Thursday, 30 April 2009

entering a purple zone of tranquility

purple quiet lounge

I'm in the well hidden purple quiet lounge at the moment after a day of intensive workshopping. Bundled into a hot car at the end of the session and back to the airport almost in time for the early flight.

But not quite.

A few minutes of blackberrying, some short emails and now I've decided to shut down until tomorrow and maybe just sit quietly and drink a coffee.

Actually I've still got piles of things to do, but instead I'll spend time in this slightly post industrial tranquil place, interrupted by the loud plane announcement system at two minute intervals.

sent from a handheld device

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

one of my time capsules has croaked

DSC_4545
It's slightly annoying to discover that the time capsule I use to back up one of my computers has converted itself into a white brick.

I don't solely rely upon the device as a backup but I still consider the device to have been a relatively recent addition to the environment (albeit outside of warranty), probably with a main purpose to outlive the system it is backing up.

Anyway, after varied attempts to revive it, I pinged it apart and retrieved the 'Hitachi Deskstar' terabyte disk from inside it. I diagnostically tried it without the disk but not even the network lights would come on at the back of the unit.

Something rather terminal has happened inside of it. I feel a "dear Apple" email is needed.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

panoramic sheep for insomniacs

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The sheep were gently grazing and I didn't feel in the least bit tired. I didn't even feel the need to count them, although it's easier if you click through on the picture, which is slightly bigger than the clip I've taken..

Monday, 27 April 2009

april showers pitter pattering all around

Thor is wearing the seven league boots tonight and dragging galleons by their chains over rooftops against a carbon sky. I can smell soot, hear sudden sheet metal crashes and see blasting shards of white light from behind the nearby buildings.

I've got the window open and can smell and taste the rain as it smacks the glass roof several stories below me.

I'm not sure if the gods are angry or if it's just April.
sent from a handheld device

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Lazing by the Thames before heading to Heathrow

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We decided to head for Gabriel's Wharf and some South Bank sunshine. A restaurant by the River Thames and Embankment where we could people watch.

It may be touristville in this part of London, but there's always plenty to happening.

No chance to get caught up in the marathon activities this year as I have to head out to the airport anytime soon.
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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Panic in the Barbican

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I frequently endure mild panic as I enter the Barbican complex. For varied reasons I am often late or have poorly described plans for meeting places. I get shown around by those helpful runners that guide late-comers to their ticketing desks and seats. I'm actually a member as well, but this doesn't make any difference and the idea of spending time in the special lounge might appeal but has yet to occur.

Saturday was no different as we crossed town from Chelsea in order to see Improbable's 'Panic' in the Barbican Pit. We ran across concourses, we ran down spiralling stairs, we hung a left to get tickets. We made our way into the already darkened theatre. The performance had started. The actors were on stage. "Hello", said Phelim from the stage, "...and Welcome".

We sat, gathered our wits and decided whether to be panic-ed or to take off in another direction.

Multi dimensioned, with a level describing the actors, a level around the on stage personas and then a further flight into the mystic, this is a magical and spellbinding performance.

There's a dreamlike sequencing, where what's top, bottom, left and right becomes difficult to fathom, but always within the theme of The Great God Pan being both everywhere and stuck alone waiting for his Nymphs in a bedsit in Brixton.

P1010549I enjoy the quirky portrayal, the gear changes between actors playing in the various levels, and the way even the stage's visual plane is adjusted for some of the scenes.

Pan is a tough god to deliver. Panic, bufoonery, cloven hoofed paganism, fooling with nymphs in the woods, horns sufficient to have him re-written as the devil. Or as a particularly *ahem* three dimensional character of the sort you wouldn't get in any IMAX.

Pan-character Phelim McDermott and his strong cast of (P)angela Clerkin, Lucy Foster and Matilda Leyser ran a slickly timed though intentionally haphazard performance to be proud of - "Can someone help me with the legs?" called for some complex puppetry. There was a full and metropolitan audience who laughed their way through the right parts of the show and clearly approved.

