As I mentioned a couple of months back, I had actually managed to build up the funds to pay for my holiday next May, and at that point, normally I would pay for it, get the whole matter sorted, and in this case, look forward to Seattle. But yes, there was one thought nagging at the back of my head about whether the body was up to a West Coast flight, and stay in a hotel, given the state of my back. In truth, my biggest concern wasnt the length of the flight, though that doesnt fill me with joy, it was the idea that if I stay in a hotel, I will be expected to get out, at least for a while each day, and I had no idea how that was going to work out. In truth, in a sense, I still dont, as of course, I dont go out every day, just 4 days a week, and even then, the 2 days in a row leaves me a bit sore, let alone 7! In truth, I think the public transport is probably a bigger issue than the work, and walking around, though most likely, its a combination of all those things.
But equally, I said that, in January, I’d have to make a decision on the matter, and its now January! In truth, Thomas Cook have sort of twisted my arm by having a sale at present, so it makes sense to get in during that, if I’m going for it. Given that the back doesnt seem to have deteriorated further, I’ve decided to give it a go, and see what happens. Crazy? Yes, maybe, but if I dont try it, I’ll never know. Its not like I dont know I cant do a US flight, I did one with same issue in September! But that was East Coast, not West, a whole lot shorter flight.
Even more so, given that flying out, I will need to travel all the way down to Los Angeles, and then fly back up to Seattle. Thankfully, coming back, its a direct flight. Yes, Thomas Cook only start their new direct flight service that weekend unfortunately, or I could have done it both ways. I would love to have flown out via Las Vegas (gentler route on back, and would allow me to add Nevada to my States visited list, earlier arrival too), but thats £50 extra, and thats an extra too far on my new budget restrictions lol!
One thing I do know, that will be the only trip to the US this year, for sure. Yes, the second trip was always an interesting (but doable) budget challenge when on a 5 day working week, but on 4, impossible. Possibly for the better, less strain on the back, and all that, but sad news, all the same. I’ll do something in September, only over here, and just for a few days instead.
But yes, I’ve decided I will throw my back into the unknown, and hope it doesnt fail me!
The amusing, and some might say, annoying thing about my planned hotel is that as a ‘group member’ I get a discounted rate. Whats annoying about that you’re probably asking? Well, its the fact I can get said discounted rate for a standard room, but not an accessible one! Fine, I probably dont really need it, but extra mobility room, and a suitably designed bathroom might have been handy. But again, $17 per night, for 8 nights, just to get that, I dont think so!
So now, once the money has been transferred, I can get it all booked, and get my wheelchair rides booked! Yes, this time, no qualms about doing that lol, I am officially disabled, though thankfully just mildly!
If anyone knows anyone in the Seattle/Seatac area that I can use as a ‘support’ during my stay, I’d love to know. Positive I wont need it, but just handy to know that if one day I need a little assistance, its only a call away! I know, but no harm in asking?
Right, video time. As so often with me, big clue in the blog title!
Very strictly, the answer to that question, is wherever life takes me, I guess? But strictly, for 2018, assuming I live out the year, some things will happen, some things may happen, and some things almost certainly wont happen, but it would be fun if they did!
Anyway, lets be boringly practical first, things that will happen, assuming the life quotient of course. The biggest, and most obvious one to mention, is that I hit the big 60 next March. I know, who would ever have believed it? But yes, the body is definitely now giving me more than hints that its not as strong as it used to be, so… Hard to believe, that 25 years ago, when a woman hit 60, she retired from work! Now, with a longer life expectancy for everyone, and things, its another 6 years to go! Still, gives me chance to build up my pension, I guess, body permitting. Lets face it, I’ve already had to cut back to 4 days a week, and the back isnt likely to get better, only worse, so…?
The only other definite things at this point, are the fact that I will be heading to Seattle in May for 8 days (yes, already decided the back will be up to that, fingers crossed it stays that way once booked), though that will be the only US trip this year. Yes, thats one cutback due to the financial situation. I thought I might be able to pull it off this year, for the last time, the double trip, but no, now know its not going to happen! I have got a few thoughts for a break in September, but will only be a few days, and will only be in Europe. Well, unless the work syndicate wins the lottery lol! So yes, I’ll be using an airport wheelchair (or 5) in May again on that trip. Hopefully, all will be a little smoother than last time!
