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Up and down

My last few weeks in Britain have been full of travel. I spent a weekend at my late grandparents’ house in St Helens, currently occupied by my younger brother and his two dogs. My intention was to look for some belongings: a pair of black shoes and the boxes to some games I’d installed on my laptop. None were in evidence. But I didn’t look very hard for them either.

On the Sunday, I went over to see John and Sarah (or Mr and Mrs Blogstar). When I lived in St Helens, gaming Sundays at their small terraced house were typically over-crowded with everyone having to squeeze past everyone else whenever you wanted to go to the bathroom or the kitchen. For a couple of hours this weekend, however, I was the only one there (apart from Sarah and John, obviously). A couple of others turned up eventually, but it seemed that most people had either moved away or found other things to do.

The following weekend, I went down to Bristol to stay with professional proof-reader Lawrence (he has a website and everything). Lawrence is a big fan of Couchsurfing, and he also had an American girl staying two of the three nights I was there before she went to Budapest and Israel. On her last day, he had someone over for focussing (he’s also an opthalmologist … not really), so I walked with her to Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was a good two or three mile walk – and I’d never been there, so I was using an A to Z. It was overcast and slightly rainy, which gave the woods on the far side of the gorge a bit of a rainforest look.

Once I’d seen Karen off at the bus station (having introduced her to the wonders of Cornish Bakehouse pasties), I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (not Lawrence’s cup of tea). I enjoyed it a lot, although it was pretty daft in places (Indy survives a nuclear explosion, for instance) and Ray Winstone’s character didn’t really work. I liked the reference to McCarthyism at the beginning, and although it turned out to be more science-fictiony than the other films, this tied in perfectly with the 1950s setting.

The previous day (Saturday) I’d gone to Glastonbury to see Tracy. I started off later than I’d hoped and a text I sent her lead Tracy to think I was almost there, when I’d only just started on lengthy bus journey. It was the first time I’d been to Glastonbury (which, for some reason, I always want to call Gloucester), so Tracy took me up the Tor to St Michael’s Tower. It was windy. After that, she took me back to her place (not like that – she’s married). Her place’s back garden has a fantastic view of miles and miles of countryside.

On the Monday I got an e-mail from Min-jeong at the recruitment agency in Korea with my visa number. So, later that week, I went down to London to visit the Korean embassy. In addition to all the paperwork I’d sent off to Korea, I needed photocopies of my degree and criminal background check, plus a visa application form and a consul’s checklist. And a photo. And a self-addressed envelope with special delivery postage, because there was no way I could afford to hang around in London for a week waiting for it.

Before going to London, my finances were pretty limited. Afterwards they were at zero – or worse. In order to save money I intended to go by Megabus. Unfortunately, they decided to have problems with their computers the morning I went (and, for reasons that now seem pretty flimsy, I didn’t try booking a ticket until that morning). I filled out the online form – twice – but nothing happened. I went to the coach station in Manchester anyway, were I finally got through on the phone and learned that they couldn’t issue any tickets. So I bought a National Express ticket – one way, with the expectation that Megabus would sort their system out and I could get a ticket back later on.

I arrived in London at about 2:30. The Korean embassy is near Victoria, so I had plenty of time to go there and hand over my documents. Later on I met Drew and Colin from my old London roleplay group. We had burgers at some special burger restaurant in Soho. Ed Fordham had offered me a place to stay for the night, so I headed up to West Hampstead (and was granted entrance to the apartment a little more successfully than last time).

The following day, I called Megabus to be told I had actually bought tickets, so they were going to e-mail me the details again. Once again I got a message with the Worldpay information, but no e-ticket or reservation code. According to my credit card helpline the money for these theoretical tickets had been earmarked but not actually debited from my card. I got a National Express coach again.

In the following days my card was actually debited, but my e-mails to Megabus resulted in a message from them that this money would be refunded (although, at the time of writing, I haven’t been able to confirm this).

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