I'm a terrible blogger. Gawd awful. Have neglected you guys so much. I'm never going to catch up now, I know that. I take solace in the fact that my creepy little Eternal Sunshine-esque notebook is full of all my inner turmoil and peace and stuff so one day I- or someone else- will still have that as a means to remember my trip. For now I am just going to write a really short entry on each place because otherwise I will never get this finished.
Manchester, again, was delightful. I love the Northern Quarter and I adored the City Gallery. I did a lot of floating around aimlessly there, it was another example of me learning how to be on my own. Except for two of the three nights I was there, Hostess the Elder from my previous sojourn there took me out to dinner to these great places. I really like the restaurants in England, be they Indian or weird or Italian... maybe I'm just happy here, and with the people here, so I think I like them better when really I like me better. Self analysis comes free with any hot drink, folks.
I left Manchester for Lancaster where I picked up Signor Backpack (he lived at the Abominable Family's house while I went to Manchester) and said a long hello before being shuttled off to Caton that night. My hosts there were very lively, opinionated people and it was fun watching things like the Prime Ministerial Debate with them (P.S. I love the election stuff happening/ed here. Fascinating.) Hostess is this amazing self-made hero lady who brought up a son (now my age) and built a career while having absolutely no advantages or shortcuts. The son, by the way, is the nicest guy who let me sit and watch rubbish telly with him for hours which is, to be honest, part of the fun of being in Britain. Seriously, their media is hilarious. I am geniunely loving all of the soaps and ridiculous reality TV shows and the sorts of things that do and don't pass for news. Australian news is pretty much just another breed of this, I know, but I worship the differences.
Anyway, while I was in Caton (tiny village) I; got stung by a wasp, witnessed a scarecrow festival, was taken for a drink at an art deco hotel by the seaside (northern England in the Spring. Beach weather if I ever saw it), did a day trip to the Lake District (I don't think I can properly express how gorgeous that place is), walked around Wordsworth's home and gardens, saw the cutest little kittens and was fed quinoa (that last thing is just for us geeky vegos. Protein pride!). There's other stuff I'm failing to remember, I know, but you knew I was a bad person already.
From Caton I went to Oxford which, while picturesque in places, was disappointing. People on bikes and not much else to distinguish it. I suppose it has a sense of history to it which is nice because I hadn't really seen that anywhere at all in England yet. In all seriousness, though, totally made me wonder what Jenny in An Education was going on about. I'd rather go to University somewhere interesting, though I suppose the college culture might be slightly more engaging. I did meet a 28-year-old Aussie girl in the hostel who said meeting me was like meeting herself ten years ago. She could tell I wasn't really feeling it, at least not in Oxford, and advised me that she made all the same choices and mistakes that I did when she was my age. She told me to make decisions based on what I'm feeling, not on what people tell me or on what I think I should be doing or feeling. It was probably the single biggest influence on my decision, for now, to travel for the full time I had originally planned rather than changing my flight.
I was still thinking about it though, by the time I got back to Peterborough to see Deb. On the way I'd finally gotten that picture of Platform 9 and 3/4 in London that I forgot to get six weeks ago. It was great to see Deb and bum around a bit. On the only full day I was there I just wandered around Peterborough, which I hadn't done yet, and discovered the amazing Cathedral there. I also got a really different perception of the South; previously I had seen it as the place with the money (while North has the culture) but that certainly cannot be said of Peterborough. It seems like a complicated place. I did meet a lovely girl there though, surprisingly in Muffin Break (oh, what a magical place!) and we walked around together and chatted for hours. Unexpected but nice. I also met a lovely man who asked me if I was lost and whether I had a boyfriend and tried to walk with me for a while. That was, unfortunately, not so unexpected and not so nice.
I bid adieu to Deb the next morning, who once again had been very kind to me, and moved on to Norwich where someone else was waiting to be kind to me. I swear, this trip was made on the fact that people have been amazingly generous to me when they'd never even met or heard of me before. I'll never be able to show these people how much they've helped me and how much I've learnt from them about hospitality and goodness. The lady I stayed with Norwich had even written "Welcome Hannah!" on their blackboard, like I was an honoured guest and not a scruffy backpacker.
Norwich is a great little city. I mean that. It made a lot of sense when I found out Stephen Fry was from there because it is this quirky but old-fashioned place with a great sense of self-deprecation and warmth. Sound familiar? Among the awesome stuff that happened there; I went on a Dungeon tour, visited an amazing vegie cafe, had my hair cut by children in an interactive art installation thingamagig, saw an interesting Amanda Palmer-esque cabaret act, had a boat tour of the nearby Broads and cooked on an Aga (so much fun!). The city, the people and the home were all so comfy, like somewhere you could settle for a long time without wanting to leave or move. I met some honorary Aussies too, these two Neighbours-loving British twins who knew all this stuff about Melbourne and Australia and made me strangely homesick. Odd that.
So I left Norwich and came to Brighton. I love Brighton. I can't... I just... I love Brighton. I did what I always do my first night anywhere and got lost in the new place which meant that after a day of seeing the Pavilion, white cliffs, Marina, shopping scene, North Laines and Lanes with a friendly girl from Switzerland (who also adores Sugar Rush and looks at Brighton in that context), I could take her to a tumbly-down shack in the back of the Lanes that's actually a cosy North African restaurant that I discovered the day before.
Today's my last day in Brighton and I'll miss the sea but I'm excited to move onto Bath. Someone asked me the other day what the most exciting thing that happened so far is and I had a list. A list! It's a bit of a shock to me, since I see myself as so boring and had been categorising this trip as such. But writing it all down, I know it's a great achievement for me. After Bath, I go back to Manchester for a night and then it's onto Ireland. I can't wait to tell you all about it, I mean it. Since I've sort of figured out that there is something to tell, this is big and I am enjoying it.
Before I go, here is a list of things I love about England:
- tea. People here love tea more than I do and they do it better than Australia, by far.
- EastEnders, Hollyoaks... new addictions, people.
- the mix of old and new in everything. The winning scarecrow at this ancient festival I went to was X Factor-themed.
- it's a tiny country but everywhere I go is different. The Broads and the Lake District are like night and day and I love that.\
- there is always marmalade at breakfast even though nobody eats it.
- Brighton exists here.
It's not a perfect metaphor.