The 'Invasion' started on a quiet Thursday afternoon, if any afternoon can be called quiet at Schiphol airport.
It was to be Clown MCP's first flight, so the teasing started early. The flight was on time, we boarded without too much fuss, although both Shazz and Clown were subjected to a body-feel search as they managed to set the alarms off... the third time this has happened to Shazz! Kheldar, Shazz and Freggel managed to 'bag' the very front seats in the plane, always a good idea if you have long legs, so Towel Master was literally left holding the flying 'baby'. We didn't have to worry though, Clown loved every minute of the flight including the take-off and landing.
The airport at Luton was comparitively quiet and we had some time to kill before we needed to catch the bus to London, so what could be more natural than to check out the local hostellery so thoughtfully provided. Needless to say we sat through about two deadlines before finally deciding to wend our way. The trip was fairly fast, although it probably unsettled the 'real' Dutch continguency to roar down the motorway on the wrong side and take roundabouts backwards, and we only hit problems when we entered the rush hour in London itself.
The route from the drop-off point to the hotel looked straightforward and short on the map, but we still managed to deviate a fair bit, thanks in the main to some ambiguous directions from locals who must have delighted in sending a group of 'foreigners' in the wrong direction. We finally arrived at the hotel feeling a little tired, footsore and ready to freshen up and find somewhere to eat. Nothing is ever simple, however, and the receptionist at the hotel first greeted Shazz with the news that they had a slight problem with the room and that they would book a taxi to a better, 4-star hotel in a different area... for the same expense. This sounded wonderful until they asked for payment, whereupon Shazz queried the amount and pointed out that a triple room had also been booked and where were they staying. Panic ensued, the management eventually decided to give us rooms there for the night and sort out what would happen the following morning. We could see why they wanted us out of there when we saw the room... not exactly the height of luxury! Shazz and TM never managed to get any hot water out of the taps (let alone something resembling a shower or bath) the whole stay, and the lifts were on a par with Fawlty Towers. Sadly the next morning we were informed by Basil, or Mr Fawlty, that we could stay there for the duration...
Imagine our delight when we discovered, on walking to the nearest pub that night, that we had found the very same place where Shazz, TM and all the other h2g2ers had arrived at in the summer when soaked to the skin. They were offering a Thanksgiving special meal which Shazz tucked into with relish! Many drinks later we finally walked back to the hotel and attempted to get a good nights' sleep in readiness for the next day.
The next morning we negotiated the delights of the London underground system and fought our way through the crowds to a small back street. After some difficulty with mobile phones and stubborn door bells we finally infiltrated the Towers and were ushered into the hive of industry which passes for the main office. As usual, the place was busy... we were kindly provided with coffee and allowed to pose for pictures and then lunchtime was upon us and time to find sustenance.
We plumped for the Porterhouse, which was conveniently close by, and tested out the menus... both liquid and solid. The food was good, the beer menu extensive and we stayed far longer than we intended. Oh well... time to check out more shops later and then on for a pre-meet meet at the Wellington. It was good to see familiar faces and meet new researchers, a feeling which continued the following day at the meet proper. Towel Master had the sense to retire early that night, but the rest of us stayed to the bitter end and witnessed the fun of a not-so-sober Freggel having a deep and meaningful conversation with a not-so-sober stranger on an English street and becoming friends for life... probably this was Shazz's fault as she encouraged him to test out English bitter!
The day of the actual meet arrived and we took the wise precaution of taking a black cab to the Elephant and Castle... the tube system wasn't exactly in full working order that weekend and last time Shazz and TowelMaster had been late for the bowling when their train decided to travel backwards. We had the good fortune to find an excellent snackbar inside the complex and took full advantage of stocking up for the events to follow. Arriving at the bowling alley we were greeted by Peta and Mark and the place was already buzzing. A little later Abi turned up with her flock and the serious business of bowling was soon underway. Kheldar and Clown decided to sit this out, but still found time to play pool and an excellent time was had by all. TowelMaster managed to revenge himself on Mark M, setting a high score of 193, which he duly photographed 'for the record'. The festivities continued, with the bonus of adding a London Red Bus ride to the methods of travelling already encountered... the only excursion missing was a boat trip!
The next day was Camden Market day... certainly an eye-opener for some of the party. This was further enhanced by being able to watch the Celtic/Rangers derby (for the football lovers) and some excellent Rugby (for Shazz) whilst indulging in our favourite passtime... yes... more drinking! We had a very good excuse to delay our return trip this time though, the tube station was closed until 6.30...
Monday dawned and time to pack our bags and think about leaving... not without one last shopping excursion to try to find those last remaining books/video's/cd's. Shazz was working from a different agenda... trying to track down missing documents lost during floods two years ago, so she left the men to their shopping and spent a few hours delving through the Records Office... not the easiest place in the world to get to. We finally all met up again at the Mitre and had a farewell drink before setting off in search of the bus stop for the ride back to Luton airport. This bus journey was much slower and it was quite late by the time we reached Luton, the driver deviating through every back-street imaginable on the way. Shazz bade a sad farewell to her friends and headed towards the car-hire booth... but that's another story!