The other is, of course, working on a group on LGBT issues at work within our section of the Civil Service. First actual meeting is planned for some point in New Year, but location and date, TBA at present. Quite an honor, quite a challenge!
The maybe’s look trip related. I might try to get to Ireland, for at least some cricket this summer, though sadly it wont be that first Test match, as its literally the week before I go to Seattle. But other games are planned, so time, and finances permitting, it will be nice to meet old friends again, and maybe make a few new ones.
Hey, another maybe, I might write another story or two lol! I really ought to, I have a few ideas, but getting around to it, but yes, I’ll risk putting it on the maybe list, rather than the unlikely one! The other maybe, is my first ever ‘senior citizen’ pass. Yes, the Railway senior discount pass still is permitted from 60, so if I travel on the Railways in September, as I might, I’ll get one then!
The unlikely ones, but not impossible? Well, the first one obviously relates to performing, in an acting sense. I suspect a presentation style performance might be more likely, probably on LGBT issues, but I suspect that will be it. Lets face it, who’s going to want an actress who hasnt done anything much in years, and now has back issues, which means standing for long periods for a role, is nigh out of the question! But maybe, out there is a director/producer who wants to do something crazy, and then, well…?
Then we come to the silly stuff, that ‘could’ happen, but you can be sure wont. Winning a lottery jackpot (I know, theoretically, but me, win anything, dont think so!), getting abducted by aliens, turned into a robot, or regenerating (well, if Doctor Who can do it?) as a young(ish) Clara Johnson might all be fun, but none are going to happen, I think we can safely say!
Lets finish with a dramatic, stat based thing. Look back through early film history, and you find a lot of famous actresses who passed on at 60. Clara Bow is one that immediately comes to mind! Now its fair to say that health matters have improved nowadays, and I have never been a famous actress, so I’m probably safe, but… Still, hopefully we will be doing this in a years time!
The video tonight, isnt a proper one, but it fits the title, and yes, its the Carpenters, so just rolling with it. Just a nice song, that hopefully you can enjoy.
So, one blog to go for 2017, as its back to work tomorrow. Any ideas for something you’d love to hear about, either from this year, next year, or Clara Johnson’s era, feel free to suggest in comments
When it comes to holiday planning, I’ve always been one of those deadly boring people who plan out their travel details, and where they are going to stay months in advance! Its not even just a recent thing, because back in the 70’s, when my idea of a holiday was a week travelling by train, on a nationwide Rail rover, and staying at hotels each night, I was much the same then. I would plan the route, and book the hotels in the depth of winter, and then do the travel the next summer.
In a sense, to a major degree, nothing has changed. Well, my travel plans tend to be further afield than the UK, but as to having things thought through, well in advance, guilty as charged. Yes, if I’m being honest, assuming (as seems likely after next year) I only plan on 1 trip a year, I pretty much have my destinations sorted out through to 2024, and my planned retirement year trip to Alaska. Obviously now, given the state of my back, I’m not sure if I will still be able to do that sort of travel at that point, but we will see.
So I guess it will surprise no one if I say that the Seattle trip, for next May is pretty well settled on already. Got the flight plan sorted, got the hotel picked out, and I have the money saved up, so I could book it, but…it comes back to my back, and hotel stays. Did you realize, my last hotel stay in the US, that I booked, was April 2015? 3 trips since then, and the only hotels I have stayed in, was booked by somebody else (1 night in Boston, 3 in Mahopac, NY)! Yes, since then, all places that I’ve booked, have been rented out houses/apartments to stay, not at hotels.
Hotels have advantages for ‘old crocks’ like me. You dont need to go out for provisions, you have a coffee machine in the room, and lets face it, thats always a good starting point for me. Also, the one I’m planning to stay at has a breakfast included in the price. Basic, but in truth, all I need is there. There is also the advantage that the room gets cleaned, and made up for me, which will be a blessing too.
But actually, in that comment, is the biggest snag for me with hotels. Yes, the cleaning staff, quite reasonably expect the guests to go out for the day, so they can get in the room, and do their thing. In the past, thats been fine, I was active, and did so anyway. However, on both the last 2 LA trips (yes, I’ve been getting old for a while, in truth), and the Cape Cod stay, one of the big pluses for me was the fact that I didnt have to get out each day. Oh fine, Kate and I barely went anywhere, but that was perfect for me, because that was what I needed, and probably would still need to some degree.
