August, 2005

Oh yes, the boomerang is back!

On my previous trips, in 2003, 2004, and last New Year's Eve, my purpose was purely personal, but this time my trip is a combination of work and pleasure. I can't deny that I have a strong preference for warmer weather, so when it turned out that the Novell Brainshare conference was being held in Barcelona in mid-September, starting exactly on the day I was originally planning on heading home from the UK, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

What did I get up to this time? Well, lots more Cry Wolf gigs, just for a start!




Tuesday, August 9, 2005
There's so much going on in my life that I need every possible free moment to get myself organised for my trip next week and finish up my projects at work. Ah, but work has other ideas... They've suddenly and unexpectedly enrolled me to go all the way to Brisbane and do a course this Wednesday-Thursday, and I have to fly up there on Tuesday. This is enough to thoroughly disrupt my plans, and I just never seem to catch up to myself all the rest of the week I have left.
 
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
In fact, I'm still frantically finishing off my packing when my friend Sarah arrives to pick me up and drive me to the airport for my early morning flight. She applies her deft touch and manages to squeeze my black denim gigging jacket into my bag, but it's a tight squeeze. Time to go!

I'd so taken for granted the newer jets with their individual video screens that the very old wide-body 747 was a rude shock to the system! It was back to a single big screen at the front of the cabin, and there were still ashtrays in each seatrest, though firmly sealed closed! - remnants of a thankfully well and truly bygone era. To add insult to injury, the toilets were putrid. Despite this, it wasn't an unpleasant flight - I've done it often enough to consider it an overly long commute. And, of course, there's a hotel room with a bed and bathroom waiting for me when I get in to Tokyo, so I can start to feel like I truly am on holiday and begin to wind down from a hectic 6 months of work.

I'm not particularly hungry, so I buy a packet of seaweed-flavoured crisps, my very favourite flavour, from the hotel shop, for dinner. Yum! Watching CNN I discover that the caterers' strike at Heathrow continues - I'm very glad I'm flying JAL, as it seems to be confined to BA.
 
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
There's time for a buffet breakfast in the hotel in the garden restaurant, and then it's off to the airport for the second leg of my journey to the other side of the world.

It's a rude shock when I enter the terminal, though! I have NEVER seen queues like this at Narita airport, and I have been there some 30-40 times during my travels! Clearly Japan, too, has become more security concious in this new era of terrorism. I hardly have time to squeeze in a quick Internet session before I have to head off to my gate lounge, where once again I can utilise my aluminium flight case as an instant seat for all of the five minutes I have to wait until it's time to board!

Fortunately the jet out of Narita is a more modern one than my previous flight, but I'm stuck with a window seat because there are no free aisle seats by the time I check in, early though it is. Nevertheless, it's not a bad flight, though I'm very glad to finally be on the ground! I give the local minicab company a call as soon as I clear customs, and before long we're heading away from Heathrow along very familiar territory - Bath Road, Hounslow! It's a very warm afternoon, to my surprise.
 
Thursday, August 18, 2005
The weather is hot and steamy, rather like a Tokyo summer day, making me wonder if I've brought the wrong clothes for the season! The weather forecasts are ominous though, warning of thunderstorms for the following day.

One thing I truly miss are the ubiquitous fruit juice bars we have in Australia, with their freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. Here the best I can find is small overpriced bottles of over-sweetened reconstituted orange juice. Surely someone can tap into this huge potential market!

My first gig of the trip is a local one, The Globe Inn in Brentford. A last minute hitch with the camera means I don't have a full complement of equipment at hand, much to my disappointment, nor have I apparently brought the external controller for the MD with me.

My new purple gigging jeans prove popular, sparking a discussion about the "Australian Passport" and my lack of one - a big bum, apparently, though David insists this uncharitable label was invented by my countrymen and not his. They should talk! Or perhaps they should take a look at their own back view in the mirror. I rest my case.
 
Friday, August 19, 2005
Sure enough, I'm woken by a rumble outside my window - not the usual freight train rolling by, but thunder! The sky is dark grey and very soon the rain is falling, exactly as forecast. However, it's not heavy enough to be more than a nuisance, and the umbrella I bought two trips back proves to be all that I need while I'm out and about.

On my way down the street I glance up at a plane passing overhead, and see that it's a Japan Airlines jet - glancing at my watch confirms that it's exactly 2 days since I arrived, so this must be JL403, arriving precisely on schedule!

