Richard and Weez Excellent Adventure - April 1999...
Wednesday 31st March
I took today off of work. I was expecting to be tired after the Meatloaf concert... which as you know was postponed. Anyway, it was nice to have a day off and catch up on some of the things that needed doing.
I caught the tube down to Green Park at 5.30pm and met up with Louise and the guys from LucasVarity and Claire for our second game of 5 aside soccer. We definitely felt a lot better compared to the game a week before... less puffed, better ball skills... Louise is very good in the goal. She only lost her nerve when she was hit in the face by the ball by that big bully Claire! A bruised nose was the outcome but she's being very tough about it. It must be the boxing classes toughening her up!!
The club where we play the soccer only sells soft drinks so we caught the bus back to a pub in Hammersmith. We had a couple of drinks and 5 of us decided to stay for tea... what a mistake that was. After placing our orders, one of the staff came back fifteen minutes later to tell us that there was no steak available... perhaps they were out looking for the cow in all that time - so a couple of us had to re-order. When the food did finally arrive, Louise's order was missing... completely forgotten. The food wasn't spectacular and judging by the reaction to our stomachs the next day, it wasn't particularly good either. We are glad to say that this isn't typical of the pub food we have had here. We have had some excellent meals at other pubs.
By the time we left at 11.15pm, travelled home and packed our bags for the trip to Redditch the next day, it was gone 1.30am. We weren't looking forward to getting up for work. We had only been asleep about half an hour when we heard this freaky noise outside which initially sounded like cats fighting but on further thought sounded like nothing we had ever heard before. A car sped down the road after this noise had been going on for a couple of minutes and the noise suddenly stopped... and I saw two foxes - one came into our garden and the other headed down the road. Now we know what foxes sound like.
Thursday 1st April 1999
After the late night last night, I fell asleep standing up in the tube, missed my stop at Bond Street and ended up in Green Park. What a great start to the day! Louises Visa arrived back from the Immigration Consultants office today as promised. With our bank account 500 pounds lighter, they achieved what we weren't able to do through the usual beurocratic channels by ourselves. At least we can make it to Italy now!
After work we made our way to London Euston Station to catch a train up to Birmingham International. We were going up to stay with Janet and Peter at Redditch for the Easter weekend - fantastic to get out of this concrete jungle for a break. Peter met us at the train station, took us home, cooked us a fabulous tea with some very nice wine and after chatting for a while, Louise and I fell into bed absolutely exhausted.
We slept in till near lunch time this morning. After the late night last night we needed it. Janet and Peter took us out for a pub lunch then we did some shopping in the thriving metropolis of Redditch! Really, we just relaxed all day.
Saturday 3rd April 1999
We got up early this morning... well, Louise got up at 9am and I got up at 10am. We were down for some quick breakfast by 11am and then we headed off for the Black Country Museum. This museum is an open air site where historic buildings and features have been brought together to recreate a past way of life (one which I am glad I didn't live in). There were plenty of friendly guides around the place in traditional costumes that always made us feel most welcome. The most interesting thing we saw (Louise even found it interesting!) was a master blacksmith making a poker for a fire with a Rams head as a handle. It took him 20 minutes to make and he talked us through the whole process and the techniques he used. Truly fascinating to watch. We took a trip deep into some lime mines on a canal boat, watched bread being baked in traditional ovens and bought 'lollies' from the traditional sweet shop.
By the time we got home it was about 5.30. Sarah and Darren arrived not long after and Janet prepared a beautiful roast chicken meal with plenty of wine! After tea, we played Trivial Pursuits which the mature team amongst us won!
The whole family was in for lunch today. Janet, Peter, Karen, Andrew, Mathew, .8James, Sarah, Darren and us Kiwis. Janet made a beautiful roast, Yorkshire puddings included. After lunch we went to Coughton Court House and Gardens. Coughton Court has been the home of the Throckmorten family since the fifteenth century, when John de Throckmorten, Under Treasurer to Henry VI, came to Coughton in 1409 through marriage to Eleanor de Spiney. Coughton Court is connected with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, as Francis Tresham and Robert Catesby, two chief plotters (with Guy Fawkes) were grandsons of Sir Robert Throckmorten. After a nice walk through the gardens in the fresh air, we went home and Sarah and Darren made a very nice vegetarian meal for us, including something I'd never eaten before, Cous Cous? - very nice.
