Part III Begins!

I appreciate that it’s been quite a large number of days since I’ve posted something, but it’s been a wee bit busy (as in, I’ve been sorting out starting my research project, and enjoying being back at Cambridge).

So, what’s been going on?  Well, first of all, and most importantly, I’ve started my research project (which forms a significant amount of my grade this year).  I’ve been working on it for a week or so, and I’m enjoying it which is pretty lucky!

I went to visit AJ and EB at their London flat, and JW, JM, and AD came along too.  A great evening ensued, and it was lovely to catch up with them again, as it’d been too long.

This week is pretty quiet, with me mainly working on my research, but I went to the pub yesterday with the Sedgwick Club (and will probably do so again at some point this week too).

Other than that, there’s not really been that much to report I’m afraid!

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So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish!

I was debating whether or not to use this title now, or keep it for a later date.  Clearly I decided to opt for the former (mainly because the complete Hitchhiker’s Guide is now residing peacefully in my hand baggage, and I thought it’d be churlish not to).  This is the first post in the new category of “Chile 2013”, and I’ve put a dedicated link on the sidebar so you don’t have to wade through all the rubbishy posts. Sadly, this post may be one of the final daily updates I do, as I’m not entirely sure as to the internet situation where I’m going (although I think the hotel in Santiago does have wifi, so all is not necessarily lost)!

The bags are all packed, and I’ve checked in online, kind of. Essentially my journey is in two parts, flying from Heathrow to Madrid, and then from Madrid to Santiago.  Check in only seems to work online for the LHR-MAD leg, which isn’t helpful, but now it’s all sorted. I had a cup of tea with my father, and dropped off my bag. I also managed to check in for the MAD-SCL leg, and am rather lucky to have a window seat for it, so it’s looking like I’ll be able to watch dawn break over the Andes tomorrow morning (I’ll aim to get a photo for you dear readers). Now I’m just sitting air side at Heathrow waiting for the gate to come up. There’s no free wifi here (boooo!) so can’t use my laptop (hooray for the WordPress android app is all I can say)! The upside is that I’m in the pub with a rather nice pint of Hobgoblin, so it could be worse!

I may update this when I get to Madrid (hey, I’ve got 2 hours to kill at midnight, so there’s not much else to do), but it depends if there’s free wifi or not I guess!

Update: So there’s no free wifi at Madrid airport, but EU data roaming charges are cheap enough for a cheeky update.

The flight was pretty uneventful, but Iberia have excellent maps for their flights. Best of all however was the usb plug on the screen in front. This meant I could charge my phone on the flight AND watch films on it (so glad I bought that large memory card now)!

I got off the plane and ended up in the middle of the terminal. It seems that there’s no distinction between arrivals and departures, as I emerged in the departure area straight away. It’s a vast hall with not a lot going on, and my flight wasn’t listed as having a gate yet. Unhelpfully, the board (of which there only seem to be about two) said that there are no boarding announcements. I went to the info desk, mentally scraping the rust off my Spanish as I went, and asked which gate my flight left from. They didn’t know, and essentially told me to keep looking around. I decided that a sandwich and some water would be a good plan at this point, and after having an impromptu supper, I headed further down the departure hall. By a stroke of luck I came across the gate and sat down to wait.

Final Preparations

The angry scream of the alarm clock jolts through my being like a bolt of lightning. Eurgh, alarms.  This morning was spent in Croydon (that most delightful of places), where I bought some clothes, UV proof sunglasses, and a new suitcase.  Good old Debenhams had a massive sale on, so lots of stuff was less than half price (pretty handy)!

After returning home, having lunch (and completing my health and safety risk assessment), it was back to the stables, for my appointment with Hobbit.  I think I’m slowly beginning to get the basics sorted, and this time, we went into the field, as well as the school area.  However, I did nearly fall off during an uphill trot, but somehow managed to balance myself without being removed from the saddle (although I did lose my stirrups).

