Tuesday 29 December 2009

It should have been a Monday...

So... One of the inherent problems of sleeping in for a few days is that when one does have to go to bed early, to get up early the next day, one can't sleep. Meaning - I was back to my usual state of zombietude this morning. I was supposed to take my bike in to get a few things worked on, only to discover that the back tire had gone completely flat (after talking about flat tires yesterday with the woman at the bike store - I should know better!). That meant a lot of farting around, waiting for the 0954 train into London (not allowed to arrive before 10 with a bike) - I figured that they might as well just fix that while they were fixing everything else. I get more flat tires - with supposed puncture resistant tires as well! What I clearly need is a (very fast moving) slave out ahead of me on the road, clearing up glass and other pieces of debris. I think that is a very good idea - one more thing to aspire to once I become queen of the universe.

The rest of the Xmas mini-break passed rather without comment. In a way, I was actually happy to go to work today, as I was getting so bored. However, we did watch District 9, which I enjoyed, and Avatar, which I absolutely loved. I think I might have a new, blue boyfriend now (along with every other gay man and 12 year old girl... Sigh). David and Robin and I went, along with Robin's porn star/rent boy friend (who apparently has the hots for me). There is something very satisfying about watching someone whose entire persona is built around being a super-macho dominating sex object blubbering like a girl at a screen full of CGI. (I really am a horrible person, I suppose, but there you go...). Actually, I like the guy - I just find his whole schtick amusing - still though, it pays well.

I ventured to Selfridges last night in search of underwear. (Very exciting!) Unfortunately, underwear were not on sale (of course!), and I think the entire populations of a small country and one or two mini-galaxies were dumped in there for the after Christmas sales. The horror, the horror.

And not much else really. Oh, I suppose I was going to make some snide remark about how convenient it was that some numbnuts came from Yemen just about the time that the US decides to expand its warmaking in that general direction, but I would hardly be the first to say that, so I won't bother. Plus, I would probably end up on a list of people who don't like mushrooms or something (which I don't).

Friday 25 December 2009

Xmas in a silly land...

Well, I'm sitting here next to the world's most organized Xmas tree (all blues and whites and silvers, thanks to Mr. Hyper Anal Retentive David ;-), feeling a little bit bloated and a little bit tiddly (thanks, in part, to Robin's mulled wine, which would likely take the paint off the walls). We just finished watching '9', which, if you want a nice, normal, non-freakoid movie is not the movie to see, bathing in our post-Christmas glow.

We had a fairly low-impact Christmas Day - slept in until 1215, then farted around here for a while. Eventually we all cycled into town to Balans Restaurant, where 8 of us packed into a rather small restaurant with rather a lot of screaming queens to pay £65 for Christmas lunch. The food was, admittedly, a bit mediocre, but the company was good. We did manage to not consume too too much, as we had to cycle home (thanks to no public transportation and all of us feeling like tightwads and not wanting to pay 3x normal cabfare home).

And, get this - last night I actually went to midnight mass - voluntarily, at St Paul's Cathedral - and, most importantly, I was not struck by lightning (though the dean did suggest that anyone using a mobile phone during the service would, in fact, be struck by lightning - I liked him). I have to admit that I kind of liked the service, though I was a little surprised to have to stand for nearly the entire time - apparently the Episcopal (American Anglican) church has wussfied a bit, given that most of the service is sitting! They had a real boy's choir - I'd never actually heard a real boy's choir before, and an organ that would blow the roof of lesser buildings. The funny thing was, even with thousands of people inside (they had to close off the building to more entries), you could barely hear people singing - I think because most people were just sort of quietly mouthing the words, rather than belting them out. And, of course, being a bit tourist attraction, there were numbers of people who just wandered out during the middle of the service. I'm sorry - I'm not that terribly religious - but have some respect - it's not there for entertainment purposes only - if you start on a church service, as far as I'm concerned you're there for the long haul unless they start sacrificing virgins or something of similar magnitude. Anyway, we felt slightly superiorr to everyone afterwards - all those silly people waiting for buses that weren't going to come (no buses on Xmas) as we pedalled off into the night. Oh, and the Bishop of London, who reminded me a bit of Gandalf, what with his silly hat and staff, said 'Happy Christmas' to us as we waited to cross at the light, after the service (we waited for the light to change... ;-)

So, that was Christmas Day. I do miss being back in CA on Christmas, but I still enjoyed it a lot... Tomorrow is Boxing Day, and the beginning of the after Christmas sales... Must hide credit card...

Oh - milestone I jusr realized was past without much fanfare... I've now lived here longer than Minnesota, which means I've lived here longer than anywhere since I left San Diego at age 9... And I still can't fake an English accent worth a crap... Irish, however, I can pull off pretty well - I suppose b/c Irish English is so much closer to American English. Hmm...

Monday 21 December 2009

City Buried by Massive Snowstorm - Drifts 1.5 inches deep - Life Grinds to a Halt!

Well, so, you'd think that the fiasco of London falling over and dying for several days last February after six inches of snow would have convinced the local governments that, hmm, maybe we should salt more than once this winter, especially because salt dissolves in the rain and washes off the roads. This might be particularly important, seeing as how, apparently, molasses, which sticks the salt to the roads (who knew?), has gotten more expensive this year, so the governments are cutting back in these times of austerity. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. We got a whopping 1.5 inches of slushy snow this evening at rush hour - well-predicted by the Met Office, and what happened... No gritters, no salt trucks, no plows. Nada. The streets turned to skating rinks, people slipping and falling all over the sidewalks, trains delayed and cancelled, airports closed, and don't even get me started about the Eurostar. Apparently there are 100000 or so people stranded here and in France after 6 trains got stuck in the tunnel for hours and hours with no food or water, and little air. So, one trains goes into the tunnel, shorts out, and gets stuck. They send in another. Another short circuit (apparently the 'wrong kind of snow' melting and screwing up the electronics in the warm tunnel). Six trains are sent into the tunnel, and they all get stuck. Sounds a bit like continuing to send things down the toilet once it gets plugged - doesn't work well.

The British are blaming the French. The French have called for an investigation. Eurostar has apologized by saying that, basically, shit happens, deal with it. And all this right after Copenhagen, when the leaders of the world all collectively laid down and died. Apparently the Kool-Aid was tasty. Sigh.

Anyway, tomorrow morning should be interesting once the slush freezes overnight...

I kind of thought today might be a ridiculous day. I woke from a dream that I had taken the hovercraft (as one does) to Morocco for the day - Marakesh, to be exact. In my dream, Marakesh had moved down to the coast, and the port, well, the port resembled the Disneyland Small World ride, except that everything was in shades of brown. I passed through customs (where they were all wearing red jackets) and suddenly realized I had to pee (nothing unusual there! ;-) I decided I didn't feel like paying 30 dinars for the privilege (apparently, the currency is actually the diram, so not bad) - so I trecked up a hill to use a tree. In the process I stepped in a cow pie. I was just washing it off my foot when my alarm went off, and I thought, Oh dear God this is not going to be a good day...

And then I was nearly killed by a dumpster. There I was, walking along the street, talking on my phone, minding my own business, when some numbnuts in a van backed into a dumpster, which rolled across the sidewalk and crashed into my elbow (which hurt!). I had some pleasant and polite words with the driver about his lack of care and attention, and then continued on my way, sure that a piano would fall out of the sky or some other such sillines.


Oh, the highlight of the weekend (another weekend of no cycling, thanks to the crappy icy roads) was seeing 2012. That was a bag of popcorn and bag of candy movie, with 30 minutes of commercials beforehand! That was definitely a record. Anyway - plot holes I could have driven a continental plate through, but what fun - lots of things blowing up and Los Angeles falls into the ocean! What's not to love? My fave stupid mistake - Woody Harrelson standing at the rim of the Yellowstone supervolcano, next to a sign saying Elevation 2726 (or some such) feet/ 976 (or some such) meters. Um, hello, perhaps that should actually be 2726 meters? There ain't no part of Wyoming below about 3800 feet, never mind 2726. Dur!

And that's where babies come from... ;-)

Cereal now - more exciting news to come, I'm sure.

Friday 18 December 2009

A Wild Friday Night in the Big City...

Well, we're really letting loose tonight... David is parked in front of the TV, watching 300. Fortunately, the Christmas tree is in the way, so I can only see it - but my God what a bunch of overblown twaddle! I may need a sick bag. Robin is back in Birmingham with the padres - his 'enforced rest period', as he calls it (as his parents are some pretty serious thumpers... Fortunately, I'm sure, for him, it sounds like he already has his, um, 'social calendar' laid out for the next week. Our very own United Nations Representative of Love...

I'm sitting here, blessfully blocked from seeing blood and guts and pencilled in abs+, though I can still here a lot of shouting, bad dialogue and silly music. Hell - it could be a January sale I'm listening to for all I know. And I'm eating a really yummy toffee cookie I just bought at Sainsbury's. It's a damn good thing I run and cycle, or I'd weigh about 800lbs - especially around Christmas!

So, we had our big, monster blizzard last night, with at least 1 inch of snow. I guess the suburbs got more, but the way they reported it, you'd think that the British Empire was about to crumble under the weight of the fluffy menace. Oh wait... I took the train today, not trusting the councils to do more than a half-assed salting of the major roads. Thomas (boss) cycled in, and wiped out just before he got to work. I parked my butt on the (delayed) train. David and I did have the dubious pleasure of watching a drunk domestic play out on the train this evening - that's always fun, watching people be very English and pretend like there aren't two people shouting at each other.

So, yeah - par-tay! I suppose we'll have a good NYE party (if we don't have to put to bed at least one useless person it just won't have been worth it... ;-)

Thursday 17 December 2009

City Threatened with Snow Flurries - Call in the Army!

Well, in usual style, London, the city that has withstood invasions by the French, the Viking and the dinosaurs, and which made it through the Blitz calmly and with great aplomb (so the History Channel leads us to believe) is threatened by the prospect of fluffy white things falling from the sky. Travel alerts! Possible cancellations! Snow emergency! Be afraid! Maybe the dinosaurs should have won.

