Saturday, December 31, 1988

Hogmanay in Scotland (and the bringing of the haggis) ...

I arose bright and early for some breakfast with J.P., Kenny and his family, and then we went outside to take a walking tour of St. Andrews. We walked through the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Rules Tower (picture #1), along the cliffs of the coast, past the ruins of St. Andrews Castle along the coastline (We didn't feel like paying to get in, though. Guess we've reached a saturation point for ruined castles.) (picture #2)

Then we took a stroll along one of the 4 1/2 golf courses for which St. Andrew's is most famous. It happened to be the renowned Old Course, the oldest course in the world, where the British Open is played every 4-6 years. We took a look at the 17th green, which is notoriously impossible. I learned that Tom Watson once shot 10 over par on that hole alone.

Afterward we started to make our way back to Kenny's house (located right on the St. Andrews University campus), and during the walk we stopped at a second-hand book store, where I found 2 more James Bond paperbacks that I needed.

We sat around Kenny's house for awhile, until the haggis was brought out. Now I had never had haggis before, but I was well aware of what it was... a mixed bag of meats, oatmeal, spices and onions, cooked and served in a sheep's bladder. I had a taste, but decided after that to pass... not because it was cooked in a sheep's bladder, but because of the onions. J.P. loved it, though (or he was just very, very hungry). I had some delicious sausage instead.

Well it was no accident that J.P. and I happened to be spending New Year's in Scotland. We thought that would be the perfect place to ring in the new year, and with Kenny as our guide, we figured we'd get as close to an authentic Scottish hogmanay celebration as possible.

Things started off quietly as we headed down to Ma Bell's, a very nice local pub not too far from Kenny's home. We enjoyed a few drinks with some of Kenny's friends here. Had some brilliant moments here that we won't soon forget, but more is still to come. Kenny (pictured, but who was definitely NOT drinking soda that evening!) decided it was time to head somewhere else, so we attempted to get into the Rugby Club. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.

So we headed back to Kenny's house and watched some TV with his parents for awhile. Well so far I wasn't seeing too much in the way of anything out of the ordinary when it comes to a Scottish New Year's celebration, but Kenny assured us that the true celebration doesn't commence until after midnight.

I guess we'll soon see as it's 3... 2... 1... Happy New Year, 1989!!!


Friday, December 30, 1988

Loch Ness Expedition ...

J.P and I got our wake-up call at 7.45 a.m. and were downstairs by 8 for our breakfast. It was a delicious collection of bacon, sausage and egg (salmonella-free ... which is fortunate considering the recent outbreak here in Britain), breads, tea and cereal. We left the table feeling full and satisfied, well-aware that we had received more than our money's worth at Mrs. MacTaggart's bed and breakfast.

We each took a bath, and then packed our bags and bid our farewell to Mrs. MacTaggart at a little past 10 a.m. We walked around Inverness for a little bit before catching the bus that took us down the road to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. (All three pictures are of Urquhart Castle, #2 including me and J.P. on the hill overlooking the castle. The photo on the banner for this blog was also taken at Urquhart Castle.)

The weather was overcast, but surprisingly warm, dry, and wind-free. We arrived at the castle at noon, and then spend an hour and a half exploring it. It was actually the ruins of an old stone castle, which made it all the more interesting, and nestled in lush green landscape and set right along the famed Loch Ness. Very picturesque... easily the most gorgeous place I have visited here in Britain.

We climbed around every place we were permitted, snapping a number of photos and thinking about all of the people who would be jealous of where we were at the moment. No, sorry, no signs of the legendary Loch Ness Monster.

After seeing all that we could, we caught a 1.30 p.m. bus back to downtown Inverness, and then ate a late lunch at a place called Charlie's Diner. J.P. also purchased a pipe, and seems to be enjoying that as much as the lighter he purchased a little while back. He's becoming a regular sophisticate.

We then casually made our way over to Inverness Castle, which as it turns out, is nothing more than a municipal building, but a scant 150 years old! Still rather nice for a government building, and it was on the site of a former castle. We walked around town for a bit longer, then headed to the train station, where we sat for awhile, writing postcards until we could catch the train to Glasgow (though we were only taking it as far as Perth.) I finished writing my cards on the train, and did some other writing as well, and then did a bit of reading.

Then the trip ventured into the bizarre.

We arrived at the town of Perth, where we were to change trains to Dundee, and then St. Andrews, where we were planning on spending a few days with our friend Kenny Prunty. But we soon found out we had an hour and 15 minute wait here. So while we were waiting in the very quiet train station, we decided to check out the adjoining coffee shop. However, we couldn't get any food because there wasn't a cook, just a red-haired guy who was more interested in playing the pound machines than serving his customer's interests. J.P. ordered a gin and tonic, while I had a coffee in a dirty mug.

While we were here we took note of a vagrant that we named "Froggy" (because of a voice resembling the "Little Rascals" character), and his gang. They provided us with some very interesting entertainment, a little show with our beverages, you could say. When J.P. ventured out into town to find some food (a failed mission), Froggy put on another fabulous show, although I couldn't understand most of it.

At one point, he came up to me and asked what book I was reading, and I showed him my James Bond paperback. He looked at the title, laughed, and then grabbed my head for a second in satisfaction, then left. We finally left the Twilight Zone for Dundee, where we had another hour long wait for the next train we needed to catch. This time we went into town and we had a more successful food sortie.

We finally got to the train station in Leukers, where we then took a taxi to St. Andrews. Finally got to Kenny's house, told him of our evening's misadventures on the train, then watched some TV, read a bit, then finally went to bed.


Thursday, December 29, 1988

On to Inverness ...

Woke up early and took a bath in preparation for our biggest "adventure" yet. J.P. and I gave the Grantham family a gift of appreciation (chocolate ginger) for letting two American college students invade their lovely home for two nights, then headed for Kingsknowe. There we caught the 10.55 a.m. train to Edinburgh, and there we caught the 11.35 train bound for Inverness (picture #1), the furthest north I've ever been.

