English hospitality and castle tours
Mine and Matilda’s trip to my Grandpa’s in Newcastle had somewhat of an inauspicious start in our conveyance from Edinburgh. We spent a little too long saying goodbye to everyone from the Hogmanay tour and ended up having to RUN through the city to the sprawling train station where we were supposed to print out our tickets. With three minutes till our train left, we still had no idea where the hell we could print them, and just had to board without them. We then began stressing about the laws regarding such things in the UK. Surely, we thought, they’re too polite here to fine you. Turns out we just had to buy more tickets from the inspector when he came around.
Our folly was punctuated by a sign we saw upon our arrival in Newcastle:
The answer? No. No we can’t.
We met Grandpa at the train station and he took us back to his house, which has a name instead of a number – an English custom I think is really cool! Besides that, it’s the most English-sounding address ever: Turnberry Fairway Rise, Hartford Hall Estate, Bedlington, Northumberland. It has just about every quaint English suffix you can think of.
A little while after we arrived, a whole clan of my extended family arrived to meet me. We were treated to a strange kind of hospitality, whereby the host expresses incredulity to the point of derision if you decline anything:
‘Do you want anything? Tea? Coffee?’
‘No thanks, I’m fine.’
‘Are you sure? Water? I think we’ve got some juice in here somewhere …’
‘No, no, seriously, I’m good.’
‘You don’t want anything? Nothing!?’
“Okay then …’
In this fashion I was guilted into Budweiser after Budweiser. It’s like there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to consume something. I think it has something to do with the British propensity to have tea every five seconds. At any change in circumstance or situation they must be comforted by the consumption of tea. Also possibly an Australian sense of ‘roughing it’ – we drink when we’re thirsty, not when we turn the TV on or arrive home or go out or get up or move rooms.
But the food and the party were great. Towards the end we began fascinating my family with Australian coins and notes and licenses and passports. They couldn’t quite get over the waterproof money, and had to run it under a tap to appreciate its awesome power. I told them it was so we can go surfing with just a note in the pocket of our boardshorts.
That night, a couple of hours after I went to bed, I had my third spew of the trip (the Budweisers mixed with a lunch/dinner of party food and the chips, chocolate and softdrink we’d had to have for breakfast on the train were probably not a good idea).
We spent the following days eating out for lunch and dinner and visiting various castles, although we had perpetual bad luck in this, with Alnwick and Tynemouth being closed.
“Let me innnn!”: Scaling the portcullis.
Luckily we managed to get into Warkworth.
We also visited the cute little village of Alnmouth.
Grandpa and Christine seemed to have a personal cab driver who they’d always call to convey them to dinner if they wanted to drink. His name was Hippie, and he was a proper rough-looking Northerner – a Jordy, I think they might be called? Anyway he had a really low voice and a bikie-style ponytail. So you can imagine our surprise when his phone started ringing and his ringtone was ‘Waterloo’ by ABBA. He didn’t even seem embarrassed. Good on him, haha.
Our time at Grandpa’s was spent in absolute luxury, especially compared with the hostel life we’d become accustomed to. The bed was so comfy I never wanted to get out of it:
We had bacon sandwiches cooked for us every morning, and had lunch and dinner shouted for us every day and night. We lazed and napped and watched bad British television. It was just what we needed to recover in time for our next hostel venture.
On the way to our accommodation, Ruthie stopped the bus and told us one of the abovementioned stories of a Scottish warrior princess who was abandoned by her Irish lover and showed us a river apparently formed of her tears. It is said that those that dip their faces in will be afforded eternal youth and beauty so, of course, we were obliged to try:
Me being sick and Til still being jetlagged, we retired early and missed out on a crazy night:
It wasn’t all just urination, though. At Glencoe Russell, one of the other people on the tour, got a standard jumping pic of some of us:
Til, me, Courtney, Lisa, Emma, Jodie, and Narelle
New Year’s Day was our last full day in Scotland, so we spent it seeing the obligatory sights of Edinburgh – the castle, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first couple of Harry Potter books and the nearby graveyard where she got ideas for character names, and we started but didn’t finish a free ghost tour. Thus ended our experience of Edinburgh, the SECOND MOST HAUNTED CITY IN EUROPE, as the ghost tour sign proclaimed (verified by the International Haunting Index).
Re Entry into Australian Life: Reverse Culture Shock
It’s been my first week back at UOW this week and I found myself a little scared to be back! So much had changed and was different and yet so much was still the same! Every now and again I find myself thinking “I’m homesick.” I had this really weird moment the other day, where I was sorting through my UK photos for printing and I thought “I miss being home.” Huh? Was? Ich wohne nicht in London/Scotland/Wales. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still homesick.