An episode about self improvement set in the middle layer labyrinth of the Brixton flat was made complex by the piles of books and sharp things on the floor which could be removed by event vacuuming. I would have sensed a random 'self -help title generator' if it wasn't for the real books being produced from brown carrier bags to illustrate the theme.

There were dream sequences with aerial swishery and personal revelations from the actors where it became deliberately difficult to determine whether these were from characters or the people themselves.

But lets not forget Pan's stand-up role in the woodlands with the nymphs. There was more than an eyeful of that too, along with revelations from the nymphs themselves of their special healing properties and other appropriate dispositions.

The staging, lighting and mystical music (was that Dolly Pardon being played backwards at one point?) added to the atmosphere of being transported into a woodland and later into the Labyrinth. Brown paper and straw featured heavily in the set which worked exceptionally well as a component of the production.

As I left, in my mind I could still hear twigs snapping, the hoot of an owl and the flutter of a bird taking off... or was it the rustle of a self help book?

Londoners...Go see!
panic ad

Friday, 24 April 2009

renaissance

T5 N
Sitting here listening to the Clerkenwell Polka by Madness after an evening at a Heathrow hotel. Sometimes it feels a bit nuts in the head to be going back to an airport at what should be the start of the weekend, but I was meeting a good friend from Boston who was passing through from Belfast on the way back home, with an overnighter on the H2 bus route.

He's been in a new hot shot intergalactic job for a while and it was a great chance to hear the latest and trade a certain amount of gossip over a lemonade and a glass of wine. He's on an early flight on Saturday morning. My next one isn't until Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

budget wordle

budget wordle
UK 2009 budget as a wordle. "We're going to need a bigger plug...", etc.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

collapse of plan creates a new window of opportunity

DSC_4254
The collapse of a well made plan today for entirely external reasons means I can spend some time in the UK before I hit the trail again on Sunday.

I will still have my time cut out anyway to get my stuff done.

But tonight instead of another view of a runway, I'm back home and decided to watch some telly, and surprise people by answering the phone at rashbre central.

I can hear a conversation suggesting that I'll be at the Barbican on Saturday, but I shall try not to panic.
P1010438

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Slaughtered Lamb hosts The Low Anthem

SL
After the car phoning me, I spent the rest of the day in a video conference with three other European locations, which went on until around 20:00. Now I'm in a hotel with an excellent view of a foreign runway. I can't hear the planes, but I swear I can smell that aviation fuel aroma.

The good news today was that we found out that the fabulous band 'The Low Anthem' are doing a couple of London gigs next month in Farringdon at the Slaughtered Lamb.

We've managed to bag a few tickets for both nights.

UPDATE: Reviewed here

Monday, 20 April 2009

thoughtful car averts chase by cops

police
I prevented a Police car chase today when my own car decided to phone me.

"Ring Ring", it went.
"Hello", I said.
"Hello I'm your car, registration blah blah blah".
"Huh?"
"I might have been stolen, check whether I'm where you think I should be..."
"Huh?"
"Press 1 if I've been stolen or 2 if you know I've been moved without the key"
"Huh?...Ahah!"
"You pressed the button to say I've not been stolen"...
...and so it went on.
Yes.
They've taken my busted car away on a flat bed trailer to have the springy-ness re-boinged. It will return a veritable Tigger in a day or two. Meantime I'll be driving to Heathrow in the green teapot.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

editing the week to sound bites

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As I tippy-tap these posts, I can't help thinking how much of an edit there is between what happens and what gets recorded.

I've already been back to the UK and then flown out to another place by the time I write this and as an account of 'le mini-break' it misses huge amounts of the experience.

But I take that as a good thing - the richness - yet also a mystery that sometimes I get stuck about what to write. So amongst the things I've skipped over would be the fashion show on the beach, sponsored by NRJ radio (it took me ages to work that one out). The curious addiction to cafe liegeois. The flat above the music shop. Knowing the short cuts through the cobbled streets in Dinant. A nostalgic visit to the Casino at the Hotel Normandy. Hearing a story of domestic neglect whilst winding through lanes in Brittany. The whole Absinthe saga. Le Pot d'Etain for four. I think that's enough.

