Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Grey, cold and blechy...

Well, as usual, weeks have passed and I haven’t written anything. My aim was to keep a travel diary on our Dublin trip, of which I managed one day (I will add that after this), but, as usual, life got in the way and I didn’t write anything. That and I never seem to have time to do this at work, and it’s too late when I get home in the evening after the gym. Whine snivel complain.

Anyway, today is the first day of any snow this winter. Or, rather, today is the first day that any snow has fallen out of the sky. It’s dark and gunmetal grey outside – cold (rather shockingly, given that it was snowing). Robin is off work today, and every day until after Xmas – bastard! David is off tomorrow and Friday. Unfortunately, my leave year goes until April, so I don’t have a pile of days to use up at the end of the year. Woe is me.

David purchased a rather large (7 foot) tree over the weekend. It was his turn this year to do the decorations (I think I am banned from doing decorations because my idea of a Christmas tree is, well, cheerful and fun, whereas David and Robin seem to have this quasi-militaristic need to have everything colour-coordinated and matching (and they say I am a big homosexual). I was, however, allowed to help David pick out the tree (oh lucky me), so I met him down at the local garden centre, where we rummaged through the piles of trees – everything from the little Charlie-Brown trees to the truly humongous. We settled in the middle – for the low low price of only £50. Good God – one should be able to buy an entire forest for that! Anyway though, the tree is a very nicely shaped ‘Nordman Fir’ – apparently native to the Caucus Mountains. Us being in the city and all, David took the tree home on the bus (I cycled into town, so didn’t join him). Some old biddy at the bus stop eyed the tree and said, ‘Isn’t that one of those trees that drops all its needles?’ I put a hex on her and politely informed her that I did not think it was. Anyway, that was Sunday. Today is Wednesday and we still have a large tree sitting in the middle of the floor, sans decorations. Why no decorations? Well, mostly because David decided that Christmas this year was going to be blue and white. Sounds rather Jewish or Israeli to me, but, again, I’m just along for the ride, apparently. So, David spent two days, 8 stores, and something like £100 finding ornaments and lights that met his colour scheme (last year Robin’s scheme was mostly gold and white). True, the ornaments are actually very nice, and the lights – these little tiny points, are quite cool, but my God. Tonight shall be the official decorating of the tree – each ornament, I’m sure, placed an optimum distance from every other ornament. I’d not be surprised if he had devised blueprints and sought planning permission for the entire operation.

Oy vey.

Anyway… Back at work… This morning I sat through a meeting with the nice folks over at Planning – this was actually kind of instructive, because it made me feel a lot better about our inability to get anything organised. As the saying goes – these people couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery!

This weekend I hope to cycle out to Ashford (which is, itself, a shithole) because I want to go for a ride on the new trains heading out to Kent. Apparently, they run along the Eurostar line and go about 140mph. Sounds like a good reason to go cycling out into the cold murkiness to me – as long as it doesn’t snow. Snow is great. Snow in southern England is crap, however, because southern England pretty much falls over and dies when it snows.

Our Dublin trip… Well, David and I went, two weekends ago, to Dublin, where I’d not been since I lived there 14 years ago. We had a great time, and I managed to eat most of Ireland, I think. (Pics at: It was interesting to go back though. A few things became abundantly clear in Dublin. The first was that a whole lot of money came through Ireland in a big hurry. I’d never seen so much change in a place in such a short period of time – new buildings everywhere. New freeways. New tramlines. Chic restaurants. Actual non-white people (this in a city where people would actually stop and stare when a non-white person walked by). It felt as if Dublin had suddenly realized it was part of Europe. It also seemed that the powers that be knew that their little bonanza of cash was going to come to an end, and figured they’d better spend it just as fast as they possibly could. In a way, it felt like visiting a place that had won the lottery, and squandered the cash. There are still buildings under construction everywhere, and three major projects due to be completed the week we visited. However, the Irish economy is absolutely shot all to hell, with huge budget cuts, unemployment, etc. They are cutting salaries, cutting welfare, raising taxes, having general strikes – all sorts of fun things. It was a little surreal, actually – on the surface everything seemed fine – crowds out shopping, tourists everywhere. One only had to look at the graffiti, or the fly-posters, read the newspaper, or turn on the TV though to see that things were actually quite bad. Oh, and the church is still getting in trouble for diddling little boys. At least some things don’t change.

So, the one bit of travel writing I did actually manage, from 4 December:

Decided I should try to do a travel diary again. David and I are sat, windowside, on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry, looking out on a choppy grey-green sea and a grey-blue misty nothing of an indefinite horizon. Very relaxing actually, though not so relaxing I’m going to miss it when we fly back the other way. We took the 0910 train out of London – supposedly in the quiet car. Unfortunately, we had a drunk Irishman, who fulfilled every single stereotype of the drunk Irishman – right down to the photograph of the racehorse he was carrying. It was like having a 3 year old in the carriage – every single thing we passed he would make some inane, and loud comment. David tried to get him to be quiet. Other passengers laughed along (why?). I’d finally had enough and stormed out of the car – noting rather pointedly that I’d had just about enough of the ‘drunk’. Subtle as always. Ugh – wish they would have dropped him into the Irish Sea!

The ferry might be rather relaxing, but the ferry terminal was fairly exciting. I beeped going through the metal detector (boots, I think). Then, while being patted down for contraband, my backpack (in which I had a chicken-chutney sandwich) set off the sniffer dog (go figure). Suddenly someone whisks my passport off into another room and I’m faced with a guy with a rather large gun, while another rummages through my backpack. He is particularly interested in the plastic bag I am carrying – ‘What did you have in this?’. ‘Nothing, actually – I’m flying back and just needed something to put my toiletries in’. Eventually, he is satisfied that it was the chicken that set off the dog, but, wow, I was beginning to be concerned there was going to have to be a little cleanup operation on aisle 2… Anyway, there goes my future career as a drugs mule…

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