Wednesday 1 October 2003
Today, I shall mostly be travelling to America. But before I do that, I must go and pick up my new suit and also get some dollars from the bank. Expect quiet.
Being late costs Ecuador $723,947,653.13. Precisely, apparently.
Thursday 2 October 2003
Time for another one of those airport lounge monologues. Gatwick South Terminal is the location for today’s. Enjoy.
I’m sitting in the lounge with a pint of Stella and a view of the roof and a few tail fins – certainly not as good as the view from San Francisco, but the distant low hills mean it is slightly more interesting than the view from Sacramento, which must surely be the dreariest airport I’ve ever travelled through. But then I’m returning via Dallas/fort Worth, which is reputed to be the greatest aviation hellhole on Earth. We shall see.
So far today, I’ve collected my dollars and my suit, both uneventfully, and also picked up a card for David and Andi – the one thing I’d forgotten.
The journey here was largely uneventful – the train was on time, and offered little amusement. I got my head into Haruki Murakami’s Underground, which is an incredibly moving and sad book, and I’m only on the fourth chapter. I decided to bring this instead of Michel Houllebecq’s (sp?) Platform, which might just be too racy for the US Customs inspectors.
Oh, and in case you are wondering why I’ve already resorted to alcohol, it’s because I know that American charge $4 for each and every drink on their flights, and I don’t want to be bankrupted.
Out of the window, Monarch and Britannia aircraft are performing a strange sort of dance on the taxiway, as a tractor runs in strange circles towing a mower across the runway-side grass. All of this is performed in a bizarre silence, the triple glazing of the terminal windows providing an effective barrier between waiting passengers and the noise of the aircraft.
Inevitably, and as always seems to happen in airports, I was quizzed by a couple of guys as I was waiting in line for security about my jacket (I’m talking about the infamous pimptastic jacket, of course). Apparently, they had seen it in a shop in Marbella (must have been Zara), one had tried it on and thought it was "the dog’s bollocks" whilst the other assured him that he shouldn’t be seen dead in it. Which is pretty much the same conversation I end up having with just about anyone new that I meet whilst wearing it. Even the security lady at the AA check-in was interested in it, complaining that she felt cold. But then she was from Croydon and likes Bognor. There isn’t much hope for some people.
Two people to my right have just spotted and recognised each other – one of those "where are you going then?" type conversations is now ensuing. He’s suddenly changed from a suit that was gently dozing into his newspaper and coffee into a vibrant and energetic conversationalist – which is suspect is in no small part related to the fact that she is your classic oriental beauty.
Arses, we’re already boarding. time to glug my beer and get going.
Update: well, I’m now down at the gate, and have plenty of time in hand. As usual, American are working hard to maintain their record for the most punctual trans-Atlantic service.
It’s always interesting to sit in these lounges and have a look at fellow passengers. I’ve already decided who I’d like to be sat next to on the flight, but I suspect that is wishful thinking. I’ve also identified the "extra wide seat" that I hope I don’t get sat next to. But generally, the passengers here seem to fall into three groups – young people aged 25 to 35 (yay! I’m young!) who are travelling on their own, and are either currently sitting with their head in a book, or are looking around the room trying to find something to interest them (usually the other people) and wishing they had brought a book with them. There is also a smattering of middle-aged people, but the bulk of the passengers are older couples, mostly American judging by the accents. One or two have surprisingly awful facial hair. I guess that St louis isn’t likely to attract the vibrant young European travellers, and my guess is that the younger people here are either on business or are travelling on to other destinations. (Sorry Teresa Michelle, I’m not dussing your city! But have you read any Jonathan Franzen?).
On the plus side, it doesn’t look like this flight is full, so there should be some room to spread out. The seating plan on aa.com showed the seat next to me as occupied, but hopefully they have moved them back to a window seat.
Then again, it looks like a whole crowd of new people have just arrived at the gate.
Hmm. I’m not sure if this real-time blogging is a good thing. This is turning into one of those stream-of-consciousness posts. Mind you, the beer isn’t helping – gone straight to my head. Serves me right for glugging it.
