Alresford, May 5-7
Arriving in England and finding no-one home at the dosser’s centre in London (Ali’s place in Nam) I wasted no time in getting back to the place where everybody knows your name – The Pettmans’ place in my old town of Alresford. I spent a couple of days in Alresford, stopping young Jenna Pettman from studying too hard for her A levels and periodically beating Chris Pettman at Tennis.
London, May 7-8
Getting from Alresford back to London was my first day of Hell. It appears that when things go wrong for me, they do it in bunches. Having placed my train ticket to London in a very safe place I promptly forgot about it and locked it in the Pettman’s house. I went and called Stu the Cream to tell him I would be late before trying to break back in the Pettman’s place and just braking the Pettman’s place instead (there’s now a foot sized whole in Pettman’s pergola). Suitably chastened and still locked out of the house I went to Chris’s school and got the house key. I was now shockingly late to see Stu, but this was more than compounded when I got on the train and realised I had lost my address book (left in the phone booth when I called the Cream earlier). The panic of not knowing where Stu lived, not being able to get in touch with him subsided somewhat when I realised that I could get this information off my e-mail account. Of course then I had to find somewhere to get e-mail. An incredibly helpful woman at Liverpool St. station let me know about 3 different internet cafes, one of which I found in the London rain. Unfortunately it was in Brick Lane, and had just been bombed, so was rather useless. Almost abandoning all hope I finally used my brain and went down to Earls Court. After this horrendous detour the night went fine. I found the address, I found Stu (drunk cause he was waiting for in a bar – for 6 hours) we went to The Fridge in Brixton and danced the night away.
Plymouth, May 8-10
The next day I made my way down to Plymouth for Nicky Pettman’s 21st – catching the bus as I was feeling rich at this stage. I arrived in Plymouth to find Nicky in the bar already, having been there since breakfast. This was fairly indicative of my time spent in Plymouth. Lots of watching Nicky and her friends drink too much, sing ‘Ben’ by Michael Jackson and make sexually revealing comments. My time in Plymouth introduced me to ‘strawpedos’ and ‘Never Ever’
Stony Stratford, May 10-14
Stony Stratford is a small town on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. I went there to visit Gary and Kea Sheppard, old friends from Australia. The town itself was lovely (mentioned in Richard the Third I believe) and proved a lovely place to watch the football, but Milton Keynes itself is what hell will be like. A ‘city designed to work’, it has all the warmth and character of a spitting stoat.
Oxford, May 14-15
My delightful friend Sayaka, who was aupairing in a place named Houghton-cum-Studley then took me to Oxford. We saw Deus at the Zodiac, a club run by Radiohead. It was good.
Cambridge, May 15-17
Sayaka then took me down to Cambridge, just to complete my University tour of England. We went to pubs, went punting, went to a choral service in Kings Chapel and just had a nice time.
Skipton, May 17-18
I was thinking now of going on to Ireland, so I got Sayaka to drop me off in Luton on the way back to Houghton-cum-Studley. My intention was to get a cheap air ticket over to Ireland, but as I got to the airport I realised that just wasn’t going to happen. So instead I gave some friends in Leeds a call to see if I could come and visit them. They said fine, but they didn’t live in Leeds, they lived in Skipton. So I started my hitching in style. Making it up there in 4 lifts and hardly any time. I still had time in the day to go to the pub and listen to ghost stories.
Skipton was fantastic. I stayed with Gal and Ali, who were excellent hosts with a fantastic shower and Skipton itself is quite charming, with a castle, scenery, lots of pubs and brilliant fish and chip shops.
Dublin, May 19-25
After Skipton I went through Leeds and caught an overnight train to Dublin. In Dublin I caught up with Glenn and two of my Irish friends Niamh and Fiona. Everyone showed me a great time, lots of pubs were involved of course as well as a party (thrown by librarians nonetheless) which we emerged from well after the sun had come up, and we were the pikers!
Skipton, May 25-28
About this time I got a little nervous that I was supposed to be heading off to the US soon and I still had no hint of a Camp America placement, let alone a visa. I went back to Leeds to change the date on my plane ticket and not very coincidentally see the glorious Manchester United European victory in Silsden, near Skipton (and Manchester)
Liverpool, May 28- 31
I had to return once again to the Embassie Youth Hostel, and so it was back to Liverpool where I broke the monotony of clubbing with the occasional Beatles indulgence. Tip to other travellers – don’t walk to Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields, catch the bus. It was in Liverpool that I decided that I would bite the bullet, and agree to go to Trails End Camp, who delicately requested that I cut my hair before even attempting to show my face in America.
