Nice Drive

Last week I was working a 17:00-23:00 shift at work to support the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited. I decided that I would spend the day driving to somewhere instead of sitting on the sofa playing on the Playstation.

I looked for places on Google Maps that were within 2 or 3 hours, so I’d have time to get there, eat, and come back for work. I ended up settling on a little town called Nice. I don’t know if they pronounce it the same as the city in France, or the adjective nice.

I got there without any issues, took some pictures, and then had some lunch from a supermarket on the edge of town. As soon as lunch was over I set Waze to head for home. It said I’d arrive just after 15:00.

Clear Lake, CA

I got about 10 miles along state route 175, a twisty mountain road with a large drop on one side, when I noticed I could smell brake dust. I slowed down, testing my brakes, and the smell got stronger. I rounded a corner and saw cones in the middle of the road. I slowed down more and when I rounded the next corner I saw a line of traffic with an ambulance and police cars ahead. A police officer was in the road, stopping traffic.

SR175 Closed

After about 10 minutes he came over and said the road would be closed for quite a while, and that we should turn around to find a different route.

I turned the car around and started driving back the way I’d come. About a quarter of the way back to where I started I turned one of the twisty turns and was faced with an oncoming truck straddling both sides of the road. I slammed on the brakes, sending everything in the car flying forwards. I saw the guy quickly snap his head back to the front and swerve onto his own side of the road just in time to avoid a collision.

My heart was racing after that. I started thinking how stupid it was that I just hit the brakes, but then I started thinking about how things would have turned out if I’d tried to swerve around him. Moving a couple of feet to the right would mean sending the car off a cliff, just like you see in action films, although hopefully without an explosion.

I’m pretty sure that’s the closest I have ever been to dying.

The detour added an extra couple of hours to the drive, and I ended up heading directly to the office, where I stayed from 17:15 until 07:00 the next day.

Quite an eventful day.


I’m updating because I’m in a house in which I don’t live, and the only other occupant is a child called Bjorn.

I’m literally responsible for this person right now. It’s not difficult because he’s asleep.

I don’t think I have ever been fully responsible for another person before in my entire life. Bjorn’s parents are heading to the hospital to give birth to Bjorn’s sibling. We met, briefly, in the hallway outside. I felt the edges of their focus on the situation at hand. Everything else must seem significantly less important in this situation.

That whole circumstance got new thinking about life, and the unusual situations you may find yourself in.

Right now, Bjorn is hopefully asleep, and probably dreaming about inconsequential things that he won’t remember tomorrow, or ever think about again. Meanwhile, I am on the sofa in the next room considering the entirety of existence simply because I’m on the fringes of the experience.

It’s a fascinating part of life that I have thus far been completely inexperienced in, excluding my own birth, and possibly a small presence after the birth of my sister.

I find myself just hoping that everything goes well, and wanting to take part in whatever activity can help the process go smoothly.

I look forward to hearing how well everything went and welcoming a new human being into this world as soon as possible. πŸ™‚

Promotion and relocation news

Today I got an email from my potential new manager in San Francisco. He told me that a better relocation package has been officially offered to me. It basically replaces my original relocation offer, which was just a lump sum. I would have needed to move myself to San Francisco, including buying flights, find somewhere to rent, etc. All of that (and more) should now be taken care of as part of my move.

I also got confirmation that my promotion is now officially going ahead in October. It’s taken two attempts and a significant amount of effort to get to this point, so to say I am happy right now is a massive understatement. Achieving a promotion at a company like Amazon is not something I thought I was capable of at many times over my life. To do so now has really made me feel proud of myself. It’s not something I feel comfortable saying, but in this case it’s just true. I feel like I’ve done well. πŸ™‚

In a couple of weeks Cheryl and I will be having our wedding in Nottingham. We’ll be surrounded by our family and friends, and everything just seems to be going so well right now. I keep expecting something to go wrong at any moment, and every time it gets better I’m flabbergasted.

Weddings and promotions and relocations. Oh my!

In May Cheryl and I got married (again) in Singapore. Cheryl’s family wanted a pretty big wedding that they could invite their family members, friends, and business associates to.

A surprisingly large number of our friends from the UK came over to Singapore to celebrate there. It was a lot of fun.

We got to stay in the Marina Bay Sands hotel. I booked us a suite on the 50th floor that came with a butler, a pool table, and many other nice little touches.

We’ll be having another wedding in a month, but this one will be in Nottingham so that more of my family can attend. We’re hiring out the University of Nottingham venue, and it seems like a nice place.

I’ve also been put up for a promotion here at Amazon. I’m hopeful that it’ll actually go through this time, and also hopeful that I’ll get to work on some bigger projects fairly soon.

There’s a good chance I’ll be working on bigger projects because I recently applied and got offered a job as a developer in San Francisco!

If everything works out correctly then Cheryl and I may actually move over there before the end of the year! πŸ˜€

It’s been a busy year so far, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down!

