Heading to New York

Cheryl and I are on a plane about half way between Chicago and Detroit right now.

In just over an hour we’ll be landing in New York City.

We’re going to be there over New Year, which should be exciting. We’ve been advised not to bother going to Times Square at midnight, however. You have to stand around for several hours, unable to leave, unable to find a restroom, food, drinks, etc.

Cheryl already has a few meals booked, and we have a list as long as our arm for sights we’d like to see.

Looking forward to landing!

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.

Thinking of moving

Over the last few months while Cheryl has been applying for her visa we’ve spoken several times about the possibility of moving to Singapore together.

I enjoyed Singapore a lot when I visited last year, and I could definitely see me living there for a while. It opens up the possibility of Cheryl taking over her parents’ company, which would definitely help set her up for the future. I don’t know how much she’d enjoy the work, but with any luck she could take the business far enough that she didn’t have to run it day-to-day. That’s all speculation for another day though.

Since we spoke about it I’ve actually mentioned it to my boss at work. I’ve looked at Amazon jobs in Singapore to see if it would be possible to move internally and have a guaranteed job when I get there. The main issue with that option is that I don’t really know if I’m well-suited for, or interested in, the jobs on offer there at the moment.

I have also added my CV to JobStreet and have applied for a couple of interesting positions that I am confident I could do. I’m not convinced that I’ll get shortlisted for any though, as I’m not a citizen, or a permanent resident. Lots of the job advertisements specify that you have to be one of those two things before you can even apply.

It’s quite frustrating, but certainly not the end of the world.

We’ve been looking into the various visas on offer for me. It seems like I have several main options for an employment pass, which would be helpful, and then there’s also the option of getting married to open up other options.

I’d ideally like to stick out my current job for a while, get some experience in Java, more experience with Amazon on my CV, and save up some money so that I can afford to move to Singapore and find a job while I’m there, rather than finding one from here. I think it would be a lot easier, but obviously a lot more expensive.

So yeah, exciting times.

Singapore

I’ve been in Singapore for a couple of days now and I’m pretty much adjusted to the time change. I’ve got a couple of minutes, and almost everyone I know is asleep at the moment, so I figured I’d write a quick blog entry.

I’m really enjoying Singapore so far. It’s really hot even when it’s not so sunny, which is strange at first, but nice. I’ve tried all sorts of food for the first time. Most notably pig intestine (wtf?) and durian fruit. Durian is on my list of things to eat, so I’m glad I’ve ticked it off at last. It’s not at all how I imagined it to be. The smell is very off-putting, and the texture is like a slimey avocado. It’s a good job it tastes pretty nice. 🙂

I’ve eaten at places called hawker centres a couple of times. They’re sort of like UK market stalls, but more permanent. Sort of like the size of a garage. It’s really cheap to get food there. It cost about £1.50 for some noodles. That sounds expensive at first when you consider you can buy cheap crappy noodes for about 10p in a supermarket, but these are much nicer, and it comes with pork, fish cakes, and fish balls included too.

— Update

I originally intended to update this post with everything I did in Singapore, but I didn’t, and to go back and try to do so now would take me too long. I tried to do the same in Indonesia and made a bit of a better job because I was there for less time, but it’s still not quite complete. I’m just going to post them now for the sake of getting them out before they’re completely pointless.

Furthest I’ve ever been from home

When I went to California it was the furthest I’d ever been from where I called home (~5000 miles). Since then I haven’t been anywhere near that far away again, and I got back 7 years ago.

Well, tomorrow I’m going to go further. Singapore is just over a thousand miles further from home than California was. In 2 weeks I’ll go even further and visit Australia, a clear 10000 miles from home.

I’ve never been further south than California or further east than Latvia. I’m going to be going a significant distance further in each of those directions. 🙂 I will be in the southern hemisphere for the first time in my life. I wonder what it will be like to look up at the stars and not recognise them.

I think it’s going to be awesome. 🙂

Paris (smells)

Cheryl got her visa back at long last on Thursday. Straight away we spoke about jumping on the Eurostar and going to Paris. I’ve been wanting to do it for weeks.

When I got home on Thursday night we booked ourselves two tickets on the 06:52 to Paris Gare du Nord on two days later. Cheryl sorted out getting us some Euros from the Post Office on Friday and I set the alarm clock for 04:15. Never a nice experience.