Out in the corridor, visible through the plate glass, is a display of photography sponsored by BAA. There are some good pictures there, and they vary in scale between small A4 sized prints to huge behemoths that only just fit on the wall. It is good that the airport management make some effort to enliven the building, but you have to wonder if it is worth it from the point of view of those displaying their work. Their audience consists of passers-by who are totally preoccupied with getting on a plane and flying away to another destination – or returning travellers, who have just one thought – home as soon as possible.
There is a guy (he’s American – he isn’t a bloke, he’s a guy) who is currently reading out last night’s restaurant bill at full volume for the entire lounge to hear. Three bottles of wine, apparently, six bottles of water and five Alhambras. Five whole Moorish palaces? Wow. I’m impressed. Twat.
Oh dear, I’m slipping into my whole pitying the Americans mode. They can’t help it. And I need to get over that, or else tomorrow’s business meeting won’t go well (I’ve already had a fairly lively discussion with Tony when I met him in Sacramento) and the wedding could get very embarrassing, especially once I’ve had a few drinks at the reception.
And why are so many Americans called Jerry?
Right, time to shut this thing off before this stream of consciousness turns into a stream of gibberish. Well, more so than it already has.
Further reports from St Louis.
St Louis update:
Tw opints of beer (a not bad local IPA) and already my typing has gone to pieces (I’ll leave that typo in for you, just to demonstrate). Conversations in the bar with a couple of business types (as opposed to Businessman Billy types – oh good, two pints AND really lateral references too!) about US attitudes to world current affairs, the difference in travelling by road in the US compared with travelling in the UK and EU, and a lengthy discussion on where exactly Chichester is in the UK (no, it’s not near Strat-FORD upon Ay-VON).
St Louis airport was almost in line for my Most Awful Airport In The World Award due to its bizarre reclaim-your-baggage-then-check-it-back-in-then-reclaim-it-again-even-if-St-Louis-is-your-final-destination system, but actually it has some nice bars, plenty of powerpoints for running laptops and architecture that isn’t so shockingly bland that you want to slit your wrists in desperation. It does have shockingly poor signage though – confused, cluttered signs that do not give simple clear information. Go to Schiphol guys – learn how it is done.
Anyhow, my inward flight was unexciting. I got chatting with the guy in the seat behind me (sorry, he was a bloke, not a guy) who was from Cornwall and was friendly and amusing enough. Which is more than can be said for the three Scottish women sitting just ahead of me, who were loud and objectionable. Morag, particularly, laughed far too loudly to deserve to live.
Anyhow, I’m fairly pooped, and I have another flight to get through and then I have to get to the hotel. Joy. I’ll certainly sleep well once I get to a bed. And I’ve realised that I’ve left the invitations for the wedding and dinner at home, which is partly annoying, not particularly diastrous, but possibly mildly inconvenient, considering that the invitation included directions for finding the chapel. Let’s just hope that Kev remembered his (oh dear. Relying on Kev. A bad sign.).
I’ve made some notes aboth the flight over too, which I’ll entertain you with later. They aren’t that exciting.
And if anyone else asks me about my jacket…..
Right, nearly time for boarding, and I need a loo. I’ll publish this when I get to the hotel (if I can stay awake long enough), and possibly post an update if I can be arsed.
The epic work of literature is still progressing, and seems to be drawing towards some sort of climax.
I’m really tired and didn’t sleep too well last night.
Spent today driving in a hired Ford Focus to the brilliant Plant Delights nursery, where I spent hours talking about, photographing and taking notes on new plants, before taking a few wrong turns, driving past beautiful Harris Lake and then down Old US 1 to Rockingham, where I’m now in another Holiday Inn Express. I’m off out for a meal in a bit, then an early night.
Friday 3 October 2003
Only in America – a "live" interview with Kermit the Frog on screen, with a news headline banner at the bottom telling that David Kay, head WMD inspector for the CIA, says that there are no WMDs in Iraq. What I can’t get over is that the Americans still seem convinced that they are there to be found.
