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Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.
Part Two is here: Dartmoor.
Part Three is here: World Fantasy and Brighton.
Here is a picture of my grace and elegance demonstrated every time I went outside:
In York, I crashed Lisa Hannett’s hotel room, and we wandered the town centre, the Shambles and snickleways, which look like something out of Harry Potter or Disney, only real. We also went to the National Railway Museum which was wonderful. I love the romance of all forms of transportation (my honours thesis was on the role of the railway in British children’s novels) while retaining a very tenuous grip on any technical knowledge.
We went on a ghost tour, rambled round the Minster, climbed to the top of the tower, looked for the gargoyles from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and I sketched an archaeologist.
When Lisa journeyed on, I spent another day walking the walls and visiting Clifford’s Tower.
I also had lunch at a church café in a 16th century parish hall, went to choral evensong again, climbed many tilted staircases in secondhand bookstores (acquiring in the end only a tiny red-bound version of the Rubaiyat) and sketched stone masons at the Minster. The next day I caught the train to Scotland, to visit Elizabeth Wein and her family. That is their cat.
It was an exceedingly pleasant visit, featuring (among many things) icy mornings, piles of books, Lion King conversations, WWII ATA and airforce memorabilia, a constant undertone of volcano-construction and a toy accordion. She took me bellringer-watching again (I did not getting any more used to those tiny twisted staircases).
And again, on memorial day. She showed me the Birnam Oak (Macbeth-Birnam, that is), and Scone Palace with its thick-iced fountain in the maze and slightly shabby winter peacocks.
I spent one day in Edinburgh, sketching at the Camera Obscura museum and Edinburgh castle, where I met a guide who had – as a very young man – interviewed an Australian (R M Williams) who caught a taxi from London to Scotland to obtain some poetry manuscripts.
That night, I took the train to London, where I stayed (due to a colourful review) at the Pavilion Fashion Rock’n’Roll Hotel, in the War and Peace room. As the reviews suggest, it is not a hotel to be chosen for luxury or comfort, but for price and relentless (and hilarious) charm it is not to be surpassed. I loved it. How can the creakiest, hardest bed I ever slept in counteract the wonder of this miniature panorama of utter thematic consistency? I’m not sure, but the bathroom bin might even have been a shell casing.
I spent most of my first morning drawing ducks and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
I sprinted through the V&A, due to it being sunny outside, and spent the afternoon dashing in and out of bookstores near Charing Cross Road before going to see the musical of Mathilda with a friend from Brisbane.
The next day I planned to see more of London but changed my mind and platforms at Paddington and went to Oxford instead. I loved Oxford. The museum and café patrons are all erudite and enthusiastic, like characters out of Sayers or Walsh (depending on their age).
The next day I started with three books worth of tourism in one blow – walking to Baker Street, travelling to the end of the Lewisham line and walking back to Greenwich, thereby netting the first line of The Magician’s Nephew: When Sherlock Holmes was living in Baker Street and the Bastables were digging for treasure in Lewisham Road….
I almost vanished forever in a junk shop, visited the fan museum, then went to the Royal Observatory where I drew people standing on the prime meridian and got teary-eyed over chronometers thanks Kendall’s poem “Five Visions of Captain Cook”.
Below is a glimpse of my room at the Pavilion, from my vantage point in the canopied bed (you can see one foot). The bed was not comfortable, but the decor more than compensated. I think the bathroom bin may have been a shell casing.
I went for coffee with Stella at Egmont Publishing, which was lovely and exciting – especially the tour of the publisher and their library! – then went to Portobello Road for the sake of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and bought a marching soldier, a lead tiger and a box of tiny riderless horses.
Then to the airport and so, by degrees, home again.