2005-12-04: Caerdydd - ble gwnaem stwffia

December 4 - (T-5 weeks)

Another day of long travel is behind us. We spent the Sunday in another country, Wales, where they speak English with an accent that sounds remarkably English. I guess the Poms did a good job of suppression here. Edyta had researched the train times so we didn't have to get up till 6:30am this morning. This isn't bad as it is the time I am up every morning. However I'd slept rough during the night after a 6 hour straight session of Icewind Dale II and still recovering from the flu (bird?) that got me on Friday. We caught a bus that turned up only a few minutes late (how can a bus run late on a Sunday? There is no traffic). Then we wandered around town for a bit till the train was due to leave.

Then the days travel drama begun.

As always it had to do with the timetable. I like trains, but they do rank only one place above buses (which are firmly the lowest form of public transport). Maybe two, I'm still trying to assess where taxis fit in and if I should divide them into licensed taxis and unlicensed taxis. Back to the main point, the line between Reading and Swindon has been broken every weekend for the last couple of weekends somewhere between Didcott Parkway and Swindon. I know this because there are always delays on Monday, often Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday for trains coming into Reading because of the weekend track works. We found this out today when we saw that the train Edyta wanted wasn't listed and instead there was a bus service to Swindon. Somewhat alarmed at the idea of having to travel between the two towns by bus, which would have taken ages, I asked the ticket seller for a clarification. He looked at his computer, then a notebook, then told me I needed to catch the 9:39 bus. I dismissed his advice as ludicrous, after all there was a 9:15 going to Swindon. Edyta found a train heading in the right direction so we got on it.

Cardiff castle keep

The right direction wasn't quite the most direct route. It took us first to Chippenham (the town we never took photos of, the place with the toy sale and me running to get hamburgers) before it came back towards London (big city, been there a few times) to stop at Swindon (town Edyta and I lived in for a while and like so much we maintain a house there), before it then turned back on itself and headed to Bristol Parkway (okay city, had a big bridge and a cave and a fair bit of walking on a hot day) before we were off to Wales and Cardiff. In this journey there was a ten minute wait for nothing, or a signal fault as it was explained to us. Our one-and-three-quarter hour trip became a three hour trip when we finally stepped off at Caerdydd (the Welsh name for Cardiff). The first sight at Cardiff is the bombed or burnt wreck of a hotel. It seems people forgot that the war ended 60 years ago and the buildings should have been replaced by now.

It was a bit funny seeing all the Welsh signs around. You know the letters and the sounds (except for this ach sound), but they are all jumbled up and don't look like they actually produce a real sound (lots of double letters next to each other and an overuse of 'y'). The announcements were all in Welsh first then English, and most signs had Welsh then English. This did make reading the train timetables later in the day take a bit longer.

Must be good, scaffolding!

Pondering what is to come

Our first stop in Cardiff was a Cancer Research Shop (charity thrift store), but it wasn't opened at 12:05 despite an opening time of 12:00. I told Edyta we would return later. We then walked past two more charity shops that were shut and then we were onto the edge of the Cardiff shopping precinct. There was an Oxfam that was open so we spent a few minutes getting children's books in there. As it was lunch time we stopped for our weekend allowance of McDonald's. We then ducked through an old arcade that was a farmers market of sorts. Most of the ground floor stores were closed but I spied a toy store upstairs and expecting to see some old childhood favourites dragged Edyta up with me. What we found we more closed stores. There was massive glass topped cabinets that the stores housed some goods in and there was a decent collection of war game scenery items by the toy store (not GW goods), but the store was shut. We did a quick walk-around and found two pet stores where we could look at all the little rodents huddled in balls sleeping (which seems to be what they do most of the time).

I took us out the back way of the arcade with the intent of heading straight to Cardiff Castle. Instead we found a street mall that took us back to the main shopping mall. At the end was a Mothercare store that Edyta wanted to look in. We stopped in for a moment and I past an empty looking double carriage pram with a sleeping negro baby doll set up as a display. They made it look life-like and another couple had already had a second glance at it. I noticed the doll made a breathing sound and except for the fake looking lips it wasn't too badly made. I mentioned it to Edyta who hadn't really noticed the doll inside. She went to examine and realized she couldn't hear it so she stuck her head right into the pram and came back to me with some shocking news. The baby was actually alive. I looked back and there was the mother just two metres from the pram giving her toddler a ride on the amusement machine; the whole time Edyta was sticking her head in the pram. I couldn't believe I'd asked my wife to do that! I was appalled, humiliated and hysterical all at the same time. Edyta had it easy, it was all my fault after all, so she didn't have to feel embarrassed.

