Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Saturday, just after noon, I caught the train out to Richard and Elizabeth's house, to spend the weekend with them. I had a wonderful weekend, catching up with them, and them with me, and wandering around the coast taking photos. On Saturday afternoon, the weather was quite nice, so we drove to Maldon
, and walked down the pier, taking photos of the Thames barges, and the statue of Brithnoth, an Anglo-Saxon defender, killed when the Vikings invaded in 991.
On Sunday, during a bit of break in the rain, we drove to Tollesbury and took some more photos of boats and such around there.
I was also introduced to Elizabeth's two new hens, and acquainted with what "henpecking" really is. All in all, it was a very pleasant weekend.

Starbucks Sucks

I've discovered something interesting since I got here. I used to think I liked Starbucks coffee, but it turns out I was wrong! What I really liked was lots and lots of cream (not milk) and sugar in my coffee. Back home, I put so much cream and sugar in it, I could barely taste the coffee. When I got here, and met Richard and Elizabeth in the airport, they offered to get a coffee for me, to help me with the jet lag. I got a white americano, with sugar, which is the closest you can generally order to the way I used to drink coffee. A white americano is watered down espresso, with milk added. Milk, mind you, not cream. Despite having much less cream and sugar than I was used to, it was quite tasty, and I ended up going to the same coffee chain (Costa Coffee) again, and tried one without any sugar in it, and found it quite palatable. I've been drinking my coffee like that since, but one morning when walking to work, I took a slightly different route, and didn't see anywhere terribly appealing to get coffee, so I popped into the Starbucks close to my office. I ordered a white americano, and nearly spit out my first sip. It's horrible! Not only is it not nearly as tasty as everywhere else I've been, but they do their coffee so hot you have to let it cool down before drinking it, or you'll burn your mouth to a crisp! Everywhere else serves it hot, but not scorchingly so. I can't believe I've been drinking that stuff for so long.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nearly Set

I've nearly got my abode set up to my satisfaction. On the weekend, I bought an LCD screen, computer case, mouse, and keyboard, in order to put my desktop computer together, with the parts I'd brought with me from Canada. Sunday evening, when I finally sat down to start putting everything together, I discovered, much to my dismay, that I had no SATA cables, so I couldn't connect my hard drive or DVD drive. Everything else is all connected and ready to go, except for that. How frustrating. I also realized that since the internet in the house is wireless, I would need a wireless card for my desktop, something I've never needed before. The last (I hope) missing item was speakers. Since I've been there, I've been listening to my music on my laptop, with the built in speakers, so when I start using my desktop, I'll need speakers so I can listen to music. No sense, I figured, in buying some chintzy little speakers I'd want to replace in a couple months, so I bought some nice surround speakers like I had back home, so my music will sound good.
I may not actually be able to get everything set up tonight though, as Giuseppe has invited me out with he and his friends to a pub where one of them is going to be playing guitar, and as much as I do want to get my computer up and running, it'll be there tomorrow, so I'll probably go out with Giuseppe and company tonight instead.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Alive!

My laptop locked up solid the other night in Linux. The CPU had been running a tad hot, and the fan was coming on very frequently, and running for quite a while even when the laptop was just idle, so I suspected it might have something to do with cooling problems. I suspected that the fan and heatsink would be full of cat hair. So, I did what any self respecting geek would do, and took my laptop apart. I had no idea it would have so many screws! After getting it apart, I found very little hair, but did find that it looks like the thermal compound on the CPU heatsink was pretty cooked. I bought some good old Arctic Silver after work today, and proceeded to put my laptop back together. I'm typing on it now, so the good news is that it works! It remains to be seen yet if this actually fixed the problem or not, but so far, I don't notice any ill effects. The temperature does seem to be staying more stable, with the fan coming on less often, and for shorter periods of time, but it's a bit early yet to tell.
In other news, when I got home from work today, my Italian flatmate was just starting to cook dinner, and insisted that I join him. It was quite tasty, some basic Italian food, and the conversation was wonderful. It was really nice to be able to come home and have someone to talk to.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Studio

