Thoughts of a geek

21 January 2011

Winter bits and pieces

Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 10:54 am

Hello readers!

I figured it was time for another post of various bits and pieces about what I have been up to lately. No big trips this time, but I am sure there has been some stuff happening since my last post, let me see…

I spent Christmas in Billesdon, Leicestershire. Caroline and Kelvin, a couple I know from church back in Wellington, were over here for a while and staying at Caroline’s parents’ house, and invited me to spend Christmas with them, which was nice. They used to live in Nottingham but moved to Wellington about 18 months ago. I went up after work on Christmas Eve, stayed the weekend, and caught the train back down on the Monday. The train back was very crowded, especially towards the end of the journey when it ended up packed full of people all down the aisle with crowds of people at the stations unable to get on. It was also delayed by about an hour due to some overrun maintenance work on the track, so we had to wait at various points in and out of stations. I must say that it did not feel all that much like Christmas, despite the tree and such. I guess it was due partly to the lack of much buildup beforehand, the cold wintry weather, and not being with my family. It was not actually snowing during the Christmas weekend, but there was a fair bit of snow on the ground up in Leicestershire It was a nice weekend though, and I was very grateful to have people to spend it with rather than being all by myself, which had been looking likely earlier.

I went to the fireworks on New Year’s Eve with a few other people, and frankly would not recommend it. I left my flat at 6:30 pm, met a couple of people at Waterloo Station at 7:00 pm, and we crossed over the river and found ourselves a decent spot, not too far away from the front of the crowd, by about 7:30 pm. We then waited as the crowd got more and more crowded, to the point where we could not move anywhere at all, as half a million or so people gathered to get a view. There was some mediocre music until the fireworks started at midnight. The fireworks themselves were very good, and we had a decent view, but the hours of waiting hardly seemed worthwhile for 10 minutes of fireworks. We then slowly made our way back the way we had come, getting stuck in the massive crowds and various road closures, and I had to get back to my bike. Unfortunately the area where I had left it by the station had been closed off behind police barriers, so after finally making it around the long way I had to ask one of the policemen to let me through the barrier to get it and come back out, which fortunately he let me do. After wheeling it through all the broken class and rubbish on the street and then making my way home, I finally got back to my flat sometime around 2:00 am. All in all, over 7 hours for a 10 minute show.

The New Year’s Day parade was much better, both less crowded and more interesting. The only downside was the weather, which was cold and at times rainy. I took a few photos, but have not yet got around to organising and captioning them all to upload. The front of the parade reached our viewing spot partway along the route at about 12:15 pm, and it kept on going past for just over 3 hours with only a few gaps. It included, among other things, various dignitaries and societies, floats from some of the London boroughs (although quite a few of them never showed up, despite being on the programme!), vintage cars, Minis, motorbikes, giant inflatable cartoon characters, cheerleaders, morris dancers, miniature steam engines, clowns, buses, an excellent country dance group from Texas, and — for some reason — 23 different marching bands from various high schools across the USA. All in all quite a show, though unfortunately many of them did not stop in front of where we were watching. I really should get around to sorting out those photos sometime soon.

Other than that, I guess I have just had my usual routine of life and work and everything. I have been going to swing dancing classes on Wednesday nights, which have been fun and interesting. I recommend it! If you are in London, check out Swing Patrol (I go to the Camberwell class), otherwise I am sure you can find somewhere nearby. I am still going to a few ceilidhs too, which can be fun sometimes. The hiking Meetup group I have been hiking with a few times are having their first hike of the year this Saturday, which I am looking forward too.

I am moving flats at the end of February, moving into a room in a place in Balham. It is just across the road from Tooting Bec Common, which could be nice. It seems like a nice house. I will be living with 3 other people there, all in their late 20s or early 30: one American woman who just started working at Google and two policemen. The two I have met so far both seem nice. Unfortunately the flat is a bit more than twice as far from work as my current flat, which is a pity. I imagine it will take me about half an hour to bike to and from work each day. It is also a fair bit further away from my church. Such is life, London is a big place. The other issue is that what will be my bedroom is significantly smaller than my current one and (like all furnished flats here, apparently) has a (small) double bed, so I will not be able to fit a desk or table to work at. Hopefully that will not be too much of a problem. It does not seem like it should be too noisy a flat.

Well that is all I can think of for now… comment and tell me what else you want to hear about!


3 December 2010

An update

Filed under: Me, Photos, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — qwandor @ 9:16 am

Wow, I have not written anything here for rather a while. I have still been uploading photos of some of the things I have been up to, but perhaps a summary of the last couple of months is in order. Hmm, let us see, since the beginning of October…

On the 3rd of October, there was a fairly substantial flood on the street my flat is on and the surrounding streets, meaning I had to wade through water about 30 cm deep (deeper in parts) to get to my flat when I got home at around midnight. I went back out and took some photos, of course. Fortunately it was all fine by the morning.

