Steve n Jen's UK adventures

UK and European adventures. Read on my pretties, and discover what two stray Aussies can get up to on their travels.......

31 August 2009

Aug 2009 b

Sun 16 Aug 2009
A farewell dinner for Steve's sister (Sophie's mum) Julie, and Peter before they eventually head back to Australia. Here we all are having a tasty dessert of icecream, strawberries and hot chocolate sauce.

Mon - Thu
Work work work. Tuesday, Steve has his most "challenging" day in his current workplace, due to terrible project mis-management by their big name supplier, and he's really not impressed!

Friday night, Steve packed the car and we set off for Raglan in Wales, at about 5:45pm. We arrived in Raglan at 10pm - dratted traffic! At least our accommodation is lovely, we stayed at the Beaufort Arms.

Sat 22 Aug 2009
So today we entered the SCA tournament to hopefully become the final Viceroy & Vicereign over the regions of UK, Ireland and Iceland. The 'final' V&V, because the next tourney is for those wishing to become the first Prince & Princess, as we progress toward a Principality.
During morning court, our friend Mary was sent "on vigil" for her good works of Service. Hooray, and very very pleased for her!

Today's event is part of Ffair Rhaglan, fought in Raglan Castle.
Here we are processing in before the tourney began (photo by Agatha):

Above: Alaric (Steve) and Robert face off - well blocked Robert!
Below: Ouch! Alaric gets a good one across Giles' back.

Above: Queen Judith looks on
Below: In between bouts, Alaric takes a breather and has a laugh

Above: The finalists presented to Their Maj's.
Well, Alaric gave it his all and defeated Sigmundr in the final bout.
So, here we are being invested as the last Viceroy & Vicereign (photo by Kiriel):

...and farewelling the previous V&V Daffyd and Ciara (photo by Anna):

Court over, so its time for a quick posed shot (photo by Kiriel):

Sun 23 Aug 2009
Hhhmmm, maybe a good time to take some more photos of this stunning site....

Above: Fighting scenarios on the bridge (not a haybale in sight).
Below: Steve at the gate

Above: Jen just a little further inside the gate.
Below: Steve hanging about in this glorious setting.

On the way home unfortunately we had car trouble. At least we broke down 10 minutes from home (having set out from Wales) nd waited 3 hours for a tow truck to get it to the local Garage. It wasn't the rear axle, but the part just under the shock absorber, totally snapped. The shockie had to be replaced also. Very lucky it happened going over a speed hump at about 10mph rather than on the motorway! Could have been so much worse. Thinking we should get the other shock absorbers replaced soon.

Tue 25 Aug 2009
After work, singing night. Edith made her apologies, but we did have Emoni and Arnod over. Looks like we might at last be getting a couple of male voices in as regulars - hoorah!

Fri 28 Aug 2009
This morning Jen finally saw a doctor about her perpetually sore throat (and slight cough). It seems the usual time between making an appt to see a Dr and actually seeing one (in London) is about a week! Ridiculous. Jen is now on Penicillin and has an appointment at a specialist Voice clinic in town... at last.
Straight after work, we picked up the car - freedom again!

We had dinner tonight with friends from Bristol, Kevin and Mary; at a little French restaurant in Soho called Arbutus. Very nice food, although the portions were a bit on the small side.

Sat 28 Mar 2009
Steve relaxed, playing on-line computer games and Jen filled four big garbage bags after "thinning" (hacking up) the vines in the backyard. Generally a relaxed day.

Sun 30 Aug 2009
This morning Steve did an hour of grocery shopping while Jen window shopped for clothes.
Tonight Steve cooked up a tasty sausage, spuds n tomato paste soupy thing. After dinner, our guests Terry, and Nick, watched 'The Spirit' with us on DVD. Shame the movie turned out to be a bit rubbish!
So we watched 'Constantine' - much better.

Mon 31 Aug 2009
Today's a public holiday in the UK - and the last one for the year until Christmas.
Soaking up the last of the summery sunshine, we headed out to see the Wallace Collection. Loads of very famous suits of armour, heaps of baroque and later paintings, and basically a good smattering of overly ornate "stuff".

