Saturday 9 November 2013

Southwards, backwards

So, it was the first kind of cold weekend of the autumn. Poor David had to work, so, in sort of quasi honour of that, but more really because I'm silly, I dragged my carcass out of bed at 6 to take the train north to cycle all day. North because it was supposed to rain all day in the south and because I can't bike on sunny Sunday as it's Robin's birthday and we are going for tea. Fah fah fah fah fah! Anyway, lacking a car, I use the train to take me to didgereedoo and back. It's great, except I have to make a reservation for my bike, which must be done either in person or over the phone. Given that most British rail companies have outsourced their call centres to India and use voice recognition software for the initial sorting, I have discovered that an American accent proves difficult for their computers, though they do still seem to understand I want to speak to someone right fucking now. Anyway, even in person, getting a cycle reservation tends to become a bit of a voyage of discovery for ticket people at the smaller stations. Anyway, so, I took an early morning train to Derby, which is a bit of a meh kind of place. Spent the day then cycling up through the Peak District, which is gorgeous. All amazing and wonderful until the last 8 miles into Sheffield, which was pouring rain and very cold. Still haven't properly warmed up. Hope I don't get sick. Even with that though, I am definitely at my happiest out in the middle of nowhere on my bike. It reminds me that I actually still love this silly little country, even if I don't always love London. Spent lots of time admiring views, only one of them ruined slightly by stepping in fresh dogshit. Also did my absolute favourite thing of finding a random cafe in a tiny town and having lunch and cake. Lunch was a hot pork and apple sandwich. Cake was an iced Madeira cake. It was bliss. I have decided that this is definitely the way to do the majority of my weekend rides. It's easy, I get to see the country and I don't have to spend half of the ride fighting London traffic. Just have to try to get a little more sleep before!

Back to work on Monday. It's taken me many months but I feel like I am finally becoming managerial. Never thought that would ever happen! It's taken me this long to figure out how to play the hierarchy, which I suppose is useful, but still makes me feel unclean. Sigh.

Sunday 18 August 2013

And now, the rest of the story

Sitting on the high speed train in Dover, waiting to go. After a late arrival into Brussels, in the middle of some kind of great big street fair, I found my way to my very nice, uber modern and slightly peculiar hotel. Bed was comfortable, room was quiet and, unusually, air conditioned. I slept well, though not enough. Had a hurried breakfast in the empty hotel restaurant. Very yummy pain au chocolate. Everyone seems to do better pastries than the British! In a half awake haze then, I managed to purchase a ticket for me and my bike on the train to the coast. I shoved my bike into a doorway, not seeing anywhere else to put it, and was very glad when the conductor didn't yell at me. Anyway, an hour 45 to the coast, then a 23 mile, very flat, very windy ride across the French border, through Dunkirk, then out through another 10 miles of wasteland and gas plants to the ferry terminal. Amusingly, I had to go through the car lanes with my bike. First security, then French passport control, then British passport control. Then I and a few other cyclists got to stand out in the sun for an hour while they dicked  around and eventually loaded all the other vehicles. Ironically, as I wasn't planning on being in the sun all day and as it was raining this morning, I managed to fry the worst today. Go figure. However, once I decide I was just going to make a day of today, my stress level dropped precipitously from yesterday. Ferry ride was generally relaxing, if 45 minutes late. Badly behaved British children, slightly smelly French people, bespectacled Germans in their VW camper vans, inscrutable eastern European truck drivers. I do like the ferry. It's an interesting  mix of humanity.

So, yeah. Feels like about a million years and three seconds since I left home. I kind of feel a bit like, did I just do all that? I am actually kind of shocked by what a cycling paradise is Germany. And it seems to involve not that much fuss. Fantastic cycle paths built in the middle of nowhere, with very few people using them. No glass strewn on the pavement. Drivers that actually wait for you and make a point of getting out of the way. Whereas British drivers will whiz right by, sometimes, it seems, without even looking, Germans sometimes seems to require almost a written invitation to go around, which can also be a bit annoying as well. Anyway, tomorrow it is back to reality and back to work. Back to probably over 1000 emails I didn't check even once. Suppose that is just how I pay for my adventures. :-)

Saturday 17 August 2013

Shitty poop popsicle mood

So, big surprise, my big, exciting and generally pretty damn cool trip has come unravelled today because Deutsche Bahn decided to suck. After two really relaxing days in Berlin, just hanging out with people,e and eating too much, I started my meticulously planned trip home today, getting to the train station a full half hour before the scheduled departure. Hmm, there is no train on the screen. Oh no, that train isn't running anymore. It was on the old time schedule. Well, it's great then that they sold it to me, isn't it? So, today, so far, I have been on three trains to get most of the way across Germany. In Cologne, I had the pleasure of disassembling my bike and putting it into a bag. In Brussels I get to reassemble it. The train to Brussels then is 45 minutes late because some idiot threw themselves under the train in France. Honestly, people, be considerate of others when you off yourself! I had to fend off a very persistently, multilingual beggar. Finally, after trying to be nice... I'm having a shitty day. I don't care. Go away. In Brussels I had to reserve a room for the night because I missed the last train to London and for tomorrow I have the option of paying £180 for a new, last minute Eurostar ticket or saving about £100, getting a really early train to the Belgian coast, cycling to France, taking the ferry to Dover and then the train to London. I might actually opt for that. At least it would be relaxing! Monday it's back to work. I think I need a holiday.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Dribbling tired

Well, I suppose there has to be one day in a long bike trip that is just work. That was today. It got off to a bad start last night because the stupid neighbours had their TV going until late. So, I started off the day exhausted. The ride itself, 94 miles, was actually, generally, a gorgeous ride. Rolling farmland, forest, towns full of slightly mouldering old houses. Reminded me of England. I was so tired though it all kind of blurred together, plus their was a headwind the whole day, plus there were several very heavy rainstorms, several suggested bike routes that turned to dirt and, to cap it off, I had to wait 40 minutes for a train to take me the last 3 miles because bikes weren't allowed over the only bridge for miles on the Elbe. So, I got to this weird little hotel on a tiny backstreet in this exceptionally quiet town, had a very quick shower then absolutely stuffed myself with a set menu dinner that turned out to include a large pile of mushrooms and tomatoes. I ate them and didn't even cry much. Anyway, tomorrow is Berlin... Good god I'm full. Always great to go to bed right after a 4 course dinner!

