Monday, April 21, 2003

Okay, so anyway. More stuff in Wales. Mostly we went and did more sightseeing, which was pretty neat. Visited a castle, but nobody seemed to want to pay the 3 pounds to go in, so we just snapped a few pictures of the outside instead. Oh yeah, and then we went to the beach. Ah, the beach! It was so coooool! I hadn't been to a beach in aaaages! Actually, it reminded me an awful lot of the Oregon coast. In fact, it was almost exactly like being at the Oregon coast, except that the shells were different. Well, I had a pretty amazing time. I shed my shoes almost as soon as I stepped on the sand, and made a beeline for the water. It was freezing, of course, so I did little more than give my tootsies a little dip, but it was still lovely. Grabbed a few shells, went running up and down sand dunes...great stuff. Then we got back in the car and went...somewhere, I don't quite remember. I'm terrible with chronologies. [Sighs] Well, I think that about covers most of the stuff we did in Wales anyway, except for the one night we went out...during which I wound up getting a little tipsy. Okay, tipsy. Now, I've heard an awful lot about tipsiness, how much fun it is, etc., but from my limited drinking experiences to date I was of the strong suspicion that I wouldn't really enjoy it that much, and I was right. It made for an interesting night, I must say, but not interesting in the ways I would have liked it to be. Like we were at this club, on the dance floor, and I looked up at the lights, and what with my time-sense being all faulty...well, it was a whole different experience. 'Wow,' I thought. 'Now I understand the appeal of strobe lights--if you're drunk, or high I suppose, they make things look really freaky!' But I just found it disorienting in some way I don't know if I can put words to but I'll try. Like...my perceptions, particularly those relating to time and space, were all out of whack, so when the lights flashed off, I couldn't tell where people were going to be when they flashed back on; it really was like they'd vanished. And when the lights flashed back on in a different color, it took me a second to be completely sure it was still the same people they were lighting up. It was like people had no solid visual existence. Scary! And then of course I wasn't completely steady on my feet--my legs kept doing things I couldn't recall telling them to do, and at times I didn't expect them to do them, so I didn't know exactly where I was going to wind up at any given time either...and of course I was sober enough that I was completely aware of all of this, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to about it, other than just deal with it and wait for my liver, bless it, to sort things out. This is the weird thing about drunkenness and clubbing, though. I really just don't understand. You hear people all the time saying, 'Yeah, we're gonna get really drunk and then go clubbing!' The reasoning being that club drinks are expensive, so you save yourself money by getting drunk BEFORE you go out. But I really don't understand how the two go together. I mean, clubbing is about loud music and flashing lights and funfunfun sensationsensationsensation--music and dancing and being in close proximity (sometimes much closer than you'd like) to lots of other people, above all members of the opposite sex, and pouring drinks down your gullet. And hanging out with your friends and having a good time being sociable and stuff. And it can be a lot of fun, I started out not liking it (sensory overload!) but I've had a couple of pretty good nights. But if you pour drinks down your gullet, you wind up in a state where you're completely cut off from all that--you lose track of the music; you can barely walk straight let alone dance; you often can't understand what anyone's saying, and your response to it doesn't mean much either, even you aren't quite sure where it came from sometimes; and just generally you have only a very vague idea of what's going on at any given moment. I just don't get it. Certainly it doesn't improve my experience. Alcohol, I've discovered, has three effects on me: (1) sleepiness and dulled thought capacity; (2) withdrawal into Charis-land, which, though immensely entertaining at times, is also easily achieved sober and anyway rather defeats the purpose of social drinking--and when I'm on my own I don't drink; and (3) the urge to go and sit in a bathroom stall clutching the walls, waiting for sobriety to reassert itself and stop the world from being so wobbly. I dunno. I just don't understand the appeal, I guess--I like my thoughts clear and my world more or less stable! Apparently I'm pretty good at covering up tipsiness, though--Michelle seemed quite surprised when I confessed it later. Or maybe people just put it down to my inherent goofiness--I say and do some pretty strange things stone cold sober. So anyway: drinking and me? Go together sometimes, but in moderation--drunkenness I just find unsettling. And drunkenness and clubbing? Still an utter mystery. I really just don't understand. Oh well. I've rambled on quite a while, I think I'll take a break.
Well. It's been a nice long time since I've posted...this time I'm going to employ the excuse that for the last 3 weeks I've been travelling around. --Not constantly, so I suppose I COULD have put something up, but that all would have required quite a bit of prefacing ('Hey, so I just got back from Llandudno and Wirral and York and Edinburgh and Berwick-on-Tweed and Durham!'), and now there's so much to write I'll never get it done. O well, I'll give it a shot. --Is Easter break here, and since that lasts a month, I've been taking the opportunity to explore Britain a bit. Man. It's a pretty small island--I mean, it's not small as islands go, but compared to the US it's tiny--but there's absolutely no way you can see even a tiny portion of what there is to see in just a month. It's surprising how tiring it all can be, too. I'm not trying as hard as I could be, or doing as much travelling as I could be, for precisely that reason. --Much school work looms in the coming weeks, and I can't afford to start out the next term tired. Which is why I'm writing this now--I am back in Bristol at the moment, taking the day to kick back, write a bit, read some of the stuff that's due next week. Maybe later I'll bake some cookies. I slept forever. It was great. And tomorrow I'm going to Stonehenge and surrounding areas, where I will walk my legs off. After that I'm going to Stratford. But let me backtrack a bit.

