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Monday, May 30, 2005

Pixie and Dirk Came to Britain!!

Thursday 19th May:

I'd set my alarm clock for 9am, but woke up at 20 past 7 and bounced out of bed so excited. I didn't have to be at Aud's until eleven, so there was time to kill. It had been noon until the night before. I tatted on the computer; cleared all my e-mail folders; watched a bit of telly. By 9, Aud was worn down by my incessant bouncing around via e-mail and said I could go to hers at half 10. I made a cuppa, I did a few repairs on the Witchgrove website. I wondered if there were spells for making time go more quickly.

Apparently there are. The clock was out on my computer. I only sussed when an e-mail arrived from the future! It was 40 minutes later than I thought it was and I was already late for Aud. Arrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!

Aud and I abandoned my car at FT Kate's house, while Alan and Harriet came for us in his 7-seater mini-bus. I'd chucked my keys through Kate's letterbox before I realized I'd left my handbag, in full view, in my car. I retrieved my keys with frightening ease, even for a Wulfrunian, which caused me to poke them halfway across her floor with a piece of wire I found in the gutter. I then took the wire with me in my handbag, in case any thieving Black Country dude had witnessed it all. And off we went on our adventure.

It was well cool being chaffeured down the motorway. I got to see lots of pretties that I wouldn't have ordinarily seen. Aud pointed out Chilton in the distance, where she grew up; then we stopped in Rugby, which was her 'hood before she moved into my 'hood. I got to see the field where William Webb Ellis committed handball and deserved a penalty against his team picked up the ball during a football game, thus inventing the game of rugby. I also saw the church where Aud was married to her training husband, before she married Alan. Then it was off to Heathrow to pick up Pixie and Dirk.

We only just got there in time. Roadworks and all kinds of things held us up, but we'd just parked up, had a fag and crossed the road to arrivals and there was an almighty Pixie-like screech. They had just that second arrived too, so we ran, hugged them, and Aud and I put Wolverhampton Wanderers scarves around their necks, like Hawaiian people put flowers around the necks of their visitors. Of course, until then, it had been red hot. I'd taken my jacket off in the car and was still boiling, so I didn't expect the scarves to see much wear. But soon as we left the airport, it started raining. Only showers, but the sun had just disappeared while we'd spent those five minutes in Heathrow Airport.

We drove around looking for somewhere to park up, that was reasonably secure (because of the luggage), but also on the tube line. That became a magical mystery tour and I saw parts of London which I've never seen before (which isn't that hard...). I'd originally jumped in the back, on the basis that Aud knows London to direct Alan, but the further we went the more my stomach was turning. I got to the part where I thought I'm going to throw up any second now, when Aud noticed and got Alan to pull over. I was mortified! But I suppose it would have been far worse if I'd vomitted all over Pixie in Alan's car. Once I'd had a few gasps of air and gagged a bit, I was fine. I got into the front then. It was safer.

We parked up in Hammersmith and was walking to the tube station when Cerr 'phoned! Dirk had just been speculating on what Yoda's penis looks like, which amused Cerr greatly. LOL I handed her to Pixie for a short cant, but we were nearly at the tube station, so was going to lose signal. I got to say goodbye, then ran after the others. Alan paid for all of our tube tickets and refused point-blank to have any money off me for petrol. I did try to sneak him a twenty via Harriet when he later bought a round in the pub too, but Aud caught us and sneaked it back into my pocket. Git.

The voice on the tannoy didn't say 'mind the gap' to the disappointment of me and Pixie. ('Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman...) We landed at Westminster, which was strange. Every other time I've landed at Westminster, I've had a banner or a candle and I'm about to protest something. It was bizarre seeing it minus thousands of people chanting! We had us some crepes from a stand beside the Boudicca statue, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament over the road; then headed towards Westminster Abbey, which was closed. It had started to really rain by now, so we sheltered in the Abbey shop. I nearly bought an American-English dictionary, but Pixie and Dirk assured me that they'd never heard of half the American words in it.

We walked in the rain to Regent's Park, then under the sheltering canopy of trees to Buckingham Palace. The flag was up, which meant that the Queen was in, but we didn't ask to go in for tea, because the rain was belting down. Instead we found the nearest pub and went into it. That was fun AND surreal. Pixie and Dirk, wearing Wolves scarves, sitting with us in a pub... but also like old friends just nipping over for a visit, which was precisely what they were. But, for me, there wasn't that 'stepping out of a story-book' feel that there was in Vegas, which I reckon was because they were in my 'hood and because I'd met them before.

The rain wasn't about to let up, so Pixie and Dirk decided they'd seen enough of London and we should head back. On the tube was a woman who looked completely wrecked. You could smell the booze a mile off and the businessman holding her up looked so embarrassed. The only space in the carriage was around her, as folk were waiting for her to throw. He practically carried her off at their station. Back in Hammersmith, poor Harriet got packed into the luggage; Pixie had a near miss with a toilet stop; and we all bounced around a lot, generally over-excited.

We phoned Georgia once we were back on the road, because it was the anniversary of her divorce and also because I'd written an e-mail before I left (and posted it to mods) suggesting that Britgrovers meet Pixie and Dirk on Tuesday night in Seamus O'Donnells, but I didn't want to plan their holiday for them, so I wanted to ask them before sending it. They agreed, so I asked Georgia to do so. We all loved her up and wished she was there... though where we would have put her in that car... *giggle* I'd have had her on my lap.

We stopped off in Beaconsfield for a meal at the Greyhound pub. We snuggled around a table and that got a little surreal. *grin* It was so lovely to look up and see my friends there, especially Pixie, who I know so well but rarely see. She got a round in and went to pay with her Visa, but it wasn't signed, which is illegal here. She got all American on the landlady and the wench just accepted the card! LOL Pixie explained that no-one signs their cards in America, in case of having their signature forged. Everyone does here, so a blank one would just end up with the thief's signature on it. It's all crossing over to pin numbers anyway now.