Monday 12 August 2013

Chilling in Chemnitz

Hey, as long as you are on to a good sound, why change? Today has been a very interesting day, going through 79 miles of post communism. I started the day in the small town of Cheb, just over the CZ border from Bavaria. Painted in various warm shades of yellows, oranges and brick red, I think Cheb had likely seen better days, though there did seem to be regeneration happening around the centre and there were a surprising number of German stores. The supermarket I went to though was all Czech, meaning I had to actually walk down all the aisles looking for things, as the labels mostly consisted of unlikely combinations involving excessive number of consonants, with a particular focus on z and lots of little additional doodahs over the letters. I'm such the linguist, I am. I was the only person staying in the pension, which made for a slightly awkward breakfast, as they laid out an entire buffet. Even I have my limits, though I did do my best.

I set off then on the rural Czech roads. Not too bad, windy and a bit bumpy with very little traffic. Open farm country. Pleasant. And then then road began to climb into the wooded hills. A bumpy roads sign appears. They don't fool around, as it turns out. Bumpy road meant the next 10 or so mils creeping along, avoiding bike eating potholes. Perhaps the take home lesson about cycling in the Czech Republic is to keep to the larger roads, which have generally been repaved at least once since the fall off Communism. This is up probably like a no shit Sherlock comment, but the Czech Republic really is a different country. Germany I sort of get and can muddle my way through. Rural CZ, well, I was glad my bike didn't fall apart. There was clearly a lot more money in the past though, because there are a lot of really magnificent houses, done in a generally more ornate style than across the border. And, of course, these are interspersed with all the lovely communist apartment blocks. No worse than London though, really.

I crossed the border back into Germany and blessedly smooth roads, though not quite so good as Bavaria. Lots more hills and towns full of very large, old, slightly scruffy looking houses nestled in the hills. This was supposed to be the West Virginia of Europe, and it did actually bear some resemblance. It also reminded me of England more than anywhere else on this trip, oddly. I think it was probably the old brick houses and the slight scruffiness without being messy. Still the anal German woodpiles though. The occasional dead factory, mouldering away quietly, back in the woods.

And then Chemnitz, formerly Karl Marx Stadt. As the name suggests, the city centre is an ode to communism. Stark concrete buildings, wide boulevards, little in the way of human scale. It is quite neat though, and has been greatly softened by pedestrianisation,  outdoor cafes and trees. Still though... Just outside the centre there are still fragments of the old city, some rather magnificent by houses and churches, interspersed with blank spaces or concrete. One rather sudden, fenced off, round and deep pond that looks suspiciously like a bomb crater. And road construction. The Communists may have liked their central wide boulevards, but go away from those and the roads leave a little to be desired. Even 24 years of German money still has a way to go. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the roads over the border.

Tomorrow is 90 miles of mostly flat, quite the change from everything before. I can't quite believe it is coming to an end soon. I just remembered today that about 15 years ago I said I was going to cycle the Mississippi for my 40th. It may be a different continent, but I think I'm pretty pleased that I'm actually doing the thing I decided to do on a whim all those years ago. Shows the power of just letting an idea percolate... Right. Bed now.

I forgot, today I found the best rail trail I've ever seen. It was about 10 miles long, so smooth you could practically ice skate on it and just about empty. Why are bike facilities in the UK so shit and why are all the roads in such terrible shape? They have a worse climate here and more people. Not looking forward to the traffic, crappy roads, asshole drivers and asshole cyclists in London again. Sigh. Just need to remember the many things I do actually like, as well as the people I know. OK, really need bed now or am going to make myself grumpy...

Sunday 11 August 2013

Chilling in CZ

I know I've said this before, but, being a geographer, I like borders that actually feel like borders. The Czech German border is one of those. While the old naughty strip between the two countries is growing over and the car parks around the old crossing point are weed strewn or taken over by schlock shops and gas stations, things do still change. The hyper neatness of Bavaria disappears, just like that. There's crap strewn along the road (though not to southeast England levels), the houses look a bit tired, suddenly there are very square apartment blocks and the here is a lot more variation in road quality (though still not as suckass as England). There are also people hanging out on street corners in Cheb, where I am, and some pretty mangy looking hookers wandering about. Anyway, I'm staying in a very cute pension in the centre of town. Nicest room so far, actually. I had a 400g steak for dinner. £16.55 with all the trimmings. Yay! I have to say I can't imagine doing these sorts of bike rides as a vegetarian. When I stop, I just want to eat the whole side of a cow. Moo! Today's ride was 86 miles of hills. Gorgeous farmland interspersed with miles of woodland. To be honest, I felt a little bit alone some of today. They were deep, dark, little red riding hood type woods. Didn't want to be alone in them after dark. I was very tired today, though I did actually sleep pretty well at the cloister. Some of today's ride blurs together a bit. I have to say, the nuns put on a good show. Sparkling clean rooms with Jesus hanging about on the cross over every bed. Nice breakfast this morning. Lots of very German looking types heaping their plates full of cold cuts. Mother Superior wandering about. Guten morgen and the like. Much as I'm no big Catholic, I enjoyed staying there. In fact, I just really enjoyed southern Germany. A lot. It's clean, beautiful, friendly, efficient and absolute heaven for cycling. The roads are smooth, the drivers courteous, there are separate bike roads, not just lanes, everywhere and cycling is just a totally unremarkable activity. If the Netherlands are bike first (sometimes annoyingly so, I think, even as a cyclist) and London is just a lot of shrill shouting about cycling, Germany is just, well, people bike, and that's fine, so we will make sensible provisions for it (with the notable exception of the ICE train). It will be interesting tomorrow to cross back into Germany, but into the former east (supposedly the most hillbilly part as well) to see how things are different. Anyway, one thing is clear, I need to learn German. I seem to end up in Germany quite frequently, I like it a lot, but my German fluency is about that of a 2 year old and not a very smart one either. Makes for some very unusual discussions. Right. Time to get ready for bed. More cycling fun tomorrow!

Saturday 10 August 2013

Get me to a nunnery!

Sorry, I just had to say that, seeing as how I'm feeling a little bit cloistered. Ha ha ha! Anyway, I'm typing this away in a Spartan but very clean room in a cloister in Neumarkt in der Oberfelz, in the north of Bavaria. Today was 98 miles of farmland, varying between flat and quite hilly. A good deal of it was on separate bike trails, which I love about cycling in northern mainland Europe. Only downside is they get pissy when you are out in the road if there is a trail. I like Germany. A lot. Especially, as it turns out, southern Germany. It reminds me of the Upper Midwest, except with mountains. The same sort of slightly phlegmatic people. Lots of corn. Very little roadside trash. No noticeable riffraff hanging about. Roads so smooth you could ice skate on them. Even the dinky roads. I was surprised how much I liked Munich. I would definitely like to go back and stay more than a day. I spent most of yesterday walking around, even though the weather was atrocious. If you can like a city even when soaking wet it must have something going for it. Anyway, I walked back into town this evening to have schnitzel and I am now so tired I can barely type. BTW, there are actually people in Bavaria (not many) who wear lederhosen in public. I was shocked. Bed now. It may be silent now but I bet the sisters are up very early. God is an early riser, you know...

