I recovered from the long drawn-out post-lurgy period just in time to get taken to York for my birthday by the Bossman, who is as generous as he is likely to turn out to be the Devil Himself (I am still convinced of this. Life never gives me nice things, unless there’s a punchline involved). However, gift horses, etc, and this was a greatly-needed break, because I was post-viral as all hell.
Also, I have discovered I actually… liked being a lowly little band 2 administrator, although obviously it is not a state of affairs that can continue forever – one day I will reascend to the dizzying heights of being a band 4 administrator, or suffer a pay-cut to the point where I will once more require to kow-tow to strangers who think I have a cheek to live in my own home. Or find a different job, somehow. But hey, it’s been nice to be able to go to work, think up new plot ramifications while not allowing the words going into my earphones to touch the sides as they came out of my fingertips, and clock off safe in the knowledge that I would not be spending the night wondering if someone was going to die because I had failed to tick every box.
(I don’t know if I’ve suffered a catastrophic loss of ambition, or just realised that I’m quite content having a day-job that is useful to society without eating my head, so I can spend my free time writing and drawing, and I’m not that fussed about hitting it big financially, I just want to be able to get by, and do something nice every so often. I suppose they might be the same thing, and I feel like a bit of a failure, but then I suppose I always have done, because when I was in primary, everyone said I was going on to do Big Things, and had Talent, and all of this has rather blatantly not come to pass, so ho hum.)
It was even nicer to go to York, instead of going to work. Not least because the weather was suddenly fantastic – the Bossman drove me down through the borders in blazing sunshine, a sudden burst of leafiness everywhere and the highly unpleasant whiff of oilseed-rape in full bloom (this stuff has been growing for many years, but I don’t ever recall it stinking like that; genetic engineering?)
We stopped off in Alnwick, where there was at last some sign of hawthorn blossom, and where I heroically only bought three second-hand books, and those on factual topics – having had a few hours of true leisure, my brain had decided that a great project would be a series of colour studies involving erotica and people in armour. You know, the sort of thing that is probably everywhere on deviantart and which nobody is making a living from. But it looks like fun, dammit, and I have recently discovered that maybe that’s what this whole ‘life’ thing should be about. (Then I remember that people are being horribly murdered and dirt poor and dying of diphtheria all over the place and can’t decide whether I feel more guilty for not enjoying my life more or I should just go sell all my worldly possessions immediately. I blame the point when they cut my meds for this).
I babbled inanely on this topic – stupid art projects, not the fundamental futility of trying to make a difference while being only one person – while the Bossman bought me the books, and also a salad and wine, and continued to do so straight through into England, where we stopped for a Greggs, and on into the heart of York itself, where an enormous black cloud promptly hove overhead as we checked in, and I discovered I had probably dropped my cashcard outside Greggs and my overdraft facility had probably already been emptied. Woo, most expensive free birthday trip ever!
The Bossman found my cashcard in the back of the car, where it had actually droppe outof my pocket, right before I dialed the bank to cancel it.
Buoyed up by the news that I was not destitute after all, we went out on the town, which was on the other side of the road. Wow, big city walls and little twisty streets crammed with slanty old buildings, every second one selling sweeties, or antique books, or ndeed full suits of armour! Score! (No photographs allowed). We had dinner and real ales outside a slanty pub, then went across the road to an even slantier pub for more real ales. It was really chilled out, and I loved it. Also, we managed to miss most of the rain.
Out the back of the hotel, there was this enormous wierd bridge thing, which I could not persuade the Bossman to come look at, but in the morning it turned out to be a flood-control barrier, which worried me somewhat, because it was essentially a several-storey automatic garage door and I wasn’t at all sure we were on the right side of it. However, it was pretty cool.
We had breakfast by the river, after navigating the bit where all the geese go to deposit the contents of their own stomachs, and then went to do the rounds of the museums. I haven’t been to York since I was about seven, and most of that I don’t remember (we went because the weather was so rubbish for gliding we actually got to get off-site, which ground-crew don’t usually get to do – ah, many is the memory I have of summer holidays spent sitting in a baking-hot car, in the middle of a field, with me and my wee bro not allowed to leave the damn thing unattended in case we got The Pick-up Call. I got real good at IQ tests during those holidays. Alas, it means nothing in terms of actual intelligence.)
Anyway, this time, we got to go round the museum grounds with a camera, and the weather was still good, and the Bossman is refreshingly adverse to not having an icecream or a coffee or a sarnie anytime we damn well feel like it, and we passed the Gay Pride parade outside the Minster, and went a wander round the city walls and, the piece de resistance of the day, saw a hen night all tricked out in pink sashes being herded onto a carousel by a gaggle of geese while the Muppets theme song blared in the background. (You know how hard it can be to not walk in time to a song sometimes? They weren’t immune either, so were boarding the carousel in time with it, it was the most amazing sight ever.)
