Almost Xmas

We’ve been at the new place for four months now, and it is overall an improvement despite a few quirks like weirdly shallow closets and hardwood floors that react somewhat alarmingly to the weather.

Highlights from the last few months include several visits to Winchester, which is a really pretty place with a fantastic cathedral. I went there with John for a pub crawl and with work colleagues for the famous Christmas Market, and also with my brother Raul when he came to visit. During his visit we also played tourist in Southampton itself (Old Town mainly) and spent a day in London seeing everything we could in the British Museum and ending the night going up the London Eye.

There were other visits to London during this period, to see the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Tate Modern and then again for Star Wars: Identities on John’s birthday, both very enjoyable in different ways.

And now its cold and rainy and the town is looking pretty, with a German Market in the town center and a generally festive air. The English do Xmas quite well.

Goodbye Bridgewater Court

This past weekend John and I said goodbye to the old flat and moved into a new place a little further up Shirley. The old place had a lot of good stuff going for it but the landlord decided to move back in so there wasn’t much to do about that, luckily we managed to find a place that is overall nicer despite a couple of odd quirks. Luckily the bathroom is far superior to the old place, which for some incomprehensible reason had a separate toilet room which was too tiny to contain even a sink.

So after a couple of weeks of stressful packing, cleaning, moving, and unpacking, we are now for the most part settled into the new place saver for the usual fussing around finding the right spot for things and getting a few new items like our own television set. The neighborhood is nicer as well, a bit more suburban and quieter but the same distance to work for me and a nicer walk. John is closer to his work, which is nice, and we’re only about five minutes further away from our favorite kebab shop. Pretty much the only disadvantage is we are twice as far from the train station, but even that only comes to a twenty minute walk.

Best part might end up being our new proximity to the Southampton Commons, which I’ve been meaning to explore since I got here.


The summer adventures continued on a smaller scale with a trip up to London to visit Laura last weekend.

We had originally thought of going up on the Friday but being in the middle of packing to move that seemed a less than great idea by the time it rolled around. Instead we went up reasonably early on Saturday morning and after dropping off our suitcase wandered over with Laura to check out Daughts, London’s own boardgame cafe.

It’s a pretty cool place, with what looked to my untrained eye like a solid library of games. They have the usual coffee shop selections, alcoholic drinks and cocktails, plus pretty good food. The tables are all the same size and design and you pay £5 a head to stay and play for 4 hours, not bad at all. We were one of three tables occupied when we arrived but by the time we left the place was completely full.

John and Laura checked out the selectiom and came back with two classic looking board games, racing and elder god themed respectively plus a card/story game called Dixit which reminded me a lot of another game I played with Bryan and Mette once or twice. I played the racing one, coming in third out of three of course and then sat out the Cthulhu one before diving back in for the card game, which I don’t even think we kept score on. As a non-gamer I will recommend it with the caveat that the seats are surprisingly uncomfortable and once full the place was very load, no doubt due to the brick dome of a ceiling.

Afterwards we headed to the nearest Brewhouse to meet up with Laura’s beau Aaron and had some very nice beers while playing casual Trivial Pursuit, again without keeping score-just judging each other loudly when we failed to get an answer. A bit more wandering and some pizza and sitcoms rounded out a pretty chill Saturday.

On Sunday we started out a bit more ambitious, planning on a fry up, a trip to one of London’s markets, and then the Tate Modern for the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition there. Breakfast ended up being problematic and we settled for admittedly tasty croissants and flat whites before heading to the market. Unfortunately the one we aimed for doesn’t happen on Sundays so we had to find a smaller one, which was still way, way cooler than anything in Southampton. We had some chicken and waffles, a chorizo scotch egg, and a filled donut, all of which were very good indeed. This fortified we walked to the met through the increasing heat, arriving more excited for the air conditioning that for the art, to be honest. Luckily both were there to restore our spirits and soon we were enjoying a really wonderful exhibit of an artist I only knew the vaguest outlines about before.

The exhibition was arranged in the usual biographical style, in this case each room was very well organized to a time period in O’Keefe’s life and seemed very well curated. The famous flower paintings were a small fraction of what was on hand, a lot of powerful abstract works and some fascinating 1920s cityscapes stood out far more to me. Intermixed were photographs and some art by her circle, including a delightful Ansel Adams photo of her and a man named Orville Cox.


