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Leaving tonight Oct. 3rd, 2013 @ 08:28 am
Things done: Most of packing.

Things to do: Buy stuff to wear to wedding thing in Vegas, because I still haven't, but I have a plan for this: order it from a site I already ordered clothes from to be delivered in America and Meg can bring it with her because WHERE THE HELL DID THE LAST TWO MONTHS GO.

(There was... a lot of stuff, actually. But still.)

Acquire - i.e. see if the boys have a spare, or else arrange to pick up - a jar of Vegemite for Amy, because apparently the Vegemite she can buy in America is not the same as Australian Vegemite, and she likes it. It seems weird to be taking someone a Special Australian Delicacy and have it not be Tim-Tams, but someone on a ketosis diet probably shouldn't be snacking on Tim-Tams anyway.

Download some more e-books, not required, but I will probably be happier and calmer. Historically I have trouble sleeping on outward bound flights, though. Need enough stuff to read to pass the time.

Pack my cabin bag, and some accoutrements - chargers for camera equipment, pencils, sketchbook(s), that kind of thing.

Photocopy my ID and travel documents. Photocopy [personal profile] velithya's. Make packets of our own and each other's for us to have in our own baggage, and also a set to leave with [personal profile] rathany or someone. (Not that I travel slightly paranoid, or anything.)

Current Mood: how is it October already

afk bbl Jun. 1st, 2013 @ 11:06 am
Going down south for the long weekend. (Visiting [personal profile] myfyr's parents at the farm.) Housemate.Dave gets the house to himself for a few days - must remember to tell him no wild parties.

We plan to visit Albany. I've somehow never been there before.

Am unlikely to receive e-mail or comments, etc, until latish Monday.

"Hopefully it doesn't explode while we're there." Feb. 26th, 2013 @ 09:47 pm
So, [personal profile] velithya and I are now definitely planning to visit the US in October. We'll be attending a con in Las Vegas (I can't believe I'm going to Las Vegas, what is happening to meeeeee, I thought I had standards), but we're arriving in the US a few days before it starts.

Currently, the plan is to spend a few days at Yosemite National Park before we head on to Las Vegas. Hopefully our brains won't explode at the transition from nature! to neon.

Sami's UK Travel Tips Nov. 5th, 2009 @ 09:52 am
1) If driving, get a GPS.

Unless you're going for a very short stay, buy it; hiring them appears to cost ten pounds a day, and if you buy it, you can get used to it and put in principal destinations in advance.

Some Brits will make snarky comments about how they just use maps, but they're used to this country and its sodding awful road design. The reasons you want a GPS if you're not from here are as follows:

i) The road signs here are bloody awful. With a GPS you will STILL sometimes go astray, because you'll find that you have five metres warning that the lane you're in approaching a roundabout is right-turn-only, or left-turn-only, or go-straight-only - and there are an absolutely stupid number of roundabouts, and their design has zero consistency. The Magic Roundabout in Swindon is no longer even in my top ten Most Horrible British Roundabouts.

i,a) Don't even try to work out what they were thinking. Only a sadist or someone who had never, in fact, driven a car would think that combining a roundabout with traffic lights, or having two roundabouts in immediate succession, with traffic lights between them, could possibly be anything other than a terrible idea. Welcome to Britain.

2) You don't know what time it is. Wear a watch.

When I arrived at the farmhouse in which I'm staying for the next several nights, it was dusk. Naturally, this makes it late evening... except it was a quarter to five. That's late afternoon. Your subconscious calculations of light levels and ambient conditions to tell you what time it is are wrong.

3) The papers are as bad as their stereotypes say they are.

An example is clear in today's headlines.

The Times: "A bloody betrayal"

I only wish I were kidding.

The Daily Mail's entire front page is dedicated to two headlines. A smaller panel: "Why yesterday was a sorry day for Britain, democracy and the Tories". The bigger panel has a photo and: "THis is the bloodied flak jacket of one of the five British soldiers murdered in Helmand. Their killer? An Afghan policeman they trained and trusted. What kind of war IS this?"

I couldn't bring myself to buy the Daily Star or the Sun, and I can't remember the Sun's headline, but it was pretty histrionic. The Afghanistan deaths were the front page of all but one paper - that one was about MPs.

4) Irn Bru tastes better in Scotland.

I don't know why. It just does.

5) Some of the best places you will see are the ones no-one told you about.

Today, on my way south from Edinburgh, I stopped in Coldstream. The museum was closed, but I needed to pee so I stopped by the Town Hall/Library, then, on the purest of whims, I wandered down to Walk the Walk, a government/military surplus and memorabilia shop.

Which, it turns out, is also the building where some of the Coldstream Guards officers were billeted during World War 2, and down a narrow flight of stairs, there's a miniature WW2 museum that surprises you as you come around the corner. At which point the sound system starts rotating through WW2-era songs and radio broadcasts, like Churchill's speeches.

I bought three things there. One of them was not, originally, for sale, but he invited me to make an offer on it, and accepted my offer. The reason? We'd been chatting about my grandmother, and it turns out he had a framed set of maps and army print releases from the time and place where she was stationed.

Had. Now I have them.

Current Location: North Yorkshire

y helo thar Oct. 19th, 2009 @ 02:43 pm
Still alive! Have left Aberdeenshire, am on my way to explore the highlands. Currently in the carpark of the Elgin town library - I stopped here because they have a tourist information office, so I could get all the booklets for Scotland, and am sitting in my car hunched sideways to use my laptop (resting on my gear lever and my backpack, in the passenger seat) to use the internet from MY OWN COMPUTER for the first time since last THURSDAY omg.

