My Week 153: Google GaGa, Titus and the Frog

Google Gaga

So this week, Ken and I went to a Google conference. Well, I went to the Google conference, and Ken went to several wineries, craft breweries, and visited a local historic home, which was totally unfair because HE’S the one who loves technology, and I’M the one who loves wine. But it was important for work that I learn about the Googleverse since, one day, Google will own everything, including your soul.

The Arrival:

I arrived to be greeted by overenthusiastic Google people who directed me to a table where I could “decorate” my name tag with stickers and sparkles and bedazzle-y sh*t. I wrote my actual name in purple marker as a concession to being fancy, and was proud at having resisted the temptation to put “Bob” in large capital letters, like they do for me at Starbucks. I am NOT a sticker person, being grown up and whatnot, and also I was grumpy because a) I had to be around people I didn’t know early in the morning and b) Ken snored all night and I was really, really tired from constantly having to wake up and punch him. Also, the only swag was a small cardboard box. At the last conference I went to, the first thing they did was give you a tote bag with all kinds of stuff in it, including a water bottle, pen, keychain, hand sanitizer and such. All I got was a cardboard box and nothing to carry it in.
Rating: 5/10 for having stickers and no swag

The Keynote:

There was a picture of the keynote speaker on the huge screen in front of the stage. In the picture, he was wearing a really nice purple, pink, and blue plaid shirt. When he stepped out onto the stage, he was wearing the same shirt. Later in the presentation, he showed a video of himself from last year and remarked, “Gosh, that’s embarrassing—I’m wearing the same shirt today that I wore in the video.” The next morning, he introduced the second keynote speaker, and he was still wearing THE SHIRT. His speech was very entertaining and funny, but I was completely distracted by questions I desperately wanted to ask, like “Do you not own any other shirts? Or do you just have more than one of that style? Does Google MAKE you wear that shirt? Or do you just really like that particular shirt, and if so, do you wash it every night, and if so, how do you keep it looking so fresh and unfaded?” And all the time, I kept thinking about how Ken was sampling wine that he didn’t even like, while I was obsessed with someone else’s wardrobe.
Rating 8/10 for the presentation…6/10 for the shirt (only because it was a nice shirt, despite its ubiquity)

Session 1:

As an accompaniment to us sitting and waiting for the first session to start (because ironically, the wifi was down—at a TECH CONFERENCE), the presenter was playing loud music. The first song was “Rehab” by the late Amy Winehouse, and next up was “If You Wanna Be My Lover” by the Spice Girls. It was confounding, particularly at 9 o’clock in the morning. Then she started by having us follow along with a “calming breathing exercise”. Instead, I scrolled through Twitter on the grounds that if I actually focus on my breathing, I get superanxious that I’m not breathing properly, and then the breathing gets louder and louder in my head, and then I can’t get enough air…trust me, Twitter was more relaxing. The rest of the presentation, which was supposed to be on the relationship between technology and emotional intelligence, consisted of a slide deck with links to websites and apps, like “If you want some neat meditation mantras, you can go to this cool site” or “Here’s an app that puts an inspiring saying on your laptop screen when you log on….”
Rating 4/10 for bad musical decisions and forcing me to think about breathing

Sessions 2 and 3:

Both of these were pretty good. One was for Google Draw, where I learned how to search for transparent images (I didn’t know you could do that), and the other was for using different programs to make videos, both of which will come in handy at work. I also learned that if you hit ‘Control-Shift-T’ on someone’s computer, it will open all the tabs that they have minimized. So if you suspect that one of your co-workers is secretly looking at porn but shuts it down whenever you walk by, now you can just stroll over, hit those keys, and yell, “Bom chicka wow wow” when ‘Big Bouncy Boobies’ magically reappears. I have the most notes for these two presentations.
Rating: 8/10 and 9/10 respectively for being practical

Session 4:

You remember how I said the only swag was a small cardboard box? This session was about the box, which, when you put your phone into it, becomes a 3D viewer. I was with one of my colleagues and we spent the whole session riding rollercoasters, swimming with sharks, and flying around space. So I should probably go back and re-evaluate The Arrival since the swag was actually pretty sweet, but at this point, I was even more annoyed by the people whose name badges I couldn’t read because they went so overboard on the stickers, like “What the hell, Martin? You’re a grown-ass man—do you really need to dot your damn ‘i’ with a sparkly daffodil?”
Rating: 10/10 for living vicariously

