mab's return to the UK should involve

Draig and other NY/NJ folk:
**> My thoughts exactly! But I guess I don't rate as important enough to
> visit. The story of my life. ;)

p.s. that was me being silly, in case you hadn't guessed. I'm not**

:-p 2006. FT Kate and I are hoping to do a grand tour of America... ish... but one of the things we have planned is to go to NYC to visit Draig, Saoirse and Dani.
On the way back, I'm only in Newark for three quarters of an hour. I'm hoping that this is ok...

Do you want my Newark Airport adventures on the way here? Too late, I'm about to waffle.

Out of the whole trip, I was most worried about not being able to have a cigarette for hours and hours on end; I was secondly most worried about Newark. I had an hour between one plane landing and the other taking off, and during that time I had to go through immigration, go through customs, pick up my bags and check them in elsewhere, then check myself in and get onto another plane. I've never done anything like this before, so I'd also have to find out HOW to do all of the above.

On Saturday, Mum started freaking me out. I ended up in my room crying because I didn't think I'd make it to Vegas, or, if I did, it wouldn't be with the surprise element that's been planned since March. Mum was saying there's no way all of the above could happen in an hour.

It did. First off, the lad I'd been sitting next to on the plane was a complete angel. He's a professional ice-skater, who's had a couple of months off in order to have an ordinary life, before joining the tour again. He went through every step of the way with me and even ran with me to immigration. The thing is, there's a new system - all visitors to the US now have to be finger-printed and photographed. I was standing in the queue with the clock ticking down, and the system went down.
Blind panic! I screamed to Elen of the Ways and suddenly there was a wave of surprise from all of the dudes in the boxes - the system had suddenly come back up! Coincidence? Probably, but thanks Elen. (This happened twice all told.)

I'd been warned by EVERYONE individually at work that Thou Shalt Not Joke With Immigration Officials. Thou Shalt Not Imply There's a WMD In Thy Suitcase. Thou Shalt Not Tell Any Immigration Official That Thou Is a Terrorist. Their trust in my common sense is awesome... I was a good girl and besides, he didn't ask me any of the above. He told me he was having a long day, I sympathized and told him that every minute is a minute less to wait until home-time. He fingerprinted me, took my photo and off I went.

I legged it into the baggage place and just saw Y Ddraig Goch going through the conveyor belt door. I ran the length of it and grabbed my case two seconds before it disappeared. I'd tied Y Ddraig Goch to my case and that was a Very Good Idea.

I then saw the time and nearly died. The customs official asked me how I was when I got there and I said stressed! She looked genuinely concerned and asked why, so I explained about the plane going off imminently and me supposed to be on it. She got me rushed through, sent a bloke to open a barrier for me to rush through there and in short taught me that all New Yorkers are GREAT!

I had to chuck my bags onto another conveyor belt; and take my shoes and jacket off. But got through very quickly and pelted down three long corridors, before reaching the second plane with 10 mins to spare before it took off again. I was dying! I couldn't speak and panted my way into my chair.

I could see the New York skyline out of the window, in various queues, and I saw the Statue of Liberty as we flew up. I saw all of the forested mountains and about a million lakes on the way in and out and I thought about all the NY/NJ Grovers down below.

I wish there had been time to meet you and with a bit of thought, I should have accounted for that. But not knowing about this flying malarkey before, I didn't know how short a time an hour was for the bits in the middle anyway. *blush*

So that was my New York experience. Oh! Other than wowing and gushing all over my new friend Brian the Ice Skater when I was looking out of the plane window, and saw New York THINGS like in the movies. Buses and all sorts!

2006, I'd like to see a bit more without the running and stress.

Oh! I did get searched. At Birmingham, before I left. They were very interested in the Ferrari that I've got for Mike's memorial, but the problem was the Wiccan altar board which I'm bringing for Georgia from Ebony. That was x-rayed and a million questions asked. Strangely, they weren't interested in Aud's candles, despite the 3 grams of hereoin and two small bombs she inserted into them...


An Awfully Big Adventure

I'm going to be doing this story in installments over the next few days, because I don't want to ever forget a moment of it.