Mostly just collecting 55 e-mails and then I'll shut down and move on - except maybe not far. I was aiming to visit Culloden then spend the night in Inverness, but on my way out of the library, an older gent saw me taking photos of the (very cool) library building, and eagerly informed me that the camera club meets right here at 7:30 tonight. Come to visit! Have tea!

So I'm also deciding if I might. It could be interesting - you know, a chance to hang out with locals and meet people, or something. So I'm going to poke at the tourist guide for Moray and see if there's stuff nearer than Culloden to occupy my afternoon, then visit that.

A few days at my Ancestral Home has been powerfully good for my soul, but I appear to be losing the word "yes" from my vocabulary - my ex-South-African family had me back to saying "Ja:" instead (it's a longer vowel than the German word), and now I've picked up "aye".

According to my great-aunt Hilda, the more she gets to know me, the more like my grandmother I seem to her. This is, I assure you, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

Current Mood: cheerful
Current Location: Elgin, Moray, Scotland

There you go then... Oct. 12th, 2009 @ 02:44 pm
So, this morning I had a tasty breakfast at the B&B, then came over to Mary's retirement place. After we chatted a bit, Mary and I went to Sainsbury's, where we dropped off her recycling, then I did some quick grocery shopping while she waited in the cafe, then we had lunch, and came back.

I've shifted my stuff into the guest suite, and am finding I really just want to crash for the afternoon. I think it's the weekend of solid driving, following a very busy week since I arrived - I've been out and about and all over the place every day, really, so I'm due for a restful afternoon.

So tomorrow I shall go into Edinburgh more, I think - this afternoon I shall chill here, maybe do some laundry. I'm here until Thursday morning, then I'm going up to Aberdeenshire and my great-uncle and great-aunt and their family.

After that I'm off again, if I stick to my schedule, which I'm leaning back towards doing (I was struggling for a bit and considering not). Ferry from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Amsterdam, then another from Copenhagen to Oslo - but we'll see if I go through with the 2000km-each-way drive to the far north of Norway, or if I just go some of the way north and then turn south again.

I can easily enough go back across the Channel to make my dates in Normandy if I come back to Blighty early, after all; my cousins assure me that going to France is positively trivial. From southern England, France is easier than the North.

I am tired. I think this is not that odd.

!!! Oct. 9th, 2009 @ 08:35 am
You know, I really hate shopping. I've realised how much I've been procrastinating on it - today I plan for that to end.

Accordingly my itinerary for today is planned: First, some shopping in Swindon, then, to Cricket St Thomas, in Somerset, where To The Manor Born was filmed; after that, to the Castle Hotel in Taunton, to have lunch. In Taunton, the town much mentioned in To The Manor Born.


After that, um. At some point this afternoon or evening, doing some laundry before I head towards Scotland tomorrow; also, packing up all my stuff currently rather scattered in my cousin's bedroom and shifting it to my car, because I'm heading off for a month to go to ScotlandHollandGermanyDenmarkNorwaySwedenDenmarkBelgiumFranceGermany before I come back.

still not dead Oct. 5th, 2009 @ 10:29 am
I am in England!

Flight was long and a bit aggravating - my proto-post on the topic is on my other laptop, though.

First impressions of Britain are like this:

1) They don't believe in street lights here. It was freaky to get adjusted to but I kind of deeply approve now.

2) Wiltshire is everything I imagined England would be, but didn't think it actually would be. Hedges and beautiful old buildings and and.

My aunt and uncle and one of my cousins are here and are all wonderful.

Current Location: Ramsbury, Wiltshire, UK
Current Mood: tired

If I could only reach you, if I could make you smile... Oct. 4th, 2009 @ 11:44 am
So, yesterday I put that I was leaving in 24 hours when I meant 36. Wups.

But now it's about 10 hours until we head for the airport.

Travel tip: A useful way to reduce packing stress!

All you need to do is avoid clothes shopping for years, because you hate doing it, and then have all but one pair of trousers you own tear badly in the space of weeks.

I'm not packing that much in the way of clothes. Plenty of clean underwear, a few shirts, and done; I'm going clothes-shopping in Britain, where in any case shopping is allegedly much better than in Perth anyway.

So. Tonight I leave, and take flight for Kuala Lumpur. In Kuala Lumpur I have a short layover, then I board a second, longer flight for London. I land at Heathrow, find the shuttle bus to the car rental office, pick up my car, and drive to Wiltshire and my uncle's house... where, I strongly suspect, I beg to use their bathroom first and foremost, because pretty much nothing beats a shower after a long journey.

My memory can be terrible without aides memoire, so my plans include using my video camera to record spoken notes on my travels, for later use and recollection.

My mother joked last night that I was going to be having one of those holidays where you don't know if you had a good time or not until you get home and look at the pictures - I had to remind her that taking pictures is part of the fun.

Here's the thing... Oct. 3rd, 2009 @ 12:43 pm
I've been behind on LiveJournal for months. Months. I keep wanting to go back to it, and it keeps not being safe. (For recent example, when I'm changing medications and topics like Roman Polanski are all popular, it is Not Safe.) Plus, I'm scared of my backlog, and freaked when I find people have deleted their journals and I don't know why.

Anyway, the point is: my intentions to make some pretense of catching up are kind of dead now, because in 24 hours my flight is due to take off, and after that I won't have reliable internet access or much time to kill until Christmas.

If something important is taking place in your life at any time in the next three months, please, please tell me. I care. Seriously, even if it's something unimportant, if random trivial crap is happening you vaguely feel like talking about but it's not worth its own post, feel free to drop me a comment - I like that kind of thing.

Replies aren't going to be so reliable, though, because: travelling.

Official travel blog is here. Pictures will be going up here. I will also still be journal posting, when I can.

