24 November 2012

I love London and it is only £8 away

06:50 leave home , 3 perfect transfers later 08:40 arrive London highbury park (£8 via train) 09:00 Parkrun race in 21:33 pos 11. sometimes public transport just works (get yourself an Oyster card - no fuss, no hassle, just function)

At Selly Oak station there were a couple from Slovakia - so chuffed that a) I knew where their country was and the difference between it and Slovenia b) I had been there and had a good time and c) I had ARDF friends from Slovakia.  Studying international relations at Birmingham University their question for me was "where should we visit in England" - ummm - start with Bluebell woods in May perhaps

From Wikipedia

Objective 1: Highbury Fields Parkrun

It is a bit of a tight course - you go round and round five times - but I enjoyed it and for the second time this autumn a W10 said "I like your hat"
I just beat the MD of Lo Recordings (an independent label) on the run in - the first of many creative people I met during my day in London.

Parkrun has such a nice atmosphere - folks so friendly before, during and after - but where now to change? The sports centre wanted £4.40 to use the shower - so I changed in McDonalds (it has its uses) and had my second latte of the day.

Objective 2: Eels and Liquor

Now this was the best bit - I walked from Highbury into the heart of the East End - something of a culinary pilgrimage for me: At 150 Hoxton Street you will find F Cooke's Pie and Mash.  This family business has been going since 1882 - that is 150 years (F. Cooke - Live Eel Importer)

ooh! - Jellied Eels - so scrummy
While enjoying my second breakfast I met the manager for a couple of top DJ's (I did not get their names but they are big in Industrial House - "Industrial music is a style of experimental music that draws on transgressive and provocative themes" and "House music is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in the American city of Chicago in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized circa 1984 in discothèques catering to gay and mixed,primarily African-American and Latino audiences".  None the wiser I engaged the photographer in conversation - after this engagement she is off to the Brixton Academy to cover Crystal Castles.

Coincidence 1: This is exactly where Nephew Simon will be at 19:00 this evening - "If you bump into a 6 foot 4 red haired chap say hello from Uncle David"

Famous DJs review the output of this morning's photo shoot.

I really like F Cooke's - if I have any overseas visitors - this is one place I will take them (in the East End they don't say "cheese" they say... well I really can't repeat it here - it is rude but it gets a smile every time)
 Coincidence 2: The proprietor (on the left) made a trip on the Queen Mary II this year - to celebrate his birthday (just like me) and just like me one of his party failed to grasp the several and different meanings of "Friends of Bill W" and "Friends of Dorothy" - why don't they explain these things at school?

Two of our Queen Mary friends - and also of Dorothy
Highlight of my host's trip on the QMII was an excursion to Bruge - and then we talked 72% cocoa solids chocolate for a long while.

Proper East End - Proper East End Food and Proper East End hospitality

 But now I have to get over to the West End to pick up my tickets

Hoxton is seriously not the most prosperous of places and it is only a mile or so from the centre of "The City of London"

Foreign readers please note - there is London City and then there is The City of London - and these are not the same thing.

On Hoxton Street you will come across "Hoxton Street Monster Supplies" where they will sell you...

Impacted Earwax (fudge actually)
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is an operating name for the Ministry of Stories, Company No. 07317370, Registered Charity No. 1138553.  A ministry of stories - oh how I love London.

Another reason why I love London - you never know what you are going to meet:

On the tube from Old Street Station I fell into conversation with three chaps who were wearing rather flamboyant suits.  It turns out that, in between studying medicine at UCL, they have been rehearsing a music act and they are off to the Excel Arena to audition, on national TV, for Britain's Got Talent - three singers and a french horn: 10 out of 10 for Chutzpah

I told them that my Nephew had selected UCL as his backup in case he did not get the grades for Imperial College - to which they replied "is he really looking forward to spending four years without meeting any girls at all?" Are you listening Simon?

Ticketmaster had not yet delivered my tickets so it was off to the British Museum...
...Which is free and you get to see where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital and has a collection, in part, comprising artifacts liberated* by various British army regiments from the entire globe.  "You can have your Elgin Marbles back when you balance your budget Mr Papadopoulos!"  But seriously my favourites are the Assyrian Statuary - just what were they smoking back in BC 934 to 609?

