Wednesday 1 January 2003
Happy New Year! I’m certainly
Happy New Year!
I’m certainly happy. If 2003 keeps going as well as this, then it’ll be the best yet.
Thursday 2 January 2003
Planning a rail journey across
Planning a rail journey across southern Britain is not easy at the moment. With a combination of engineering work and flooding, it looks like at least part of our rail journey will be by bus. Still, it should be worth it, and it would seem to be safer by train than travelling by boat.
Phil Gyford has started an
Phil Gyford has started an online rendition of Samuel Pepys’ diaries, and writes about it on the BBC.
Discussion has taken place as to what other diaries could be converted to a weblog format – Anne Frank would be an obvious candidate, Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman a little less obvious, but a weblog version of the Bible could be excellent, particularly if written in the style of a well-known (or not-so well-known) blogger. For example:
April 5th: was riding back from work around the North Circular, when there was a plague of locusts. How odd!
Man drowns whilst unblocking drain.
Why are the little felt
Why are the little felt bits so hard to fit onto the earphones of Nokia hands-free sets? Why can’t they be supplied ready-fitted?
More importantly, why can’t I get the GPRS service to work? And why is the GSM service now dialling a different number to my old handset – am I suddenly being charged for something that I previously got for free? And how long do you think it’ll take for o2 to answer my email to their helpdesk? For some reason, I don’t take the automated reply as a reason for hope:
We have received your message and are currently dealing with your request. We apologise in advance for any delay, but we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.
O2 Customer Care
New York Times: expiration of
New York Times: expiration of European copyrights to lead to mass influx of classic recordings. Interesting.
I see that the Environment
I see that the Environment Agency has issued a flood watch for the Lavant. When I walked past the river earlier, it was certainly higher than it was yesterday by perhaps 20cm.
Friday 3 January 2003
Oh god, not The Bloggies
Oh god, not The Bloggies again already?! I’ve never been nominated for any category in this, although it is hard to see what I’d be eligible for, other than Best European and African Weblog (why do Americans insist on this "EMEA" thing? That’s Europe, Middle East and Africa to you. They lump all three areas together – like Norway and Namibia are such similar nations, with similar peoples, culture and climate. guh. Idiots.) or Weblog of the Year (hahhahaha!) – perhaps if they had a category of Grayblog of the Year, I’d stand a chance, but even then it would be by no means a certainty. I did get nominated for the Antibloggies in their first year, but didn’t even manage to win that – they even spelt the name of the site incorrectly.
I can’t be arsed to vote or nominate. I’m going to bed.
By the way, expect it to be quiet here for the next three days – I’ve got important and enjoyable nothing to do in elegant surroundings and with the most wonderful company, and that will require my full concentration. Wapblogger-powered updates possible only if I can be bothered and have something incredibly important to say.
Monday 6 January 2003
I’m back. News in bullet
I’m back. News in bullet points:
- TFF: 36 points and 54 points for the last two weeks, taking my score to 573. Could do better?
- Was up half the night last night with food poisoning (I think) – I’ll spare you a description of the symptoms. Consequently, today I am a bit tired and under the weather. And chances of an early night are diminishing as I have some important tasks to carry out for The Project.
- Spent the weekend with Joanna enjoying crisp winter sunshine in Bath, staying in five star luxury at the Bath Spa Hotel and taking in the abbey, roman baths, shops, seafood and mexican eateries, riverside walking, Sydney Gardens, Museum of Costume, strange tourist buses, the impressive crescents (albeit from a distance) and more. Links later.
- The 2003 winners of the B3ta awards have been revealed – much time-wasting fun.
Busy busy – will write
Busy busy – will write more later.
I need cheering up. Maybe
I need cheering up. Maybe a banana will do the trick.
There is a lot going
There is a lot going on, on- and off-line, that at another time I would write about here, but now remains unwritten due to a combination of lethargy, illness, workload, distraction, love, teabags, vegetable soup and excessive thinking. Something is wrong. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to fix it. But I can’t ignore it. I’m not even sure that it is really that important, or just a temporary blip, but it is certainly not pleasant and I wish it would go away so things would be like they were before.
Tuesday 7 January 2003
I’m never sure that online
I’m never sure that online petitions are worth the paper that they are not written on, but this one is worth looking at, even if only to raise your awareness of the issues involved concerning live music performance.
I suggested recently that o2
I suggested recently that o2 might not respond to my email to their helpdesk with any alacrity. I take it back – they have been reasonably prompt and very helpful. I’ve now changed tariff so that I should have GPRS service functioning from midnight tonight, and the GSM service remains free of charge. yay!
oh carp! Having rushed around
oh carp! Having rushed around to take down the Christmas decorations at home last night, leaving the flat looking somewhat dismal and bare, I’ve just noticed that the Christmas header is still at the top of this page! argh! Bad luck for me! or something.
Just been to visit a
Just been to visit a very important person at the bank, and had some encouraging words – which is ..um.. encouraging, and has improved my mood no end.
How ScaryDuck set fire to
How ScaryDuck set fire to his chemistry teacher.
