We'll save an update on the new round of Grant Job Drama for later as hopefully there will be some resolution over the next week or so, and narratively speaking it works better if you're on the edges of your seats for a little bit longer. In the meantime, picture us both in the Pixieflat, hunched over textbooks and arguing over whether it is too hot in or too cold. It is funny how quickly you develop an expectation of wearing nothing but summer clothes indoors when it is freezing out, especially when you don't have to pay extra for heating.
Last weekend, Sarah very kindly hosted us in Birmingham, pearl of the north Midlands. We caught the bus down on Friday evening, which in hindsight wasn't the world's greatest idea as we were in gridlock for more than an hour. However, the bus was quite pleasant as buses go, and Sarah picked us up at the station at the other end for dinner at an Indian - in Chinatown! On Saturday we went to Stratford Upon Avon, where the primary industry is Shakespeare and everything was either built five hundred years ago or yesterday. The place on the right is the entrance to the cottage where Shakespeare was born. Query why they felt that red brick was the way to go in a town otherwise comprised of Tudor everything.
Like Birmingham, Stratford Upon Avon has a healthily developed canal system, although there are some indications that it might not have been the fastest way to travel. By way of comparison, the trip to Birmingham by train takes about half an hour. Lunch was had in a pub built in 1600, which has a continuous liquor licence predating white settlement of Australia by a century or so. Freaky. Also there were the usual hungry swans slash Canada geese. In addition to its 800 year history and its famous son Will, Stratford Upon Avon is notable for catering for pixie folk and making it easier for them to open doors.
In the evening we had the pleasure of a tour of downtown Birmingham and its fabulous German Markets, which come from Frankfurt for a month until Christmas. The markets are awesome, but Saturday night was cold - like, Grant wearing a scarf cold or Loz buying a new improved lined earflap beanie cold (well, let's face it, I'm a sucker for a beanie), like keep the Gluhwein (mulled wine) coming cold. According to some accounts it hit 1 celsius.
The German markets also feature scary Santas, and sausages and pork steaks in scary quantities. I did not partake of same, but diligently applied myself to Gluhwein. I am calling it preparation for the various English mulled wine products that are happily becoming available over Christmas. We liked the markets so much we went back the next day, and learned that chestnuts are most delicious.
Sarah also showed us canals. Lots of them. Birmingham has more canals than Venice, reflecting its heritage as a forerunner of the industrial revolution and for a good long while Britain's largest industrial hub, from which one might like to ship things. Said heritage also reflected in the solid gold statuary and trillion dollar architecture from the city's Victorian heyday, where its captains of industry walked the earth as gods or at least really really rich people. There's a Cadbury factory here too. What more could you ask for?
Boring pictures of locks and other exciting material pertaining to canals are in the Birmingham photo folder for those of you who are mechanically minded. Final shot of Birmingham for those who miss Sarah, also proving that having warm ears makes me damn happy.
It was a wonderful trip - having a local guide really made it fun. The Gluhwwein helped too.
Onto this week - I have been having better luck getting up the quantities of Uni reading. Noone else seems to be bothering but I am a swot as we know. I am also sufficiently experienced in the subject fields to be a total teacher's pet on the basic stuff, and I am duly expecting my comeuppance as we get more technical/European. Also, as the only English first language speaker in more than one of my classes I appear to have been designated a translation service provider which is really great where it's not just a technical legal term but one not reflected in the questioning party's legal system, or better still a medical term, thank you patent law.
While I have no hope of catching Ro at this stage in the cycling kms challenge, I am still commuting to uni for the sheer joy of having a reliable expected arrival time AND saving 12 quid a week for the 3 days' travel. The tube tends to be an expensive disappointment when you are actually in a hurry to get anywhere! The bonus is that the Strand's gridlock has cleared for reasons I cannot divine, and the 50 minute trip with lots of scooting between cars is now more like a 35 minute trip. Still too slow for 10.5 km but better than before, and faster than the tube. The parks I ride through are gorgeous right now with the leaves changing, and it seems rather clear that we are in a different country. I still can't quite believe that I get to ride past two palaces on my way to and from class. City congestion notwithstanding, it really is a dream commute. And of course I get street cred from my fellow students, who are nice folks one and all.
Frustration of this week: Oxford Uni's moot contest on IP is CLOSED TO CURRENT OR PAST PRACTITIONERS! How is that fair? Just because we'd beat the inexperienced kiddies to a bloody pulp? Sigh. Second frustration of the LLM program: two of my courses keep covering the same topics, to the point where every class is an exercise in deja vu of the first order.
Hope all is well at your respective ends.