As I mentioned a week ago, I have a place to live now. I'm just wrapping up my first weekend that I've been in this place, and that I've had the freedom to come and go as I please, under my own power, which has gone a hugely long way to making me feel more at home here. It also shortens my daily commute from 3.5 hours to 2 hours (round-trip), which has had a rather restorative effect on my sanity. As you may have guessed from my post on the 11th, I was pretty stressed out, and my grip on sanity was tenuous at best.
My new place is a studio on the ground floor of a 3 floor house. I have my own shower and kitchen, but I share the toilet and bathroom sink with the rest of the house, who also has another full washroom of their own. As it's happened, the toilet on the ground floor, just outside my room, is pretty much my own. My bedroom is enormous by British standards (and actually bigger than either of the rooms in my old place on 19th), but it's also my living room, so it's a bit like the batchelor pad basement suite I had in Surrey, years ago. I also have a small back garden area, which will be nice this summer, I expect. It faces west, so it'll get evening sun, which is much more useful to me than morning sun. My bedroom window also faces that direction, so I won't have morning sun shining in on me.
The area I'm in is beautiful, which I went into a little bit in the previous post. It has all the amenities I'll likely need right close by. I have two different routes I can commute, both of which involve both bus and tube, and both of which take about an hour, door-to-door, with a short stop to get a coffee and muffin on the way to the office. I'm in Chiswick, quite close to Acton, with a park across the street. The road I'm on is a dead-end road, so the traffic is light. I don't want to post the actual location in such a public location.
There are, I think, 5 other rooms in the house. In the house at the moment are Carmen (Portuguese), Yan (Chinese), Guiseppie (Italian), Wendy (British), and I think one other girl named Maria who I haven't seen much of. Guiseppie is moving out at the end of April, so I don't know who will be moving into his room. I could end up in a house of all women, which frankly is rather terrifying. They're all fairly quiet people, which is nice, but friendly and sociable too. I think I'll be quite happy here.
It's getting a bit late now, so I'm going to go try to round up something to eat (I haven't had dinner yet,) before heading to bed.

Three Weeks in London

It's been nearly three weeks since I landed in the UK. I've been taking notes since I arrived of all sorts of differences I've noticed, big or small. There are lots of huge differences, but it's all the small ones that continue to amuse me, and remind me that despite speaking the same language (well, sort of,) I really am in a foreign country.

I think the biggest single difference is in size. While London may be huge, everything here is small. Roads are unbelievable narrow, but people drive smaller cars too. Inside buildings, things are smaller too. Narrow hallways, smaller beds (hardly anyone has a queen size bed) and smaller bedrooms, smaller bathrooms, with everything crammed in, and hardly an inch between one's knees and the wall when sitting on the toilet. People over here are smaller too, or at least thinner, I've noticed very few overweight people. I was on the underground a few days ago, and saw a somewhat overweight couple trying to get onto the train, before deciding there wasn't room. One of them had a camera around their neck, and when they started talking to each other, just outside the open doors, I realized they were American tourists.

Traffic moves faster too. Speed limits are higher, and people don't give as much room as they do in Vancouver. The size of the gaps people will squeeze their cars into, when parking or merging, are just minuscule. The shoulders on roads are smaller too, and the lanes seem narrower. Driving down the country roads, passing people going the other direction, there's often only inches between the two cars, and they're both travelling at 60 mph! It's terrifying as a pedestrian, because cars will come out of nowhere, and in the wrong lane than I'm used to. When I first got here, I felt like (and rightly so, I think) I was playing Russian roulette just trying to cross the street. I've got it figured out now though, and I've only been nearly hit once.

The key word, other than "small", I think is "margins." The margins are smaller. There isn't as much room between anything, be it passing cars, the people on the tube, or the road and the sidewalk. (By the way, they call sidewalks "pavements" here, which makes more sense out of the phrase "pounding the pavement.")

The buildings here are predominantly made of brick. I've never seen so many bricks in one place anywhere, it's just unbelievable. Houses, offices, you name it, bricks. I don't know where it all comes from. It does mean London is more of a sprawl than Vancouver though. Being bounded by the Georgia Straight, the Burrard Inlet, the Coast Mountains, the Fraser River, the American border, and especially downtown being on a peninsula, Vancouver has been constrained, and has grown upwards much more than London seems to have. While there are certainly exceptions, most of the buildings in London are quite short. I suspect a lot of that also has to do with the age of the buildings, and the building technologies available at the time they were built, but London also doesn't seem to have any geographical constraints on it's growth like Vancouver does.

