D4D

What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

Archive for the category “Travel”

Booking Time Out

At the end of 2017 (and of 2016, and of 2015 – I know, I know) I said about needing to take more time out, take some breaks from work and so on.

I am rotten at taking time off – it’s never been high on my driving factors, and really it just ends up being expensive, and me just spending time on my own somewhere else.  And with all that, I find it way too easy to put off booking holidays and time away, it’s such a low priority that it always falls off the bottom of the list of things to do.

So this year, I’ve booked stuff already. I’ve got three breaks locked in, booked and paid for.  One in February, one in May, and one in November.

It’ll be interesting to see, come the end of 2018, whether I feel better for having those breaks or not.  I’m not sure, but I’m going to give it all a go, and find out.

Burns’ Night

Last night, as you may or may not know (or care) was Burns’ Night in the UK.  For the first time, I went out for it, going to one of my favourite Scottish places in London, Mac and Wild, who had a special Burns’ Night menu for a fairly respectable price.

Being Scots themselves, the owners had made sure the entire thing was really good – the food was (as usual) great, and so was the atmosphere, with a live piper playing at the entrance (and for the toasting of the Haggis) as well as pipe-based music in the restaurant. In short, it couldn’t have been much more Scottish if they’d tried.

I’d never done a Burns’ Night properly before, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. I’ve even got a copy of the whole “toasting of the Haggis” process and poem now, which makes for interesting reading…

Overall, I can see me booking myself in for another one next year – although it’s still undecided whether I’ll try somewhere else, or stick with the Mac and Wild I already know…

Parking Penalties

Way back at the start of November, I went to a restaurant in Cambridge, and parked up in a marked parking area where you either displayed a ticket, or used an online payment app. There was a sign saying “Maximum stay 2 hours“, but nothing about “no return within [x] hours” or anything.  I paid using the RingGo app on my phone, and decided that if I exceeded that 2 hour limit, I’d simply buy another ticket via RingGo.

Anyway, the meal took a lot longer than the two hours – but when it came to the time, I started to get another ticket, only to be told “No return within an hour” by the app – the first time it had been mentioned anywhere. (The parking was too far from the restaurant for a “quick dash” to pay cash for a new ticket, as wellBollocks, thought I.

Once the hour was done, I got another ticket (yes, the meal went on that long) but I was pretty sure I’d have a ticket when I got back to the car.

And I did.  I also re-checked the signs, and took a photo of them, to prove there was nothing about the return clause on the signage.  Once I got home, I paid the ticket – I couldn’t argue that it had been issued correctly, after all! – and then appealed it, becaue of the lack of information and signage.  Despite information on the website saying I could (and indeed should) pay and then appeal, immediately it started throwing problems of “You’ve paid this, so can’t appeal it” and so on.

I ended up getting in touch with Cambridgeshire Parking by email, explaining the situation, that the signage and app made no mention at all of the ‘no return’ clause, including the photos and screenshots. And once it was sent, I waited. And waited.

Two weeks later they came back, saying “It says about no return on the ticket machine. Appeal denied”.  And that was pretty much it. Nothing else about how to appeal a decision to an independent review (which, according to the website, should be provided every time an appeal is denied) or anything else. So I wrote back, explaining the situation again, that I’d gone nowhere near a ticket machine – having paid online – so never saw the one place they say the clause is detailed.

Another two weeks, and another “Nope. It says it on the ticket machine. You should’ve checked. Appeal denied” response. (Admittedly I’m paraphrasing – but not by all that much!)  And still no information about how to take it to an independent adjudicator.

Eventually though, just before Christmas, I ended up speaking to a manager. My sense of humour had utterly failed, I’d escalated it to a full-on complaint, and got the call.

The entire situation is ridiculous. In order to get the information about the adjudicator, I’d have to get my initial paid fine refunded, let the council go through DVLA to find the vehicle owner, send me a formal notice, then I could appeal it, get denied, and get the information about the adjudicator. Which might take up to three more months. Utterly, utterly farcical.  But still, I was prepared to do it – not for the money, but simply for the fact that Cambridgeshire Council seem to think that it’s OK to not provide the information, and then fine drivers who haven’t actually walked to the ticket machine.

Anyway. Common-sense finally kicked in. The fine will be refunded, and they’ve accepted that signage (and app information) needs to be improved.  The manager still insisted that “no signage mentions the no return clause, that’s a national thing” and so on, but there’s going to be a review.

The real icing on the cake for that, though, was that after two months of dealing with this, I was back in Cambridge the following day, and parked at a different piece of on-street parking.  And lo and behold, on the information for that one, the signs say about the no return clause, and so does the app.  Which means it’s definitely about inconsistent information within the council, rather than my being utterly wrong.

And yes, I did re-email the manager to tell them that as well…

Fish, Cambridge Corn Exchange

About 18 months ago, I went to see Fish (the ex-lead-singer of Marillion) at a gig in Aylesbury, including performing the whole of Marillion‘s “Misplaced Childhood” album for its 30th anniversary.

This year, it was announced he’d be touring again, and this time performing both stuff from the new album, and the whole of the “Clutching At Straws” album – again, for its 30th anniversary.