We left to get to the castle. On the way we passed one of those stores where goffs hang out to buy the plastic characters that appear in all their comics (or movie fans for their movie characters, or anime fans for all their anime characters - in the end generally sets of anti-social youths with poor dress sense or aging-me with no sense). I took Edyta in with me for a quick look. Leaving that we were to go direct to the castle across the street when I noticed - a Games Workshop! Hurrah! Lance has found another GW store. He has been looking since France. See Lance look. See Lance happy.

Games Workshop, Cardiff

In the store I noticed one girl who was obviously the girlfriend of a gamer, he was walking around with boxes of Tau vehicles. I'd told Edyta many times that the only girls in those stores are the girlfriends of gamers, and then only one at a time. This was shown to me yesterday at the Reading GW. A couple came in, an although both were a little amused at the store (neither were gamers) the girlfriend was the only female in the store. To a shop assistants credit he did get them to try a game. Another assistant failed to drag me into a conversation when he opened with "So what do you collect?". I said a bit of everything. His next text book question is "How long you been playing" to which my answer now is decades. There you go, I've been playing longer than the kid trying to sell me the stuff, who is normally at least twice as old as the kiddy kids trying to buy the stuff. See Lance be a geriatric old fart.

Then we were into Cardiff Castle. It is a small castle but quite a nice little one. We went on the tour with a historian lady who knew her stuff but didn't really know how to do humour in a tour. I guess some historians should be told to stay in libraries. There was one interesting part where the owner of the castle was known to have spent a year in Australia. He had platypus and wombats carved into his library room shelves. There was also a rumour that a year spent in Australia left a bastard son floating around in the town of Bute, north of Adelaide. I'm not sure if the town exists or not but sounds like it could, I may have to research further.

Inside the castle grounds was an excellent motte and bailey, the motte even had water in it. The bailey was a bit damaged but you could still climb up a steep and windy flight of stairs to get to the top. In the grounds a group of people were practising mediaeval weaponry, mostly sticks and later some swords. It looked interesting but the area was roped off to keep gawkers safely away.

Finished with the castle and with daylight and shopping hours running out, we went back into the shopping precinct. We were rewarded with a nice waffle covered in strawberry jam and cream. Fantastic (and much better than the waffle we had before the London Eye that just left out hands covered in chocolate). The shops then proved to be generic and not the ones Edyta wanted me to take her through. By the time we were navigating back to the smaller arcades and charity stores they were starting to shut. Edyta was getting a little annoyed at me pulling her back to the edge of the road when I didn't think it was safe to cross but others were. This was made worse by the Cancer Research Shop not having anything decent. By now it was dark and cold and we still had plenty to see but nothing was open or reachable. We walked down to the river past the Welsh International Stadium (where they play the only things that matter in that country, Rugby, and Soccer to fill in the time between Rugby).

The waterfront was empty so we left. At the train station we discovered we must have just missed the last train to London and the next one wasn't due for fifty minutes. We wandered back into the store area and found a Toys'r'us open. Actually it was trying to shut but some customers kept coming in anyway. Ten minutes past closing time I coaxed us out anxious to not miss the return trip. We clambered in to an already crowded train and found two seats next to each other (despite one claiming to be reserved, but I've never seen anyone actually get in to their reserved seat). At the next stop the girls in front of us moved to new empty seats and suddenly two people who had reserved seats arrived to claim the recently vacated one. So now I have seen someone reserve seats. This train took the long way back and got delayed due to signals just outside of Reading, so another 3 hours of travel and were home. Rather than bus or walk we just took a taxi home (gosh, the luxury of dual income).

So that was the day. Not much news from the rest of the week. I was sick on Friday, not badly in the morning but slightly feverish and sore all over by Friday night, then fine again on Saturday after a sleep in. Edyta had to work Saturday. The employer at eventmine is trying to keep me on, offering me work in Australia but I'm not sure how well that would work. It would be good income but it would also mean a home-office, no colleagues to discuss ideas with immediately and an 8 hour turn-around for answers to any questions I submit and my replies to questions will also be a working day late. Ideally I'd like to work in Ebor and get eventmine as a contract but the eventmine guys prefer staff employment over contracting (as they would).