Whee, a Day Off! By thunder! And so I was up earlier than I am for work, loaded down with more stuff than I have to take to work, and set off into the dim pre-dawn light to walk further than I walk to work. Whose stupid idea was all this again? Mine! But, if I walk the five miles to the bus station, it is under a fiver to the airport from there!
Did it start to pee down? Yes, it did. But I found it rather bracing, having decided to wear all me thermals and cut down on baggage, and as a result, spent the rest of the day desperately keen not to go near another living soul until after I had found a shower.
Fortunately for me, the bus was empty except for me and the driver, so I pretended I was being driven around in a bloody great limo. It’s cheap entertainment, kids, take it where you can get it.
Mercifully, the predicted rush-hour traffic was going the other way, so I had lots of time to check in. Which took two seconds. Hmm.
So I killed time with a coffee and a sarnie, check me out being all Grown-up and eschewing a beer, and tried not to cringe at how much I had just spent. Still! We is provisioned, we is be-euro’d, we had a nice conversation with the lassie who did the be-euro-ing, and that’ll be the last one till Thursday, I’m guessing, my grasp of German now having dropped to pre-secondary-school levels.
Wine on the plane, however: I love planes, I am not afraid of heights from planes, but I am terribly superstitious about flying without a glass of wine and thus dooming everyone on board. No, I am not that important, I know. But there it is. I used to get terribly excited about being served a glass of red at ten in the morning at twenty-thousand feet, just like a Proper Lady, and then it occurred to me that on every flight I had drank wine on, we Hadn’t Crashed, and now I just don’t feel safe without one.
And we didn’t crash. See? And now… a five-hour layover in Birmingham airport. Why in the name of God did I decide all this was a good idea?
So I bought a big, slow pint of cider and it killed two hours for me while I buried my head in the Earthsea Quartet. Much better idea than last time, when I brought World War Z and remembered too late that I am terribly easily upset by apocalyptic fiction and might end up Crying In Public. Or worse, having to distance myself from the damn story – this book has to last all week! And Travel Mode requires as much shutting-out as humanly possible, or I might start thinking about the fact that I have over a thousand miles to go and no idea what to expect when I get there and what the hell am I doing?
So the cider was gone and I had three hours still to go and you know what? I am never going to make it to Stuttgart alive if I don’t spring for food. Alas.
They wanted eight quid for some pasta. Really. Eight quid. Well, I thought they were gonna want a fiver for some pasta, but apparently the menu’s changing over. The guy at the bar was very helpful, suggesting maybe I could have the “under three hundred calories for six quid” noodles (WHAT? A Mars Bar is better value! Where, oh where, can I find one?) – but then he clocked my look of horror, decided I disdained to eat vegetables, and gave me the eight quid pasta for a fiver. Awww!
In fact, all the bar staff were very nice. I do hope their wages are massive. Since the prices are.
My plane was delayed, boo. Which could have been worse – it could have not gone. And I coulda gone home and given up on this nonsense already. My flat is probably empty right now, my flatmate having left. Ooh.
But hey, twelve hours after I left the house, I was still travelling; which is not bad for crossing four countries. (Note to self: find out where Stuttgart is on a damn map already!)
More importantly, I had no idea where Stuttgart is in relation to its airport. There were signs with a big, green S on, which I was sure stood for, er, ‘train’, over here; but back and forth I followed em and they led nowhere. Shite. It be after eight here, it be dark, I be tired and a bit nervous, if truth be told. Maybe I shall just get one little cab to the hotel? Just once?
(Ignoring every other instance of ‘just this once’, obviously).
THIRTY-FIVE FECKING EUROS. We weren’t even going for very long!
Well, that’ll teach me – that’s a third of the cash gone upfront and I haven’t done anything yet! On the other hand, I am safe and checked-in and everything. I could still be wandering in the dark, cold and tired and hungry – I could be in active danger right now. Enough crying over spilled milk, let’s go find something stronger.
Especially since the hotel staff were rather openly disdainful of my handwriting when they got me to note down my address; ooh the shame of being pulled up for failing to write properly in your own language, by someone whose language you cannot even speak! I am abashed, jittery, and my tooth is still giving me grief; I wanna curl up somewhere warm, quiet and private with some cheap nourishment and have an early night!
In order to do so, I had to go a walk, haha. My, it seems everyone is having an early night – a mist had fallen, wreathing the deserted city so I could see only dim outlines of gasworks on what looked to be a tremendous sodding precipice to my left. I went hither and thither and decided I must be deep in the suburbs, for there was nothing open, not a sniff of a bar, restaurant, creperie…
There was, however, a LIDL. Oh welcome relief. But it was shut.
Eventually, I found a garage, which, it being the Continong, sold me beers and a sarnie. Yas!
On the way back, I realised what was niggling me – nobody was about, fair enough, it being rainy and a Monday and all, but there were hardly any lights on in any of the houses, street after street, and it was only just gone nine! A ghost-town! God, what have I gone and undertaken now?
It was something of a relief to lock my door, curl up with the beer and escape into Earthsea as hard as humanly possible.
Shame I was at the bit about the dark, silent city in the lands of the dead, eh.