Equally, apartments (and thats what I would rent, on my own, studio ones probably) do mean that if you dont want to, or feel unable to go out for a while, then fine, thats all you have to do. Relax, let your body heal a bit, and… Snag is, unless its very close to facilities, you have to provide for yourself, which means getting provisions on arrival. Last time in LA, I knew there was a supermarket very nearby, so not an issue, but that doesnt always happen!
So, swings and roundabouts…?
So being practical, its all picked out, no more looking for a hotel at least, but I wont be booking just yet! I’m planning to wait until January, or February, then see how the body is, and make the call. If, as I hope, I feel I can get out for a few hours minimum each day, I’ll book the hotel. All provided, no need to carry provisions, and so forth. But yes, if I know the body is going to need ‘long breaks’ between trips, I guess I’ll have to look at an apartment, so that if I need to stay in, one or two days, I can, but…
Yes, it hurts getting old lol!
The video, one of those Super Groups from the late 80’s. Sadly we recently lost another member of this group, and now, out of 5, we have just 2 left. Ah well, we all get old, I guess?
Due warning, before we get started, this blog wont be short! So if you only have a couple of moments, come back later!
So, catching up on rest of week…
Wednesday was fairly quiet, the rest of the week hasnt been, so lets leave that day at that.
Thursday was moving day, as Kate headed for the Berkshires, and I headed across a few state lines to New York. The ride up to Boston went smoothly (barring traffic, hardly a surprise, but we had tons of time), and because Kate had a room booked, I got to experience the lounge at a station for the first time. The Red Cap was of the opinion that I could stay there after Kate was gone (her train was 50 minutes before mine), but the lady in the lounge thought otherwise lol. Fair by me, I was her guest, so once she leaves, I should go, but he wasnt impressed lol.
The journey to Stamford was interesting, not so much because I remembered anything from 30 years ago, though I got one memory as we pulled into New London. That first time, 30 years ago, me, and my partner of the time were visiting her elderly aunt on the trip, across the River Thames (pronounced differently to the London one) at Groton. 2 months or so later, she died, and as my partner said at the time, she’d probably only been hanging on to see her UK family one last time, and then…I’m not saying how many ‘doggy bags’ they found in her house after death, but there were, err, a few!
Oh fine, Stamford station was entertaining, mainly because all Eric and I had seem pics of each other, were a few on Facebook. And you have to remember, mine were designed to show me at my best, not my everyday look, but anyway, we got together in the end, and… The rest of Thursday, and Friday, I’ve visited the family, and they are all a delight to know. I sort of knew that, online, but even better for real! I got to see some of the area on various trips, which was nice too.
Oh right, Saturday! Fine, fine, we’ve got there now! No, no pics at this point, sorry. The snag with new, sparkly dresses, is that some of the sparkly stuff isnt going to stay on the dress, perfectly, you get my drift? 😉 But yes, the dress was gorgeous, though in hindsight, given that I need to wear a bra, I should have brought a bandeau bra with me, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! Would have made picture set up so much easier lol.
Oh, btw, I’m maid of honor, and I have to make a toast. Yes, I found out the latter at a couple of hours notice, but like all good actresses, I improvised. Might not have been the standard toast, but hey…I got through! The service first, was very nice, just so proud to be there, let alone in the position of honor that I was. The setting for the wedding was delightful, at Cortlandt Manor, but unless you’re in the area, just a note of reference. The food was good, though far too much for a modest British appetite, but besides that…
The additional magic moment of the meal afterwards, one of the servers recognized me, from one of the documentary things I’ve done in the past. I’m assuming its the LA one, from April 2015, from description, but dont quote me on that. Now others want to see it! I have no idea if there is still a link to it, but I’ve asked the lady who done it if there is, but awaiting a reply. Suspect finding it might be a challenge, even if she can, as she was doing these regularly, but we will see…? Yes, its amazing where ‘fame’ can catch up with you, lol!
Oh, the service, well, what with holding my bouquet, the ring for the groom, and the bride’s bouquet at one point, quite an experience, but I got through, and loved every moment of it. I also got to meet a number of lovely people that I will probably never meet again, which will be a shame, but is part of life, I guess? Was a wonderful time, so very glad I could be there, and part of it.
Discretion says I’m not describing events after the reception, OK? Nothing bad, but entertaining, just maybe…?