Above: the outside of the "house" where the Wallace Collection is on display
Below: can't take photos of any of the artifacts, but here's the restaurant in the courtyard - which was quite nice (even if all the plants were plastic) ;-)

16 August 2009

Aug 2009 aa


**** Please be aware, we've posted TWO installments of the blog at once ... so be sure to BEGIN with reading the previous entry! That's where all the interesting Pennsic photos are.

Sun 09 Aug 2009
This morning we packed up the tent, airbed and sleeping bags, and got a lift (thanks to Marcus' lady Marguerite) to the downtown Pittsburgh Greyhound bus station. The bus ride was long, and we finally got in about one and a half hours late! Thankfully our wonderful hostess was good enough to pick us (and all our baggage) up from the station and to her home a short drive away.

Above: here is our Washington hostess Kira, with one of her cats (named Lightning).

Mon 10 Aug 2009
Today, after getting some laundry going, we both set out for the Smithsonian national air & space museum. We pretty much spent the whole day wandering through it, Steve was like a big kid in a cool toy store!

Above: Here we are in front of the Apollo 11 capsule, which is sheathed in thick perspex.
Below: Steve in front of an X15.

Above: A 1969 manual (the index shown here) for all the stuff that could go wrong on their space journey - not a good read for the faint-hearted!
Below: Steve with a Cray-1, an old super-computer with it's own built-in xenon liquid cooling system.

Above: Steve and cool stuff in the air & space museum
Below: This model of our nearest neighbours is to scale. The painted yellow arc at left represents the sun. The little, dark blue sphere is Earth. Cool huh?

Tue 11 Aug 2009
Today we rendezvoused with Stanzi and Gabriel - that is to say, our very good friends Alex and Rachel. The first order of business, we visited the National Archives and saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Seems that the drafts were printed on paper, and once it was all finalised it was hand calligraphed on to parchment (ie, on skin/hide. Vellum is the same as parchment except it is specifially made from cow or calf).

Above: Inside the National Archives (Washington DC) here's a cool touch on the inside of the elevator doors - an engraved version of the declaration of independence.
Below: Steve, Rachel and Alex in the Rotunda, about to see the USA's most famous historical documents.

Next, we headed to the National Gallery to view their exhibition on Spanish royalty in the Renaissance - right up Rachel's alley! The architecture of the building itself was something else.

Next, we visited the American History Museum (which Jen quipped couldn't have much in it really?) which houses the original "star spangled banner", a fairly comprehensive display about Lincoln's life, a bunch of ACW stuff, and a variety of popular culture items, such as Kermit the frog, Oscar the grouch, Dorothy's red shoes, etc etc etc.

Next stop, the Washington Monument. You get truly splendid views from all around its base. Here's the view of Capitol Hill.

Above: view of the White House - this is as close as we got to it I'm afraid.
Below: Alex and Rachel 'holding' the Lincoln Memorial.

Above: Looking back from half-way to the Lincoln Memorial, back at the Washington Monument.
Below: Lincoln Memorial and Canadian geese!

On the way, we saw simply dozens of squirrels- which are of endless fascination to us Aussies. We also stopped in at the Vietnam Memorial Wall and found Rachel's second cousin's name engraved there.
Below: Us on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background.

Below: Inside, the tourists were battling the sweaty conditions to take a few holiday snaps.

After all this walking - and Rachel was a real trooper walking so far with a dreadful backache - we all got a taxi back to our starting point and had a leisurely sit-down goodbye at the local Starbucks.

Wed 12 Aug 2009
Gosh our feet are stupendously sore! So we decided to be slack and hang out at home (Kira's home) while she was off at work. We caught up on some sleep, browsed her library, and generally took it easy. We also re-packed in preparation for our travels homeward tomorrow. In the evening we shouted Kira dinner in thanks for putting us up. As it turns out, she was the Queen who knighted Elffin, and in turn he Laurelled her in Europe some years later. Cool!

