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The Family Bandwagon

Our family is spread out across the country and across the world, and what better way to keep in touch than a collaborative digital journal?

Monday, 30 June 2008

Off to the tennis

This weekend was fun -- we went to Wimbledon!

It started Friday. I was working from home during the day because it was The Big Implementation of our software this weekend, so I was going to work until midnight that night. (Sidebar: had lunch with Dee and Stolly at a Turkish restaurant, then went to the gym. On the way there it started to rain and rain ... Stolly was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, so ducked into a shop and bought an umbrella for £3.50. He came out looking so pleased with himself that we went in a bought one each too -- so then we skipped down the road with matching umbrellas! Oh the hilarity.)

Earlier in the week a friend of Chris's (Joyce, who he met in Thailand) had mentioned going to the tennis at Wimbledon this weekend. It was going to be an "experience" -- queueing for hours to buy the general ground admission tickets. But we thought if we went a bit later in the day then the queue wouldn't be so long. Anyway, I went to work Friday night and mentioned it to one of my work colleagues. "Really?" he said, "Because I just happen to have some free general admission tickets ... if you want them."

Oh yeah! Talk about "who you know"! So we thought we'd turn up a little earlier than the other, then just casually stroll straight in, laughing at the poor chumps in the queue. So we figured out our route (using Google and Transport For London) and jumped on the first of three buses. It wasn't too bad -- we were on early so the bus wasn't packed, and we got to sit up stairs at the front both times (Sidebar #2: If you can figure them out, buses are a cheap way to see London. On the way back in we drove through posh Chelsea, along the river, past Victoria Station, Hyde Park and finally to Marble Arch -- all great touristy things to see!)

P280608_16.29.JPGSo we got to Wimbledon (more precisely, Wimbledon Stadium) and walked around. There was a stadium, but we were expecting something ... grander. (Also we couldn't figure out how to get in.) We stopped a passerby to ask, and he was kind enough not to laugh too much. "The tennis? Oh, that's about 2 miles that way. And yes, it's much more posh than this." Into a taxi for the last leg of our journey -- why would you lie to us, Internet?!

Once we arrived we agreed -- it was much more posh. There were also considerably more people around! At least one part of our plan worked -- we walked straight in. "Yes, here's my members-guest tickets. We know a member of the club. We're so connected. Ta-ra, wot?"


Inside it was more people, but we found seats at a couple of matches. It's cool watching tennis! Much better than on the telly... and this was at Wimbledon! For free! Heh heh.


Eventually the poor chumps our dear friends made it inside the ground, and we watched some more tennis before slumping on the lawn in front of a giant screen which showed what was happening in center-court. Quite an English thing to do, judging from all the people -- sit on the grass, eat strawberries and cream and drink Pimm's.



When the tennis was all but over, Dee and I jumped on another bus back into London (the scenic one). Got back into Marble Arch, then walked along Oxford Street towards home (about a 2 hour walk). We were tired when we got home, but we still beat Chris and Tina (who took the bus to the local Tube station rather than all the way back into the city).

Monday, 16 June 2008

Lun Dun

Long overdue for an update from the London contingent, but we've been keeping ourselves busy, if not out of trouble.

The end of last week was exciting! Phone call from Damien and Cheryl, Dee quit her job and I got an offer with another firm! We've had the flat to ourselves this week, with Colleen in Scotland visiting family, and Chris on a diving holiday in Egypt (yes, jealous, but there's plenty o' time for that). It should have been a relaxing week, but I've been working 12 and 13 hour days as we near the release date of our software. Danielle hasn't been enjoying her work for a little while now, as you may know, but she was holding out for an expected redundancy package i.e. instant "leave" and a month's pay. Unfortunately, on Friday her boss called her in to try to resolve things -- meaning he wasn't going to make her redundant! Damn, thought Dee, and handed in her resignation on Friday morning. She also has some negotiation to do, so might get her month's pay after all!

In between my long hours (and I'm not quite sure how, but working from home helped) I managed to do three interviews (the first a phone interview) with the same company, a sort-of start-up who are doing mobile banking and security stuff. All very interesting, and Java (which is my programming language of choice). The interviews went well, and I received the offer through the mail yesterday! More money, more fun, the chance to actually resigning tomorrow :-D.

What else have we been up to? Last weekend we had dinner and drinks at a Belgian Beer Café for Chris's birthday. Tried a beer called "skaldis" which was something like 11% alcohol -- very strong, but you don't really notice until about 10 minutes after you've finished it. It's lucky we were only about 30 minutes walk from home -- and I feel for Chris, who was getting on an aeroplane to Egypt the next day! Oy.

We were also meant to go to the "Flugtag" (flight-day?) in Hyde Park, for which I'd won two tickets. Unfortunately, by the time we'd found Chris a birthday present it was too late -- the traffic was horrible and the buses packed, so halfway there we jumped off and went for a late lunch instead. At the rate we were moving, it would've been over before we got there anyway.

Friday night was wine-tasting -- a charity event for "Habitats for Humanity" organised by a guy Danielle knows. It was fun, with a proper French wine-taster giving us tips and rating our abilities, but we probably shouldn't have stayed for gin & tonics, then champagne, afterwards -- it made getting up rather difficult on Saturday morning. Which meant we missed our cheap-ticket train to Oxford for a day-trip, and we balked at paying £20 each for a later train so instead went to Hyde Park and just chilled out. Hyde Park is a weird, wild area in the middle of London -- there were even people riding horses, and two guys trekked past dragging tyres as some kind of hiking training (?). After Hyde Park we saw "Happening" at the cinema -- eerie, rather than scary.

Today I've been working (I know!!) but tonight we're having a barbeque to celebrate our new employment situation. It was good -- we did the finances and decided we only needed something like an extra £130 per month to survive on our budget, and my new job will bring in more than that so Dee is free to take her time finding another role. A short-term contract, most likely.

I've got to negotiate the timings for December with my new work now, but then we'll buy our tickets back home. It will be nice to see everyone again (and meet the new family members of course :-D). Yay!

Monday, 9 June 2008

McLaren Vale Sea and Vines

Just a quick update from us.. this long weekend was the McLaren Vale Sea and Vines festival.. basically the wineries offer seafood and desserts, live music, that kind of thing. Since it's about 15 minutes from our house we figured we had no excuse not to go check it out.
Cheryl drew the short straw and was the designated driver.. although considering all the extras she got as part of their designated driver program, i'm not sure the straw was so short after all. Each winery had something different - she got a free muffin, a brownie, a cookie, not to mention all the tea, coffee or water she could drink.. And after I paid $5 for a glass (which then cost $5 to fill at each winery) she managed to score a free one of those too.
Anyway, it was a nice way to spend a lazy public holiday. So what did the rest of you get up to?