D4D

Up yours, Kemosabe

Archive for the category “Travel”

Q1 Done

This coming weekend, the end of March, is the first weekend this year that I’ve had free.

Until Friday, it wasn’t free, but plans changed – which is fine. It had been a chain change – yesterday became free because of another change, which meant I could bring the planned day-trip for next Sunday back to this one, and it all worked out pretty well.

It meant that yesterday was daftly busy, with a day-trip down to see friends in North Somerset, with an early start leaving by 6.30am – just what you need on the day that the clocks also went forwards an hour – to get down there, and getting home at 23.30 in the evening. A Looooooong day, but a good one.   I’d already spent the Saturday in London, doing a fair amount of walking, and seeing Macbeth at the National Theatre (having already seen the RSC’s version of Macbeth last Saturday!)

Anyway, that all means that, at the end of the first quarter of the year, I actually have two weekends on the trot where I have nothing booked in or organised. Which is pretty weird, and is already making me somewhat twitchy.

I’ll still be doing things, and I’ve got some plans in place for both weekends – but they’re all more random and disorganised, it’s nothing scheduled or appointments.

And to be honest, that’s just fine with me.

Staying In

Today, I chose to stay home rather than driving in what was supposed to be terrible weather. I made the choice when I was about to leave for the office, and there was a significant amount of snow coming down, at which “Sod that!” became the decision.  (This is also related to the fact that all roads from my place to work are uphill, and last time it was like this, the roads were paralysed because dickheads couldn’t drive up them safely)

As it turned out, the warnings – for this area, at least – were unfounded. I could have got in OK, and got home.  We’re an exception to the rule, admittedly – but I would’ve been OK.

All the same, I’m glad I stayed home. I’m happier to have been here, rather than the regular checking for weather changes, and wondering whether I’d get home or not (with the news having been suitably hysterical about the entire thing all day)  so all told it’s been a lot easier on the mind than doing the travelling.

I’ll almost certainly go in as usual tomorrow and Friday, although we’ll see what happens on each overnight, and re-assess based on that.

 

Booking Time Out – Week One

I wrote a while back about how I’d managed to book some time out this year, and intended to take it.

Last week was the first of those weeks, and I spent it with friends down on the south coast – which was pretty good, all things considered. I got very lucky with the weather – while it was cold and windy, that’s not unexpected in mid-February. And while we spent a lot of it walking dogs on beaches, I didn’t put a coat on once. (That’s more because I’m an idiot, and pretty warm generally. Everyone else was bundled up like an unwell Michelin man)  Considering that this week is all about the snowfall and ‘Siberian weather’, I reckon the timing was pretty fortuitous.

All told, it was a good week (well, five days) away. I still ended up doing some work, because of urgency and being swamped with requests, so it was easier to just get things done while everyone else was asleep, but that was fine, and didn’t take up too much time. It would’ve taken up more headspace if I’d left things unfixed until my return today, which meant it was all a bit of a balancing act, but one I feel worked out pretty well in the end.

And now it’s back to ‘normal’ until May, when the next one comes round.  And between now and then I’ve got a sod-load of stuff to do and organise, including making sure everything is in place for the May trip!

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.

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