Richard and Weez Excellent Adventure - September 1998...

4th September 1998

So much has been happening.  As you know, Louise has been working in Paris and she gets home tonight.  It will be good to see her.

I made it through the week at work - why I was kept on after I resigned I don't know because there was very little work on.  At lunch time today I was at the cafeteria and I had just got the hostess to serve me some apple crumble when Markie, Zilke and Phil came running in and told me to 'stop buying lunch' - we were to go down to the pub down the road for a 'leaving party' for me.  After being at Alcatel for only six weeks, I was very flattered to get such treatment.  Kingsley came down as well and we had a drink and all had nice pub lunches.  Come one o'clock, it was very tempting to stay..... very tempting!  I think most of us would have stayed but since Zilke had only been at work for two days we walked back with her so she returned on time.

I have made two or three friends at Alcatel and I hope to keep in touch with all of them.  Most of them use E-mail so it will be easier to do so.  As I have said in the past - working at Alcatel was great because of the people I worked with..... it was my second home really because of the number of hours we spent there every week.  So thank you to everyone there for making my time so enjoyable.

I left work an hour early to get to netball tonight.  The games are played about 20 minutes walk from East Acton tube.  It took me over an hour to get there from work and I was 15 minutes late <:-(  I did play the second half though.  It isn't indoor netball as we know it at home (with nets to play off of) but identical to outdoor netball - only indoors!  The guys here think this is a bit odd because netball is a 'chicks' game!  We lost 20 - 25 and had a great time.  East Acton looked like quite a nice place when I came into it on the tube, but once I was out of the station it turned out to be a bit of a dodgy area where I don't think I would walk alone at night!


5th September 1998

Louise is home.   I can no longer see the floor any more ;-)  Busy day again.  Louise was tired so she stayed at home and rested.  I went into town and returned some mail order clothes that she didn't want to the post office, bought a Lonely Planet guide to Paris, hunted high and low for a Michelin 1/10,000 Plan of Paris, bought a pair of Olympus 10x24 PCII binoculars in preparation for the Bee Gees concert tonight and for future events and checked out the prices of MiniDiscs.

Weez and I are both experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms from lack of music.   We have no stereo and only listen to music through the tinny speaker of the alarm clock which isn't all together pleasant!  It has been this way since we left home.  We think we may buy a MiniDisc, an amplifier and some speakers to fill the gap.  As I recall, I don't think MiniDisc technology had really hit the shelves in NZ when we left.  Britain seem a little further ahead in consumer electronics than home.   If you don't know much about MiniDisc and are interested then follow this link.

We caught the tube to Wembley stadium tonight where we picked up our tickets for the concert.  They were even there to be picked up - magic!  Louise and I both grabbed hot-dogs for tea and I had what I suspect was a beef burger as well.  It is sometimes difficult to tell what you are really eating in this country.... perhaps more on that topic later.  I promptly managed to loose the tomato sauce from my burger down the leg of my jeans!   Oh well, at least it wasn't across the back of a large biker dude again like last year at Ruapuna raceway in Christchurch when the wind caught the sauce coming from the bottle and  blew it onto the back of his t-shirt!  I made a hasty get away from that situation before he noticed!!

Mounted Police - Trafalgar SquareTina Arena played first and she was good.  The Bee Gees were fantastic - they played brilliantly live and all of their unique voices sounded magic in the flesh (some may beg to differ with me!).  Travel home after the show was excellent via the tube with crowd control provided by the mounted police.  Five horses spanned the main passage to the station and when they wanted to stop the flow of people, all five horses turned sideways to block it off.  We patted most of the nags as we passed them (for my mum and dad because they are horse lovers).  A lot of people seemed interested in giving them a fuss!


6th September 1998

Well, here we are in Paris.   The trip on the Eurostar was comfortable and smooth.  It is quite slow going across England and through the tunnel, but when we hit France, the pace picked up with the train noticeably tilting as we went round bends.  Speed - 180 mph I believe!

