(Sorry it took so long. I've been working full-time and trying to get a million and one beginning-of-semester things like financial aid and stuff sorted out. It's been kind of crazy. But I have a lot more to tell you so after this hopefully i'll be posting a bit more regularly. Thanks for your patience.)
Meet the Pirates.
This is where I tell you all about my parents' visit and how the meeting between them and Pirate's parents went. It was all terribly exciting. Nervewracking, but exciting. I'm also going to post a million photos because I was feeling artistic that weekend and because the batteries in my camera refused to die.
My parents arrived on Friday morning. (Not last Friday, the one before that.) It's nigh on impossible to sleep on trans-A flights so they were exhausted when they landed, but were determined to fight their way through the day without napping so they could adjust to the new time zone. I know that's the best way to do it, but bloody hell it sucks.
We got them settled into the flat they rented and immediately left again, got on a train, and went to Bath. Mom has always wanted to see it and it's a World Heritage Site blah blah blah.
First stop: Bath Abbey
This is the best tomb I have ever seen. The husband is seen gazing mournfully upon the body of his still wife. I like this because it's both sad and tender, and also very original. It's the only tomb I've ever seen where one of the effigies is carved in a life pose, rather than a dead state. Sadly, the husband died many years after his wife and was buried elsewhere, despite his original intention when he had the tomb created. *sniff*
This a lovely side altar in one of the chapel of the abbey. Stunning. Almost enough to make me want to convert back. (Almost.)
The organ of the abbey, as see from the quire. Note the pretty reflection of light off the brass candle holder. That's art, that is. The organ was stunning, and we got to hear the organist at his craft as he rehearsed for a concert that was to take place the following day.
From there we went next door to the Roman Baths, which were amazing. They were far more extinsive than I'd imagined, and there was a great deal still in tact. What wasn't in tact was skillfully represented with simple wood carvings or CGI images to aid the imagination. The whole thing was really really well done; one of the best museum/historical sites I've ever visited. I'd certainly never seen anything that old before. Made the medieval stuff seem nearly modern by comparison. Oh, and there was this cool actor who dressed like a Roman priest and said incantations and stuff. I took a photo of his feet. And the audio tour was done by Bill Bryson, which rocked.
The drain. Still working. The baths are Britains only natural hot spring, and the water that continuously bubbles up from the ground has to go somehwere. This is where it goes. Just as creepy today as it was 2000 years ago.
After the baths it was time for dinner. Pirate met us at the restaurant and we had a delightful meal. Which was good because by that time mom was walked off her feet and was starting to get testy. Follwing dinner the four of went to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal starring Penelope Keith. (Fucking hell could I possibly squeeze in any more links???)
The ceiling of the Theatre Royal. You see what I mean about artsy?
Ha! Take that, Annie Rhiannon!
Ha! Take that, Annie Rhiannon!
The play was light and entertaining, as Oscar Wilde should be, (and frankly we were so tired we didn't have the mental capacity for anything heavier than O.W.) and afterward Pirate and I walked the parental units back to the train station, but them on the train to Temple Meads, and went back to the Pirate's house for a good night sleep. It was our only chance that whole weekend for a shag and we completely crapped out. We're getting old.
The next day was Meet The Pirates Day.
I was bricking it. Mr. and Mrs. Pirate and lovely, lovely, wonderful, warm and welcoming people. They're also fairly religious and conservative. "Gosh!" is what passes for strong language in the Pirate household. If there was a BitchParent-PirateParent dictionary, an entry might look something like this:
What the goddamn fucking hell is going on here?!?!?! "gosh."
Yeah. Also my father is Hometown's most vocal atheist and loves to go on diatribes about how Christians are ruining western civilization. If he lit into one of his rants it would spell disaster. On top of all that he kept threatening to say to Mr. Pirate (in jest) "What exaclty do you plan to do about your son debauching my daughter??" I told this to the Pirate, who thought it was hysterically funny. The worst thing my mom was likely to do was accidently say "fuck" in every sentence, which is normal in our house. This wouldn 't have been too bad since I'm pretty sure Mr. and Mrs. Pirate have never heard the word "fuck" before, and would have dismissed it as a charming American colloquialism.
The Pirates had the idea that we'd all go off and visit Berkeley Castle.
Now, I love castles in general. I'll cheerfully wander around ruined ones, poking my head into all the drippy crevaces and stumbling down the decaying stairs, and enjoy them as much as the more in-tact specimins. But even I have to admit that Berkely Castly is exceptionally spectacular. It's been inhabited continously by the same family for over 900 years, and they're still there. *choke!*
So Friday night after the theatre Pirate phoned his parents, who were staying at a hotel on the north side of town, to work out details of meeting up the following day. Mrs. Pirate (gee I hope I get to use that name some day!) wanted to meet at 10 am. My parents were jet-lagged, had been up for something like 76 hours straight at that point, and were on the verge of standing unconsciousness. Once they fell asleep they were unlikey to wake up before 5 pm the following day. I managed to pusurade Mrs. Pirate to push back the meeting to 11 am and prayed my parents would be able to peel themselves off the mattress in time.