This morning has been quiet, as all recover after the big day, including me! I actually went for brunch at a nearby diner/grill to the hotel, and if I needed reminding how crazy US portions could be, they did it! The omelette was large enough on its own, but by the time you add in toast, and potatoes, well…thankfully, plenty of coffee! How much more food I need today, not a lot! So currently, I’m in the hotel, watching Kansas City play in the NFL, so…chilling! Tonights ESPN baseball, well, its the Dodgers, so…I guess I can survive for a while, while the Gelhaus family recover after yesterday!
I will get back there at some point, in fact need to, as one of the wedding presents was a mask (if not more) of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and yes, as if I’d love to see that, you bet I do. Hey, I’d love to wear a full suit (if anyone has one laying around lol?), though at my age, underwater swimming scenes wearing it might be beyond my skills, but I’d try, if I had to! 😀
Tomorrow sees the start of the return to reality, and the return to the UK. Thankfully, with my new shifts, no work until Friday, by which time a very quiet, very shy team leader of mine will have had her birthday. Yes, it might have been mentioned most of September. Yes, Madi, I love you, I really do xxx I’ve accepted the old age thing, btw. I’d originally planned to get to JFK by public transit, but Stacie wasnt happy with the thought of that at present, and in truth, I wasnt entirely looking forward to it either. So yes, going there by shuttle now…angel…and then the wheelchair thing again! 😀
Even if there are any pictures of me as the creature from the Black Lagoon, you’ll probably have to wait until Tuesday, or Wednesday, and back in the UK before seeing them. I will post wedding pics, of me at least, once I have some, OK?
And so endeth the longest blog, with its traditional moment, the video. No, I’ll save a certain Dave Edmonds song, in case I need it, and go for a song I didnt hear yesterday at the reception, but which sums up the day so perfectly. Yes, I’m old enough to remember this, I know…
As to the next US trip, I have no idea when, where, or for how long. Need to hear what the Doctors say, how many days work per week my body can still cope with, and take things from there. I have enough saved that I might be able to do two next year regardless, but if I’m limited to 4 day weeks, that will be the end of that. Though if its one trip per year, I will probably make it longer than a week (flight is major element of cost), but we will see… In theory I have an invite to a stage reading of a Clara Bow show next month in NYC, but unless anyone wishes to donate £1000 (flight and accom) to me, and even then, there is holiday available at work, not going to make it. Shame, as I could use the publicity time for myself, as well as the show! Ah well…
So from the US for the last time, probably…bye for now!
Given how many times I have visited since the turn of the century, its hard now to believe that the first time I visited the US was only 30 years ago. Yes, it took me half of my current lifespan (more or less) before I actually flew across the Atlantic to make my first visit. That first flight, flying with TWA (who no longer exist) was into Boston, a city I have visited several times since, under my own steam. But like I will be doing this year, flying Thomas Cook Airlines, I didnt fly out of the same airport, or city, as I arrived at. For the last few days, we took the hire car back to Boston, then took a train to New York City. Funnily enough, this year will involve a shorter trip on the same railway line (to Stamford), and no, I havent travelled down it, in all that time! Yes, I suspect its changed.
I guess NYC is one of those cities that you either love, or hate. Its loud, in your face, and very, very busy. Yes, I enjoyed seeing the sights, and I loved seeing 42nd Street on Broadway, but the place as a whole wasnt my scene. The strangest memory is that we got the tickets for the musical, in a ticket booth which was either just outside, or just inside (it is 30 years ago!) the World Trade Center, which 14 years later, attracted news headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It was only after the event, after my stay in Chicago, that I realized that I’d taken to the noise, and bustle in a much easier way than I had in NYC about 20 years earlier. Had I changed in myself, or was it the start of the whole transition thing that lightened me up, who knows? Either way, Chicago is on the list of places I hope to get back to, sometime soon. Will be next year, if I get back to a 5 day week, and 2 holidays next year, but lets see how the health issues play out first. If not, Seattle is calling to me even louder, so if it comes to 1 slightly longer holiday, that will probably win out.
But yes, its my strong love for LA, which lets face it, is very loud, very bustling, especially Hollywood, that makes me wonder how I’d feel about NYC nowadays? I know I’ve changed since then. The whole becoming a woman matter has made me feel so much better about myself, made me more self confident, and probably livelier, that makes me think that I might now see NYC in a different light? Yes, the expensive nature of the city will make it hard for me to visit, but maybe at some point…?
