A bit of a goodbye to the sea after the North Tyneside 10k the other week. I’m unlikely to be travelling out to the coast again until next year!
I broke a record today.
My previous lifetime record for consecutive days spent in the UK was 1,095 days. With Mum and Dad, I sailed back from our holiday in the Faroe Islands to Shetland on 7th July 1986. I then didn’t leave the UK again until 6th July 1989, when I sailed from England to France with Mum, Dad and Malcolm. During that three-year period we did get on a lot of ferries – we were visiting my grandparents in Shetland a lot as my grandmother was poorly by then – but it wasn’t until that French trip in 1989 that we went abroad again.
Growing up in the 1990s I was lucky enough to travel a lot with the family. We went abroad almost every year, usually to continental Europe but sometimes to North America too. In my late teens I often went on holiday abroad with friends, and after I met Geth, while most of our travelling was UK-based, we typically ventured out to other countries once a year or so, usually to coincide with one of his academic conferences or work trips.
2018 was the last such trip to date. Geth was meeting international colleagues in Toronto, and we decided to combine that with a holiday as it was an opportunity to visit Malcolm and Steff. Mum and Dad were able to match the dates for their planned trip to Toronto too, and so it was a lovely get-together with the family. I flew back from Toronto and arrived in Edinburgh on the morning of 25th July 2018. That was 1,096 days ago – exactly three years. I haven’t left the UK since.
I had no idea it would be my last trip abroad for such a long time. Breaking this particular record was obviously not my plan! I passed on joining Geth on a work trip to Oslo in June 2019, as I was really busy with work and other things at the time, but I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2020, and we planned to go back to Toronto in summer 2020, and we wanted to have a couple of city breaks in Paris and Amsterdam in autumn 2020…
It’s funny how much I took travelling for granted before. There were lots of places in the world I wanted to see, and the only things stopping me from seeing them were time, money and the anxiety I always have around travelling due to mental issues with routine. It never occurred to me, pre-pandemic, that the world would ever be in a situation where I simply wouldn’t be allowed to go to these places (or that it would be so logistically difficult and/or risky that it wouldn’t be worth it). Nowadays, as I sit in the house watching cities like Sydney and Tokyo and New Orleans and Johannesburg and Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro fly by, in documentaries and films and videogames on my screens, and in the pages of the books I read, and the academic works I edit, and the stories I write myself… I always think the same old thing I always did. ‘I’ll go there someday!’ And then I feel sad, because I don’t know when that will be possible again in the same way that it was before. Years away, perhaps.
I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2020. Then I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2021. Now I have a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2022. I hope it happens. I hope the world won’t make me go a whole quarter of a decade or more without seeing my brother, whom I last saw in person on my birthday in January 2020. I hope I’ll be running parkruns in Paris and Amsterdam next year. But the last year and a half has taught me that I can’t be certain.
I can hope, though. I really, really hope that the world will go back to what we once thought of as normality.
Until then I will just keep patiently counting days. And hope that I am setting a record I will never break again!
I have been really late with catching up with all my blogging since I got back from holiday. I’m very busy with the day job at the moment and haven’t had much time. However, I finally have a chance now to post all about my travels – better late than never!
Geth and I drove up to Mum and Dad’s in Edinburgh on the Sunday to meet up with the family – my brother and sister-in-law Malcolm and Steff had arrived from Canada on the Saturday – before we all travelled north. On the Monday, it was another long drive up to Aberdeen, with a brief lunch stop in Arbroath for some chippy goodness – separate post to follow at some point!
It was a bit of a wait to get onto the ferry but I was pleased to find that the small cars were loaded first – this meant that once my wee Skoda was in place on the car deck, Geth and I were able to grab a good space for the family in the lounge bar for the evening.
It was a fairly pleasant ferry journey north to Shetland, although first-time sailor Steff found it a bit nausea-inducing. In the morning, as soon as I’d driven to the B&B, I found a space to get on with some work – August has been busy from the off this year!
That afternoon, Geth and I found a nice café called the Dowry for lunch – it was so good that we ended up eating there five days in a row! – and then went for a walk around Lerwick to plot out where we were going to do our long runs the next day. I hadn’t slept well on the ferry so I got a fairly early night before the run.
It was nice running around Lerwick – a good way to see the town again after twelve years, especially as we had to do three laps to make the scheduled 14k we were both running that week! It was back to the Dowry for breakfast, as I’d been eyeing up the waffles the day before, and decided I’d earned them after my run.
I had a fairly quiet Wednesday afternoon – I had a bit of work to do again – before meeting up with the family for a meal at an Indian restaurant where we’d eaten when we were last in Shetland twelve years ago.
On the Thursday, Geth and I drove down to Sumburgh so that we could visit the excavation at Old Scatness. It wasn’t really open when we were last in Shetland as it had only recently been excavated, but they’ve got a nice wee visitor centre nowadays. Geth loved the site and could probably have stayed there for another hour!
Back in Lerwick, we had an afternoon snack at the Dowry, and a chippy with the family again for tea. (On reflection I’m amazed that I only put on half a pound during the holiday! I did do a fair bit of running though…)
Geth and I met up with Malcolm and Steff for breakfast (at the Dowry again, you’ll be amazed to learn) on the Friday morning, and then went to the Shetland Museum. The museum hasn’t really changed since we visited in 2007, but it’s always worth a poke around.
In the evening, we met up with relatives Joyce and Douglas at the Waterfront restaurant. There was a lot of fish eaten by everyone else, but I was pleased to find that the veggie option was my old favourite, pasta and pesto. Cheesecake too, which is always welcome (see forthcoming cheesecake roundup post).