Friday 9 August 2013

WiFi on a Rainy Day

Say what you might about Starbucks, but on foreign travels they have (nearly) universal free toilets, a place to get out of the rain, yummy cinnamon buns without raisins (in Germany... Curse the evil British raisin fetish!) and free WiFi. I'm having a rest day today in Munich, staying with Mike and his absolutely lovely (and English speaking) mother. I've just about lost track of when I left, just over a week ago. Had a slightly epic train trip across Europe with Carlos, which included pushing my bike across Paris in nearly 100 degree heat. I have to say, Paris's when it is very hot just smells like pee. I suppose it probably always smells like pee, but it is just more noticeable when it is hot. Oui oui... Had to disassemble the bike in Paris for the train to Zurich, which is always a delight. Put it back together at the Zurich train station. 15 minutes to disassemble, 25 to reassemble. A new world record. Zurich was also boiling hot. That seemed somehow wrong. We met with Avi, walked around, had the very traditional Swiss dinner of kebabs, watched quite a lot of fireworks go off for Swiss National Day and had a drink at a slightly sad gay bar called Cranberry.

Next morning... Gym (it was free with the hotel), then met up with David and Robin, who had taken the early train from Munich. Robin was very sensibly dressed in lederhosen shorts, with suspenders, that he could just about shimmy his ass into. When I queried this slightly odd clothing choice, he said that it wasn't unusual for people to wear this sort of thing in Bavaria. I did pont out that we weren't in Bavaria. And, in fact, as I sit here and type this, in Bavaria, not a single person has come into this Starbucks wearing lederhosen. Clearly I chose the wrong Starbucks. No matter. We walked around boiling hot Zurich, stopping at various Starbucks (do I detect a theme?) then caught the late afternoon train to Goschenen, a pretty seriously dinkydoo town way up in the Alps.

In Goschenen, we had rented out a 3 bedroom apartment, conveniently next to the very prominently placed Catholic church. The church had a big tower with a big bell that proclaimed the glory of God every 15 minutes, most especially at 7am, when there was quite a lot of glory. Glory is very interruptive to those of us when are light sleepers. Anyway, Ben and Justin were staying at the hotel down the street. We all met up for a very expensive and very mediocre dinner, followed by a fair amount of sometimes boisterous alcohol consumption and my 2nd bday cake (a Swiss roll) in our living room. I do hope our neighbours in that very small and very quiet town where you could hear the person down the street sneezing enjoyed that as much as we did.

The following day, Kathleen travelled over from Bern and we spent the day hiking up the valley to a reservoir with a stupendous view of glaciers. Or, rather, some hiked and some wandered. There were interesting plants, rocks, photo opps, any number of reasons to dawdle. One person, who shall remain nameless, showed up to walk with a Tesco bag, this being his first time. And you know what, it was fantastic. We made it to the top, marvelled at the industrious Swiss people cutting hay on the dam and had cake and coffee (or beer) at the restaurant by the bus stop at the top of the climb. Switzerland is great, if slightly weird and rigged to explode in case of invasion.

The following day was a hike I organised, meaning straight up to the top of a mountain. We took two trains up a very inclined track to Oberalp  Pass and from there set off up the side of a mountain. There may have been some minor whining about this, but I think all were pleased by the view from the top. Ben and I continued the rest of the way to the tippy top. It was there and needed to be climbed. We were rewarded for our efforts by a magnificent view, a lot of sheep shit and a hikers' cabin. Dinner that night was back down the hill in Andermatt, followed by packing and general hanging out.

I set off the next day on my big bike adventure, late and a little reluctantly. It felt kind of weird setting off on my own when I had just spent the past few days surrounded by people. I'd never actually felt that before, setting off on my bike. So I pedalled off. Up and up and up, back to Oberalp and then a screaming descent down the other side, into Romansh speaking country. Gorgeous scenery, too much traffic and too much heat. After another very long climb and flying descent, I ended up in German speaking Chur, a pleasant small city on one of the main transport routes through the Alps.

The following day, gym followed by a search for a USB connector dingus followed by lunch followed by cycling. It was very hot again and I started late. I followed the valley north, passing through cornfields walled in on both sides by mountain walls. Sort of like heading towards Palm Springs from LA except with trees and corn. And heat. God was it hot. I passed the border fortifications protecting Switzerland from invasion by Liechtenstein, and spent about two hours cycling the length of that very small and fairly boring little country. I did stop for ice cream in Vaduz. It was yummy. Then Austria and east, back into the mountains. Insanely beautiful and full of, well, Austrian stuff mostly. I was particularly grateful for the very traditional Spar supermarket, where I could fill up on the traditional fare of water and Powerade and salami and junk food. I had to stop about 10 miles short that night, in Fontenella. It was getting dark, there was a big thunderstorm brewing and it was still 3 miles to the pass. Not good. That has been the only time so far I actually felt afraid. First hotel. Nothing. Second hotel. Nothing. Finally, a b and b run by a little old lady who spoke no English, occupied entirely by older, German speaking couples. A tiny little short bed, shared bathroom and €28 cash. Perfect. Traditional Austrian pizza dinner at the only restaurant in town. Also perfect.

The next day. Cooler. A three mike climb. A seven mile screaming descent. An 11 mile climb. Oh God. Another screaming descent. Then gradually down, down, down, through a deep, flat bottomed glacial valley lined with pretty  towns and fields. Ice cream and coffee. More down. Reminds me a lot of the area around Banff, except with farms. The forest changes. Spruce to fir to pine to hardwood. Smooth gorgeous roads. Why can't Britain have smooth gorgeous roads? Honestly! Buenvenidos a Deutschland (or something in German). I stay in a cheap little hotel with a balcony and an amazing view up to Neuschwanstein castle, the slightly OTT inspiration for Hogwarts and Disneyland. Dinner is goulash and pork and dumpling and sauerkraut. Moo.

