Thursday 25 February 2010


So, I intended in my previous entry to mention our trip to the Cadbury chocolate factory, on the 13th. David and I were trying to find something nice to do for V-Day, and he came up with the idea of a chocolate factory tour. I'd not been on a factory tour since going to the Tillamook cheese factory when I was eight, so I was game for the idea. And, as I've seen Charlie and Chocolate Factory, I was pretty sure what I was in for.

As if.

So, we shlepped on Virgin Trains up to Birmingham and spent the morning wandering around the centre of town.,-4.064941&sspn=17.969195,32.255859&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Birmingham,+West+Midlands,+United+Kingdom&ll=52.486165,-1.899197&spn=0,359.98425&z=16&layer=c&cbll=52.479133,-1.902768&panoid=cLcrkqjYtEBsi_h5PnfcVQ&cbp=12,300.92,,0,5
Robin is from Birmingham, but doesn't like to talk about it much. Could it be something about the number of pinched, in-bred looking faces, Jesus-freaks, and general flotsam and jetsom that seemed to be wandering about? Birmingham was, officially, the first city in the UK to be designed around the car, which means that the city centre (I have to do British spelling, btw, or the website grumps at me), at street level, is laid out in the general spaghetti fashion that is so popular outside of North America (ie., no pattern whatsoever), with the addition of huge viaducts everywhere, packed with traffic. This, combined with the rather high level of empty stores, makes for a very strange place. There is a huge market right in the middle of everything ( selling just about everything you could possibly imagine. All was happy and fine until we got to the rack of skinned sheep's heads, sitting among brains, tripe, hooves, entire legs, and things I'm not entirely sure what they were - I wasn't very hungry at that point. ;-) We also went up in one of those huge Ferris wheels they plop into state fairs and whatnot. David, Mr. Totally-Afraid-of-Heights was less than entirely pleased that the glassed-in car was, well, very glass. Oh well. Like big dummies, we spent £10 on pictures of us looking like dorks.

So, we took the local train down to Bournville, a leafy suburb of Birmingham (purpose-built by Cadbury, apparently). As we got off the train the first thing I noticed was that the air smelled like chocolate. So far so good! The Cadbury factory itself very much resembled a huge, old fashioned, Midwestern school building - all red brick with playing fields around it. Cadbury World, here we come!

The reality is, well, a bit more of a very small version of a chocolate-themed Disneyland done with some chewing gum, a shoe lace, and a little bit of tape. OMG, what an amazing bunch of schlock that was! £11 each to wander around inside a corner of the factory, surrounded by horrid children, listening to various Cadbury propaganda films (my personal fave was the one showing how cocoa is produced - the bits shown in Africa are all in black and white, and look like they are about 75 years old - the bits in the UK are all in glorious colour. PC police on line 1!). There was a little ride that we went on - very much Small World but with little dancing brown turdlike things that I think were supposed to be cocoa beans. We got to peak into a corner of the wrapping plant (we weren't actually allowed inside the factory itself, for 'Health and Safety Reasons'). But yeah - well done them for getting us to pay that much to wander around a cheaply done set and learn all about how fabulous they are! Still though, we did get some free chocolate, and I will admit (secretly) that I had a great time. I neglected to mention the takeover by Kraft while I was there... ;-) Next stop, on our schlock tour of England, is Legoland!

Anyway, not much else. It remains grey and miserable (though it is a lot warmer), and my bike really needs to be washed - the brakes are screaming like banshees at the moment. It doesn't make one look very cool when one pulls up to a light and the pigeons all take off b/c of the noise. Sigh.

Suppose I should do a little work now.

Grumble whine...

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Oy vey...

Once again, a huge amount of time has passed without me bothering to write anything here. I suppose part of that is because I've actually been busy at work lately - several very big mapping jobs. I still want a better paying job, but at the moment they seem few and far between, so looks like I'll be here for the immediately forseeable future. Annoying smoking man is behind me, coughing up a lung. I've been to that now for over a year and a half, and have resisted throwing a brick over there. I think that shows admirable restraint.

It's cold and grey and generally horrible out. Apparently it's been the coldest winter in 30 years or something - Britain really ain't a cold country. The palms, eucalypts and acacias dotted around town don't seem to be terribly worried. Actually, I was thinking the other day, there is a Canary Island Date Palm at one of the roundabouts (,+london&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=17.969195,32.255859&ie=UTF8&hq=lambeth+bridge,&hnear=London,+UK&ll=51.495011,-0.125184&spn=0,359.9685&z=15&layer=c&cbll=51.494909,-0.125142&panoid=7G5tqRo01oP7GDFwbuRdkQ&cbp=12,171.25,,0,5) that I noticed recently actually has a trunk on it. When I first lived in London, in 1996, there was no trunk - shows both how slowly it grows, and the fact that I've been around these parts, on and off, for a while. There are, however, no huge palm trees in London. I wonder if that is because it wasn't the fashion to plant them before fairly recently (I can hardly believe that, given the Victorian's obsession with all things tropical), or that it just wasn't warm enough until recently for them to survive the winter? Interesting question.

Anyway, after several months off, I've started back with long distance cycling. I went out for a 62 mile ride on Sunday, out through the hilly suburbs south of London. I got absolutely dumped on with rain, after which the temperature dropped, resulting in some very numb tooties on my part. Wooly socks are no match for downpours, especially when one's Gore-Tex lined shoes just pool the water inside.

At some point this spring, preferably before April, David and I have to do our citizenship - I think the only two things holding us back at this point are the forms themselves (very very long and tedious), and the cost, which is pretty astronomical. But, the thought of it getting even more astronomical might actually spur us on.

Right - I've got a map to finish. And, as usual, I will say that I will try very hard to do this more often - interesting things happen, and I have interesting thoughts (well, I think they're interesting anyway), and I never get around to writing them down, and then poof, they are gone.

Oh, and person sitting behind me now is eating a pear. Very loudly. What is it with people being gross and annoying in public places? I want a laser cannon and I want it now.