Day 2:

The keynote speaker was Australian, so that was good for no other reason than he sounded like comedian Jim Jeffries. Actually his presentation was excellent, on top of the Australian-ness.
Rating: 9/10 plus one bonus point for Australia

Sessions 5 and 6:

The morning started off well. The first session was about English Language Learners, and it was good, except the presenter was only about 30 and she kept referring to things then giggling and saying, “I guess I really dated myself there” or “Gosh, now you know how OLD I am!” Frankly, there’s little more annoying than really young people talking about how old they are, when most of the room has at least twenty years on them. Also, she played us the video of the Micromachine Man and said she had to be careful, because she was really passionate about her subject and didn’t want to talk too fast like she “normally does”. Which would have been fine, except her normal speaking voice was paced more like comedian Emo Philips than Robin Williams. The other session was on making animated videos using Google Slides, and I was super proud of the 2 second short I made called “Titus Waits For Cookies” which was basically a cartoon dog sliding back and forth in front of a cartoon oven. “It’s simple, but highly accurate,” I told the instructor, who was like, “Well, that’s just super!” and I choose to believe that she was being sincere and not highly patronizing.
Rating: 8/10 for pacing and dubious complimenting

Then the day fell apart, as the next session was boring AF. I would have left, but I’m very self-conscious and that would have involved making people look at me. Also, the presenter was very nice, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. So instead, I did some emails, posted some stuff on Facebook, and got into a Twitter debate with some super-racist Trump-humper, as one does. My parting shot was “The lady doth protest too much methinks” and he didn’t respond, so I WIN, because that’s one of the rules of Twitter Fight Club.

I DID walk out of the last session, which was on something called “Classcraft” and I thought it would be a cool teacher-y version of Minecraft, but no—it was a not-very-cool version of World of Warcraft. The imagery was violent and the whole game seemed like a very bad behaviour management system where you could take ‘Health Points’ away from children for infractions like “not having a pencil” or “being negative in class” until they died. In the game. I felt it necessary to clarify that, because a lot of people in the room seemed OK with it being either way. In fact, the presenter asked the room what a student might GAIN Health Points for, and one bright star said, “For sitting quietly and not talking?” Oh, hell no. As a former classroom teacher for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the whole room is quiet, that’s usually a sign that they’re plotting something. Believe me, it’s much better when they talk. Mostly because this isn’t the 1920s, and if you don’t want your kids to talk, you shouldn’t be teaching. I left the session because I was afraid I was going to say something rude like “I have a better idea—why don’t you just zap them with a cattle prod when they aren’t paying attention?”
Rating 0/10 for a bizarre punishment model

Overall though, it was a great learning experience and Ken DID buy me several bottles of very nice wine. But I got to thinking—what are some other things that Google should invent?

1) Google Cat: When you install this app, a pair of eyes appears on your screen and stares at you until you throw a stuffed mouse at it. It will also randomly hiss, or press keys on your keyboard while you’re working, just like a real life cat is walking on it. There’s also Google Dog where, any time you eat in front of the screen, simulated drool obscures it.

2) Google Benedict: This program overlays the faces of any men on the screen with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. Enough said.

3) Google Zap: Anytime anyone posts anything stupid, like “Vaccines cause autism” or “There’s no such thing as global warming” or “Donald Trump is a great president”, an electrical current will run through the keyboard, electrifying it and shocking the user. I got this idea from the last session I attended, because as much as I like it when children talk, there are a lot of adults who should just shut up.

4) Google Finger: This is an add-on for the driverless Google car. It can automatically sense when another driver cuts it off and a giant LED hand flipping the bird appears in all the windows.

