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One week later, and my mate has now returned home to his native Norway, after a very pleasant week in my company (at least from my perspective). (Actually, he headed home on Saturday, but I've only just now been able to sit down and type this.) Despite public transport doing its best to get in our way, and a lack of thorough planning on my part causing some stress at times, I think all in all it went rather well; though I do worry that I wasn't the best host in the world, it was very nice to be with him again, though now I miss him rather terribly.

His arrival in London was on time, and he appeared bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at London Liverpool Street (having arrived at Stansted Airport) to a warm hug, and his first introduction to that great British institution, the Tube. One 25-minute jaunt to Paddington later, we then needed to negotiate our way through unfamiliar streets to find our way to hotel number one, the Hyde Park Premier. However, due to his early arrival, we were still one hour early for checking-in; and so, leaving our luggage at the hotel, we set about exploring the local area, and despite taking one wrong turn we managed to give Hyde Park itself a pretty thorough going-over. Naturally, the weather being as nice as it was (beautifully sunny), I couldn't resist buying an ice cream for him, thus introducing him to British institution number two: the 99.

After our impromptu walk in the park, we descended once more on the hotel, and checked in. It didn't take long before we were cuddling on the bed: I'd truly missed that gentle intimacy, being able to hold and be held. I am remarkably susceptible to curling up and murring contentedly at the mere prospect of a hug. We did spend rather a lot of time doing so, though, as we soon found that an hour had gone passed, and we had an appointment with the theatre at 8pm!

So again we found ourselves in the centre of London, firstly exploring some of the comics shops one can find on and around Charing Cross Road. My boyfriend, being the resourceful fox he is, had brought a list of everything he was hoping to buy, and we found many of them at Orbital (shameless promotion, there). We were a bit rushed, and weren't able to browse for too long or even get a proper sit-down meal together due to the sheer business of the city, so ended up having takeaway Chinese before we headed for Wyndham's theatre for Avenue Q. Despite generally not liking musicals, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Never has a puppet-led stage show been so amusing. After that, we retreated back to the hotel to settle down for an affectionate evening in bed.

Sunday was spent stashing our luggage at Paddington station and hitting the city once again, after having a rather nice full English breakfast at a café somewhere in Westminster. Again we explored the comic shops, as well as the large Oxford Street branch of HMV and all the little computer specialists on the Tottenham Court Road. (It turns out that it is impossible to buy 8cm CD-Rs in any retail store in London Britain the known universe.) This time, we were limited by needing to get a train home at 7pm, meaning once again we weren't able to have a huge meal - rather, we settled for a rushed pizza at Paddington station before hopping on board the train home. I fear that sometimes I can be rather over-anxious, hurrying things when there's plenty of time, and hope that it didn't seem like I was pressuring my boyfriend to finish his pizza in record time.

While we'd each booked seats on the train, they weren't in the same carriage as we'd gotten them individually. We didn't anticipate there being too much of a problem - with any luck, we could sequester a non-reserved place near to one of our booked seats and take that - but the train turned out to be at least 50% over-subscribed, with hordes of other passengers crowding the aisles. I ended up standing for most of the journey, until a fellow commuter left his seat at Swindon and let me sit down next to tfbaxxter . This was to be the first of several grievances with public transport, but at least we did at last get into Bath, and were able to haul it the mile from the station to my den.

Monday was thus spent exploring Bath's city centre, and trying to track down yet another comic store - which turned out to be something of a disappointment. We found the store (eventually - it took some exploration), but it was quite dilapidated, and had very little in the way of interesting stock. Prices, too, seemed excessive, with imported food being extremely pricey. However, the day went well, as the weather was gorgeous and Bath is a beautiful city architecturally. We would return to Bath on Wednesday, firstly to explore the eponymous Roman baths, and then to introduce Baxxter to my local group of furry regulars, with whom I do so much hanging out. This went well on both fronts - I hadn't visited the Baths in years, and it was an interesting visit with plenty to see and do. The interactive tour guide worked a treat, and much fun was had trying to synchronise listening to them together. The mini-meet involved mostly sitting around in Bath's Victoria Park (never a bad thing), and then descending on Pizza Hut for a slap-up evening meal. (With profiteroles for dessert! Yes!)