Anyway, I don't actually have much to say at the moment (unusual, I know). I managed to peel my butt out of bed at the ungodly hour of 650 (I'm pretty sure that should be illegal when the sun doesn't rise until 8) and headed off for my morning bike ride. Generally a good ride, except for the dickhead in the Mercedes (I'm reminded of a joke about Mercedes and porcupines...) anyway, this prick comes up behind me on a road with miles and miles to pass, and honks. Naturally, I ignore him, so he honks again. Ignore. Finally he rushes around me in a big blast of Mercedes engine noise, and gets stuck at the next traffic light. So, I come up alongside him and manage to launch a nice big glob of spit on his window and door. Given my usual ability to aim spit is fairly abyssmal, I was pretty proud of my result, and was very pleased (I checked this first) that there was a whole lot of traffic ahead, meaning there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell he'd catch up to me again. Yet another small triumph for cyclists worldwide, or something like that.

Anyway, I should probably look useful, and I have to go off to a meeting in a bit anyway. Yucky.

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: http://picasaweb.google.com/statlerandwaldorfonline). 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…

Thursday 3 December 2009

Life in the rainforest...

Hey, well guess what it's doing today? No, there are not blue fluffy things flying about through the sky (well, there might be, but only after the use of many illegal substances) - it's raining! Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen - there is water falling out of the sky, which has happened, oh, I don't know - nearly ever day for the past week or so (I've lost count). The trees are all (mostly) dead, but the grass is lush - squishy, but very lush. David and I went walking through Hampstead Heath last weekend, and I was very happy my hiking boots were (sort of) waterproof. But still I dutifully (that word doesn't look right) - anyway I get up at the crap of dawn (actually, even before dawn passes wind) to head out into the morning traffic. I was especially pleased with myself the other morning that I managed to find a side-street to cut out one of my least favorite parts of the morning commute. Simple pleasures...

Actually, I was thinking the other morning as I was weaving my way through traffic - I cycle every morning over Tower Bridge. People come from all over the world and take pictures of Tower Bridge. Apparently, it's one of the most famous bridges in the world. Yet, on my morning bike ride, it's just parked traffic, and moron pedestrians wandering out into the street without looking. I walked over the bridge the other day, on my way to a meeting at City Hall - it was really nice to actually be able to see the bridge, and see the view from the bridge, rather than just see the bus that cut me off, or the group of Japanese tourists who have not, it seems, encountered moving traffic in a road before. I like walking along my bike routes - it helps me remember why I think London is a fantastic city, and not just a moving obstacle course full of dimwitted numbnuts.

Anyway, we (the whole house) went over to friends of Robin's last Saturday for Thanksgiving dinner (as we all had to work on Thursday). It was, of course, raining. The food was excellent. The flat was, well, unusual. Both of the denizens are (gay) architects, meaning that everything was arranged just so. Even the books in the shelves were arranged by height order, whereas our books are generally arranged by where they get crammed. They had six gay men and one very neurotic Spanish woman (fag-hag) who had just moved to London from New York crowded around the table. Naturally, the conversation was, at turns, catty, bitchy, political and generally snarky. It reminded me a bit of the dinner scene in Beetlejuice, though, fortunately, our dinner didn't reach up and grab us.

David and I are heading off to Dublin tomrorow morning on the 0910 train from Euston. I've not been to Dublin in 14 years, since I lived there. It may have changed a bit! Actually, what I'm really looking forward to is seeing whether it still feels like travelling 50 years back in time. I doubt it does - there might even be real, live, non-white people there now! I do know that Ireland has just been decimated by the recession - but then, I lived there before I became the 'Celtic Tiger', so maybe it will feel as if nothing has changed. We're taking the train and ferry there, which takes all day. David's never been there, and he's never taken the ferry, so it seemed like a fun thing to do. We're flying back though. Once is fun, twice is a pain in the ass.

Blah - I suppose I should do some work before the bosses get back from whatever inane meeting they are at.

Oh, funny thing - we had our 'GIS User Forum' yesterday - which consisted of a few of us talking about various things to a room full of 20 semi-interested (or perhaps semi-comatose) people. I just sort of got up there and blathered, as opposed to some of the more organised talks, and people said they really liked it! I suppose all those years of teaching undergrads was good for something. The meeting was supposed to finish at 430, but it was dragging on a bit. Get this - people actually got up and left at 430. How rude is that? Some guy was still talking, and they just left! Stupid bureaucratic people. If I was up there talking, I would have shamed them, because the speaker was very English about it and just kept speaking, though I could tell he was very embarrassed. People suck sometimes.

Ok, work now. Yuck.

Monday 23 November 2009

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs...

Which has nothing at all to do with this blog entry, though it is cloudy and it's supposed to rain (again). It seems to be getting very good at doing that - rain and rain and rain and rain. Lots of heavy rain in a country known for it's semi-continuous bits of piddly mist and light rain. They just got a foot of rain in Cockermouth (where do they get these name?) in Cumbria - the most rain ever recorded at one time in the United Kingdom. It's late November and we haven't had any frost. In fact, we haven't even had any cold nights. The trees still have about half of their leaves as well. I'm sure it's not climate change or anything so silly. It's more likley to be an al Quaeda plot or perhaps the fault of Obamacare.

Oh, what a world, what a world, what a world.....!


Life continues to progress in a distinctly lifelike fashion. I just applied for another job - I don't actually expect I'm going to get it, as I'm missing some of the 'key skills', but it sounds cool, and it would be a big salary increase, which would be a GOOD THING. The weekend was rather boring. Shockingly, it rained. I didn't manage a bike ride - nothing like cycling in 50mph wind and hail. David and I did to to a house party on Saturday night. David thought it was one person's party, but it actually turned out to be another person, with the same name. Oh how embarrassing - fortunately, he noticed this little tidbit of information before we actually got there. We had a bit of an epic journey to get there as well. The first train was cancelled 'because of a person under the train' at Euston Station. I mean, really - how inconsiderate! So we schlepped to the next station, where we got on the next train, where someone decided to let off a stink bomb. The Tube has a lot of bad smells, but boy, stink bomb on crowded train pretty much takes the cake! The party itself was a bit odd. It was more a collection of groups of people. There were the 'cool kids', who, for some reason totally incomprehensible to me, seemed to disappear off to the bedroom for short periods of time - usually in groups. They would then come back into the room distinctly chirpier. I'm sure they just went back there to discuss the future of British politics, or perhaps to look at pictures of puppies. I felt distinctly left out with my boring beer and small talk. Dear diary... ;-)

Oh - random things I've seen in Hackney at lunch lately... 1. A dead person being wheeled out of a building on a gurney. 2. A guy on a very large unicycle riding down Mare Street (main drag), weaving through traffic while texting on his phone (not the dead guy, I'm pretty sure, though you might wonder).

So anyway, I should go cook up my lunch for tomorrow, shower, be fabulous, stand on my head and such - the usual evening things...

Friday 13 November 2009

Who ate all the cookies?

Blah. So, I tried to do a blog entry yesterday, but the website crapped out and that was the end of it. 'Computer says no...' It's Friday evening and wet and windy outside. David and Robin have gone to the supermarket. I went last night, in the pouring rain. So, I thought I'd just hang out and read things online. Unfortunately, I bought a package of really large chocolate chip cookies yesterday, and they are really yummy, and I just ate two of them, and now feel like a complete hippo. Oh well, I'll run a million miles tomorrow and cycle on Sunday (or stand on my head and play the zither - I get confused).

I was reduced to taking the train into work today, as I had to go to a meeting at City Hall this afternoon (about heat mapping and community heating systems - something I know, amazingly, nada about). I figured it would be bad form to show up looking like a drowned rat, particularly since most people seemed to show up in suits. Hello, suits? In local government? What is this about? I felt a little underdressed in my jeans, long sleeve t-shirt and hiking boots. Oh well - I'm sure they will get over it. Anyway, I managed to slip out early and play hookey. Had coffee with a friend of Robin's I ran into, then went to the gym and had my new gym-member health check. Apparently my morning diet of eggs and bacon has not harmed my cholesterol, and my endless cycling means I have a resting heartbeat of about once per week. Not bad...

So yeah, in other words, a slow news day, so I'm going to go back to reading about the general awfulness of the world, or the current conspiracy regarding swine flu. I'm quite enjoying that one - especially since I have yet to meet a single person who has had it... Hmm...

Wednesday 11 November 2009

And now is the time when we are SILENT!

Blah. So, today was Remembrance Day, and also, apparently, this is National Mouth Cancer Prevention Month. I don’t have any particular comments about the second (except don't chew tobacco - it's icky), but as for the first, well, work, in its usual level of thoughtfulness and sensitivity, had two minutes of silence this morning at 11am. Now that’s all well and good, but they chose to start and finish the two minutes’ silence by sounding the fire alarm. I’ll tell you, nothing gets me into a more reverent mood than hearing the fire alarm!

Anyway, I’ve been exceedingly bad at keeping this up lately. I have interesting and amusing thoughts every day (well, interesting and amusing to me, anyway), but I never actually get around to writing them down. Then a week has passed, two weeks, etc. Very sad.

So, the glory of autumn in London (snigger) has notched down just a bit. About half the leaves have fallen, and the rest seem to just be clinging on, being stubborn. We’ve had a few cold and rainy days, and some chilly nights. You’d think though that, given the sudden preponderance of heavy coats and scarves, we were in the middle of an ice age. Londoners really are weather weenies. At work, the heating has been on since Oct 1, and, just for good measure, the air conditioning is on as well, b/c the heating makes it too hot. That’s energy efficiency for you!