London also has a lot more green space than I was expecting. The neighbourhood I live in, Chiswick, has parks everywhere. Every time I leave the house for more than 30 minutes, I seem to discover a new park somewhere. Even where there aren't parks, the streets in my neighbourhood are lined with trees. It reminds me a lot of the area I lived in last in Vancouver, actually.

There's also a lot of shopping nearby. Chiswick High Street has loads of shops on it, and that's only a 15 minute walk away. A 15 minute bus ride in the opposite direction takes me out to Ealing, with lots of shops there, and another 10 minutes or so to Ealing Broadway, which again has loads of shops. So far it seems that anything I'm likely to need is no more than 30 minutes away. Not that I'm at all interested in it myself, but there's a lot of brick & mortar gambling places around! Ladbrokes, Totesport, Bet Fred, etc. There seems to be at least one on nearly every street of shops.

Finding my way around has been a bit of a challenge. London has no logic whatsoever to it's layout. It's as if someone took a big bucket of roads, shook it up, and dumped it on the ground and said "There, that's London." It's a complete mess! It's completely organic, no pre-planned grid layout, except in some very small localized chunks. I'm quite surprised my sense of direction is holding up as well as it has been, given the lack of regular street layout for reference. That said, I haven't yet gotten properly lost. With my trusty A-Z in my pocket, I've been able to find my way everywhere I've wanted to get to, despite the lack of street signs. Street names aren't posted on poles on the corner of roads, like I'm used to. They're usually posted up high on one of the buildings on the corner, or occasionally down low on the side of a stone fence, but they're frequently not posted anywhere, which makes figuring out exactly where I am quite difficult at times. Thankfully, most bus stops and tube stations have street maps posted outside them, and those can be invaluable direction finding aids.

There are so many vehicles here I've never seen in Canada, and despite watching Top Gear, haven't even heard of. I've seen three TVR's so far, one of them actually rumbling down the road. Boy was it loud, but it sure sounded like power! The police vehicles are so different too. Where I'm used to seeing police driving powerful V8's, most of the police cars I've seen here are little tiny European vehicles of one sort or another, though I have seen a few BMW police cars. All the emergency vehicles here have blue and white lights. There's two types of taxis here too. Minicabs, and black cabs. I've been told you can't just flag down a minicab, you have to call the company's number and arrange to be picked up. If you want to flag one down, you have to flag down a black cab, which are much more expensive. They're all Rolls Royce's!

One thing that really shocked me to see at first was people drinking alcohol in public. That's perfectly legal here (though there are areas where it's not allowed.) I saw some guy drinking a Fosters on the tube one evening, and I've seen huge crowds of people standing on the sidewalks outside pubs with pints of beer in their hands. I'm not talking about a fenced of patio either, like back home, but just plain out on the sidewalk. You can also buy liquor pretty much anywhere, be it a supermarket, or just your local corner store.

Finding a toilet here is harder though. In Vancouver, it was a pretty safe bet that I could walk into any old Starbucks and use the can there. Not so here. Most of the coffee shops I've been into don't have a toilet for customers. There are public toilets scattered around, thankfully, and all the pubs I've been in have toilets, but they frown on you using them unless you're a paying customer.

Everything about the electrical system here is weird. About the only thing the same is that it's AC. It's 240 Volts, instead of 110. It's 50 Hz instead of 60. The ground pin is on the top of the outlet, not the bottom. Light switches operate upside-down as well, and they don't stick out like a toggle switch like ours, they're more of a rocker switch. Everything has a ground pin on it too, even it's a plastic pin. The outlets are set up in such as way as to have the other two holes blocked until the ground pin has been put in, so the ground pin is a bit longer, and is required, to open the doors on the other two pins. Also, most outlets have a switch on them, right next to the outlet. I suspect this might have something to do with the amount of spark arcing you get at 240v, so you have the outlet turned off when you plug anything in to avoid that. Also, most household (as opposed to business) washrooms I've been in have a pull-string lightswitch hanging from the ceiling, instead of a switch on the wall.