We got up and ready in time and the journey to St. Pancras was easy because the tube is quite empty at 05:30. We went through security in about 5 minutes. I was surprised how fast it was compared to the difficulties of air travel.

We boarded the train nice and early and set off for Paris on time. We both napped a bit on the way. Some annoying middle-eastern businessmen woke me up with their 7AM heated debate on expenses (the only word I understood). I turned around and shushed them. Don’t bother Sleepy Stu.

I woke up in the channel tunnel. It’s not so exciting when you’re used to the underground. Cheryl woke up and didn’t believe we were already in France. It is SO fast!

We got to Paris and looked at all the delapidated buildings and graffiti. You’d think they’d put some effort in, but no.

We got away from Gare du Nord as soon as we could and headed into Montmartre for the Sacre Coeur. It was quite nice, but the surrounding area was like being in a shit area of some northern English city.

A short walk from Sacre Couer took us to Anvers metro station where we encountered the quietest, least helpful customer services person in the world. After a short disagreement between Cheryl and me we found our way to one of the platforms (not the one we planned, but we made it work).

The train we got on was fairly nice compared to some London trains. There are lights showing you which station you’re at and which ones are still left. There was also a guy playing violin on there. He was pretty good.

We gradually made our way to Le Champs Elysses and walked along it to l’Arc du Triomphe. There were some annoyingly loud people protesting about Orange outside the Orange store, but what else would you expect in France? I was just glad nobody was on strike for a change.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Just to the side of the arc was a road leading to the Eiffel Tower. We walked quite a long way down it before I spotted the top of the tower over a building. We were both hungry though, so we stopped for some lunch in a little café.

Being in Paris I of course went with a cheeseburger. Cheryl had a nice steak and we both had French French fries.

Once we’d finished with lunch we walked the towards the tower. We reached a place where we could see the river between us and we decided not to bother going any closer. Instead we walked along the Seine and found the spot where Princess Diana’s car crash happened.

We walked along the river more and more. We went as far as Le Louvre and then stopped in to admire the pyramids. We didn’t have a great deal of time and so we didn’t go in there.

We found our way back to the river via another little café and continued our trek to Notre Dame. It is a cool-looking building. 🙂

It was starting to get dark so we walked hack to the closest Metro station and caught a train to Gare du Nord. The stop on the metro is about a fucking mile from the actual train station entrance. That was confusing and annoying as it was getting dark.

We walked through a really shitty area of Paris to reach the station entrance. We went and got a sandwich and a drink so we’d have somewhere to sit in the station. To our disgust there was a woman in there who decided to change her babie’s soiled nappy while sitting at her table. She threw the used nappy into the bin next to some other unimpressed customers. Then we sat and watch the police stop and search a few folks outside the station. Nice.

The last hour in and around Paris really ruined the whole experience for Cheryl and me. I don’t think either of us plan to go back any time soon.

I honestly can’t believe Gare Du Nord was selected to be the arrival point for international rail to Paris. It stinks of piss, as do most of the metro stations and about 50% of the whole city.

Glad to be on the train back to London. It will never have felt so clean to me.

Tube Tales

One of the best and worst things about living in London is the massive underground system. Developed during the Cambrian age to transport the smaller dinosaurs to their offices palaeontologists maintain that the tunnels of the London underground system hold significant scientific value and are currently excavating several sites during the weekends.

But seriously, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the tube. It’s usually very impressive; there are frequent trains running on time to basically everywhere I could possibly want to go. It’s only when it goes wrong that I hate it. It’s not often, but when it happens it has a huge impact on everything because it’s only then that I realise how much I rely on it.

The people I encounter on the tube are a constant source of, well, mostly fear, but sometimes also amusement. I got on the District Line at Ealing Broadway yesterday with my colleague Rob. We got on and saw that the carriage was almost full, but there were 3 empty seats with a man sitting on the fourth by himself. We sat opposite him suspecting nothing. I looked up and noticed that the girl behind him and the guy opposite her were looking at me and laughing. At first I thought I had something on my face, or my hair sticking up or something like that. It’s quite disconcerting having strangers laughing at you and not knowing why. A few seconds later I learned the source of their delight. The guy we’d sat opposite started moving his head closer and closer to me, staring, trying to make eye contact. He kept repeating “Hello…. Hello…” and I avoided his uncomfortable attention. I ended up closing my eyes and resting my head in my hand. I could hear him still saying hello every few seconds for the rest of the journey, and when I dared to open my eyes I could see the people behind him laughing at me. I’ve never been so pleased to get off a train in my entire life.