Take a hike
Off hiking, then driving to Charlotte. Another not-terribly-restful night due to the hotel being right by an interstate interchange. But it is comfy, clean, with a huge square bed and one of those only-in-the-US showers that blasts you against the wall.
Saturday 4 October 2003
Zzz. Too much alcohol. Nice people though. More tomorrow.
Urf. I have a mighty hangover. Outside, hundreds of people are running past the hotel in part of a charity event for breast cancer charities. Inside, my head is buzzing, the direct result of mixing beer, wine and champers – never a good idea.
Today – food and gladhanding, then the ceremony and reception. Looking forward to Neil arriving halfway through the ceremony.
Sunday 5 October 2003
This morning, I don’t have a hangover. I’m still drunk. I’m sure the hangover will kick in later. And my voice seems to have been replaced in the night with that of Mike Reid. "Pat! Pat!" – or, alternatively – "Runaround!"
(Nobody outside of the UK will understand that).
The ceremony yesterday really was excellent – it was so obvious that David and Andi totally love each other – and the food and drink at the reception was also brilliant. And the pubs that we went to afterwards were great too, with utterly brilliant people – I hope I can keep in touch with them.
Monday 6 October 2003
(Written during the course of Sunday…)
Airport blogging. Charlotte-Douglas Airport.
I’m absolutely knackered. I don’t think I’ve drunk so much in one weekend in my entire life. We got back to the hotel at some absurdly late hour, having toured a couple of bars in Charlotte with some absolutely fabulous people, particularly Anna, Alicia, Dwight, Jason and Claire – they really looked after us brilliantly and made sure we had a great time. I gave away a shedload of my business cards to complete strangers, and apparently we arranged to meet a girl in London next weekend that Dwight just randomly accosted in the bar and said "Hey! I want you to meet these guys! They’re from England!" We called this a "Dwight moment". Dwight is a huge bloke, 50% bald, with a totally disarming and engaging manner. He creates Dwight moments with people completely at random. A few years ago he had a moment with an extraordinarily beautiful woman in a bar, and she fell for him entirely. That was Alicia and they’ve recently married. Lucky bastard! Maybe I need to start creating a few Graham moments.
Actually, I don’t remember big chunks of last night’s events at all, and Neil, Kev and I sat over breakfast this morning trying to piece everything together. Unfortunately, all I have is a set of pieces, few of which actually fit together into any sort of order. I think they are the same, and we kept having "Oh, and what about the Siegfried and Roy conversation?" and "What about when you told that woman about meeting the Duke of Edinburgh?" discussions, not to mention "do you remember the ‘to ming is a verb’ discussion?"
Anyway, I can’t sit here looking at this any more, as I’m simply too tired. I have got to the airport very early, so can relax here and have a nap. Earlier, I took a stroll around the Uptown area of Charlotte and rattled off a few pictures which I will share with you, before zipping here in a stretch limo (well, you have to do these things in style you know!).
UPDATE: Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
Well, the Dallas skyline doesn’t look quite like it used to in the titles of the TV show (cue bad impressions of Larry Hagman talking about the way his "Daddy" used to do things, and Ken Kercheval just acting badly). The airport, however, matches the state of Texas by being absolutely vast. AA have three whole terminals here to themselves – there are silver aircraft as far as the eye can see. I’ve just walked from the far end of terminal C to the middle of terminal A, eschewing the option of taking the trAAin. That’s how vast this place is – the airline actually have their own rapid transit system within the airport to move people around just between their own gates. Apparently, Delta, Continental and all the other airlines have their facilities away in other parts of this enormous airport, which, as you approach it by air, you can see is about the size of a small English county (and that isn’t much of an exaggeration).