Milton Keynes, May 31- June 1
From Liverpool I got a lift with a car full of typical Australian yobos back to Milton Keynes. The guys had been in Liverpool to watch the cricket and soon served to remind me why Australians have a bad rep overseas. Listened to AC/DC all the way down the M56. I stayed a night once again with Gary, then he took me and Kea across to Cambridge for lunch. From there it was a single hitch back to Essex from a fellow named Paul who was having a nefarious relationship with a woman in Colchester.
Alresford, June 1-8
Back at the Pettman’s place I began by far the most annoying part of my trip so far – waiting for my visa papers to arrive. Having been mistakenly sent to Oz by camp America, the courier company sending them back to England misplaced them and I had an agonizing wait in Alresford. I was due to fly out on the June 16th, but as I needed ten working days to get my application processed (when it did arrive from Australia) that was looking rather unlikely. Camp was due to start on the 22nd, until then I had to satisfy myself with fly-fishing and actually beating Chris Pettman at Tennis (once, anyway). A pleasant, but frustrating time, the application didn’t arrive, and I had to change my flight time, so I went into London anyway.
London, June 8-12
Once I arrived in London I got some new visa documents and started all over again. When I arrived at Shannon’s the first thing I heard was that the visa I was waiting for had arrived in Alresford in the post after I left. Luck, huh? I got the wheels underway, and rescheduled my flight for June 23rd . If my visa application was processed in the minimum 10 working days I could make it to camp 2 days late. Not wanting to waste time feeling sorry for myself Shannon managed to take me out and about in London. We went to the movies in Leicester Square, and went to a party in Camden Town full of old Perth friends. Dancing at the Electric Ballroom and all that jazz…
Shrewsbury, June 12-13
My extra time in Britain meant I had the opportunity to visit some more pals, so off I went to Shrewsbury to visit Emma and her family. I must say they went above and beyond in the hospitality stakes, showing me a great time in Shrewsbury, a town with more pubs per capita than any other in Britain.
Angelesey, June 13-14
From Shrewsbury I went on to Anglesey, which involved a lovely hitch through North Wales. I got lifts off a rector, a bridal gown designer and various other peculiar people you always seem to meet in Wales. It’s a lovely place, and a great place to hitch. When I got to Anglesey I found my old friend Naomi and it was off to the pub again and then up all night having a bit of a chat.
London, June 14-15
After Anglesey I thought I better get back to London and try and push my case on the American Embassy. This involved a HUGE hitch from Anglesey to London, which I didn’t even start until after midday. It took me until 5pm to get around Chester due to an old Irish man on the M50 who wouldn’t go above 30mph. It was the best fuel economy see, and he was trying to get from Cork in Ireland to Manchester for 10 pound or something ridiculous. By the time I got near Chester I was fairly sure it would be a night out under the stars for me. Still after walking for about 3 miles out of Chester a man gave me a lift ‘because you looked so sad’ (Chester has always been crap for hitching) and from there on it was greased lightning into London. I got my last lift at about 10pm, from Watford to London (about 20 miles), it was from a group of Irish girls that had driven down from Anglesey; fate has a sense of irony.
Alresford, June 15-22
After going to the U.S. embassy the next morning and being told they couldn’t help me, I headed back to Alresford to make sure Jenna Pettman had something to distract her from studying for her A levels. Being in Alresford generally involved games of tennis, periods of fly-fishing and going out with Jenna and her gorgeous friends. What with all that and endless pampering (I was Australian and therefore considered incapable of looking after myself – a stereotype I didn’t care to challenge) I always have a pretty nice time in Alresford.
London, June 22-23
My flight to New York was leaving on the 23rd, so I went back into London on the 22nd hoping my visa would have come through. Saying goodbye to the Pettman’s for now I headed into London and went straight to the Camp America office, arriving about the same time as the visas for the day. They couldn’t find mine at first, but after a painful half an hour of searching they did come up with it. I then headed back to Shannon’s but found that she wasn’t there. On a whim I decided to go to Earl’s Court, as I knew REM were playing there that night. I did and found a guy at the tube station scalping tickets for a whole pound and a half more than the original price! Of course I purchased one and saw REM for the third time in my life. The concert was fantastic, my seat wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either, and REM played a fantastic show. They even played old favourites like ‘Pilgrimage’ off Murmur! For the first time in weeks I was glad about the visa angst I’d been going through; if it wasn’t for the marvellous ineptitude of certain courier companies, Camp America and the U.S. Government, I certainly wouldn’t have got to see such a great concert. When I got back to Shannon’s I only pretended to be pissed that she wasn’t there for a little while.