No, it wont be this year. I will pass through the city on the way to JFK airport (which is where I flew out of, 30 years ago), but it will only be passing through, nothing more. And thats assuming I dont get driven to the airport, which I’m not expecting, but then again, I had to convince someone she wasnt driving to Cape Cod to pick me up, and I might still need to try and convince her again lol!
So yes, maybe at some point, I will go back to NYC, and see how I feel about it now. Hey, if I love Hollywood, I might love NYC now? But yes, even at 2 holidays a year, it will be a few years yet, as beyond the 2 mentioned for next year, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Minneapolis St Paul (probably in that order of preference) are all cities I want to go back to.
San Francisco for so many reasons, KC to see if I can find any more Harlow landmarks, and to see more of the city. MSP, no idea why, but I feel I want to go back, all the same. And thats all assuming I cant find where Clara Elaine Johnson was born in Oklahoma, and visit there! Texas, where she moved to LA from, I’ll see how they feel about transgender women by then, even if I do find out where in the state she lived. Mind, I might have had the op by then, so…lol?
But yes, in 30 years, the only place in NYC I’ve visited, is a couple of transits through JFK. Maybe someday, I should go back?
The video? Big clue in the blog title, how original!
So this is it, the last blog from LA for a considerable period of time at least, if ever again. I know, I could come back again, and may even need to come back again sooner than that, but being practical, I have many other places to see, some for the first time, some for repeat visits, so its going to be a while, if ever again. And yes, at my age, with the distance involved, and I’m sure the deterioration of my physical health, which is far from perfect even now, I’m sure I wont be able to do as much then, as I can now, anyway. I’m already suspecting that delights like walking up the long hill at Forest Lawn might be beyond me by then at least, but we will see.
To be fair, if you’d told me back in October ’15, that my next holiday would be back here, I would have laughed at you, but its happened. I guess I just wanted to show this city that I’d battled through everything that life had thrown at me, and got here again. But now thats done…?
In some ways today has been a light day, I havent actually left Hollywood. However, I spent a lot of the day on my feet, walking, so maybe not as light as all that? It was actually interesting going on a guided walking tour of Hollywood, where I knew the guide! I know, end of holiday, but in truth, it didnt matter, as I got to visit lots of old buildings that I’d never have got into myself. Oh fine, the one that amused me the most, has to be Musso and Frank’s! Yes, I finally got to go in there, if only for coffee, but at least I now know what it actually looks like from the inside. Of course, for works of fiction, thats a mere technicality, but at least I’ve made it there now. Yes, its every bit as impressive as I’d been led to believe. So if I ever want to use it in a story again lol…?
The other thing I’d already decided was where my last big meal in town would be, and though its not bargain basement, its cheaper than that legendary place. So I settled for the 50’s feel of Mels Diner, for one last time. After that, a couple of final, final goodbyes, at the star, and prints of Jean Harlow, before heading back to base. I do wish there was a star to the uncredited chorus girls/bit part actresses of the world, but no, there isnt, so I just said goodbye to Clara Johnson generally, as I turned off the Boulevard for the last time, on foot at least.
What can I say? You can take a woman out of Yorkshire, but you cant take Yorkshire out of a woman? Yes, I stopped off at a gorgeous, quirky, vintage clothing store on the way back, and saw the most gorgeous, silver flapper dress, really looked the part. Had my size too, but I didnt get it. Why? Because I cant justify spending $65 (plus tax, I’m sure) on a dress I have no idea when, or where I would ever wear it. So yes, I know I’ll regret it, but it stayed in the shop. I could get it in the morning (shop opens at 11, I have to be ready to go at 12.30, and its about 5 minutes walk), but I know I wont.
The only walk I’m planning at present to do in the morning, is a short trip around the block, so that I can walk a little way up Beachwood Drive, looking at the Hollywood sign, one more time. No, I’m not going as far as Verbena though, thats far too far for the short period of time I have left ‘in the sun’ of LA.
Yes, thats it for here. Pretty sure you’ll have to wait until Monday for the next blog, I’ll have too much catching up to do on Sunday for that.
The video. I’m surprised I havent used this Elaine Paige classic before, but seemingly I havent (well, on 1 blog at least), so lets use it now
Oh fine, I’m lying, I only wish I had known I was a woman all along, but anyway…Yes, the clues were there from an early age, but how was I to know?