On the Saturday morning, Geth and I packed all of our remaining stuff into the car and then went on foot on the Bressay ferry to get to the start line of Bressay parkrun. After parkrun, we visited Joyce and Douglas for lunch and a brief tour of Bressay in the mist, before heading back to Lerwick so that I could get some work admin sorted out courtesy of the Dowry’s wifi.
Later that afternoon, we all drove back to the ferry terminal, and Geth and I and the Skoda got onboard nice and promptly again! It was a slightly bumpier ride than going up, and again I found it difficult to sleep on the boat, but we arrived nice and early in Aberdeen and the Sunday morning traffic was so quiet that we were back in Edinburgh by ten o’clock.
We had a couple more days in Edinburgh – I had to spend all of Sunday and Monday working, but Geth and I were able to meet up with our friend Kieran on the Monday night, and then we went to the City Cafe with Malcolm and Steff to have breakfast with my cousin Freya and her boyfriend Ryan on the Tuesday morning, before Geth and I headed back to Newcastle in the afternoon.
Hopefully it won’t be another twelve years before I make it back to Shetland again!
I first heard that this exhibition was coming to the V&A in early 2018, and was excited to find out that it would coincide with my London Marathon trip. As soon as the tickets became available in the autumn, I booked a slot the day after the race, banking on the fact that the pretty outfits would distract me from having to stand on marathon-tired legs for a couple of hours!
Dior is my favourite fashion house, but I didn’t actually know much about the life of Christian Dior himself, so the initial part of the exhibition, which focused on his early years and his first forays into the fashion industry, was really interesting. The late ’40s and early ’50s fashions shown were beautiful (and probably totally at odds with postwar austerity/rationing for most European women, but…!).
There followed an equally interesting section about Princess Margaret’s love of Dior clothes and how it fitted in with her already-colourful life as a young royal. They had the dress that Dior designed for her 21st birthday portrait on display.
Later in the exhibition, there was a large room dedicated to the history of the Dior house and its different creative directors throughout the years. I appreciated the ’80s era designs best, of course…
…but the most colourful and fun dresses on display were those of John Galliano, who was creative director during the ’00s. I’m not normally a fan of ’00s fashion (largely due to too many cringey memories of wearing it), but I really liked these.
I bought the exhibition book afterwards, so I’m looking forward to curling up with it at some point and looking at some pictures that are a bit better than these ones off my phone camera!
I was also excited to see that the V&A have another fashion exhibition on at the moment – one about Mary Quant. My post-marathon legs couldn’t have coped with another hour or two of standing, though, so that’ll be one for next time I’m in London – it’s on till February 2020 so there’s plenty of time.
Geth and I had an extra day in Inverness yesterday after Sunday’s half marathon, and thankfully it was much better weather than we’d had the day before! We went for a long walk into town so that our post-race legs wouldn’t get too stiff.
After a quick bit of breakfast in Costa (Geth didn’t feel adequately caffeinated by the tea provided in the hotel room), we headed along the river and onto the Ness Islands, which were really, really pretty in the sunshine. The tall pine trees and system of bridges reminded me of Channelwood in the first Myst game (if you played videogames in the ’90s you will know what I’m talking about!).
Once we got to the southern tip of the islands, we headed back the way we came and went up to Inverness Castle. We were too cheap to pay the entry fee to get the advertised views of the city, but we still got a good look out over the river and the centre of town.
We finished with lunch at the Filling Station (a Scottish restaurant chain that we’ve both missed since moving to England!) – there may have been pizza, which will be logged soon.
After a long walk (the Metro wasn’t running today!) and a quick vintage fair session this morning, I met up with Mum, Dad and Geth again and we headed off in the car to see some local archaeology-related stuff. First up was Derwentcote Steel Furnace, an 18th century structure that was apparently featured on an episode of Time Team at some point.
We then headed to the Land of Oak & Iron visitor centre, mainly because they had a coffee shop and everyone wanted a coffee. They did also have some wall features.
They also had this bell, which might have come from a Napoleonic warship, but it’s been lost and recovered so many times that nobody’s really sure.
Finally, we headed to Corbridge to see the excavated Roman town there. We’d missed the opening hours, but there’s so much of it you can still see the buildings from outside.
After that, it was back to Newcastle for Italian food and more ginger beer. It’s been a nice weekend, but I should definitely get back to normal eating tomorrow!
Today’s earworm playlist:
Murray Gold – Martha’s Theme
Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK
Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine
Tears For Fears – Change
Justin Bieber – Love Yourself
Madness – Driving In My Car
The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
Post Malone and Swae Lee – Sunflower
And a couple of bonus tracks that Geth was humming earlier:
Traditional – Land Of Hope And Glory
Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra
Canada part ten…
I had ALL THE FOOD at hotel breakfast on my last morning in Toronto, because I knew I wouldn’t get another chance! The French toast was amazing and I’ve missed it since I left, although obviously there’s no way I would be staying at target if I were eating that every morning.
Geth went off for a meeting with a contact he’d made at the conference while I packed. Mum and Dad arrived at our hotel shortly afterwards, and we caught up with the Tour de France on the TV – then once Geth had returned and Malcolm had arrived, we went down to the hotel bar for a couple of drinks. It was nice to have one last drink together before we had to head off.
We collected my bags and walked over to the Holiday Inn, from which Mum and Dad had booked a taxi to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye to Malcolm, but everyone’s already looking forward to meeting up again on this side of the pond next summer. Geth had another day to spend in Toronto, but for now I had to leave it behind – I’m sure I will be back again before long.