Today I am packing, seeing people, and generally preparing. I've made neatly-bound sets of photocopies of my travel documents, and repacked my travel documents in the nifty document wallet I bought yesterday - finally realised that Wellington Surplus was totally the place to go, because Wellington Surplus has everything. I have my travel stuffs, both normal and a little unusual (like the waterproof stuff sack I bought, for the specific purpose of putting my camera in it when I come in from very cold environments to warm environments, to keep my poor camera from being too beset with condensation).

I bought a torch, because I realised I didn't have one, so now I have a three-cell AA Maglite.

Really, I've spent an awful lot of money lately, but some of it only sort of counts - like, spending $200 on meds doesn't hurt so much when you factor in that it's meds for the next few months. It's not even travel expenses, it's just expenses.

Everything is going to be fine.

Lines of contact, far-reaching Oct. 2nd, 2009 @ 02:34 am
So, Dean has departed for two weeks overseas - which would be one thing, but in three days I depart for eleven weeks overseas, so it will be quite some time until I see her again.

I am not thinking about it.

Instead, I've been thinking about something else:

Some years ago, my grandmother and her surviving brother and sister made contact with an older French woman from Luneray, in Normandy, who had seen their fighter-pilot brother shot down over Luneray in the Allied raid on Dieppe in 1942.

The French woman, Mme. L., had after the war sought our family in particular because she'd learned, from his tombstone, that the pilot bore the same surname as her own great-grandfather, who had himself been a Scotsman.

Later research reveals a strong probability that the Frenchwoman is in fact a distant cousin of our family - though where the records are sketchy, the fact that her son and my great-uncle bear a strong resemblance to one another is taken as evidence. (What can be shown: A man with the same name as Mme L. had been told her grandfather carried was born in the year she had been told he was born, in Scotland; more than that, that man was of the family line that produced ours.)

I am going to be spending around four days in that part of Normandy, by current plans - which is to say, that is how much of a visit I have already reserved accommodation for. I am in correspondence with a very charming gentleman whose English is only mildly quirky, but at this point we are merely discussing the details.

What I'm wondering is: should I seek out Mme L.'s descendants?

A search of the French phone directory reveals five persons of that name in Luneray. Some or all are likely related to her; she was old enough to be married in World War 2, and her name does not come up, so I suspect she may have passed on.

However, it's an awfully appealing thought to spend an afternoon in a small town in Normandy finding long-lost distant cousins.

Of course, the only listing I can find for a Jacques L., which I know to be the name of her son, is near the Spanish border, and I hadn't actually planned to go that far south - but there are a few with that name in Seine-Maritime, and I can ask my cousin Mary if she knows anything more.

Still. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the vast, meandering blankness of my holiday plans has become crowded with things to do, but there are patches not yet fully occupied - of the four days I currently have planned to spend in Normandy I have plans for only one, so there is time to see what I want to do.

Current Mood: tired

In which war history and family feeling collide Sep. 29th, 2009 @ 11:09 pm
So, I now have a relatively firm date by which I will have left Scandinavia, in that I'm attempting to reserve accommodation in France from the 10th of November.

Because I realised I could be in Europe on Armistice Day, which meant I should be.

So my current intentions are to be in Upper Normandy, and on the 11th of November, and attend the Armistice Day services in Luneray. (Assuming they have them, which they probably do.) My great-uncle James, an RAF fighter pilot, was shot down over Luneray and killed, along with the German pilot he was fighting.

He was 24 years old.

I intend also to visit his grave, in the churchyard of a tiny village near Luneray. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, his grave is near the west door of the church.

Either on the way to Normandy (ideally) or afterwards, depending on how I'm doing for time, I'd also like to stop at Ypres and see the Menin Gate Remembrance Service (which takes place every day).

I'll probably be looking then to visit Germany for Volkstrauertag, and perhaps visit some battlefields, but I'm wary of visiting the places that hurt too deeply, because I'm not sure I'd be able to take it.

A few days in Western Europe, anyway, and I'll be aiming after that to get back to Britain somewhere around the 20th of November, I think - a few days before I have a ticket booked to see John Barrowman in La Cage aux Folles at the Playhouse Theatre in London.

Let's see: Evening show. Saturday night. Playhouse Theatre, London.

... I have to buy an outfit for that. I wear practical clothes as a rule anyway, and certainly will be *packing* practical clothes for nearly three months of travel - functional, hardwearing clothes.

I don't think I even *own* clothes appropriate for a Saturday evening at the Playhouse Theatre in London's West End.

But I'm pretty sure I can buy some there. (I have three weekdays left before I leave the country; I'm not spending them trying to find such an outfit here.)

After that, my plans have yet to firm up, but there's a LOT of stuff I have on my list of things to do while I'm there, so I doubt I'll get bored or run out.

Well, huh. Sep. 27th, 2009 @ 03:45 pm
So, I went to the gym today. I, a fat fat fattie female, went to the gym. Alone.

And it was an awesome, positive, incredibly rewarding experience.

Everyone I spoke to was really nice, including the personal trainer who came along to do an induction round with me - she listened when I explained my injury and mobility issues, and worked out what I could do that would help to build up the muscles I need to work on. She was really encouraging getting me through sets with a given exercise, and extremely encouraging when she had me on the cross-trainer, encouraging me to keep going - but only up to a point.

The cross-trainer turns out to be perfect for me, because it's a good cardiovascular exercise that doesn't actually strain my semi-functional leg joints too much. The trainer was very encouraging as I was on it, saying that a lot of people struggle with the co-ordination of it and to keep going more than thirty seconds, but I was doing really really well...

... but she stopped me at five minutes, because overdoing it is also very bad.

She also complimented me on clearly knowing what I was doing with some of the machines - she was busy with some other women when I arrived, and she saw me doing some things, and said I was doing them perfectly.