We  caught a taxi to the Hotel du Parc and after figuring out how to get the computer connected to the phone line and obtaining an Internet connection through the IBM Global Network (incredibly important!) we walked to the Pont de Neuilly Metro station.  After being completely confused for 20 minutes or so we finally jumped on a train to see where it would take us.Arc De Triumphe   Fortunately it went in the right direction and we hopped off at the Arc de Triomphe (which is in the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle, the worlds largest roundabout and the meeting point of 12 avenues) where we watched in amazement at the way the Parisians negotiate their way around the roundabout.  After travelling in a few taxis, I am amazed that we didn't see more accidents.  It is just here that I had my first experience as a pedestrian.  I went to cross the road.  There were those familiar zebra stripes like we have at home for a pedestrian crossing.  So I crossed, expecting the cars to stop as you would!  Halfway over, I noticed an illuminated red sign on the other side the gist of which meant "DON'T CROSS NOW".Louvre Archway   At that exact same moment I realised that they were also driving on the 'wrong!' side of the road.  At this point I ran!  Could have been messy!  Louise followed at the correct time and said she thought I was incredibly brave or stupid.   The latter I think!

We worked our way down Des Champs Elysees Avenue and past mad traffic wardens blowing their whistles furiously, waving their arms about at both the motorists and the pedestrians.  We saw a Citroen rear end a Mini at one of these intersections and the officers on duty just ignored it and carried on as usual.  Incredible!  We passed under the Arc de Triumphe du Carroselle? and stopped outside the Louvre for a rest.   The Louvre is the only part of Paris that I recognised and Louise didn't.  A very proud moment for me considering my geography and history challenged background!  From here we headed down past Notre Dame where we saw a guy on a skateboard nearly go under a bus at an intersection (his friend turned very white when he saw the events unfolding) and eventually ended up in a Greek restaurant called Santorini somewhere in this area.   The food wasn't very nice at all.  We caught a taxi home about 10pm and went to bed.  The bed in the motel doesn't have pillows as such.  It has this long sausage like pillow rolled into the bedsheet which runs the entire width of the bed.   Not too comfy to sleep on but I believe it is fairly common here.


7th September 1998

Louise went to work at 9am and I headed out at 10am to plan our route for the evening so it would save time.   I first went to the Eiffel Tower, grabbing a la-pomme? crepe for breakfast on the way.  I have finally sussed the Metro so travel on this is now 'so easy'.  The RER was another rail system I hadn't mastered at this stage, but a kind Parisian monsieur smoking a pipe pointed me in the right direction and so I have that figured out also.   I caught the RER down to St Michael near Notre Dame and visited the Ste Chapelle which is in the Palais De Justice compound.  The upper chapel has huge stained glass windows right around its perimeter depicting events from God creating the heavens and earth on one side through to events in the new testament.  It was a shame that it was overcast and rainy when I visited because the windows would have been far more beautiful had they been back lit by the sun.

I ate lunch at McDonalds because Big Mac is understood everywhere then spent the rest of the afternoon looking around shops and searching in vain for MiniDiscs.

I got back to the hotel around 4pm and lay down for a quick snooze to rest my weary feet before I went out with Louise in the evening.  Just as I was dozing off I woke with a start thinking 'what on earth is all the noise'.  It was then that I realised that the walls of the hotel must have been paper thin.  In the room next to us it appeared that a mademoiselle had cramp and a monsieur was quite keen on helping her with it.Eifel Tower  She kept on saying things in French which I can only assume were along the lines of 'damn - this cramp is bad!'  20 minutes later the cramp must have got really bad and then suddenly all was quiet.  If you get what I mean........  Classic!

Louise got home at 7pm and we headed down to Montparnasse Bienvenüe where we ate beautiful pizzas, had a bottle of wine and shared an ice cream sundae at an Italian restaurant (chain).  It was 10pm by the time we finished so we quickly made our way over to the Eiffel tower.  Louise couldn't believe it was so big (small town girl!)  She thought it would have been a tenth of the size!  At 300 metres, it was fairly impressive.  We didn't go up this time because Louise wanted to get home to sleep because she was working the next day.  We will come back.  We caught a taxi back to the hotel and went to bed.