By the time I get moving in order to head for The Grove Tavern, I don't even need the umbrella. I'm going a completely different way to South Wimbledon this time, and it proves to be an enjoyable one. It's a scenic trip from the upper deck of a bus, passing through Hampton, giving me a glimpse, over fences, of an entirely different world, and then it's on to Kingston to change to the train for Wimbledon.
 
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Cry Wolf played at The Red Lion in Feltham, my first time at this venue. It was a very relaxed, entertaining gig, though I now understand what the guys meant when they told me about the set-up being awkward - it's a long narrow space, and in fact the band is completely out of sight to most of the pub! Even standing directly in front you may catch glimpses of Pars or Gary, but never both at the same time! Nevertheless, the sound quality is good, and the band are in great form, though Tom's voice is still not back in perfect shape yet. A few different songs are mixed into the set, some that aren't played all that often, including Word Up and also Twentieth Century Boy, the usual standby when Pars is having guitar trouble.

Pre-warned about the layout of the pub, I did not take any cameras with me, in a huge break with binge-gigging tradition, so there are NO photographs! This is a shame as it's the first time I've seen, with my own eyes, David wearing his Cry Wolf T-shirt. Never mind, hopefully there'll be another opportunity before the trip is over. Gary asks me if I feel naked without my cameras, but in truth it's nice to travel light.
 
Sunday, August 21, 2005
It's a beautiful summer day, so what better way to spend it than exactly the way thousands of Londoners do, going for a stroll by the river Thames? It's definitely a case of "look but don't touch", however!

No swimming!After I do my day's quota of Internet work, including uploading the first batch of changes to the gig list, I head off to Richmond, along the way visiting my first Pret cafe for the trip, and also picking up a Spanish phrasebook for my upcoming trip to Barcelona.

If I was feeling excessively energetic, I could actually walk back to Isleworth from here, along the particularly scenic riverside, but instead I decide I'd like to head back into the town centre for an icecream, a leisurely stroll around the shops, and then catch a bus back.
 
Monday, August 22, 2005
So far the weather pattern has been a fine day followed by rain, so this is the rainy one. I catch a bus which passes through Hampton Park, though unfortunately my view from the upper decks is spoilt by the windows being all fogged up. It continues to drizzle all day - not soaking rain, just a typical rainy day, which doesn't really bother me - it's a bit of a novelty in fact, as we have so few rainy days in Sydney these days. My home city is in the grip of a prolonged drought which has seen our collective dam capacity dipping to an alarming 40%, or even lower.
 
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
My first trip into the capital this trip, and as I venture onto the tube for the first time, I can't help feeling somewhat nervous after the horrendous events of the previous month. Once I emerge above ground though, I'm struck by how lovely it is to be back. There's just something about London! There was no time for leisurely window shopping, however, as this was business - meeting up with the IT Director at the University of Westminster. After a productive session of a few hours, we head off to a Moroccan cafe for lunch - delicious!

Afterwards I go for a bit of a wander for the length of Regent Street, deciding to leave exploring Oxford Street for another day, before heading off back out to the west. The weather is once again delightful, but in the back of my mind is the forecast for the following day, for I have quite a distance to travel.
 
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The day has dawned clear and bright, and I have an early start as I'm heading off to Cambridge University for the day. It's difficult to believe that it's going to become rainy and windy, but alas, it does, fortunately after I find my way to the campus and the University Computer Centre. My directions have been deceptive - I was instructed to find the "New Museums site", but in fact the computing department is located in the building which once housed the famous Cavenish Laboratory, where Watson and Crick discovered DNA! I am absolutely thrilled. It's another long fascinating session, and I even get to take morning tea with the staff.

After that I go exploring further afield, despite the foul weather and my ailing umbrella. It really is a beautiful town, with all the magnificent university buildings - I'm enchanted.
 
Thursday, August 25, 2005
My body is apparently still a couple of time zones east, which is making me tired mid-evening and then causing me to wake up at 4am. I deliberately stay up very late, and it seems to do the trick, as I wake up at a much more civilised 6.30am, enough time to prepare for breakfast and catch the morning news.

Today I'm heading back into London again, to meet a friend for lunch. The pattern of alternate weather continues - it's another fine day, though not so warm, and my trusty black suede jacket is just the ticket. Since I can take my time getting there, I detour via Shepherds Bush markets before heading for the tube. I experience my first emergency evacuation, caused by the guy calmly walking along the tunnel beside me as I exit Bond Street Station - he's informing someone via walkie-talkie that it's "the second last carriage on the 044 to Stratford". Clearly it's an abandoned bag or package, and I'm glad I've already gotten myself off the train in question! It's all very calm and orderly, but people are not taking it lightly and are very quick to get themselves out of the station.