The Bossman eschewed the big conical hill with the fort on top, on the grounds that an amble round town had worn him out, so we went back to the hotel and ordered room service, which I think I have never done ever, and pegged out in front of the telly.
The Bossman is well into trains, to an extent I am not sure I fully appreciated when we met,but hey, it is a harmless hobby and I have no leg to stand on, so we went to the transport museum the next morning. And it was pretty cool – we went on a wee narrow gauage train and got covered in soot, I got to stroke a giant millipede called Peter, and there was a gathering of some Mallard trains, or somesuch, which lots of people there were very excited about, and we even got approached by a guy who runs a railway museum in Donegal, who was so excited about them he just had to talk to someone about it. I was clearly not his target audience, although I did my best, so I pointed out the Bossman as someone he might have a more equal conversation with.
Unfortunately I may have used the phrase ‘he’s the expert’, at which the Bossman was most mightily miffed and promptly bought a 00-gauage model railway starter kit and declared that he was going to become an expert on the subject so I couldn’t embarrass him like that again, and also we were going to need to get an attic conversion for the trains if/when we move in together, because there is not room for me, him, his lego, my homebrew, his office, my studio, a workshop and a forge in anything in our price-range as it is, and also I want a garden big enough to grow fruit trees in.
So that’s our dreams doomed before they start.
To put this in perspective, we went to the Viking Museum, which I do remember from when I was seven and we went round various dioramas on foot. This has been significantly upgraded, and you now go round various dioramas in a big roller-coaster-style car suspended from the ceiling while the speakers tell you things and animatronic Vikings haggle over the price of amber or have an argument over what to buy for dinnner. I was mostly impressed with just how wretched life in Viking York appeared to be – the houses were dark wee huts with no windows, a firepit in the middle of the floor, and a privvy out back, next to the rubbish dump and the well. (Although interestingly, the idea of a very small street frontage, with a long house behind it and longer garden behind that seems a tradition that survives in many places in Britain today?) The last thing on the ride was an animatronic Viking farting his guts out in a privvy, and shouting for us to bugger off in Norse, which was… well it will probably stay with me for a number of years, anyway.
To the Bossman’s dismay, the way back to the hotel went past the big conical hill with the fort on top, but I persuaded the Bossman we should at least go up the big conical hill, despite being weighed down with trainsets and beers. I said, jokingly, that if it turned out to be eight quid to get in, we could go back down again, and impressively, that was just what it came to, between us. We went in anyway, because I was hoping to get a good view over the town from the top, which I sort of did, and the Bossman said that was it, the National Trust was getting no more of his money at all for the rest of the year.
Sadly, I decided to buy all the drinks, since it was our last night and the Bossman had bought everything else all weekend; again with the, ‘my bank allows me to witness exactly what each round cost’ in the aftermath (sweet Jesus, they did not actually show me that on the till receipt, I shoulda charged it to the room). It was the one night I got hammered, of course – he had just shown every sign of passing out, when he perked up again and thus I did not get to do any fly writing at all, mainly because he discovered Transformers was on. So I was feeling pretty rough when we packed up Monday morning and bolted out to try and avoid the traffic on the Newcastle Underpass or whatever it was.
However, it was a stonkingly lovely day for feeling rough, and we stopped off at Holy Isle, the tide being out, and went a wander up to the castle, where we discovered the National Trust charge you just to get near it, and more to get in; and then to the abbey, where we discovered the National Trust were again there ahead of us. The Bossman declared we had been fleeced sufficiently, so we mooched around the headlands, which had a feeling of melancholy desolation, at least to me, despite the beautiful weather – although this could have been the post-euphoria dysphoria, or whatever you call the blues after a good time. Certainly there were wallflowers or hollyhocks or something springing from the walls on every side, alas for me describing broom to the Bossman, he was convinced this was that and I, um, corrected him – and they were nearly as numerous as the signs also springing from the walls, being all ‘don’t you DARE be here overnight, or camp, or sleep in your car, or… look, just give us your money and SOD OFF, okay?’ (I may have made up that last part, but I felt it was strongly implied). So we went for a taster of the Lindisfarne mead, which I have been told is delicious.
Now it may be the hangover, but I felt it tasted chemically, and too much of whisky, rather as if someone suffering a whisky-hangover had peed in all the taster cups, for instance. The Bossman agreed that the stuff I made last batch is actually far superior, and so I no longer felt obliged to part with any money at all and we set off home.
Unfortunately, we got in at about seven, so I stupidly offered to purchase a massive Dominos pizza for us both and set off for work from Leith the next morning. With absolutely all of my stuff.
Monday was pretty hard going, actually.