About the best I ever got at French was saying "To this address please" and pointing at a piece of paper!  It is all very well learning to ask these simple phrases, but when they answer back in French, you might as well not have bothered asking!   For some strange reason I found all the German I learnt at school coming back to me (and I thought very little sunk in there).  So - when we get to Germany it should be a breeze!  There was one German TV channel amongst the 7 French ones so I watched that while we were there.  At least I could understand parts of it and generally get the gist!


8th September 1998

Last day in Paris.   I dropped my luggage at Weez work in the morning and spent the rest of the day walking streets and looking in shops I hadn't seen yesterday.  It rained all day and it wasn't very pleasant.  Without a hotel to go back to it was a long day.  If you want clothes, shoes or food, Paris seems to be the place to be.  Anything else seemed to be a bit thin on the ground.  I don't know how many hundreds of metres of clothes shops side by side I walked past but it was lots.  I did track down a MiniDisc I was looking for.  It would have been 50 pounds cheaper than here, but it only had a French guarantee so I flagged the idea.  In the last half hour of the day I caught the Metro out to La Défense Grande Arche, which I now wish I had done earlier.  It is a more modern area of Paris which had more of interest there for me.  We will have to go back there next time.

I met Louise outside her work again at 5.30pm where a rude Parisian stole our ordered taxi from right under our noses at 5.35pm.  We caught another soon after and missed the train home due to a couple of communication problems (tactful way of describing the events!) between Louise and I.  So we got home a little late.

How did we find the Parisians with the language barrier?  A bit of a mixed bag really.  Some genuinely couldn't speak English too well - that wasn't a problem, we went with it.  It was the few that spoke to us in French, knew we were having difficulty understanding and replying, then eventually talking in English to us with an attitude - it tended to put a damper on things at those moments.  Next time I visit I will make an effort before hand to become a bit more adept.

So, that's about all for now.  Back to semi-normality.  There is a lot to get done before my course on Sunday evening so things are still busy.  So, till next time...........


13th September 1998

Just a quick update today.  It's 11am and we've only just got up and I have to leave for Wickford at 3pm.   I was awake at 5am again for an hour.  I still can't shake the habit of waking   when I would have normally got up for work.

Back to Wednesday - Louise was at work as usual.  I am back to making her breakfast when she gets up.  I have been sacked as the lunch maker.  The sandwiches from down town (yes Chris Carlisle-Smith - that is DOWN TOWN!!) are much nicer than what I make.  I spent most of the day doing the washing (the front loading washing machines in this country take three times as long to wash anything when compared to a Fisher & Paykel Smartdrive at home) and trying to tidy up the house after 6 weeks of neglect.

Somewhere in here we finally splashed out and bought a MiniDisc.  We bought a Sharp MD-MS702H.  To cut a long story short, I bought it from a shop on Tottenham Court Road where I got it for £30 less than the retail price in the big name shops on the High Street.  I got it home and it was a Lemon!  It just wouldn't record without displaying errors and shutting down every 30 seconds.  So, I returned it to the shop and all credit to them, they replaced it no problems.  The new one is magic.   The sound reproduction to my ears is so close as to be undifferentiable (is that a word?) to a CD it is unbelievable - brilliant.  Sure runs rings around a Walkman (the reason it will never be equal to a CD is because MiniDiscs use a compression technique called ATRAC (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding), a data reduction technique that attempts to encode only the information audible to the human perceptual system which gives an approximate  5:1 compression ratio over the original source - that's for the geeks out there (Pip....!!) )

Anyway, enough rambling.  I bought a company on Friday.  It is called Brentord Technology Limited.  I also went to Midland Bank to set up an account for the company where I was given more bits of paper to sign than the Wine Box Enquiry had!  Midland Bank has been an excellent bank to deal with so if you ever come to the UK, that may be worth considering.   TSB Bank (UK) was the pits - avoid it like the plague.