Silverthorne Road flood: there was quite a lot of water

On the 11th October, I went to Zürich for a day and a half for a conference for work. I had to get up at something like 4:00 am to get out to the airport for my flight out there, then it was straight from the airport to the hotel and into the conference, so there was not a whole lot of time for sightseeing. I did get out a bit on the Monday night, when there were a number of organised activities to chose from. I walked up Üetliberg with a few other Googlers, and we cooked Pörkölt for dinner over a bonfire in the dark. I had a bit of difficulty finding my hotel room but it worked out in the end. The Tuesday was another full day of talks and workshops and such, then we headed from that back to the airport and back to London. Unfortunately our flight was delayed due to the strikes in France, but we got back in the end.

Zurich for GEEK: Zürich at night from Üetliberg

Back to London, I joined a hiking Meetup group that started at the beginning of October, and have been on 3 hikes with them so far, each on a Saturday and separated by 3 weeks: to Box Hill, part of the Ridgeway track near Tring past the Ivinghoe Beacon and Bridgewater Monument, and most recently in Guildford and along the River Wey. None of them were especially long walks (each about 14 km and fairly flat, this being England), but by the time we take the train out to wherever we are walking, wait for everyone to turn up, walk, stop for lunch, stop to look at the view along the way and have dinner at a pub at the end before taking the train back to London, it ends up being a fairly full Saturday. It has been a fairly international group, with often quite a few Americans, some Irish, a Turkish guy, some French people, Greeks, South Africans, various other Europeans, and on the most recent hike an Australian and another Kiwi. It seems that the English tend to be less interested in getting out to do and see things and meet new people. Perhaps they are more likely already to have an established group of friends and weekly routine.

Ridgeway hike: The English countryside

On the most recent hike, in Guildford, we stopped for lunch at a church which was built in 1087 AD, and still open. Admittedly some parts of it had been rebuilt since then, but some remained. And even before the 1087 church there had been an earlier Saxon church on the same site, apparently. History here is on quite a different order of magnitude than in New Zealand.

I saw two fireworks displays for Guy Fawkes: one on Guy Fawkes day itself (though people here call it Bonfire Night instead), and one on the day after. On the Friday I went down to Wimbledon to see the show at Wimbledon Park, and took lots of photos. The fireworks were not all that impressive — similar to the show in Wellington, but not as good — but the bonfires were cool to see, as that is not something I have seen for Guy Fawkes before. They also had all sorts of fairground rides for kids and others.

From Guy Fawkes at Wimbledon Park: Some fireworks

On the Saturday, one of the women in my church homegroup had a bunch of people over for a bit of the party and to watch the Battersea Park fireworks. She has a fifth floor apartment with an excellent view out over London, so we stood out on the balcony to watch the display, then headed back into the warm for lots of good food.

On Saturday 13th November I went to see the Lord Mayor’s Show with a few people. We waited across the road from the Royal Courts of Justice, where the first half of the parade ended. There were many different groups of people, floats, military vehicles and so on, as you can see in my photos, and it went past us for a little bit more than an hour. Afterwards we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and went up to the Whispering Gallery and the Stone Gallery around the outside. I had not been up there before, but it turns out that the Stone Gallery is a pretty good spot for taking some nice panoramas of the view out across London, so I did.

Lord Mayor's Show and more: A view from the Stone Gallery. Click a few times and look at it full size, there is plenty to see.

After St. Paul’s we had Dim Sum for lunch, then headed south to see the fireworks over the Thames as part of the Lord Mayor’s Show. Unfortunately the viewing spot we picked turned out not to have much of a view at all, so we spent most of the show running along the bank trying to get far enough along to see the fireworks without trees and buildings in the way. About a minute after we finally found a good view, the fireworks finished. They were good fireworks, much more interesting than either of the Guy Fawkes shows I saw, but only lasted about 10 minutes. After that we listened to a couple of free jazz concerts at the Southbank Centre as part of the London Jazz Festival, both of which were good.

Other than that, I have been going to some swing dancing classes on Wednesday nights, mostly in Camberwell, which have been interesting. The first time I went to the Camberwell class was the second week it ran, and I have been for the 4 classes there since. One week in the middle it was cancelled so I went to a different class in Dalston instead, run by the same organisation but with different people. The Camberwell class usually has around 12 people; the Dalston one had 44 on only its second week running. It made for a rather crowded room.

This most recent weekend, on Saturday 27th November, I made it out to the Horniman Museum, which was nice. Among quite a range of other exhibits they have a good aquarium, and the jellyfish were amazing — and rather mesmerising — to watch.

This Saturday, 4th December, I head to Germany for a week’s holiday. I am spending 3 nights in Berlin, 2 in Gießen and 2 in Munich. I hear the Christmas markets are well worth a visit, and other than that I guess there will be plenty of museums and historical sights to see. Recommendations are most welcome, if you know what is worth seeing and doing.

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