Next day. Obligatory touristing around the castle (but not in, too crowded) with most of the population of Japan. Bus pulls up. Crowd pours out. Click click click click! They are a strange bunch. Bratwurst on a roll for my morning snack. A late start again. Supermarket for provisions. Then it's adios Alps. Off into the rolling farm country of Bavaria. And traffic. Good God was there a lot of traffic! An evening slog in the failing light into the rather functional looking suburbs of Munich. Oh was I glad to get here and glad for a break. Happy to see Mike and to meet his mother. And now I'm here. The rain has eased a bit and I have to pee. Until the next WiFi...

Friday 26 July 2013

Goodbye, Porpoise Spit!

And we're in the bottom of the 39th, to use a slight bastardisation of a silly baseball metaphor (possibly the world's most boring game, after cricket).  I've been trying to decide if I'm going to have any sort of minor freakout about turning 40 tomorrow.  Probably not.  Still though, I remember Dad turning 40 and thinking OMG that is so old.  And I distinctly remember Grammie got away with telling me she was 39 for a number of years in a row before I cottoned on that she might be telling a slight fib.  And a moth just kamikazed onto my keyboard from the light above.  It's kind of a pretty moth - wings sort of the colour and pattern of granite.  And I digress.  Anyway, I feel like I should somehow be more "grownup" than I think I am, though, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why.  My youngest team member - all of 27 - to whom I had to explain the intricacies of a library card catalogue the other day - said I was "cool".  No one has ever called me cool at work before.  Maybe there is possible life after 40?

Ten years ago, I was just about to set out on this big silly adventure that's ended up with David and me in a small terraced house in a quite south London street next to a park where the hospital lands its helicopters for lack of a landing pad (soon to be remedied, apparently).  Ten years ago, Katherine made me an ice cream cake for my 30th and David and I set off to drive up the north coast to Seattle, stopping off along the way to see people and to briefly hold in our possession a seemingly cursed bone we picked up in a dry riverbed on a reservation on the north coast of California.  I was off to London to embark on some poorly thought out PhD course, in part because I didn't know what else to do at that point besides be a student, in part because it felt like an opportune time to leave America and because I had wanted to come back to London ever since I first set foot in this ridiculous little island held together with duct tape and string.  David, ever the good sport, uprooted himself from his comfortable New York existence and followed me on my not always grand adventure.  To his huge and everlasting credit, he stuck with me through the throe-y-est throes of me trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up.  Beauty school drop out.  Too much partying.  Too much drama.  A series of increasingly less crap jobs.  And we're here.  I'm tapping away on the computer.  David is watching Scrubs.  I finally managed a "real job", just squeaking it in before 40 (that was my goal).  Life has (touch wood) at least a modicum of stability.  And my youngest team member says I'm "cool".  Baby's still got it. ;-)

So, no, I think I'm not that hugely worked up over 40.  I made it through the drama of the 30s.  Definitely older, potentially wiser, still in possession of the majority of my own brain cells (and teeth) and with a highly developed appreciation for the ironic and absurd.  My favourite quote, of late, not surprisingly, comes from Germain Greer - "You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever".  I do most certainly intend that to be the case. :-)

Saturday 6 July 2013

First class and stinky

I love travelling back on the train first class from a long bike ride, slathered with sunblock and plastered with dead bugs. It feels somehow decadent. Anyway, I'm on a rather leisurely train back from Taunton to London. It's quite empty, which is nice, and my bike is stored, unlocked, in the bike car, on the other end of the train, which always worries me slightly. I spent two days cycling from Plymouth to Barnstaple to Taunton, through Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks. I do think that the southwest is my favourite part of the country. It's hilly, green and seems to be generally full of friendly and often a bit unusual people. Did I mention it's hilly? Omg I learned an important lesson about cycling in Devon, namely don't take the superdink roads as the have lots of traffic and seem to consist mostly of 25% grades. I almost gave up hope yesterday, the first ride I've ever taken that was actually too hard. Narrow, bumpy, exceedingly steep roads with nettles hanging menacingly over the sides and cars whipping around blind corners. I was very happy, after 40 miles of this, to get back onto slightly more sensible roads. And the hills. Rural Devon is more than enough practice for the Alps, because unlike Switzerland, where they have sensible things like switchbacks, in England the roads go straight up the sides of the hills, only to smash your hardgotten gains with a plunge into some random and completely unnecessary valley, only to do it again, and again. At least they warn you. Around London, any road that goes over a lump bigger than an overpass is called Something Hill. In rural England, it means that God is going to laugh at your puny legs. I stayed the night at a slightly peculiar and very artistic b&b, way back in the woods, surrounded by a sculpture garden. It was run by Dutch people. Go figure. Today was the north coast of Devon. The roads were better but no less hilly. It reminded me of Point Reyes, but greener. Lots of hill farms, lots of sheep, and several hippy dippy towns on the coast. I had clotted cream with fresh scones, which may well be better than sex. Oh, I have also come to the conclusion that the official, el cheapo Devon way of repaving a road is just to dump miles of oil and gravel on it and let the traffic mush it down. Great if you're in a 4x4, not so great on a bike with skinny tyres. At least 1/3 of the 140 miles was like that. Anyway, just like that the ride was done. I'm now heading back east. It's getting warmer, drier and smoggier. Yay, London summer. I already can't wait for the next ride... :-)

Saturday 22 June 2013

Grey and Blechy

So, the Met Office went out on a limb the other day and predicted a "typical British summer".  Yesterday being the first official day of summer, with the last fading trace of a sunset disappearing into the cloud speckled northern sky about 1030/11pm or so (thus, in my mind, entirely making up for the grey and dark in December), I look out the window today - 22 June.  It's grey.  The trees are blowing all over the place and there are occasional splatters of rain.  Yeah, typical British summer.  Oh well, it's better than drought (I think, anyway).  David and Robin are both away this weekend, both doing "disaster recovery" or some such nerdy thing, leaving me rattling around the house on my own.  You would think I would relish the time on my own, given that I so enjoy my solo cycling and that I rarely actually have time on my own in house.  I don't think I do actually.  It's kind of lonely. There is just no satisfying me, I guess.  In the meantime, I have eaten far too many cookies.  Moo.