Normal service will resume shortly.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

the small cow was a sign that we were tourists

DSC_4443More search for sea and sand between the toes on Saturday, after starting with a visit to the market.

I would have said French Market, with its calvados, fromage, huitres and smokey saucisson. Très magnifique as they might say.

Luckily our local friend was able to point out the tell tale signs of us being treated as tourists, although even I suspected something when the milk for the coffee arrived in a little cow shaped jug. Small children passing were saying 'La vache' - so I suppose it was still broadly educational.

Many locals were meeting and greeting one another and then with perfect timing, two people I'd met for the first time the previous day strolled right past our table. So we greeted one another in a proper French style and then they looked at our little cow and we looked at their leeks. You had to be there. Emily handed over the dozen eggs destined for the evening's omelettes and we headed for the coast with the lid down on the car.
DSC_4396

Friday, 17 April 2009

the mediaeval village divulges a popular restaurant

DSC_4214
Part of the plan behind this trip was to meet friends in a nearby French village, around a kilometer from our hotel, which we achieved with superb co-ordination.

We also headed for other nearby locations such as the mediaeval village on a rock in the Manche. Mont St Michel could be a set for a film and would tax the finest Disney Imagineers to create something with as many twists and turns.

We strolled the ramparts and finally stopped in a restaurant where countless well known people had dined, including Presidents, Kings, Prime Ministers, film stars and singers. Close to our table were signatures from the Bolshevik-Leninist Leon Trotsky, ex UK Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher and the straw hatted french singer Maurice Chevalier.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

after the journey, the quicksand was nothing

DSC_4307
After the mechanical, industrial and documentary challenges we finally made it across to France. A change of plan and a different hotel for the first evening, before onward to Normandy.

And in keeping with the spirit of the journey we soon found a dangerous beach, and then subsequently an area sign-posted with quicksand warnings.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

borderline decisions impeding progress

tunnel
The journey to Folkestone worked.

In the spare car, with the silver one to be taken away to be fixed next Monday. We even managed to zig and zag our way through the blockade and past all of the lorries parked on the M20.

Right the way through to the French control point at the tunnel. We were even on time for our originally planned crossing.

Feeling pretty good.

The inevitable question about tickets and passports. I had all the necessary documentation, but my accomplice did not. Merely a driving licence. I'd asked about the passport when we were only a mile from home. Let's say I didn't ask in a clear or precise enough way.

Anyway, we've now been refused entry to France and have a form to prove it. Invited to the little white room by a pleasant gendarme for questioning and paperwork. Then escorted from the French part of the UK end of the Tunnel back to British jurisdiction, by security.

Actually, I'm in the clear.

I can still come and go as I please. But right now I'm waiting for the other passport to be retrieved. Having run the gauntlet of roadblocks, Operation Stack and similar, we decided it was best for me to sit here with the car.

I've been doing work emails on my blackberry and now moved onto my Macbook Pro. In a moment I may write a new novel. There should be enough time.

shock car moment

82211945My car has decided it doesn't want to go to France. I was just getting ready to throw some luggage into the boot, when I noticed it had adopted a lower slung look than customary. I walked to the front and my foot clipped half a serious looking metal ring laying on the ground.

I think it has been looking at too many pictures of French Citroens or something. The new low-slung look was an effect of a shock absorber catastrophe. I noticed a clunk sound when I was driving back from Heathrow yesterday, and fear that something important has snapped.

Oh well, it looks as if the little blue convertible will be making the trip to France instead.

UPDATE:
Motorists have been warned to expect serious delays due to Operation Stack being implemented on the M20.

Industrial action at the French ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk is preventing ferries from crossing the Channel, meaning freight must use a section of the motorway as a giant lorry park.

Fishermen are protesting at ever tougher EU-imposed fishing quotas, and are calling for more support from their government.

Police are closing the coast-bound carriageway between junctions eight (Leeds Castle) and nine (Ashford West), with motorists being asked to find alternative routes.

Eurotunnel will continue to transport freight and people who have already secured bookings.

I wonder if our ticket will still work?
operation stack

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

another day, another country

P1010361
The alarm did ring at four thirty this morning heralding my day trip to another city. I was at the airport by five forty five and sitting on the plane before many sane people had managed their first coffee.