5) Google Smell: It’s a really fancy and expensive air freshener. You can program it with any smell you want, like you could make your whole house smell like steak and drive your dog crazy, or make your bathroom always smell like roses, or program ‘new baby smell’ so that when your teenager hasn’t showered for three days, or keeps wearing the same damn shirt, you can close your eyes and pretend…

Titus and The Frog

Me: What the hell is wrong with you?
Titus: What?
Me: Every time we go outside, you head straight for the pond and stand staring at it.
Titus: There’s something in it. I’m not sure what it is.
Me: You mean the fish?
Titus: No—I know what fish are. We’ve had a couple in the house. One of them fought in ‘Nam—
Me: NO, he did NOT. And the other one NEVER attended a salon with Dorothy Parker. Fish are notorious liars. Wait—are you talking about the frog?
Titus: Frog? You mean that thing there? Yes! It’s driving me crazy!
Me: Why? It’s not doing anything—it’s just minding its own business.
Titus: (whispers) Yet it taunts me so…
Me: It’s not “taunting you”. It’s just doing what frogs do. Leave it alone.
Titus: But it’s so green!
Me: How the hell would you know? I thought you were colour blind.
Titus: And I thought we weren’t allowed to say that anymore.
Me: You can say it if you actually ARE colour blind. Otherwise, you have to respect all colours.
Titus: So what you’re telling me is, if it’s not hurting me, I should stop worrying about it?
Me: Exactly. Besides, one day, you might fall in the pond and that frog could save your life.
Titus: Hmm. Wait—is this one of your clever analogies? Because I think I outweigh that frog by about 90 pounds.
Me:  It IS clever, and it wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t eat so many damn cookies.
Titus: Cookies? Can I HAVE a cookie?
Me: Are you going to leave the frog alone?
Titus: Sure. I think we can live together in peace and harmony.
Me: Is that one of YOUR clever analogies?
Titus: Hey man—I’m just a dog looking for a cookie.
Me: Maybe Google has an app for that.

 

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My Week 152: Trip Part Two, Bats in the Belfry, The Irony of the KKK

Wales and Scotland—the journey continues

So last week I ended with a promise that I would tell you about a couple of my favourite places from our recent trip to Wales and Scotland. There are three notable spots that I’d like to mention:

1) Stonehenge

Stonehenge isn’t in Wales or Scotland, but our boat docked in Southampton and we had to drive to Swansea. Luckily, Stonehenge was on the way. I’d always wanted to see it for myself, and despite the fact that there’s a huge fence around it and you can’t get that close, and there’s a super-touristy gift shop, it was pretty impressive. There’s a lot of speculation about why and how it was built. Historians now believe it was for ancient pagan religious ceremonies and such, and that they brought stones from as far away as North Wales. Personally, I think it was a guy who was bored and built it for fun, just because he could. Ken does that all the time—for example, he built himself a 16 by 20 workshop just because he wanted to, and he put in dormer style windows in the top. When I asked him why he needed fancy windows for a building where he would be hammering and nailing sh*t, he replied that he’d always wanted to try building something in the “Cape Cod” style. Now of course, it has corbels and architectural detailing, as well as a gazebo to one side that he created using metal that he brought all the way from Woodstock, and which sits overtop of the graves of our last two dogs. In 2000 years, historians will speculate about the purpose and design of “Fix-it Shop”, and wonder whether it was used for animal sacrifices. “It must have been a major centre for many worshippers,” they will say. “Look at the extraordinary number of hammers and screwdrivers—too many for just one man.”

2) Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a village in Wales that was built by one guy, just because he could (see above). It’s the ultimate homage to salvage and it’s absolutely beautiful. The story goes like this: Sir Clough William-Ellis bought 22 acres of land in Wales, and decided to recreate an Italianate village there by going to auctions and buying buildings, statues, and architectural pieces from other British nobles who couldn’t afford the upkeep on their property any more. It became kind of a magnet for pop stars, artists, and writers in the middle part of the 20th century when Sir Clough was still around. Now, it’s a tourist site where you can actually stay in the buildings which have been converted into guest accommodations, wander the property, and buy things at the gift shop. The best part about the place though is that it was used as the set for a bizarre 1960s series called The Prisoner. We watched a few clips of the show, and it was very cool to say, “I stood in that exact same spot!” or “That’s where the giant-ass chess board is now!” Ken and I only have an acre of property, but we do have four outbuildings, so we’re on our way to becoming a mini-Portmeirion. I’m currently in the market for a small grotto, so if you hear of any lord who’s fallen on hard times and has one to sell for cheap, let me know.