This morning I got on the train with Cheryl as usual. I got all the way to Green Park without a hitch and then the driver announced that Bond Street was closed due to overcrowding. I got off at Green Park and waited for the next train after it was announced that Bond Street was open again. There wasn’t enough room to get on, so I waited another couple of minutes for the next train. I got on and the driver announced that the train was only going as far as White City. I decided to get off at Queensway rather than White City so that I could get on the train behind before everyone else did at White City. That plan went well enough and I got a seat before the train got crowded, but then the driver announced that the train was terminating at North Acton. That’s not a huge problem because that’s where I work, but it means that the train had to wait 5 minutes for another train to pull out of the middle platform and then I had to walk up the stairs and over the bridge to get out. I was 15 minutes later to work than usual. Not impressed.

Moved to London

Blimey, I’ve had a busy few days!

Cheryl came up to Nottingham last weekend to help me get the last of our things packed so that it was clear for me to move down with her. We spent a bunch of time sorting out our things and putting them in boxes and suitcases. I also had to sort out a whole bunch of things for the house I’m renting out on Crown Street because of a bunch of annoying plumbing stuff. I also spent a while seeing friends and family, and a few of my (now former) colleagues.

I didn’t really feel the same sense of everything being done for the last time that I felt before I moved to California, but I was a bit sad to see things for the last time out of a taxi window on the way to the train station.

The first day in London was Tuesday. It was fairly late when we got to St. Pancras so we just caught a taxi to the apartment and spent the night unpacking and getting ready to sleep in the lovely single bed.

On Wednesday we decided to go out and be tourists for a day. We needed a destination so I randomly picked Little Ben and we set off for a walk. We walked for about 3 hours or so and managed to see St. Paul’s Cathedral (about 5 minutes from the apartment), walk along the Thames, see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey complete with idiots in tents for the royal wedding, and then finally Little Ben! 🙂 It was a really nice day, and I believe I got a bit sunburned.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Little Ben

We went back out a little bit after getting back from the walk to pick up some pillows, pillow cases, and a blanket for the inflatable mattress I brought along with me.

I inflated the mattress when I got back and sorted out all the other bedding stuff. The blanket turned out to be a bit too small, and the fricking mattress decided to deflate during the night. I woke up at least 3 times and gave up on “camping” at about 5am. I got into the single bed with Cheryl and a short while later she got out and slept on the mostly-deflated mattress. I told her not to, but a single bed is not a comfortable place for two people.

A short while later we woke up and started to make plans for the day. Cheryl wanted to make sure that we got a drying rack for the laundry, so we reserved one from Argos near Old Street. They offered to deliver it within 90 minutes for about £5 or so. As tempting and awesome as that was we decided to go and pick it up ourselves. Before we could pick that up from Argos we had to go and look at some furniture in a show home so that we could pick things for the new apartment (currently expected to be complete in June).

When we found the Argos on Old Street we were both pretty hungry, so we went to a pub and grabbed some lovely food. While we were sitting there a NAVTEQ car stopped at the lights beside us with a camera mounted on the top and this weird bit revolving constantly. So I assume that means Google Maps for London will be updated soon. Cheryl and I were sitting in the pub by the side of Bunhill Row near Old Street. 🙂

We bought the drying rack from Argos, and I also bought a new blanket and cover for it so that I could sleep better. Then we headed home and watched Stargate SG-1 for a couple of hours. 😀

Prague

The other week I went on my first holiday with Cheryl. It was also my first holiday with Dave and Hayley. Here is a bit of a run-down of how the whole thing went.

On Wednesday I finished work at 5pm and went back to Cheryl’s to get everything ready. We left the flat in the evening and caught a bus to Mansfield so we could stay at Dave and Hayley’s house. We had a bit of food while we were there and the drinking got underway too.