There was a no mobile phones rule in there, so I blushed my head off when FT Kate phoned me! The whole pub cheered and catcalled, while I dashed outside. I had no idea how long it would take to get home, so I kept texting her ETAs as I got my bearings. When we got there, she opened the door in costume from her play ('Murdered to Death'). She plays Miss Maple - a spoof on Miss Marple - so was an elderly lady. LMFAO! She kept it on all through making us cups of teas and coffees or getting the beer open, then ran upstairs and came back transformed into herself.

We were up until the early hours then; opening presents; sampling peeps. Pixie's dad had sent me a little Yoda action figure, with a gun, so we executed a peep to test it. LOL Very loud and raucous, we were, but Nick (Kate's housemate in bed above us) forgave us.

Friday 20th May:

There were no real plans, but I woke up at half past 7 and heard voices in the other room. Pixie and Dirk were already awake. I remembered where I was and what was happening to me, so bounced out of bed. Understand that bounced and half 7 in the morning is relative. I bounced inwardly until I'd got two cups of tea and several cigarettes inside me, then I was awake enough to bounce outwardly too!

Aud wanted to play and Pixie and Dirk wanted to sample a traditional English breakfast, so I killed two birds with one stone and added a bonus bird for myself, by picking Aud up and going round the corner to The Lunchbox. I used to go in there every dinnertime until about four years ago. They not only remembered my name, but also the double-decker egg, beans and cheese toasted sandwich that they'd invented for me. :-o Pixie and Dirk had the full English. I thought it would turn out that despite the name it was known the world over. Nope. They had never seen the like before. Americans don't even have baked beans for breakfast. In what became a trademark of British meals, they found it much more greasy than they were used to. Dirk, in particular, was talking very wistfully about American food (and weather) by the end of their visit here. Poor cariad.

We set off for the Black Country Museum, via Morrisons, and it was really good fun. I've been there millions of times, so I thought I would just be going to show Pixie and Dirk, but in the event, I learned things about my 'hood that I hadn't known. It was visiting for my own sake then! LOL Before we went in, I'd told them that they wouldn't find the Black Country on a map, because everyone has their own idea of where it is. When we were in there, there was a short presentation over three screens telling folk all about the Black Country. A professor-type bloke pops up on one screen saying, 'The Black Country is where the coalfields were' and up popped a map of this on the middle screen. On the far screen another professor-type bloke pops saying, 'No, no, the Black Country is where the steel and iron were, the industrial areas...' The map shows a bigger area, then disappears. Up pops Ayli or Aynok, saying, 'Tha' Block Contrees we-ah a Block Contree mon seys ittis...' It became a standing joke after that, with Pixie keep saying, 'Tell, where is the Black Country?' I guess you had to be there...

We wondered around the museum then, in and out the houses, down on the tram, and taking a tour of the ironworks. The bloke doing the door really couldn't cope if something went off-script. At one bit he picked up a length of iron and Pixie jumped forward to touch it. The look on his face! LOL I actually thought he was handing it to us, but evidentally not. He told us some interesting things though. Like how the workers used to punch in their presense on a huge dial, which looked like a clockface, hence 'clocking on'; and how they used to be paid by their wages being poured from little pots into their caps, hence 'coming cap in hand'. We also nipped into the little cinema and watched a Charlie Chaplin short film, before going into the pub. We walked back up via the cake-shop - beautiful home-baked cakes, but a bit too sugary for the Americans - and the precious stones shop. I'm sure that hadn't been there last time!

We dropped Aud off then went via the garage to fill up on petrol for the next day. Dirk and Pixie had gone into the shop by the time I finished. I walked in to find that they'd paid my petrol! :-o (Pixie did this again on the Tuesday night, plus bought me Red Bull etc for the journey down to Gatwick.) That was so lovely of them.

We made our way back to Kate's and caught a taxi into Stourbridge, eating at Chicago Rock (apparently it didn't look like Chicago, even if you closed your eyes. LOL), before walking down to to the Stourbridge Rock Cafe to see Chumbawamba. We were well early, so watched Bleeding Hearts doing their soundtrack. They were quite good! Kate's brother, Andrew, and all the Stourbridge posse joined us, including Stefan, who I hadn't seen since 1993. Bleeding Hearts were brilliant, but had got us all ready for dancing, when Chumbawamba came on - minus Alice Nutter and Danbert - performing a largely accoustic set. It took a while to adjust, because we kept thinking that they'd start on the more raucous songs. They were still good, but completely at odds with the mood in the place.

It was all way too smokey for Pixie in particular as well; Dirk told me afterwards that he was shocked at just how many Britons smoke. By that point, every single person he'd met smoked, which was proving to be hard on their lungs. He mused that it might be that Americans are more educated about this, until I showed him the cigarette packets, all telling us just how bad for us they were. Branny was there when we had this conversation and she confirmed that the Dutch are also well informed. It seems that all three countries have the anti-smoking adverts too. Maybe there's something more fatalistic in the European mindset, I don't know.

Back to the Friday night, we caught a taxi home and then partied on at Kate's house. This was her night out after a long, long hard stretch of working every weekend and rehearsing for her play every night. She'd been gutted when she'd realized that the dates clashed (thus she'd had to drop out of Glastonbury, which had really upset her). I knew that she wanted to party on all night long, but Pixie and Dirk were wilting, Nick was asleep upstairs and I had to be driving a car at 9am. I felt really sorry for her, but by 1-2am, we had to call it a night and go abed, which was a shame, because I was loving it too!
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