But yes, one thing I’ve known for 18 months at least, is that at some point, I’d complete the full circle, and fly somewhere on a passport that said I was a woman, and tomorrow is that day. I know, no one at the airport is even going to realize how special that moment is to me, because to them, I’ll just be another woman checking in, going through passport control, and other stuff.
So after that, I’ll have had the full set, a male passport while ‘living’ as a man, a male passport when I’d transitioned in every way except the passport, and now, finally, the full female self. And a different name for each too!
I know, its silly, because everything in life is equally important, but for a traveller like me, this passport, and the chance to use it, is just so special, all the same. But yes, that moment when I will do the last thing I did as a man, but never as a woman according to the legal niceties, has only a few hours to go now, cant wait.
So, if you’re flying through Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport tomorrow, and see a very happy old lady, there’s a fair chance it will be me!
I will be amazed if anyone has heard tonights video before, unless like me, you’re a big Rocky Sharpe fan. But yes, the clue is in the blog title
So yes, its official now, I’m on an extended break, that just happens to include 10 days in an apartment in Hollywood. So yes, planning, and plotting is very much under way. I now at least have 1 definite booking, a walking tour of Hollywood, on my last full day in town. Yes, I know, not the best timing, but its only happening once a month, and yes, its got to be done, as I know the lady acting as the guide, not only through Twitter, which is where I first met her, but also in real life, given we toured the Hollywood Museum together, on my first trip across, just over 2 years ago. Since then she’s got married, become a mother, and yes, I’m proud of her for that.
The Brooks movies mentioned earlier in the week are almost settled, but technically not definite, due to my regular issue with US websites, of that unless you, and more importantly, your credit card have a zip code, they’re impossible to use on their site. So now I cant do anything until after I’ve got there, so just having to hope its not a sell out, as I will be annoyed if it is. Fingers crossed, it is the Egyptian Theater, it is quite large, but… Of course I have no idea if UK websites are equally bad for users outside of the UK, so forgive my grumbles if they are.
I’ve also been trying to work out when Clayton Kershaw will be pitching for the Dodgers while there, based on the 5 pitcher rota teams use. Having pitched last night (a win), and counting forward, it looks like I’m going on the 23rd. But yes, I’ll wait nearer the time, and will probably be an ‘on the day’ purchase at the stadium, though at what I can afford to pay, I’ll be so far from Kershaw that I would see him better on TV lol! Oh, and if anyone could arrange a meet with Vin Scully, I would be thrilled, schoolgirl like!
Talking of which… On my 2 previous trips to LA, I’ve tried both times to get tickets to see Jimmy Kimmel recording his show, with no success. It might be that the people controlling the tickets see a UK address, and dont let me have them accordingly, or I might just have been unlucky? Well, this time, I’ve changed my profile to fit the zip code of my apartment, and applied several times over for both him, and James Corden, so fingers crossed I get to see one of them at least.
Of course, in an ideal world, I’d be the one being interviewed about transgender diversity issues, and trying to get an acting break, but fine, I’ll settle for being part of the audience, I guess? Yes, you never know, but I suspect pigs flying are more likely!
Oh, and finally, I’ve got a lot of the packing done. Probably more dresses than I will possibly need unless something amazing happens, but better safe than sorry. Still got room in the case for more, but mustnt go too mad, as I really shouldnt need more, for 10 days, and I’m sure I will bring more stuff back with me anyway. Green Card, or working visa would be handy lol, but cant see it!
Right, video. This time of year, its pretty fair to say the sun shines most days in LA. Thankfully, the winter was very wet, solved a lot of drought issues, if not all of them. Oh, and I might shine in a TV audience at least. Oh, and how does this guy still look so good?
In these days when you can book everything you want online, even simply using a mobile phone, it might be hard for some of my readers to believe that when we had to do these things back in the 70’s, soon after I started work, things were a lot more complex.
One thing I enjoyed, before commuting became a serious part of my life, was travelling by trains. I know, but it was a lot easier back then, when there was just one company running everything, but fine, those days are gone, and I dont want to get political again! The beauty of one company running all the railways in the country, was that British Rail (as it was then) created something called a Rail Rover. Basically there was one for each region, and I had experienced it, as my mother had taken me travelling on the Southern Rail version, during School Holidays, but there was something that interested me far more, when I started work. Yes, the all line version! Basically it gave me the chance, with a lot of planning, to travel some of the more rural lines I would never get to travel otherwise, which was fun. The snag with those lines then, and indeed still now, is that there werent many trains a day on those routes to choose from.
