So yes, I am back - infact have been back for about a week - but its been one of the most frantic weeks on record here at planetmithi. I can't even begin to describe it ... but here is a (not-so) quick summary:
Thursday April 15th : Up at 4am, on very early flight to Milan ... Hooray! Arrive safe only to find out British airspace has been completely shut down ! Try not to worry and start enjoying the Milan International Design fair. See some things - not very impressed ... see some other things VERY impressed.
Friday April 16th : We are staying with the students in a 'hostel' (a few rooms above a restaurant) which is about 45 mins out of town. Means leaving very early every morning, and coming back on the last train every evening. Do Zona Tortona (where the photo was taken). Find our (Sunshine and mine) favourite exhibition: the MGX Materialise show ... we must have gone back there 3 times over the rest of the weekend. Still checking up on volcano stuation... trying not to panic the students.
Saturday April 17th : Visit the Milan Design Museum whilst our Italian member of staff ("The Fixer") goes off to the train station to see what's going on. Comes back to tell us there are long queues (of several hours!) at the station ... but he has a plan...
Sunday April 18th : Our Sunday evening flights definitely cancelled. Drag the kids out early o-clock in the morning to be at the train station.The Fixer takes us round to the back of the station where there are agents also selling the same train tickets - but with a fraction of the queues. Nothing to the UK for a week - but we can get to Paris the next day via the long route along the French Riviera. Try and organise 16 people buying tickets .... we get applause from the other punters when we finish and all leave the queue in one go.
Sunshine and I get to an internet cafe (bloody difficult find one of them in Milan open on a Sunday) and send off emails to family and friends wondering what's going on. I send two panicked e-mails to Macmillan and Penguin saying that I can't make it back in time - can I have an extension. Macmillan is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Trying not to feel too upset about missing it.
Wet day in Milan - everyone very tired - but relieved to at least have tickets to get out of there (just to give you a sense of perspective : the design festival attracts 300,000 people ... who were all then trying to leave en-masse).
Monday April 19th : Another early morning to train station to get on our train south to the coast; change to a French train that goes along the coast to Nice. Lunch stop. Board TGV in Nice a couple of hours later to go more along the coast, then inland near Marseille to get into Paris for about 10:30 that night. By the time we get the students to their hostel, us (me, Sunshine, and the two other staff members - The Fixer and The Boss) to our hotel, and find somewhere to have dinner - its way past midnight. I have had the worst throat ache all day - and can hardly swallow dinner my glands are so swollen.
Tuesday April 20th : The Fixer and The Boss go off to an early morning trek to the train station to find out what our next posibilities are. Sunshine and I in charge of keeping the troops entertained. We walk around Paris and end up at the Center Pompidou (only to find out it is shut on a Tuesday). Fixer and Boss meet us there having organised tickets to Calais very early the next morning. We are too tired to do much else - but manage to contact a couple of French friends who come and sit with us in a cafe. Early to bed with slightly better sore throat.
Wednesday April 21st : Don't know what day it is anymore. Up at 5am (4am UK time), on train to somewhere - then change to train for Calais. Get to Calais - apparently there is a 'special bus' that will take us to the ferry terminal and there is a huge group of people waiting for this bus. The Boss looks at his iphone... the terminal is a 15 minute walk away ... so we join the trickle of other people who have also started to walk (great coz we later found out that there were people waiting for two hours for this bus, which then also charged them 2 Euros). Get to ferry terminal just to get into ANOTHER long queue. Fixer and Boss rush on ahead to try and secure 16 tickets while Sunshine and I try and keep the slow and tired ones at the back moving. Queue is resonable size as we have got there before the bus load arrives 20 minutes later. Have tickets - and immediately onto ferry. Phew! We are all here and we are all on the way home!
Dover - group splits into two - some taking busses back to respective homes/cars-in-airport-carparks/etc. The rest of us on trains to London, then connecting on to Bristol.
Home about 6 pm... so tired... but e-mails from Macmillan and Penguin with extensions till Monday - HOOORAY! But everything is shut on the weekend ... where am I going to get everything printed??? Some e-mails later and very good friend who runs giclee printers Hello Blue across the road from our house agrees to come in on the Sunday night to colour print my final images. I need to see a tutor about a tutorial - but oh no, our studios (which are in the same building as the Arnolfini Gallery) are shut tomorrow for the Leaders Election Debate .... Noooooooo!
Thursday April 22nd : Call up tutor, slightly concerned ... she will be in main campus (not Arnolfini building) for meeting in the afternoon, so can see me there before then ... thank goodness! Rest of the day is tutorial/work/organising portfolio/organising printing/rearranging train ticket to London etc.
Friday April 23rd : Work like mad.
Saturday April 24th : We had early moring tickets to Edinburgh for some really good friends' wedding this weekend. I've had to bail - poo! Sunshine too tired to get flight. Instead mutual friend who is also going to the wedding comes and picks him up for a road trip up north. Me - work like mad till late.
Sunday April 25th : Up at 6. Very tired. Am missing the wedding. Shaking from exhaustion. No Susnhine to keep me going either. Almost in tears. Fortunately lots of facebook messages from friends (who all handed their Macmillan things in for Friday) egging me on. Work work work. Takeaway lunch/dinner. Meet Phil (whom I owe big time!) at 10:30 pm at Hello Blue studios to giclee print my images. Home at 11:30. Up till 2 cutting/mounting/making dummy book.
Monday April 26th : Up at 6 again to do last few bits-and-bobs for submissions. Walk the half hour to the train station early to pick up tickets. On 9am train to London. First stop - Kings Cross for Macmillan. Second stop - The Strand for Penguin/Puffin. Its all done. Walk to Somerset House for Pick Me Up.
Smashing! See Rob Ryan who has moved his whole studio to Somerset House for the exhibition; and also met the lovely Jez Burrows of Evening Tweed (who remembered me from Lizzy's exhibition in Bristol). Caught early train home. Sunshine got back from his roadtrip to Edinburgh. We both looked dead.
Tuesday April 27th : Sunshine's Birthday ... I haven't managed to get him anything or organise anything special. I am the worst wifey :( We both have early starts. First day back in college only to be given long list of things that need doing before the degree show in 7 weeks! So ... this manic-ness is going to continue ... Blimey!
So there you go ... blow-by-blow ... And yes, we are that close to the final show so the blog updates will be sporadic to say the least. I'm trying to keep the images I'm producing now under wraps at least until the degree show. Might give you some peeks ... but mostly it will be quite quiet here for the next couple of months ...
Wish me luck! And heeeeeeere we gooooo ..................