Richard and Weez Excellent Adventure - October 1998...
11th October 1998
It's autumn and it feels like winter is already here. It seems that summer never
quite made it. The clothes shops on Oxford Street have a distinct wintry feel to
them now and even I wear a warm jacket downtown.... I usually don't feel the cold too
much. (Yes Chris - downtown again!)
Our hot water woes seem to be sorting themselves out slowly. We've had hot water for nearly a week in a row! We just haven't had any central heating for the last week. It's back on tonight so perhaps....
I sat my NT Workstation and Server exams last Friday. 92% for the Workstation Exam and 85% for the Server exam. I was relieved to pass them both. The Server exam was pretty hard. Now I'm waiting for Microsoft to send me my free trial version of NT Workstation 4.0 and all the other goodies!
We didn't do much last weekend. I think we basically slept all Saturday to catch up. Sunday we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. This museum is huge. There was just too much to see so we looked at the pieces that interested us and then spent the next half hour walking round trying to find our way out!
Monday to Friday saw me contacting agencies and writing letters applying for work. One agency has put my CV forward for a Network / PC Support position and there are a couple of other possibles. Having the MCP seems to be helping a little now as I am not getting the complete closed doors like I was when we first arrived here. Somewhere in this week we also booked tickets to Celine Dion at Wembley Stadium in 10 months time and Neil Diamond at Wembley Arena in March. You have to book early for these things here.
Friday night was netball as usual where we drew the game 10 - 10. We are now about two thirds from the top of our division on 3 points. We even appear in TNT magazine so check it out. On the way home, Weez lost her umbrella on the tube (that's normally my department) and because we were so late we ended up buying fish and chips from a place on Kilburn High Road that we swore one night before that we would never go back to. It hasn't changed - we won't be going back there again!
This Saturday we flocked to Harrods with all the other tourists and observed some very wealthy people being seen and no doubt spending copious quantities of money. We only had a couple of spare hours so we just did the ground floor. It felt like being back in the V & A Museum when we walked through some of the jewellery departments. Very lavish. The Christmas decorations here are fantastic. Not your average Warehouse decorations! When we walked into the decoration section, all we could see were lots of balloons attached to ribbons bobbing around at head height amongst the crowds. Closer inspection revealed that they were attached to cute little pigs that walked a few steps, oinked, wriggled a bit and then carried on!
After we removed ourselves from the crowds in Harrods, we got lost looking for Tescos on Oxford Street so we ended up catching a black cab there (we thought Oxford Street was close by!). We bought some New Zealand wine, some chicken and sausages and rushed off to the Bond Street tube to try and make it in time for the 17.12 from Charing Cross to Dartford. After running up the escalators, through the ticket gates, up the stairs, buying zone extension tickets (we must be the only honest people in London!) and running to the platform we got there just in time...... to see the train pulling away. Bummer. We ended up catching a Train to London Bridge and taking a connecting train that passed through Westcombe Park which is where we wanted to go to. From there we walked to Mayhill Road, our final destination for a braai at Markie, Jaco, Gerrit and Silke's new flat (K6, Page 81 in the London A to Z for Mum and Dad following our adventures!). Trudy and Heinrich were there having just returned from their 45 day trip around Europe with one of their friends Heinrich. Must be like the name Smith at home! We ate beautiful food and desert and had a really good time. Unfortunately we had to make like a tree and leave at 10.30pm so we were certain to catch a train home. We got an escort through the dodgy looking undercarriage (we could have done with someone big and strong like Roger!) and saw a fox on the way which was a highlight for Weez. It took us an hour and a half to get home which is weird really because that would be like going to see friends in Wanganui from New Plymouth for the evening! It's the norm here though to travel for so long at times. I remember when we first moved to Christchurch that we thought 20 minutes was an eternity to travel! There were security guards on the train that night so perhaps it's a shady section to travel on late.
Sunday we got up early (well, relatively) with the intent of going to Swindon to go to a designer mall. When we got to Paddington Station to buy the tickets and found out it was going to cost 49 pounds we changed our minds. I was of course shattered at missing all those designer outlets! Boy - train travel isn't cheap to some destinations here. We ended up going into the Oxford Street area to do clothes / hat / shoe / Christmas shopping. At least I could escape here to shops that interested me!
Brian and Susan are staying with us at the moment. They are having terrible trouble with a land agent messing them around after giving him the money to check their references out (this appears to be a normal practice here). If you are coming to the UK (I know a couple of you are planning it) make sure you bring some references from previous flats and especially a reference on an official letterhead like an Electricity Supply Authority bill reference. Also bring copies of your Degree, CA Certificate (they will forgive you for being a boring accountant), Trade Certificate or the like. We bought these with us and were very lucky not to have to pay anything - we think they helped as proof that we would be able to come up with the rent. We dealt with a place recommended in the Lonely Planet called Jenny Jones who provided us with a free excellent house finding service.
I've been having a little play with Microsoft Netmeeting in the last couple of days so with a little luck I am going to try and set up a video link between here and whoever wants to look in on Christmas day. Sure it is a bit of a novelty thing but it is mainly so our parents can see us on the other side of the world when we would normally be together. It will be black and white, in a 2 inch square box at about 2 frames a second but hey - until everyone gets high bandwidth connections to their house it will have to do! Keep a lookout for info.
So, to cut a long story short.... it's Monday night and I'm tired so I'm going to upload this now. More later.......