After a late, enjoyable lunch, there's hardly time to catch breath before I'm heading off to Victoria for a quick drink with an Internet mate, Craig. Before too long, he has to head off to get himself ready for the evening's stag night booze up, but it's late night shopping tonight, so I'm heading back off to Oxford Street.
 
Friday, August 26, 2005
It's The Six Bells tonight. This is usually a Sunday night venue, except that Cry Wolf have a long-standing commitment for Sunday evening, so here we are in Brentford on a Friday evening instead, and it's a later start than usual. This is my sixth time at this venue, and it's nice to be back again. All of the usual suspects are in attendance, and it's nice to see a few people for the first time in a long time, like Budgie.

I'm still getting the hang of the new camera, so bear with me, there will be gig photos eventually. My biggest problem is that it has such a powerful flash it's rather too good, and it's washing the pictures out, so I need to experiment a bit more.
 
Saturday, August 27, 2005
band at The Marne The temperature is creeping back up again - the forecast is for a very pleasant day tomorrow, but even today is quite bearable. Unfortunately I'm quite under the weather when I wake up, but the B&B is deathly quiet - there's nobody else here but me. I doze off again, and the next thing I know, it's 11am!

Tonight is one of the most distant regular Cry Wolf gigs, at The Marne Inn in Bishop's Stortford.

It was another great gig - the locals certainly like to show off their dancing prowess! It was also great to meet Terry and Trev and their wives, all the way from Tamworth to see the boys play, and hopefully we'll catch up again soon.
 
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Well, I can't tell you exactly where the gig was today, as nobody could tell me - all I got was directions on how to get there! I set off for my destination with a train change at Waterloo, and sufficient time to nip off and check out the London Eye from close at hand, and walk amongst the strolling summer crowds by the Thames. It's a lovely summer day, just the ticket for an evening outdoor gig, with two bands and fireworks thrown in for good measure!

My homeward bound trip included a night bus from Hammersmith, an interesting experience. The people onboard were mostly young, mostly male, and mostly rather pickled... particularly a foreign male who was sitting at the top of the steps. Red-faced, beer can in hand, he kept calling out things loudly in a foreign language, and then laughing, just as loudly. It was incredibly annoying, but then a pair of lads started to talk to him, taking the piss in that gentle, sarcastic way so typically British. By the time the bus was approaching Isleworth, most of the upper deck had dissolved into delighted laughter, and our French companion had quietly subsided onto the stairs. Unfortunately I had to disturb him in order to get out of the bus, but it was an unexpectedly light-hearted way to end the evening. Or should I say, the early morning!
 
Bank Holiday Monday, August 29, 2005
Even a low-maintenance girl has to take a bit of time out to catch up with mundane things like the washing, especially after three late gig nights in a row. It's another great day, sunny and warm, and I find time for a couple of long strolls as well as a trip to the pattiserie I discovered last trip. Used to Sydney's cafe culture, I find it most peculiar that the clientele of the cafe (and the one just a bit further down the road) are almost exclusively male, and often in groups of 3, 4 and 5. Australian males would NEVER congregate in a cafe! Of course I understand that these are European men rather than British, and this is the life they're used to back on the continent.

A Bank Holiday Monday special - watching the M3 DVD so kindly lent to me by Dave - my multimedia notebook certainly comes in handy. (If ONLY there were wireless Internet access here, my life would be complete.) It's very interesting seeing fresh-faced Stefan Berggren ALMOST matching David Coverdale's dulcet tones, and rather jarring compared to the more mature countenances of the three "M"s*. (*Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, and Neil Murray, for the unenlightened!)

With no Cry Wolf gigs on next weekend due to the rhythm section being out of the country on holidays, I'm checking out other possibilities for the weekend. If anybody has any leads or suggestions, please get in contact!

(A chat with Pars last night revealed that the long-awaited additions to the set will hopefully occur once the twins get back from holidays, and there's been time to rehearse them - stay tuned!)
 
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Beautiful weather, in fact, edging towards rather too warm - at least it was on the homeward-bound bus caught up in a snarl of afternoon traffic heading towards Kew Bridge. I think I'm even slightly sunburnt after a day spent out and about. But it's lovely to be able to go out in sandals, without a jacket - for me, that's what summer is all about.