I had to be off my bike for several days. As luck would have it, a gear cable gave way when I was off in the most inconvenient part of North London. That’s usually how it works. At least it wasn’t raining. Anyway, four trains and two hours later (for ten miles) I finally made it home. One of the funny things about cycling around London is that it opens up the entire city for easy exploration. Unfortunately, the flip side of that is that when something goes wrong, which it usually does, one is usually as far away from a useful train as is humanly possible without being in a place that doesn’t actually have trains (yeah- don’t interpret that statement too much there). But now I’m back cycling my 30ish miles per day, which makes me happy. Oh, and I’m scheming two big bike rides for the summer. One of them is from Trondheim, Norway, to a ski town in Sweden called Are. (That’s Are with a little round doodah over the A). Why? Well, for one, it sounds completely random – just the sort of thing I would do, and the other, I’ve been talking to someone online for a while in Are, and it occurred to me that this was the perfect flimsy excuse for me to cycle through the wilds of Norway and Sweden! (Going to try for the summer solstice). The other ride, for later in the summer sometime, will be from Bern, Switzerland, to Milan, over the Alps. Why is this? Well, I know people on both ends (so, of course, it’s very sensible), but mostly, it sounds like a ridiculous challenge, so why the hell not? I’m applying for my UK citizenship in January, and it’s just sort of beginning to dawn on me I have this whole, interesting continent to explore, right there. Of course, it would be better to have a better paying job… Baby steps… Oh, and David and I might cycle on the Rhine in the autumn. He’s not much for the hilly rides… (And both he and Robin think I’m a wackjob for wanting to do them, but that’s pretty par for the course).

Anyway, I’m about out-blathered for now. I’m going to really really try to be better at this. I’ve even set myself a daily reminder!

Oh, and the low light of winter must be here, b/c I'm craving carbs like you wouldn't believe! Time to get out the happy lamp!

Monday 19 October 2009

Jibber Jabber

Ah well, another week has gone… We’re at just about mid-fall right now, and the leaves are doing their thing, so much as leaves in London ever do their thing. There are few trees that put on a proper autumn-show, but a lot more typical is the London Plane, which seems to engage in an ongoing battle with its leaves every fall. One at a time, probably during the night, they crinkle into a sort of yicky brown, then fall to the ground with a slight crackling thud. Very unlike, say, a sugar maple, where some bit of inner choreography celebrates the shortening days with a riot of color before the leaves commit mass suicide and plonk to the cold ground. Unfortuantely, London has a lot more London Planes than it does sugar maples, which may go some way to explaining their name… Hmm…

I’ve managed to catch a minor cold, it seems. Sore throat, general mild crappiness. Not bad, considering that I work in an office full of unhealthy, chain smoking, grease-consuming lardybutts. I still managed to go out for a 55 mile bike ride yesterday – I figured maybe I could scare away the cold germs.

Saturday night, Avi came over, and David, Robin, Avi and I sat around, eating junk food, and watched four episodes of BS Gallactica. Fabulous way to spend an evening.

A random observation from the work shower… Someone there has shampoo with ‘Extract of Horse Chestnut’. This seems odd, as horsechestnut contains a blood poison, and the Native Americans used to use a relative – buckeye, to stun the fish in water. Why one would want to rub this in one’s hair is beyond me – perhaps it tames wild hair?

And tomorrow we have an all-day ‘away day’. An away day is where the entire department spends the entire day listening to bullshit presentations and some amount of self-esteem or communications related drivel. This time, their idea for a ‘lunchtime activity’ (mandatory, of course) is a group singing session by some woman who thinks she can teach non-singers, llamas, and corduroy to sing (http://www.singalive.org/about.php). I’ve informed my boss that there are several important things about being a grown-up… 1. I don’t have to eat foods I don’t like, and 2. I don’t have to sing. I mean, really – where do they get off thinking that people in an IT department are going to want to stand around and sing KumBaYa?

Not much else exciting – it’s been pretty dull – hence my lack of entries…

Monday 12 October 2009

Shit and Champagne...

You wouldn't think those two would go together... However, Saturday, David, Robin and I went over to Avi's to help him plant palms and tree ferns in his back yard (which he is redoing completely). When all was said and done, he offered us all a glass of champagne (us all being raging and notorious homosexuals). I had my glass of champagne while sitting on top of a bag of horseshit. Very classy.

I am coming up to one week with no caffeine, and I have to say, it's been really difficult. I suppose this is the reason I had to have coffee, tea or soda every day for the past 18 years. I got through the headachey and bitchy phase (bitchier than normal), but I'm still waking up at night and am unable to fall asleep. Weird. Who'd a thunk that caffeine would be so addictive? Well, there goes my desire to have a heroin addiction...

I went for a bike ride yesterday - not very far - only 42 miles, but it was the first bike ride of any length I'd been on since August. The weather was absolutely crap and I got soaked, but I suppose it is October, and one must expect these little trials and tribulations.

Went this morning to a talk given by Google's top laywer about censorship and general freedom of information. Very interesting, but not always for the reasons it should have been. As it was a public talk, it was pretty general - lots of examples of how Google had dealt with censorship requests from various governments. I couldn't, however, get past the thought that 'Wow, this guy has really drunk the Kool-Aid' as far as he painted a picture of Google as this sort of beneficent extra-governmental organisation fighting for free speech everywhere. Of course, he did mention that this was sort of important for the business model, but still, it really made Google sound like the corporation you'd bring home to mom...

Not much else exciting at the moment... My cooked breakfasts are going well (bacon, eggs and beans), and while I miss my daily PBJ, my salad and meat lunch seems to be getting rid of the PBJ around my middle. Who'd a thunk that PBJ would cause so much midline damage?

Anyway, time to change and head out towards the gym. It's already getting dark - blah.

Monday 5 October 2009

Wet and crappy...

So, I'm nearly through the process of cutting out caffeine completely, and I actually haven't murdered anyone yet (though the thought has crossed my mind...). Today I had two green teas. Tomorrow it's one. And then Wednesday, for the first time in 18 years, I'm going to try to go through the entire day with no caffeine (if I eat chocolate, that doesn't count, b/c my protein powder is chocolate). I'm not going to never have coffee or tea again, because that's just silly, but I decided that I needed to stop having it every day, because I really don't like the idea of being dependent on something. Ironically, given that the amount of caffeine I've been having has been dropping (to be honest, it wasn't that much - 4 cups of tea per day), I've been sleeping terribly and having weird dreams. Wow - good thing I don't smoke, seeing as how much of a baby I'm being about this...

Today is wet and cold and shitty out and I'm feeling uninspired. My bike ride in was full of morons as well - you'd think that in a place that rains as frequently as this, people would know how to drive properly in the rain. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.


Oh, seen at lunch - the first Christmas decorations from lamp posts. How horrid! Some of the stores have had their Christmas crap up since mid September. It's pretty sad that now by the time that Christmas gets here I'm completely sick of it. (And both sad and ironic that all traces of it disappear within several days after, when they were up for months before!).

Sunday 4 October 2009

Oh dear, it might be autumn...

Well, here it is Sunday evening and I'm still feeling like a hippo from lunch. After a very nice (but unfortunately short, only 30 miles) bike ride through increasingly autumnal London, I met up with Adrian, David, Avi, and Avi's beau of the month, whose name eludes me. They've apparently been on several dates and still haven't even made it to first base. Truly shocking behaviour - I'm thinking of organising an intervention for Avi - he's losing his touch... Anyway, we went to a pub at the north end of Camden, just at the edge of Chalk Farm (far enough out of Camden to be away from the huge crowds and homeless people, but close enough to be still uber-trendoid) and had Sunday Roast. We all had lamb, except David, who, for some bizarre reason, had chicken. I mean, really - if you're going to have 9 million calories, you might as well go the whole hog and have lamb (I'm sure there's irony in that sentence somewhere, but I'm too lazy to find it). We sat out in the back, in the beer garden (only seats available), breathing in everyone's smoke, which was pretty spectacular, and freezing as the temperature decided to plummet. Headed up the hill after that for yummy dessert at a little cafe with brightly coloured cupcakes in the window. In my book that's a sure mark of a quality bakery - big fluffy, bright cupcakes. I had the chocolate chiffon cake and a fresh peppermint tea. Mmmm...

I biked down to Vauxhall after that, to momentarily rescue Robin from boredom. His friend Mike (who owns a sex store) is in from Munich, and Mike wanted to go to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to stand around outside with the various drunk and dishevelled queens (too much partying over the weekend) and schmooze (neither Robin nor Mike had been out over the weekend...) The funny thing about the RVT (there are many funny things) is that it's this little shit pub right by a train station, and right by a very busy road. There are a number of clubs and bars in the immediate vicinity, under the arches of the railway, as well as a horrible little park out back, where the trashed gay boys and their fag hags tend to congregate in the summer after partying the weekend away (I have, of course, never done that, and just read about it once in a book, which I then promptly burned). Across the railway is the very imposing headquarters for the MI5 (or is it MI6? Can't remember). Anyway, here, on a Sunday afternoon/evening, at the edge of one of the busiest streets in London, one can always find a (very) ragtag group of gay men of various shapes, sizes and ages, standing around outside the RVT, smoking and talking. A number of them will be just your ordinary pub goers, but at least half of them will have been out the entire weekend, taking unmentionable amounts of illegal substances, and will be standing outside, no matter what the weather, often shirtless, having their beers, happily oblivious to the stares of the passersby, the bus passengers, and the many West Africans who live in the area. The police, who I'm entirely sure have full knowledge of all the silliness that goes on in Vauxhall, seem to look the other way, as long as people behave themselves and don't generally cause a ruckus. I guess, when it comes down to it, if you have a group of drunk and belligerent hetero "lager-louts" causing fights, or a gaggle of saucer-eyed, loved-up gay men, it's not hard to guess which is more likely to cause problems... Anyway, the point of all that is that I stopped by there to say hello to Robin, who was standing around, bored out of his skull while Mike flitted about from group to group like some hairy German butterfly. A very odd situation indeed. (I do like Mike very much, I should add, even if I find him occasionally ridiculous).