Star Wars Celebration Europe

July’s big deal was Star Wars Celebration Europe.

John posted about it in greater detail over on LJ so read that for a more in depth look. I am not as massive a SW fan as he is but was looking forward enough to go along with the plan of trying to be in line in the Excel Center at 5am.

You see, SWCE had decided on a bit of a mess of a process that involved lining up to collect wristbands to guarantee entry to your chosen panels. All well and good but the actual distribution was to happen at 6am, a whole four hours before the convention actually opened. The Saturday panels of interest to us were not the massive star-studded ones, but  at the same time information was scant as to capacity and expectations for attendance and we didn’t want to risk it and potentially blow the trip.

We got a scant three hours or so of sleep at Laura’s house in London and then bussed it to Excel to arrive just after 5am.

We met up with Josh and I made myself comfortable on the cold concrete floor for a catnap. I woke intermittently and each time John was scouring the program book and positively vibrating in place with excitement for the day. It kinda made the ridiculous circumstances worth it.

We collected our wristbands for the Star Wars Rebels panel and then got in the now shorter line for the EA Games one and got those too. Then we had a chunk of time before opening but of course very little outside Excel was open for business yet so we made do with Costa coffee and toasties, which were actually pretty good.

Once the doors opened there was a bit of a mad rush to get in and then it was time to explore. I adore being surrounded by colorful masses of geeks, regardless of specific genre, and SWCE was no exception. A ton of costumes from the whimsical or silly to the spot-on recreations. There were a handful of really good twi’leks, a great older Luke, a bunch of good Finns, that last a particularly popular costume with very young girls. And of course representatives of various 501sts.

The merch on hand ranged from the usual stuff to some very cool launches like the remote control wristband to control BB8 units and the Propel quadcopters. The official gift shop had bizarrely long lines so we left it till last by which time it had been ransacked pretty much. We did pick up an extra of the awesome lightsaber lanyards though.

The panels were both good, with Warwick Davis serving as moderator. He also had the best intro and entrance of any convention guest I’ve seen since Peter Davison’s TARDIS landing at Gally a few years back. Unfortunately I was pretty exhausted by the time of the Rebels panel and fell fast asleep once they lowered the lights, missing the entirety of the two preview episodes. Ah well.

After the convention wrapped up for the day we said goodbye to Josh and headed over to visit Anna and Hogg, who were putting us up for the night. Hogg had decided to hit up Celebration the next day, based partly on John’s recommendation, and Anna was in the final stages of prep for her currently ongoing TAFF trip but they still had time to host our exhausted selves for a few hours. We had the best Thai food I’ve had in ages, maybe ever, and I went to bed at a reasonable hour while John attempted to burn the candle at both ends.

And that wasn’t even it for the weekend! The next day we left from their flat into London for the annual Coxon family picnic in Regent’s park. As usual there was Pimms and good food and French Cricket (which I didn’t play this time, it was far too hot) and for the first time this year extended Pokemon Go excursions by the younger generation. We’ll see if that becomes a tradition.

Eventually it was time to go, we left the earliest to catch our train home. On the way back to Southampton we spotted plenty of folks coming home from the Sunday of SWCE, including a couple from Winchester who we had a nice chat with on the train itself.


June in Barcelona

June and July were busy months both at work and at home.

Following the Corsican honeymoon I got some more globetrotting in with a work trip to Barcelona. My job sent me there for two weeks to learn the ways of the Spanish market and customers, and to meet the Barcelona branch people who will be remaining there after the dreaded centralization the company is implementing.

I was very excited, since the city has always been on my list of places I wanted to visit. Though naturally I was a bit nervous as well, unsure as to whether the staff at that location would be particularly welcoming, plus general nerves about the job that I am still learning after all. Luckily there was nothing to worry about, while I still feel like I have no clue what I am doing, the people in the Barcelona office are all warm, friendly, and more importantly eager to get the job done and train me right.

And oh my god the city. Stunning, packed with beautiful places and interesting things, the weather was pretty great as well and the advantage of being there in summer when the sun doesn’t set till after ten o’clock meant I probably spent at least three hours just wandering the streets after work each day; shopping, eating, drinking, and just letting my attention ricochet from architecture to shopping to art to people watching like a happy pinball. And what a treat to be someplace where things don’t close at 6pm!