Coffee shops and such all have two prices for most things: Take away vs eat in. Eat in prices are more expensive, because they include VAT, whereas to take food out, you don't pay VAT on some things. Most coffee shops also don't have "regular" coffee, the stuff brewed in a slow drip machine. Americano's are the closest thing in most places.

Londoner's two biggest things to complain about are the weather, and the public transit system. Sound familiar, Vancouverites? The weather here has been interesting. It's not that much different than Vancouver, so far, temperature wise at least. The rain here comes as more of a fine mist than a downpour, so it's quite humid, but there's less overall precipitation. The temperature in the underground has been much warmer usually than at street level, so it's hard to dress appropriately for the day.

There are so many languages and accents here, it's incredible. Vancouver may have a lot of that, but London's got it in spades. I was sitting at the kitchen table with two of my flatmates, and the boyfriend of one of them this evening. There were four accents at the table: Canadian, Portuguese, Northern England, and Midlands. I can't figure out where people are from yet, but I've certainly been noticing the differences in accents between Brits from different parts of the country. There's also a lot more people here with blue eyes, especially lots of blue eyed guys. Just one more small difference that keeps surprising me.

Well, that's about it about London and it's people. I'm doing well, now that I have somewhere of my own to live. I've got some dishes, some pots and pans, a bed, towels, a couch... it's starting to look and feel like a home.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Problem solved?

It appears I may have a place to live. One of the places I looked at today fit the bill nicely, and I'm going back into London again on Sunday (it's going to be a zoo because of the marathon) to sign the contract and give him my deposit. I'll post some more details once that's done, and the deal is sealed.
Thanks for the secret weapon Ben, I suspect it helped a lot with this place.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sick, Tired, and Homeless.

It's not all as bad as the title makes it sound. I apologize for not having blogged in a while, but you'll have to bear with me for a while longer, as I really haven't had any time to sit down and just gather my thoughts, and write a blog post, or an email that I've been desperately wanting to write, to let you all know how I'm getting on.
However, at the moment, staying with my relatives outside London (I say "homeless" because it's their home, not mine, so I don't have a "home" yet,) the commute has been killing me. Here's a typical day so far:
7:30 Wake up
8:15 Get Richard or Elizabeth to drive me to the train station
8:30 Arrive at North Fambridge train station
8:34 Get on the train
9:34 Get off the train in London, Liverpool Street station
9:40 Get on the tube, Central line, westbound
9:50 Get off the tube at Oxford Circus
9:55 Get a coffee (real coffee, not decaf)
10:00 Arrive at office
~12:30 Have lunch
6:00 Leave office
6:00-9:00 Travel all over London to go look at rooms for rent
9:34 Get on train at Liverpool Street
10:20 Transfer to different train at Wickford
10:34 Get off train and into waiting vehicle (Richard or Elizabeth again)
10:50 Arrive back at house
10:50-11:30 Look at flats online, sent emails to arrange to look at them
11:30 Fall into exhausted sleep
As you can see, the only thing resembling free time in there at all is when I'm on the train (thankfully there's always seating, so I'm not standing), and in the morning I'm still half asleep, and in the evening, I'm completely exhausted from pounding the pavement for 3 hours looking at places. I have 2 more to look at tomorrow (Saturday), but so far, all the ones I've looked at have either been dumps, people I don't really want to live with, or, the ones I've liked, there's been so much competition, and they've selected other people. I really hope one of the ones I look at tomorrow works out, because I need to shorten this 3.5 hour (round-trip) so that I can actually have some time to relax, get over this cold, and then start getting out to explore London and meet people. I won't feel anything like comfortable in this country until that happens.
Thank you SO much for the support, all you who have emailed, blog commented, or IM'd me these past couple weeks. It's very comforting to know that even though I'm feeling a bit alone and isolated here, you're still thinking about me. I promise some more blogging and some personal emails once I've gotten settled here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