It was a beautiful journey through the Scottish highlands. When we arrived in the town of Inverness a little past 4 p.m., J.P. and I made our way through town. We stowed our gear in a locker at the train station, and then began our search for a reasonably priced bed and breakfast. We came across a tourist center, where we were able to make a reservation at a place just 10 minutes walk away.

So we gathered our gear, crossed the Suspended Walking Bridge (picture #2) across the Swift River Ness, and eventually arrived at the home of Mrs. E. Mactaggart (picture #3 is her business card). It was a comfortable place, and we got a room with coffee, tea and biscuits in the morning for only £8.50 each.

We unloaded and rested, then went into town for some dinner. We found a Pizzaland restaurant, where we had a ham and pepperoni pizza (forgetting that here, "pepperoni" is actually "peppers"), which was good. We then walked around town a bit, but there wasn't much to see because it had long since been dark in town. The one thing we could see was the castle in town (picture #4, on the hill in the background), which was beautifully lit.

With nothing much to do, we returned to our room in the bed and breakfast and sat talking and reading for awhile, drinking a bottle of wine that J.P. had purchased. At 9 p.m. we went downstairs to watch TV. We opted to watch "Gremlins" over "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" because J.P. had never seen it. During the movie we started playing a partial game of Monopoly, but stopped midway through because J.P. just wanted to watch the movie. So we did until 11.45, when we went back up to the room. I read a chapter, then went to sleep.


Wednesday, December 28, 1988

A Windy Day in Edinburgh ...

I woke up at 9 a.m., ate breakfast, and, after a bit of confusion about what we should do, J.P. and I were able to catch a local train to Waverley Station to begin our day exploring Edinburgh.

We first walked to Calton Hill, where we got a majestic panoramic view of Edinburgh. It's also where The Proclaimers shot the cover to their album "Sunshine on Leith." I finished off my roll of black-and-white film here (so it's back to color photos!) (Picture #1 is me on Calton Hill.)

J.P. and I then climbed down the hill and walked along Princes Street, looking for a bank we could use. It took awhile, but we finally came across a Bank of Scotland with an automated teller. Next we ate lunch at McDonald's (that's Scottish, no?) bought some film at a Boots, then walked through Princes Street Gardens and up the trail that leads to Edinburgh Castle. Snapping a lot of photos along the way, we finally made it to the top of the hill in the gusting but warm winds (near gale, it felt like).

Paid £2 each admission to enter and tour the famous historic castle, but it was well worth it. We walked the insides of the castle for about 1 1/2 hours, taking more photos and braving the harsh winds. (Pictured right are shots from inside the castle. #2, the entrance; #3, an interesting location for a cemetery overlooking Edinburgh; #4, "Hey mate, the sign says 'Please keep off the rockery!'")

When we left, we walked down the Royal Mile, where I bought a very nice white heavy sweater for £15.95 ... £2 off.

We stumbled upon a library, where we went in to look at the phone books in the hopes of finding Big John's address in Blackburn, Lancashire. It turns out his last name, Whalley, is quite common in that area, so we left the library learning only about the commonness of the Whalley name in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Next we went to see Greyfriar's Bobby (picture #4), but J.P. didn't like it at all, because he just couldn't understand why a statue of a dog was famous. Then we walked to the Edinburgh Art Gallery and strolled around there for awhile.

Finally we caught a train at around 5.15 back to Kingsknowe, where the Grantham family lives. While there we watched Humphrey Bogart's classic "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" until dinnertime.

Afterward, quite exhaused, we plotted our route to Inverness, then watched a bit of "The Cotton Club." I then left to watch "Top Secret!" in another room until midnight. Read some more James Bond, then fell asleep at about 1 a.m.


Tuesday, December 27, 1988

From Skegness to Edinburgh...

I woke up bright and early (at 9.30 a.m.!) and showered in preparation for my journey to Edinburgh from Skegness. I bid farewell to the Schofields and thanked them for their kind hospitality, then said my goodbyes to Viv, who I won't see again until we return to school on Jan. 8. They drove me to the train station in order to catch the 10.49 train and begin the journey to Edinburgh.

I took the small train back to Doncaster, where I then changed to a speedier Intercity 125 that zipped me along the rails to Edinburgh. The train was packed, so I decided, rather than fight for a seat among the coach class crowds, I paid 3 quid and upgraded my ticket for this journey to first class. It was well worth the extra money. I had a very comfortable and scenic trip up along the North Sea coast. I wish I could've taken some photos of the small picturesque villages on the tiny peninsulas that extended out into the sea, the rugged sea coast, the mighty moors and the beautiful landscape.

I arrived at Edinburgh's Waverly Station at 4.20 p.m., and 30 minutes later I met up with J.P. We then called the Granthams, and J.P. and I then went and got some food while we waited for Mr. Grantham to come and pick us up. It was dark by this time, so we got to drive through Edinburgh at night, which gave us a chance to marvel at the lights and sights of the city, particularly the castle on the hill. (pictured, right)

When we got to the Grantham's house, which was very nice, we enjoyed a delicious meal of lamb. Then we sat and talked with them while watching TV. During this time, we decided on a whim that as part of our trip we should take a trip way up north to visit Inverness... the town located near Loch Ness. We watched "The Eagle Has Landed," then I read some of "You Only Live Twice," and then went to bed.

Photo is of taxis waiting in a queue in Edinburgh. This is one of my favourite pictures taken during this trip. This scene just had a very old-fashioned British look.


Monday, December 26, 1988

A Lazy Boxing Day ...

Another late rise for me today. I woke up at about 11 a.m. and had some breakfast. Viv and I went for a walk to the beach early in the afternoon. It was a windy but beautiful day outside. I was able to get a lot of really good black-and-white photos of the area.