The advantage now, is that if you want to plot those journeys nowadays, you just type in a few details on the National Rail website journey planner, and you plan accordingly. Back then, I had a very large (and I do mean large) paper version of the national timetable to work things out from, and that was it. Oh, and none of those hotel booking websites we have now, either! Me, I used an AA handbook, as my hotel guide. So putting together train routes, tying that into my overnight hotel, and…it was interesting! Oh, and in theory, I could have picked up the phone at home, and rang the hotels and booked, but it was the family phone, so I wrote, and sent letters instead! Now, you just go on a website, make a booking, and thats it, but back then, you’d send off the letters, hope you got a positive reply, and move on from there. In truth, probably because I was never looking for hotels in big towns, I tended to get in fine, but yes, doing workarounds, if you did get a rejection, and have to start again, ouch!
One of those lines I wanted to travel dearly, was just about as far from home as I could get, and stay on the mainland. Back then, it was just the line from Inverness to Thurso, and Wick, nowadays called the Far North line, which is a pretty fair description. As you can guess, both then, and now, not many trains to choose from, per day! One of my problems was, that if I travelled to either of the termini (back then, the train split at Georgemas Junction, in the middle of nowhere, now one train serves both) it would be very late at night before I got there. And fine, I was about 18, and that didnt appeal. So I looked for somewhere I could split the journey, and I found somewhere interesting.
Middle of nowhere, pretty much just the station, a hotel, and a couple of houses, and that was it. A tiny place called Forsinard. So yes, it appealed, and at least I didnt have far to go between train, and hotel. Yes, I stayed there. Yes, its about as remote a place as I’ve ever stayed in my life! After 40 years, I have no idea how busy the hotel was that night, all I remember is arriving mid evening, and leaving again the next morning, and that was it. An evening meal, a bed, and breakfast, and that was about the total of my stay!
Anyway, last week, out of curiosity, I thought I’d take a look and see what the current prices were to stay there, to find that it closed about 4 years ago, presumably lack of business? No, in truth, not totally surprised. There were no Premier Inns, Travelodges and the like back then, even not allowing for the limited market for somewhere like there in the first place!
Thing is, nowadays, I tend to stay in chain hotels, but yes, I guess I will always have a soft spot for those quirky little hotels, all the same.
OK, video time. The reason for the blog title is that Forsinard lays in what is now called Flow Country, a large area of peat bog. So, yes, I couldnt resist the pun!
So yes, firstly to confirm, I do have somewhere to stay in Hollywood, its just not where I expected it to be! Landlord greed, which backfired on him badly. What would you rather have, £747 for a booking 4 months in advance, or nothing because seeing someone wanted to book your place, you hike up your rates 15%!
For those who dont know, when you try to book somewhere on Airbnb, you end up having to request the apartment, and it gives the landlord 24 hours to accept, or reject, or whatever. So yes, given I’d been told which place to book, and that he’d love to have me stay, I thought this would be a formality, but wrong. He just ignored it for the 24 hours, much to my surprise. Until…
Before I went looking elsewhere, under the circumstances, I sent a line to check why he hadnt taken the booking. Back came a reply saying that seeing he was starting to get interest, he wanted to raise the prices slightly. Fine, it was near the top of the range where the apartment option was only slightly cheaper than the budget hotel, but fair enough. A couple of days later, I checked again, to find out the price had gone up by 15%! Despite a request to let me know when he’d done it, I’d heard nothing! So funnily enough, I’ve gone elsewhere! I know, in town, he’ll probably get others who will pay the new rate, but seriously…!
In a matter of irony, I went and looked again. Now, whether this was down before because of a request, or whether he’d taken it down while he did something with his ad, or whether I had just been blonde, but who knows? OK, it doesnt look quite as nice as the other one, but it looks fine, its in an area I know (Just slightly further down towards town in Hollywood Hills area, and quite a bit cheaper! So yes, I applied, got accepted, and am now sorted! The other guy, well fine, serve him right if no one books it, but I doubt that will happen!
Now all I need to sort out, nearer the time, is my ESTA clearance, my travel insurance, and my shuttle. And then, California, here I come!
The video, some live Abba, for which the clue is in the blog title!