Yesterday, what did I do yesterday? Ooh, getting geriatric... Oh, I know - I went running, went to the gym, had a very healthy lentil-heavy, vegetarian lunch at the lesbian cafe (followed by several trips to the bathroom... sigh - the wonders of roughage), and we all sat around on our collective asses last night and watched Angels and Demons. Now if that wasn't a big wet "I'm sorry" kiss to the Catholic Church I'm not sure what is...

And I spent two days, Thursday and Friday, at my first ever computer programming class (MapBasic), where I realized that my brain just doesn't work that way, and that computer languages are definitely created by people without girlfriends.

And finally - the Robin crime saga... The police said they are going to drop the case b/c (of course), the CCTV cameras at the bottom of the hill weren't pointed in the right direction (of course) and they are too lazy and donut-starved to bother with any of the cameras coming up the hill. Go lame-ass British police! Oh, and just to really sparkle things up, poor Robin had the seat and seatpost stolen off his bike last week as well. It is distinctly possible this household might be having politically incorrect thoughts at the moment about ghetto trash, I mean, certain members of the less fortunate.

And that brings me up to now, 7pm on a Sunday, when it is depressingly dark and cloudy outside. Heading into the winter dark... I'm going to have to get my happy-lamp out soon at work (and piss off everyone else in the process...) :-)

Monday 28 September 2009

A Crappy People Week...

Well, it's not been a banner week for people interaction, though there have been a few bright spots. Sunday morning, about 430am, I was woken from a deep sleep by Robin, who was saying something to David and me that I completely failed to comprehend in my zombie state. I clued in after a moment that he was saying he had been mugged, on our street. Robin had gone out clubbing for the evening, and to meet a few friends. He got off the bus at the bottom of our street (which, admittedly, borders a shitty neighborhood), and was walking up the hill, texting on his i-phone (not a very good idea, unfortunately). He heard footsteps, ignored them, then heard them again, and before he could do anything, two black guys tackled him, held him to the ground, tried to strangle him, and made off with his phone (Robin had the good sense not to go out to a club with his wallet at least). Injury-wise, he escaped with a bloodied elbow and some bruising, but he's really pretty shaken up, and I expect that we have not seen the last of the mental trauma of this. The police showed up pretty quickly, in an unmarked car, and they drove around with Robin in the car for a while, letting him make his report, and, I suspect, seeing if the two perps were still out wandering around. Apparently there has been a spate of this lately. Fortunately, Robin managed to get the phone company to disable the phone, and it's also insured.

The weekend before last, I was cycling, and went to pass a fairly young (late teens?), black Caribbean guy on his bike. As I passed him, he suddenly sped up and tried to cut me off - I said something clever like 'I don't think so, dickhead', and he replied with 'I'll fucking stab you right here' before jumping his bike up onto the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Excuse me???? And I believe the proper term is 'I'm going to cut you!'? I mean really, can't they even use the proper lingo anymore?

When I moved to London, six years ago, I didn't notice as much of the whole 'gangsta' culture as in the US. It was there, to be sure, but not so pronounced. I can't say that anymore. While the level of violence here is not as great, and the number of murders much lower (it's pretty hard to do a drive-by knifing), London is full of gangs, shooting and stabbing each other for no particularly good reason. David and Robin came up with a very clever and creative solution to the two gangbangers from Saturday night (which I think should be extended to all gang members). Given that being gay is just the absolute worst possible thing that one could possibly imagine, said gang members are captured, forced to perform lewd acts on each other, all of which are video taped, broadcast on the internet, as well as around Camberwell - perhaps stuck, as flyers, to all the lamp posts. I wonder what that would do for their 'respect'? Would work for the wacko right-wing religious fruit loops as well. Ooh, I may be onto something... Reverend Haggard on line 1! ;-)

One thing different though about this country is that they are actually starting to realize that, yes, most gang violence is drug related, but no, they are never ever ever going to manage to get rid of drugs. What if, however, they found a way to get rid of the profit in selling drugs? There are the occasional whispers of decriminalization and even the occasion mention of the L word (legalization). I don't think that is going to happen any time soon, given that the Home Office just upped the penalties on pot (which is so very dangerous that it's legal in the Netherlands and Spain, not to mention in various US states). So yeah, there is a long way to go for sense to prevail, but can you just imagine - no huge profits to be made on drugs. What will they sell? Pianos? I suppose it would be slightly more difficult to sneak across the border with a small ziplock bag of illicit pianos...

And speaking of shit people... As I said, it's been a banner few weeks... Thursday evening, I met a friend for an after work drink. We were walking back from the pub along a residential street, and these two rather sketchy looking guys turned the corner, right next to us. I was pushing my bike, and my friend was up ahead. One of the guys, who I suspect was on something, kept matching my pace, then started to block my path - repeatedly. Not a good situation. So, finally, I just said 'Move your ass!' and plowed through him with my bike. He starts shouting after me, 'Don't push me! Fucking faggot! Fucking faggot!'. Clever, and observant too! To which I respond, 'That's the most action you've had all week!' and keep walking, keeping an eye behind me to make sure he's not going to come after. He just kept shouting, and we walked off. Nice.

And finally - I was cycling to work last week down the A10 (very busy road). I'm waiting at the traffic light, on the side of the road, and this car waiting behind me honks its horn. I look back, and the driver - young Orthodox Jewish - hair, hat, silly outfit, the whole nine yards, motions with his hand for me to get out of his way so that he can pass all the other cars at the light. Yeah right. In 25 years of traffic, I've been yelled at, spat at, hit by cars, pushed off my bike and generally manhandled in one way or another, but no one has ever, ever, ever motioned for me to get out of the way! So I move, right in front of him (it's not like he couldn't have gotten around me before, but now he certainly couldn't). The light changes and I set off, in the middle of the lane. And I go slower, and slower, and slower, until I'm going about 5 mph, and no one else will let him in. I figure that he's not likely to hit me in such a crowded place, and if he does, well, I'm only going about 5 mph. He finally zooms around me and gets stuck at the next light, though he tries to block my path. As if. I block him again at that light, and he finally manages to zoom around. I can't get him at the next light, but he tries his damndest to cut me off in traffic. Honey, you're a Hasidic Jew with pop bottle glasses - not a chance you can actually pull off that driving maneuver. He does, however, nearly hit another car before speeding off - late for Torah practice or something, who knows?

So, it's been a really good few weeks for dickheads.

But, on the plus side, we've actually managed to do some nice things as well. David's mom was here a few weekends ago at the end of her two week sojourn, and we actually didn't fight at all. (There may be hope for family harmony!). And Ray was over from New York last weekend. We toodled around London, then went down to Brighton. I love going around London as a tourist!

And today's big exciting thing was that I cancelled my Fitness First membership to join Nuffield Health (much nicer). It feels like the end of an era - 6 years at Shitness First. Perhaps they will put up a plaque or something.

Oh, and I've changed my diet to have more protein and slightly fewer carbs. I actually made myself eggs, bacon and beans this morning, instead of cereal. Yum! Of course, the beans may or may not have inspired some additional gassiness, but that's just a price the world will have to pay. Increased global warming for a higher protein breakfast for Dougie! Seems like a fair trade anyway.

And, after my little rant and a half, I'm off...

Addendum - I had either a tennis ball or a horsechestnut (and green husk) hurled at me by some shitty ghetto children on a side street in Hackney while I rode my bike this evening. It hit my neck quite hard - fortunately, there doesn't seem to be a bruise. I recommend they all be sterilized, or perhaps run over. I'll drive...

Thursday 17 September 2009

The things one sees...

when on a bike... Today it was not one, not two, but three people cycling with their helmets hanging from their handlebars. Purely in the interest of science, I want to push them over to see if they can get their helmets on before their head hits the pavement. I wonder if I could get funding for that?

I've spent the day working on an Access query, as well as the directions on how to do said Access query. This is how exciting my life is. Actually, the query has been kind of fun and challenging. But writing the directions... I would rather watch paint dry, or perhaps even write in my blog!

Oh, I peeked into the 'Multi Faith' room in the basement of Town Hall. Multi faith, in this case, seems to mean Muslim, as no one else in this country really could be bothered with needing a room. It was divided into two sections, with a partition in the middle. I assume that one section is the boys, and one is the girls. Apparently they can't touch, look at each other or have thoughts about cheese danishes (apple danishes are fine) or the universe ends, or something like that. I might be a bit fuzzy on my religious doctrine there. I did notice, however, that while the rugs on the floor are all generally lined up Meccaward, they aren't quite even with each other. I wonder if one gets less praying power if the rug is misaligned? Which reminds me, the guy I saw a while ago praying repeatedly on the plane - he put his tray table down, put down a pillow, and prayed away. He was, however, pointed towards London. Perhaps the city has seen fit to use some sort of complex mirror or radio transmitter to point the prayers in the right direction, for the aid of Heathrow bound travelers? This really is all very confusing to me - probably not something worth repeating around a lot at work... ;-)

Oh, one other very exciting and useful thing I discovered is that the GoreTex lined, 'waterproof' cycling shoes are actually designed to keep the water in, rather than out - I suppose a bit like a wet suit. I got stuck in pouring rain just the other day on my bike, and actually had water pooled in my shoes, which I had to dump out. I suppose it didn't occur to me when I bought them that water hitting my legs will tend to run down, and my feet are actually not hermetically sealed in my shoes. Dur!

And finally - something that has been oddly inspirational to me the past few days... Eddie Izzard, 'action transvestite' comedian extraordinaire, with only five weeks' training, managed to run 43 marathons in 51 days to raise money for some charity (that part's boring).


I have to say that I find it truly amazing that someone could do that - especially someone so damn funny as he is! (I saw him once, live, in Edinburgh, 16 years ago, and I think we have a DVD of him somewhere). Anyway - I just thought I would share that...

And, ooh look, it's almost time to go! Fabulous!

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Six and a bit...

Well, I was expecting some sort of write-up in the paper, but the occasion passed without fanfare. Saturday was my sixth year here in London - longer than I spent in New York, and nearly as long as I spent in Minnesota. Who'd a thunk? There were, however, fireworks on Saturday night, just near the crapass student housing we lived in on the Thames. I like to think it was to commemorate my arrival. More likely it had something to do with the Thames Festival, which was ending that night.