After buying The Daily Express newspaper and a blank tape, we returned to Viv's house and ate some lunch. I then made a tape of various songs from the "Now That's What I Call Music XIII" album Viv's sister received for Christmas.

Later on, I got a call from Dr. Morrison. An old friend of his and her husband, who live in Edinburgh, have graciously offered to let J.P. and I stay at their home during our travels, and so we went over the details about our impending arrival tomorrow.

After watching James Bond's "Octopussy" on TV, I called the Granthams to confirm my arrival and let them know when we expected to be there.

Afterward, Viv and I played a game of Scrabble. I won the first game we played, but she beat me this time around. Only the second person ever to beat me at the game (the first being Little Johnny, who's amazingly good.)

Then it was time to take a hammering at Monopoly. We finished that game at about 1.30 a.m., when I finally went bust. Viv, who took over playing for her Mom, won the game.

Next I gathered my stuff together for my journey to Edinburgh tomorrow, then went to bed.

Pictured: #1: I'm relaxing along the beaches of Skegness. #2: Another view of the coastline. #3. The Daily Express newspaper that I purchased this day. Obviously, the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy was dominating the news coverage... although there was still room for a photo of young Prince William and his cousin!


Sunday, December 25, 1988

It's Christmastime ...

Wow, I woke up later than I've ever woken up on Christmas morning... 11 a.m.! My previous "late" record was 9 a.m., which I did last year. The Schofields don't open up gifts until after lunch, so I didn't miss any of the fun.

At 1 p.m. (8 a.m. in Camp Hill), I called home to wish my family a Merry Christmas, and see how everyone was doing. My sister Angie had already been up for awhile (she probably woke up even before I did!), and Dad was just getting up, while Mom had just returned home from working the night shift. So I had a chance to talk to everyone.

Mom was glad to hear my voice, as she expressed concern for my safety after hearing about the Lockerbie plane crash 4 days ago. She knew in her head that I was fine, but there was that little tinge of worry that I might have somehow figured out a way to surprise them and fly home for Christmas. Of course, my finances being what they are, that would be impossible (perhaps a blessing that I'm a poor college student.) She was also worried about Doug, because she knew he was flying home but didn't know what day he was planning to leave. She was relieved to hear that he flew out two days earlier.

After a delicious Christmas dinner, we watched part of "Back to the Future" on TV, then switched the channel to "The Empire Strikes Back" while we opened gifts. Her family was very kind and generous to me. I got a diary from Viv's parents, a shaving kit from Karen, candy from Roseanne and Grandma, a Europe book from Dr. Morrison, and Viv gave me Pink Floyd's "Delicate Sound of Thunder" live album on cassette, an ALF poster, and shortbread cookies. I gave Viv the book "The Complete Works of Shakespeare," which I think she may already have, and a stuffed teddy bear.

After the field ended, I called J.P., who was staying with Kenny up in St. Andrews, to tell him when and where we will meet in Edinburgh. Sounds like he's having a good time.

Then I called good old Scott, my friend back home, to wish him a Merry Christmas and update him about how things were (and that I was safe.) We talked for a few minutes, and said he's still dating the Tamster (Tammy). It sounds like he's pretty serious this time. He's talking possible marriage in a couple of years. Wow, a friend of mine talking about marriage? While we were hoping there was a chance he might be able to come over to visit me while I was over here, he said he doesn't think that will be possible, because of money, which is certainly understandable. A few of my friends said they might try and visit, but so far none of them have indicated that they will be able to.

After another meal, we got a game of Quizmaster going. We all played, and in the end, Viv and I squeaked out a victory. Lateron we also got a game of Monopoly going, but we (Mr. & Mrs. Schofield, Roseanne and I) didn't finish it. We left the board up to finish it tomorrow.

Although it felt very different, it was still a memorable Christmas. Hey, I just realized that I didn't even leave the house at all today.

Pictured: #1: The Schofield's Christmas tree. #2: Viv's parents (left and right) and her Grandmother, 83. #3: Roseanne and Viv, opening Christmas gifts.

  • Number One Song in Britain This Week: "Mistletoe & Wine" - Cliff Richard
  • Number One Song in America This Week: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" - Poison


Saturday, December 24, 1988

From London to Skegness ...

I woke up early today in order to catch the train to Skegness... Viv's hometown. J.P, Viv and I bid farewell to the Bajaria's and thanked them for putting up with us this past week. Then we caught the train from Longfield to Victoria Station. From there, J.P. went his own way (to visit his exchange family. But he and I will re-connect after Christmas to do some more traveling), while Viv and I headed to King's Cross Station.

Unfortunately, we missed the train we were planning to catch, and the one we had tickets for, but we were still able to catch the next train. However, that train was packed (this being Christmas Eve and all), and we were forced to stand or sit on the floor until we arrived at Grantham. We got of the train there and made the change to Skegness, boarding this cute little train that went about 10 mph.

We finally got to Skegness around 2.30 p.m., where Viv's parents showed up at the train station a short time later to pick us up and take us back to the house. They took the "scenic" route to show me the area, and when we got to the house I had an opportunity to meet the entire family: Viv's grandma, who is 83 and losing her hearing and sight, but still very alert; Roseanne, Viv's 14-year-old sister; Karen, Viv's 17-year-old karate-enthusiast sister and her boyfried Mike.

Anyway, we relaxed on this Christmas eve, with Viv and I taking a walk to a nearby store, a visit to the shoreline (photos above), and then to visit her friend Debbie. It still doesn't feel like Christmas, but I think that's because of all the traveling we did today. Later on we watched some telly, then went to bed, with visions of sugarplums, etc., etc.


Friday, December 23, 1988

Duranduran at Wembley ...