We woke up early on Thursday and got ready nice and quickly. We set off on the way to the airport at 8:56 and got as far as Glapwell before turning around and going back because Dave forgot his coat(!) and Hayley forgot her toothbrush (Chris Evans would not be impressed). We set off for on the way to the airport at around 9:20-something and didn’t have to turn around again. The journey there was fairly easy. There were a few moments where I thought Hayley was going to have a heart attack as lorries closed us in a horrible moving tunnel of death, and Dave was going to have a heart attack because of Hayley, but it wasn’t so bad.

The car was parked in a big car park and we caught a bus to the terminal. We went through security and stuff and then sat down for some food. We thought we had plenty of time, but within a couple of minutes of them announcing which gate we should go to they were giving the final call. We ran the last part of the way to the gate only to find the doors weren’t even open and we were at the back of a huge queue.

Once we’d gone through the regular hassle of getting on a bus to be taken 40 metres to the plane we got on and found that people had taken all of the space in the overhead lockers. My bag ended up at the other end of the plane, Dave and Hayley had theirs somewhere in the middle, and Cheryl’s had to go into the hold. I could go on about how this wouldn’t be an issue if they didn’t charge so much to bring a case in what must often be a 75% empty luggage compartment, but I won’t.

The flight was pretty short, which is a good thing because the seat was not very comfortable. I managed to fall asleep for a few minutes and when I woke up my neck ached because of the rubbish seat.

When we got to Prague airport we had to wait a couple of minutes for Cheryl to get through the passport check point because the person she was being served by didn’t know if a visa was required, but we all knew it wasn’t. While Cheryl was waiting on the other side of the barrier Dave grabbed her bag from the carousel and then we pretended we were still waiting for it when Cheryl joined us. It took her a few seconds to notice that Dave was holding it.

We left the airport nice and quickly and stepped out into the freezing cold Czech day to find a taxi into the city. We got one at the front of the queue and started the last part of our journey. The view from the taxi was quite bland and grim-looking, but I guess that’s what it looks like when your country is freezing cold for 6 months of the year (even more than England!).

We checked in at the hotel, found our rooms, and set down our bags. It was nice not to have to pull them around any more.

After a little while we got ready, took some of our money, and headed into the city under cover of darkness. We were half way to the National Museum when Dave decided to cross the road in front of 3 or 4 lanes of traffic just as they started to move. He ran and the rest of us stayed on the pavement like normal people. We walked a bit down the road, crossed safely, then walked back to the end again and continued the journey to the museum. It looked absolutely awesome with all the lights on it and we took some pictures before realising it was too cold to just stand there.

We walked back towards the hotel for a minute and decided to go into a hotel/restaurant called Mušketýr. It was set mostly underground and was nice and dark with a really warm log fire. We had some drinks and some nice food and then decided we should move on to another place because it was a bit quiet and we were a bit loud.

Then I got bored of writing this blog post and got busy with moving to London and completely couldn’t be bothered to write it any more, so instead I posted another incomplete post about a holiday. I’ll include the random list of things that I was going to write about so that you can fill in some of the very exciting gaps for yourself.

Rocky O’Reilly’s
Singing along with Liverpool fans
Astronomical clock + old square
Little garden place just off the square with weird statues
Hard Rock Cafe
Tacky tourist shops
Book shop
New Yorker
Van Graaf
Zoo + shit restaurant
Chillis
Stags Russian dolls
Restaurant near the hotel
Strip club
Museum
The Pub
Mr. Krakoviel (crack a feel) missing the flight

That was easy.

Trip to London

On Friday Cheryl went to London for a second interview with a company. It seems to have gone quite well, and she should hear back about the possibility of getting the job in the next day or two.

We decided to spend the weekend in London, so I caught a train down there after I finished work. I decided to go First Class because it was only £8 more. It was totally worth it because I could plug in my laptop and connect to the WiFi. The connection wasn’t great, but it was better than having to use my phone the entire time.

When I got to London I headed over to London Bridge and then walked along to the restaurant where Cheryl and her friends were. We stayed in there until fairly late just chatting about random things, and then we headed over to Pudding Mill Lane to stay with Emma (JonP was away for the weekend). It was fairly late and we were all really tired, so we basically went straight to sleep.