3) My own property in Scotland

As you may remember, I am now a Lady, having been presented with the title to 10 square feet of land in a nature reserve in Scotland after complaining that everyone else in the family was nobility except me. T thought it sounded kind of sketchy, but it’s actually true (well, the landownership part if not the “peer of the realm” part), and on our second last day, Ken, T, and I decided to drive up to the Duror area to visit our property. We didn’t know what to expect. We had directions from someone named Stewart, and we were told we were too late to book an actual tour, but we were welcome to come and visit the property. When we got there (down a single-track road, because that’s how you know you’re in the UK), we came out into a parking area with a small, log-style cabin. But there were other cars around, so we knocked on the door. A woman called for us to come in, and then next thing you know, we’d logged into the wifi, downloaded their GPS app, were handed personalized maps of the reserve. It was a lot more high-tech than I imagined it would be. We followed the GPS compass through the dead forest—“dead” because we were told that it had originally been a corporate logging area, and that the North American spruce trees had been planted too close together, causing them to crowd each other out so that none of them could grow properly. The 5 year plan is to take all of them down and plant native Scottish species, but currently, it’s dark and forbidding:

T: Those are like trees that had some terrible disease and died. Who would want to own THAT? It’s like a tree graveyard.
Me: Can you imagine the poor sucker who paid good money to own 10 square feet in THERE?
T and Me: I know, right?! HAHA.
Ken: Um, the GPS says to turn left in 10 metres.
Me: But that would be into the dead forest…

Sure enough, both T’s and my land were in the part of the reserve that’s going to be “rejuvenated” over the next 5 years. But we were pretty happy to discover that our property was on the far edge of the dead forest, where there was a little sunshine and some moss growing:

T: I have a mushroom on my land!
Me: You’re so lucky–I wish I had a mushroom! But I have all this lovely moss. Ooh, there’s a bird in my dead tree!

In truth, the whole place was beautiful, despite the dead trees. There are fields, and rivers, and all kinds of lovely forest creatures. And because it’s been parcelled out, it can never be developed or destroyed, so it was well worth the 85 bucks we each paid for it. T and I each buried toonies (Canadian two dollar coins) in our land so that future civilizations would know that Canadians were capable of crossing the great water. And in five years, when the whole thing has been rejuvenated, I’m coming back and building a tiny castle to oversee my estate. Just because I can.

Friday: Bats in the Belfry

When Ken, T, and I were in Wales, we visited this manor house/castle and went for a tour. The tour guide told us that the one place we couldn’t go was into the attic, because there were bats up there. Essentially, the bats sh*t all over everything, including the top side of the elaborate ceiling on the third floor with glass inserts, and you could see the bat guana, but the National Trust people couldn’t clean it until the bats “migrated for the winter” because—wait for it—“bats are a protected species”. In what possible world is a creature that’s half mouse, half insane miniature dinosaur protected from being removed from any premises without its consent? Well, the “possible world” is the UK, where bats are seen as lovely denizens of the night, rather than bitey little assholes. The tour guide even had a dead bat in a box that she insisted on showing us. His name apparently was Cecil, and I was like, “Is naming a dead bat corpse a Welsh thing?” One English guy on the tour was really up in arms, and told me that if you wanted to convert a barn into a residence but there were bats, you had to call in a special agency, who, for the cost of around 10, 000 pounds, would do a study and tell you whether or not you had to make special provisions to ensure the bats would be safe. I was like, “I’m from Canada. We just exterminate them,” and he was like, “I wish! Bloody bats!” He seemed a little over-invested, so maybe he’d been dinged with a large bat-bill from the bat conservation people. Personally, I feel bad that sometimes it’s necessary to “get rid” of the bats, but hey—I don’t go hanging around in their caves, pooping on THEIR floors, so they can just stay out of my space or pay the price. My only previous experience with bats was a couple of times one has gotten in the house, and Ken has been able to shoo it out the open door, so I’ve been a lot more sympathetic to the little creatures of the night. But then on Friday, Ken was away, and T and I were alone in the house. About midnight, I heard scrambling in the same cupboard as a few weeks ago, and I ran upstairs to T in a panic:

Me: There’s something in the chimney again!
T: It’s probably a bird. Let’s go see!
Me: Don’t you dare open the cupboard door!

We raced each other downstairs, but then when he heard the noise, he saw sense and we decided that the best plan of action was to close the door to the back room and wait for Ken to come home. The next day, Ken came back from the computer camp he was running, and after a while, I mentioned to him that there was something in the chimney again. “I’ll go look,” he said, and I hid behind the door, as one does. “Holy sh*t! It’s a bat. It’s just hanging on the inside of the cupboard door,” he said.

“Is it moving?”