I had a lie-in today until a little past 10. J.P., Viv and I didn't even leave for London until about 2.3o p.m. We got to Victoria Station at about 3 p.m., where J.P. split from us to go to the Tate Gallery (Doug and I visited the museum back when we came to London in October.)

After buying a train ticket for our trip to Skegness tomorrow, we walked to a bank, then ate lunch at McDonald's. We did a little shopping, then made our way to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.

It was quite fabulous, and unfortunate that we couldn't stay longer. We saw some great works of art by Van Gogh, Constable, Renoir, Degas, Seurat, and there was a special Rembrandt Exhibition going on, so our timing was perfect.

After we left the museum, we found ourselves walking toward Leicester Square eating roasted chestnuts (like you're supposed to around the holidays... this was the first time for either of us... very interesting flavor.) I bought a calendar to give to Viv's parents for Christmas.

Then we had a brief scare when we were separated for about 10 minutes outside of Athena/HMV. Not sure what happened, but considering how things have been around here lately, with terrorist bombings and such, we each got a little nervous, and were relieved when we found each other again. Relieved, but now running behind schedule if we were to make it in time for the big event of the evening, the Duranduran concert at Wembley Arena.

We quickly grabbed some burgers from Burger King, hopped the Tube to Wembley at 6.35 ... five minutes after we were supposed to meet everyone at Wembley. We arrived at the arena at about 7.15 and had to wait about 15 minutes to before getting into the arena to see the concert. It was me, Viv, J.P., Sid, Paul, and Sara. We had one open seat, where Doug... who organized this evening for us, would've sat had he not left on Monday. So we had a place for all of our coats, anyway.

By the time we got in, the opening act had already started, and they were BAD. It was a band called Stetasonic, and they were horrible, an off-tempo rap band. When they failed miserably on a version of Yakety Yak, it was followed by extensive booing from the crowd... well deserved I might add. Well a bit later I purchased a programme for 7 quid (bizarre but cool - top photo is from the programme cover), and then the next act started, a sort of Jazz-Acid style band. Interesting mix. Another cool thing, the band left "Christmas cards" on every seat in the arena for the fans (photo left is the cover.) Pretty cool. It had "Duranduran Merry Christmas" on the cover, and "angelic" pictures of the band inside (photo below). Nice souvenir! The also announced that this was the largest audience ever for a concert performed at Wembley Arena.

Finally, at 9 p.m., the lights dimmed and Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor took the stage, opening with "Big Thing," followed by "I Don't Want Your Love," and "Girls on Film." It was a very energetic and exciting show, with performances of "Notorious," "Is There Something I Should Know," a very erotic "Skin Trade" (the dancers), "Rio," "The Reflex," "Wild Boys," and a tragically errored performance of my favorite song, "Save a Prayer," (Simon flubbed a line... otherwise, well done!)

They played several tracks off the new album, of course, including "Do You Believe in Shame," "Palomino," "Too Late Marlene," and "The Edge of America" and "Lake Shore Driving" as the encore. It's good to see that after all these years, Duranduran still has it (not sure why they turned the band name into one word, but I'll go along with it.)

Following the show, Viv, J.P, Sid, Sara and I went our way, while Paul went his way... back to his home. The Tube station was absolutely packed, so when the empty train pulled up, it was a mad dash to get in and hopefully grab a seat. We all managed to get one. At 11.30 p.m. we were back in Victoria Station and on the train to Longfield.

The Daily Mirror Incident

While we were riding the train back to Sid's, we found a copy of the Daily Mirror ("Yorkshire's Favourite Newspaper," but not mine!) When Sara got off at Bromley, I moved into her seat and Viv moved to the seat where that copy of the Daily Mirror was sitting. I picked up the newspaper, and in an act of defiance for no reason in particular, I tossed it into the next seat, which was empty.

However, I got a bit of a strong arm on the paper, and instead of landing in the seat, it climbed up over the seat and landed right between the two adjoining ones, balancing precariously over the person sitting in that seat on the other side. We were all rolling hysterically, because by all rights that paper should have gone over and hit that person in the head, but thankfully it did not. It remained there until that person left the train. At that point, J.P. fulfilled destiny by pushing it over the edge.

At the station in Longfield, Sid's mom was waiting for us and gave us a ride back home. Even though it was late, we still stayed up, watching "The Seven Year Itch" and eating bacon sandwiches. Then I packed for a bit, since we are leaving for Skegness tomorrow, and then went to bed. No one can say that we haven't used our time wisely this week. We saw and did quite a bit.


Thursday, December 22, 1988

Canterbury Tales ...

First, some very good and relieving news... we found out that Bits is OK, and that she and her family were not aboard Pan Am Flight 103. Sid connected with her brother and he let us know they arrived in America safely. As it turned out, she and her family flew to America on an earlier flight. Here's the scary thing, though... they were offered a package deal to take the Pan Am flight that blew up.

By the grace of God, they turned it down. Even though it was a better deal, the only reason they didn't take it was because they wanted to leave earlier. That was a stroke of luck. I'm sure they are counting their blessings right now!

Today J.P. and I took a late morning train to Canterbury, which is a 45-minute train ride south of Sid's house in Longfield. It was well worth the time spent traveling!

We arrived in Canterbury shortly after 1 p.m., and began the tour by walking along the wall around town, then up a hill that overlooks Canterbury. From there we could easily see the famed cathedral off in the distance. We hopped back on the wall, and followed it until it led us into the town center.

There we soon found the entrance to the cathedral, as well as a gift shop, where I bought a tea towel featuring characters from "Canterbury Tales" for my senior high school English teacher, Mrs. Rogoff. (Last year I visited her class and mentioned I was studying in England for the year, which she thought was a fabulous opportunity. Then she gave me some money and asked if I would buy her some literary things for her classroom. This was the first time I found something useful.)