Sledging in the Alps

I’m writing this post on my phone cruising at 38000ft (~12km) on a late EasyJet flight from Munich to London.

Cheryl and I just spent 10 days visiting Simon (ps) at his apartment there.

It snowed for the first week we were there, but cleared up a bit towards the end of our stay.


We visited museums, ate and drank Bavarian things, went to a variety performance conducted in German, went bouldering, celebrated New Year, and even went sledging in the Alps.

I’ve never done any winter sports outside of ice skating, but I really wanted to go up the mountain.


It was a very fun experience. You go surprisingly fast and have fairly rudimentary control over your direction of travel.

On my second time down the mountain I was feeling a bit more daring since I hadn’t fallen off the first time.

I went around some corners on one sledge rail, barely stopped before the edge of the trail, walked up hills to give myself longer stretches at higher speeds, landed knee deep in snow beside the trail, and other such exhilarating things.

After a while I got to a really fast bit that I remembered from the first run. Rather than brake I put my feet on the rails and ducked down like I see bobsleigh teams do (mostly in Cool Runnings).

I went really fast, and then began losing control. The sledge went over onto one rail and then tipped me onto the floor, still going really fast.

I skidded along beside the sledge for a few seconds and ended up on my back, feet further up the hill than my head with my arm resting on the sledge. No pain, no worries.

I was smiling so much because it didn’t hurt or anything. It was just completely different from my normal life.

I just stayed on the floor looking up at the sky. There was a thin layer of wispy white clouds on the blue sky background. I gradually stopped breathing so hard and just listened. I couldn’t hear a single sound apart from the wind.

I stayed like that for a minute until I heard a plane. I spotted it flying overhead, the only other sign of humans.

Simon caught up a couple of minutes later and he was laughing at me on the floor before he checked if I was ok. πŸ™‚

It was an incredible experience that I hope I never forget.

Natwest ISA changes

I received an email from Natwest this morning. The headline in the email was that my ISA was changing. I immediately knew it wouldn’t be for the better.

Hooray, my ISA is changing!

Hooray, my ISA is changing!

Sure enough they’re lowering the interest I earn on my measly saving from near-zero to nearer-zero. Good news though, I won’t pay any tax on the tiny amount of interest I’ll earn.

Good to be Rich

If I had Β£25k in savings then I’d be eligible to keep the existing, higher interest rate. They’re making it harder to save up that amount of money, and easier on the people who already have. I must be old-fashioned to think a bank should endeavour to help all its customers equally, not just those who give it the most money to play around with.

Another trip to America

For the last three weeks I’ve been in the USA. I came here to support the launch of the FireTV Stick.

I started out with a week in Seattle where I met up with Rik, Trevor, Oana, Mark Morgan, and a few other people I know. It was a lot of fun to catch up. I enjoyed Seattle much more this time than last time. I think it helped that I knew more people.

The team I was working with were also pretty cool, which was nice. I even went out to a bar with a couple of them, which is surprising considering how hard it is to get people from the US to go out drinking after work normally. I think it helps that Seattle is a lot more walkable than some other places.

After the first week in Seattle I flew down to San Francisco airport and headed into the Sunnyvale offices for the actual launch. Everything went really smoothly, as expected. We spent a lot of time making sure we had a quality product before launch, so it was nice that it all went according to plan.

I met a few people I’ve met before, a few people I’ve spoken to on conference calls, and plenty of new people. Managed to go out for a few meals and a couple of drinks, which is great. I was staying in Cupertino for the week. I was about 2 minutes away from the Apple HQ on Infinite Loop. There’s really not a great deal going on in Cupertino at night, so I mostly stayed in my hotel room, or the hotel bar.

For the last week I’ve been staying at Matt and Yenling’s house in Fremont. They live right around the corner from Shaun, but it’s been Thanksgiving week, so I haven’t seen Shaun yet. Matt and Yenling are in Mexico at the moment, so I’ve got their place to myself, which is really cool, but kind of strange. With Cheryl being 8 hours behind I’m spending most of my time just watching shows, reading my book, or singing along really loud to old music. πŸ™‚

I spent last weekend in San Francisco with Serife from work. It was nice to have someone that I knew hanging around with nothing better to do. I got to play tour guide around SF. We walked over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito, as well as all over SF. We walked over 8 miles on one day, which gave me a blister. It was a lot of fun though.

In a week I’ll be on my way back to London. I’m kind of looking forward to getting back, although it’s hard to feel good about leaving a place where you can sunbathe in late November. πŸ™‚

Cheryl and I are flying to Munich on Boxing Day for just over a week. I’m really looking forward to going away with Cheryl again. It’ll be nice to spend some time together out of the normal situation. πŸ™‚

So yeah, thing are good!

Still here

Oh yeah, look at this, I still have a blog. I haven’t updated it for half a year, but here it is, and here I am.