Thu 13 Aug 2009
Kira was really sweet to drive and drop us off at the local airport (we with all our overweight baggage and all) and we soon touched down at JFK airport, New York. Jen was feeling very adventurous and decided we'd go into town. Well, even though it took us about 3 hours to reach the Metropolitan Museum (never ever take a short cut through central park) it was certainly more exciting than hanging around at an airport for 8 hours. Sore feet again meant a short taxi ride back to the metro station.

Anyway, our flight back to London was overnight.....

Fri 14 Aug 2009
..... and we were placed in a holding pattern for almost an hour. Really, what is it about Heathrow airport???!!!! Steve wished Jen a happy birthday while we were circling. Finally got home at about 11am, and started in straight away unpacking, putting things away, and getting the laundry on.
Steve's sister Julie, and her son Peter (Sophia's mum and little brother) have been staying over at our place for a week or so, and arrived home later on to greet us - and put their travel worn feet up.

Aug 2009 a

Sorry folks, no July"b" since about the only things going on for those 2 weeks were having coughs, working hard, and packing for our USA adventure.

So without further ado, here's a very long entry, with a whole bunch of photos!

Sat 01 Aug 2009
Left the house at 7:15am heading to Heathrow. Our plane's take off was delayed for one hour which meant we missed our connecting flight at JFK airport. Our airline was nice enough to offer an alternate flight, but from Newark airport (the other side of town). So we got a taxi across town, got the flight, and were picked up at Pittsburgh airport - thanks to Himultrude for getting us, and to Margaret and Kira for relaying our new arrival time. Finally made it to site around 1am. It was a total of 24 hours door-to-door, no thanks to Heathrow. Ggrrrr - we hates it, we do!

Enormous thanks to Marcus and Marguerite for purchasing, transporting and setting up our tent, airbed and sleeping bags - legends!!!!

Sun 02 Aug 2009
So we awoke here at Pennsic, the world's largest SCA event - camping for a week with more than "10,000 of our closest friends" as they say.
We woke early and had a relaxing lie-in, and skimmed through the 80 page event programme.
10am was time for our local campsite muster, to accompany our King and Queen to the grand Opening Court.

Steve had fun in the afternoon fighting in the Bridge Battle. Jen turned up to a class only to find the teacher was a no-show. So she wandered around the markets instead.

Above: There are some truly amazing structures on-site, all temporary. Some with an "upstairs" too!
Below: some amusing signs at the markets. (click on the photo to see it big enough to read)

Above: one encampment's front gate!
Below: a lovely viewing gallery for Royal Ladies, overlooking the main battlefield.

Above: Home, the banners flying over the Drachenwald encampment. Because the banner poles were attached to the porta-privvies, two of the banner owners felt the toilet their banner was attached to needed to make a statement. So they had a jokey competition where they could only add one item per day. Items included: air freshener, fluffy seat cover, plastic flowers, flashlight, mirror, and even a guest book.
In the evening we accepted a personal invitation from our friends in the Barony of Small Grey Bear encampment. The food was great and the company even more so!

Mon 03 Aug 2009
Today Alaric armoured up and spent most of the day at the river battles and gate battles. Jen helped with escorting the Queen for the morning. Luckily, this mostly meant hanging around the battlefiled and getting in a few kisses.

Above: here we are by the battlefield
Below: the Lochac fighters pose for a quick pic

Above: Jen escorted Queen Judith to the arts and sciences display area, and here's one exhibit that impressed - a portative organ.
Below: At 2pm Jen dropped off Her Maj at the dance pavillion, and you can see Judith in her flowing robes teaching the class.

Above: At 3pm Jen hung out at the Scribal Tea party, and met this talented miniaturist, Christine Hutson.
Below: later in the afternoon, Jen helped Queen Stanzi shop for gifts.

Tue 04 Aug 2009
Clever Steve remembered it's our wedding anniversary! 16 years together today, and from now we'll have been married longer than we dated. Hoorah!
Here's a photo of us Kathryn took:

Then, a bit of silly fun at the campsite: Nerissa placing her rose collar (with laurel medallion) on "Lady" Groovbjörn - who claims to be an expert in swedish wig making! Hahahaha! (a photo by Marion)

This morning once again Queen Judith gets dressed to the max... with a little help from her ladies.