We entered the cathedral, which of course was quite majestic. We spent about a 1/2 hour there, then walked into town where we eventually stopped to eat at a Poppins. Later we came back to the cathedral shop to buy a few more knick-knacks, then walked around town again, looking for the King's School. We eventually found it, once we discovered that it was actually attached to the cathedral.

From there we entered a different section of the cathedral, which included the cloister. It was dusk by this time, and I was able to get a few good black-and-white photos of this part of the cathedral.

After buying some fudge, we headed back on the train to Sid's house, and after dinner, J.P., Sid, Viv and I watched "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan." It was a good movie, and interesting that never once did they actually call him "Tarzan."

When the movie finished, Sid's parents came home quite drunk, which was quite amusing. It was getting late and we were getting tired, so this was a good time to go to bed.

Pictures: #1, The Daily Mail, with more details on the plane crash, one day after it occurred. #2, Rick on the hill that overlooks Canterbury. #3, Canterbury Cathedral, with tiny J.P. walking through the gate. #4, A close up of the sculptures outise the cathedral, in B&W.


Wednesday, December 21, 1988

London, "Chess," and Terror in the Air ...

Today started out to be a fabulous day, but it ended tragically for passengers aboard a plane bound from London to New York.

I woke up later than I expected, and since J.P. stayed in Brighton last night, Viv and I decided to go into London on our own today. Sid travelled with us on the train for part of the journey. After arriving at Victoria Station and finding a bank, we went to Buckingham Palace, because Viv had never seen it, and I've never seen it when there wasn't a huge crowd surrounding it. Since it was not near the time for the Changing of the Guard, we got a pretty good look at the palace.

It was after 1 p.m. when we got back on the Tube bound for the Tower of London. We spent about two hours there, taking the guided tour and hearing all of the fascinating stories about the torture, imprisonment and execution that go along with the Tower. It was quite interesting, and I wished we had more time to spend there to explore everything in greater detail. We did manage to see the Crown Jewels, and there was no queue, which was a pleasant surprise, since its not unusual to have to stand in line for a considerable amount of time to see the jewels.

It was getting dark, and we were getting hungry. Plus, we were hoping to get tickets to see the musical "Chess," a show I have wanted to see for a long time. So shortly before 4 p.m. we left the Tower and headed to Leicester Square, where after another stop at the bank, we went to a kiosk and purchased tickets for "Chess" - at half price, no less!

So it was £22 for Viv and I, total, in row AA... wow! Now at first, I figured that "AA" meant we were in the first row after "Z" (zed). So I was fully prepared to watch the show from the 27th row.

There was still time before the show started, so we went to eat a delicious Mexican meal at Chi Chi's. It was Viv's first Mexican dinner, actually, which was a bit surprising to me, considering Spanish is part of her major. But I guess Spain and Mexico are two very different things. She enjoyed the meal.

Then we walked around Leicester Square a bit more, taking in the sights and sounds of London: the street bums, the buskers, the mimes, and the shops. After walking through the city for awhile, we returned to the theater at around 6.40, 50 minutes before the show started. We went in to the bar, had some drinks, and then took our seats. Turns out, I was wrong about "AA" being the 27th row.

They were front row seats. FRONT ROW! That was an awesome revelation. I thought it was a fantastic show. I love the music, the story is intriguing, and the acting was superb. In one of the scenes the actors threw out these foam "Chess" frisbees, and I managed to grab one of them. I'm not sure Viv enjoyed the show quite as much as I did, but she said she liked it.

When the show was over, we hopped back on the Tube to Victoria Station, and then caught the train back to Longfield.

Pan Am Flight 103 Disaster

Tired and happy from our day's activity, we relaxed on the train ride back to Sid's house. But as we were riding, we learned some very distressing news from another passenger who was reading a late edition of the newspaper. Earlier this evening there was a plane crash in Scotland. We took a look at the newspaper, and there weren't too many details as of yet.

It was a Pan Am 747 jet that left Heathrow, heading to JFK airport in New York. It apparently exploded in the air and when it came down it devastated part of Lockerbie, a small Scottish town.

My first thought was worry for Doug. But after thinking it through, I realized that Doug couldn't have possibly been on that plane, since he flew out two days ago. Whew, and thank God he did!

But then, after we got off the train and walked back to Sid's house, we were reminded that our friend Bits was flying over to America today with her family, and we had no idea what flight they were taking. Hopefully we'll find out soon if she's OK. This is just awful.

Yet another British disaster before Christmas. Coincidentally, we were traveling near the site of last week's Clapham Junction train crash when we learned about the plane crash. Flight 103 left Heathrow at 6.25 p.m., and the disaster happened about a half hour later... right about the time Viv and I were waiting for "Chess" to begin.

I'm starting to wonder if this is a safe place to be right now.


Tuesday, December 20, 1988

Today is Brighton Day! ...

I woke up early again, and Viv, J.P. and I prepared for our trip to Brighton on the southern coast. We planned to meet up with Neil for the trip, but Sid decided not to go along, and Bits couldn't join us, as she and her family are preparing to fly to America tomorrow for their Christmas holiday. Viv initially wasn't sure if she wanted to go, but decided in the end that she would join us.

We caught the train from Longfield to Victoria Station in London with just a few seconds to spare, then we found where the train to Brighton was (leaving in one minute), and sprinted over to the terminal, just making it in time. We weren't sure if Viv's train ticket would be valid (she has a CapitalCard), but no one checked our tickets so we had no problems on the ride south to Brighton.

Once we arrived there, Viv and I set off to find a bank, while J.P. waited at the train station for Neil to arrive. By the time Viv and I got back to the station, Neil was there, so the four of us walked to a deli and had good and reasonably priced sandwiches for lunch.