I was thinking about what was discussed at the ‘welcome back’ session with Tonia, and I can definitely say that I feel like a bit of a hybrid of an Australian and a British girl now. As I posted on my personal blog, “I love Australia. I love the bush. I love the sun. I love my friends. I love to write Australian bushland poetry and I love going to The National Park for swims and picnics. I even love the song ‘I am Australian’, in particular these stanza’s:
I’m the teller of stories
I’m the singer of songs
I’m Albert Namajira
And I paint the ghostly gums
I’m Clancy on his horse
I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian.
I’m the hot winds of the desert
I’m the black soils of the plain
I’m the mountains and the valleys
I’m the droughts and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky,
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian.
But see the UK and Ireland have my family and they have the culture we don’t have.”
I decided in light of how I’m feeling at the moment I’ll sum up the things I liked best about the UK using pictures.
1. Seeing real snow for the first time and understanding the meaning of ‘proper cold.’
Stuck in a snow storm without an umbrella in London.
2. Meeting my relatives overseas in both Ireland and England for the first time!
3. My flatmates and our weird and wonderful adventures.
Halloween at Flat 12!
4. The history and culture in the UK
All those old buildings and churches were so awesome. One fond memory is of my American flat mate and I doing a guided tour of Lancaster castle with a truly creepy guide who seemed ghoulishly obsessed with death. On the entertainment front, I went to the theatre four times when I was in the UK itself! That’s a play a month! I couldn’t help it. The tickets were so much more affordable then back home and I loved the atmostphere. And after all, who wouldn’t have fun trying to explain the three hour plot of Les Miserables in London’s West End to their Chinese flat mate throughout the entire performance without annoying everyone around us?
My two play Guides. One for Hamlet and one for Season’s Greetings with some of the cast’s autographs.
5. Real Christmas Markets.
Market and fair in Edinburgh, Scotland. I took this on the actual ferris wheel.
It’s funny. When I got towards the end of my trip in the UK I was so homesick and just wanted to come home to Australia. After a week or two I instantly wanted my travelling life back! Anyone else going through this?
Another morning here in Dundee!
It’s been incredible over here.
Well into my first month now, so much has happened!
I remember arriving in Edinburgh and seeing snow! Silly that I sound so excited, but its my first time seeing snow! From Edinburgh, I headed into Dundee, where its all ice instead of snow.
Defnitely did feel homesick, but I made an effort to get out and explore my surroundings for abit.
Over the week, I met my other housemates and their friends who’re really good fun and uber friendly. One of my housemate friends were exchange students from Belgium, but sadly they were finishing their semester and were preparing to leave. Although we’re just a couple of week old friends, I was really glad to have known them. I remembered my first night, they came and ask me to hang out with them, and at 2am in the morning to bake apple crumble! They were so spontaneous and random! But good fun nontheless.
Uni’s begun. Over time, I met a few other exchange students as well – Sophie from Tasmania and a coupla others from Newcastle, Canadians, Americans and of course Scottish!
There was an international event called a Ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’), which was a traditional Scottish dance. There are various dances, and its pretty simple once you get the hang of it, as its pretty repetitive. And it can go on and on, making you super exhausted! We got to try some Haggis as well, which was their Scottish traditional dish, made of lamb offal, intestines, stomach, those kind of stuff we normally wouldn’t eat. But I apparently love haggis! The thought of it may sound gross, but its really not that bad as you may be imagining now (:
Bascially getting into the routine of Uni now, and exploring Dundee and its surroundings. Our favourite hangout is at DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) its a really unique place, with only two cinema theatres, and they show artsy, historical, meaningful movies here (e.g King’s speech, Hereafter, Black Swan, Nenette etc.) and its cheap!
The main highlight was heading to Saint Andrews for the weekend! Goodness, it was beautiful. I really love it there, and apparently St. Andrews University was where Kate Middleton and Prince William met! We went to St. Andrews castle (which was bascially ruins really, but holds much history), the cathedral, climed St.Rules Tower which gave a spectacular 360 view of the town.
Fourth and fifth week:
The fourth week, was bascially getting my lab reports done, so not very exciting there. But I’m really enjoying my modules here. Yesterday was Valentines, and hope you all had a lovely one! As for mine, I celebrated it with my housemates, made Thai curry, had a Belgium chocolate cake and wine for dessert and ended with a movie. Also, whats planned for this week is horseriding this weekend! And am really excited for that! So for now that sums up what’ve been up to in Dundee but pictures tell a better story anyway, so enjoy!