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!


2 October 2010


Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 10:04 am

Hello there!
It has been rather a while since I blogged. Not a lot has happened that I could think of much to write about, or perhaps it is just that I have not been able to find motivation to do so. Anyway, I thought it was really about time I wrote something, so I asked the usual social networks, and there were a few suggestions. Mostly from Twitter. I will see what I can do, here goes…

yomcat thinks that I should write about stalking tactics. Hmm. Not sure what I can say about that one. Perhaps he should be the one writing about this topic?

fibby thinks I should write about VAT. I do not know much at all about VAT; in fact, it seems she knows rather more about it than I do. She had heard that there was no VAT charged on shoes. A little research on the web suggests that this is not quite the case. Young children’s footwear and clothing is, however, exempt from VAT. In particular, items of clothing or footwear which are not made of fur and are designed for and only suitable for children under 14 years old. Fur lined boots and articles only trimmed with fur are allowed though. There are some interesting corner cases; for example, alterations which do not alter the ‘essential nature’ of an article (the examples given are altering sleeve length, repairing, or embroidering a school badge) are charged VAT, but alterations which do change the ‘essential nature’ are exempt. The example given in this case is changing a blazer into a waistcoat. So hey, there you go! You can get a blazer turned into a waistcoat only suitable for a child under 14 and not pay VAT on the work! Sleeping bags are only eligible to be exempted from VAT if they have arm and leg holes. Rain covers for pushchairs are only exempt if they can also be worn as rain capes by babies.

Other than that, you can read a list of categories of goods and services exempt from VAT or charged a lower rate of VAT.

fibby also wanted to know what it is like to live in a country with 20% sales tax. As far as I can see the standard (and highest) rate of VAT is 17.5%, so I would not know. In general, though, I think the exact amount of sales tax is not really a great worry. Some things are certainly a lot more expensive here, though some are cheaper. Accommodation costs around twice as much as in Wellington, perhaps a bit more. Fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are generally a fair bit more expensive than in Wellington and not as nice, though there are some exceptions (bananas are relatively cheap and good, for example). On the other hand, most processed or preserved food (stuff in cans or boxes or bags) is significantly cheaper in the supermarkets here. CDs are also cheaper here, and I hear books are too. I think in general there is a wider range of prices: for things like clothes, and food for that matter, the bottom end of the range is significantly cheaper than can be found in NZ, but there are many more expensive choices. But I digress. Perhaps I should discuss this further some other time.

Hmm, well I was planning to include more requests in this post, but I got distracted and now it is getting late, so I think I will leave it at that for now and continue another day in another post. Meanwhile, more requests are welcome!

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