Following that we walked to the beach, which was beautiful... and different. Instead of sand, it was actually a pebble beach, with two piers - one defunct and one in operation. We walked along the beach until we reached the new pier, then walked along the pier until we reached the end. On the pier there were amusements, as well as a pub named Horatio's, so we went inside. There was a fabulous jazz combo playing in the pub... just two guys, a guitarist and a sax player. They were excellent, so we sat and listened to them perform for awhile. After a game of pool (J.P. beat Neil), we left the pier, but not before taking a few more photos. Got a lot of excellent photos today. It was a cold but lovely day to be outside.

We walked around the shops for awhile, then J.P. and Neil decided to head back to the pub while Viv and I went back to the shoreline. We sat along the beach until it got too windy, then went back into town for a meal. We ate at Burger King... Viv's first time. After eating we went back to the beach a third time, though by now it was quite dark, and unfortunately the lighting was not very impressive.

We decided to stop in a coffee shop to warm up with a hot cup of cocoa, then walked back to the station, stopping to buy postcards along the way. We saw Neil and J.P., but they had met up with a friend of Neil's and decided they were going to stick around in Brighton tonight.

So Viv and I left on the 5.55 train (almost the "5.15," as referenced in The Who's "Quadrophenia" song, but not quite.)

Along the way home, we hit some trouble.

While we were on the train, the conductor came through to check tickets, and when he spotted Viv's ticket, he informed us that it was improper, and then charged her £14.63, full fare plus return for the journey. He was pretty much a heartless bastard about the whole thing. It put a damper on our trip for awhile, but soon everything returned to normal ass memories of our day hopefully made the unexpected charge worthwhile.

We finally arrived in Longfield shortly after 8 p.m., and then walked back to Sid's house. That evening the three of us sat and talked, watched "Rocky," ate some food, and then watched an old thriller called "The Body Snatcher."

This was definitely a worthwhile day. I'm so glad we decided to go to Brighton, and I'm glad Viv decided to go along.

Pictures: #1: Neil and J.P. walk along the pebble beach near the new pier. #2: Neil and Viv on the beach. #3: "Oh, I thought you meant 'To keep.'" #4. The sun sets on daylight in Brighton.


Monday, December 19, 1988

Farewell Douglas ...

Well, we woke up early today in order to bid Doug a fond farewell, as well as spend the day in London. It's sad to see him go after only 3 months here, especially because he was so looking forward to spending the year in England. Unfortunately, it just wasn't the experience he was expecting. He'll be missed.

Well, for J.P. and I, today was an experience we will not soon forget, and gave us a harsh lesson in some of the challenges of international travel.

Before leaving Sid's house, I gave Doug his "going away/Christmas" present (a Dr. Who Crossword Puzzle Book, which'll give him something to do on the plane.) Mrs. Bajaria was driving Doug to the airport, and since we couldn't all fit in the car, J.P., Bits and I took the train to Heathrow Airport while Sid, Viv, Doug and Doug's stuff took the car. Soon after they left, J.P., Bits and I took the walk down to the train station, but when we finally got there we had just missed the 9.50 a.m. train, so we had to wait for the 10.18. So that put us back nearly a half an hour right off the bat.

Well, we caught that train and headed into London, travelling past Clapham Junction along the way (it was one week ago today, a little bit earlier in the day, when the Clapham Train Disaster occurred). We finally arrived at Victoria Station at around 10.45 a.m. There we had a runaround trying to get a travel card. We started at a booth that told us we could go upstairs and get one with our BritRail passes. But then we went upstairs and they said that we couldn't get one to ride the Underground trains. So we went back downstairs, having wasted 15 more minutes on this unsuccessful venture, eventually buying a ticket from the first booth we visited.

Finally caught the Tube to Heathrow shortly after 11 a.m., now with little chance of catching Doug before his plane left... but still hopeful we could catch his entourage there. We finally arrived at Terminal 4 at 12.05 p.m., just as Doug's plane was leaving... and we saw no sign of the others in our group, either.

Frustrated, we finally left the terminal, realizing that we had wasted most of our day (since it starts getting dark now at about 3 p.m. We caught the Tube back to London, arriving at 1.15 p.m. to start our travels and try to make the most of our afternoon.

Unfortunately, neither of us had Sid's phone number, so we had to call Information (twice, because we were unable to write down the number the first time we called, and by the time we could, we didn't remember what the number was.) After we finally got through and talked to the gang, explaining what had happened, we felt like an enormous load was lifted off of us. So we enjoyed some shopping in stores such as Hamley's, the world's largest toy store; and Virgin Records... totally revamped from when I was there a year and a half ago with my high school class, and amazing. J.P. called it the most incredible retail store he had ever been in. I bought an Elvis Costello discography book. We also went into HMV, as well as a little record shop where I bought a nice Genesis poster.

J.P., Bits and I stopped at McDonald's for dinner at 6 p.m., then caught the train back to Sid's house around 7 p.m. Back at Sid's, reunited with the gang, we relaxed and watched two movies on TV, "The Blues Brothers" and "12 Angry Men." During that time, J.P. and I ate another dinner, this one a curry and beef dinner prepared by Sid's mom that was spicy and good.

Went to bed a bit late, but a bit wiser. A day that started out to be a huge disappointment ended up OK. Still, I would've liked to have been able to say one last goodbye to Doug before he got on that plane and headed back to the States.


Sunday, December 18, 1988

From Liverpool to London ...

Woke up for my last day at the Morrison's to prepare for my journey down to London via BritRail I started using my BritRail Pass (pictured below), which gives me carte blanche to travel anywhere in Britain. So who knows where that will take me? Makes one feel powerful!

Dr. Morrison drove me into Chester, where I caught a bus to Crowe, which was a replacement for the train I planned to catch. At Crow I caught a train straight to London, no changes, and arrived a 3.00 p.m. I first walked out of Euston Station looking for a bank, but failed in that quest, so I hopped on the Tube (pictured above) and headed to Leicester Square, where I met up with Viv, Doug, J.P., Bits and Sid at 3.45 p.m. We later hooked up with Neil and began to traverse London.