I went to Camden Town today, figuring that there would be far less crowds than on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday Monday, and it was very pleasant indeed. Spending extragavantly as always, I find a belt for £1 which is exactly what I had been looking for for weeks before I left Sydney - being a small person and with small beltloops, the huge fancy belts filling the shops on the high streets are useless. I do lash out a little more later on, finding a pair of boots for £15 - no gig wardrobe is complete without boots!

Television here is a fascinating window on British culture. Like the show where a group of people have volunteered to attend a sixties style holiday camp, and then spend the entire programme complaining about the conditions and flouting the rules. This is just one of numerous shows where people seem to be completely unselfconcious about exposing themselves to the public gaze, including such classics as "Super Nanny", where truly revoltingly behaved children are brought to heel, and a personal favourite of mine, "Mirror, Signal, Manouevre", where learner drivers expose their sometimes painful, faltering steps towards achieving their driver's licence, including, often, a failure at the test - since the first-time pass rate is only 43%!
 
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Another hot day dawns. It's exactly two years since I first came over to England to meet the boys!

It has been the second hottest day for the summer, today. I hardly get out of Bond Street Station before I'm accosted by a young woman peddling some "magic" fingernail products. She uses what I suspect may be industrial strength sandpaper to file down my ridged thumbnail (damaged when I slammed it in a car door when I was 18) to a smooth, glossy surface. I'm fascinated, but not convinced it's worth forking out £25 on, regardless of the fact that the RRP is £40, there's a free bottle of hand lotion included in any one of a number of fragrances, and there's a two year guarantee. (Pretty safe bet - I doubt the sandpaper is going to lose its efficiency, used the recommended once a month!)

Not too long after that I'm grabbed as I'm walking past the make-up counter in Debenhams, where products with names like "Ooh La Lift", "High Beam", "You Rebel" and "Dr. Feelgood" are applied to my face. "Look at the difference!" my assailant coos, showing me the results in the mirror, but I can't see any difference between one side of my face and the other! The collective cost of these products is an even more astounding £70. I head off for Superdrug instead and find myself a far more useful travel-sized bottle of sunblock for all of £1.29.

I could go crazy in bookstores here - there are so many interesting books, particularly about this fascinating city I find myself in, but I'm very concious that I either have to carry them with me or post them home... damn. In particular I've fallen in love with a huge, heavy book which shows the entire country from the air - price tag £125.

In fact, it was a day of pricing things I'd really like, or in the case of the charging stand for the Hi-MD, really need. However, I think I'll battle on with batteries, as I can buy an awful lot of those for the £20 the computer store wanted for the stand!
 
Thursday, September 1, 2005
It was another "business" day, so I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say, it involved a trip into central London, and the sanger the landlady made for me in place of my breakfast went down a treat as I went for a wander between appointments. I took myself back to Oxford Street afterwards, which was a brave move - my black patent leather shoes look good but are murder on my well-exercised feet. For the second day in a row, I'm given a coffee "on the house" at Pret, to my amazement. I'm working my way through their cold drink selection. Everything has been great so far - with no preservatives and no sugar, I just wish I could export pallet loads back to Sydney!.
 
Friday, September 2, 2005
Local knowledge makes all the difference! Today was strictly a recreation day - I asked the landlady at breakfast where the best shopping was to be had - to my surprise, she suggested Reading - and she was right!

It was my favourite kind of summer day, when I can got out in sandals and not need a jacket and also not get too hot, just perfect. Getting to Reading was not too bad - a bus ride which took me the length of Bath Road, out past Heathrow, and over the top of the M25, and then a relatively short train trip.

And it really was a great shopping area. I got a few things that had been on my list much cheaper than I had seen them to date, including the Drop The Dead Donkey DVDs for £5 cheaper than elsewhere, and I was even given a cool glass of water while I was waiting for the shop assistant to break open the VERY well secured case! As always, I am very impressed with the courtesy and customer service in every shop I go into, and I ponder just why Australians haven't got it yet!

I have a new favourite clothing store - H&M. Not only are their prices reasonable but their sizes are accurate and fit correctly, something that drives me crazy at home. Australian sizings are not only too big, but badly cut, unless I want to fork out a fortune for designer label clothing.

Sadly, there's no Cry Wolf gig tonight as the twins are away, and I'm just in the mood for a good gig.
 
