Join the Q: Summer Holiday
The other weekend, I went on a little summer holiday.
The journey didn't start out very well, as I discovered on arrival at the first train station that the lift at the second station was out of order so I had to travel to another station on the line and get a taxi back so I could enter the second station at platform level.
While I was waiting for the taxi, the station assistant had an interesting conversational technique, going straight for, "are you married?" as the opening gambit. I contemplated my response, and decided to go for full honesty, much to the assistant's surprise, as they somehow didn't expect that someone travelling alone might not actually have been married but was with their partner until death did them part. However, the conversation proceeded satisfactorily as the assistant apologised for making me close to tears, and steered the conversation round to happy memories of when my darling and I first met.
Luckily I had given myself plenty of time to change trains, so everything worked out OK. The next assistant I encountered assumed I was lost and used 'the patronising voice', but I knew where I was going so had no problem finding my train unassisted. I was glad to be helped aboard to enjoy a few hours of 'letting the train take the strain'. The challenge didn't stop there, though, as on changing to the third train, I learned that one of the doors was broken, so my options were either to somehow squeeze down the carriage to another door or for the train to be diverted to another platform so I could exit the train through the door I had used to enter it. The latter option was selected, so to everyone who had to make an annoying last minute platform alteration – sorry, that was me!
The weather on the Saturday was good, although it was perhaps a bit too hot for my taste. It was cool inside the Fishbourne Roman Palace museum, though, so I had an excellent time following the route through the museum before being amazed and awed by the scale and skill of the surviving mosaics. The Cupid Mosaic is perhaps the most impressive as it is so complete and colourful, but my favourite is the black and white geometric design that contains a bit of a 3D cube effect, as I enjoy exploring the different patterns in it.
The evening was enjoyable – it is always a pleasure spending time at the coast looking across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, seeing ships passing through, watching kite surfers enjoying late sunshine, and thinking soothing thoughts. The wind was much sharper there than inland, though, so it was a bit chilly, but fresh fish and chips soon warmed me up again.
The Sunday was not such sunny weather but still warm and perfect for a visit to a bird sanctuary. I particularly admired the two disabled female vultures who had set up home together in a ground floor nest, but there were plenty of other impressive birds too. There were also some swallows who had made their nests in and around the sanctuary buildings – they might not be the most exotic birds compared to the ones in the sanctuary, but it was fascinating to watch the parents swooping past and hear the chicks excitedly calling for food.
Flying displays were held at times throughout the day, so that visitors could enjoy seeing the sanctuary birds in natural settings as well as learning more about them. The first display of the day had an African theme, so the arena included model anthills, grasses and water. Fish eagles demonstrated their skills and a mock forest fire attracted other birds of prey hopeful of finding food there. There were even two meerkats in the arena to add to the desert-like atmosphere. The most fascinating part of the display was seeing a secretary bird skipping round the arena and crushing serpents – Charlotte Yonge would definitely have approved.
The second display of the day featured vultures flying low over the audience's heads as well as kites swooping round and looking out for food (including a wild red kite who joins in the displays but leaves before the birds are returned to their enclosures). For the finale, bald eagles flew in from a vantage point two miles away and then posed for photographs with their handlers.
The third display of the day was dedicated to owls, so we saw a great grey owl and an eagle owl swooping overhead, watched barn owls folding their wings to flit between trees, and admired the tawny owl who is afraid of heights but will happily sit in a tree if his handler joins him. Many blurred photos were taken, but some rather impressive shots were captured as the birds flew or posed.
There was just time for me and my honorary family to hold a bird of prey each and take photos of each other, and then it was time for the last event of the day, when food was put out for wild birds. The wild kite made an appearance along with magpies, crows and a heron – even more photos were taken before the sanctuary officially closed to visitors and we made our way back home for dinner.
On the Monday, I went on an adventure to Eastleigh. My day started in Eastleigh Museum, which provided an enjoyable couple of hours of browsing and chat as well as a reference copy of a biography of Charlotte Yonge that I skimmed through while enjoying a cup of tea. Then I made my way to the hotel via a couple of second hand shops and I didn't get lost. After checking in and making an attempt to aerate the hot room that sadly smelled of chemicals from its new flooring, I had just enough time to freshen up and unpack before it was time for me to formally meet Bluebottle and the statue of Charlotte Yonge.
As I approached the railway station, I wondered which direction Bluebottle would approach from. I saw Charlotte across the road, all alone, then looked to my left and there was Bluebottle! We then introduced ourselves to Charlotte and took photos before heading to an icecream parlour to see the delights on offer for a warm summer's evening.
Bluebottle ordered a crepe with icecream, which he had no trouble enjoying. I didn't get quite what I had ordered, as the staff obviously decided that two scoops of icecream went better with a chocolate cone than a plain one, but I managed it all OK apart from the whole coffee beans that gave me a surprise when I found them after the cappuccino icecream melted. I was slightly embarrassed to have to filter them out, but luckily I think Bluebottle is used to me by now, after our first meeting when my nervously exuberant hand gestures catapulted a packet of biscuits on to the floor, and the h2g2 meet where the Imperial War Museum cafe provided me with a flimsy plastic fork that was woefully inadequate for eating pizza with, so it splintered to smithereens in front of us, so it was OK.
Much excellent catching up and comparing of notes then occurred over cups of tea, including a quick Disney Quiz to enable Bluebottle to demonstrate awesome knowledge after having researched the Ultimate Guide to Disney Classics Project. When Bluebottle started to nod off because of having only arrived in the UK from Poland a few hours earlier, it was time to make our way back to Charlotte's seat and say 'do widzenia'.
To finish my holiday, I had to keep the hotel window open all night because of the smell, so I 'enjoyed' the sounds of the railway station at full volume until the goods trains stopped at 2am. I was somewhat dismayed to wake up at 6am when the passenger trains started up, but made the most of the early hour as the sunrise was stunningly impressive. Once the bright colours had faded from the sky, I managed to go back to sleep for a bit before morning proper.
Sadly Charlotte was not alone when I arrived at the station so I didn't get to say goodbye to her and take another photo, but I did have chance to photograph a Zebra instead. The journey home was good, and I even arrived back an hour earlier than expected, so I was happy with that after a tiring but fantastic holiday.