I spent the first week of vacation staying with flatmates and hanging out with friends, first in one of the towns near Llandudno, Wales, and then in a town in the Wirral, near Liverpool. Wales was amazing--gorgeous and hilly, with entirely too many amazing views for its own good. We went and saw Conwy Castle, which was quite cool--spent the afternoon clambering up into towers and snapping pictures and just generally being giddily excited...which I felt slightly guilty about since of course the only reason the castle was there in the first place was to oppress and control people and scare them and organize horrible things against them, so in one respect it felt kind of like gleefully clambering around in Auschwitz. Ahem. So anyway, having thus created an awkward pause in my own narration...after that we went driving around in the countryside for a bit, which was lovely...wound up in some rugged hilly bits, where we pulled off at one point to go and look for sheep. Gosh it was nice up there. There was like a walking trail that ran away from the road, and after a couple minutes it rounded a bend and it was like the modern world just vanished. Except for us, of course, tramping around making lots of noise in the gravel and grass. It was incredible how much noise. But in the fractions of seconds between one step and the next, in the millisecond pauses between words...such quiet! It wasn't silence, exactly, because there were always the background sounds of bleating sheep. But sound did behave in strange ways up there. Like there was this other group of people that passed us at one point, and for about five minutes as they approached us you could hear them talking--and I mean, you could hear every word. But a moment or two after they'd passed...nothing. No crunch of gravel or rustle of grass, no drifting voices, nothing. It wasn't just like they had vanished tracelessly into the unknown yonder. It was like they'd never been there at all. At the time I was apparently craving solitude, though I hadn't realized it until we got up there. As we walked back to the car, I lingered on a bit, waited for the sounds of the others to dissipate, stood for a few seconds alone before following. I could have spent hours there (well, maybe not in exactly the spot we were in, but somewhere around there), sitting in silence, watching, listening, enjoying the sun...just being, really. There was something a little unsettling about the quiet up there, too, though. Isolating. You could be sitting right next to someone and still be alone. It could swallow you up.

Well, anyway. Next day we went and climbed the Great Orm, which is this big hilly thing in Llandudno. First we rode the tobbogan ride there, though, which was pretty cool except we broke it by getting one of the tobbogans jammed the first time round. It happened at the top of the big hill you go up to start, so there were all these people behind us being slowly hauled up the hill, except there was a bottleneck, so we (well, I) pushed the button that stops the ride to keep things from backing up too badly. It was alright in the end--a problem easily fixed--but this poor ride attendant had to hike all the way up the hill, and then all the way back down again, to get things going again. That hitch aside, it was all great fun. (Hell, even the hitch was great fun, in spite of guilty-feelings for the poor attendant.) And after that we climbed to the top (or top ish, anyway--I don't think we climbed to the actual summit), where we all gasped at the gorgeous views. I mean, my god. They're cheating somehow. It was amazing.

OK, well, I need to go and get some food before my stomach does something horrid to the rest of me, but I swear a solemn oath that I will finish this barely-begun account of my travels--and soon! None of this waiting a month before posting again business!