However, in spite of its vast size, and in common with Charlotte, there are no power points here to enable me to power the laptop, so I’m glad I charged the battery fully before I left the hotel, as I’ve got another hour and a half here, and it’s good to be able to plug the headphones in and get some audio entertainment to block out the sounds of the place. St Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles all feature them, and dead useful they are too. However, there is WiFi available here, and I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it might be useful to have functionality on the laptop. Mind you, that assumes I could get it to work. I had problems with the high speed net access at the Marriott in Charlotte – I couldn’t send email, as access to both the SMTP servers that I normally use did not seem to be working. It cost US$9.99 per day, but that probably makes it comparable to the Net2Roam costs that I would have incurred. I also doubt that it was working at the claimed 10mbps, as it seemed to be slower than my home 512k broadband access.
I’ve just taken another Advil, but this time not to combat the hangover (which has nicely abated), but to deal with my cold symptoms, which seem to be getting steadily worse. Getting a short nap on the flight from Charlotte helped though.
The weather here is disappointingly cloudy, so the view towards downtown Dallas isn’t as good as it might be. And, frankly, you’re not going to see much anyway, as there isn’t a good line of sight available – the outside of the terminal is cluttered with airbridges, aircon kit, pylons and goodness knows what else, which not only diminishes the view, but means that the interior of the terminals are much more dependent on artificial light. It’s not a great airport design – I can see why people don’t like it. Charlotte, on the other hand, has a clean and simple, elegant and functional design, that was highly usable.
Hmm. Maybe I need to start an airport review section. My favourite airport that I’ve been through is, undoubtedly, Santa Barbara. It’s small with a good atmosphere. Of the bigger airports, Barcelona would probably be my favourite. Functional, with a little bit of character too.
Oh well, homeward bound. Apparently it’s turned chilly at home, but having played my long sleeve shirt card on Saturday morning at the luncheon for out-of-towners at Cynthia’s house (nice lady – though one of those aggressively single late fortysomethings, but great fun), I’m left with a rather light Claiborne black short sleeved t-shirt to withstand 12 degrees Celsius. Not well planned. Still, the pimptastic jacket should come to my rescue.
One thing is for sure – when I get back, I need to do something serious about weight loss. I’ve been quietly accruing pounds over the last few weeks and months, and this trip has really compounded matters due to the vast quantities of food and drink consumed. So, I’ll be off beer and on vodka slimlines, off lard and on lettuce, and off my butt and out walking. And I’ll log my progress in the sidebar of this site – I’m going to work on the same basis as the last time, losing around two pounds each week. To cut myself a little slack, my aim will be to lose 14 pounds (one stone) in eight weeks. I’ll have a weigh-in on Tuesday morning. Anyone up for joining me?
Right, time to go find a bottle of water for the flight (at least there is no shortage of stores here), and then get some reading and people-watching done. I’ll publish this when I get home.
Now back home. Expect a resumption of near-normal service.
Beer tonight, believe it or not, with Paul F, listening to jazz courtesy of Nette and Lou. Nette has a most beautiful voice, and Lou is pretty handy with the guitar. Great for time-zone-confused people.
Tuesday 7 October 2003
It looks highly likely that Steve Coppell will leave Brighton to go to the Reading manager’s job. This would be very bad for Brighton, undoubtedly, but not as bad as if he were to be replaced by Glenn Hoddle (shudder). Dark days ahead, which is a shame now that we are at the head of Division Two.
Well, the diet has officially begun. I weighed-in this morning at 13st 10lbs (that’s 192lbs for the Americans, or 87.2kg for those who work in metric), and set a target of 12st 10lbs (178lbs or 80.8kg) to be reached by 2nd December – eight weeks from today. I’ve got off to a bad start by having four of mum’s home-made cheese scones for lunch, so it’ll have to be just salad for tea I think. This could be harder than last time.
Also, the observant amongst you will notice that my weight has not quite got to the level at which I started when I dieted last year. My start weight last year was 13st 13lbs, so I’ve managed to keep below that, even though my lifestyle has definitely got less healthy since then.
Actually, I could get used to dieting. Tonight: smoked salmon salad with lemon and mint dressing, followed by fresh fruit salad, all home-made, of course. Delicious.
California recall election. Not much to do now other than sit back and wait for the results. And read the Sacramento Bee’s Recall Fly On The Wall blog.