Mind you, this includes leg presses, where I was in the position that if I did them carefully and right they'd be really helpful, and if I did them at all wrong they would wreck my knee hideously. My bad knee can not take inappropriate strain right now.

The effects of long-term injury can be very apparent at the gym, like when your left arm breezes through sitting row pulls with 20kg weights and your right arm can just barely manage to do the exact same thing with 2.5kg.

But I feel really, really good. The satisfying feeling of having used my muscles, got my blood pumping, breathed hard enough to really open up my lungs - it's great.

The thing to remember, next time, is to have a snack slightly earlier than I did, because I got to the end of my workout and was starting to feel like hell, and it was getting rapidly worse, and I suddenly realised oh bollocks low blood sugar and had to stagger to the locker room, find the snack in my bag, and eat it past the feeling of acute nausea. (Then I was fine.)

My body shall work again!

... ahahaha, this is hilarious: I'd taken a pair of Skechers runners I have to work out in, but found them uncomfortable and switched back to the shoes I think of as my walking boots.

Apparently, these are technically supposed to be cross trainers.

I GUESS THEY'RE FINE FOR THE GYM THEN, especially since, at the moment, my regular-footwear boots are my waterproof hiking boots I got for the UK. I was planning to take them on my trip, they can be my shoes if I stop at gyms in Britain.

Conclusion re: dog sledding: I can handle it just fine, I think, as it turns out.


I consider it a challenge before all the human race and I ain't gonna lose... Sep. 22nd, 2009 @ 02:30 am
I saw my psychiatrist this morning. Conclusions:

1) One of the potential adverse reactions to fluoxetine (fka Prozac) can be acute sodium shortage. I am currently under instructions to drink plenty of water *and* have salt.

2) Vertigo is still a significant problem. Am gradually escaping KILL ALL HUMANS mood levels, though; apologies to anyone I may have recently offended.

3) That said, if you interact with me in the near future, please note that I am effectively unmedicated for depression, and I am very, very fragile and a bit unpredictable.

The last few days have been sheer hell. Most of it, though, is not stuff I'd tell anyone who isn't... well, Chas, Dean, or maybe my psychologist.

So, travel plans are gradually sorting. Things To Do Before I Leave list is now down to:

1) return insurance form to travel agent

2) get international driver's licence

3) go to bank, make sure credit card will be functional overseas

4) get some British currency to take with me

5) Paperwork stuff: Make sure I have photocopies of my booking information, passport and other ID documents, etc. I plan to have several for the most important things, just for peace of mind if nothing else: a copy to keep in my suitcase, a set of everything to leave at my uncle's house in Wiltshire in case of real emergency, that sort of thing.

I think that's it.

It's tremendously reassuring, when planning one's first solo international adventure when one is still in the stages of recovery from serious mental illness, to have the anticipation of family and a home base available. If I'm in distress, if I am just exhausted with travel and need a home away from home to fall back on, I have people I trust to give vital support.

And even if I somehow lose all my baggage and all my ID and everything, I can say: "Look, this is my uncle's name and address in Wiltshire. He has a copy of my passport, proof of ID, everything."

A get-together with my uncle and his family is planned a few days after I arrive (planned so that my cousins can arrange to be home for it); then I visit a cousin of a different generation in Edinburgh, after which I scoot down to Newcastle to get a ferry to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam I toodle my way to Copenhagen, where I get another ferry to Oslo.

On the way back, when I'm more familiar with it, I'll check out the other ways of crossing back south - perhaps taking the crossing from Sweden to Denmark, just because I kind of like the idea of a road that's a bridge which then makes use of an artificial island to plunge underground and become a tunnel and I want to see it. Returning to Britain I think I want to get the ferry at Calais, if only for the chance to approach Dover by sea.

The ferries I'm taking on my way to Scandinavia are, in their way, mildly expensive, because they're cruise ferries, but a) I like the idea of seeing the sights a bit on the way there and b) it's really much less stressful to have this sorted out.

Also, cruises! But only overnight so I won't get bored. There's lots of activities on board the ships I'll be taking, you understand, but a lot of it isn't going to appeal to me. Cinemas I can see on land, nightclubs and discos aren't my thing...

... and the wine-tasting and whiskey-tasting events, while a nifty concept, aren't really the ideal entertainment for a teetotaller. (Also, if I was going to be doing whiskey tasting, I'd do it in Scotland.) And even when I did used to drink alcohol, before I discovered how very, very much I shouldn't ever do that, I didn't like wine.

I love fruit juice. I am less fond of fruit juice that's been left to rot.

There's also casinos, but I disapprove of gambling in general, overall, and have no desire to do it myself.

On the other hand, they have food that will be delicious, if I can find some that's gluten-free, and more importantly, they have ocean and things to look at and stuff. My cabins, both trips, have sea views (the price differential if you're going alone is minimal). And I haven't sailed on a cruise ship before.

Miscellaneous Sep. 18th, 2009 @ 09:51 am
I just watched How Not To Write About Africa. A couple of things leapt out at me:

1) "Make sure you show that Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls." My thought process: I wouldn't say that about Africans, specifically, but I do kind of believe it about all humanity. Especially rhythm. Rhythm is one of the deepest things in the brain - by which I mean it's something that it's almost impossible to lose, through brain injury and the like. It's also one of the things that makes us stand out. Most animals have no sense of rhythm.

And rhythm is part of the general human tendency to perceive patterns - which, to me, is what's behind an awful lot of what takes us to the place of being human - to crib from Terry Pratchett (in Soul Music), to being the point where the falling angel meets the rising ape. Science, art, literature - our most rigorous critical analysis and our wildest and greatest creativity (and sometimes those are the same thing) all, ultimately, start with the rhythm and music that are deep in our souls.

