2005-11-13: Royal Welcome
November 13th - T-8 Weeks
Friday night was a chance to celebrate all the effort we at work put into making the software ready for it's stable demonstration this week. I don't really know how much of the me was in the we, I just worked one Saturday and then pretty much regular time and can only think of a couple of things that I added. I didn't even solve the one big bug that was my problem to fix. We drove into Reading in Steve's car at 4pm. It took 45 minutes, about the same time as me to walk to the train station and catch a train back in. Ah, the joys of moving in traffic. Steve had to race off to shuttle his other half and offspring around (one car family) so gave Curtis and me directions to a pub and said he'd be back later. The first pub ended up looking more like a restaurant so we kept walking to the next pub. On entering I thought the place was a bit of a dive, but after a moment realized it was a heavy metal bar. Awesome! Curtis didn't seem to mind so we hung out in there till Steve returned. He thought the place was a bit of a dive (especially as the band had turned up by then, although they were just propping up the bar at that stage). So we left to go to another pub that seemed more like a typical Irish chain pub. Then they planned to go over the The Purple Turtle bar which has a reputation (and a fair sized number of Goths) but that looked pretty dead. As my bus stop is at the front of the Purple Turtle I decided to catch the bus that was due in two minutes (and arrived in ten, but that is the way a bus works).
I invited Edyta at the wrong time to see if she wanted to come out. At the time I'd called she'd already been walking around all afternoon, had developed a tooth-ache, a sort throat was coming on, her hair was getting greasy and she was struggling with a pile of books when the rain was coming down on her. She didn't want to come out and join us (especially as I was already out and not planning on staying long). So I came home to keep Edyta company (and to avoid a pub crawl, something I don't do in Australia with friends).
There were still some fireworks going off in Reading town centre on Friday. There has been the odd blast every night since Guy Fawkes. They must run out of explosives soon.
The Queen is in
Saturday was a day we continued our British tourism agenda. We went out to Windsor Castle to have a walk around the castle and to see what the snotty rich kids of Eton look like. The castle was quite impressive, probably one of the best. This may just be due to the fact that as the Queen likes it, it tends to be maintained well. Chinon had history, the Tower was old, but this place was just impressive. Also a little confusing. We were expecting cheap tickets because of a promotion with First Western (the train company). The ticket seller at the train station didn't know the deal, but knew of one. He told us to show our tickets at Windsor. At Windsor they told us we needed to have got the tickets at the train station. We paid full price for entry. A tour was going to be starting in a minute. Edyta was going to the toilet when a lady wearing a tour guide badge called for her group to follow her. I thought she was a tour leader and so called Edyta back and we followed her (making a double cranky Edyta, no toilet and no cheaper entry). We soon discovered she was the guide for a private group that had already been around most of the castle and so we hurried back to find the actual Windsor Castle tour. We passed them on the way back, however Edyta went to the toilet and he went on the way we had just come. When Edyta came back out we scurried up to catch his group. Turns out he was one of the most boring and dry tour presenters there is (the ten minutes of the Beefeater last week was better than half an hour with this guy). We left him at eleven to go to the changing of the guard.
Pipers attempt to deafen a drummer in the changing of the guard
We were at the guard a little late but that is okay as we probably only missed boring stuff ("Right, sergeant major marching up and down the square by himself!"). I perched up on a slippery wall to get the camera up high to record what was happening. The ceremony mostly involves men in kilts blowing bag-pipes while the old guard tries to look more impressive than the new guard (which fails dismally when both do their little shuffle into a tighter formation - it sounds too funny, like an army of crabs on a tin roof). There is a long intermission which we later realized was half the guard going off to relieve those poor guards that are standing out in the lonely outposts. They all returned, there was some more marching up and down the square, a horn was blown and everyone marched off. Including the tourists who flooded into the nearby church to have a squiz.
The Queens Residence
Later in the day we did the state rooms. Lots of big rooms, lots of old weapons and stuff. The area the Queen used often was the better looking area of the castle. The Queen was in residence too, at one point just across a courtyard from us. However she never made an appearance. How rude to not visit the guests of your home. Having been insulted by her lack of hospitality (or more likely realizing it was time to feed us) we left. We found a pub that took ages to serve its food (maybe twenty minutes, quite typical actually but we were starving). The meals were at least big. Then it was off to look in tourist shops. We strolled around some other landmarks of Windsor (a mile long road leading into Windsor and, um, a shopping centre - sans Games Workshop). We ended up at the train station as it was getting dark but thought we should go see Eton too. There was a international cuisine market fair on, which meant stands full of French people flogging off their food stuffs. We bought some. One thing I noticed today is that it is all Polish running the tourist stores and all French serving and selling food.
Eton wasn't much. We did see a few of the toffy boys around, but they all look like Prince Harry (or maybe they all were, however none had an obvious joint on them) or they just have a mop head of brown hair. The place was dark and the school closed so we turned around and came back.
A hearty carpenters lunch
At the end of the mile long walk
Buildings aren't quite true here
The trip to and from Windsor both had some small adventures. Going to Windsor we had to change trains at Slough. At Slough there is a stuffed dog and we read the plaque to discover it was an old mascot of the station that used to be used to raise charity. All very interesting. Then I looked at the monitors to find what train we wanted and it was the one on the far platform due to leave in a minute. We dashed over to make it to the train, one I realized had been sitting there since we arrived. On the way back our train pulled up next to another one. We were too far to see any monitors but I guessed it was a Reading train. Lots of people leaped in and then someone said this isn't going to Reading so we leaped out. We walked down the platform as the train was closing to see it was going to stop at Reading and jumped back in as the last door was being shut. The fun of public transport.
The final major news from this week is that our life over here has now been shortened from 12 months of seeing what England is like and planning where to live, to 6 months of just making money and tripping around down to 6 weeks and then we'll leave to go back to Australia. Edyta has decided she doesn't want to live and she obviously doesn't like sitting around unemployed all day and so made the decision to come home as soon as possible. I wasn't going to argue it (however I signed a 6 month lease and I don't walk away that kind of responsibility easily - actually I've signed two six month leases). We will pay one more rent and that is it. After that we do a runner (as everyone who leaves a rental property seems to do, all the mail you ever get is other peoples overdue last bill). It means losing the bond, but I've already lost so much money it will hardly matter. And as Edyta points out, staying means we just waste more money on rent anyway (which means we'll be hoping for lots of family generosity so we don't rent back in Australia for the six months till my house is available again).
We'll be doing the odd thing in England, then going to Spain for Christmas week, then coming back here to pack up and move out (before the landlords start to question where their money is) and then a week in Italy. After that we'll be back in England long enough to close of the bank account and send whatever money is left back home before we fly out - leaving a trail of debt.