Today is cold, wet and rainy - nearly dark as well. I think that summer may have well and truly died for the year. The trees are beginning to think about turning their fabulous shades of brown and slightly less brown - fall splendour, London-style. Another month or so and I'm going to have to take out my happy-lamp from its summer hiding place under my desk. It annoys my colleagues, but it makes me happy, so they can pretty much shove it. I'm very community spirit oriented.

This morning, there was some big bus accident just north of here - head-on, apparently. A bendy bus plowed into a double-decker, which did quite a number to both of them. Traffic was a complete nightmare, to the point where I had to jump up on the sidewalk to get around. Terrible. On the plus side, that's one less bendy bus on the road. I got a late start today, about 7 minutes late, which meant that the dickheads and numbnuts were out in force. I don't know what it is, but all it takes is a few minutes late, and the roads are complete mayhem. Maybe the buses were late today as well? Who knows... Giant fatass had gotten to the shower before me, and got it even wetter than usual - water was flowing across the floor about 10 feet from the shower. I'd love to electrify the floor when he does that - would serve him right for making a complete mess every morning.

But six years - that's kind of amazing. Amazing in particular because the original reason I came here went so spectacularly down in flames. I still think if I had been able to study on my original topic - reforestation in Scotland, I would have done well, and would have made it through the degree. But to even think that I could have written on an aspect of local government and redevelopment in London - a city with a system of government so convoluted and archaic that I still barely understand it (and I work in it!) is just amazing. I should have stood up more for myself and my topic, but I suppose you don't know these things until after. I suppose it's something that I'm doing GIS - that's at least mapping, at least geography, and at least might lead somewhere, but what a lot of effort (and money!) was spent on nothing. Sigh.

Oh, David's mother got back to America with only minor diplomatic incidents - definitely nothing worth calling the embassy about. Her flight back though was delayed by over 5 hours, and they weren't let off the plane - happened to me once as well on British Airways, which is why I won't fly them again - but I guess all the airlines are pretty shit when it comes right down to that.

And that's all the non-news my little tired brain can come up with at the moment. Pretty heady stuff...

Friday 11 September 2009

Friday follies...

And it's late on a Friday afternoon, and I've been about as productive as, well, tapioca on a hot tin roof (that's not very productive, in case you were wondering). This whole week has been very much a 'blah' week. In large part, I've yet to recover on sleep from the trip. I really needed a day of doing nothing after I got back, which, of course, has not happened. So, instead, I've sat here, bleary eyed, in front of this damn computer, trying to pretend like I'm busy, but actually either staring into space or checking the latest news in... Australia... (I've heard it's September there too...).

David gets back today from Italy, which his mom in tow. We're all going for a bday dinner tonight at a restaurant Paul recommended (northern Chinese cuisine, which I hope doesn't much resemble the 'Chinee Foo' we all know and love). We're being risque then and going as a group (including Karen) to the local gay bar in Islington. I think it's a suitably mom-friendly bar. If not, I'm sure she will be able to use the experience in her therapy (that she gives, not receives).

Tomorrow I get my teeth cleaned (woohah!) and Sunday I might go for a bike ride. Karen's off on a 9am flight back to the US, which means she is going to have to leave at some ungodly early hour. I think I will say goodbye to her the night before.

Anyway, slow news day... Oh, but I should mention now that it's feeling autumnal, the number of pricks on bikes seems to be dropping. They really do seem to be weather weenies. Thank God for that!

Monday 7 September 2009

Brain ooze...

9/10 I've been writing this over several days, b/c it is so long. I wanted to write along the way, but it was pretty much do do do, with little time to stop and ponder. I think I'm just about back on London time, though I feel crappy today and have a bit of a migraine. Still feeling a little depressed about being back in work and back in the normal world. David's been off in Italy for a week with his mom - he'll be back tomorrow. I also just found out that while I loved the trip from start to finish, Robin actually ended up feeling very stressed - that moving from place to place upsets him. I'm not sure how I feel about that - on the one hand I wish he could have had as fabulous trip as I did, but on the other I kind of think, um, duh, what do you think a road trip is? Sigh.


Oy vey, dios mio, mein got and so on. I just got back from the CA trip today - 9.5 hour flight from SFO, stuck in coach, and zero sleep. Robin took a half a sleeping pill, slept for about 2 hours, and then had to be babysat around the supermarket. Very funny. I, on the other hand, managed to drag my sad ass to the gym, where I actually managed a workout. Of course, now it feels like about 87 o clock, I feel like I want to barf and I'm dreading going back to work tomorrow, but I suppose that's all part of the charm. Actually, I feel a little bit deflated and sad. I was so looking forward to this trip, and it was such a fantastic trip, and now I'm back to humdrum normalness and credit card bills. Two things always strike me after coming back from such trips - the first is that I need to get a job that uses my entire brain, all the time (thus giving me less opportunity to send spam email), and the second is that I need a lot more money. I am not designed to be poor. I guess, overall, I come away from this trip with a few overall impressions... 1. People are ageing. I know this is sort of one of those no shit sherlock comments, but when you don't see people for months or years at a time, they age noticeably, and it's really quite disconcerting. It means I'm ageing, for one. I'm actually starting to have almost grown-up relationships with relatives, which is certainly a novel thing, and I'm being brought in to the gossip circle. I wonder if there is some sort of ritual I have to pass - circumcising a gerbil or something. I also feel increasingly close to family as I get older, which is sort of ironic given that I seem to have moved myself just about as distant as possible. The other thing that strikes me about going back there is the realization that yes, in fact, I am indeed from there. I never thought I would walk around any part of Sacramento and say that there were actually some nice things there. I'm from there, and it's comfortable and familiar but I don't actually know if I could go back. I made a comment to Robin today that I would live in San Francisco before I would live in the United States - I suppose that's how I felt about New York, and then the US invaded after 911 and I left. Kind of sad. I do wish though that I had had the opportunity to grow up with the extended family in SoCal. I don't know them as well as I could, I haven't been involved in the family except in little snapshots. I definitely feel I missed out on something pretty wonderful there, though I certainly feel welcomed and loved when I actually do manage to visit. I miss them - a lot. It's a hard feeling to square with being happy living in London, which I am.

Anyway, our trip nearly got off to a very bad start when the Budget rental company told Robin that they were unable to accept a foreign debit card. That's a bit of an oh shit moment, at the start of a 1700 mile journey from Los Angeles, when they tell you that sorry, your card is crap and you're stuffed. Fortunately, we are able to put it onto my foreign credit card (eek!) and drove off, unslept and totally jet lagged, to San Diego. (Oh, I did forget about us deciding to watch 'Knowing' on the plane, on Robin's laptop, which, as it turns out, has a plane crash sequence in it. Nice. Fortunately, we weren't greeted by any air marshals, but we did rather quickly switch to Frasier. 'Dinner at Debbie's' actually turned out to mean dinner with the entire San Diego crowd at Debbie's. Poor Robin - he really jumped right into the deep end, having to socialize with 12 weird and wonderful people while his brain hovered somewhere between Greenwich Mean Time and Brigadoon. He managed though with flying colours - colors even, and seems to have also come to the independent conclusion that I have a cool family.

Our first actual day to do anything was the 24th. Actually, it was more the afternoon of the 24th, as we slept until 10 (Poppa had already gone to and come back from water exercise!). Anyway, we finally rolled out of the house around lunchtime and drove down to Hillcrest (where we had a bagel). From Hillcrest, we walked, in a nerdy sort of fashion (much plant identification going on), down through Balboa Park, past the zoo, and back. I don't think I'd ever actually walked through the entire park, nor had I realized just how many unusual plant species it contained... It also contained a lot of memories, but I suppose that was to be expected.

At my request, we all (12 of us) had dinner at Anthony's, where I don't think I'd been in about 27 years. The tack was just as good as ever, and the fish was fabulous. I was shocked though - shocked! - that they had removed the rum frmo the Zabione, or Zamboni, or whatever it was called, cake frosting. It was now just custard. Good custard, but not custard with the weird taste to it I could never identify as a small child. Must not encourage underage drinking, you know.

Robin and I went down to the ocean that evening, in the first of our many unsuccessful attempts to see stars (blocked either by clouds or the moon every night). Still though, the water was lovely.

8/25 Shopping! And Robin's first time driving the car. A little scary, but we only got honked at once, and almost ran only one red light. Not so bad, I suppose, given that the first time I drove in London I drove the entire car up onto the sidewalk trying to park it. (Oh yeah, there's an entire car on my left!). Ventured into the Abercrombie store and were blasted with pumping music, as well as nearly suffocated by their perfume machines, wafting the smell of manliness into the air in a sort of semi-toxic fog. Nice. We had dinner that night with Poppa at a Mexican restaurant in PB. Our waitress, I think, had eaten most of the Mexican restaurant, as well as several passersby. Still though, she was very attentive. Tips - they are an amazing thing for getting personal service, aren't they?

8/26 Robin drove us up to San Marino, to visit the Huntington Garden. I think he was less than impressed by how Southern Californians drive. Like, duh? The gardens were fantastic, and my God they must use a lot of water! It was hugely hot, and there were big pillars of smoke pouring out of the San Gabriel Mountains, just to the north. It made for a slightly surreal visit. On our trafficky drive out to Riverside, Robin spent quite a lot of time leaning over me to take pictures of the fires out of the left side of the car. Southern California paradise, I think not... We stayed with Maggie and her various critters. (Hmm, that sounded bad, didn't it?). She really must have the coolest dog on the planet - Lyric. I would not want to be the person trying to break into that house... We stayed up late shooting the shit. It's nice finally becoming a grown-up in the family, b/c you get to hear all the gossip you were denied as a child.