Obviously, though, the comment people make about Africans is patronising, racist crap.

2) "You also need a nightclub called Tropicana..." I've been to a place in Africa called Tropicana. It was a restaurant. A nice one.

3) I am realising that I have a curious confluence of capacity for travel. I can enter the United Kingdom on United Kingdom ancestry, if I go to the trouble of application; I have not one but two grandparents born there. Australia is reasonably well-liked in Europe; I don't have to get special visas to go anywhere I'm planning to visit.

In that video, Binyavanga Wainaina talks about a stereotype of Westerners on their way to trying to Save Africa being denied visas - but if I wanted to go to any part of Africa, I suspect I could do it easily, because I could just get a South African passport. I was born in South Africa and left it as a young child; as of a couple of years ago, this meant that I retain the right to citizenship under South African law.

I don't have a South African passport, because I have yet to plan travel anywhere where I won't be far more welcome on an Australian one, but I could get one.

4) I have long known that I am somewhat chemically sensitive. Today this came to a head when I discovered that my recent mild vertigo isn't as much a byproduct of poor sleep in the course of switching antidepressants as an adverse reaction to fluoxetine.

According to my psychiatrist this is incredibly rare.

This morning, though, I woke up feeling pretty much fine. I had breakfast. I had my medication. A little while later, I headed out towards my appointment at the Perth office of Passports Australia (a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), and found myself feeling fairly profound vertigo and mild nausea.

I tried to call my psychiatrist's office, but there was no answer, so I called Dean, because, apart from being, you know, my best friend and all, she works in a hospital, and has access to doctors, and even if she didn't, she has about as much medical knowledge as it's possible to get without actually having a degree in Medicine.

I got her voicemail, left a message, and by the time she called me back, mere minutes later, I could barely tell up from down and was in a cold sweat. She assured me that this was an adverse reaction to medication, her office deals with them all the time, and promised to chase up my psych's office for me.

It was established before long that my psychiatrist was to be having lunch between 1 and 2 this afternoon and I could speak to him directly then.

I staggered in to the Passports office, only to discover that in my state of wrecked physical wellbeing I was a few minutes late and had missed my appointment. I was advised to go to the counter and see what they could do.

However, I was feeling so intensely miserable that this was the last straw, and I started crying uncontrollably in the line.

So the woman at the main counter excused herself from the people she was dealing with then, and came out and around to see if I was okay. Through my sobs and apologies I explained that I was having a bad reaction to medication, and I was feeling very sick, and I'd missed my appointment.

They took me into a meeting room where I could sit down (I think I was swaying a little), where I was supplied with cold water and tissues, and someone came and did do my passport application for me.

By then more contact had been made, and Chas was on his way to meet me at the passport office, because I was very very sick. This was fortunate for everyone when I collapsed in the office - not quite unconscious, but unable to stand unassisted, barely able to sit.

A woman who'd just been going up to the counter herself interrupted her own dealings to come and make sure I was okay. She was very nice - and will return to this tale.

Chas arrived to find me lying on the floor of the office of Passports Australia - where the staff had fetched pillows for my head and someone with a managerial air about him to try and look after me and make sure I was okay.

I was turned over to Chas's custody, and, leaning heavily on him and my walking stick, made it to the lifts. There we encountered the woman who'd been concerned before. She asked if we were driving back, and, learning Chas and I were planning to bus home, offered us a lift, as she was going back to Campbell Barracks anyway. (Which is a fair way off, and it's not a huge detour.)

I remain desperately grateful to her, because I was still sick as a dog. We talked a bit on the way - she's military, in logistics and deployment - she spends a lot of time dealing with the passports office on behalf of our soldiers. (She's heading back to the Middle East herself soonish, where, she says, the boys are doing a lot of good that's just not reported in the media - I can believe it.)

She deposited us in our driveway, where Chas helped me to the couch, where I've remained since, drinking diluted juice and playing Yes Minister DVDs to pass the time. I'm feeling much better, comparitively, though still pretty terrible. Chas has been very good to me - fetched me my arrangement of bottles of drinks, made me lunch, even helped me to get to the loo and back.

It's a terrible thing to lose the ability to get from one room to another without someone else's assistance, it really is.

I've cancelled my appointment for a haircut this afternoon, declined an invitation for this evening, and am now planning to spend the rest of the day keeping my fluids up, keeping warm, and avoiding collapsing. It does mean I have to let people take care of me more-or-less completely today, which sucks. Chas and Dean are going out tonight, but our friend Oliver is coming over in the evening and can keep an eye on me then.

Current Mood: sick

More on my Northern Adventures Sep. 15th, 2009 @ 01:59 pm
So, I've just been looking up plus-size clothes shopping in the UK. It looks like it's not actually that hard, and so certain things I'm going to leave until I get there - like getting a coat for wearing to Norway.

Because, you see, it's just not that easy to get clothes designed for coping with being outdoors, at night, in northern Norway, because it just doesn't get that cold here. Also, we're into spring.

So, I'm going to get serious winter clothes in Britain, because it's just going to be too hard to manage here - but I should have winter clothes sufficient for a British autumn, especially towards Wiltshire, where I'll be starting out.

Things to consider about packing my clothes:

- T-shirts are layers, not outerwear. The odds that, at any time on this journey, I will be in what I, as a warm climate native, will consider to be "short sleeves" weather are rather slim.

- Seriously, remember to plan for layering.