Been in my job now just over two months - I can't actually believe it's been that long (but then, I couldn't believe it was time for my six month dental appointment today either).  It's a funny thing.  The place is so rigidly hierarchical on the one hand that I'm afraid to fart without asking permission, but, on the other, I'm expected to be the techical expert in my area and I'm expected to provide the solutions for the team.  I admit I did kind of snap at this one very annoying woman the other day.  She was moaning on about the printer not working properly and was banging things around trying to get attention (much as a small child would).  She wanted me to do something about it, to which I replied (being in a pissy mood at the time), "do I look like a printer engineer?".  I feel sometimes like I've been dropped into someone else's very large, very messy attic and told I have to create order from the chaos - while everyone else watches and directs (but doesn't actually give any useful ideas).  I suppose it's what I wanted, to be able to do this, but somehow I thought I would be able to come in and fashion some sort of bullshit synergistic (I hate that word) collaborative effort where we all pulled ourselves together towards some goal, rather than me having to create the entire structure and slot everyone else into it.  It's a bit different than the situation I was in before.  The thing I really have to get my head round though is that I think I can actually do exactly what I want there and create whatever the hell I want because I know what I'm doing and they don't - but I have to play the silly game, say the silly words, abide by the (very silly) structures, etc.  That's the hard part, simultaneously being a boundless pain in the ass free spirit in a rigidly set box, breaking as many rules as possible while toeing the party line.  Is that being a hypocrite or being practical?  Not sure, but it is definitely a peculiar place to be.

Winding down to the last month of my 30s.  Funny thing, years.  In the same way as crossing an entirely imaginary geographic border changes everything (I suppose because we have decided that it changes everything), I kind of think that crossing this (almost as imaginary) time border is going to change everything as well.  If my 20s were about learning to live on my own and my 30s were about trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up (and probably partying way too much on the way because I didn't really know and was afraid to find out), I kind of feel like my 40s needs to be about finally starting to live my life, entirely as myself.  That could be entirely a load of twaddle, but someone said to me lately, with regards to all my cycling and travelling to random, silly places, that this seemed out of character for me.  I said that no, this is actually entirely, 100pct my character - this was me, happily being my nerdy, often immature self, and that what really was out of character was me trying to go out and be one of the cool kids.  I guess what has really started to change in the past few years is that I have started to embrace the dorkdom and it has made me a hell of a lot happier for doing so.  I do wonder what constitutes being a "grown-up".  There are certainly a lot of people I would consider a "grown-up" (not me) and I tend to find them stultifyingly boring.  I really do like that Germaine Greer quote - "you're only young once, but you can be immature forever".  I think that is a very good mantra for life.

Oh, I forgot - I discovered a new after-work game (or, rather, have re-invented the very old game where Poppa drove me a different route to kindergarten each day).  Now that I work in the suburbs, I am surrounded by an endless maze of little streets.  The new game I've called "cycle in a circle" and the basic rule is to make as many random turns as possible while still trying to cycle vaguely in a circle and end up at home.  I have ended up in some very strange areas that way (London seems to have some very very strange areas) and a few real loser streets, but, generally speaking, it's loads of fun and I've been seeing all sorts of random places in SE London.  It won't work so well once it starts getting dark in the evening (going to have to go back to running then - boo - boring!) but for now, it's keeping me amused.

Right - it has stopped raining - time to go out and wash my bike, then go running to try to run off some of the immense amount of junk food I've snarfed down today.  Tomorrow is a big bike ride after brunch with David and a New York friend of his he swears I have met in the past (oh dear)...

Thursday 9 May 2013

Moving gaily forward...

Wow - we are talking a completely new beast here.  The council is rigidly hierarchical and is essentially run as an old boys club by the speaker (who is retiring next year, apparently).  There is a major culture clash happening between the council old-guard - people who have been there for decades and who were born and bred in the area and people like me, who were brought in from the outside to start to affect change.

I currently have 3 team members.  One does mapping, one the address database and one the sort of spillover from the other two.  They have been at the council for ages, in one case since 1978.  They are all older than me and they are all from the area.  Mapping guy started off as a draughtsman for planning - proper old school technical drawing.  He is a very good mapper - but that's what he does - maps.  The software used - cadcorp - seems like a pretty decent piece of software with a lot of capability for analysis, but he's not really that interested.  He does maps.  50 something year old, divorced, balding, proper South London. Quiet type. H e has to give a presentation in the large-team meeting and he is terrified - has never done one before - but he won't admit it, so I am scheduling a few short meetings with him to talk about presentation stuff.  I like him - took him a while to warm up to me, but he seems like a good guy. The address guy is a bit more intellectually curious - he likes to tinker with data and is quite good with Access. The state of the address database is very good and it is mostly down to it being his baby.  He seems like a bit of an overgrown, 40something lad.  Very much no girlfriend.  I like him but he can be a bit of a pushy pain in the butt sometimes.  There is a woman then who sort of does the overflow for the two of them but is taking over the land terrier role, so will be a bit more busy. (Land terrier holds the records for the publicly owned property and is part of the planning system, but the records are transactional and are going to be a complete nightmare to make use of in another context).  She is quite quiet but I feel like she is trying to put the wool over on me sometimes.  One to watch.

I am then inheriting two people who work on street naming and numbering.  One of them I see no problems with - she is a fairly quiet woman - very intelligent - and just wants to do her job properly.  The other - well - the other is a loud-mouthed, chain smoking, hot-headed late 50s woman who is apparently in very bad health (has had serious surgery lately) who knows everything about everything in the area and has all the general tact and charm of a brick.  She is very important in her world and her job the most important in the council, and the only way to get her to change anything she does without a huge and very public fight is to play to this sense of imortance. There is a serious effort underway by me and my boss to get her to quit shouting at people.  Good times there.  I will likely also be inheriting the LSG custodian (road naming) and possibly the census and policy person.  This was all news to me when I got there!

In short, there is no GIS or data policy.  The council doesn't seem to be much on project or IT management, has no culture of data sharing, no council DBAs, no interest in encouraging in-house IT development and very little interest in thinking outside of the box (this being the heart of the conflict between old and new, it seems).  So, I have been tasked with developing, pretty much from scratch, the GIS policy.  A big part of this is going to be wresting some sort of minor control over our servers and our very-underused Oracle database.  Spatial data at the moment is scattered hither and yon across two servers and across the council.  There is an Oracle database for the planning system, managed (at large cost) by the GIS provider. T here is no test database and no test planning system.  The council servers are all in the basement - they used to be in a server farm, but as a cost saving measure, they brought it all back in house and have 3 different companies managing separate aspects.  The first server farm flooded. (oops) so they made another one - in the basement.  There is a single choke point - a NAS - hooking into the SAN in the basement.  All profiles are virtual - nothing is cached - and the whole council - 2500 people - grinds to a halt if someone tries a large print job or if (god help them) we try to open a large dataset.  It is an untenable situation and has been going on for many months with promises of it getting better at some distant point in the future.  Very cleverly, they fired the people who designed the system before having them fix the system, and the main project manager for fixing the whole thing admitted the other day, in a meeting, that no one knows how it works.  Good planning then.  Reminds me of the university computer setup 20+ years ago.  We'll get there- I just need to demonstrate that none of the amazing things they want us to do are possible with the current network.