Monday 5th April 1999
Sadly we had to go home today :-( Janet and Peter had taken us in and treated us like one of their own family which was great when our families are on the other side of the world. Back to work and the harsh world of cooking our own meals again!! Goodbye to all the great food and vegetables we had become used to in the last four days... So, that was Easter - four days later we were completely exhausted again!
Friday 16th April 1999
I woke up this morning and after drifting into semi-consciousness, I realised it was my birthday... my 30th birthday. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep and hoped the day would pass... but the phone started ringing from NZ so I had to get up and face the day. After the phone calls, came the cards - every one reminding me I was 30! Louise bought me some nice presents. A Soyo 6BA+ motherboard, some clothes, a Simon and Garfunkel CD and music book and Stephen Hawkings book Black Holes and Baby Universes. Work was fantastic today. The last day on the phone shifts for everyone - ya hoo!
After work we met up with some friends at the Bear and Staff pub not far from Leicester Square tube for a couple of hours. After that we moved on to Wong Kei's - a multi story restaurant not far away in China Town. It was there that Louise gave me a few extra presents. Hair dye - for those grey hairs I don't have yet... baby food for when I lose my teeth..., denture cleaners, prunes for obvious reasons, a compass so I can find my way home if I become Alzheimic and a book called Master Your Memory. How to make someone feel old prematurely. Everyone had a good laugh at my expense!! Dinner was enjoyable and we took plenty of photos which I will pop in here when I get them developed.
So, once again that is it for another couple of weeks. We hope everyone is well. Chow for now... Rich and Weez.
Sunday 18th April
For the last four weeks, I've been thinking to myself, "I must do something to the Web page". Prior to that, I couldn't do anything due to the hard drive in my laptop failing catastrophically. Luckily, due to my paranoia of losing data, the only thing I lost was the Inbox of my email. I backup all my data across the network every night to Ally. My backup software can't handle open files so, I knew I would risk losing my Inbox in the event of a major failure - just one of those things. So to all you people out there who think you are immune to a hardware failure and who have important information tucked away in your computers... your turn could be right around the corner. Go out and buy something to protect your data. Every day I speak to so many sad individuals that have lost 3 to 5 years information because they thought "It'll never happen to me". It will!
A lot has been happening as usual, but because I haven't put pen to paper at the time, I've forgotten half of it - regardless, here is what I can remember...
To cut a long story short, I, along with all of my colleagues in Psion UK Technical Support will lose our jobs next Friday. The work is now being out sourced to a company based in Holland. This means my contract has finished a month earlier than I expected which has caused a couple of problems because we only got 4 weeks notice which wasn't enough time to get a new contract before we go to Italy and it was too late to get booked into some courses I would like to finish. Financially I have ended up better off due to a deal they have given us for staying up till April 23rd so I can't complain.
The weeks continue to be busy. Louise has been spending a little less time at work recently although she has had to go in today. The take-over of LucasVarity by TRW has made work a little uncertain for Louise at the moment, but we are hoping something good is going to come out of it. We will wait and see.
Wednesday nights for the past month or so have been taken up by 5 aside football (that's Soccer, not Rugby for all you Kiwis out there - The English get upset if we call it Soccer!). We play on astro-turf about the size of a tennis court at a recreation centre not far from Hammersmith (2D, Pg 90 for those at home with an A-Z). One of Louise's work mates, Rob, organised it all. The teams consist mainly of LucasVarity employees (accountants that don't get out too often!!!), me and Claire - Robs chick. The game lasts for an hour and we usually go to a pub afterwards for a couple of drinks and tea. By the time we leave the pub, catch the last tube home and get to bed it is usually not far off 1am. 12.30am at the earliest! Injuries are already starting to appear amongst a few of us who will be sitting out next week... or longer! I will go next week and stand behind the fence to fetch the ball when an overly keen strike sends the ball disappearing into the Old Barns Cemetery (Heavily overgrown and no doubt a bit spooky on a dark still night!)
I've just remembered that I did make some notes around Easter about what we were doing, so here it all comes....
Friday 23rd April
Again, it has been one of those days where my contract has finished (made redundant to be more precise, along with most of my colleagues) and the realisation has set in that that comradeship won't be waiting there next Monday morning at 9am. Psion was a fun place to work. The people I worked with made the job. Still, that's the way it is with contracting. It just means that there are more great people out there for me to meet in my future job where ever that may be.