Bit of excitement to start off this journey, however. There was a fire in one of the shops, where a fire bomb went off. J.P., Viv, Doug, Sid and Bits were all in the building at the time the fire started and had to be evacuated. It was set off by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a fanatical group of militant animal lovers that have already set numerous other fires in similar fashion, inlcuding one in Harrod's department store. What a bunch of nuts. Makes me want to go out and buy a fur coat and eat an oversized cheeseburger with a side order of another cheeseburger. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but coming that close to a terrorist attack was a bit spooky.

So after walking around and eating at Pizzaland, Viv and I walked down to Picadilly Circus and back, eventually meeting up with the rest of the group in front of the Odeon Theatre to watch "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Our seats were kind of lousy, and the theater was packed. But it was an incredible sound experience and well worth the bad seats. One of the neatest things about this historic theater is that it featured an organ player up front, who played music while the audience found their seats. Then, before the movie began, the organ decended into the floor to give a clear view of the movie screen. Of course, it was a fabulous movie.

Following that, we went back to Euston Station, where I picked up my bag, and we headed to Sid's house in Longfield, County of Kent. After a cramped but amusing car ride from the station to Sid's house, we watched "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on TV, something very unusual for an American such as myself, as it is pretty much exclusively shown in theaters at midnight (where I have participated in the festivities many times back home.) Watching it on TV without all of the audience participation, not quite as fun.

During the movie, my friend Greg back in Camp Hill called me, so it was great to talk to him again for awhile. He told me that both the Eagles and the Seahawks made the playoffs, which was cool news. Finished watching TV, and then we all skipped off to bed... Doug's final night in England.

Oh, and it was J.P.'s 21st birthday today.

  • Number One Song in Britain This Week: "Mistletoe & Wine" - Cliff Richard
  • Numer One Song in America This Week: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" - Poison


Saturday, December 17, 1988

Christmastime in Chester ...

Started the day off with another lie-in. Got up at noon, and at 1.30 p.m., Dr. Morrison drove me into Neston to meet with Dave and take the bus to Chester. It was quite crowded, being a Saturday so close to Christmas, but interesting nonetheless.

This time I remembered my camera and took some pictures, but it got dark quite early (only four days until the shortest day of the year!), so a lof of the pictures might not come out.

Got some Christmas shopping done as well. I bought Viv's Christmas gift (which I will not release at this time, in case wandering eyes happen upon this document before Dec. 25.) I bought a going away/Christmas gift for Doug, and one for the Morrison's (a box of Chocolate Brazil Nuts.) For myself I bought the Peter Gabriel "Sledgehammer" remix maxi-single, which I haven't seen anywhere else. We also at lunch at McDonald's.

Came back home on the bus, then walked a bit to get back to the Morrison's house, where I was almost immediately graced with a phone call from, Duncan, one of Glen's friends, who asked if I would be interested in going to a pub with him, Steward and Sean. I did join them after eating dinner and wrapping my gifts, but I told them that I had to be back earlier than they were originally planning in order to make a few phone calls.

I had a good time out at the pub with those guys, and when I returned I discussed my rail plan with Dr. Morrison, as I was leaving for London tomorrow. Then I called Sid, where I was going to be staying while in London, and let her know my plans for arriving tomorrow. J.P., Doug and Viv were already at Sid's house, so I had a chance to talk to them as well. We worked out a plan that they would meet me in Leicester Square at 3.45 p.m. I hope I make it in time, because we're going to see "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" at the Odeon Theatre in Leicester Square.

Next I called my parents back in Camp Hill tell them that I was in Liverpool and that everything was fine. After a short break, I decided to surprise my friend Greg Swartz and give him a call and see how he was doing. Of course with Greg it's always a good conversation, and he updated me on what was going on at Camp Hill High School, how he made the Distinguished Honor Roll, his obsession with Europe, politics (of course) and how he organized and spoke at a Dan Quayle rally in Harrisburg for the election, the Clapham Junction train crash, and, of course, about the little man with the thin mustache who has secretly taken over the United States.

Following that I watched a little more telly and relaxed. I then joined Fiona and a friend of hers in a game of Dingbats, to which, after a stalemate, no one won.

Looking forward to heading down to London and seeing Viv and my friends again tomorrow. Should be fun!


Friday, December 16, 1988

A Quiet Day in Neston ...

Today is Beethoven's Birthday, as Schroeder from Peanuts has taught me. Had a lie-in until about 11.30 a.m., when I awoke just in time to prepare to head down to the Wheatsheaf pub for lunch, where Dave was working. Fiona, Zoe and I went, and sat at the bar talking with Dave for awhile. Fiona and Zoe left, but I remained to have some gammon. It was infinitely better than the gammon they serve back at Humberside College.

Afterwards, I came back to the Morrison's house for a bit until Dave stopped by after work. We walked to his house to wait for Fiona, and I got a chance to meet Dave's mother and grandmother. When Fiona arrived we went out and got some Chinese take-away and frantically rushed back to the Morrison's house so that Fiona and Dave could watch the Australian soap opera "Neighbours." I have yet to see two people more engrossed in that crappy show than those two! Granted, it's still better than "East Enders," a dismal soap opera. Suddenly American soap operas don't seem quite so bad by comparison.

Following that we watched the news, then Dave and I searched through Dr. Morrison's video tapes in search of his copy of Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam." We couldn't find it, so we settled on "Octopussy." Can't go wrong with a good ol' Bond flick.

Later, when Dr. Morrison arrived home, we all watched an excellent movie called "Someone to Watch Over Me," starring Tom Berenger. It bore some similarities to "Fatal Attraction," but I liked "Someone" better.