Saturday, September 3, 2005
Almost like a lazy Saturday morning back in Sydney, but without the coffee - I do miss my coffee pot. People who know me know that I like my coffee black, strong, and short. Soon it's on with the sunblock and time to venture out into the world!

In the evening, I headed off to The Windsor Castle in Carshalton, a cosy venue which is always heaving with music-appreciating people - not to see Cry Wolf, but a band called Bad Influence, who I thoroughly enjoyed. As a bonus, the lime and soda is only 40p here!

Getting there was not too exacting, though it was two buses and three trains (the last one being a single stop), involving a loop through Hampton, Kingston and Wimbledon and on to Sutton. But when I left to make my way back, after a throughly relaxed, entertaining and light-hearted evening, Plan A was rendered unworkable as the night buses in the area don't kick in until 1.30am! Plan B involved retracing my steps via Wimbledon, but I hit a major stumbling block on discovering that the Sutton-Wimbledon line had finishing running for the night. Hmmm. Time for Plan C - when I spot that there's a train to Clapham Junction, I know I'm sorted. I make my connection with plenty of time to spare, and in fact the journey home is free, as someone had most thoughtfully blocked up the coin slot of the ticket machine at Carshalton Beeches with chewing gum.

I never go out now without a handful of maps in my bag - the gem, which has been with me for all four trips, is the London & South East Rail Services map. A lot of the operators have changed names since the edition I have was released, but it really is incredibly useful. Next at my fingertips are the bus guides for North West and South West London - of necessity they are quite stylised, and not useful in turns of accurate street plans, but for this I can utilise the various London Cycle Guides - not that I intend to get out there on a bicycle, of course! In Australia it's illegal to ride without a helmet, so I haven't quite gotten used to seeing people riding so blithely along without one!

I'm back at the B&B in quite reasonable time, and as I have the place to myself again tonight, it doesn't matter how much post-gig late-night racket I make.
 
Sunday, September 4, 2005
Just as an aside, the thumbnail which was ground down to within a millimetre of its life is now starting to split rather badly. The two cuticles upon which were lavished "cuticle oil" look no different to any of the others. I rest my case.

It's a leisurely morning while I shower, breakfast, catch the BBC News 24 Sunday  program, and organise myself to go off and visit Helen and Steve for the afternoon. I don't have to be there until 1pm, so I take a side trip via Regent Street, as it was closed off for the day for the annual Regent Street Festival, soaking up the atmosphere and the summer sun.

Then it's on to change trains at Bank to the DLR, and the scenic winding route skimming along the northern bank of the Thames, with views across the river to the detested white elephant, the Millenium Dome. It's great to catch up with Helen (and later, Steve, when he gets back from his afternoon outing to a Collector's Fair, to show off the bargains he's bought!). We could natter for hours, and the conversation roves all over the place, but all too soon I have to make my way back for the evening's entertainment. We agree we will do our best to catch up again after I get back from Barcelona.

Bad II The BoneAs luck would have it, Bad II The Bone are playing one of my "locals", The Six Bells, so I head on down there to catch their energetic set, which includes a great mix of classic rock songs, including Purple's Strange Kind Of Woman and Highway Star, and Lizzy's Don't Believe A Word. Good seeing the new drummer fitting in to the line-up so well, and brilliant  seeing a Rickenbacker played, and pickless into the bargain! As a bonus, there are lots of people along who regularly attend Cry Wolf gigs, all thoroughly enjoying themselves, and it's nice to have a catch-up natter.

It was a rude shock stepping outside of the pub after the gig, as it had been raining quite heavily, unbeknownst to most of us inside, but I made it back down the street without getting very wet at all - in fact it was a pleasant way to cool down a bit after such a hot evening!
 
Monday, September 5, 2005
I'm very tired this morning after such a busy weekend, but I'm up early for my full English breakfast, before heading off to the post office to get my first parcel mailed home. Next stop is to get my lottery tickets checked - to my delight, I've won £10. I could have wished for millions, but this is far better than nothing, and hopefully just the tip of the iceberg. Well, I can hope!

I've gotten a lot of computer work done today, including two sessions at the local Internet cafe while I catch up with old and new friends and also update the website. I've added some new venues to the Cry Wolf giglist, one of which I'm pleased to say that I discovered during my wanders last week!
 
