Archive for the ‘wales2003’ Category

The lilt and the flight

Beep. Beep. It’s the alarm clock, meaning that the hour has struck seven. Get up, get dressed, carry the bags downstairs, make some coffee, each some toast, bid farewell to Tom. Walk to the bus stop, get off at the railway station, buy a ticket to London, notice that the train couldn’t be any fuller, sweat the first litre. Then drag the 30-odd kilos that are your bags to the coach station, sit down for a while, sleep all the way till Stansted, arrive an hour before takeoff, realize they’re calling for your flight and run like hell. Sweat another litre, pay four pounds for a meager tuna sandwich, order pyttipanna and chicken nuggets in Swedish at the Skavsta airport, pay as much for the meal as for the tickets to Finland. Write this entry.

Heading: London

Right now we’re onboard an Oxford Tube express coach to Victoria train station. I finally managed to contact Tom with whom we’ll be staying with. The weather’s fine, we got no money and too much luggage. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a three-day stay in London, doesn’t it?

Picturesque countryside

So this is what Oxfordshire looks like. Rolling hills (I presume that’s what they’re called), houses that are many centuries old (the one we’re staying at is older than anything – anything – in Joensuu, for example) and gardens. And in the gardens there are lots of lovely old ladies who serve tea and scones.

And oh yes, the village has a proper milkman!

I know it all sounds terribly cliched, and in a way it is too, but it is still oh so lovely. We’re staying with Mike, an old friend of my mom’s, and his daughter Katy. The house apparently dates from the 17th century, which is quite frankly almost unbelievable. Fellow Finns can surely appreciate this amazement, as nothing in our noble country predates Kekkonen.

Leaving Cardiff

The last night in Cardiff was fine. We went to a restaurant called Giovanni (or Gepetto or some other ultra-typical Italian name), ate some very tasty dishes, stopped in a pub for drinks and then headed to UGC for the British premiere of Matrix Reloaded.

The plan was perfect: after the night out, we’d finish packing on Friday evening and catch a bus the next morning to the coach station, from whence we’d be whisked off to Cheltenham, where Mike and Katy would pick us up.

And like all best laid plans this one bombed too. First problem: We needed cash to pay the final bills but all our liquidities were in the form of a deposit cheque that we were supposed to get on Friday evening. Note the tense, ”were supposed”.

What happened instead was that our agent showed up on Saturday morning at ten (remember that the coach was leaving at 11.30) with a cheque. Which you cannot cash in on Saturdays. Which meant I had no money with which to pay for the loads of DVDs, books and CDs I had to send to Finland by post. Which meant we were neck deep up shit creek.

Then we were supposed to catch the coach. A great idea it was indeed, but it was made rather hard to accomplish because there were no seats left. A quick reappraisal was made and here we are, sitting on the train from Cardiff to Bristol, trying to catch the coach from there. Let’s see what happens.

”Change of plans”

Ha ha! Instead of trying to catch the coach, we decided to opt for the train. Or let’s be honest: Sonja was the one who came up with the idea.

So we’re back on schedule, traveling on a Virgin Megatrain (well how could I know what they call it!) towards Cheltenham Spa. This train, tho, is awful. It’s sub-B-class, if even that. The first choo-choo was much nicer, a Western something or other.

I feel like I need a shower.

The Bill

I just got up and met Owen, my flatmate, on his way out. A horrible bill. A horrible, horrible bill is in there, he said, waving his hand towards the living room. A bit confused, I walked to the notice board and there it was. The electricity bill from NPower. I looked at the bottom line and gasped.

First, let me state for the record that the billing practices in this country are horrible. They come in at irregular intervals, don’t contain much information, and are – of course – too big. Which brings me back to that scandalous electricity bill. Are you ready? It was £344.78. Yes, you’re reading it right, three hundred forty-four pounds seventy eight pence. So okay, this is a five bedroom house, inhabited by eight people at times, so we do use a lot of power, but this is ridiculous. I mean, it’s nearly 500 euros. That’s not an electricity bill, that’s the bloody rent.

Obviously there’s gotta be an explanation. Maybe it’s been ages since the meter was last read and that’s why the bill is humongous. Well, maybe. Except that nowhere in the bill does it state over what period of time it has accumulated. Nowhere.

Besides, NPower doesn’t really have a good track record on the billing side. They’ve mixed up more invoices than anyone on this side of the Atlantic, if the media is to be believed. And now this: £344.78 just days before we are supposed to be leaving. Looks like I’ll be eating lentils this summer. Bloody hell, as Owen might put it.

Friday notes

Five things that happened on the way home from the movies.

  1. A man talking to himself, then upon meeting us said something we couldn’t make out. He kept muttering louder and louder, until I finally understood his message. It isn’t raining, you can put the umbrella away!
  2. A clearly intoxicated man coming from the pub, who we decided to dodge, walking on the right, no, left… wait, right, I mean, left, it’s right, erm, left side of the road.
  3. A busload of granmas and granpas on the city at 11PM on a Friday night. What were they doing?
  4. A kebab joint with an acronym problem has a website called (emphasis mine)
  5. Three teenage girls discussing the merits of the family name ”Funny” (You’d never be sad) as well as the downsides (But what about marriage? If he really loved you, he’d take the name and all the piss-taking that comes with it.)

It’s funny what you can hear if you keep quiet.

Whatsamatta C4?

I was just watching Aliens (for me it’s still the ’80s action flick) on Channel 4 but then something went wrong. Whenever there was a muzzle flash, the frame rate fell through the roof. Practically every scene where the guns are fired was unviewable, as the picture stayed still for a long time.

The problem was obviously at the broadcaster’s end, not in our television or reception. There are two weird things about this. First of all this wasn’t your normal digital disturbance – no blocks, just missing frames, like watching a video clip with a large bitrate on a slow net connection. Second, this was a unique situation, and it hasn’t happened before or since. (A documentary about the series was broadcast right after the movie and there the same bits of footage looked okay.)

All this would suggest that there was a problem in the encoding of the movie. Perhaps I oughta email C4 and ask them for a proper explanation. Not much use whining about stuff here posthumously.

More Army perks

I finally got round to watching the promo video they sent me. My favourite bit is possibly the geezer who says We learnt to march, which was quite interesting.