Join the Q: Summer Holiday... Revisited

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Join the Q: Summer Holiday... Revisited

I enjoyed my summer holiday last month, but I was slightly sorry to have to leave unfinished business as I wasn't able to take all the photos I had planned to. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to seize it and book another holiday this month.

As my plan was to photograph Charlotte Yonge some more, and photograph other decorated Zebras if I found them, I booked the hotel in Eastleigh again, because it is extremely convenient for the railway station and not too far from the zoo. I was a bit worried that I might not enjoy it there, as my stay last time had been challenging, with the chemical smell from the new flooring in the hotel bathroom meaning that I had to open the window, which then meant I 'enjoyed' the noises of the railway station at top volume until 2am, but I decided to chance it.

The journey this time was OK – there was a delay of a few minutes because of a tree on the line at Leamington Spa, but it was acceptable1. I was delighted to discover that the hotel room had been fully aired since I last stayed there, so it was much more pleasant. A quick meal out with some of my partner's family completed the day, then I returned to the hotel room and watched some of the Paralympics before closing the window tightly and enjoying a good night's sleep.

The next day was eventful, starting with me trying and failing to get breakfast in a nearby pub as there were steps to get in the main entrance and the accessible entrance was shut. Instead I went to the supermarket to stock up on provisions so that was fine. After I had eaten, I had a bit of time to rest before the challenge of the day commenced.

My main plan for the weekend was to go to Marwell Zoo to see their mini Zebra trail, but there were bigger Zebras out and about in the city as well, so my partner's sister kindly volunteered to help me see some of them. We spent a good five hours walking round and photographing all the Zebras we encountered, bagging 22 out of 47 large Zebras and a good number of small Zebras too. Little did we know that Bluebottle was also on the hunt for Zebras that day, but if our paths crossed at any point, we didn't notice.

There was just time to have a cup of tea and some cake to restore our energy, and then we all went out for a family dinner. It was very enjoyable to catch up with everyone, and the food was excellent too. After all the exertion of the day, I was glad to return to the hotel room and slept well again.

Sunday was the day for the visit to Marwell Zoo, kindly assisted by my honorary sister again. Another physically demanding day, but we bagged all 47 mini Zebras plus we enjoyed spotting the wildlife including a good variety of birds, super-cute Amur Leopard kittens, and of course the endangered Grevy's Zebras who inspired the Zebra Trail.

We got back from the zoo just in time for me to get ready to meet Bluebottle again. A very apt sight greeted me as I approached the meeting point – Bluebottle was sitting next to the statue of Charlotte Yonge and they were both reading. Next it was my turn to sit next to Charlotte and have my photo taken just as I had planned, first mirroring her posture and then putting my arm round her in solidarity. The bench was more challenging to sit on than I had expected, and she was taller than she looked, but I managed it!

Leopard cubs.Grevy's zebra.
Gilbert.Charlotte Yonge and friend.

The trusty ice cream parlour was our next stop, and I made a better choice of ice cream this time, so there were no surprise coffee beans and it only dripped on my hand a little bit. Bluebottle accidentally put his arm into the sauce on his waffle a little bit too, so we were even. It was excellent to catch up again, and the time soon passed, but I was grateful not to be out too late as it was my turn to feel sleepy after a long day chasing Zebras. Bluebottle then rushed back home to his children and I went back to the hotel.

I was so tired, I didn't realise I hadn't quite closed the window before I went to bed, so the sound-proofing was open. I quickly went to sleep, but I was woken up at 4am by the train noises. I wasn't too unhappy about that, though, as the sounds had prompted me to dream a bittersweet dream before I woke up...

I dreamed I went to a lecture by Robbie Stamp. It was his birthday, so the audience all sang 'Happy Birthday' to him when he entered the lecture theatre. His lecture was about his friendship with Douglas Adams, and about h2g2, and everyone enjoyed it. Afterwards, I went into a small room by myself. Douglas approached and put his arm round me, but then realised he had thought I was someone else. We chatted anyway, and then he went away. I had a little cry, as I was sad that he and my partner had died, then other people came into the room before Bluebottle and his wife drove me back to the hotel.

The next day, I went for a walk round Eastleigh town centre, bought some sheet music in a charity shop, and read a bit more of the biography of Charlotte in the Museum, then it was time for me to travel back up north.

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1On a previous journey I made, I was ejected from the train at Leamington Spa because of a tree on the line so I eventually arrived at my destination three hours later than expected, which was not fun...

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