Back in March, Stephane e-mailed me and invited me to come to Vegas. I just about fell out of my chair and we had a few e-mails back and forth trying to work out the timing. We went for October, because Anna would be there then and so there was more chance of Shonna being available for guests, plus I'd get to meet Anna too. The thinking was that Anna wouldn't have been invited then if Shonna hadn't have considered herself up for it. Plus, Shonna would probably have the time off work anyway - we'd counted and worked out that her maternity leave would finish mid-October. Unfortunately, William came early, so I eventually turned up during her first two weeks BACK at work. :-( However, the tickets were non-refundable and couldn't be altered timewise, so October 5th was set for going and October 15th/16th for coming back.

I tried to put it all out of my head. The fact that I had a car-crash and was in absolute agony for most of the year helped; the fact that Georgia came to Britain and there were the two Festivals helped too; but mostly I couldn't believe that this was really going to happen.

I told no-one except my parents, my brother and his family, FT Kate, Ian and Jim. They all knew by early April, but no-one else did. Stephane and I discussed other Grove members being alerted and were thinking on who would be the best person to entrust with a huge secret like this? But the Goddess intervened. Cerr announced that Anna had agreed to be Goddessmother to the children and the Wiccanning would occur when she was in Vegas, ie WHEN I WAS IN VEGAS! Stephane and I were just gobsmacked, here was Shonna telling the entire of Witchgrove that they were all invited to her house for the Wiccanning, and us not having to do anything.

I nearly cracked so many times. The day I went to pick up the tickets and I had them in my back, I popped into Laura's. However, Laura was excited about Nathan and chatted on and on about it. I thought to myself that if she stopped for breath, I'd tell her about Vegas. She didn't. LOL Nathan being amazing saved me from leaking the secret in June! There were numerous other times, like when Georgia was so upset in Glastonbury, there's me thinking, 'I know what would cheer her up...' but I didn't say a thing. It got so that we'd kept the secret for so long that it would be too much of a shame to let it slip now.

The original plan was for me to tell the Britgrovers in September. That way they would have time for presents but less time to let anything slip. By then, there were already so many small slip-ups that I'm amazed that Shonna knew nothing about it until I got there. By September, we were both worried that the more people who knew, the greater the chances that the secret would out - not in folk blatantly telling, but in hints and slip-ups which, added together, would have told.

As it happened, in the final week, the secret did come out over and over again. Aud learned about it when she was at my house while my case was half packed and clothes sorted to go into it; Cabochon found out about it on the Friday night, when the Grove exploded and I was shitting myself that Shonna was going to hate me for my part in it; Bella discovered when she phoned me and partly guessed, but asked me outright - I hestitated for a fraction too long and knew it, so came clean. Osran was with Bella at the time, so she learned about it. Dirk had guessed, after a conversation while Pixie's Mum was so ill. On the Monday before I left, I phoned Laura and told her. So, for a handful of days, an increasing number of people got to learn about it. It could have been so many more!

For a fortnight before or so, I started misleading and lying like a git. 'A member of the family...' is going to Vegas, I told Ebony and Froggie, and can take stuff over. True. Just that I was the member of the family. 'Are you going to the Moot?' BS Kate asked me. 'I owe Jennie money.' I responded, which was another way of saying, 'No, but Aud's taking a cheque for Jennie for me.' The trouble is that I hate lying and I hate misleading, the longer that went on, the tighter the knot in my stomach.

Pre-Vegas, I was ill. It has to be said. I'd had a chest infection and/or cold for over a month; I was skipping heartbeats; I was exhausted to the core of me. Nightmares and panic attacks all over the shop. During the last week, I ran up to the Tourist shop in Wolverhampton, for presents, and nearly fainted in the shop. I had so many moments where my legs turned to jelly or I went dizzy. I spent most of August, September and the first week of October shaking like a leaf and prone to tears.

On the Thursday before I left, I went into deep panic attack. I couldn't go. I couldn't think. Have you ever had a panic attack? It's a term bandied around which some folk use to mean, 'I was a bit more worried than normal', but that's not a panic attack. A panic attack is going completely to pieces, sobbing, trembling, feeling like the world has just ended. I was a mess.