Netball Friday night again.  We lost big time but we all had a good time.   After the game I had a drink of Lion Red - NZ beer at last!  Louise spotted a penny on the ground on the walk there so I picked it up for good luck.

Saturday morning we got up early and had showers because someone was meant to be coming into our flat to put a new hot water cylinder in........ and then they never turned up.   So we we could have slept in.

  I finally bowed to the pressure of 5 months from all sorts of angles to buy a microwave for Louise (Sanyo EM-D754).  We took the bus out to Staples Corner and flagged down a cab to get it home.  The shop we bought it from offered a fast delivery service.  Perhaps 5 days is considered fast here?!!!!!  Louise spotted another penny outside the tube station which again I picked up!.  Two pennies in two days - something big must be coming.

Finally late in the afternoon we went to the supermarket for the first time in about six weeks.  Finally the cupboards have something in them apart from air.   Goodness knows what we have been eating for the last four weeks - it certainly hasn't been vegetables!

So once again that's it for now.  More next week but since I'm going on a computer course only geeks will probably be interested in next weeks instalment ;-)  Till L8R............

PS - in my ramblings there may be odd bits that you just don't understand - they are usually subtle things targeted at individuals!  So if it is you, you will more than likely know.


19th September 1998

Not a lot to report really.  I've finished the first week of my MCSE course.  The course moves along at a fair pace.  The first two days were a little unfamiliar to me but the last three have been straight forward.  Some of the guys are struggling a bit as it is all unfamiliar to them - I feel a bit for them.  I have booked my exams for Friday 2nd October, a week after I finish the course.  This is the earliest time I could get in at any of the 12 exam centres in London.  They all seem very busy with Microsoft and Novell examinations.  I sit the NT Workstation Exam at 10am and the NT Server exam at 1pm.  Boy - I hope I pass the Workstation exam (you get your results immediately) - otherwise it won't be looking good for the Server exam straight afterwards.  On top of that, each exam is costs 60 quid so that is another incentive to pass.  The Workstation pass mark is 70.5% and the Server pass mark is 76.5%.  I have mock exams to do and I am scoring between 58% and 60% at the moment and we have only covered half of the material - so I am quite optimistic.

Wickford is similar in size and nature to New Plymouth.  Weird thing in Wickford was I was standing next to a pedestrian crossing waiting for all the cars to pass...... and they all stopped for me before I even stepped out!  You're not in Paris now Dr Ropati!  I am staying with a nice family there where I have my own room, complete with cupboards, drawers comfy bed and TV.

I came home for the weekend on Friday night.  As I was just about to hop off of the tube at Finchley Road (5 minutes from home) I suddenly realised that I didn't have my laptop with me.  PANIC aaarrrrgghh..
10 seconds later I realised I had left it at Wickford.  I'd lose my head if it wasn't screwed on (I was going to use another expression here Harley but my in laws read this page!).  So, I dropped my pack off and headed all the way back to Wickford.   Some of my work was on the computer so I needed it.  I was lucky that I kept the train ticket from Wickford to Liverpool Street and it hadn't been stamped.  I was able to use it again on the second return trip - an 8 pound saving!

A plumber has been traipsing in and out of our house since 11am.  The landlord has finally had the broken boiler fixed and is now replacing the water cylinder in our bathroom (which supplies several flats) with two new cylinders - no more cold showers ...ya!

We went out to Tottenham Court Road tonight for tea - only McDonalds!  We then spent an hour or so in the Virgin Megastore next door where Louise bought a dance album CD.  9pm when we got home and..... the plumbers just leaving and.... there's big black foot prints all over our carpet.... aaarrrrggghhh.... again!  Out with the vacuum cleaner.