The location of both the office and the delightfully swank hotel they put me up at was  perfect for a first time visitor, especially one who only gets to explore after office hours. I was right near the Cathedral (not the Sagrada Familia, which I learned is actually a basilica) and a very short walk from the Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, and a bunch of other stuff. Half of the time I wandered in random directions until I was tired and then turned around, and never once did I run out of things to do and see.

The weekend in the middle of my trip was big local holiday which filled up all the hotels, meaning my job sent me off to a small town ninety minutes away by train. It was an interesting break in its own way, less overwhelming than the city but highly amusing in spots and even made me a bit nostalgic for Estepona.

I can’t wait to go back, this time with John for a relaxing visit without the stress of work hovering in the background.

Corsican Honeymoon

Whoops, wrote this put never posted the draft!

John and I are just back from spending two weeks in Corsica on our belated honeymoon. It  was completely gorgeous, with perfect weather, amazing landscapes, and fantastic food. Learning a smattering of basic French helped out a bit in navigating things, though the people were almost universally friendly and helpful which made things much easier.

We flew out direct landing at the Bastia airport in the morning and taking a leisurely three hour train ride across the island to Calvi. This was a nice introduction, we had a couple of hour in Bastia first and managed to get suitably hot, hungry, and irritable with each other before realizing the problem and eating a lovely meal of moules et frites, drinking a Pietra, and starting to get into the vacation groove. Once we were feeling human again we found the cleverly hidden train station and had time for some dessert before heading off.

We spent the first week. This was the relaxathon, beach and food stage of the trip in what I believe is the more touristy and resort-like part of Corsica. The prices were pretty reasonable considering and the overall feeling was pretty damned luxurious if I’m honest.

In addition to eating tons of really great food we mostly visited the beach and swam. On more adventurous days we took a boat tour to see Scandola, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also went snorkling nearby on a different day. We also visited the Citadel and it’s rather odd Cathedral of St. John the Babtist. The view from the walls is pretty incredible and it is easy to see why it was so impregnable.

After a week of relaxing we took the train back across to Bastia, which is a bit more urban. Our hotel here was unfortunately a little bit further than we had thought though still walkable from the city centre. Luckily the pools was really nice and the room had a small balcony so we chose to stick close on a couple of days and just get some food to eat in. After the initial couple of walks through the somewhat terrifying sidewalk-free road to town we explored and discovered it was possible to cut through to the town of San Martino di Lota and avoid the worst of it. Since the town is a) beautiful and b) has a pizzeria and a boulangerie this worked out quite nicely and supplied several of our meals.

In Bastia itself we found the cuisine similar to Calvi but with more seafood on the menus and took full advantage of that. We visited all the churches listed in the guidebook, wandered the streets enjoying the weather, and saw the much larger Calvi citadelle with its museum and gardens.

On the last day John rented a car and we drove up along the coastal road through Cap Corse. The landscape was again completely stunning, a bit more mountainous than Calvi with more dramatic seaside views alternating between rocky shores and bright blue sandy coves. There were signal towers every few kilometres and intriguing little towns dotted through the hills. We had hoped to eat someplace along the way but timed it poorly since most places don’t serve during lunchtime hours, so we drove back to Bastia and had a relaxing last meal in our room with pizza from the local San Martino di Lota.

May Sunshine

May is here and rather shockingly it’s too warm.

This weekend just past was the anniversary reception/ring exchange and everyone from Spain and California was a bit surprised to find themselves in the middle of a sudden heatwave, especially since I had told them how cold it was literally one day before they all started arriving. Between that and the Leicester football victory they have returned home with the notion that England is a place of blue skies and endless revelry. Ah well.

The event was great and almost everyone we had hoped for made it. Things went more smoothly than we had any reason to expect and a lot of drinking and dancing ensued. It was also nice to be back in Leicester for a whole week and show it off to folks a bit. Everyone got to meet each other and plans where hatched for future adventures. The Case and The Belmont both did us proud, even if the latter did have to deal with a massive and rowdy wedding prior to our event which put a little strain on them and us alike.

Now its just a question of relaxing, recovering, and watching the Facebook photos trickle in.


This past weekend John had a friend over and massive amounts of gaming ensued, which I mostly skipped except for a game of Battlestar Galactica (I lost) and one of Power Grid (I lost a lot). We did leave the house once or twice as well, once to hit 7bone for a burger and on Sunday we popped out briefly to get a pint with his visiting uncle.