8/27 Our big desert adventure started at noon, as it took us a little while to get out of the house (big surprise). First stop was Walmart for a cooler. Very important when one is driving across the desert with chocolate. Second stop, being the raving homosexuals that we are, was the gym, where we got buff und beautiful before heading out to Eastern Buttmunch or some such similar place. We got only as far as Baker, a pissant strip mall nothing of a town. I think it was a combination of the failing light and the comforting lure of Bob's Big Boy that convinced us we didn't want to go traipsing across the desert in the middle of the night. We stayed at the Wills Fargo Motel (classy there, eh - Wells Fargo litigation on Line 1!),which looked like it could have been the setting for "The Lost Room". Yeah, the 50s was a good decade, I suppose. There was a pool there, in the middle of the parking lot. Rather oddly, given that it was about a million degrees, the pool was quite chilly. It did, however, have the added excitement of bats swooping down to drink the heavily chlorinated water while we were paddling about. Robin was then introduced to the wonder of no humidity when we stepped out of the pool and it was ... COLD! We also had a lovely walk out into the desert to look at stars. There were at least six, although it was difficult to tell, what with the glare from the neon signs and I-15. And we had a little wander past the store advertising 'Alien Fresh Jerky', which, as it turns out, is caffeinated beef jerky (the store was closed, unfortunately, and the aliens in the crappy old car out front looked bored). Yeah, Baker is a happenin' place.

8/28 This was to be a day of elevation and temperature contrasts. We had a hearty breakfast at Bob's Big Boy (there aren't many places to eat in Baker), then headed north into the middle of ...NOWHERE... I think I'm glad we didn't drive this road at night, and didn't make it to Nevada. We had planned the day to get to Death Valley quite early, before it got hot, which means, of course, that we got there just before lunchtime, when it was about 98709870987 or so degrees. Stopped at Badwater, which is apparently the lowest place in the USA (they have helpfully printed a big plaque up on the cliff, right at sea level). Robin and I dutifully walked the boardwalk out into the semi-dry lake bed (where does the water come from, I wonder?). We even did this shirtless, given the heat, and then both of us looked at our pics afterwards and resolved to go to the gym. I don't think there is actually any way of capturing the desolation and enormity of Death Valley unless one is actually standing there. Photographs just don't do it justice. We were the last ones remaining at Badwater, and suddenly realized that if we stood still, it was actually entirely, and I mean entirely silent. No birds, no bugs, no nothing. The superheated air pressed against our ears - making, to use a cliche, the sound of silence, plus an extra 283 feet of air pressure. It really wasn't a place one would like to spend a lot of time - I suppose that's one of the reasons they didn't call it "Paradise Valley". We stopped off at Furnace Creek, an oasis that contains a golf course (why?), a date plantation, some solar installation, a hotel, bar, general store, post office (lowest in North America), and quite a lot of hot and bothered looking tourists. I had a seat under the veranda (yes, there was a veranda) to write out a few postcards, sweating the whole time like a lesbian at a carpet sale (that's a scientific term). The people who worked there were buzzing about in their National Park cars, dressed in long pants and shirts. Are they completely insane? Anyway, as the sun (and temperature) peaked, we started the long drive out of the valley, up some very hairy roads that just about caused poor Robin to wet his pants (they would have dried quickly, anyway).

We made it to Lone Pine, a rather frontier town on the eastern flank of the Sierra, just about the time Robin's brain was going to fall out. Sampled some of the local cuisine (Subway) and flirted outrageously with the hopelessly closeted guy behind the counter. I really am going to go to hell. At least I'll have good company. I drove the rest of the way up to Mammoth, which I don't think could have been more different than Death Valley had it tried. The Aspen of CA, Mammoth just dripped with uber-cool outdoorsy trendoid types, including a woman who seemed rather taken aback - shocked even, that I found $679 for some ski boots to be a little pricey. They're comfortable, you know? Mammoth sits in a bowl, surrounded by rather high and pointy mountains, which gives it very good skiing (the snow helps too). There is a small road leading out of Mammoth Lakes to the north, called the Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop. It's old name was the Mammoth Lakes Evacuation Route. This is because aforementioned pointy peaks are actually the old rim of a rather gargantuan volcano that blew up 750m years ago, and which is apparently thinking about filling up with magma again - the Long Valley Caldera. They changed the name of the route b/c it was bad for property values. These things are important, you know. Robin was terribly pleased that I had us staying in the middle of a potentially active supervolcano. I just try to keep it real, you know? Anyway, we had a rather expensive, yet very tasty steak dinner at Slocum's steakhouse, which I am nearly sure was not named after "Are You Being Served's" Mrs. Slocum, though that is, in fact, why we went there. Supported the local economy a bit more with the purchase of a water filter, then toddled off to bed at the 5 star Motel 6 sitting at the edge of town (with special beds that sagged in the middle to keep you snugly in place).

8/29 Our breakfast the next morning was at the rather unfortunately named "Schat's Bakery", and then we headed off north again, thankfully not burned to a cinder by any nighttime volcanic activity. Our first stop was the rather accurately named "Obsidian Dome", which, as it turns out, is a ginormous pile of, get this, obsidian! We 4-wheeled our Nissan rental car down a dirt road to a place where we could walk a trail up to the top, then spent a while marvelling at the rock formations, and, it being us, the trees and flowers. Sweeping away in the distance we could see other big piles of volcanic doodah (another scientific term), as well as the crater walls. Volcanic peril behind, we descended into the Mono Basin. The funny thing about Mono Lake is that it looks beautiful and mysterious in the photographs. It is beautiful and mysterious, but, unfortunately, its mystery is exceeded only by its smell. Who would have thought that an alkaline lake with several thousands of years of heavy duty bird activity would smell like, well, several thousand years of heavy duty bird activity, plus some funky chemicals in the lake. The lovely and mysterious photographs also somehow ignored the foot-wide coating of solid brine flies feeding on God only knows what at the edge of the water. My God that place smelled like the inside of a seagull's ass! I suppose that would explain why there are no resorts along the edge of the lake...

Thus suitably refreshed, we continued our northward journey, breathing in the pure mountain air of Yosemite on fire. We crossed eventually into Nevada, then began our long ascent to Lake Tahoe. The funny thing about Tahoe is that the place itself is beautiful, much as the photographs show. Crisp mountain air, clear blue water, enormous pine trees. Oh yeah, then there is the settlement around Tahoe, which seems to be populated with the denizens of, shall we say, the shallower end of the gene pool. (Puddle, really). Robin was expecting Monte Carlo or Macau. I think what we got was more Modesto. Yeah, I don't think he was hugely impressed by Tahoe... Oh well. I took over driving then, the rest of the way to Sac. Despite the two times I tried to kill us passing slow drivers (note to self, be more careful, especially when exhausted), the drive passed without incident. Wilton, and the world's shortest Aerobed, beckoned.

8/30 - 8/31 These were both days of shopping and general farting around. I think we were both completely exhausted by the trip by this point. We did have a very nice walk around the capitol grounds (and I would actually admit that Sacramento has some nice things). I also ran twice - one very nice run around downtown, and one Saharan-type run through Wilton (Saharan b/c the temperature was rising and, Wilton being flat, I could see the entire course spread out before me). Mom had Jonathan, Lindsey and Chloe (who may be the world's cutest baby) over for dinner on Sunday. Chloe liked me! Me, who generally doesn't know which end of a baby is up - maybe it was the shaved head? Who knows? I was very happily surprised though that she just lit up when passed over to me like some sort of little pajama clad party favor... :-)

9/1 - Robin likes to think of himself as very solidly middle class (in the British sense of the term, ie. he manages to avoid most of the general weirdness of life). This being the case, it was of paramount importance that I take him to the State Fair, which represents just about as broad a section of CA (particularly the rather broad Californians) as one could possibly hope to get. We wandered about among the hoi polloi, me taking pure delight in Robin's horror at the size of some of the fairgoers. I had my picture taken next to the Jelly Belly portrait of Schwarzenegger (can't spell that), and we both sampled the culinary delights of the fair (cinnamon rolls and Polish sausage sandwiches). I was very disapppointed though that we didn't run into anyone from Wilton. I suppose times change (as do the cow fashions - who knew that the cow fashions of the late 80s - big poofy topnots and fluffy tails, were now passe? I suppose they went the way of shoulder pads and excessive hairspray...).

Feeling suitably fat, we headed out to Jonathan and Lindsey's to stuff down more food and coo a bit more over Chloe. Sat around, all of us (Mom and Katherine as well) and had conversation, then lit into the gossip and family dirt as it got later in the evening (I love gossip and family dirt- have I mentioned that before?).

9/2 I have been to the mountain. Or, rather, Robin and I have been to the mountain. I took Robin up Round Top Mountain (10,381 feet) - my absolute favorite place in the Sierra. I think we stopped about every 2 feet so that Robin could examine the latest variety of alpine flora (ooh, it's a Blue Footed Mountain Wibble - very rare!). We did forget the tree book though that he bought at Mono, so we had to argue about the pines. Never get into an argument about pines - very messy - sap everywhere. We made use of my new water filter, and actually didn't get giardia (hurrah!). And we got to spend at least 20 minutes on the top, admiring the views, before we had to hurry down to get back to the car before dark (once again, we'd had a late start, as someone (not me) was hungover in the morning... Hmm). We took Mormon Emigrant Trail back to Hwy 50 - almost 30 miles through a dark forest without a single other car. I don't think Robin was very pleased to be that isolated, though I thought it was actually kind of soothing, once I got over the initial worry of driving down that road at night.

9/3 After another shockingly early start (lunchtime), we headed off towards Point Reyes. Lots more oohing and aahing over plants, then a nice hair-raising drive down Hwy 1 (on the ocean side, of course) with me driving and Robin praying for deliverance. I have to admit I take slightly sadistic pleasure in taking visitors down that section of Hwy 1, and pointing out the bit that fell in the water in the '89 earthquake. We got to Marin Headlands just as the sun was setting, and took about 987987 pics of the full moon coming up over the Golden Gate (us and a sizeable number of mostly European tourists!). Drove into SF, spent a while circling about, looking for parking, paid an extortionate amount, checked into the hotel, then made a (very late) beeline to the airport to get rid of the car. Big pain in the ass that was, and we didn't manage to actually eat dinner until something like 11pm. Thank God for the Baghdad Cafe and its all night dining!