As with “Childhood”, “Straws” isn’t among my all-time favourite albums, but they both got played a lot as I grew up, so it was still of interest to go and see it performed live.  And I’m glad I did.

The gig started with some old favourites, but nothing new. And there was a reason for that – he hasn’t actually written the new album yet, let alone released it.  When they advertised the gigs and organised the tour, they expected it to be done, but life got in the way. So… some classics instead of new stuff. Fine with me, and apparently fine with most of the audience too.

As for the performance of “Straws” itself, that was excellent, and brought back a bundle of memories of listening to the album, as well as re-realising just how bleak it is in places. There were also parts of it that they’d never performed live before this tour, including one track that was ad-libbed at the time, so Fish had to listen to the album in order to write down the lyrics to learn them for performance. Which is, when you think about it, pretty messed up.

Anyway, the gig was one I really enjoyed – in spite of the audience.  As always, I really don’t understand the mindset of people who go to a concert, and then spend the entire gig going to and from the bar, and the toilet.  The three people in front of me (it was a seated gig) were barely ever in their seats, and kept walking off. That’s not just a waste of their time and money, it’s also insanely annoying for the people around them, getting constantly disturbed and having to move.

But, audience aside, it was a good gig. It might be the last time he tours, it might not. It’s likely the last chance to see “Straws” performed like that, so it was definitely worth going.

Already Taken

This morning I came across something that sounded really interesting – Yorkshire Sculpture Park are doing a “Room to Breathe : Four walks in four seasons” event, walking and talking around the park, similar to outdoor/walking therapy.

(Facebook event details here, which includes the dates and so on)

Then I looked on my phone at my diary. Oh cock.

So… despite the event being on four different dates through 2018 (right through to September) I’ve already got stuff booked in on each of them.  All four, already taken. *sigh*

You know when I said that one of my targets for 2017/18 was to ‘do less’? Yeah, look how that’s already working out…

Dragging

This week is always a tough one for me – I find that more and more, my body is really messed up by the changing of the clocks. It leaves me slightly disoriented, particularly because daylight levels have suddenly changed according to the clock. For example, last week I was getting up in the dark to be ready for work, but evenings still had some light to them.  Now, arbitrarily on one day, it’s changed so that I’m rising and going to work with daylight, but that the evenings are darker much ‘sooner’.

Because of the Seasonal Depression I get anyway, I know that my brain is aware of light levels and so on, but it’s always interesting to see what affects it. It’s not fun while I’m in that change, but it’s still interesting to see it.

All told it leaves me just out of kilter, more tired than usual, and just that nagging feeling that Something Is Not Right.  It eases off – it usually takes about a week to do so, so we’re nearly there now – but it’s a tough week of being tired, demotivated, and slightly crankier than usual.

And of course it’s not helped by also a ) being very close to my birthday, and b ) having been another busy week or so. I was away last weekend, I’ve been out most evenings this week, and then it’s busy this weekend as well, although I’ll at least be home in the evenings/nights.  Being out so much also means that the cats decide I’m leaving or something, and get extra clingy and annoying while I’m home – which also doesn’t improve my mood or temper. I’m not good at being In Demand – and particularly not at being In Demand And Shouted At – but there we go, that’s what this week has entailed.

It’ll all ease off again, I know.  It just means that this week post-clock-change is a beast.

Situation Standard

Yet again, I appear to now be idiotically busy over the next few weeks – well, really ’til the end of the year, what with one thing and another.  I still don’t quite know how I end up doing this to myself, but it’s pretty much standard behaviour these days.

I’m not complaining – in general I like being busy, and prefer it to days doing nothing  – but every so often I look at the calendar, and the board that holds all my upcoming tickets, and think “Lyle, you really are a bloody idiot“.

So, just in the next six weeks, and in no particular order, I will be…

  • Seeing Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear in Chichester (and staying overnight, possibly stopping off in Oxford on the way back)
  • A one-day conference in Birmingham, which may or may not happen, depending on other work commitments/stuff
  • A day-trip blitz run to Sheffield
  • A day in London doing a food festival in the morning, and a play in the evening
  • followed the next day by a day-trip run to Middlesbrough and Durham (for reasons I won’t go into now, as it’d identify the dates I’m away)
  • a weekend in Newcastle (which is, of course, not the same one as being up in Middlesbrough, despite proximity and so on)
  • A day trip to Cambridge
  • An evening in London, via Oxford (there’s reasons, but yeah, still idiotic)
  • And at least two other visits to London (with another one in early December)

Not just those travels, but somewhere in there also needs to be

  • Finally getting the starter motor on my car replaced (a hassle/fight that’s taken way too long, and will get written about some other time)
  • Seeing a number of films, which I’ve already got tickets for
  • other (more local) food things
  • Working (of course)
  • And finishing off two other projects.

In short, all a bit mad.

I know I’ve said it before – but for next year I need to start doing a little bit less, not being so booked up, and allocate some downtime for myself.  I just need to get some perspective on it all – because ‘downtime’ for me is also car-time and driving-time, it’s time where I can just float a bit, figure things out and so on.

Mind you, that’s also what I’ll be doing over the next six weeks, so I can figure bits out and what I want to do (and how) in 2018…

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