First week in England

The remainder of my first week here in England has been fantastic. To start things off, I had two job interviews on Thursday, both of which went wonderfully. I felt like I had done an acceptable job of impressing them, and when I spoke to my recruiter, he said they were quite happy with how the interviews had gone. The first company I interviewed with wanted to arrange for another interview on Tuesday with their development team manager. The 2nd company I interviewed with, Flirtomatic, made me an offer on the spot. I was rather torn, because it came down to a choice between what I felt would be a more fun working environment at Flirtomatic, and the higher salary at the other. After a bit of negotiation, which my recruiter did an excellent job of managing for me, I said I'd think on it over the weekend, and make a decision on Tuesday, after I'd been back for a 2nd interview at both places. On Friday afternoon, I had an interview with a 3rd company, however, after that interview, I realized that I had my heart quite set on the job at Flirtomatic, and there was really no sense in procrastinating any. After checking in with my dad to make sure I wasn't being too rash, I called them up and accepted the offer. I start my new job right away, on Monday.

While I was wandering around the neighbourhood on Friday, before the interview, I checked out some of the electronics stores along Tottenham Court Road, which seems to be the place for that sort of thing. I visited Yoyo Tech, which seems to be London's equivalent of NCIX, though with only one store, and they were able to hook me up with a power cable for my laptop's power adapter with the proper British mains plug, so I don't have to carry the adapter for the laptop any more. I expect I'll be seeing a lot more of the inside of that store over the coming months.

This weekend was quite nice and relaxing, which was good, because I discovered on Saturday that I was quite exhausted. All the pressure of trying to find work and accommodation, of adjusting to the timezone change, and of coping with the overall experience of moving to a new country finally caught up with me a bit, and left me feeling rather tired. Richard and Elizabeth showed me a bit of the surrounding countryside on Saturday. We drove up to a little town called Snape, in Suffolk, for lunch in a nice local pub after browsing the farmer's market at the Snape Maltings. While I was there, I picked up 3 bottles of beer from a local microbrewery, after trying the samples of them. Lunch in the pub was fantastic. I had the best fish & chips I think I've ever had, and Richard had what he says is the best lamb stew he's every had. Elizabeth had something with crab, though I'm not sure what the dish was called. I tried sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream for dessert, and quite liked it. I also had a pint of the local bitter with my lunch, which was tasty, but didn't help much with my sleepiness situation. I nearly fell asleep in the back of the van after that.

The next stop after Snape was Lavenham, which my sister also visited, with all it's tilted houses (photos to come eventually.) We spent an hour or two just wandering around the village, which was nice, though it was a bit chilly out. We came home after that, and after a bit of chatting in the living room, I decided to get an early night, which I certainly needed.

On Sunday morning, Rebecca came over for a visit. It was wonderful to see her, as I think we were both something like 8 years old last time we saw each other. We all had some wonderful apple cinnamon pancakes for breakfast, with real Canadian maple syrup on them, which was a nice touch of home. We relaxed around the house for most of the rest of the day, with Rebecca and I making one short trip out to Tesco to pick up some milk and bread, and we ran into her boyfriend Ian while we were there. This is particularly amusing because I've been here less than a week, while Richard has yet to meet Ian after, oh, let's just call it "a while", and leave it at that. It was a fun trip in her peppy little Fiesta ST, one of the many wonderful small cars here we just don't get in the North American market. Sunday dinner was a delicious lamb roast, which was local, with all local vegetables. There's so much food grown in the area that it seems like one can buy almost all ones produce locally.

I'm going to look at another room in a house for rent on Tuesday evening, after work. I decided that leaping into the only place I've looked at probably isn't a good idea, without at least checking out a couple other places that sound good. The one on Tuesday actually sounds a big better, as far as location, at least, though it will of course depend a lot on the roommates as well. Until I actually find a place, I'll be having to leave here at 8:15am in order to catch the 8:34 train into London. That should get me to the office around 9:45am, which will hopefully be acceptable until I find a place closer. The return trip is just as long, so that means a total of 3 hours each day commuting. As you can imagine, I'm eager to find a place as soon as I can, so I can cut that down to less than 45 minutes each way.