Hobbit
Hobbit

Anyway, I’m back home now, and am off to the pub later for a gathering of school friends before I leave Britain.  Should be fun!

Until Next Time London!

Another grey day dawns over the Home Counties in South East England, the terraced inter-war houses of the London boroughs streak past as the train rushes to Victoria.  Thousands of homes, thousands of lives, each going about their own business, each with hopes and dreams, and worries and fears, and each trapped in their own small world, a harbour, an oasis from the vast stormy oceans, and baking arid deserts of the real world.

A large sweaty man in a blue vest cracks open a can of energy drink, the strong stench permeates the carriage, reminds me of unpleasant nights out, and ruins the imagery I’ve just constructed (aided by a bloke with a broken arm and a Big Mac who enters stage right).  This is London, the real London, not the London that is polished and made presentable to tourist boards and foreigners the world over.

The train arrives, the crowd surges towards the ticket barrier like some frenzied swarm of hornets.  A sudden thought strikes me, is my ticket valid before 10am?  I put it into the machine. And hope.  “Take ticket, seek assistance”, are the words that greet my eyes.  Ah.  I frantically scour my pockets for my railcard and show the inspector.  He waves me through.  I breathe a sigh of relief, and descend into the labyrinthine abyss of the tube.  That venerable underground rail network, keeping London moving for a century and a half beneath the streets, like arteries throughout the body.  Two stops, two lines, and I’m out, out of the baking heat, the stale air, and the cramped, crowded trains.

I emerge in St. James.  The tall Georgian buildings standing proud, built as a testament to the wealth and power of a long forgotten and hushed up era, when this tiny island really did rule the waves.  The only reminder of the past that dares to show that chapter of history today.  British embarrassment and awkwardness have taken hold, making the subject seldom spoken about in the 21st century.  War memorials and statues of famous leaders greet me as I pass them on the way to the office, a monument to Crimea, and a Viceroy of India.

Looking towards Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus.  Note statue of Britannia above the clock, and generic fancy looking buildings (click to enlarge).  Fun fact: Britannia featured somewhere on all British coins made between 1672-2008.

Looking towards Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus. Note statue of Britannia above the clock, and generic fancy looking buildings (click to enlarge). Fun fact: Britannia featured somewhere on all British coins made between 1672-2008.

The medical is over, and once more I’m spat out, back into the sprawling metropolis.  I sit in a café and nurse a cup of tea, waiting for my friend XYL.  She, like TKC, is returning home after university. However, she is from Shenzhen.  The result?  Much greater difficulty to meet up if she stays in Mainland China.  We both require visas to visit one another’s country.  Great expense and hassle for all parties. A good friendship put at risk by two powerful governments with an obsession, reverence, and adoration of the gods of bureaucracy. Modern life is fraught with complications.

We elected for 火锅 for lunch, and it was a feast for both eyes and stomach.  Lots of food, with plenty of variety were boiled in the bubbling soup, and we lunched and chatted for around 3 hours.

火锅

火锅 in London – Yum yum yum! (Click to enlarge)

Time now for the return journey, back through the warren of the underground, followed by the slow journey through the suburbs, back to the verdant Surrey Hills.

All in all, a good day!

Strange Dreams and a Restless Night

I didn’t sleep too well last night (see my previous post entitled “TKC” for an explanation), and now that I’m alone with my thoughts, one anonymous face amongst millions on the commuter train to London, I start to remember the dreams.  Those peculiar and illogical visions that plague, haunt, or delight us.  One can dream of one’s greatest desires and then be woken to discover that it was merely an illusion, eliciting sympathy for poor old Tantalus.

One dream involved a car hitting me, I survived and was unharmed, but my friends and I had a whip round to pay for the damage ($230 if I recall – definitely US$ not £).  Things then got out of hand for some reason (I think someone said something sarcastic), and we ended up in a strange version of the UL, pursued by the driver of said car who was angrily chasing us with a gun trying to shoot me.