Critical Preparations for my trip are approaching completion - I'll be getting my passport sorted today, and my plans for the first few weeks I'm overseas are firming up: after I land at Heathrow, I'll be staying a few days with my uncle in Wiltshire, then heading up around the weekend towards Edinburgh. I may spread the trip over a couple of days to do some sightseeing on the way, since it's a six-and-a-half-hour drive - which is doable but not exactly fun, plus I want leisure to stop and photograph the flowers, I'll be on holiday.

I stay with my cousin in Edinburgh for a few days - spending time with her when she's up to it, sightseeing when she's resting (she's 95, and her stamina is limited), then the plan is for me to head onwards to the family seat in rural Aberdeenshire. This is around a three and a half hour drive, which I vaguely plan to do over the course of a day - meandering a bit and taking time to admire the scenery, and such.

After a few days there, it's time to head south, to cross the Channel to Newcastle and then take a ferry to Amsterdam. (Apparently the ferry to Stavanger is no longer running - I suspect it's too late in the year.)

This saves me the trip from Newcastle-latitude to Dover, then from Calais to the Netherlands. From Nederland I drive up through Germany to Denmark, and take the ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo. Things may be quite serendipitous - looking up things like ferry timetables, I can conveniently go from Newcastle on the 22nd, arriving in Amsterdam on the morning of the 23rd; have a full day to go from Amsterdam to somewhere in the vicinity of Hamburg, then get to the Copenhagen ferry port in time to for the Oslo ferry that leaves on the evening of the 24th; that gets me to Oslo on the 25th, and from there I go north towards Karasjok.

I want to see Karasjok not least because it's the capital of the Sami people. The indigenous population of Norway, but also: THE SAMI PEOPLE. I am compelled to seek souvenirs of the Sami People.

It's also a good stopping-point from which to travel to the North Cape.

It took me some time of looking wistfully at stuff around Finnmark before I realised that no, actually, this is a holiday, and my lack of Norwegian kin or affinity for Scandinavian history doesn't mean I can't go to Scandinavia just because I've always wanted to. Because I have - I want to see the fjords, I want to see the mountains and I want to go to the Arctic.

So I'm going to. I'm going to Norway, and I might well take a snow machine tour to the three-border point, or along the Russian border. (I don't have a visa to visit Russia, but hey, I can go where I can see it.)

Things to get in advance:

- How to ask for gluten-free food in Norwegian.

- Seriously warm clothing.

After that, I'll go southwards again, and perhaps visit some places in western Europe, before heading back to Britain and my plans to explore that green and pleasant land.

In which Sami achieves things Sep. 14th, 2009 @ 05:14 pm
So, this afternoon, I have achieved things!

I renewed my driver's licence, including changing the name on it, I'm currently at the Asus service centre resolving some issues regarding my computers (getting the power supply replaced under warranty because the rubber is disintegrating and I was going to buy a replacement until I realised, no, that's totally a warranty issue and they can give me a new one), and my bricked iPod is off for warranty replacement as well (with some assistance from Chas, there).

I also, on the way to the repair centre, stopped at the Army/Navy Disposal Store a few doors down and bought waterproof hiking boots - Hi-Tec Altitudes, which are also, I note, highly praised online, although apparently cheaper in America than they are here. (Though still a good price for solid waterproof boots.) I wanted some boots that would be warm and resilient under the influence of rain, wet ground, and mud, since... I'm going to Britain, yo. And there's a distinct possibility of encountering snow inherent in various of my plans, which also means I want waterproof boots.

I also got a couple of skivvies, because layering is where it's at for keeping warm. I know from experience that I can be comfortable in sub-zero temperatures (celsius) with a skivvy-shirt-jacket setup - after I've had a day or so to adjust to the cold. Since I plan to be spending not-insignificant amounts of time in the Scottish Highlands, preparing for cold conditions is kind of important. (Not to mention the part where my plans include crossing the Arctic Circle.)

I'm not one of those people who thinks the Highlands are the main part of Scotland - they're really not, of course, not at all. However, the Highlands are where my own ancestors come from, and my ancestral home, which is an important destination in my plans, is up there. Research and family lore alike confirm that it's cold around there. (My ancestral home is a farm in the Grampians that my family has definitely been on for almost all of the last thousand years, and has quite possibly been on for as long as human habitation has been there - the limit of definite is where the records fade out.)

Left to do is try and get passport photos taken tonight - which I can do at home, so that's definitely doable, and get them signed off by a guarantor so I can renew my passport tomorrow.

Which, you see, will leave the following items on my to-do list before I leave:

- Hand in some forms at uni
- Call Malaysian Airlines and confirm flights
- Also, with airline, make requests for gluten-free food, query snack situation for hypoglycaemia reasons
- Call Malaysian consulate about taking dexamphetamines through Kuala Lumpur airport without getting arrested
- Call British consulate about bringing dexamphetamines into Heathrow without getting arrested
- Continue looking up potential destinations and so on
- Get in touch with relatives and make firmer plans for visiting
- Go clothes shopping, mostly for trousers
- Get int'l driver's licence

All of which are less time-critical than the passport and such. (International driver's licences are fairly quick to sort out, from memory - I've had one before.)

It's like this trip is actually going to happen...

Productive Sami is Productive Sep. 14th, 2009 @ 11:51 am
Am behind on everythng - by months, when it comes to reading LiveJournal - and still not really able to catch up.

I'm in the process of switching antidepressants, and between Tuesday and Sunday I got a total of twelve hours' sleep - and even those twelve hours were riddled with nightmares and restlessness. Unsurprisingly, then, not crashing and burning on an emotional level has been a challenge.

Still, in amidst all this, I have been making plans and preparations for my departure for Britain, which is in THREE WEEKS. Certain new things have cropped up - for example, my iPod spontaneously bricked itself for no apparent reason last week, so I've got to get that sorted out (fortunately, it's under warranty - as is the power supply for my laptop, which is suddenly disintegrating, and while I'm at the laptop service centre I can bitch at them for the fact that my laptop's performance post-repair is significantly worse than it was pre-breakdown).

