D4D

And when there was one set of footprints, that's when I was on my pogostick.

Archive for the category “Day Trips”

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.

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…

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…

The Man Behind The Curtain

I mentioned in the last post that I’d done a day-trip to Leeds, and that I would write more about it.  So, here we are.

One of the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Michael O’Hare‘s “The Man Behind The Curtain” in Leeds. It’s always been booked solid, but when I looked on a whim a couple of months ago, I discovered that there was a table for four free for a late lunch on Saturday. I called the other friend who was interested in the same place , and I booked it.

That’s where the first shock came in. The entire price of the meal was paid at the time of booking, including the wine – and the service charge!  Now to me, that’s taking the piss.  The only other Michelin-starred place I’ve seen with that attitude is The Fat Duck, and even there it’s “only” the food that is paid for ahead of time, not the wine and tip. Every other place I’ve been has taken a credit card number, and said “if you don’t show up, you’ll pay the full price”, which is fine with me.  Paying up front for it all seems very dodgy.

Anyway, I did that, and last Saturday was the day.

I’d hired a car for doing it as a day-trip, as I was also driving the others there and back, and it makes life fun.

“The Man Behind The Curtain” is… highly individual.  First things first, it’s on the top floor of a department store – definitely not somewhere you’d just wander into! As it turns out, it now *was* on the top floor – our meal was the last lunch served in the top floor, and they were moving to the basement after the dinner service.

It’s a strange space, seemingly more of a gallery than a restaurant. The walls were graffitied and arty, with chicken-wire clouds above some tables. I’ve never been anywhere else like it – but that also shows in the food.  Again it’s very arty – some of the food is quite spectacular, as is the crockery it arrives in. In particular, “Emancipation”, which is cod in squid-ink, basically black food on a black “droplet” plate…

That was just one of the ten ‘courses’.  And they were all brilliant.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to not like it, to be unimpressed by the entire place. I feel really strongly about the whole ‘pay upfront’ thing, and think it gives a really bad impression of the restaurant. But the food, the atmosphere, and the service of the place all combined to leave me still impressed.

It was a really good day, and decent drives there and back (two hours door-to-door each way) helped as well.

Fluffy

This evening, I’m off to London to see a comedian called Gabriel Iglesias (AKA “Fluffy”) at Hammersmith Apollo.

It’ll be the second time I’ve seen him, and I’m looking forward to it. When the tickets were announced, I got them straight away – at the same time griping about it being a Friday night gig, wishing it could be a Saturday, but there we go, it was the one that was announced.

The Friday sold out pretty quickly, so there’s now a Saturday night gig too – which is kind-of annoying, but still, I’m happy to be going for the original date, the one that should have sold to the people who really wanted to see it, rather than the also-ran “yeah, kinda interested”s, who’ll end up at in the Saturday one.

It makes for a long old day, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

Stratford

Over the weekend, I went to Stratford-on-Avon.  It’s somewhere I’ve only been once before, and had thought it was a long drive to get there.  Then when I got in the car on Saturday morning, I discovered it’s actually only 70 miles, and so only just over an hour.  Why had I thought it was much further? Because I’m an idiot – last time I went, I travelled via Cheltenham, for lunch at Champignon Sauvage (it was part of my Michelin Project last year)

So I got there a lot earlier than I’d originally planned/expected to, which gave me plenty of time to wander and explore the place a bit, and do some other stuff as well.  Last time I went, I got mislaid a couple of times (not majorly – it’s too small a place to get properly lost in) so I wanted to do things differently this time.

I really enjoyed wandering around – or at least until midday or so, once the coach trip people had all woken up and descended on the place, along with usual weekend shoppers and the like.  But it’s a nice place that’s easy to walk around, and my mental map of it is now a lot more comprehensive.

Then I met up with a friend, M, with whom I was having lunch, and then seeing a play later – see, there was a reason for going, it wasn’t just random!

We had lunch at Salt, a passion-project restaurant for the chef, Paul Foster, who used Kickstarter to fund getting it running. That was thoroughly enjoyable, and is definitely somewhere I’ll be returning to next year when there’s other RSC stuff on that I want to see.

Afterwards, we had some time to kill, so sorted out booking into our respective hotel rooms, then took a ride on the Stratford Ferris Wheel, and then pre-performance cocktails at the RSC.

Finally, we saw Coriolanus at the RSC (about which more another time) , and back to hotels.  I’d booked the room before realising how easy the drive home would’ve been, so that was a bit of expense I won’t need to make next time, but it still made for a decent weekend away from home.

“Quiet” August

When this month started, I said it was going to be a quiet one, before the storm that is my September.  And of course, me being me, it hasn’t really worked out that way at all.

Instead there’s been several visits to the cinema, a bundle of social evenings with food and the like, catching up with people, three or four London days, and all of that jazz. In some ways I’ve been busier in August that I am in usual months – the difference has been that I’ve been based from home, rather than weekends away.

Looking back, it seems like this is actually pretty much standard – last year was the same, and so was 2015. (although there’s no ‘busy’ post as such, I was still doing a lot of stuff)  So that idea of a ‘quiet’ month is… pretty much bollocks, really.

And then yesterday was a late afternoon / early evening visit to the National Burger Day event down in London (which will be a post all of its own, I’m sure). Still to come this month I’ve got another big walk over the weekend, a cinema visit, and a social thingy, and then the idiocy of September, which currently includes (but is not limited to)…

  • Meatopia on the Saturday and Sunday  (although the Sunday is somewhat based on what’s going to be on, but I haven’t bailed on one yet)
  • as well as seeing the Sisters of Mercy on the same Saturday evening. (Yes, I’m a lunatic)
  • possibly a pub-crawl of sorts
  • Seeing Coriolanus in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Walking a full marathon overnight in London at the end of the month
  • Two other concerts as well as the Sisters of Mercy.

So yeah, daftness abounds. As ever.

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