A lot has changed in 6 months. Cheryl and I got our visa. Cheryl had to quit her job and become an overstayer in order to start a fresh application. We paid (still are paying) for a solicitor and also paid extra for a quicker application. It was all done within a few days. I wish we could have done that last time to save us 18 months of stress and uncertainty!

I turned 30 and my dad turned 60. I spent a lot of time considering those ages because when I was born my dad was 30 and his dad was 60. It’s always made me think that I would have a child when I was 30. It’s not possible any more though. It’s strange to feel bad about breaking that sort of chain, but neither Cheryl nor I want a child right now.

Cheryl and I celebrated our 1st anniversary last week! We’re in the middle of planning wedding celebrations and ceremonies in Singapore and Nottingham at the moment. It’s going to be expensive, but hopefully we’ll have some spare money for going on some holidays. Cheryl hasn’t left the country for a fairly long time now, so a getaway would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve moved teams at work. I still work for Amazon, but now I am a developer on the Fire TV Music team. It’s an Android app, so it’s quite different from what I was doing before, but somehow more inline with what I’ve done in my own time over the last few years.

That pretty much outlines the major changes over the last 6 months. I guess I’ll update in 2015. πŸ˜‰

Visa application and appeal process

Back in May I updated my blog saying that Cheryl’s visa appeal hearing was scheduled for August. Some time in August we got a letter saying that the hearing was going to be re-arranged for January. It was frustrating to find that out at such short notice, and it seemed weird that they only knew two weeks in advance that they had no space for 4 months, but what can we do about that?

January eventually turned up and Cheryl and I asked my dad and Rik to be witnesses at the hearing. Rik took a day off work and my dad travelled down from Mansfield for the night, both so they could give evidence to help us out.

We got to the hearing and discovered we were on a “float list” because our case was a simple one. We weren’t supported by a solicitor, so we went to the back of the line. We spent 6 hours sitting in a waiting room for the hearing to begin.

When we got in there the judge asked if my dad and Rik were there to give evidence, and we said yes. The judge asked everyone but Cheryl to wait outside, so we went into the hallway. After about 10 minutes they called me in to sit beside Cheryl.

The judge had asked Cheryl why we didn’t have a solicitor. Cheryl had told her that it was too expensive, and this is pretty much true. We thought our case was simple enough and we didn’t have Β£3000-5000 spare to pay for one when we organised the appeal.

The judge asked me about a bank statement we submitted with my train journeys on it. I’d submitted it because it showed that I used to buy a season ticket every month to get to work in Nottingham from Mansfield, but that the purchases stopped when Cheryl and I moved in together. She thought we’d submitted them to show that I was going to visit Cheryl. I corrected her for about 2 seconds at which point she dismissed me with a wave of her hand and changed the subject.

I don’t handle people being rude very well at the best of times, and I was pretty annoyed by her dismissal and lack of interest, but I couldn’t very well say anything because she’s a judge. Any argument would end up with our case being thrown out or something.

The judge then went on to state that since the home office had no representation and we had submitted new evidence that it would have to be sent to the home office. I asked if them not turning up had any repercussions for their side and, again, was dismissed in a very rude manner.

It’s extremely frustrating that after a year of waiting for this court date the home office didn’t even have to turn up. We spent a full year unsure of our future thanks to a shitty decision and had to spend 6 hours waiting to be all-but ignored by a judge and the people saying we are essentially lying didn’t even have to show up to prove their statements at all.

The judge didn’t ask to speak to my dad or Rik. We, somewhat naΓ―vely thought that was a good sign, as if she thought she required more evidence surely she would have asked for them to speak.

Fast-forward to today. We got a letter from the judge saying that she had ruled against us based on a lack of evidence. The very first paragraph of the letter refers to “refusing his application” which goes to show the care and attention put into these matters.

Later in the letter she gives an account of her conversation with me: “He was somewhat anxious [understandably] about the procedure and I explained that the situation was somewhat now[sic] because they were married and that I might send this back to the Secretary of State to look at the matter again as there was no Presenting Officer.”

The situation was somewhat what?

There’s also a couple of mentions of a tenancy agreement. As far as I can tell there were only two tenancy agreements included in the documents we submitted: the tenancy agreement for my house in Mansfield, and the tenancy agreement Cheryl had for Ropewalk Court. The judge states, twice, that “her name” does not appear on the tenancy agreement.

Of course Cheryl’s name appears on her own tenancy agreement, so perhaps the judge is talking of the tenancy agreement for my house in Mansfield, but Cheryl served as my witness on that document, so her name appears there too. The other pertinent information on that document is that I give my address as the same address Cheryl lived at in Nottingham. This is a mere month after the date we have to prove we lived together. Since the case is supposed to be judged on a balance of probabilities I thought this would easily sway it in our favour.

So, all in all it’s safe to say I’m generally upset about the lack of attention that has been given to various aspects of the case.

Cheryl and I are now faced with a decision of either appealing once again (potentially another year, or longer), or applying for a married partner visa, which must be done from outside the UK.

Neither one is a tempting prospect.