The next day I was woken up before 8am by JonP’s alarm clock. I couldn’t find the button to turn it off in my sleepy state so I ended up snoozing it for an hour and then being woken up again. I’m kind of glad for the alarm though, as I could quite possibly have just slept the day away otherwise.

When we were all ready we headed to Canada Water to look at an apartment that Cheryl’s parents are interested in buying. The marketing suite was open and they had a selection of drinks and nibbles for us to eat while we looked around. After a bunch of looking around and Cheryl talking to her parents we decided that we’d done enough stuff there, and we were hungry for breakfast.

We headed over to Canary Wharf to get Mexican breakfast (after lunch time) at Wahaca. I had a chipotle chicken quesdailla, and a steak burrito. The quesdailla is the nicest one I’ve had in the UK, but still not quite what I miss about California.

After that Cheryl and Emma did a bit of shopping while I played with my phone on a bench outside the shop. Cheryl and I decided we should head off to the hotel and let Emma get on with some rehearsal stuff.

We caught the tube over to Old Street and then walked over to Thistle City Barbican hotel. The hotel room was nice enough. Perhaps a bit old-feeling. Some of the paint on the wooden bath-side was flaking off, but it’s a tiny detail, really.

I decided I needed a nap before we went back out to meet up with Emma for food and drinks, so I fell asleep while Cheryl cried along to My Girl on the TV!

I woke up after a fairly short amount of time and then got ready to go out for food. We walked to Angel station to catch the tube and met up with Emma again when we got to Covent Garden we set off for a restaurant called Rossopomodoro (easy to remember). We found the place and got there just after Emma. The meal was nice. I did find a dead fly in it at one point though, so that kind of put me off. I suppose it can happen anywhere though.

After the meal we went to a pub down the road to meet Emma’s friend James for some drinks. We only had chance to get 2 drinks before the bar staff started to close down the whole bar. It was full of paying customers and they were kicking everyone out at about 10:45 on a Saturday night. Oh well.

We went our separate ways and then Cheryl and I decided to get a taxi back to the hotel to avoid the tube for a while. It ended up costing about £8, but it was much easier than the tube.

We woke up fairly early on Sunday morning and went downstairs to get breakfast. We got a table right away and we were offered tea and coffee as soon as we sat down. Our breakfasts were nice, and the orange juice was extremely strong. None of the weak stuff we got in the hotel in Prague (still writing that blog post).

After breakfast we went back up to the hotel room intent on killing time until we had to check out at 12. Cheryl spoke to her mum about the house they were looking at buying and so we agreed that we would head over to the development to speak to the marketing staff again. We left our bags in the hotel to collect later on. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to, but it was fine, and saved a lot of hassle. After a little while with the marketing people (no free champagne or chicken this time) we headed off to go to the Korean Restaurant that Cheryl and I went to before near the Holborn tube station. We got all the way there only to find that it is closed on Sunday lunch times. A bit silly for a restaurant, I think.

We walked around aimlessly for a little while and then ended up going to Samurai Sushi just over the road from the tube station. We got some bits of sushi and ate them, but it wasn’t particularly filling. While we were eating I spotted Krispy Kreme’s over the road. As soon as we’d finished eating we went over there and bought a dozen doughnuts. 🙂

We walked to Drury Lane and then headed to Leicester Square. The whole park bit of the square is under construction, so there was nothing much to see there. We were heading for Rendezvous for ice cream though, so it didn’t matter. We got some ice cream and ate it slowly to kill some more time. Cheryl decided that she wanted to show me China town, as it was right around the corner, so we walked there. We walked up to a Singapore/Malay food place and Cheryl reminisced about all the things she couldn’t get in Nottingham, so we decided to go in. Cheryl had a bowl of soupy stuff and I had a Tiger Beer.

There wasn’t much time left after we’d done that, so we went back to the hotel to get a drink in the bar there and pick up our luggage.

There was a taxi outside the hotel so we caught that to St. Pancras to avoid carrying our luggage for 20 minutes. We were really early for the train, so we just stood around and chatted until they opened the gate for us.

I was a bit worried when we were looking for our carriage because it was coach J. I could see that the train wasn’t quite that long, but when we got to the end of coach G we saw that they’d decided not to include coaches H or I for some weird reason.

The journey back was pretty nice, and it was good to be back home before it was too late at night. Another successful trip to London! 🙂