On the Friday, the Grove blew. I watched it all thinking, 'Oh shit! Oh shit!' because I knew I wouldn't be around to help mod it. I also knew that the reality would be that Roxanne would have it all. I didn't go into panic attack, but I spent a lot of it feeling very dizzy and having to put my head between my knees or suddenly going nauseaous. The sheer amount of off-list e-mails was overwhelming and I didn't know what to do anymore. Cerr went on Sabbatical; and Roxanne spoke the greatest sense of all when she told us to let it burn for a couple of days, we'd not mod again until Monday. I couldn't add, 'but I won't be here on Monday'. It wasn't a panic attack, but it was panicking. That's when Cabochon found out and Cabochon calmed me down.

I've never had anything waxed before. On the Saturday morning, I was up early and down the beauticians, to have a full body wax. Caroline had put the fear of God into me about how Americans look - they all have waxes and pedicures and manicures etc etc. I've never given a monkeys about the beautician's craft before, but that last week, I panicked myself into it. Sunday, there was Aud in my room again, doing my nails for me and generally ensuring I didn't collapse into a heap on the floor. When a post on the flaming Grove was directly attacking me, I went to pieces, but looked at Aud and she just grinned at me. I smiled, she laughed, I laughed. It was the only option by then, everything just looked so huge and horrific.

But under all of this burning, just as Roxanne had said, you could already see the old Grove shining through. By Monday, it looked and felt as it should do. Shonna's baby, which we all take turns babysitting, suddenly grown up. It was too late for me to worry too much about it by then.

I ended up at FT Kate's house at half 7 at night, coiled up like a spring about to blow. All day, I'd been in deep e-mail conversation with a couple of the W-ton Moot people. I'd planned on an early night, but that didn't happen. But when I was still awake at half 3am, it wasn't Vegas I was afretting on, it was the situation in Wolverhampton.

At half 6 next morning, Kate woke up me when it felt like I'd only just fallen asleep. I wrote and posted my previous blog entry to throw people off the scent, and in a state of utter terror under a very shallow calm exterior, I was driven to Birmingham Airport.

Within sight of planes taking off, Kate put on 'Walk Unafraid' VERY loudly. I sang it, feeling it with everything in me, and it worked. It really worked. I rose a level and was fine thereon. Even when my suitcase was searched because of the altar board that Ebony had given me for Georgia.

Only when Kate hugged me and I left through departures did I cry. 'kin Hell, did I cry! I was terrified and Kate couldn't come with me. It suddenly looked like the 'awfully big adventure' line which had been going through my head. I was convinced I was about to either die, get deported or arrested or something, but instead I sat in the departure lounge smoking the last cigarettes of the condemned STILL worrying about the Wolves Moot!


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"It's beautiful, I'd like for you to take me on..."

I've come to the conclusion that 9am is a good time for meetings. Wait until half past and you haven't time to get any other work done, but it's too much time to just sit there. So you end up trying to cram stuff in. It's amazing how busy you can be just waiting around.

Had a great time last night. FT Kate phoned to say she'd got the new REM album, so I scutted over there and we had a girlie night in. It was SO un-Monday! Usually Mondays are... well... Mondays... followed by html-ing the weekly discussion, but this week, Pixie's is continuing, so I didn't have to wait on doing anything.

I've decided that Kate's settee, with the ambience, tea, wine and candles, should be advertized as a New Age therapy centre. I arrived buzzing at the speed of light, but mentally knackered, and actually felt myself uncoiling after an hour or so. I had that feeling like I did immediately after finishing my last A-levels exams, where you're coiled so tightly and then you just unravel. If I could feel myself coming down off the ceiling, I can imagine what Kate was seeing!

I HEART the new REM album, particularly 'Boy in the Well'. I swear Michael Stipe said it was the next single, but Kate's run that past the Murmurs group and no-one else there heard him say that. Either I'm imagining it or I should put a tenner on it!

Unfortunately, Kate's texted me to say I've left stuff there, so I'm going to have to scut over there after work again. That's not unfortunately in that I get to play at Kate's, it's unfortunately in the respect that I wasn't planning on that and I've now got a million e-mails to look at, some from folk I really could do with responding to in case it gets misunderstood or politic etc etc.

*puts arms around the whole world* {{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}} I'm not ignoring anyone, I'm out playing and out working, hard!

And relax...

*looks around*


Time to get back to it.


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