“No. I think it’s asleep. Come and look.”

So I did, and there it was in all its creepy glory. “Take a picture of it,” I said.

Ken took one picture, then he tried to zoom in for another, at which point the bat stared straight at him, bared its teeth (zoom in on the picture to see how terrifying it truly is) and hissed. I didn’t know regular bats actually HAD teeth—I thought that was just vampire bats, but now I was living in f*cking Transylvania and this bat looked just like Gary Oldman only without the weird white wig.

Me: Shut the door! Get out!
Ken: I can’t shut the cupboard door—I might hurt his wing!
Me: His WING??!! Fine—don’t come crying to me when he bites your neck and turns you into the undead!

So we shut the door to the room, opened the patio doors, and hoped that the bat would be sensible and leave. Later, when I made Ken go back and look, there was no sign of the bat. So now I don’t know if it’s a) still in the chimney b) hiding in the room somewhere c) plotting its revenge.

The Irony of the KKK—a throwback.

With recent events in the news, I thought I might re-share some of my thoughts from previous posts regarding the stupidity of racists in general, the KKK, and its offshoot, the KKK lite, who are people that can’t afford bed sheets but don’t like anyone who’s not white…

…Isn’t it the biggest irony of all that David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has a Jewish first name? All those crazy anti-Semites out there, and most of them are named after Hebrew people. I wonder if they realize that. Although from the idiocy I’ve seen and read coming from the so-called “alt-right”, I highly doubt it…

Imaginary KKK rally

David Duke: All right, white virgins—time to put on your silly hoods. Aaron, Adam, Ben—you guys are in charge of leading the chanting. Dan, Ethan, and Gabe—you can set the cross on fire.
All: Yeehaw! That’ll show those foreigners with their weird-ass names and strange, cultish behaviour.
David Duke: Look at me! Whee! I’m a wizard!

…the KKK confuses me. Are they supposed to be Christian? Cuz their leader is a male witch, and that sounds really magic-y to me. Plus, why do they burn crosses? These guys are just FULL of irony. Or stupidity. It’s hard to differentiate with the KKK…

Imaginary conversation with the KKK.

Me: Why are you dressed like a cheap-ass ghost? You know Hallowe’en isn’t until October, right?
KKK guy: I’m not a ghost. I’m a wizard. A grand wizard.
Me: Whoa there, Hogwarts. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. You haven’t done any magic yet. Can you turn lead into gold? Where’s your wand? Is it hiding under your Ikea bed sheet?
KKK guy: Ergh. Immigrants are taking all the good jobs.
Me: What job? You can’t even do a card trick. You’re a sh*tty wizard–an immigrant could do YOUR job better.
KKK guy: Please don’t punch me. Also, the bagpipe music is frightening me.
Me: As it should, you dumb f*ck.

Oh, and by the way, there’s no such thing as either “White Nationalists” or the “Alt-Left”. They are either “Nazis”, or “normal people who care about other human beings”, respectively. All we can hope for is that the former angrily inbreed themselves into extinction, and the latter keep happily standing up for humanity.

My Weeks 150/151: Travelling Dangerously on the Queen Mary 2 and Throughout the U.K.

I’m on a boat!

Well, I WAS on a boat. Then in a car, then on a plane, and now I’m back. I hope you didn’t miss me too much—it’s the first time in years that I haven’t made my weekly journey into the absurd. Even when I had surgery last year, I wrote something ahead of time, and had Ken post it for me. This past week though, anyone who could have figured out my computer and hit “upload” was actually with me. Plus, I didn’t have anything new to tell you until I got back. Which is now. So fasten your seatbelts and secure the overhead bins—things are going to get slightly humorous.

So, as you know, I like to live life on the edge. And while maybe it’s usually the edge of sanity, or reason, the fact is that I’m pretty much a daredevil when it comes to travel, which I will get to in a minute. As you may or may not know, I’ve been away the last two weeks, having taken the Queen Mary 2 over to the United Kingdom with my whole family, parents, siblings, and children included. Then we all split up and went our separate ways, with me, Ken, and T going first to Wales and then to Scotland. It was an excellent trip—let me break it down for you. First, the boat (which my dad keeps telling me is a “ship” not a “boat”, so if you’re extremely old and extremely rich, the Queen Mary is definitely the “ship” for you. Unfortunately, I am NEITHER, so it was an interesting experience to be on that particular BOAT, DAD, haha.)