My A level physics practical exam featured an accident too, though far less exciting than this one. As is often the case, we had to take turns using the equipment, working in rotation around the room. As might be typical of my luck, as I walked across the room to the last experiment, Neil, who was ahead of me on the circuit, neatly rolled the thermometer off the edge of the workbench and on to the floor.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever dropped a mercury thermometer. If you haven’t, I don’t suggest that you try, as liquid mercury has some amusing properties, the main one being that it is impossible to pick up. I know, you think it is difficult to pick up a five pence coin from the post office counter (how do they make counters so hard for picking coins up from?) but that is nothing to mercury on a tiled floor. You see, mercury forms these neat little globules that have a very low coefficient of friction – meaning that if you just touch one of them, it runs off across the floor at an amazing rate, and simply refuses to be collected into any sort of container. This provided Neil with huge amounts of mirth as I tried to conduct my experiment under something approaching exam conditions whilst the teacher and school lab technician scrambled around on the floor by my feet, trying to gather as much mercury as they could.
I blame Neil for my D grade.
That looks suspiciously like
That looks suspiciously like Santa snogging Joanna! Outrageous!
BBC news round-up:New x-ray images
BBC news round-up:
- New x-ray images of black hole at the centre of our universe
- New planet discovered 5000 light years from Earth
- Row erupts over sunken treasure – including 437 kilograms of gold bullion in 17 chests, more than 15,000 gold coins, 153 golden snuff boxes, six chests of gems, more than 1,000,000 silver pieces, 14 kg of sliver ore, six pairs of diamond earrings and a diamond ring. Not much then.
- Glitter deported from Cambodia – his presence is "bad for the nation’s reputation".
Blip well and truly passed,
Blip well and truly passed, by the way. Feeling groovy once more.
Wednesday 8 January 2003
For the grumpy comment author
For the grumpy comment author who recently said that the only reason they read grayblog was because it is the only blog where they live, try Pink Shirt, Yellow Tie. Of course, grayblog remains the original and best Cicestrian blog.
TFF: 38 points taking me
TFF: 38 points taking me to 611 in total.
OUT: Malbranque, Maccarone, Geremi, Zola.
IN: Delap, Giggs, Beattie, Anelka.
Hopefully this will serve me well in forthcoming cup matches. Need to do something similar with my AFF team, particularly as it has progressed to the next round of the cup.
Cold out. Cold in as
Cold out. Cold in as well. But no snow here, either in or out, unlike much of the rest of south east England.
On the subject of cold things, there was an interesting discussion on the increasingly-irritating Today programme of the Mpemba effect. Essentially, as a result of the Mpemba effect, hot water will freeze over more quickly than cool water, even though that would seem to counter logic. Practical applications of this are that you should put cold water onto your pond or birdbath if you would like the creatures to benefit from that, and also use cold water to de-ice your car windscreen. (It should also be noted that hot water can shock your goldfish and delaminate your windscreen, and is therefore to be avoided).
Hmmm. I just got an
Hmmm. I just got an e-mail from the Ministry of Defence advising me about my rights as an employer of members of the Reserve Forces, and advising me of a helpline I can call for advice on the subject. Let me check…. nope, don’t see Seamus in fatigues any time soon!
Think you’re cold? That’s nothing!
Think you’re cold? That’s nothing!
Been a long while since
Been a long while since there was an update, but I’ve just added four new tracks to radio grayblog. I’ll try and do some more over the next few days – it’s time to have a change around, remove a few of the older tracks and replace them with something fresh.
Thursday 9 January 2003
Cold again this morning, and
Cold again this morning, and still no snow to speak of here. Really didn’t want to get out from under the duvet this morning.
Friday 10 January 2003
Not a good morning this
Not a good morning this morning. Joanna and I have decided that we really don’t have the right stuff to make our relationship work, which is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s difficult, because we both love one another and have shedloads in common, but we’re just not strong enough, either of us, to provide what the other needs.
I think it is the first time in my life that a decision to stop a relationship has been truly mutual. In a way it is easier, as the hurt is more evenly shared than in a dumper/dumpee scenario. And because we both feel it, hopefully it will be for the best in the long run.
Still, I feel pretty pants right now.
Tonight, I shall be spending
Tonight, I shall be spending the evening with friends.
No other news. I think we’ve had plenty enough for one day.
Beer tonight with Paul F,
Beer tonight with Paul F, Arron, Kearn, Guy and Nicky, with sightings of Hamish, Terry, Sasha, DJ and several other familiar folk. Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.
Saturday 11 January 2003
A bright sunny morning with
A bright sunny morning with clear blue skies – perfect for producing the positive and forward-looking mood that I need. On today’s agenda:
- purchasing some new smart PJs
- a visit to the bank to make a deposit and obtain some dollars ready for next week’s trip to Santa Barbara (where, apparently, my hosts are picking oranges from the tree in their back garden or "yard")
- lunch from the cornish pastie shoppe (this is turning into a dangerous addicition)
- a stroll around the city, perhaps including some time on my favourite bench in Priory Park if I am warm enough
- some tidying of the flat
- drinks with Lord Percy and Lady Bren tonight.
Sounds like a reasonably good day to me.
Done items one to four
Done items one to four on the list below. Struggling with item 5, although I’ve done some laundry – might push the hoover around in a minute, then have dinner before tackling item 6.
Coventry 0 – Brighton 0
Coventry 0 – Brighton 0 – and Brighton seemed to be all over the Coventry goal according to the text commentary on the Beeb. But since other teams at the sharp end of Division 1 either won or drew, the point earned hasn’t really helped us. So, it looks like Division 2 for Brighton next season, miracles notwithstanding.
Added Discogs to the list
Added Discogs to the list of music links in the sidebar. Very useful.