Louise left work early tonight and drove up to Cambridge with Claire for Robs sisters Hens night. Amongst other things they got up to, a male review featured in the night. Claire was most impressed with a chap by the name of Horse! (actually, I think she was really hiding under the table to avoid getting dragged up onto the stage)
I had one of the best nights sleep I've had in ages. The whole bed to myself, no one sleep talking/walking. I slept for ten hours. Fantastic!!
Saturday 24th April
After sleeping in I eventually got moving and headed off towards Esher where I met Louise and some of her work mates for the Sandown races. I got to Waterloo and asked for a cheap day return to Esher. "You mean Esher?", said the ticket man (As in Eeeeeeeesher). So I showed him my piece of paper with the directions and sure enough, it was Eeeeeeeesher!
I had 5 minutes to grab some breakfast/lunch from Burger King and run to platform three for the train. I joined a packed train full of people from what looked like all walks of life - many of which were intensely studying the racing pages of the Saturday newspapers. At least I knew I was on the right train.
Half an hour later, the train pulled into Eeeeeeeesher and upon exiting I turned right along with the rest of the crowd... completely forgetting the instruction from Louise to turn left. When I say completely forgetting, I don't even remember her telling me. I was probably nodding and agreeing at the time hoping she wouldn't realise that I wasn't really listening! Then again, perhaps it was all just a negative reality inversion?
Having followed the crowd for ten minutes, it became apparent that the map I had been given didn't make much sense now. So, being able to see what I thought was the main entrance to the racecourse, and having the option of turning left or right again, I turned left... wrong choice! About 45 minutes later and massive communication breakdowns between telephone boxes and mobile phones, I met up with everyone on the course.
The thing that fascinated us Kiwis was the rows of bookies in front of the grandstand. Back home, we only have the tote. Here, you have the choice. When you place a bet with a bookie, they give you a card with their name on it and a number... no reference of your bet... which all seemed a bit dodgy to us... as I was about to find out.
I placed a bet with one of the bookies. When I told him the horse I wanted he yelled out to his mate behind him that records all the information the incorrect horse (probably the accent thing as usual!) So, I corrected him and hoped that the guy behind got the correction right. The odds on my horse were 6:1 and I bet 5 pounds. As it transpired, my horse came in by a very narrow nose. So, going back to get my winnings, the bookie questioned me on what horse I had bet on. After arguing the point and agreeing that I did bet on the winning horse, they handed over 14 pounds. I'm like 'no, 6:1 on a five pound bet isn't 14 pounds!' So, arguing the point again on how much I bet, I finally left with 35 pounds (my winnings plus my original bet). All this because they didn't hear/understand what I said in the first place! No one else had any problems - just me. Damn accent!!
After the races, we went to a pub till about 11pm and caught the last trains home (stopping of course for tea at Burger King again, Waterloo Station!)
Friday 30th April - 3pm
Look at that... it's Friday again. I'm being a total yuppie today sitting in Pret A Manger eating lunch,people watching and listening into the background jazz. I look completely out of place! A year ago I never would have walked into a place like this. It is so hot in London today. Out with the shorts... well it is for me. 99.5% of London are still in their suits and trousers. I've walked down Oxford Street twice today and seen, oh, 5 or 6 others in shorts and they were tourists. Funny people these Poms! (apologies to our English friends). What am I eating? Sandwiches, yoghurt and water. BLT sandwiches, complete with green and red bits in them... hmm... they have to be vegetables... hard to tell, we haven't seen veges in so long!
Wednesday night was a late one as usual. Louise played soccer. I stood behind the fence and yacked to Claire in between her fetching all the balls that came over in our direction. I hurt my back two weeks ago playing. Claire hurt hers falling backwards down a set of stairs! My back is sort of starting to feel right. I am stretching and strengthening and icing every day. I would like to see a Chiropractor but there are just too many witch doctors over here. If things aren't right by Monday, I'm gonna have to take my chances!
After the soccer, we went to a pub overlooking the Thames, right next to Hammersmith Bridge. The evening was cool and clear and as we sat outside, the moon rose over the bridge as the daylight faded (or did the moon stay still, and we moved... Harley?) 1.15am... finally in bed ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.....