I bought a TomTom (IQ Routes) and maps for the United Kingdom and Western and Central Europe - hilariously, the thing doesn't quite have enough space to store the European maps AND the Australian maps - it's about 20MB short. The Australian maps are 100MB, the European ones are about 1.9GB.

Fortunately, I'm not likely to need both in quick succession. It has Europe loaded, because I've been using it to plot things for my trip - entering places I want to go and people I want to visit, and so on. I'll switch it to Australia when I return - and am done writing about my trip, since it records past destinations, etc, and will be a handy aide memoire.

I'm me, I write about things, I will write a lot about this trip. If I get around to it, I'll probably eventually write a full chronicle about it and put it on my website. (I'm also going to be aiming to post blog updates about it there, as a blog I can totally share with family and so on.)

Today's list:

- Call re: iPod
- Call Malaysian Consulate, find out if there's anyting I need to do to take prescription dexamphetamines through Kuala Lumpur airport without getting arrested
- Ditto British Consulate, s/Kuala Lumpur/Heathrow
- Call hairdresser's, book appointment for first haircut in about four years (my hair needs to be more managable than it is when I'm on holiday and don't have anyone around I can ask to brush and braid it for me)

I'm not too worried about Perth Airport, because Perth Airport a) will recognise Australian prescription bottles and so on and b) will be in the same country as my prescribing doctor.

- Get passport photos taken
- Go to Asus service centre
- Go to Licensing Centre and renew driver's licence (so that in near future I can then get an international driver's licence, for driving through Britain and parts of Western Europe and Scandinavia)

... and then come home, and chill with my guitar.

Fun times with brain chemistry Sep. 11th, 2009 @ 04:59 am
So, I'm currently in the process of washing out (most of) my current antidepressants, in order to switch to a different one - under the instructions and guidance of my psychiatrist, mind you. This is, of course, the express ticket to Fucked In The Head you might imagine, and the sad thing is I didn't realise that was what was screwing with my brain yesterday until Dean was like, "Dude, I totally saw this coming, relax."

The next week or two should be Interesting Times.

... huh. Dreamwidth just gave me a "Restored Draft" of the post I was working on about twelve hours ago on a different computer and never finished.

Anyway, it's now 5am, and despite only getting about three hours' sleep last night, I can't sleep, at all. Hooray, fucked-up brain chemistry!

The best part is my supposedly-joyful trip out earlier this evening to go see Up! with [personal profile] elaran earlier this evening.

Without wanting to give spoilers, a few minutes into the movie I started crying uncontrollably, and thereafter everything that happened just seemed drenched in pathos and woe. It got so I couldn't stand it, and - for the first time in my life - I left the film early. (Early enough, mind you, to get a ticket refund, which was nice.)

Someone laughed at me, and I was deeply hurt by that - but at the same time, hey, I'm sitting there sobbing real tears at a Pixar movie.

On the bright side: planning for my trip to Britain continues apace. Travel arrangements are getting booked by travel agent. To my astonishment, I shall apparently be driving a Mercedes B 180 SE (something like that) or similar, for 78 days, for AU$1200.

My mind, it is somewhat boggled.

Some exploration of accommodation options in various areas suggests that B&Bs are really not that expensive, which is good.

Since I'm going to be over there longer than I was originally vaguely theorising - shall, by current travel arrangements, be arriving at Heathrow on the 6th of October and departing on the 22nd of December - I'm looking at going into Western Europe, too. Check out some major historical sites, maybe go to Legoland in Denmark... then, maybe, catch the Oslo ferry, and scoot up a ways through Scandinavia and, as well as taking some potentially gorgeous photographs, see if I can catch the Northern Lights.

I would love to see the Northern Lights, and in October, it's nominally pretty feasible.

Still working on a rough itinerary plan. Currently, my rough idea is: from London, go to Uncle Ian's to recover from the flight, depending on whether that's going to be feasible for him and his family, then head north. Edinburgh and Mary, then Aberdeenshire and Great-Uncle Ian and his family, ferry from Aberdeen to Orkney, ferry from Orkney to Caithness, south again, stop at Worcester and Great-Aunt Eleanor, onward to... Dover? to get the ferry across the Channel to France, then head north towards Scandinavia.

It might marginally increase my chances of seeing the Northern Lights if I aim for Norway first, but I'd rather go see my kin first. I could also skip Orkney entirely.

I did buy a GPS device, which came with maps for Australia, and I bought maps for the United Kingdom, Western and Central Europe.

The problem is, as it turns out, the otherwise-totally-pleasing GPS device doesn't quite have data storage space available for Australia *and* the UK/Western/Central Europe. (The problem here is largely Europe, which is almost 2GB of maps, where Australia is 100MB. There's less to map.)

However, it's not like I'm going to want both at the same time, and swapping them by connecting to my computer is trivial. (Somehow, I find it hard to envisage circumstances in which I would urgently need GPS driving navigation assistance for Europe and Australia in quick succession.)

I'm glad GPSes exist, because driving around foreign countries should be a lot less stressful when I have a little device to feed me directions, rather than having to mess around trying to work with maps. I'm used to using Perth street directories, but even that can be stressful finding thoroughly unfamiliar places, and this is my home town, and Australia is very, very different, in terms of geographical layout kind of stuff, from Britain and Europe.

Britain, at least, is so very densely occupied. I'm from Perth. The nearest major city to mine is halfway across the continent. Far further than, say, London to Edinburgh.

But my GPS includes things like petrol stations and Points Of Interest, which I think is pretty awesome, and, you know. Directions. "Where the hell am I going? Oh, right, thattaway."