My commute on Wednesday will be a 'bit' early, unfortunately. Richard and Elizabeth have to be somewhere early on Wednesday morning, so I'm getting a ride to the station with their neighbour, who leaves to catch the train at 6:55am. If I go straight to work once I get into London, that will mean getting to work shortly before 8am. I certainly hope I don't need to do that terribly often.

I'm quite looking forward to my first day of work tomorrow. It's been a week since I've really done anything technical, so it'll be nice to start getting back into the swing of things.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

First day in London

Due to exhaustion, I'm not going to write much just at the moment.
Executive summary of the day:

  • Found locations of tomorrow's interviews
  • Got a bank account set up
  • Had bangers & mash for lunch, with an Irish cider
  • Explored the area around the potential jobs
  • Explored the area around my potential flat
  • Visited the flat, and met some of my potential flatmates
I successfully navigated both the London underground network, as well as the National Rail overground system, which was no small feat. I didn't miss a single connection, or end up on the wrong train once, which I'm quite proud of.

First day in the UK

Now that I've arrived and settled in a bit, I'm finally finding some time to
try to get my thoughts organized. It's been rather overwhelming.
I'll tell it all right from the beginning, or at least what I consider to be
the beginning of the trip.

At around 10:45 on Monday, a truck arrived and picked up the storage with
nearly all my worldly possessions in it. It was loaded onto the back of the
truck by a little crane, and then it drove away. Not long later, after my
parents and I had finished loading everything into my sister's truck, which was
actually a rather tight squeeze, we headed off to the airport with myself

Everything went very smoothly, right up until the point where I
loaded my suitcase onto the scale at the check in counter. I was told the bag
was too heavy, which I had fully expected. I asked how much I would need to
pay for the extra weight. She then clarified that the bag was not just over my
overall baggage allowance, but that the contract with the baggage handlers had
a 30kg limit per bag as well, so it was simply impossible for me to get my bag
on the plane. I was furious. There was no mention on Zoom's website of a
per-bag limitation. I did my best not to get angry at the poor woman behind
the counter, but I'm afraid I may not have succeeded. My dad suggested he
empty their suitcase, so I could transfer some things into it, so that's what
we did. He went back to the truck, emptied their suitcase, and brought it back
into the airport for me to pack. I was thankful my bag had an expandable
section, which was expanded, or my computer parts and such would have been
rattling around loose, which would not have been good. After repacking
everything, we went back through the check in (we had separate check in booths
with a shorter line, courtesy of the premium ticket I bought) and weighed in at
41 kg, 3 kg heavier than I was originally, so it cost $30 more, but it had to
be done.

Baggage woes over with, I was starving, so we walked over to the food court and
I had some pizza (Hawaiian, since I hear it's a west-coast thing), and then had to go get into the lineup for security, in case
it took a while. I said goodbye to my parents there, and bravely turned the
corner and walked into my adventure with my head held high. The lineup at
security was pleasantly short, so it didn't take long at all. One security
guard asked me to remove the laptop from the bag, and put it in a separate tray.
She commented "nice laptop, is that Porsche?" When I arrived
at gate D66, as indicated on my ticket, I was surprised to see it listing some
Hong Kong flight, so I checked the departures board. My flight had been
switched to D67, so I wandered over there and found a seat. It was only about
20-30 minutes of waiting before boarding began, but we were informed that due to
"airport facilities", premium class would be boarding last, which was fine by
me. I just had to concentrate on staying awake, because I had been dozing off
in the seats there. My plan to stay up late so I'd be tired enough to sleep on
the flight seemed to be working.

Once on the plane, I was even more pleased I had upgraded to premium. The seats
were much more comfortable looking than the regular ones, and they were spaced
much farther apart, so I had a decent amount of legroom. The only downside of
my seat is that, being at the front, with only a bulkhead in front of you,
there's no way to "store your baggage under the seat in front of you" as they
instruct you to, and the overhead compartment above me has emergency equipment
in it, so my bags and jacket ended up scattered in overhead compartments as far
as 3 rows back from me. It didn't really matter though, because I didn't need
anything from my bags, as I spent the entire flight either trying to sleep, or
staring out the windows.