Following that, Dave and I played a game of Trivial Pursuit (the British edition), which I won, despite my disadvantage of not being British. Finally got to bed after reading some more of the book "Ikon."


Thursday, December 15, 1988

Back to Liverpool ...

I woke up to have breakfast with Viv, and then at 9:00 a.m., I walked to the Inglemire campus to pick up my "Earnest" paper. I received a lousy 55! I think that will probably transfer to a "B" in our system, but I'm still disappointed because I thought I did a pretty good job on that paper!

Anyway, I took a shower and then finished packing, getting ready for 26 days away from Hull, traveling to various points in Britain. To start, I'm heading back to Liverpool to spend some time with my exchange family, the Morrisons. After lunch with Viv I went back to my room and by 1 p.m. I was finished packing, so we waited together for Dr. Morrison to arrive to pick me up. I will see her a few days from now when we meet up in London.

Before he arrived we had one last mail call, and I got a nice package from Grandma and Grandpa Reitz. I've received a number of cards and some cash gifts from relatives for Christmas, and that will certainly come in handy!

Dr. Morrison came a little after 2 p.m., and before we left I showed him some of my photos and a few of The Snappers before we bid farewell to The Grange Halls. We stopped at the bank so I could deposit my checks into my account, and then Dr. Morrison showed me where his son Glen's flat from last year was located. Then we took off for the "cross country trip" from Hull back to his home in Neston, south of Liverpool.

This was actually the first time I had been in a car since October (I'm pretty sure I've never gone two months without being in a car before!), so it actually felt a little bit odd (driving on the left side of the road notwithstanding.) We stopped at a Happy Eater restaurant along the motorway for coffee and sandwiches in preparation for the journey to Liverpool.

We arrived at Dr. Morrison's house at 7 o'clock, and at 7.30 we left to visit Mike Unger, a friend of Dr. Morrison's. He's a very interesting fellow, and the editor of the Manchester Evening News. Also, he knows Michael Crawford (of "Phantom of the Opera" fame), and his cousin is Jim Unger, the cartoonist who draws the comic strip "Herman." Since we talked about my interest in newspapers, he offered to take me on a tour of his newspaper, and so we scheduled to meet at his office on January 4th at 2 p.m. That should be interesting and fun! He also gave me a "Guardian" 1989 diary, which I will put to good use.

Following that visit, we went for a delicious Mexican meal at The Hacienda. Best meal I've had in awhile. Following that we stopped at the home of some other friends of Dr. Morrison's (their name escapes me, but they were a nice older couple.) We talked about a lot of things, including someone they know that could get me inside Parliament for a rare peek at the British political system. That would be awesome!

We left there and came home to greet Fiona, and later her boyfriend Dave, who stopped by a bit later. After talking for awhile, I went to my room, where I started reading this bizarre book Dr. Morrison recommended called "Ikon," by Graham Masterton. Then I went to sleep.

Pictured: Dr. Ian Morrison, his daughter Fiona, and Rick outside Dr. Morrison's home in Neston.


Wednesday, December 14, 1988

Rediscovering the Pubs ...

Dr. Whooooooo! Nothing to do today, so Doug and I went into downtown Hull so he could buy some more records (his last hurrah!) and I bought a scarf. We ate at McDonald's and then walked back to the Grange via the longer but more interesting Newland Avenue route.

We stopped at The Final Frontier comic book store, where I hoped to buy Batman #428, where Robin dies. It's selling for $25 already in the States, and it's difficult to find here in Hull. Fortunately, the graphic novel featuring all four books in the Death of Robin series was here, so I bought that, as did Doug. Came back to the room and read it... excellent! Did a good job expressing Batman's anger, vengeance and frustration.

After dinner, which was actually a pretty good Christmas meal of turkey and trimmings, we watched "Dr. Who," which was part one of the four-part series, "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy." It was alright, and has potential, but it could be botched, so we'll see. Well, I'll see. Doug is leaving in less than a week, so he'll miss the last three episodes.

Afterwards, I began writing up some Christmas cards, and a short time later, Sam (pictured) and I went to the Mainbrace Pub... it was the first time I'd been to a pub in ages, it seems. It was refreshing, for I'd almost forgotten how much fun they were. We had a great conversation, talking about topics like Christmas, movies, books, music, and other things. Sam is quite an interesting guy!

Came back at around 10.30 p.m. to finish writing out some cards, then passed them out. When I got to the door of St. Michael's, it was locked, so I waited until it was opened by the next person to use it... and that person happened to be Viv, who was coming over to visit me. She had finally finished all of her essays!

We went back to her room so she could get her Christmas cards, and we passed them out together. We talked to Doug a bit as well, then played some cards before I went back to my room for the night.

My "26-Day British Adventure" officially begins tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 13, 1988

An Interesting Class ...

Got up for breakfast and did make it to what turned out to be the most interesting class I've been to this year... Literature in Context, with a discussion on the Spanish Civil War with a substitute professor (and believe it or not, a conservative one!) He was very interesting and full of life, with great comments like, "I don't know why we gave up that island to the Spanish. It would be a lot easier for the British to have kept it so that our tourists wouldn't have had to exchange their pounds for pesos." He was excellent.

(Editor's note: In the margins of the journal, Viv added a quick comment here: "A lot of good my course would be then. - Viv." She's a European Business Major with her concentration in Spanish).

I didn't go to any other classes today, but I had a good conversation with Doug, talking about any and everything. He's leaving in a little less than a week.

After dinner I didn't get anything accomplished, but I did watch MASH and talked with Doug some more, as well as with Martin Brabazon, the college's Labour Club secretary. I had not talked to Martin at all before today. We didn't get into politics, but I imagine we will eventually.

Next I went up to rescue Viv from her evil essay work. She still has some work to do, so it will be an all-day work session for her tomorrow.