Above: Jovi, and the whole campsite prepare to glamorously escort (and drop off) our K&Q to an exclusive party with all the other K&Q's - probably about 18 couples present in total.

Below: we all got some dinner and headed back to campsite for some relaxation and bonding.

Above: 9pm at the Grand Ball, and here are Judith and Gerhardt dancing the night away (right).
Alaric was a sweetie and "lead" (danced) Judith head-first through crowds of dancers - exhiliaratingly (if that's a word) parting the crowds, from the oncoming rush of: both such a large man, and She of the large hat!!!

Wed 05 Aug 2009
Ooops, the camera was left in the tent today. It was a very busy day too!
Steve mostly hung about camp and went shopping, and also dropped into the Lochac campsite for a couple of hours.
Jen started the morning at a French Hood construction class from 9am. Queen Stanzi turned up part way through and we sat there politely listening in on the class. We excused ourselves early to chat and catch up some more. At 11am Stanzi and Jen attended 'demystifying the peerage - Laurels', a Q&A session. After which our respective husbands turned up and took us out for a double date Lunch in the food court of Pennsic. Jen headed off to a harp class at 1pm, and brought the teacher back to our campsite afterward for a bit of sharing and practice.
3pm Jen turned up to a class on miniature making - but it turned out to be a weird sort of doll-house making. The teacher was apologetic that her class had been listed under the wrong category in the schedule. So Jen caught up again with Stanzi and we sat in on a class about recognising fabric types whilst listening in on the madrigal rehearsal in the tent next door!
4pm rolled around and we scooted off to Judith's special 'Queen's Ball' for about half an hour or so. Danced a few dances, then made our apologies to go attend the 'Ladies of the Rose' party. Apparently Stanzi's hubby (King Gabriel) managed to wake up from an afternoon nap in time to dance at least one dance at the Queen's Ball (which the Kings had been invited to also).
Finally, in the evening was the famous Midnight Madness sale all along Merchant's Row. All the royals were out in their finery, and it was truly a lovely carnival / market-town atmosphere, with plenty of people about and lots of deals being made.

Thu 06 Aug 2009
We slept in a bit this morning.
11am was the woods battle, where Steve was responsible for rotating the shields-men and -women in and out of the shield-wall as required, and directing foot-soldier traffic at the back of the line. He also took on a supportive role helping first Gottfried and then King Gerhardt when they were injured / over-heated.
In the afternoon, we again bumped in to Stanzi and Gabriel (are they stalking us?)

So after a refreshing Tim-Tam flavoured slushy (soooo tasty!) we headed back to Lochac campsite for awhile. There are no pets allowed on-site unless they're needed for medical reasons. One such, was a dog who could smell a chemical change in its lady-owner, giving her about 30-45 minutes' warning that she would be having a seizure. Another such was this cat.... don't ask me, but apparently it's a work cat.

Of course, with everyone starved of feline attention for days on end, this cat was very popular!

At 6pm there was a Drachenwald court for 45 minutes. Steve given a bottle of chocolate liqueur for generally helping the royals often and courteously. (all that joyous dancing with Judith, and helping the King off the battlefield earlier).
Late in the evening, we escorted Stanzi and Gabriel to the famous Hoiti-Toiti party. The "residence" is truly astonishing for a temporary structure! It's all very Italian renaissance, and the musicians perform from the upper level as you can see in the background pic behind our friends, below:

Fri 07 Aug 2009
Today was the last day of battles, and there was a fairly small turnout of fighters as you can see from these photos... really, this is small for Pennsic!

Above: Gosh, now that's keen!

Below: can you spot Steve in amongst the action? (Blue coat, white belt)

Below: Drachenwald fighters.

Sat 08 Aug 2009
Clean-up and pack-down day for most of the campsite. Many merchants already packed up last night, with all the rest having to stop trading by 3pm.
We helped out with pack down, including returning some of the campsite's communal furniture which was lent to us by the Carolingia encampment - very sweet of them! Here's a photo of a great sunshade near their campsite (ignoring the drape hanging on the front pole).

The blog continues in the next installment.........
PS: there are four Pennsic film clips which will, in the next few days, be uploaded to Utube. stay tuned.