23rd October 1998
Things are back to their busy usual once again. The trees here have suddenly decided to let go of their leaves.... Autumn must be here! It was incredible how quickly it happened. One day on the way to work, the ground was clear. On the way home that night the ground was covered with leaves. Louise is out partying tonight with friends from work after another busy week doing whatever it is accountants do - balancing the overhead recovery rate of the net profit and loss revenue expenditure statement against the FBT return for the current financial year perhaps...... what do they do? (Louise got home at 4.30am and was very unpopular because she had switched her phone off and I didn't know where she was! I'm hoping her mum reads this and tells her off...)
I am back at work again. I have a contract until December the 8th working for GE Capital IT Solutions, subcontracted to NPI in Tunbridge Wells as part of a large Windows NT rollout program at all of NPI's offices. It takes nearly 2 hours to get there from home and an hour and a half to get back so I am glad it is only an eight week contract as the travelling is a bit of a chore. The MiniDisc has been great although I am getting a bit tired of the same five albums! I will have to do some more recording.
I couldn't believe my first day at work. I have to wear a suit and shave every day except Friday..... major downer. Anyway, on the first morning, I put my new suit on and the button fell off of my pants. Thankfully, someone invented safety pins. The day passed and I hopped onto the train for the trip home. When the ticket inspector came through, I reached for my wallet...... which was no longer in my pocket..... and of course my ticket was in it. The ticket inspector was a power crazy little %$@! and accused me of being a regular ticket dodger and constantly repeating "Do you know who I am.... you can be fined a lot of money for this", at the same time flashing his badge at me every 30 seconds. I was surprised at how unstressed I was in the situation. Even though I had lost everything there was little I could do about it at that time so I was like 'Yeah, do whatever you've got to do there's no point in arguing with you' which seemed to get him even more irate. He made me go into the guards van with him and continued to interrogate me about how much I had paid for my ticket that morning etc, etc which he didn't believe anyway. He told me if I was really concerned about my wallet I would get off of the train at the next stop and do something about it. With seven pence left in my pockets I didn't think that was a smart move because I would still be in the wop-wops and would have to go through the same grief with some other ticket inspector. Eventually he made me give him my name and address and told me that if I didn't present the tickets to the train station first thing in the morning then I would be receiving a letter in the mail. A dodgy address did cross my mind but I worked with a guy that did that and I know they cross check the post code with the street name! We are still waiting for the mail. I hopped off at Waterloo because I knew there would be less likely to be further ticket checks there. With no money I wasn't sure what to do. It did cross my mind that I may have to sell my body, which I'm sure I would have made a fortune out of ;-) however luckily it came to me that a collect phone call to Louise to come and rescue me would be easier. There go all the plastic cards for a couple of weeks. My wallet still hasn't turned up.
We went to Rugby last weekend. It was great to get out of the city. We slept Friday night with the window wide open and the fresh country air blowing in and no fear of anyone climbing through it. I slept for ten hours solid which is very uncharacteristic for me. We had a lazy day on Saturday and went out for tea in the evening to a pub somewhere in the sticks. We were up early on Sunday and Norma and Tony took us out Warwick way where we went to a nice craft type village where we had a nice wander round and bought some candles and candle holders to start trying to make our flat into 'home'. We think we will be here for a while now. We stopped and viewed Warwick castle on the way home which looked very magnificent. We will get back sometime and have a look around. Sadly the weekend ended all too soon and we had to head back to London. It is odd how the feeling of stress creeps back upon you as soon as you get back to the Liverpool Street and back into the underground. It is also odd how quickly you re-adapt to the place again and it once again feels normal. Perhaps the stress of the city becomes less of a conscious thing although I am sure it remains. You only need to look deep into the eyes of the people you pass and sit opposite on the trains to see it. I am certain ones life span would be several years less if you lived in this big city all your life.
Another week of work passed. Saturday was a bit of a waste as Louise slept till gone 1pm since she didn't get to bed till 5am. Saturday night we went out to celebrate Brian and Susan's birthdays with about 12 others. Most we knew from the netball team, two or three others we hadn't met before. We started at a great pub called Waxy Oconnors which had a great medieval feel to it and then on to The Mongolian Barbeque restaurant for an all you can eat for 12 quid meal. Being Mongolian, you chose all your raw meats vegetables, spices and sauces and then had the food cooked in front of you straight away..... great.
Trying to find a black cab to get home at 1am on Sunday morning is near impossible. We had to stand around for ages bartering with mini-cab drivers to get home. We eventually got one down to 12 pounds from 15 pounds. When we got home, I gave him the twelve pounds and he started arguing with me that the fare was 15 pounds. We all quickly bailed out and left him to it. Louise did get a bit stuck in her seat belt in the get away but she made it too!!
Weez parents called early on Sunday morning and woke us up! so we decided to make the most of the day and went to Petty Coat Lane and Spittalfields? market. Weez bought a black leather jacket and we met Markie and Jaco to exchange some things. We had a nice lunch at a cafe and drank a bottle of South African wine. We quickly headed back into town at about 4.30pm (it was dark by this stage) where I bought a new wallet and I saw where Louise worked and where Winston Churchill made some great speeches in one of the rooms near her office. Finally at home I think we fell into bed exhausted.
It is now Wednesday and boy, I am hanging out for the weekend. That's about all I can remember so I will leave it at that for now. Please feel free to mail any spelling / grammar mistakes to me because I am so tired, I just haven't got the energy to re-read all of this. I am sure my mum and dad will let me know although I haven't heard from them in so long I suspect their computer must be broken?
Thanks for the mail Ness and Wendy. Be glad it's hot. It's cold here! Will mail ya sometime....