On Robert Fortune, the great
On Robert Fortune, the great Scottish plant hunter:
You just don’t get people like that these days, do you? Biography here.
radio grayblog: fifteen tracks added,
radio grayblog: fifteen tracks added, ten removed. The playlist is now wildly inaccurate, so I’ll update that at some point in the next 24 hours, but we are now at full capacity: 99 MB of music equating to 121 tracks. And, especially for Brian, I’ve added The Tornados’ classic hit Telstar and the Equals’ Baby Come Back from (?)1968. I’ve also made a belated tribute to Joe Strummer, by adding The Clash’s London Calling. The majority of the remaining 12 tracks are downtempo in style, although there is a little drum n bass in there for bouncing around your office to.
UPDATE: Playlist now up-to-date.
Beer with Lady Bren, Lord
Beer with Lady Bren, Lord Percy, Kearn, Paul C and Tim W, as well as sightings of Nicky, Kristian and loud Amanda. A good night.
Sunday 12 January 2003
It’s a tragedy. Maurice Gibb,
It’s a tragedy. Maurice Gibb, RIP.
Today I shall be guest
Today I shall be guest chef at Lord Percy and Lady Bren’s abode.
A sunny day again. Don’t really have a sunny disposition at the moment. Hopefully that will come later.
Strange old week really. Not
Strange old week really. Not one I particularly want to repeat at any time in the future.
But the future is where the focus needs to lie, and I have a busy week ahead. Nikki’s birthday bash on Tuesday will be a highlight, but more importantly is the need to get my head and a good supply of clean boxer shorts in order ready for my trip to the US on Saturday. I need to prepare a bunch of papers, the usual travelling kit and also sort out what my objectives are for my week in Santa Barbara, as this is a work trip after all (although the fact that my hosts tell me that they are picking oranges from the tree in their garden does nothing to make me look forward to the trip at all. Oh no, not a bit).
Future focus. That’s the key.
Hopefully, by the time I get back, I should be able to reveal a bit more about what I’ve been hinting at here for the last few months. I’ve told a few people about it, but, subject to successful talks with Mr Bank this week, it should all become some sort of reality very soon indeed. Fingers crossed, eh?
Ages and ages and ages
Ages and ages and ages ago, Rodney sent me his passport photo for the passport photo gallery. The other day, whilst looking for something entirely different, I stumbled across it on my computer hard drive, and I’ve now added it to the gallery. I’m sure he’ll be pleased about that.
Blogger is being a bit
Blogger is being a bit slow tonight. Really must finish installing MT, but I’m sooooo lazy sometimes.
Monday 13 January 2003
I want some!
Much fuss in certain quarters
Much fuss in certain quarters online (i.e. blogs) about the proposed introduction of ID cards in the UK. Stand makes a stand about it here, the BBC profiles the issue here and the government has its say and has a public consultation here.
I’ve rambled on in a couple of places about my opinion on the subject. For those that have missed it, here it is again:
The anti camp think they will have their liberties infringed. Crap. Tesco know more about you already than HMG ever will.
The pro camp think it will solve all problems related to crime and immigration. Pants. If I can buy a forged passport, drivers licence or credit card, then you can bet that it will only be a matter of days after ID cards are issued that I can get a whole fake ID.
On the plus side, a single reference number will save me having to have a note of different numbers for national insurance, driving licence, passport, NHS, library, rail pass and god knows what else.
On the negative side, it will keep yet another bunch of Blair’s cronies in jobs at my expense. And the expense will be huge, paid out of our taxes, and not spent on something useful like schools, hospitals or vasectomies for parents of loud children at photo exhibitions.
More opinions on subjects that I’m not really qualified to talk about later, as you have come to expect.
It sure is quiet around
It sure is quiet around here.
More evidence of why we
More evidence of why we need to be deeply involved with Europe and not sitting on the sidelines. If a Franco-German alliance is strong on our doorstep, our global influence diminishes as a nation, even if our relationship with Washington DC is strong, as one of the reasons the US administration maintains a close tie with Downing Street is that it provides a foot in the door at the European Union. There has long been talk of a two-speed Europe – I can see the UK being relegated to the hard shoulder at this rate, particularly if the current warming of relations between Paris and Washington continues.
Tuesday 14 January 2003
Taurus Good will opens doors
Good will opens doors that you had previously thought shut forever. You feel the need to do something kind for someone who has shown you kindness in the past. Don’t be surprised if your generosity is met with a questioning look from the recipient, Taurus. Tonight, you are just too honest and obvious to be out unsupervised. Feel as fine as you want, but don’t bet your future on a feeling.
Hmmm. Well, I am going out this evening to Nikki’s party. But I’m not sure about the level of supervision. To be honest, it all sounds rather exciting, but those that know me will know that I have a strange definition of "exciting".
Just what we need on
Just what we need on a Tuesday morning – a bit of utter silliness, courtesy of the wonder that is Lukelog. Yes, it’s a complete illustrated online catalogue of all the Entrances To Hell (note: capitalized).
Mr Blair seems very proud
Mr Blair seems very proud of his Middle East peace conference to discuss reforms of the Palestinian Authority, even if it has led to a rift between London and Jerusalem. Whilst any talks must be seen as useful, and the Israeli government is heavy-handed at best, it seems odd that the Israelis were not invited at all, not even to send an observer. Perhaps that is why Mr Sharon doesn’t view the conference as important enough to allow Palestinian delegates to travel and attend.
BBC looks at postal snobbery.