Part One:

Things I liked about the Queen Mary 2:
a) Like most cruise ships, it was decorated like an upscale brothel, which made me feel very risqué.
b) The beds were comfortable and you could stay in them all day if you wanted to.
c) You could get breakfast brought to your cabin instead of having to get dressed, and it didn’t cost anything extra.
d) The food was OK. There was always bacon, and I mean real bacon, not those weird-ass slabs of pan-fried ham that the Brits think is bacon. Silly Brits.
e) There were two guys who played the piano and told jokes, and they were so funny that I saw them twice.

Things I didn’t like about the Queen Mary 2:
a) You could stay in your bed all day because there was literally nothing much else to do that was interesting or didn’t cost you a lot of extra money. The lectures were either on war, politics, or Broadway musicals, and the other “seminars” were sponsored by the Spa, as in ‘Come to our session on Botox and hear an expert talk about why it’s so great and then you can get a discount on a costly Botox treatment’, or by the Art Gallery, as in ‘Come to our session on this unknown artist and then you can buy his extremely expensive painting of emoji-faced lollipops for a significant discount’. The other activities all had costs associated with them, like the red wine tasting entitled, “Syrah, Shiraz? What’s the difference? Find out for a nominal fee of $120”. 120 bucks for a flight of 6 small glasses of wine? For that price, I can wait until I get home, buy 10 full bottles and find out for myself, so Que Syrah Shiraz to you. There were also art classes for a fee, and a variety of other things you could do that all cost extra. Why is that a problem? Because whenever there was any activity for free, it was a MOB SCENE. For example, there was a free rum tasting at the duty-free liquor shop one day, and people were rioting like it was the only Red Cross water truck in the middle of the desert. And yes, obviously I was there because it was FREE RUM. Just as I was about to get my tiny plastic cup, a guy beside me whined that he’d been waiting for twenty minutes and still hadn’t gotten any. I was like, “Here’s the line-up, mate. Try standing in it.” Because I’m CANADIAN, and we are extremely OCD about line-up protocols, which a lot of other countries aren’t and it makes me crazy. I firmly believe that the inherent understanding of how to line up in an orderly fashion is what makes a culture civilized, and the Fall of the Roman Empire can be directly traced back to their inability to queue properly.
b) The ship’s House Band was a group known as “Purple Haze.” Mostly because they covered the whole ship with a fog of Motown and cover songs. They weren’t actually bad if you like a reggae version of Justin Beiber’s ‘Love Yourself’—they were just EVERYWHERE. In the lounge after breakfast—Purple Haze. Poolside at lunch—Purple Haze. In the ballroom during afternoon tea—Purple Haze. In the very sad little disco that no one ever went to because most of the passengers went to bed at 10 pm—Purple Haze. I swear if the ship was ever sinking, it would be to the “fine musical stylings of Purple Haze”.

Overall, the good outweighed the bad. It was a very relaxing crossing, and the best part was that our whole family was together for the journey. And seeing T in a tuxedo at dinner was pretty cool.

Part Two:

I am a total f*cking badass when I’m travelling and here’s why:

1) Despite the fact that I’m severely allergic to shellfish, I wandered the beaches of Wales and collected seashells. This doesn’t sound dangerous, but the last time I did that in British Columbia, I picked up some shells then accidentally chewed on my cuticle (not so much an accident as part of an OCD thing), and then my lips swelled up. So now, if I want to collect seashells, I’m literally TAKING MY LIFE IN MY OWN HANDS, and have to consciously avoid putting my fingers in my mouth until I can wash with soap and water, or else risk having to use my epipen. I live my life on the edge, folks.

2) I am deathly afraid of heights, but I still climbed up ruined castle towers and stood on ramparts that were 100 feet in the air. Did I have a full-blown panic attack at Harlech Castle when I realized that I was on the top of a stone wall with no guardrails and at any moment some unruly British child could run past me, causing me to lose my balance and fall to my death? I may or may not have. (I did). But I still crawled back to the stairs like the daredevil I am instead of crying like a big baby.