The next dream involved me being in London, outside some church (a representation of Westminster Abbey perhaps?).  Anyway, if you said something of a seditious nature, bulbous lightning rods appeared on the walls and roof (they looked a bit like if a tesla coil met one of those springy wall mounted door stop things you get to stop the door hitting the wall), and produced an arc of light that made the nearest person disappear.  Testing this out, I stood well back, and said some things (of a seditious nature of course), and a couple of passers by got caught in the cross fire.  I became bolder and went closer, but it was too close!  I tried to dodge, but to no avail.  I was hit!  So what happened next I hear you ask?  Well, I was transported to the early 80s.  I guess it was a bit like the effect of those creepy weeping angels off Doctor Who mixed with Ashes to Ashes.  My first thought in the 80s?  “Hong Kong is still a British Territory, I could emigrate there much more easily now than in 2013!”.  Yes, quite…

Dream the third involved me being in a large tent (the setting of Downing May Ball now that I think about it), although I think it was supposed to be Hong Kong.  Anyway, someone there decided that I was to be quickly and efficiently disposed of, so there was a lot of me trying to evade death again…

The final dream involved me living and working on a building site with some friends.  We had a portacabin to live in, and one day I was the only person inside.  Anyway, someone came along to demolish it, so once more, I had to escape being killed.  Everything inside was destroyed, but I survived (along with my phone), so that was alright.

Psychiatrists, feel free to form an orderly queue…

TKC

I’m seldom the sentimental type, but today was indeed a sad day, for it marked the departure of my best friend TKC from Britain for the foreseeable future.  Thinking in real terms, not a lot will change, courtesy of modern technology.  I mean, we already have the ability to communicate whenever and wherever we are, at no cost (wooo Skype/WhatsApp/etc.), however the great distance between London and Hong Kong can hardly be deemed to be negligible.  Fortunately, we’ve both agreed to ensure that we don’t lose touch, and so in reality, there is nothing to worry about, and we’ll try to visit each other as much as possible, and she’s considering looking for a job in Britain after her post-graduate law course anyway, so fingers crossed :D!

I arrived at her flat just after 11, just as she was moving out, and, after a nice chat over some tea at a café, we grabbed a delicious steak lunch.  Then, it was off to the tube to get to Heathrow.  Check in was rather exciting, as she was over her baggage weight limit, so we spent some time repacking her stuff, but fortunately, we managed (although various things had to be jettisoned).  Some charity should set up a shop at Heathrow, as I’m sure people would rather donate their excess stuff that they can’t take, rather than bin it, so charities, if you’re reading this, take note!  After a quick drink at another café, it was time to part (and give her an au revoir letter to read on the journey of course – not goodbye, as I’ll see her at some point soon (or die trying)), which is always the most unpleasant experience, especially with someone who is very close to you.  It was then time to take the long journey home.  This wasn’t the first time that I’ve dropped someone off at Heathrow, and taken the tube back alone, and I’m sure it won’t be the last (although this time was the saddest by a large margin).  The journey back is like a trip to the gallows (in terms of enjoyment), but of course, I’m very glad I was there to take her to the airport, and see her off, and I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world.

You may have noticed that I’ve tagged this post under “Family”. Simply put, that’s because to me, she is just like a sister (and no, I’m not exaggerating).

Don’t worry readers, tomorrow’s post will be far less sentimental, no need to panic!

Back to London

It’s the final day in June, and for once, it’s bright and sunny.  What better way to spend the day than ambling around London, enjoying all the sights before I disappear off?  I met up with MW at Victoria, and after a quick afternoon lunch in Chinatown (of delicious 小籠包), we went for a walk around the city.  Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Whitehall, the Embankment and St. Paul’s were all visited (as well as a quick detour to Covent Garden and Foyles).  All in all, a relaxing and fun day!