I was able to travel light though, so made up time at the other end, finally arriving at my destination by around ten fifteen - having lost an hour in the time zone process.

A rather intense working day, another airport and I'm now about to search out insurance documents ready for a short trip to France tomorrow in the car.

Monday, 13 April 2009

waterwitch

DSC_5510
Continuing yesterday's mud theme, this morning we decided to stroll the canal towpath, although there were a surprising number of like-minded others, including the occasional traffic jam of ramblers.

We headed for the Waterwitch and sat in the garden interrupted for a few minutes with someone's 'child stuck in tree' interlude.

The sun shone, and it was enjoyable to roam without driven purpose. That can wait for tomorrow, when I start at 04:30. I have already set the alarm.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

no panic in the woods

panic
A lazy morning, followed by a splendid, if rather large, lunch at the Leather Bottle.

Luckily we had a good plan to burn a few calories in the woods in the afternoon, although it became a rather muddy experience.

We managed to scramble over a few fallen trees and past miscellaneous wildlife including the ponies and a rather suspicious looking fuzzy brown sheep.

I may have just glimpsed Pan this time, although I'm sure I'll get a better look when we visit the Barbican

Friday, 10 April 2009

it's breakfast, but not as we know it

lovebakerylondon
Sometimes its best to just ease into the day. The first cupcakes of Spring show early positive signs of a turnaround in fortunes.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

concentric exit pattern

P1010321
When I exit a hotel or similar, I have a sort of concentric circles thing going on. Its about where my stuff is placed. The circles have to originate from near to the door and I gradually move things further in, so that I know I won't leave anything behind.

I guess I pulled out of this foreign city before Easter in a similar way, getting stuff into a wheely bag and some carry-on into a back-pack. Then down to the lobby where I dropped the big bag with the concierge whilst I took the back-pack to a cafe for one last meeting and phone conference. With latte.

Afterwards, I also stashed my backpack at this new point of origin and used the spare time to head for the cobbled streets and down to the harbour. The next boat, was in 12 minutes, so I decided to while some time on the water instead of in an airport lounge.

Just time for a circuit past the Opera House before heading back through busy streets. collecting luggage and declining a taxi to instead do what the locals do and take the train back to the airport.

I'll be back there on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

bookshop

Bog Borsen
A few spare minutes to wander the streets before heading for the airport.

Instead of the gleaming shops, I quite like wandering through some of the less pristine parts of town, which are also quite close to where I'm staying. Kind of turn right and keep going for 300 metres and this area is part of the neighbourhood.

Above is another of the local bookshops, and if you feel like buying a CD or vinyl, then I can recommend the place below.
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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

coffee time at the bookshop

IMG00053x
A few moments in cafe society today at the nearby bookshop, where I've bought a latte and sit watching the world go by.

In a short time I'll be back reviewing documents and participating in international phone conferences, but for now its quite pleasant to have a few minutes of 'me time' sipping coffee, smiling back to the pleasant waitress and enjoy observing the mainly holiday minded locals go about their shopping.

sent from a handheld device.

flttr - th nw twttr


nano nano

Monday, 6 April 2009

my temporary city has already gone away for easter vacation

fashion
I was one of about 5 people taking breakfast in the normally bustling cafe today. When I grabbed a cab, the driver said he'd been watching a movie for the last 45 minutes and drinking a coffee.

The whole place has already gone on vacation for Easter.

I suspect I am one of a handful still working in this city. Empty streets at what would normally be peak rush-hour. Just bicycles where there would usually be lines of stationary cars.

Something of a contrast from the flurry of people around even the gas-mask stall in London's Portobello Market last Saturday.
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Sunday, 5 April 2009

breakfast start for a suppertime meeting with a lack of gasoline

customhouse
I'd arranged to meet two people for supper this evening, but it meant starting the preparations at around breakfast time because of the location. They were both travelling to the rendezvous and all three of us will be in different countries tomorrow.

In my case, I had to leave for the airport at 10am, arrive back at the Temporary Apartment by mid afternoon and then meet in a bar before we headed to the restaurant.