BBC looks at postal snobbery. This is nothing new, but please spare a thought for poor delivery drivers, trying to find an address from misleading or incomplete information. We are forever getting parcels that we send out returned or delivered late because customers have some strange snobbishness about part of their address.
I find this site to
I find this site to be extraordinary. Particularly, I point readers to this post. The author was named Peter, and was conceived just a few months after this man hit the headlines. Is there a link, I wonder?
Wednesday 15 January 2003
urf. too much beer always
urf. too much beer always leads to those need-a-hug feelings.
Anyway, beer tonight at Nicky’s birthday party (happy birthday!) with Kearn, Paul F, Ted, Dave, Gary, Alex, Helen, Helen and shedloads of other people. Awful karaoke – why is it that alcohol makes people think they can sing?
too tired to talk more. zzz.
Brighton out of the Cup.
Brighton out of the Cup. Will that let the team concentrate on the league?
At the moment, I want
At the moment, I want one of these, but I get the feeling that it will quickly be superceded by something much smaller and even more portable.
A rather simplistic view, in
A rather simplistic view, in my opinion, which takes no notice of changes in culture and society over the last century. Nor does it advance the case for better resourcing of the enforcement of current gun laws. The vast majority of people do not need a gun, and, as was sadly proven last night, you don’t need a gun to kill someone.
New Weebl …kinda.
New Weebl …kinda.
I’m the last one at
I’m the last one at the party, as usual, but it looks like everyone is doing this and it seems quite fun.
Thursday 16 January 2003
Listening to the news tonight,
Listening to the news tonight, the world seems very scary.
Food with Sarah and Paul, then beer and jacket-sharing with Dave W, DJ, Kristian, Al, Arron and numerous others. zzz.
Let’s study the facts for
Let’s study the facts for a moment:
Last night, Sarah and Paul came round. I cooked lemon chicken with basil and tagliatelle – which turned out rather well, I reckon.
We drank four bottles of very good white wine.
We went to Brookes, and then to W2, where more drinks were consumed.
I have a hangover. I wonder how that came about?
New Harry Potter book to
New Harry Potter book to be released in June. I imagine that Penn is already queuing.
Having been playing around with
Having been playing around with Friendster for 24 hours, I must say that I’m really not sure about it.
What is it exactly? A six degrees of separation type thing? Will I be able to eventually prove that via the wonder of my network at Friendster, I know the Pope? Or is it really just a dating thingy that’s trying to be cool? Even though it makes out that it is about meeting people and networking for mutual benefit, it does seem to mention the words “date” and “dating” at every turn, and a quick glance through the titles in the Amazon link page shows a distinct bias towards “The Dummies Guide To Internet Dating” and other books of that nature.
It certainly is more cool than most online dating sites that I’ve seen (admission time: I’ve seen a few), and it seems credible that it could be about friendship as well, which so few of the other dating sites ever succeed in doing (although it is distinctly possible to make friends that way, in a round-about fashion – I have a few friends that fall into that category). It certainly seems to be popular with the British blogging contingent, with almost all the usual suspects represented there and claiming to be friends of Tom.
The testimonials are a little odd too, ranging from arse licking to silly. I’m not sure they actually say much about the subject, more about the wittiness of the contributors. You could easily read someone’s testimonials and be able to say “he/she has witty friends”, which probably doesn’t say an awful lot about the person themselves other than to indicate their taste in friends and humour.
And the whole business of sending a message to someone, asking to be their friend – well, it seems a little redolent of infant school playground culture to me. Perhaps we all want to get back to that simpler way of doing things.
If it is about dating – well, couldn’t it be a little embarrassing? If you make a move on someone over Friendster, it’s as if your friends are watching you, particularly if you look at their profile and see your friend’s picture sitting in the corner of the screen. It is also an implied criticism of your mutual friend too – if you knew we were both single, why didn’t you introduce us before, eh?? I guess you’d find the answer to that question once you got to know one another.
And how exactly is it paying its way in the world? If your email details are not going to be used for marketing purposes, I find it hard to imagine how ends can be made to meet through Cafepress and Amazon commissions alone.
On the plus side, it does have that hard-to-define “fun” quality, which is why I think I’ll stick with playing with it for a while, at least until the novelty wears off (which, I suspect, will not take long for the majority of users).
Friday 17 January 2003
Don’t feel good. And I
Don’t feel good. And I don’t mean unwell.
Sleep will help. I hope.
Considering that I’m flying out
Considering that I’m flying out to Santa Barbara tomorrow, I’m at a particularly low ebb, feeling more miserable than I have in ages. This is not good. It may just be that I am very very tired, having not slept well for the last couple of nights and having an awful lot on my mind. Or it may just be that I’m thinking too much. Either way, I don’t like it.
So, tell us a joke?
Updates will be sparse or
Updates will be sparse or non-existent here for the next week whilst I’m away. I’ll also not be able to respond to email to grayblog.co.uk. If you have my hotmail or AOL addresses, you can use them, although there is no guarantee that I’ll either be able to read or reply to them.
Disturbingly, I’ve not been able
Disturbingly, I’ve not been able to confirm my flight booking because the American Airlines office is closed – I should have called earlier in the day. Oh well, I have my e-ticket. And if I’m stuck, where there is a will and a credit card, there’s a way. (And before you start worrying, I double checked with ebookers that my booking had been confirmed, and my eticket does bear the legend “CONFIRMED” too).
I really ought to start
I really ought to start packing, I guess.