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, we made our way to Bristol, my former adopted home as a long-haired student layabout. Here we had plenty of shopping to do - or at least, plenty of shops to do it in - and since I'd lived in the city for four years, I actually knew my way around to some extent. Bristol is not the most photogenic of cities in my eyes, so photo opportunities were limited, and it has fewer nice-looking landmarks on offer in the centre, but I was at least able to guide Baxxter around with a little more local fluency. I did, however, make the classic mistake of forgetting to look up the return train times, leaving us with the possibility of being somewhat stranded! Using all my vulpine ingenuity, I hatched a cunning plan: instead of waiting to return to Oldfield Park, our original destination, we bought singles from there to Bath Spa. We then took an earlier train to said station, ate at the local Wetherspoons (vive le beer et burger), and then proceeded to the adjoining cinema, wherein we saw Kick-Ass. And there was much rejoicing.

On Thursday, we made the trek up to Manchester - experiencing another problem with our good friend, National Rail. While this time our seats were next to each other, the train driver called in sick at Bristol. While half an hour later the train coming up from Plymouth was able to push us as far as Birmingham, we then had to wait another half hour before the next scheduled service to Manchester arrived. We would have done better staying in Bristol and boarding it there!

Luckily, while the weather had taken a turn for the wetter, Manchester turned out to be a friendly and welcoming city - and a clean, well-presented, and not-too-busy one, either! Whenever we got lost, somebody was able to point us in the right direction, and we found our hotel neatly tucked away about 10 minutes' walk from Piccadilly Gardens. Dinner that night was a nicely romantic table-for-two affair at a restaurant on the famous Canal Street, which went very pleasantly indeed, and we had a preliminary romp about the city centre - returning the next day, our appetites suitably whetted.

After that, one final big event lay in store for us - Baxxter's big gig! It was to be his first and debut performance live, as normally he plays his music from the safety of his home and records it, instead of playing live. This took place at a small vegetarian café/restaurant, called "Fuel". The host of the evening's entertainment, and an online friend of Baxxter's, came to collect us (as we'd also be sleeping the night at his), and we set up in the upstairs part of the bar and begun practicing for the performance. (Well, I didn't practice - but moral support's never a bad thing!)

The performance went extremely well. There were two bands/acts before my boyfriend, both of whom were well-received, and then he went on to perform his 30 minutes (or thereabouts), to great delight from the audience who definitely seemed to enjoy his songs and banter. One particular song, a short piece hoping someone gets a new hard drive (and which lasted a full four lines), left the crowd in stitches of laughter, while others elicited applause and giggles where appropriate. I was very proud of him, and joined in with the applause after every song. He even managed to sell a few copies of his album, at a fiver a shot!

Then, on Saturday, the time came to begin the trek home. Our early-morning train from Manchester to London was surprisingly on time, and due to the luck of the draw, the cheapest tickets we'd been able to order were in first class. A 2-and-a-half hour journey was thus made slightly more bearable with free refreshments, comfortable seats, and complimentary wi-fi for the duration. Despite getting a little travelsick, it was on the whole a pleasant journey... ruined by then getting to London to find the Tube lines we needed were closed between King's Cross and Liverpool Street! Drat, and indeed double drat. Instead of a relatively straightforward Tube journey from Euston Square to Liverpool Street, we instead went from Euston Square-King's Cross, King's Cross-Bank, and then Bank-Liverpool Street. (We decided to disregard the warnings of elevator works at Bank leading to difficulties changing there. These are nervous times.) Thankfully, we'd accommodated for some delays in our timing, and so this didn't cause us any real hassle in terms of getting to the station to get a Stansted Express.

So it was that at 11:25, I bid my boyfriend farewell, hugged and kissed him, and waved him onto the train from the other side of the ticket barrier. I then made my own way back home, feeling tired, lonely, and wishing to see him again. It still hadn't quite sunk in by Sunday morning, when I rolled over in bed and wondered where he was. I do miss him, and wish it were easier for us to be able to be together; I want to hold his paw in public again, and cuddle him in bed. I love you, foxie.

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And I love you too, foxie

Thank you again for being a lovely guide and boyfriend sweetie, and for writing this lovely summary of the week's events. And watch out for my own forthcoming (scathing?) review! Probably with (revealing?) pictures.

I still think it's time you stopped claiming you generally don't like musicals. ;) You should rather say that you like a few musicals, but that it's not a genre you've a interest in in and of itself.

with hugs and kisses,
~ Miles T.F. Baxxter

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