I'm actually really enjoying myself - I like the people I'm working with and I see huge possibilities for the team, but wow.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Well, that was a lot of work!

Back on the track, hurtling backwards towards London, stinky in first class. I love going stinky in first class. Actually, I'm not particularly whiffy, as today wasn't particularly warm. Started off in the microdink town of Bainbridge this morning after not great sleep and a very big breakfast. The lovely, Yorkshire accented Lithuanian woman who ran the b&b said she didn't smell rain today, though this may actually be because she smelled bacon and set the smoke alarm off. Oopsie.  Anyway, I headed up over an absurdly steep pass, up into the clouds and into that peculiarly British heavy duty mist that gets things even wetter then rain. When that got boring, it settled for plain old sideways rain. I have proper goretex rainwear. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I rewaterproofed it and the goretex sort of wimped out after a while. Waterproof seems to mean just that for a while, after which it says oh, if you must, I suppose so to the water. How accommodating. There was an annoying amount of traffic out today, it being bank holiday weekend and loads of motorcycles. I don't understand the thing for riding a motorcycle up a mountain pass, especially in a group. Wow, your engine carried you to the top and you got wet, but you are still fat and your motorbike makes an irritating amount of noise. Ride a bicycle instead. Experience the world, quietly and with less baggage. Hmph. Anyway, small narrow roads with stupidly steep hills and great Wyoming like grassy vistas eventually levelled out into rolling English countryside. Dour grey stone houses gave way to cheery red brick and I arrived at York with 35 minutes to spare. I've decided that hill riding in England is really a lot of work, because unlike sensible places like Switzerland, with switchbacks and smooth roads, English roads seem to take great glee in finding the steepest way up the hill with the most potholes. I guess it's more exciting or something. Tomorrow back to normal things and then Tuesday back to work. I think it's time for another bike ride... ;-)

Saturday 4 May 2013

Local pub for local people...

Well, that was possibly the most socially awkward dinner I've ever had... I rolled into Bainbridge, this absolute dinkyshit nothing of a village in the northern Yorkshire Dales. Found the b&b, spent 20 minutes farting around with the WiFi so I could send a message that I'd arrived, as no phone service, showered  and walked over to the single and only pub in the village. They were out of food. Saturday night, you know, and there must have been at least 10 people there. Silly me. So, in the deepening gloom, I cycled 1.5 miles down to the next village, where there was a pub still serving. Granted, I had showered and wasn't wearing cycle gear except for my yellow jacket (carrying helmet and such), but I was still wearing shorts and most definitely not a Local. The Locals, mostly men in various states of grumbling geriatrichood and a few older women, some without makeup and some apparently trying to use the makeup as wrinkle filler, sat or stood around in groups, talking, it seemed, without actually opening their mouths. The rather stout woman behind the bar pointed towards where I was to sit. Yep,nothing says awkward like sitting alone in a crowd in a bar with no mobile phone service and nothing to read. Anyway, I survived, then cycled back on the very very dark winding country road, the glowing dark blue remnants of the sunset an hour before still hanging in the northern sky. I do love that... No camera tomorrow, just my phone, because Dingdong forgot to charge it, and of course it has to have its own plug size. Of course. Anyway, though I was deliriously tired and out to lunch most of the day, I still enjoyed today's ride. 74 miles. The first 50 or so were generally rolling farmland. I stopped for a coffee in Lancaster. For some reason I always had this romantic idea of Lancaster, sandwiched between the Yorkshire Dales and Morecambe Bay. Well, the setting is, in fact, beautiful and you can see the Lake District off to the north. Much of the city is gorgeous, all grey stone witch churches and castly things. And the people, well they all seem to be quite closely related. Lots of pinched looking faces and generally doughy complexions. Not pretty. From Lancaster, I headed northeast and up, and up. Green rolling farmland opened up into tawny grass covered hills and rocks. Lots of rocks. Not so many trees. Lots of sheep. There may just be a relationship between all those sheep and the barrenness of the land. Just maybe. Its not spring yet either here, even though the pass was only 1700 feet or so. It felt quite desolate coming over the pass. It's easy to forget sometimes on this silly little island how much landscape there is, even if it has all been denuded by logging and hungry sheepies! Anyway, off to bed now...

Northern Adventure

And we're off, with my usual complete inability to take the train without some kind of drama. Today they had to call the police for some stupid reason, which means I have now missed my connection and am going to have to improvise. I hate public transportation. Problem is, it is full of the public. Anyway, I got up this morning at 0520, which was a little bit of a trial and tribulation. Going to cycle for two days in the Yorkshire Dales. I was meant to do that over Easter, but a foot of snow suggested to me that it must just be better to wait. So, yeah, just finished my third week in new job. Much to my slight surprise and immense relief, I'm actually enjoying it, though I'm not sure I've ever been so tired in my life. I bitch and moan about having to get up at 7 every day, as opposed to 740, but my team members are all at their desks at 8. 915 for me is just about all I can muster. Of course, they all live locally and I have an 8.5 mile cycle to get there in the morning. Wah wah. They are also born and raised locally, have worked for local government for many years and are older than me. I've moved from a situation where I was doing projects for others but working in a situation offering a relative amount of autonomy and room to experiment to one where I develop the projects, the policies and the methodology, but within an astoundingly hierarchical setting that doesn't even trust its employees to be able to map their own network drives. The work performed, though usually of pretty high quality, is generally reactive and at the whims of the higher-ups. There is little room to experiment, little thought to collaboration between departments and little interest, by those in power, in seeing that this represents the last, dying gasps of the old public sector. I am rapidly realising that I was brought in not just for technical background and general management, but to help affect large scale cultural change in the institution. My immediate line managers are definitely not part of the old guard, but my team, now three, soon to be five and then seven, most definitely are. It's kind of exciting actually, the first time I have ever felt that about a job, but also think OMG I've really been dumped into it this time. But, if I can pull this off, woohoo! :-)

Monday 22 April 2013

Inherit the Wind

Well, not exactly.  Anyway, I just started week two of my role of minor jefe.  Trying to get myself into the mode of thinking "strategically".  That's going to be a new one for me.  Never actually really thought that way before.  If I see something and I understand something, I like to just step in and do it - not delegate.  What if they don't do it correctly?  How can I have it done to my exact specifications?  I think I am rapidly coming to realise that I am a control freak (who doesn't like to be known as a control freak) and it's going to be tough to step back a bit and direct.