Sep. 7th, 2009 @ 02:46 pm
Nothing like a day's checklist completed.

I have:

- Called my psychiatrist's office to ask to be put on the cancellation list, and been told: "Your timing is impeccable - I just had a cancellation for 9:30 tomorrow morning." WIN. (Apart from having to get up much, much earlier than I have in months - part of why I'm seeing my psychiatrist ASAP is severe issues with sleep. The other part being medication issues.)

- Called the faculty office about seeing the student advisors.

- Called my intended travel agent and outlined my travel plans; she's going to work things out and get back to me.

Given that last night my severe shortage of emotional energy resulted in catastrophic breakdown, I'm not pushing myself today. That was my checklist.

However, because I remembered I want to, I also:

- Called my camera shop and ordered the digital video camera I'm buying. (They don't keep them in stock, so you ask them to get one in and they do; I really like my camera shop, so I want to go through them anyway.)

- Called my bank, discovered they want me to go to a branch, rolled my eyes hard.

Although last night I did realise the source trigger of a lot of my stress and emotional breakdowns lately, which is good, although it's a little frustrating that this has been a problem for, like, a month, and I only JUST worked it out.


Anyway, I'm somewhat excited about the camera, if only because of my plans for it. While travelling around Britain, I'm intending to visit a number of relatives, including some of my grandparents' generation. In addition to just wanting to get some video of my loved ones who live on another continent and I never get to see, I want to ask them permission to set up the camera to film them while we chat about our family. I want to invite them to tell me about their own lives, and about the family members who've passed.

If I film it, I don't have to worry about the things I'll forget. There are too many people I never got to know, or didn't get to know as well as I wanted to... and my time with any of them will never be enough.

When I was twelve, my mother, my sister and I visited South Africa, and my memories of that visit aren't enough. Nor are my memories of my grandmother visiting us, here, when I was fifteen or so. My memory just isn't good enough ever to remember as much as I want to about people I love, and sometimes you don't get another chance. I didn't get to see my grandmother in person again - she died in September 2001. There are others, who I adored less, yet still loved, like my cousin's husband, Gary, who was killed a few months after our visit.

I want to film my loved ones this time, if they're willing. Especially Mary, my grandmother's cousin, to whom she was close, and who, after my grandmother and my uncle, is perhaps the relative I have loved the most.

I also plan to use it for more general, touristy purposes, but for purely tourist use I might not have gone for a camera more advanced than the one in my compact digital camera, or even if I had, I could have spent much less if I got standard definition instead of HD. But I want external-memory-storage quality, not YouTube quality... so I'm going HD.

Like just about every Expensive thing I buy, though, that also means that I expect it to be sufficient for my needs for many years to come, if I take care of it - which I will. Unless my vaguely-desired secondary career as a photographer works out, and I do some sort of paid video work, but then it becomes a professional expense and buying an upgrade is a different action from getting one because I want one.

I'm also likely to get one of these. Because I want a tripod to take to Britain, and the thing is... the tripod I own is excellent, but it's a full size tripod of sturdy build, which means it's bulky and quite heavy... so I don't actually want to carry it on flights. Whereas spiderpods are small and quite light, and still should be sufficient. (I'm most likely, in any case, to want to use a tripod while filming relatives as mentioned, in which case a spiderpod can be set on a table or the back of a chair; for tourism purposes, I'll be fine either freehand or maaaaybe I could use a monopod.)

I have a spiderpod already, but the one I have is the smallest size, which isn't strong enough to hold a DSLR or a video camera. (t's fine for my compact camera. Which I will also be taking to Britain, if only so I have a camera I'm comfortable handing to strangers to ask them to take a picture of me at $place, which: not the case with my expensive and breakable DSLR.

If someone drops my compact, it'll probably survive, and if it doesn't, I'll be mildly sad. If someone drops my DSLR, then the body will *probably* survive, but the lens will most likely break, and they're expensive; my compact is also not really worth stealing, and it will only make me mildly sad if it is stolen, whereas my DSLR is valuable and will be painfully expensive to replace. (The price I paid for it being one I was happy to pay once, and would loathe to pay twice.) I'd be somewhat devastated if I gave it to a stranger and something happened to it.

Now I think I shall work on route planning - there are more counties in Britain than I thought, so I don't think I can really visit them all. There are a few I'm definitely going to regardless:

- Cornwall and Devon (can't do Land's End to John o'Groats ambition without going through these)
- Middlesex (that's where London is)
- Midlothianshire (Edinburgh and my cousin Mary)
- Worcestershire (my great-aunt Helen)
- Aberdeenshire (my ancestral home and my relatives there)
- Caithness (John o'Groats)

I maybe want to go to Orkney. I want to see the fjords but to get to Caithness I'll be going through Ross-shire and Cromartyshire and Inverness-shire anyway; on the way north from Midlothian I'll want to go through Perthshire, so I can go through Perth, just so I can say I've been there, and also, if asked where I'm from, be able to answer: "Perth."

... wow, you really don't have to type Perth very many times before it stops looking like a word.

Glamorgan to go to Cardiff, Caernarfonshire to go to Caernarfon, Oxfordshire to go to Oxford, Yorkshire and Lancashire because seriously, Buckinghamshire to visit the Rothschild Estate, because my great-grandfather was chief butler there, and I know pretty much nothing else about him (although I might learn more when I visit my great-aunt Helen), and it makes me want to see the place.

I think what I really need to do is get a biggish map of Britain I can put on my pinboard, and then as I work out all the major places I want to see, I can mark them with pins and then work out a rough plan for where I'm going. (Amid also being sure to get in touch with the kin I want to visit.)

Current Mood: excited

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