Right – bag packed, paperwork
Right – bag packed, paperwork for plants I’m carrying prepared in triplicate and washing up all done. I’m ready for bed.
See you soon. x
Saturday 25 January 2003
Hi honey, I’m hoooome! Really
Hi honey, I’m hoooome!
Really quite tired, though on a bit of a buzz at the moment due to being eight hours out, having finally settled in to Santa Barbara time on the day I had to leave. Lots to tell you, but not at the moment, as I have to do mundane things like laundry and so forth. More tomorrow.
Taurus Try to look at
Try to look at things the way they are rather than the way you want them to be. Today you want to turn a fling or accident into a commitment. Who knows — if an idea is crazy enough, it might just work. Keep in mind, however, that the more you invest, the greater the sting of possible disappointment. You’ve been here before, and you should know. When looking to take your next step, take a hint from the lessons you’ve learned in the past.
I’m tired. There is too
I’m tired. There is too much going on.
Hershey’s chocolate: good, but not as good as Cadbury’s.
We thought so.
Sunday 26 January 2003
urf. Just woken up. Lots
urf. Just woken up.
Lots of dreams and thoughts whirling through my head, covering lots of subjects although one subject, or, more accurately, one person, dominated.
Need a shower, then must drag my sleepy self to Waitrose for some provisions.
I don’t really believe in
I don’t really believe in horoscopes, but sometimes it is easy to read them and think that they really do apply and seem pertinent. Today’s:
Make an attempt to join the party today. It isn’t that what you want doesn’t matter, it’s just that the needs of others come first right now. Leave a bookmark on the way you’re feeling so that you can return to your thoughts in a more private moment. Friends or clients want to believe that you care more about them than you do about anything else. Tonight it shouldn’t be too far of a stretch to show your partner what they mean to you.
This all seems very true today.
I dunno. I go away
I dunno. I go away for a week, and you lot go all quiet on me. Hellooooo! Anybody there??
Anyway, I’ve just bumped into Don Eduardo in town, and he has said that he is looking forward to reading my report of the week in California. I hate to disappoint, so here goes.
As some of you already know, the primary purpose of my trip was not pleasure, but business, and related to The Project, about which I still can not really say much (a situation that, hopefully, will change in the next week or two). As a result, the week was actually pretty hard work, and I’m pretty tired by it all (hence sleeping for 14½ hours). It was, however, incredibly productive and useful, and I’ve returned with reams of notes, plus lots of other literature to read, digest and file in a retrievable fashion.
But you lot want to know what happened. I guess it’s best to tackle it in a chronological order.
I flew out on Saturday 18th, leaving home at some godforsaken hour to get the earliest train to London Heathrow. My train was on time, and I managed to lug myself and my luggage from the rail platform to the tube platform at Victoria, on to Green Park and onto the Piccadilly line towards Heathrow. Inevitably, there wasn’t a seat, so I was wedged against a door, but this turned out to be fortuitous when the train terminated at Hatton Cross, one stop short of Heathrow, due to an “incident” on the line ahead (two trains had had a low speed collision, so I heard). Because I was by the door, I was first off the train, and therefore near the front of the queue for the 253 bus from Hatton Cross to Heathrow Central Bus Station (conveniently right outside Terminal 3). I’ve never seen so many people and luggage crammed onto one single deck bus, with at least six times as many people stood outside looking brassed off about not getting the bus. Top marks to the driver, who was good natured, helpful and jovial, and took a lot of heat out of a situation with a lot of bad-tempered travellers.
The queue at the American Airlines desk was extremely long, but because I’d allowed plenty of time for check-in, these delays didn’t worry me too much. Eventually, relieved of my case, but still clutching my jacket, day sack and the all-important box of plants, I was able to grab a coffee (Starbucks – ick) and amble to the gate. I was thoroughly checked over at the security desk, although the sealed box of plants was never opened – the inspectors took the plant health paperwork as evidence enough, and maybe I don’t fit their profile for a terrorist.
On the plane, I was relieved to find that I had the aisle seat I had requested, and an empty seat next to me, so room enough to stretch out. I much prefer Boeing 777s to 747s, as the facilities are better and the flight seems smoother, based on my limited experience. And American make a big thing out of having the longest seat pitch in economy of any transatlantic airline – it was just enough for me to stretch my (long) legs out straight under the seat in front. Marks deducted for making an extra charge for a glass of wine with the meal though – but, for me, legroom counts for more than the provision of free wine.
The flight itself was largely uneventful. I slept a little, ate the “food” that was presented, watched one of the movies that was offered (Blood Work) and listened to the on-board radio channels. Flying over Canada and the US, there were some stunning views, particularly as we crossed over the Rocky Mountains, Lakes Mead and Mohave and the scenery of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and southern California.
We arrived at Los Angeles ahead of schedule, only to lose that advantage by being held on the tarmac for twenty minutes or so. This was the only time at which the children in the family of ten sat in front of me (two brothers of south Asian origin, their wives, and six children) got a little testy. I must confess that my heart sank when I saw them get on board and sit down – I was worried that the kids would be whinging and complaining all the way, but instead they were fantastic – the parents took it in turns to take them to a window to look out. The model of good parenting, I’d say.