Pirate and I walked mom and dad from the theatre in Bath to the train station, put them on a train to Bristol, gave them my cell phone so they could reach us if there was a problem, and crossed our fingers they could manage getting a taxi from the station to their rented flat in an english-speaking country without difficulties. They managed it, somehow.
I went home with the Pirate.
The following morning: P-Day.
We got the Aston out of the garridge and drove into Bristol to collect my parents. Really, there are few things better than a ride in a shining car on a shining day. (Being driven by your own Pirate in shining armor. or shining Aston, as the case may be.) Mom and dad weren't expecting The Big Car (as it is now known), and were delighted to have a ride, even though the back seat is barely an afterthought. The car may be huge, the but the back seat only accounts for about 1.7% of the body length.
We headed north to Meet the Pirates.
They were standing in the parking lot of their hotel, so eager were they to meet my family. Bless them, they couldn't bear to be seated in the hotel lounge like normal people for a minute longer. They, of course, recognized the car instantly. If only it had a cool horn, like the General Lee, only one that plays Rule Brittania instead of Dixie...
cue the hugging.
oh my was there hugging. Mr. Pirate, true to form, got me into a vice-grip that would have made a bear's eyes bug, smashed his lips against my cheek for like, an hour or somehting, and wouldn't let me go until Pirate pointed out that my fingernails were going blue and that I might perhaps like some more oxygen.
cue the gift-giving.
Everyone had brought "just a little something" for everyone else. mom and dad brought cherry preserve from Michigan (cherry capital of the world) and a mug from the FSM, the theatre company mom runs. Pirates brought lancashire cheese for mom and a DVD of British naval aircraft for dad. So that was all nice and friendly, wasn't it?
Then off to the castle!
Mom and I jumped in the Pirates' Jag and dad got back in the Pirate's Aston (you have to look at the clever use of singular and plural possessive apostrophes to figure out what's really going on in that sentence) and headed off. And I have to say...
Berkeley Castle is fucking amazing. I won't bore you with all the history of the castle since I know you're far more interested in me and my exciting life, but do take a look at their website. It's a cool fucking castle.
A window of the still-occupied part of the castle. Someone's a bird-lover! (Isn't this great? A 15th century castle and someone's gone and stuck bird feeders all over it. How cool is that! I guess when you live in a 15th c castle you can do pretty much whatever the fuck you want, because your cool rating is already off the scale.)
We got there around noon (just as they were opening, so it's a good thing we didn't meet up any earlier after all) and took a tour. Then we had tea in the tea room (as you do) and took a wander through the gardens, the old churchyard, and the church next door. Then we went through the butterfly house, which was also awesome. And then it was 4 pm, we were all walked off our feet, our dinner reservations weren't until 7, and we all sat around scratching our butts wondering what to do next.
(My biggest worry about this day was actually that people would simply run out of things to talk about and get bored, and by 4 o'clock things started tipping dangerously in that direction. I would have been happy just to have gotten everyone together for dinner, but Mrs. and Mr. Pirate were all keen on sight-seeing, and they're just not the sort of people to whom one says 'no.')
Also, I was exhausted and on the verge of falling asleep standing up. We decided to split up again, Pirate taking me back to his house for an LLD (little lie down, aka tactical kip) and Mr. and Mrs. Pirate taking my parents to a country pub for a few drinks before dinner. We would all meet up at the restaurant later.
'Oh God,' I thought. 'We can't leave the parents alone together. I have to be there to supervise.' But no, things had been decided, and these just aren't the sort of people to whom one says 'no.'
I crashed. I curled up in the double futon where we sleep when I'm over and just crashed. I vaguely remember Pirate leaning over and kissing my forehead before going out to wash and polish the car. (It was a nice day. He's got a new toy. You do the math.) I thought i'd doze for about 20 or 30 minutes. Nope! 90 minutes later I was dead to the world and Pirate came in and said "It's time to leave for the restaurant."
Stuffed myself into my clothes and dashed out the door.
We booked reservations at The Quarryman's Arms, mine and Pirate's favourite country pub. It's a proper country pub, where people wander in on a saturday wearing tweeds and wellies, carrying a shotgun over one arm, and dragging 3 exhausted and wet labadors in tow. It's not a real pub unless there's a gun-dog under every table, compliments of the management.
They do awesome food there. I recommend the pheasant. The roast lamb is also to die for, as is the pork tenderloin with apricots and figs. And the views over the valley aren't bad either. We asked for the table by the west window, so we could watch the sunset from where we sat.
Ok, now i'm making myself hungary. But you can see why I wanted to take my parents there. It's a quintessential ENGLISH experience. And everyone had a lovely time.
Several hours, waaaaaaaay too much food, 2 bottles of (very expensive) wine and a cheerful conversation later we were all saying 'goodbye' in the parking lot and there was another round of hugging with lots of promises of communication and well-wishing. I only grimaced once during the course of the evening when Mr. Pirate raised a toast "to family" and elbowed his son in the ribs. Not too subtle, that one.
So they love me, they love my parents, everything's all good. I know what I want. I'm just waiting for the Pirate to make up his mind and crossing my fingers that in the end, he wants the same thing as me.