9/4 I really do love SFO, and, if I ever moved back to the US (which I'm not planning at this moment), would probably more there. My God though is it full of weirdos. I suppose I expected that and do a fairly good job at regarding the weirdos as part of the scenery (I'm sure that's not very politically correct), but poor Robin, I think he was a bit freaked out by the guy trying to remove tape from the middle of Market, or the woman brushing her dolly's hair, over and over and over. It is, in fact, quite shocking the number of weird people in SFO, and I've never actually heard a good explanation why there are so many. We had a late night foray to the Safeway at Market and Church. There were several homeless people charging phones and laptops in the front of the store, and a guy so off his head on something that he was trying to sign the credit card thingie, only holding the pen several inches away from the pad. The store clerk just looked on with a level of mild amusement. Anyway, we walked all over Castro, and up to Buena Vista Park, which has amazing views of the city, some interesting trees, and some number of odd sorts trying to hook up for sex amongst the interesting trees. Charming. Oh, we also gymmed, as we did the next day - I think both of us were feeling rather blobby by this point. I also ran, both days, on the biggest hills I could find. Sigh - I miss SFO.

9/5 Last full day in the US. We had a lot more wandering around the city, including a visit to Grace Cathedral, which is, rather amazingly built of reinforced concrete (the original cathedral burned to a crisp in 1906). Robin nerded a bit over organ and took some stained glass pics. He also commented the women should cover their head in church. Sigh - you can get the boy out of fundamentalism, but you can never entirely get the fundamentalism out of the boy. I reminded him that this was an Episcopal cathedral, not his wackjob childhood religion, and they were generally pleased if you were clothed at all. He really is a silly little boy sometimes. I got to meet one of Robin's young admirers that afternoon (he has them, apparently - this is one gets when one appears on the cover of a sex themed magazine). I've never met a groupie before - that was fun. Oh, speaking of sex, Robin did his damndest to try to find some, but to no avail. All the people who contacted him were either out of the city or weird. Poor thing - I don't know how he manages sometimes. We did, however, go to the SFO's biggest gay leather/rubber/sex toy store. Last time we were there (David and me), we were seen to by very attentive and very hunky store clerks (who were quite happy to help one try thing on inside the booth...). This time though, the entire atmosphere was a bit spoiled by the store clerks being absolutely as camp as tits, along with the slightly department store atmosphere of the place. Robin tried to ask for poppers, and was informed, in a little canned speech, that "The state of California has banned the sale of poppers and I can not sell them to you if you ask for them by that name. You must ask for 'the little brown bottle'." Which costs $30. How absolutely ridiculous. I don't think SFO quite lived up to Robin's expectations, though I did try to tell him what it would be like. Oh well - I still love the city.

9/6 Back to London. Long and boring flight, no sleep. Robin took a half a sleeping pill and managed about 2 hours, but then had to be herded around the supermarket like some sort of slightly special small child. We watched "Shelter" on the way back, a coming out story about an 18ish year old surfer dude who falls for a slightly older surfer dude and realizes he is gay. Actually, the movie had a huge effect on me because I thought it really accurately captured the mixture of feelings of wonder, excitement, newness and abject terror of coming out. Two definitive thumbs up.

Monday 17 August 2009

This post is brought to by Chafe-Ease

Ah, its tea tree oil splendor to salve my poor chafed bum. And why, pray tell, is your bum so chafed, my good man? Ah, because I cycled 101 miles yesterday, and my delicate skin seems to be my weakest link. Jolly good, sir!

Anyway, I decided that as I hadn't yet had a chance to break the century mark this summer (did it twice last summer), yesterday seemed like the day to do it. So, I cycled out in a big loop to the south and west of London (including the lovely village of Touchen End). David met me in Windsor, to cycle the 33 miles back from there. He said he really liked meeting me at the end of a long ride, b/c I was too tired to go speeding on ahead. Oh ha ha. The ride actually went surprisingly well, and I'm not actually that sore today, save for my delicate posterior. My bike computer thingie said I burned 5737 calories as well - not bad!

Anyway, it's pretty much your typical Monday today (meaning that I'm tired and couldn't give a rat's ass...). I think my mind has already gone into holiday mode, and I'm thinking about all the things I have to do before Robin and I set off on Sunday.


Anyway, that was pretty exciting.

Thursday 13 August 2009


I really am getting bad at doing this blog. I never manage to get around to it at home (what with the TV constantly on - I'm way too much of a deer in headlights - succumbed to the attention grabbing power of endless Frasier repeats). Lately, it's 'Are You Being Served', which Robin downloaded (legally, of course). And to think that I actually used to think that all people in the UK were going to be like that, or perhaps like those in Red Dwarf, or some strange, warped combination. Oh well.

Are you free, Mr Lucas?

Anyway, this morning's big excitement was going to Citibank, in the City (a good place for it) to prove to them that I was indeed who I said I am so that they would unblock my US credit card, which I never use. It all started so innocently. I in my general silliness forgot to change my address with them. They sent me a new card, which, not surprisingly, wasn't delivered. I asked them to send me another card, which they did. The card arrives. To activate it, I must call from my home number, which is still listed as being in Wilton (because their system is too stupid to accept a foreign number). Cards here can be activated with an automated system from any phone. Anyway - being crafty, as I am, I have Mom call from Wilton. Unfortunately, she gets an actual person, instead of a computer. I had neglected to give her my password, and, oddly, my mother's maiden name is not the same as her mother's maiden name. Still though, she did an admirable job being me, and they activated the card. But wait - their anti-fraud system has detected potential fraud, so they put a stop on the card. I call the company. Mom had changed the password to something new, which she sent me in bits. Unfortunately, I was missing one of the bits, and, having a blonde moment, couldn't figure out the entire word. When I call, I give them my old password, which is wrong, and, of course, don't know the new one. I have to tell them the story about how my card was activated. Eventually I guess the new word. Eventually the woman says the only way to reactivate the card is for them to make a conference call with me and Mom ('yes, he is my son...') or for me to visit a bank to prove my identity. I choose the latter. So anyway, I show up at the bank this morning, credit card and passport in hand, and ask the nice headscarved woman if she could verify who I am.

Do you have a bank account with Citibank?
No I do not.
Then we can not access your information, and this is not a Citi card.
It is a Citi card – I get my statements from Citi and it says Citibank on the bottom of it.

(Gets manager, repeat of same conversation).

Could you phone the card company?
It won’t work.
Could you try?

She calls the number on the card and gets some annoying and excessively perky woman on the other end. Initially, they want me to call back when their fraud office is open, which I can’t do, as that would be mid-afternoon here and I would have to travel back into the City to make the call. Eventually, the woman at the bank here takes my passport and drivers license and reads out the numbers, along with some magic bank number. I speak to the woman on the phone again. After several rounds of this, she says that I have provided my ‘bank verification’ but I can’t reactivate the card until I call back and speak to the fraud office directly. WTF? I have had fraud problems with cards here with nowhere near the level of drama. There is a reason they call them Shittybank…

Anyway, Robin biked the 60 hilly miles down to Brighton with me on Sunday with a minimum of pant wetting or crying. His bike also has 700mm wheels vs my 26inch, so he turned out to be actually faster on occasions. How embarrassing! I’m going to try to break 100 miles on Saturday for the first time this summer – I’d give him a pound if he joined me on that!

Oh, speaking of silly things – the American healthcare ‘debate’… Exactly how stupid are these people??? Oh wait, don’t answer, I think I know. I mean, I can understand the drug companies, and a number of docs not wanting to change the system, as it might cut into their profit motives, but these slobbering idiots at the town hall meetings – probably many of them worried about losing their jobs (and health insurance), and the nattering old folks (on Medicare – oh wait, that’s not a government program, is it?) – I simply don’t understand these people! What could possibly be a more sensible thing to have than a system that guarantees everyone the right to healthcare? Of course it gets paid for – everything gets paid for somehow – God knows how much these silly people are paying in insurance – esp if, God help them, they actually have to use their policies! I pay 9% of my income, which, admittedly, isn’t a tiny amount, but for the 9% I can go to the doctor, go to the hospital, see a specialist, get physiotherapy, whatever, and no one ever asks me if I have insurance. I never spend a penny. Yeah, I’ve had to wait sometimes, but, if I wanted, I could get private insurance and get treatment right away – but I don’t, and I don’t need to. And most people don’t need to, because the system, while not exactly beautiful or glamorous, does the job. When I have something wrong, I go to the doctor – something I would have thought twice about in the US – esp when I was uninsured. The NHS, warts and all (and there are certainly some warts) is probably the best damn thing this silly little country has ever done. Oh, and as an aside, my fave comment so far from the whole thing is that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be alive if he had to rely on the NHS. Um, duh, what country do they think he is from? Where do they think he lives? Maybe he should get a synthesizer with a British accent.

Makes me so proud (again) to be American.

Anyway, I should probably do some work again – will try to be better about this…

Monday 27 July 2009


Ugh – So, my first day as 36 has been not entirely auspicious. David and Robin gave me a Spongebob cake last night at midnight. While lovely, I think the excessive amount of pre-bed sugar gave me bizarre dreams (one of those dreams where you’re actually not entirely asleep, but you can’t wake up), and I’ve spent the entire day out of it and migrainey. I should have just gone out to celebrate – at least I would have had a reason then to feel like crap. Sigh.