I'm heading a team currently of four, which is set to grow over the next few years.  I'm the youngest and have been working for the council the shortest.  I'm the only one not local.  One person has been in his role, or one quite similar, since 1978.  Going to need to go about this rather delicately.  They seem like good people.  They take pride in their work.  They are also very direct and unafraid to fall back upon "not in my job description".  There I come with my newfangled silly big city ideas, policy documents, strategy and some such.  Have to admit I feel a little bit like the fresh graduate dumped into his first job, or trying to speak a language with real people in a real situation, having only learned it in a classroom.  Still, it's what I wanted - I've come to realise I'd actually been sitting in my little corner at work dying just a little bit each day, feeling like I would never actually get to do anything on my own.  Other people's projects.  Other people's ideas.  Other people's methods.  It's taken me, I suppose, seven years since leaving the PhD to feel I had the confidence to lead anything, or to convince anyone else of that.

I actually think it's the perfect situation in which I find myself.  Yes, I already miss being able to just make things work "because they are a good idea" - I miss being able to do something on my computer without having to write a business case for it and send in the IT troops.  I miss being in a team of people that like to pull apart a problem.  I suppose the flip side of that though was that I always felt a bit like the team dummy before - never quite able to get my head around a problem as the same was as others (whether or not that was true).  I don't know - I suppose I'm nearly forty and it's about time that I'm supposed to be the expert.  I still think though - good God - I'm suppose to develop the policy and I don't get to just sit in the corner and be grumpy and weird.  Well, I suppose I will still be weird - I am definitely the foreigner of the team - previous job was mostly foreigners, so I was rather unremarkable in that regard - not so now.

Unrelated - I went cycling out to Canterbury yesterday with Leonel - fantastic, hilly and beautiful ride.  There was a slight bit of ickiness on the train coming back in though.  We'd just left Bromley South and were going along at speed when the train honked briefly.  Then there was this sound coming along the bottom of the train - sounded a lot like driving through a really gloopy mud puddle at high speed, except chunkier.  The train shuddered to a halt and the passengers kind of looked around, wondering what that was.  Eventually came an announcement that the train had experienced an "incident".  That's never a good thing.  We sat for a while longer, watching the sun setting over Crystal Palace - wondering.  Finally, the conductor walked back along the length of the carriage, stopping to tell people individually what happened.  A jumper.  They had called the "relevant authorities" and someone would come eventually.  So, that was the sound of a body, or body parts, being ripped apart underneath my seat.  I wasn't actually sure how I felt and I'm still not.  Horrified that such a thing had happened.  Huge amounts of sympathy for the driver and the person's family and friends.  And a huge amount of anger and, actually, contempt.  How utterly selfish that someone would jump in front of the train, putting everyone's lives in danger, traumatising the driver and causing a whole lot of people a whole lot of inconvenience.  Maybe that's heartless of me and yes, I do absolutely understand getting to the point where you feel like the best thing to do is to end it all, but, well, do it quietly in your own home or something.  I probably shouldn't be a suicide counsellor...

Anyway, it's been an interesting week - will see how things pan out in the next few!

Monday 15 April 2013

New Crayons

Started my new job today. Team Leader of the GIS and Information Team at Greenwich Council.  I have all the skills, the background and the personality to do this job.  I am completely prepared.  It is what I should be doing - a new challenge - a big project.  I remember how hard I worked as an undergrad and I can do that again, if I have a purpose.  I'd also never felt quite so unprepared today.  Me?  Lead a team?  You've got to be joking!  People who have been in the council since the dawn of time - doing things in exactly the way they do it because that's just how it's been done.  And I waltz in, from the outside, and I's gonna sort shit out and make this into a real team.  OMG - collect yourself!  I suppose it is true, the whole nothing to fear but fear itself, but fear is quite a fearful thing.  Well, I just have to approach it in small bits - be organised, be reasonable, be a pushy pain in the ass, accept what needs to be accepted and push for the things I can.  God I sound like a cliche.  Anyway, it really is what I need - I'd grown comfortable - didn't really try that hard  - I'd kinda forgotten what it is to work my ass off for something I believe.

In a job I suppose fit for a geographer, I will be crossing the Prime Meridian every day on the way to work.  I suppose there is something vaguely cosmically exciting about that.  Tomorrow will be my first day to bike there.  Today was, hopefully, my only day to wear a tie. ;-)

Anyway, just remember the most useful thing I learned from 8th grade - "just try not to trip, fall, pee your pants or make the fire alarm go off and you will be fine."

Good words, those.

And I just read about the Boston Marathon.  I don't know what to say, not at all.  Just horror and dread about what is now to come.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Like, OMG, I am so sure!

So, yesterday I pretty much proved to myself that I haven't moved much past 12 year old girl phase when it comes to close proximity to hunky men in very little clothing.  I went to change in the locker room at the gym and this bit muscley Italian guy starts changing right next to me - strips off to nothing but his tight little red underwear.  I, being infinitely unflappable, entirely maintained my cool while putting on my tank top.  All went entirely well - lots of coolness points - until I managed to put my head through the arm hole of the tank top.  Shit shit shit - reverse reverse reverse!  Trying so very hard to not look like I was a complete spaz, I back off the shirt and manage to stick my head through the other arm hole.  AHHHHHH!!!!  Oh god just please let the ground open up and swallow me now!  Well, I'm sure he was completely overwhelmed as well - so much that he wasn't able to show his - overwhelmedness.  Yeah.  Anyway, I have some nice stamps in my stamp book!  Sigh.

I felt slightly better when, cycling home, some numbnuts cycling down the sidewalk darts out into the street, nearly hits me, ends up running along on top of his bike and then runs his groin into the headset.  "Idiot", I say, as I cycle off, on the road, feeling slightly smug.  Almost made up for being a complete numbnuts.  Almost.

Anyway, I have started trying to put over all the handover documents at work for my leaving.  I've got a month to do this and, honestly, it really doesn't feel like long enough.  So many things to finish!


