Swords, Shields, Sheep and a Good Night’s Sleep

March 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm 1 comment

Settle in with a cuppa tea mate; this one’s kind of long.

Our latest adventure begins with a simple on-line reservation at a bed and breakfast in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.  We picked Chesterfield because The Husband used to live in Chesterfield, Missouri.  We located a cavern we wanted to visit, packed our bags and turned in early for a good night’s rest.  This was not to be as we were awoken at 3:13 am by the fire alarm outside the door.  As this is the second or third time this happened I was pretty sure there was not actually a fire.  As it always happens on a Friday night after midnight, I suspect some drunk jerk is pulling the alarm.  Perhaps the same drunk jerk who sprayed beer and curry all over the walls of the lift.  The H and I really think there should be a special penthouse lift just for us and our neighbours.  We would consider sharing it with floors 11 through 13.

The H popped in his earplugs and was amazingly able to continue sleeping, albeit fitfully.  I heard our new neighbor — the possibly gay Sam who politley ignores me but says cute, friendly things to The H — go out into the hall, stand there for a minute and go back into his flat.  I put in earplugs as well (they were on my night stand due to having recently vacuumed upstairs) but after 15 minutes I just could not take it.  I went downstairs and tried to figure out who to call to deal with it.  I started with the Emergency Help Line listed in our tenant’s handbook.  The woman asked a bunch of questions then said that she would pass the information on to the help desk in the morning.  Great, thanks, that’s so helpful, HELPLINE.  I finally called what I thought was the building manager’s cell phone, leaving him a message at 3:39 am. 

I grabbed a chair, the broom and one of our crappy Ikea dinner knives and climbed the spiral staircase.  I went out into the hall.  I’m not exactly sure what I thought I could do with the broom, maybe break the alarm if all else failed.  I managed to twist the alarm open and used the knife to move around the tiny switches.  The alarm went from ree-oo-ree-oo-ree-oo to eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee which is the same volume but less annoying.  I went back in the apartment in search of my Gerber multi-tool to unscrew the two little screws, although I wasn’t sure if I should continue as I’m pretty sure I was bordering on vandalism.  However, the alarm stopped after a minute or two.  The other alarms in the building were still going off but at least the one by our bedroom door had stopped.

Just then my mobile rang, it was the building manager telling me in a groggy voice that he would be there in 15 to 20 minutes.  I am pretty sure that no one else had contacted him or anyone.  Shouldn’t someone somewhere be alerted when a 14-floor building’s fire alarm system goes off?  Why didn’t anyone else in the building do anything?  What if there had been an actual fire?  Sometimes it takes an American to get things done.  An American Woman.

I was able to nap lightly with the alarm noise in the distance.  I woke up suddenly at 4:26 and discovered the noise had stopped completely and then I went to sleep for real.  The H thanked me in the morning but was somewhat disturbed by my near-vandal activities and confused by the presence of the broom.

We headed off around 10:30 for Chesterfield.  If you’d like to see all the locations of all the places I’ve referred to recently, you can check out my latest obsession, a google map of my travels.  There’s a link under Favorites.  The last time I was unemployed for this long I spent many afternoons in a fog on my slanted porch watching the traffic on the Bloomfield Bridge and playing with my cat Oliver.  I think this is an improvement.

It was a lovely drive to Chesterfield.  Very scenic with field rock walls winding through green pastures.  We passed what may or may not be a nuclear power reactor.  I’ve done several searches and can’t figure it out.  The towers you see are commonly used to cool reactors, but can be used for other plants as well.  In any case there are 18 reactors in the UK but all are scheduled to be closed by 2023.


We arrived at the bed and breakfast around noon where we were informed by the “kindly” old lady that she doesn’t accept on-line reservations and doesn’t have any rooms available.  Initially I was going to rant about this more, but I’m pretty much over it.  Unless of course the charges show up on my credit card. 

The H and I headed to Stillwell Caverns, about an hour away, where we took an underground boat ride through old lead mines.  I called it the date boat as we were with 3 other couples.  I was especially glad for this after seeing that the next two boats were packed full of children.  

This is the only area of the world where Blue John crystal is found.  The caverns were spooky and beautiful and I was feeling quite claustrophobic by the end of it and very glad not to be a 19th century miner.



 Underground river:


After the tour we explored the area and hiked up a hill, or maybe a mountain, I’m not sure.  This was the best part of our week-end.  We hiked up for an hour, we would have loved to have gone even higher but it was getting late and while it wasn’t dark the mist got thicker with every passing minute and we couldn’t see more than 20 feet ahead and we decided the best thing to do was to not fall off a cliff.

We went up there:


Mysterious sheep skull:


Partway up:


A sheep I stalked:


9 creepy sheep in the mist:


Having lost our reservation at the Bed and Breakfast we decided to head up to Leeds where we located a Holiday Inn Express.  We ventured to Leeds City Centre, which was hopping.  There large groups of girls in matching outfits having bachelorette parties and large groups of roving young men as well.  We picked a restaurant called Brio and returned to the hotel pooped.  We settled in for a good night’s rest, but alas it was not to be.  We were awakened at 4am by a party going on next door.  It sounded like drunk people re-arranging furniture and bowling.  One guy was singing and several people started running up and down the halls.  This time I was all for ignoring it but The H was up in arms.  Against my groggy advice he opened the door and glared at the chaps.  This resulted in them standing outside yelling at us through our door.  I called the front desk and the gentlemen said they would send up security.  I didn’t even have to give the room number, I’m guessing they had just watched the people enter the hotel and were anticipating a problem.  The noise stopped with 5 minutes and we went back to sleep.  When did we get old?

Sunday morning we headed to the Leeds Royal Armoury and spent four hours looking at swords, suits of armor and all sorts of fantastic stuff.  Here’s a few highlights.

Outside the museum:


The only known full suit of armor for an elephant:





This is the only thing that’s really ticked me off here.  I think the slavery issue was more than a convenient political tool.



A tiny knight:



Evolution of Weapons display photo.


I think everybody should enjoy this man’s bum hair:




Okay, this one has become an endless source of discussion between The Husband and me.  We have very different views on gun control, but are in agreement that the knife laws here are absurd.  I was horrified recently when Edie Brickell’s drummer was shot dead through a door by his neighbor in Texas, resulting in no prosecution, however I think some level of self preservation should be legal.  Here in the UK pre-meditated self-defense is illegal.  Meaning, if I were attacked and stabbed someone with a knitting needle, that might be okay if I had been knitting earlier that day.  But if any person carries an item purely for the purposes of self-defense then uses that item in defense of their person he can be prosecuted and jailed.  Actually, one can be prosecuted just for carrying almost anything even if it’s not used.  This includes kitchen knives and scissors.  Unless of course you need it for religious reasons.  The H is considering starting a religion.  Perhaps he should consult L. Ron Hubbard.




Fortunately The H and I returned to Birmingham without encountering any knife crime.  We had a great week-end and I am happy to report we slept through Sunday night in peace.



Entry filed under: Hiking, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , .

Skoopy’s Choose Your Own Adventure The Royal Armoury Museum

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jill  |  March 18, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Sara, you are so funny. great scenery pictures – & you look cute too. Jill


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