Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Great Perfume Hunt Of '09

You've heard of The Secret Seven. You've heard of The Famous Five.

Pah. Amateurs.

When you're on the scent of, well, The Scent, you need the best of the best. You need The Thaumaturgical Three. (Er, you may also need a dictionary, if you're not a Terry Pratchett fan).

Reunited for what would prove to be their most challenging case yet, Alien Wally, Mags, and Shirley-Mom vowed to utilise all their investigative power to track down the elusive Scent from its hiding place somewhere in the UK.

Here are some highlights from the case files:

The Three started out in Windsor, posing as tourists, hoping that the castle would hold some clues to The Scent's location. The presence of soldiers suggested the guarding of some very important national treasures. But, it was to prove a herring as red as the soldiers' fancy outfits.

Foiled, The Three decided to search for the Scent in London.

First stop: Trafalgar Square. Nada but for Nelson.

Mags searched vainly in the National Gallery for clues, though as usual got hopelessly distracted by the Turners.

At first sight, Harrods, with it's gleaming perfume bottles, seemed a likely spot for The Scent to hide. But 'twas not to be.

And with Big Ben not telling them anything besides the time, The Three gave up for the day.

The following morning, they tried to draw on the wisdom of the animal kingdom, but were laughed out of the field.

With the trail of The Scent growing cold in The SOUTH, The Three decided to try their luck further north. But, before they could leave, Shirley-Mom needed to update her skillz to blend in seamlessly with the locals.

The trip north encompassed a quick visit to York, where they learned one important fact.

And they arrived in Scotland to a very warm (er, cold?) welcome.

Where better to start in The Land Of The Water Of Life than with the life-giving elixir itself. But, despite its sublime aromas, no clues as to the location of The Scent were revealed.

Mags and Shirley-Mom braved the winds on the Forth Bridge to see if The Scent was trying to make a break for it on the river.

They asked the locals.

They tried Edinburgh Castle. They watched the cannon closely, saw some ghosts in the cafeteria, checked out the Crown Jewels and even descended into the Castle's deep dark depths to see what the prisoners had left behind. But to no avail. The Scent was more deeply hidden than that.

Alien Wally and Mags tried to persuade Shirley-Mom to swim out into the North Sea to Bass Rock to search for The Scent there. But, this is as far as she got. *Cough* Wuss *cough* (to which the only acceptable reply is *Cough* Hypocrites *cough*).

The East Lothian countryside seemed full of possible hiding places.

Eventually, they turned their sights further north.

Like Nessie, The Scent was nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps too far north? How about slightly further south? They tried the Lammermuir Hills, where Alien Wally thought he spotted something fishy, and the gargoyles were stony-faced.

Strange stone carvings led The Three to realise they hadn't yet tried the obvious place – the home of the Holy Grail. But, despite promises of Truth, even Rosslyn Chapel wasn't telling any of its secrets.

In desperation, they eventually thought to ask Madam, who had spent most of the adventure sleeping. “Duh,” she said, yawning in obvious annoyance at being disturbed, “St James, the Patron Saint of Scent.” And she was right. Case closed.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Pre-Holiday Holiday

Once upon a time, a good few months ago, Alien Wally and Mags went on holiday. To prepare for another holiday. Practice makes perfect, you know.

This time, the travellers were bravely heading past the Scottish border and the north of England towards that amorphous area simply referred to on northern road signs as "The SOUTH" (caps included).

And amorphous it is, with the motorway between Newcastle and London not having much to show for it in terms of distinguishing features. Anything of interest requires a detour off the long boring road to see.

So, before they fell asleep at the wheel from lack of visual stimulation, that's exactly what Alien Wally and Mags decided to do. Their detour destination: Cambridge.

The last time Alien Wally and Mags visited Cambridge, five years previously, it was at the end of a very busy and exhausting three week holiday. Consequently, the visit went something like this:
Mags' mind: Let's go, let's go! We're in Cambridge! We have to go pay our respects to these hallowed halls of academia! Come on!
Mags' body: F*#$ off. I'm tired. I hurt. I give up. I'm going to sit here in the grounds of Kings' College and cry.
Mags' mind: But... but... University! Books! Bicycles!
Mags' body: Tired. Hurt. Sit. Cry. What part of this don't you understand?
Alien Wally: So, does this mean we're not going punting on the River Cam then?

Good times, folks. Good times.

Anyway, things went much better this time around, Mags is happy to report.

There was punting.

There was hallowed academic halls.

There was bicycles.

There was a crazy man. And a crazy lady. And another crazy man. There are no pictures of these – what, you think Alien Wally and Mags are stupid enough to attract the attention of The Crazies by taking pictures of them? Think again, dear friends. Self-preservation is an art more prized than photography.

And then, there was back on the road, heading to Kent to visit family.

With a few days' grace until even more family arrived from South Africa, Alien Wally and Mags decided to visit Greenwich while they were down that way (i.e in The SOUTH).

There was a Naval College. With very beautiful ceilings.

There was much anticipation while waiting for the observatory's one o'clock ball to drop. There was much anticlimax at witnessing the observatory's one o'clock ball drop.

There was crossing the Greenwich meridian, through the hordes of people all waiting in a long queue along the meridian to have their pictures taken in front of the fancy commemorative sculpture.

There was the decision to take a wee walk along the Thames from Greenwich to Tower Bridge. Because how far could it be, really? Turns out: five miles (eight kilometers). As a result, there was walking. And more walking. And still more walking.

There was a roundabout with confusing traffic signals.

And then there was Tower Bridge.

And, before Mags' body could throw a hissy fit like it did in Cambridge five years ago, there was a ride back to Greenwich on the Thames Clipper.

Good times, folks. Good times. For real.