3) I defied the tide and clambered over jagged rocks to make my way to a private little alcove half a kilometre from the main beach at our bed and breakfast in Wales (which is called Kilsaran House and it was amazing). I had no choice really—T and Ken announced they were doing it, and I had to go along or be left behind to worry about them dying. I figured if I was with them, I could scout out the worst case scenarios before one of them fell off a tippy rock or poked a jellyfish with their fingers. I spent the whole time with one eye on the ocean and one eye on the rocks that threatened to break my ankles. But we made it there, and I was glad I went with them, because who else besides me was going to shout “I forbid you to climb that cliff!” or “That crab might not be dead so don’t pick it up!”

4) I made an old man give me a chair, all by my bad-ass self. In fairness, I HAD the chair, and he tried to take it away, but I was like “Out of my cold, dead hands, elderly English dude!” I should probably provide a little context—on the “ship” (there you go, Dad), they had trivia competitions 4 times a day, and because it was one of the few activities onboard that was actually free, EVERYBODY went. Except it was held in a small pub with limited seating, so people got pretty testy about the chairs, especially since you could play in teams of 6 and the tables and chairs were arranged in groupings of 4. So this particular time, I asked a guy if he was using one of his chairs, and he said no. I was in the process of moving it when this big old man came over and pulled it out of my hands. Seriously. He was like, “Oh, I have this chair,” and I was like, “Um, I asked for it first, but whatever” and I let go. Because I’m Canadian, and a chair isn’t worth being a dick over. But my sacrificial, and slightly sarcastic attitude made him feel  bad, so he gave it back to me. Score one for the good guys.

5) Driving in the UK is enough to earn anyone the moniker of ‘madcap heroine’. Of course, I wasn’t actually driving—I was the navigator, having never learned to drive a stick shift. I mean, why have a dog and bark, am I right? But the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road (yes it is, don’t argue), and the bulk of my job was yelling at Ken “Stay to the left!” Also, the “roads” in the UK, especially in Wales aren’t really roads at all, at least not by Canadian standards. What they call a major roadway in Wales is what we call a “tractor path” here. For example, the so-called road to our first bed and breakfast went through a gravel parking lot and out the other side, then became a one-lane walking path with little spots to pull over in case someone was coming in the other direction. The directions we were given said “go past Hunter’s Fleece Cottage, then follow the track downhill for 100 yards” where there was an almost sheer vertical drop. Getting back up was a treat, with Ken gunning it in third gear and hoping to hell that no one was coming the other way. The best part was when the GPS would announce, “Take the next left onto A725” and it would SOUND like a real road, but it would be one lane, pinned in on both sides by rock walls, and suddenly there would be sheep.

I was a kick-ass navigator until the day that Ken decided to defy the GPS and plot his own route:

Ken: I took a screenshot of the way I want to go. Where do I turn next?
Me: How do I turn the Ipad on?
Ken: Push that button. Where do I turn?! I need to know now!
Me: Where’s the ‘You are here’ arrow? How do I know where to turn if I don’t know where I am?
Ken: We started from New Steddon Road. Where do I go next?
Me: The map goes sideways if I try to figure out which way is North.
Ken: I don’t need North! I just need to know where to turn! God, I forgot how bad you are with maps!
Me: I’m not bad with maps! You can’t just give someone a screen shot of some streets, not tell them where they’re starting from, and expect them to calculate your route! I’m not a GPS, you know.
Ken: Fine, just program the GPS then.
Me: OK. Where are we going again?
Ken: Sigh.
T: What’s going on?
Me: Just go back to sleep. I’ve got this covered.

Two other minor proofs of my bad-assedness: I walked through the haunted corridor of a castle. It wasn’t—I have plenty of experiences with ghosts (see My Week 69: Ghost Stories) and there wasn’t one there, despite the place being featured on some reality show where a woman swore there was electromagnetic energy and an angry ghost who wanted to strangle people. Also, I ate haggis. If you’re Scottish, you have to. I just love being descended from a culture whose national dish is so disgusting that you have to force yourself to eat it, but you’re so stoic that you do it anyway. My Scottish cousin Lynn put it this way: “I keep trying it because I want to like it, but it’s so gross”. So there you go. I’m a devil-may-care, throw caution to the winds kind of gal who’s happy to be home where I can use a hair dryer in my own bathroom and eat the best national dish of all–poutine.

Next week, I’ll tell you about some of my favourite places from the trip, but for right now, I’m still kind of jet-lagged. Plus, my head thinks it’s 5 o’clock instead of noon, so time for a nice glass of wine–maybe a Syrah…