I’m going for a bike ride after work today, then meeting David and possibly Robin for dinner. I finally managed to take the both of them cycling yesterday, which was a bit like herding cats (only cats don’t whine as much). They took the train to Hertford, about halfway to Cambridge from London. I cycled from London. Met them at the Hertford Castle, where Robin had to pose for various pics in his bright red Assos cycling gear (rolls eyes). The ride to Cambridge from Hertford is about 35 miles (70 from London) and isn’t that hilly. You’d think though that we were climbing the Himalayas with the amount of carping that went on. We stopped a few times, once for food, and a few more times so that Robin could regain feeling in his hands. We only got to spend a brief while in Cambridge (long enough for Robin to take pics of King’s College Cambridge, which apparently has a really big organ in it or something…), then took the train back to London. People ask me if I don’t get lonely cycling on my own, and I do sometimes, but it’s a lot less stressful than trying to do it with two other people who don’t necessarily cycle at the same speed. I got myself in trouble then on the way back from Kings Cross b/c I took a way that was too hilly for David (to avoid Robin bitching about bumps on Blackfriar’s Road) and too slummy for Robin (to avoid David bitching about cycling through Elephant and Castle). Yay, what fun! Anyway, I think I may cycle this autumn to Brussels from here – likely by myself (though it’s a little scary, to be honest).

Not much else going on at the moment, really – I had a few reflective thoughts about becoming middle aged or some such bullshit, but mostly I just want to go home b/c I have a headache. Blah.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Knees and Other Knobbly News

So - I had my first day of physio on Monday for my knee (which I injured 12 years ago wrecking my car and have injured about 987987 times since). Had it down at King's College Hospital, which is just down the street at home. There are signs all over the hospital stating that if you have the flu, you should stay at home and dial NHS Direct, blah blah blah - it's a little late for that, isn't it? Anyway, I sit around in the waiting room with a whole random collection of little old ladies and gentlemen and eventually a doc calls my name. He's wearing two very prominent hearing aids and is accompanied by an older woman who sort of trails along behind. She seems a bit old for a student, but, you know, people are living longer these days and all. Turns out he's deaf and she is there to mouth back what I say in case he can't read my lips.


I wondered why they don't just sign, but then I realized that the physio guy is busy manoeuvring my knee around with his hands, which I suppose would make signing a bit like talking with his mouth full - very rude, I'm sure. Anyway, the whole thing was a bit surreal, and I was diagnosed as having a 'mis-tracking patella', which probably isn't fatal but does hurt a lot. And I got homework. Blah. More of my tax dollars at work. I can't believe the whole discussion in the US over socialized medicine. OF COURSE it should be socialized - it's a basic human right! The NHS may be a pain in the ass, and there may be waiting lists, and it may take 9% of my income, but I really really really like never ever having to be asked if I have insurance, or having to worry about will the insurance pay for something.

Anyway - I saw a woman in a very silly cycling outfit - blue lycra and white high heels. Nice.

And yesterday I saw demonstrated the dangers of trying to lower a sofa out of a first (US 2nd) floor window with a rope. I was cycling to the gym and passed this house with a number of people leaning out the window. They were trying to lower a sofa to the ground (as I'm sure there was a very narrow stairway going up to the floor - we may have to do the same thing when we finally move). Apparently, they got the sofa swinging a bit too much. There was a tremendous crash of broken glass, as the sofa went right in the ground floor window. Oopsie - I'll be their neighbours will appreciate that!

And I've been trying to cook up my autumn bike trip. I thought originally I'd cycle over the Alps from Switzerland to Italy (Bern to Milan - I know people in both places), but I think that's going to have to wait until next summer, as I don't want to get snowed under on a mountain pass. Coast of Spain maybe? A bit far on the train, but tempting. There is always this country. Hmm - October in England. Yeah, that's going to be sunny and beautiful. Ireland? Even closer to the Atlantic and sources of endless rain. Could cycle down the Rhine - very doable from here. There is always that whole pesky language issue, but I'm sure I'd manage. You know - just speak English very loudly and slowly. They like that - esp in France. I've been trying to get David, or even Robin to go with me. Yeah right. Sigh. Perhaps I could get them along behind on roller skates with a bungee cord attached.

Anyway, I have to leave soon - bike home and cut my hair, which is getting a bit fluffy. David pointed out recently that it has gone entirely grey on the sides and that the top is quite balding. How loving.


Friday 17 July 2009


Ugh what a stupid day. I’ve spent my day sending back and forth emails b/c of some stupid mapping project that a Local Councillor wants, to show investment made by the council, basically so that she can look good to her constituents. Of course, b/c a Councillor wants it, we have to jump and do it right away, even though the project is a big load of crap and shouldn’t really come before other, more relevant projects. Polish boss-woman is running around like a chicken minus head, b/c her boss (who reminds me a bit of one of the aliens in Mars Attacks) wants it and wants it now. People really do get worked up over the silliest things.

Anyway – I get to fix both of David’s tires tonight – someone put a hole in one of them when he had the bike parked in the West End. I made fun of him for saying that he would take it to the store and get it fixed, so, of course, now I get to fix it. Yay.

Which reminds me – said hole came while we were finally meeting our total-fag hag landlady for the first time – not at all how I imagined her (kind of frumpy woman, blue shortish dress, Birks…, melodious Edinburgh brogue).

Robin is off in Paris having his internal organs rearranged (he does that a lot).

I’m going to have a very exciting evening of gym, supermarket and haircutting. Schlepping lumber for a few hours tomorrow morning for Avi b/c I was stupid and didn’t say no. Maybe a movie tomorrow night, then a big bike ride on Sunday. I suppose one of these days I should do something cultural as well.

And, I’m so bored at the moment I actually ran out of things to talk about – maybe I will go examine my elbow or something, as it’s 521 on a Friday and I certainly can’t do any work…

Monday 13 July 2009

I'd rather be riding my bike...

Not surprisingly, my lofty goal of writing every day on my bike trip came to nought, as, quite simply, there were a lot more exciting things to do. So, here I am on the 1530 back to London, from Edinburgh, in 1st Class (I paid the extra £25 b/c Coach was packed and I really didn’t want a shitty end to an otherwise fab trip). Speaking of, we just pulled into York and a very loud and obnoxious group of American tourists (incl kids) just piled on. Oh Canada…

Anyway, tourists of no, the trip was excellent. I took the 0800 to Newcastle on Thursday morning (a city that seems to be full of strange people with pinched faces). Headed off west on my bike. I had the choice of the coastal or inland route – I chose the inland. Day 1 was about 70 miles, most of it through Northumbria. I spent quite a lot of time and energy cycling up the moors. I’m going to launch a campaign to have them renamed ‘mores’, b/c there is just more, and more and more – one false summit (and dashed hope) after another! Anyway, I crossed the Cheviot Hills into Scotland… I had no idea that the Cheviots were the remnants of an old Rockies-style mountain range. The road seemed fairly well determined to experience every last inch of the remaining height. I’ve never quite understood the attraction in this country between road and steep hill. The border itself is kind of a funny thing – heading into Scotland there is a huge sign – ‘Welcome to Scotland’ – in English and Scottish (or perhaps Swahili? Not sure…), as well as a parking area and helpful informative board where you could read all about how the Border towns bravely resisted the bastard English until they lost, got put on reservations and given blankets and casinos, or something like that (it was all in Swahili – what do you want?). Heading towards England, on the other hand, there is a small sign saying ‘Welcome to Northumbria’. God bless regional identity!

From the summit it was a long and welcome downhill into Jedburgh, through replanted forest (bad sheep!) into a town so cute I just wanted to squish it. I arrived just in time for a march and piper’s band. Apparently, this marked the beginning of the Jedburgh Festival – an ancient tradition dating back to 1947, celebrating the fact that they didn’t have one before. The highlight, which, unfortunately, I missed, was the firing of the cannon 4x at 6am on a Saturday morning by a young, unmarried man, after which the brave townsfolk take to the hills on horseback to survey the bounds of the common land, of which there apparently isn’t any, and bill the council for any discrepancies, or something like that. And my God the tourista family is so loud and Midwestern – I just want to crawl under the floor.

After my lovely breakfast (served at Scotland’s oldest continuously running hotel), I headed north once more. I’ll give Scotland something – the weather may usually be crap – but the place is just gorgeous. Over hill, over dale, up a few grades that merited climbing gear, and 55 miles later, thanks to the wonder of my legs and satnav, I pulled onto Doug’s street and discovered that he and his new beau, James (and he is a beau!) were across town drinking a bottle of wine in the park. Oy! Anyway, we met in town – I got myself a sandwich and sat on Princes Street, gawking at tourists. Our action packed first night consisted of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s each, wine and Alien 2. Just about my speed… Oh, and a geriatric cat named Eddie, who spent most of his time stepping on someone’s nuts or stomach…

I slept on the worst aerobed known to mankind (I mean, really, who puts a built in pillow on an aerobed?) and had to hear some amount of slap and tickle in the next room. No matter – we had a yummy breakfast at one of Doug’s local haunts, saw his ex (they are all still friends – how nice yet how odd), then I cycled off to Queensferry to see the Forth Bridge. I wanted to cycle across, but it was too windy – I had visions of myself being blown hundreds of feet down into the Firth. Not nice. Only 30 miles that day, which is probably good, as I need new brake pads – they are squeaking something awful. Hard to look cool and manly when you come up to a traffic light screeching like a banshee… We went out that night to one pub and one bar. The pub was cosy but empty, and the bar was having ‘bear night’, which meant it was mostly full of guys who had never been to a gym in their entire lives. I felt very fit.

And then it was today (or rather, at this point, yesterday) – fattening breakfast at the Blue Moon (the waiter I bagged there 13 years ago seems to have moved on – pity). We had a brief visit to TKMaxx (as one does) and then it was southward bound (in so many ways) ever since. And they just won’t shut up – but I’m getting a good (or at least entertaining) potted history of Britain on the way. And I do still love Edinburgh – a lot. I could live there again without a fuss. Hmm.
Oh God – I just wandered back to steerage – drunk people and people sitting on the floor (clutching my pearls, dearie!). They are now reading aloud from some guide to London. How exciting. Ooh, and someone’s eating potato chips – all the wan on the other end of the car. Fat cow – moo!
So, that about wraps up my time at work today – suppose I’ll go to the gym. It was just back to the usual blah-ness, London traffic and stupid London cyclists. I’m already cooking up my autumn trip – thinking the Rhine… Very practical.