*aka stolen

Centre Point - amazed this notorious building is still standing
Gives me a warm feeling - part of the big Cadbury Family

Having discussed the merits or otherwise of Bruges' Belgian Chocolates and the amazing similarities between his establishment and my favourite Belgian Friterie
 Coincidence 3: I stood looking at this advert for 10 minutes waiting for my tube train to Embankment... 72% Cocoa Solids Chocolate

Lunch was at herman ze german - very nice staff - but then I have a weakness for German Ladies.  Offered the choice of three grades of sauce on my currywurst, I went for mild - now I am calibrated it will be "The Special" next time.
The street down from The Strand to The Embankment (next to Charing Cross) had two Starbucks and one Costa Coffee all within 150 metres.  I am waiting until they open the first Starbucks inside a Starbucks - so you can have a large latte while you are standing in line to order a large latte.

And so to the playhouse for the main event of my visit:

A musical during which, I am informed, a colleague's wife exclaimed "this is just like Monty Python?"

Sadly it was just OK.  I am still humming the tunes though - masterful lyrics from Eric Idle "while you're chewing on life's gristle, just give a little whistle"

After the show went for a meal with Nephew Simon and friend down from Trinity, Cambridge (Natural Science and confused why his maths tutorial was cancelled because of the Ash Dieback - I guess the government wants some serious modelling doing) at Masala Zone Soho - where I discovered I had been working a few hundred metres from the home of our waitress (in Mumbai at Thane factory) and a new taste experience - dahi puri (you have to eat these in one mouthful otherwise, be warned, it gets very messy).  Simon chose the restaurant - but it was one I had marked out on a previous visit.

Immensely proud that my Nephew has made it to Imperial Collage (Physics) - shame he won't meet any girls there (at least according to those UCL medics I met on the Underground - see above. Imperial is #6 in these world rankings Strangely UCL is #4 but not for physics at least.

There only remained for me to make my pilgrimage to Mornington Crescent (see here) before catching the 21:03 back to Birmingham:Selly Oak - I am not going to book a seat in the quiet zone again - there is just at much noise and in the rest of the carriages - only you just get more annoyed. First class for me next time I think.

The End (@ 23:54)

22 November 2012

Moreton WEE

Some trees did blow down and it was a bit wet but, all in, all I am glad I went...

What was forecast - very windy, very wet.
 I called the planner at 16:30 "no its on, not raining here at all"

First start - 18:00 - this is the rainfall radar - we are in Redditch

Excellent Soup Mike (planner, on the right)  I was not able to capture the steam rising from Chris (on the left)

Competitors - damp but happy

The Event Centre

09 November 2012

To Bludenz for my Milka Injection

My employers have factories everywhere, but one of the very best is located in Bludenz in the Voralberg in Austria.  The 100+* year old factory site is a little constrained - squeezed in the very narrow valley floor between the railway/Rhine and the mountains - so some very tall and thin storage tanks and amazing feats of manoeuvring by lorry drivers.

*Looks like it is 125 years

Here is the view from the canteen:

I am here to share knowledge with the Milka team (formerly Suchard, then Kraft Jacobs Suchard, then Kraft Foods and currently Mondelēz International Incorporated)

I am not sure if the Milka Cow has a name - but it was friendly
There is a staff shop/factory outlet - It has an entry in the Lonely Planet Guide

Next morning I saw folks posing for pictures by the shop sign - so I guess it really is popular with visitors and tourists.
The view from my bedroom window at the Gasthof Traube in Braz

And an even better view from the car park - this is a really lovely hotel - and if you can't afford a room you can camp next door - and yes folks were doing this in November.

The food was good as well - this was a clear soup with pasta and a big dumpling

Here Beccy gets first class treatment - chauffeured right to the plane (after someone else had left their phone in the hire car)

But do not believe the "leave at 14:00 for a 17:15 flight" advice from the locals - with only a very short Friday afternoon traffic delay I made it to the gate just 10 minutes before boarding.

Late afternoon at Zurich Airport

And another type of wing to gaze at on our way home - this is a Fokker 100 - and in seat 20A your head is about 500mm from the port engine - take earplugs.

04 November 2012

The Gas Man Cometh - oh b*gg*r...

19:00 Sunday - My neighbour has a sensitive nose - tidying up his garage he smelled gas and called the emergency crew out - just as I was off for an evening viewing of Skyfall...

Yes there is a leak with HIS SUPPLY but they had to dig MY DRIVE up to get to it.  Leak is contained but to do this they have disconnected our gas supply...

...and tomorrow I have lots on in the office so I jogging back and forth to let gas engineers into my house, my garage, neighbours house and so on to dig up my garage floor and run new pipes and more and more and more - and then I am going to have to get the drive re-tarmac-ed and...

I sense it is going to be just like the Flanders and Swann lament...