20th September 1998

We slept in till 10am.  Louise has finally found some time to make a list of all the expenses work owes her from her trip to Paris.  It's turning out to be quite a bit of money!   Louise has started bugging me to buy an amplifier now so we can listen to music through something other than headphones so it will probably get channelled in that direction.  I think that an amplifier and some speakers will be our last major purchase for the flat and we can then start saving some money at home (NZ).... finally.

The landlord came up this morning and gave us some Loucoums for all of our trouble yesterday!  She didn't have to but it was a nice gesture.  She also said she would send in a cleaner on Monday to clean our carpets and the bathroom - excellent! (her hallway carpet is a mess too - I don't think she was too pleased with the plumbers dirty boots).  We think she likes and respects us now because she always asks our permission before letting workers into our flat.  This is what we expect at home but in the past, she has let people in without telling us and they have left our windows wide open and even left the door wide open with my camera bag sitting in full view - which we let her know we weren't happy with! (well, I sent Louise down to tell her!)  We are turning out to be one of the more permanent residents in the house.

Well, enough for this week.  Other things to do......


27th September 1998

Yet another weekend where we have shared our house with the plumbers.  These guys must have got their tickets out of a cereal packet.  Between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon we've had hot water for about 12 hours.  The novelty of cold showers wore off a long time ago.  They still aren't finished either.

On the upside we did our grocery shopping on the Internet last weekend and our order arrived at 11am  yesterday morning.  The order was 96% correct so thats not bad.   It cost us 5 pounds for delivery and we found that the Tesco prices were between 3 and 10 percent more expensive than where we normally shop but the extra 10 pounds or so it costs to shop this way far outweighs trudging down to Cricklewood with our packs and lumbering home with them full of groceries.

Because we were waiting half the weekend for hot water to have a shower we didn't do a lot.  Saturday night we went out intending to go to the movies.  We had tea at Bella Pasta and missed the movie because we were late.  So we went to the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street again and bought a video (The Chamber) and took it home and watched it.  It cost us half the price of what it would have cost us to go to the movies!  I think I mentioned somewhere in here before that videos are relatively cheap to buy here.

Sunday morning once again saw us with no hot water.  I went to Earls Court for a Technology Show, Weez went to church.  I saw nothing that was really cutting edge technology but it was interesting to see what was around.  A big push on DVD, MiniDiscs and Digital TV.  Portable DVD like a laptop was pretty cool.

We finally left the house at 4pm after getting some hot water for a shower and walked to Willesden Green to return some of Weez library books which were two centuries late and had incurred an 8 pound fine!  We then waited half an hour for the 98 bus which comes every 8 minutes to get us into town to catch 'Saving Private Ryan'.... which we missed.... again!  We ended up eating tea at some 'trendy' Italian place and seeing 'There's something about Mary'.  This is probably one of the funniest movies we have seen in a while.  Very politically incorrect amongst other things.  You may never look at hair gel in the same light again!  I highly recommend this movie for everyone who wants a good laugh (except parents and in laws!).

Speaking of politically incorrect - if you enjoy this kind of humour then tune into Southpark if you can.  A great way to relieve stress after a busy week by laughing so much.

Living in London, you think you've seen it all when every week something comes along and tops it all.  Friday night when we were walking to netball we passed a couple lying on the grass near the road about 2 pieces of clothing away from the horizontal carrumba.  Sunday night after the movies a girl passed us in a bright green dress and dark glasses.  The dress was so long, it just about covered her belly button!   It gave some people at the bus stop a bit of a laugh.

Oh yes - the netball.  We won our first game to date 15 - 8.  Things are looking up.  On the way home I found another penny on the footpath.  Thats the third one in as many weeks.  Something big is going to happen soon.....


29th September 1998

6.30am - We just don't have any water at all today..... hot or cold.  A pipe has burst up the road.   Sigh....  Louise didn't go to work.  I studied.

6.30pm - The water is back on finally.  Now, if we were as well prepared as my dad is we would have had a better day.  He has enough water stashed away in the garage to survive a nuclear holocaust!

10.30pm - Still no hot water.  Another cold shower Sigh....