Once in the terminal, I went through immigration and, much to my relief, successfuly deposited the box of plants with the US Department of Agriculture people – all the paperwork was in order, and the process went smoothly. Then I walked through the terminal, went through more security checks and took the courtesy bus out to the American Eagle terminal for my flight to Santa Barbara. This was on a Saab 340, a small turboprop aircraft, and was really fun. We flew low, affording great views of LA and the Coastal Ranges, before spiralling down over the sea to make our landing slightly ahead of schedule (you get the impression that the pilots enjoy the spiralling over the sea rather more than they should!).
My hosts, Geoff and Maureen, met me at the airport. There isn’t much chance of losing someone at Santa Barbara airport. Even though the “gates” are numbered, they are actually just doors leading into one building that isn’t much bigger than your average English primary school. I picked up my bag, and we headed back to their home, just five minutes from the airport, and unpacked before enjoying a very large G&T before heading to the Brown Pelican seafood restaurant for dinner. I was too tired to eat properly, but we made the best of it and finished off with a walk along the beach, where I dabbled my digits in the warm waters of the Pacific.
Sunday was a good day. Geoff, Maureen and I talked shop for a while, before we headed to an al-American diner for brunch, followed by a trip to a garden promoting drought-tolerant plants sponsored by the local water company, and then into the centre of Santa Barbara to go to the splendid Arlington Theater to see the Santa Barbara Symphony‘s 50th anniversary concert. I’m not usually a big proponent of classical music (as radio grayblog listeners will be well aware), but the concert really was fantastic and very enjoyable.
After the concert, we walked a little in the city centre, and ended up in a wine bar for a glass and a snack, before heading back to base.
Monday was the first working day. It was also the first day for Geoff and Maureen’s new employee, Karen. I was able to help out with the work, bouncing ideas around, and also helping Karen out with some tasks. Sometimes you meet someone and instantly get along, and that was the case with me and Karen – she is exactly the sort of person I’d like to have working for me on The Project, but I’m just not in a position financially to be able to recruit just yet (especially not someone who lives so far away!). By the end of the day, we were all ready to head back to base and enjoy some of Maureen’s cooking and cocktails.
Tuesday began a broadly similar pattern. Lots more work in the office, including a detailed tour of their systems, database and networks. All of this has given me a much greater understanding of the American market, which will be intertwined with my own activities in the UK and EU, as well as an idea of the systems and structures that I will need to effectively run my own operation. (For those that haven’t worked it out, Geoff and Maureen run an operation that is similar to The Project, and have agreed to act as my mentors – something that I’m already finding to be invaluable).
Tuesday afternoon gave an opportunity for a break. Geoff dropped me in the centre of downtown Santa Barbara with Maureen’s cellphone so I could check in when I was ready to be picked up. I now had a few hours to explore, always my favourite activity in any new city. I started outside the courthouse, a rather lovely building (photos will follow, I promise), and walked through to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The SBMA is excellent, with a splendid collection of internationally important works, including an eye-opening selection of Latin American art. There was also an excellent exhibition entitled photoGENEsis: Opus 2, which was a series of specially commissioned photographic works reflecting the importance of the human genome project, as well as its implications. This was not only beautiful, but thought-provoking, and did not a little to contribute to a somewhat excited discussion on the theme of GM that evening after dinner. My one criticism of the SBMA was the lack of good literature reflecting the collection that could be purchased for future reference, or as a souvenir of a visit.
After that I walked along the main street in Santa Barbara, State Street, heading towards the sea. This gave me a chance to take in a couple of music stores, including a serious spending session in the excellent Morninglory Music where I was able to chat extensively on the comparisons to be made between Santa Barbara and UK music scenes. After that, my walk took me past Santa Barbara’s oldest building, as well as the City Hall, newspaper offices and on to an excellent farmer’s market, where I bought some huge strawberries and some iris blooms for Maureen. Santa Barbara has a strict plannng code that forces architects and developers to use a Spanish style of construction, and prohibits any building of more than two storeys. I can see advantages to this: it certainly creates a distinctive style and small-town atmosphere, but also clearly limits the place – I think a few more modern and contemporary buiildings would be a good thing, and would provide a striking counterpoint to the local style.
After the street market I headed into the mall, making the obligatory visit to Macy’s and also into a store called Structure where I purchased three Express long-sleeved tops for the ridiculously low price of US$22.50, which works out at $7.50 each – roughly £5 each. A slight problem regarding my credit card (I had no photo ID with me) was easily resolved by a trip to the ATM, which allowed me to be slightly smug to the assistant who had initially declined my purchase.
Once my shopping was complete, I headed to Ralph’s, an impressive Waitrose-esque store, to purchase the ingredients needed for my famous chicken in champagne and wild mushroom sauce. Maureen dropped by to pick me up, then we headed back to base for cocktails and cookery. Maureen and Geoff were very impressed by the dish, which incorporated woodear mushrooms, a type of mushroom that I had never encountered before and which certainly looked like a dark brown ear. Tasted good though.
On wednesday morning we hit the road and drove north up 101 towards San Francisco. along the way we dropped in on a couple of nurseries where we picked up Karen. At one nursery we didn’t have the opportunity to look around, as it was a trail nursery and therefore we were not permitted access, but used it as an opportunity to meet up with some people. At the second nursery, we were able to have a look around, and I found it to be very useful and enlightening to see how American wholesale nurseries work. Plant container sizes are generally larger than they are in the UK and Europe, but many other features were very familiar indeed.