Sunday 10 March 2013

Partly yucky with a continued chance of yuckiness

So, we had spring for about 47 minutes last week, give or take.  The buds of the trees are starting to open, the crocuses are up, the daffodils are sort of up and my face and eyes were puffy and itchy in the wonderful springlike way I look forward to every year.  And then the wind changed.  Back from the east.  And now we're back to an easterly wind, slate grey skies and freezing temperatures.  Yay.  So, what is the best thing to do on such a day of ickiness?  Go for a bike ride of course (with the wind).  I spent today cycling out to Winchester - 83 miles, then took the train back.  Admittedly, it wasn't the nicest bike ride ever - cold and grey and trafficky.  I did finally end up on some proper tinyass country roads at about mile 50, but that was only after 50 miles of endless traffic tedium.  I had forgotten as well that there are many miles of MoD owned land to the west of London - mile after mile after mile of scrubby pine and birch forest with the occasional little sad town interspersed.  There are many signs advising not to pick up unexploded ordnance, as doing so might seriously shorten one's life.  However, and perhaps suprisingly, one can just wander off into these woods - probably unlike most American military owned land (though I doubt they look too kindly on walking onto a firing range).  Had my lunch on a downed tree in the piney forest - large explosions every 30 seconds or so in the distance.  Very bucolic.  Robin suggested that they use sheep as touchpaper (or perhaps they were blowing up sheep?).  Anyway, I need to try to plan a slightly better route next time.  Gotta go get ready for the week now.  Yippydoodah.

Thursday 7 March 2013

All Change, Please, All Change

So, I sit here, trying to think of what to write in the same way I would sit at the beginning of an essay - thinking, ooh, I need to go load the dishwasher, put my clothes away, reroof the house, run a marathon.  Kinda funny really, given that I don't actually have to have an intro or a conclusion, a plot, or even a point.  All I have to do is blather and God knows I can blather.  I suppose a lot of it is just the fact that I'd gotten out of the habit of writing, so I thought, OMG I have to write about every single exciting thing that has happened (or not) over the past x period of time.  That's a bit of a job - work, almost.  So I don't - I put it off, life passes.  I have amazing and astounding thoughts on, um, amazing and astounding things and time passes.  I forget about them - they become bits of mental lint, fluffing away at the slightest breeze.  My whole point of doing this was just to capture the random blatheriness of life, as it happens, to force me to pause for at least a second to comprehend.  Somehow I'm blowing through life at an amazing speed - it always seems to be Friday or Tuesday and I think how the hell can that happen?  My six month dental appointment seems to come up every month or so.  I know this is a "feature" of growing older, but it worries and upsets me, nonetheless, that I somehow, while in college, managed to do really quite a lot of studying, yet managed to have what felt to me like quite a full life.  Now, on the other hand, life seems to consist of a certain amount of boredom at work, commuting, gym and trying (usually in vain) to get enough sleep.  I think I managed to do about an hour of work in the back garden last weekend before it got dark.  Somehow I want to fit into this things like learning German and taking up piano again, but I just don't know how.  I didn't think I was that disorganised... I mean, my God, I make up my lunches (salads) for the week on Sunday night.  That's organised!  Anyway, I have a month left in my current job, after which I take on the role of team leader for the GIS team at Greenwich Council.  They don't really have a team at the moment, not exactly, anyway.  I sure as hell never thought I would be leading a GIS team in some random London local government, considering I discovered GIS pretty much by accident and always assumed I would be a teacher, a lecturer, a volcanologist, whatever, but not a middle manager in a monster sized bureaucracy in a small and silly country in the middle of the Atlantic.  Oh well, these things happen.  Oh, by the way - my recurring dream of trying to get somewhere via public transport, barefoot and in the snow (those elements are always constant, but the details change) has changed.  Now, it seems, I'm on a complicated road network - always the same complicated network (I seem to have it mapped out in my head, rather appropriately).  There is still always snow.  But now instead of trying to get public transport to some ridiculous and far away location, I'm in the back seat of a car, trying to steer it while looking over someone's shoulder.  So, I suppose it is moving from a feeling of disempowerment to being ceded control but being afraid of losing it.  Or something.  Maybe I need therapy.  ECT. ;-)  Anyway, I'm trying to do this over the blare of the TV and it's actually some scientific program, rather than Spongebob, meaning I'm having a hard time focussing on this.  Must try to get back to random and regular blather...

Sunday 27 January 2013

Back in the Room...

And we're back.  I suppose I haven't written anything for months in part because there haven't been a lot of huge life-changing events, in part because I've sort of felt like I have been waiting for something to happen and in part because it got to the point where I felt like I couldn't write anything because I had just too much to say (despite nothing happening).  I did actually write up a few pages from the Alabama trip, but they are currently sitting in a notebook, waiting to be transcribed.  I suppose that is vaguely ironic.  So is life.

Anyway, waiting for life.  I have this recurrent dream that I am trying to get somewhere - usually somewhere far away.  Often I am trying to take the Tube (or, at least, my own version of the Tube - far more complicated than the actual Tube).  Sometimes I am trying to drive - usually on some stretch of the same, interconnected group of highways I seem to have in my mind.  Usually there is snow.  Sometimes it is urban.  Usually I am barefoot.  Lately I have been having some version of this dream almost every night.  Every night it is different, but every night it is the same theme - trying to get somewhere far away using the most inefficient method possible, unprepared.  I've decided that this is work related - feeling like I am trying to get ahead to some unspecified better location while feeling unprepared. How many jobs have I applied for over the past few years (admittedly, most of them pretty half-heartedly, as I really didn't know why I was applying).  But - I have actually had one interview and am scheduled for a second interview for a GIS team leader job that I really want and that I think I could do quite well.  So - maybe, just maybe.  I've actually worn a suit.  I, who still can't manage to tie a tie properly, voluntarily gussied myself up in a suit.  Stranger things have happened, though I'm not too sure what.  I think it's the first job I've applied to in the past few years that I thought - yeah, I could do this, and yeah, I could actually make a big difference to this team.  I just have to be able to project that, rather then undermining myself in the interview, which is what usually happens when I manage to actually get that far!

I was back on my bike today - 72 miles from here to Ashford.  I mean, I've been cycling, but I've not actually been on a long ride for maybe a month and a half.  Between being away and then the weather being shit it just didn't happen.  Not too surprisingly, I've managed to pick up a few pounds, which I am now absolutely determined to get rid of (though more cycling and running - hell, I am not giving up on chocolate and cake - don't be silly!).  I've started cooking up my big rides for the summer already - definitely want to cycle to Andermatt for my 40th (not sure where I will start though - part of me wants to go from here, but the more realistic part of me thinks I should start in Munich or something a lot closer) and David and I have talked about a combined camping (RV), hiking and biking (David mostly hiking and me mostly biking) trip between Tromso and Hammerfest at the end of August.  I figure - we've been to the southernmost city in Europe.  Might as well balance it out with the northernmost as well!

So, I guess I've been being pretty blah lately, hence not wanting to do anything or write anything or try to move my life forward, but I've gotten bored with that now.

So - back in the room!