But Monday it was time for my birthday! John had to go into London for work-related activities and as my birthday present he took the next day off and we got a hotel for the night. While he was off presenting his poster I met up with a friend of Jade’s named Miko who lives in London and has many overlapping interests, life being life we both ended up running late and we had less time to hang out than I had hoped but it was still fun and hopefully I can make it back up to the city for a more extended visit at some point.

Once John was done he made his way to the hotel and we popped over to Queensway street, where there’s a whole street of restaurants that Miko had just clued me into. We had a light lunch at a Persian place to lay a basic foundation for the evening and then got changed before heading down to the Soho area. I had a list of likely looking places that might do for a drink, but not a strict itinerary. We started with happy hour 2-for-1 martinis at a trendy, kinda slick, but still fun place called Dirty Martini and then moved on to a very friendly bar called Graphic which was hosting a gin tasting. The tasting was already wrapping up when we arrived, alas, but we still had a couple of pretty great cocktails served in paint cans (presumably to match the theme). By now we were properly hungry so we hit an American diner which has alcoholic milkshakes. Mine was pistachio and rum and extremely good. Satiated and tipsy we headed through the freezing night in the direction of the hotel in order to get a nightcap at a warm and cozy bar in the Zetter Hotel. This was the perfect place to end the night and even the subsequent walk through the cold didn’t quite defeat the afterglow from their very civilized cocktails.

On Tuesday we woke up late and had a solid continental breakfast at the hotel before making our way towards downtown. We popped into a few stores, has some barbecue at Bodean, and then wandered in baffled circles in Soho trying to find one of the delicious looking French pastry shops that had seemed plentiful earlier in the day. Luckily John’s instincts led us to what I’m sure must be the cutest pastry shop in London (and which Wikipedia assures me is the oldest) Maison Bertaux. Despite being quite sated from our plentiful lunch it was difficult to restrain ourselves and we ended up leaving with three slices of assorted cakes to bring home to Southampton.

We wrapped up the extended weekend drinking coffee on our new sofa, eating a lovely and surprisingly light chocolate mouse cake, and watching Her.


A couple of weeks into the job and feeling pretty settled. It’s a temp assignment so I’m still looking, but the free floating anxiety over entering a workforce in a different country has faded a bit as it becomes clear that the broad strokes are basically the same. The coffee is instant but otherwise I could almost as easily be working in a San Francisco office.

Eastleigh is small but has enough to keep me busy during a lunch break, including a bunch of charity shops and a tiny little market on Thursdays. But the best part is that from door to door my commute is under forty minutes, with only fifteen of those being the train ride. It’s not really enough time to dive into a novel but I am getting back on the podcast wagon at least.

Beyond that, the exploration of Southampton continues apace. John and I have now visited the Waterloo Arms for beer and scotch eggs, and the Wellington Arms for a pre-pho pint with his parents. There is a third pub equidistant, because of course there is, but we have not been there yet. Where we have been is a very cool local brewery called The Dancing Man, which is located in a medieval wool storage house and which John’s parents kindly took us to lunch at. The food and beer where great, although I did have to get all American at some people who were not controlling their children.

Now the weather has turned very cold, with the weather news promising sleet and all sorts of horrors but I think I may finally have enough sweaters.


Valentine’s for once

Usually on February fourteenth I find myself at the LAX Marriott along with a couple thousand other Whovians. This year I wasn’t able to attend Gally but I did get a nice consolation prize; my first proper Valentine’s Day with John.

We started with breakfast at a little Portuguese cafe near our flat which reminds me a lot of similar style Spanish places. They do an English breakfast but I had a chouriço com batatas and John got steak and eggs, both were good and cheap and started the day off well. We dipped back into the real world to get some chores done and then headed down to the city’s indie cinema, Harbour Lights, for a special Valentine’s Day screening of Casablanca. It’s been a while since I’d seen it and it’s still fantastic of course, but I had forgotten quite how funny it is as well. Finally in the evening we had hot chocolate sand read for a while before ordering some very nice pizza from a place we hadn’t tried before. A successful first Valentine’s together and I hardly checked the #gally1 hashtag at all!

And now today is the last day before I start my first job here, up the road a bit in a town called Eastleigh. It’ll be nice to feel that much more properly settled, though I’m really not looking forward to getting up early again.