After stopping by Pismo Beach for a short break and to drop Karen’s car off, we headed onwards to San Francisco, calling at King City for a rest break in another all-American diner. The scenery on the journey was spectacular, as 101 runs between the San Rafael Mountains and the sea, before crossing the high ground between the San Rafaels and the Santa Lucia Range and entering the Salinas Valley. The hills at this time of year are very green, recalling scenery in Ireland or the Peak district, only a lot bigger. Telegraph wires are dotted here and there by eagles and hawks, who do indeed know that they are cool. The Salinas Valley is completely filled, as far as the eye can see, with vineyards. These operations are huge, with lines of vines stretching literally miles into the distance. Maureen told me that much of the area under vines had been planted very recently, even though California is facing a crisis of overproduction of wine and grapes. I guess we can look forward to a lot of cheap Californian wine in the seasons to come.
We also passed a couple of military bases and also a fairly sizeable oil field, with dozens of “nodding donkey” type pumps working to lift the oil and deliver it to rows of tankers in railway sidings.
Eventually we arrived at our destination, San Mateo, and found our hotel easily. From there we went to another hotel for a meeting of the Perennial Plant Association, which I was able to sit in on. Apparently, several people were wondering what on earth I was doing there, and at least one person thought I’d been sent from the UK specifically to check them out, which I find intensely amusing. But I made two or three new contacts there that are likely to prove useful in the future, and was generally spurred to make a return trip for the PPA’s convention in July.
After the meeting, we headed north into the centre of San Francisco to meet up with Geoff and Maureen’s daughter, Lucy, at her home and headed out for dinner. We were going to take a streetcar, but there didn’t seem to be one running and we didn’t want to stand in the rain (although I had no complaints – it was the southern Californian contingent that didn’t like it!), so we took the car instead. The five of us enjoyed an excellent Italian meal, and then were treated to a splendid view of the financial area as we walked back to the car, including the striking TransAmerica pyramid. I was reminded of the opening scenes of BladeRunner, with the cars flying around the darkened buildings in the rain – it was exactly that atmosphere. It’s a shame I didn’t have an opportunity to explore San Francisco – I’ll have to add that to the list of things to do on my next trip.
After dropping Lucy off, we headed back to the hotel.
Next day (Thursday), we took breakfast at the hotel before going to the NorCal trade exhibition at the San Mateo Expo, a show for nurseries, growers’ suppliers and suppliers to garden centres. This was extremely interesting for all of us. Geoff, Maureen and Karen had not been to that show before, and so were all set for carrying out their own business there. I was able to do some business for myself too, mainly in a research mode, but also making a few new contacts too, aided by excellent introductions from Geoff and Maureen. The NorCal show is only a one day affair, and we all felt it would be better if it was two – although we arrived soon after it opened at 9am, and stayed until after it closed at 5pm, stopping only briefly for a working lunch and splitting up at times to try and cover more of the booths, we only just managed to see everything and were completely exhausted by the end of it all. I have a thick pile of brochures from the show, plus an extensive list of people to keep in my contacts file.
After the show, we met up with Lucy before driving all the way back to Santa Barbara, pausing for a break at the King City diner once again, and to drop Karen off at her home in Pismo Beach. By the time we got back to base, it was 1.30am and we were all utterly exhausted.
Friday morning saw us all surface blearily. Lucy had to go to her attorney’s office to make a deposition concerning a car accident she had been involved in some weeks before, whilst we headed into the office to begin analysis of the results of the trade show. At lunch time, I treated Geoff, Maureen, Karen and office manager Susan to lunch at Derf’s, just one block down from their office. After that, it was time for goodbyes. After being dropped back at the airport and checking in, I sat in front of the airport terminal building (makes it sound much more grand than it is), looking up to the San Rafael Mountains and reflecting on my stay as I soaked up the Californian sun. Honestly, I did not want to leave. It’s a great place, with friendly people and a good atmosphere. Geoff and Maureen have a hard-working but ultimately extremely enjoyable lifestyle – something that I will have to work hard at to recreate on this side of the Atlantic. But that is the goal, and to do that I had to come home. Let’s hope that Man From NatWest has some good news for me tomorrow.
The flight back was a reverse of the flight out – another Saab 340 to LAX, then another 777 to LHR. On the flight to LAX, I was one of only seven passengers on the plane, but the LAX leg was full. Thankfully, the guy sat next to me was one of the go-to-sleep types, which suited me fine, as that was my plan also.
I arrived at LHR yesterday afternoon, and after picking up bags, found my way to the RailAir bus to Woking, on which I was the only passenger. Annoyingly, trains between Woking and Guildford were suspended due to engineering, so I had to take another bus, but eventually I found my way back to Chichester. It’s good to be home. I really enjoyed my stay in California, and would go again at the drop of a hat, but it is here that my current opportunities lie, and it is up to me to grasp them and make the most of them.
And, so as to keep you fully up-to-date considering that I’ve shared some of the developments between us that have occured in the past few weeks, I had a visitor here last night. Joanna came over, and we talked for a while. It isn’t going to be easy for us, but we are going to work at things and see what happens. There is no guarantee that we’ll get back together, especially when you consider the external pressures that we are both under, but we’ll give it a go. It also is not going to happen overnight. But I’m keen to try things again, and have been chewing over it all during my stay in Santa Barbara – and my chewings brought me back to one consistent conclusion. I’m relieved that I’m going to get the opportunity to see if that conclusion was the correct one.
Right, after that typing marathon, I’m off to cook some dinner.