When we eventually left the terminal, we had to taxi all the way around the
airport to get to our runway, so that took a while. On the way, I saw a piece
of luggage on the ground next to one of the roads the baggage carts use. I
found myself really hoping that all my baggage would make it to the end, and
that everything in it would be intact. I have no faith at all in airlines
ability to get bags where they're supposed to go, but they managed to do it with
mine, thankfully.

The flight itself was very pleasant. I got a few hours of sleep, and lots of
hours just relaxing with my eyes closed, some of it listening to my Ipod, some
of it just thinking. I spent lots of time looking out the window at the ground
below. The Canadian shield has some incredible terrain, with all the little
lakes everywhere. The guy beside me was so quiet as to be practically
nonexistent. The premium seats came with a bunch of stuff which really helped
me sleep. They brought a little fleece bag that had a blanket in it, and they
also brought a pillow that fit nicely inside that same fleece bag. The most
useful thing though was the little inflatable C shaped pillow thing. I don't
think I would have been able to sleep without that, at least not without getting
one mother of a kink in my neck.

The food on the plane wasn't bad. I had a scotch (Jonny Walker Black Label)
when they came around to offer drinks, which was free, thanks to my premium
ticket. So worth it. Dinner was some breaded chicken on spaghetti noodles with
a tomato sauce. It came with coleslaw, a bun with a pat of whipped butter, and
a piece of cake with chocolate chips on top.

There was three in flight movies. The first was Juno, which I had seen before.
The second was the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, which I haven't seen, and
don't really want to. They said the third movie would be Micheal Clayton, but
was actually No Reservations, which I hadn't seen. I said no to headphones,
because I'd seen Micheal Clayton, but I wouldn't have minded watching this one.
I did watch some of it without sound, and it looked entertaining, but was
certainly hard to follow silently.

The landing in Belfast was a bit turbulent, as it was windy and rainy there.
Not enough to make me feel sick, though I could see one other guy that looked
like he wasn't enjoying it very much. We were delayed a bit on the ground
there, as they were having some problems connecting the jetway to the plane.
While we were there, I wandered around a bit to stretch my legs, and noticed
that the cockpit door, a mere 10 feet from my seat, was open. I talked to one
of the stewards, and asked if there was any possibility of being able to take
some photos of the cockpit. I told him how I'd gotten to do that last time I
flew to England, 13 years ago, and that it would be just fantastic if I could do
it again now, when I'm moving there. He said he couldn't promise anything, but
that he'd ask the captain when he was done doing paperwork. A short while
later, he waved me forward to the cockpit, and I got to say hello to the pilot
and take a few photos. It sure it complicated looking in there.

Take off from Belfast was just as turbulent as landing, and the flight to London
was a bit rough in places too, but we made it to the ground fine, and I
disembarked the plane grinning like a fool. My bags were some of the first on
the baggage conveyor belt, another perk of the premium tickets. Going through
immigration was pretty straightforward. There were arrows for UK, EEC, and Swiss
passport holders, and another arrow for "other passports", so I went to other.
There was nearly no line, and when I got to the counter, they saw my right of
abode, and told me that next time, I can just go to whichever line is shorter.

Once I was through all that, I saw Richard and Elizabeth and recognized them
almost immediately, and they recognized me too. We said hello, and the first
thing Richard did was asked me if I'd like a coffee, which was wonderful, and
very welcome. The caffeine did a good job of keeping me awake for the rest of
the day. The ride back to their place was very educational. I asked a lot of
questions about traffic rules and such, and they pointed out things like traffic
cameras, and we talked about various UKisms that I wasn't familiar with.
Traffic certainly moves quickly here, and with much smaller gaps than I'm used

When we arrived at their house, it was around lunch time, so we had some of
Elizabeth's tasty soup. I had a shower, which went a long way to making me feel
better, after the flight. After that, we went into town, and I picked up a SIM
card from Tesco's, so I would have a local phone number. I also picked up the
form to apply for a Tesco membership, similar to Save-on or Safeway club cards
back home. We popped into the local Lloyd's bank to see about a bank account,
but without proof of address (utility bill or something), they couldn't do
anything for me. Once we got back to their place, I just unpacked a bit and
just relaxed and chatted for the rest of the evening, before I went to bed at

I'll blog some more about today later, after I go see the flat.