My money is on a yes vote in the recall ballot by a narrow margin (possibly even after a recount), and then Arnie winning the election, largely thanks to the huge number of absentee votes posted before all the recent mudslinging. Bustamante will be second.
Everyone linked this ages ago, but I thought that some of you might have missed it.
Wednesday 8 October 2003
Actually getting some work done today, so expect quiet.
(Actually, I wrote this three hours ago, and only got around to hitting "publish" now – that’s how busy I am. Fear me and my productivity.)
Happy Tree Friends
I’m sure I’ve linked to Happy Tree Friends before, but Michael has reminded me of them today. Blood, gore, animation. What more do you need?
Not as good as Weebl and Bob though. And certainly not as good as Space Is Dum.
Thursday 9 October 2003
For the first time in a week, I slept absolutely solidly last night for nearly nine hours. I can’t say that I feel totally rested today, but I certainly feel much better.
There’s lots of work to be done today, so please excuse me again if I’m quiet.
There are moves afoot to organise a UK bloggers Christmas party. What’s the betting that the idea will not get any further than everyone sitting around saying "yes, let’s do it!" because nobody wants the pain of actually organising the event themselves? Having been involved in coordinating this sort of thing before, I know that it is not a job for the faint-hearted, not least because attempted to find a venue and date that at least some people can accept is one of the most difficult tasks known to mankind. Still, if I’m around, I’ll go, as I haven’t been to one of these bashes in a long while.
UPDATE: I take it all back. Check here.
Friday 10 October 2003
Somehow, I’ve hurt my back. It was sore yesterday, a dull sort of ache just below and between my shoulder blades, and just to the right of my spine – a dull sort of ache that turns into a sharp stabbing pain if I reach or twist in a certain way. Various tinctures and potions have eased it a little, as well as an hour-long soak in the bath last night, but I think what I could really do with is a good long massage. I’m not sure that massage would actually relieve the pain, but it would certainly make me feel better!
I think my body may be beginning to rebel in reaction to timezone changes, excessive alcohol consumption and a lack of exercise. What I need is a period of rest, and, thankfully, I have an exciting yet restful and relaxing weekend lined up.
I really must learn that the best way to clean bits of lint from my laptop screen is not to wipe my greasy mitts across it. Gah. Fingerprints.
On the subject of next week’s launch of China’s first manned space mission:
On landing, the astronaut “will be able to deal with wild beasts, sharks and other dangerous animals or enemies”, the website reported.
The Chinese Government emphasised on Friday that the space mission was a purely peaceful exercise.
BBC reporting here.
Forgot to say. Dave’s windows quote has arrived. It features very few zeros, but a large number of other numbers in long rows.
Jackhammer Rampage. Like it.
Beer tonight with Arron, Paul C, Jeremy, Simon, Dave and Tim W, with sightings of Luce and Nicki.
Saturday 11 October 2003
Expect no updates today. I’ll be away from the PC all day – undoubtedly a very good thing.
Sunday 12 October 2003
I’m a bit detached from reality at the moment, so please excuse me, and also excuse the likely quietness that will exist around this site for the foreseeable. I’m enjoying the detachment, although I’ve got a lot of cleaning to do.
However, I can report that Brighton won 3-0 yesterday, and Bob Booker is jolly pleased about it. Which is nice.
What do you think? (via BNI)
Today I ordered a new mattress. It will cost £250, including £20 delivery. In addition, I will have to pay the local authority £15 to remove my old one. This sleeping malarkey is expensive!
What’s more, the new mattress will not be delivered for nearly a month. Guh.
Monday 13 October 2003
I’m tired. But must clean. And perhaps try to reconnect with reality. But then again…
This site is on semi-hiatus.
No particular reason. It’s just that I’ve got other things on my mind. And I want to enjoy life for a while. I may post here intermittently. And without warning. I may not post at all. Who knows?
Thursday 16 October 2003
Just back for a brief moment…
Huge congratulations to Nick and Anne T on the birth yesterday of Sophie Charlotte.
Nick. A dad. Who’d have thought it?
Normal hiatus will now resume…