Beer with Guy (leaving. nice
Beer with Guy (leaving. nice bloke. sorry to see him go), Arron, Dave, Gary, Paul F, Aris, Kristian, Leah, Nicky, Phil, Sasha and numerous others. Tired.
Did I tell you that
Did I tell you that I plan to go back to California in July? Next time, I don’t plan to travel alone.
Monday 27 January 2003
Zzzzz. It’s going to take
Zzzzz. It’s going to take me a few days to get my mind and body back to GMT. And I have to go to Germany on Thursday. How do people who do this all the time cope?
Thoughts with Joanna, who should
Thoughts with Joanna, who should be just coming round after her surgery as I type this.
Go give the boy a
Go give the boy a hug.
Urf. Spent this evening with Polly, Jo and mostly with Sarah, chewing the cud. I’ve cocked up, basically, and really could do with an ego boost. Urmf.
Tuesday 28 January 2003
I am utterly, utterly exhausted.
I am utterly, utterly exhausted. I could really use that old magic wand to wave over life at the moment as well.
Still, lots of work to do. Best get on.
I’m tempted to put out another request for jokes, but after your last collective performance, I’m not so sure. Anyone got some really good jokes?
What the lyrics of Destiny’s
Just had a call from
Just had a call from Joanna’s mum. Doesn’t sound like Joanna is having much fun at all, so thoughts with her.
Just had a call from
Just had a call from Man From NatWest. Looks like I have some work to do to convince him.
I really need to do
I really need to do some work on The Project, but I’m simply too tired. I also have a bit of a sore throat, just when I could really do without going down with the heavy cold that just about everyone seems to have had. Mind you, that is as nothing to what Joanna is going through at the moment. Her mum promised to call me again this evening with an update, but I guess she must still be at the hospital, or maybe she is on the phone to her sister in NYC. I’m quite worried for her.
UPDATE: Joanna’s mum just called. Joanna is improving by the hour and will hopefully be moving off of the high dependency ward soon. That’s a great relief.
Wednesday 29 January 2003
Ever read Three To See
Ever read Three To See The King? I feel a bit like the guy in the tin hut at the moment. I’m not sure who to listen to, how to deal with this influence (or, rather, these influences) that has come in and is changing my life, and whether to up-sticks and carry my life off to some far away, half constructed, hole in the ground.
Lots is happening at the moment, on just about every level you can imagine. I’ve been seeking and receiving valuable opinions from others, and they all lead me to believe that I’ve made a bad decision somewhere, although I’m not sure quite which decision I’ve made is the worst one.
And all of this is proving to be a bit of a distraction from some of the core issues that I need to be concentrating on, and is diverting my focus from picking up on things which I should be noticing; diverting me from possibly exploring, let alone following, avenues that are opened for me. I’ve made some good decisions in recent times too, and I need to think about them and act on them too.
Simplify, simplify. Maybe Thoreau was right.
TFF: last week, 32 points.
TFF: last week, 32 points. This week, 33 points.
AFF: last week, 8 points. This week, got through to the next round of the FA Cup, remarkably.
Brrr. It’s cold. Good preparation
Brrr. It’s cold. Good preparation for Essen, where daytime highs for Friday are forecast to be -1C (30F).
Incidentally, having cogitated a little, I think it should be fairly easy to persuade the Man From NatWest – his demands are not unreasonable, and I think they are attainable.
They’re denying it, so it
They’re denying it, so it must be true. Or am I just too cynical?
I think I mentioned that
I think I mentioned that I had a bit of a spree on CDs whilst I was in Santa Barbara. One of the treasures that I picked up was Neotropic‘s La Prochaine Fois (which translates as The Next Time), a beautiful slice of ambient electronica that comes accompanied with a matching film of the same name, subtitled "An Ambient Road Movie". Both album and film are excellent, and I think I’ll be hunting down some of her other work. The music is gently soothing, giving a feeling of gentle motion in a control-less, floaty but very pleasant way, and the film is captivating, in a 50s-style grainy home movie fashion.
Staying with music, I was chuffed to receive a CD for review and possible inclusion on radio grayblog from Canadian outfit Kush. The Temptation Sessions: Radio Edits looks like it should provide some material for radio grayblog. Etric Lyons of Kush has sent me a bio, but lamentably I’ve left it in the office and won’t be able to get to it until Monday, but it will be at least then that I get a chance to put any of it online. I’ll keep you posted.
I also have to add new music from our very own Tom A to radio grayblog, and I haven’t forgotten that Charlie promised me some of her recorded vocal beauty. All coming soon folks.
I think it would be very cool if radio grayblog had a fair chunk of new and generally-unavailable music. A good thing indeed.
Once again, the night before
Once again, the night before flying, I’m totally unprepared for my trip. Which is why I plan to have a quick shower and then head down the pub. Heck, I don’t have to leave here until 11:20 tomorrow morning.
Blimey, this place is a mess. I think I’ll worry about that when I get home.
Wine (in the W2 Weds
Wine (in the W2 Weds night half-price deal) tonight with Arron.
Thursday 30 January 2003
Do you read The Yes/No
Do you read The Yes/No Interlude? If you don’t, you should, especially if you are one of the less enlightened Americans (or less enlightened Britons for that matter). Top stuff.
Snow overnight, although it looks
Snow overnight, although it looks like it is thawing already. May just get time to take a piccie of Priory Park under a white (thin) blanket.
Ouch. AOL Time Warner reports
Off to Essen. Back Saturday.
Off to Essen. Back Saturday. t’raa. x