It all went to plan until much later when we needed to refill the Plymouth Voyager with gasoline (its American so you can't fill it with petrol).

First we couldn't find anyone local in the restaurant who knew where the petrol stations were located, but then when we did it was a drive almost out of town, on the remaining 6kms of fuel according to the readout.

The first petrol station was a deserted automat and wouldn't take any of our credit cards.

The second one was also an automat but encouragingly there were others filling their cars. Less luck with us, as we tried three cards (all foreign) and then used my remaining few bills of local currency.

In the process we had to drive the unwieldy vehicle to two different pumps and face a stand-off from a local who tried to jump the queue. And the accompanying sounds of a Winnie the Pooh story booming from the van didn't exactly help.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

everything's great down at notting hill gate

P1010276
Portobello market this afternoon and a movie at the Electric.

It was "The Boat that Rocked" describing the UK 'swinging sixties' Pirate Radio stations.

Something of an ensemble piece, with pop music reminiscences and rather cartoonish portrayals of the disk jockeys as well as the introduction of a surprisingly 2009 emo character for a way of signposting what was happening.

The boat which was supposed to be moored in International Waters just off of the British coastline as a thinly disguised Radio Caroline or Radio London.

I'll describe it as a film with a few smiles rather than any elaborate plot or big message.

Intended as a celebration of the era and with a Notting Hill/Four Weddings type cast, so I suppose I was seeing it in the right cinema.

Of course the Electric is something of an institution itself, with its leather armchairs and footstools so you can really lay down to watch the movie (unless you watch it from one of the leather covered beds, of course).

And I still smile when I watch the reminder about switching off *ahem* electrical gadgets before the film starts and the innovative use of a popcorn holder (don't ask).
P1010280

Friday, 3 April 2009

man saves world?

G20
It's amazing how the odd Trillion can help change one's fortunes. Take Gordon, once a down at heel politician with an aptitude for making mistakes. His blackened pen had could turn anything from value into something worthless.

But now, by chatting with a few of his big car owning distant acquaintances against a backdrop of highly coloured flags it looks as if he has moved to a lighter side.
G20
Simply adding a Trillion of Wonga to heal the broken global promises of rampant financiers seems to have curbed the speculation of his replacement.
G20
Only a week ago everyone was wondering if Harriett Harmon was about to step forward as a leader in waiting, but now the alleged Anglo-Saxon banking malaise has been cured at a single stroke.
G20
As they scrub the graffitti from the walls of our good Lady of Threadneedle Street and we marvel at the more imaginitive protests, perhaps we are supposed to wonder what all the fuss was about.

...Or maybe I've been away too long?

from our country files - extreme shepherding


In case you've missed these sheep antics.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

a series of delays

P1010214
Some emergency shopping on Tuesday evening because of my unexpected extended stay away this week. My moderately priced return ticket was not changeable on day of travel so I had to buy another single back to the UK.

On Sunday I'd left my car in the plastic denting short stay at Heathrow for this originally short visit.

But then during Thursday the meetings overran again and I found myself being negotiated onto the last seat on another flight with a different carrier. At least the previous single ticket was refundable.

I finally arrived at the airport and headed for the noodle bar before catching the plane.

"Ring Ring" said my phone,"Hi", said a voice. "We are just coming through security...Can we meet for a follow up discussion before we head back to Amsterdam?"

...So ten minutes later I was meeting in the Caviar Bar by Pier C Airside. They enjoyed smoked salmon whilst I sipped an orange juice as we continued business meetings.

Finally to the plane, which would take me back to a different terminal a rail journey across the airport from where my car was parked.

Shame that there had been a circuit failure on the Heathrow Express, so I had to wait rather a long time to get from T3 to T5.

And the car parking was surprisingly expensive.
IMG00041

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

G20 President Obama's Downing Street turn

Obama's 3 point turn
I'm viewing the G20 events from a distance at the moment, but smiled when I saw the footage of trying to park President Obama's armored limo outside 10 Downing Street.

I'm already a Fluegelmeister on the Alpine Legend Xbox game


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