Thoughts of a geek

1 January 2014

Seven months

Filed under: Me, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:14 pm

I really have not blogged much in ages! A lot has happened since May. Other than Morocco, let’s see:

A friends (Emily Swan) was in town for a few days in June, I caught up with her all too briefly for lunch. Wow, that seems so long ago. Briefly saw another friend (Jordan) around the end of June or beginning of July too.

European Blues Invasion was at the end of June, and was amazing. Lots of really great dances, learnt some new stuff (hmm, I suspect I have forgotten most of it by now), and got into switch dancing. Not quite the first time I had done any switching, but the first time I really got into it. Made a few new international friends too.

Sarah was in London for a couple of days in the middle of July. Jen got a group together to go along to the first day of the Ealing Blues Festival, which was fun. Lots of great music, and great weather for sitting out in the sun with a picnic. I think we paid £5 for the day, for probably more than 30 different bands. Babajack were particularly good. Our team offsite to Croatia was straight after that, which was also fun. I got sunburnt on one of my legs because I forgot to apply sunscreen before going white-water rafting, and of course spent several hours facing in the same direction with the sun shining on one side of me.

I enjoyed some of the free outdoor dancing over the summer, though did not make it to as much this year as in past years. I mostly just went to a few of the swing dance ‘picnics’ at the Victoria Embankment Gardens, which had a mix of DJed and live music.

I went to Belgium for a long weekend at the beginning of August; 2 days in Brussels with Aga, and 2 in Bruges by myself. Both were interesting to see. Alex was in London the following weekend; it was good to catch up with him briefly.

Daniel came to stay on his (indirect) way back to NZ from Germany. He was going to stay with some other friends, but they ended up being a long way out of London so he stayed at my place for almost a week instead. He came along on a walk from Salisbury to Stonehenge that a friend from church organised, which was fun. The weather was great, and we even ran into a medieval festival at Old Sarum along the way. We arrived at Stonehenge in the end with only a few minutes to spare, just half an hour before it was closing, as they were letting the last visitors in. An excellent day though: good bunch of people, nice walk, good weather, and a decent pub lunch in the middle. Right at the end of August I went on an ‘Alternative London’ walking tour with some friends and workmates, seeing some cool street art in Shoreditch.

In September I went up to Edinburgh for a weekend, stayed with Karoliina and went for some nice walks up North Berwick Law and along the coast from there, and in the Pentland hills. We found a few geocaches along the way, and sung Simon & Garfunkel songs.

Charlotte and Nicolai were in London, so I got to catch up with them which was nice.

Craig was in town at the beginning of October so came for lunch at Google. My cousin Brittany was in London for a full month, and stayed with me for her first few days, in the second week of October. I had not seen her in years so it was good to catch up. She kept herself pretty busy between sightseeing seeing a bunch of her friends. I went to David & Amber’s wedding, which was good fun. Had a few interesting conversations, and there was a ceilidh. (Strictly speaking they got married some time earlier for immigration purposes, but this was the ceremony to celebrate it properly.) My old friend Daniel was also in the UK in October, for military stuff in Wales, but came to London for a few days as well and stayed with me (overlapping with Brittany actually), so I was able to show him around a bit and catch up. And then Emily visited on her holidays, and we went to Cardiff, Bristol, Cheddar Gorge and Bath for a few days. At the end of October was the Morocco trip, which I have already written about.

Shortly after getting back from Morocco there was another blues dance festival, Blues Baby Blues. It was also good, though not quite on the same level as EBI. Unfortunately I caught something partway through so was not feeling great on the second day of workshops, and had to leave early that evening.

The annual London Jazz Festival was on in the middle of November, and I went to a number of the free gigs on both Friday nights and Saturdays. I managed to drag a few friends along to some of them, and others was on my own. There was a mix of excellent music and weird, but all good fun. I heard something like 12 or so bands in total, which was but a small fraction of what was on offer.

I went to a couple of thanksgiving dinners. One was hosted by Mark from work on Sunday 24th, which funnily enough was full of Kiwis: apparently one of his flatmates and quite a few of his friends are from NZ. About half the party watched the rugby, which I hear was pretty tense, but we won in the end. The food was good. The other was at Amber & David’s place, as one of the regular Thursday night dinners they had been hosting. There was going to be another Thanksgiving party on the Saturday as well at Gareth’s place, but it ended up being cancelled in favour of a belated housewarming party for Rachel and Dan. I grew a small moustache the last week of November for Joanna’s moustache party the same night, but ended up arriving after midnight so it was the 1st of December already.

Karoliina was in London briefly in December, and came to Google to catch up with people which was nice. I saw the new Hobbit movie with some workmates, and a Robin Hood pantomime with Rachel and some of her Morris dancers. We also had a Google eng-lon pantomime again; this year was Cinderella, and it was again very well done, with lots of funny in-jokes. There were two work Christmas parties as usual; the engineering one at the Millbank Tower, and the one for everyone at the Troxy, with a Christmas fun-fair theme. And Cheryl was back from New York for Christmas, so she also organised to catch up with a bunch of Googlers for brunch.

I took the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas off as I had to use the annual leave or lose it, and there were a couple of swing bands playing at the Royal Festival Hall to dance to. They also had the annual swing dance on Boxing Day, though only with recorded music sadly.

My flatmate Carla had her parents and sister visiting over Christmas, and invited me to join them for dinner on Christmas Eve, which was good, though a little hard to communicate as her parents do not speak much English. Went to a friend’s place for Christmas dinner, though did not stay too long as I caught a cold the weekend before and was not feeling great. Saw the New Year’s Eve fireworks with Carla and her sister, saw some of the New Year’s Day parade today (though it was cold and rainy so not many people came, and those who did did not stay long, so I left halfway through), and then here I am. Hoping the cold goes away soon.

Photos are in the usual place, and have a few more stories.

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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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