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
Central London again, this time to seek out Berwick Street and the secondhand CD/DVD stores. The prices are far better than the High Street stores, but it's all rather mainstream and uninteresting, so I can easily restrain myself from buying anything. I've also had some useful advice not to buy the new season of Doctor Who on individual DVDs yet, as the box set is due out in November, and will include bonuses and extra features, so I resist the temptation. As I criss-cross my way through Soho, of course I have Bye Bye Birmingham  playing in my head!
 
Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Another hectic day, with absolutely no time to get to an Internet cafe and get the latest files uploaded. It was a trip out to Kingston University for the day, to delve into yet another university's IT infrastructure. This is my bread and butter, and I find it utterly fascinating to see how other institutions deal with a similar raft of issues and problems, and to celebrate and admire what they have done well.

There's no rest for the wicked though - there's only time for a very quick bite to eat and a little shopping while I play a bit of telephone tag, and then I'm heading back to Isleworth, with a quick dash into the Treaty Centre in Hounslow enroute; a rapid change of clothes and then it's off to picturesque Old Isleworth for an afternoon drink and a chat at The London Apprentice, on the terrace overlooking the river and Isleworth Ait.

Peter has to head off to work, but I stay at the pub for dinner, as the aromas issuing from the kitchen are just too good to pass up. I settle on fish and chips, with garden peas, and it's delicious. Then it's a pleasant walk back to the B&B. I watch TV for a while, but I'm so tired I'm asleep not long after 9pm.
 
Thursday, September 8, 2005
It's on with the sunblock and out into the bright sunshine again. Yesterday was so hectic that I had no time to get to an Internet cafe and get the giglist changes uploaded, so that's my first priority this morning. After an hour at the keyboard, catching up with all and sundry online, it's back into London to meet Jan for lunch. I'm early enough that I can wander through a few of the department stores. I'm particularly curious about Selfridges, since it has just been voted the most beautiful of the London stores. That it definitely is - all I can do is marvel at the gorgeous clothes, but I know better than to get too close, let alone dream of trying anything on!

I have read more newspapers in the last few weeks than I have for ages - I only ever read newspapers when I'm away from home! Even when I'm interstate in Australia, I find the local papers fascinating, but home in Sydney, they are a total yawn. Here there seems to be a bit of a battle going on for readership, so as well as the abundantly available Metro, both The Times and The Standard are giving away cut-down versions free at paperstands all along Oxford Street, which I'm happy to snap up.

This time I go for a walk down Bond Street on my way out of the city, before heading off, but there's a rude shock awaiting me - service on the Central line has been suspended - due to signalling/communications problems. I therefore work my way across the city on three different lines and eventually, successfully reach Shepherds Bush.

The bus is, once again, unpleasantly hot heading home, but the weather during the day has been perfect. I've been keeping an eye on the forecasts for Barcelona, thanks to all those newspapers, because I'll be heading off there in a few day's time, but it seems rather similar to the temperatures here, so it should be quite bearable.
 
Friday, September 9, 2005
Alas, that sunny weather couldn't last. Time for a thunderstorm. I am very glad I hadn't taken myself off to Kew Gardens as I had planned, as I would have been caught right in the middle of it. The tube is still a bit of a shambles after all the problems the previous day, and now there are reports of traffic jams, major hold-ups, and flooding!

Luckily, by the time I'm heading off to The Red Lion in Twickenham, there's one, quick, ferocious downpour, and then it stays relatively dry for the rest of the evening. As always, it's a hot, busy venue, and great fun, particularly with Sue and new convert Trudy along.
 
Saturday, September 10, 2005
The skies are cloudy again, but the temperature is pleasant. I've a few housekeeping things to do, like get a European power adaptor, pack my bags, and book myself a cab for 4 a.m. tomorrow morning, because I'm off to Barcelona!

The weather closes in again in the afternoon, and there are omninous flashes of lightning and a restless breeze as I make my way to the evening's venue, The Bell On The Green in Feltham. Luckily the rain held off until I got there, but not all too long afterwards, the heavens opened up. Of course, we didn't even notice, as the evening's gig was well under way by then!

Now, I'd love to make a joke about the fact that Tom lost his G-string and still bravely carried on through set closer Rebel Yell, but in fact I can't, as it was actually his D-string (as seen at left). Nevertheless, it provided some entertainment for us onlookers, and even Gary had to come forward and take a poke at it. And dang!, I think I've got a handle on this camera at last! It has an advanced mode where it takes three shots in quick succession, varying the aperture each time, and I've gotten some great shots tonight.
 
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Apart from a brief nap after I got home from the gig, I've been awake all night, purely so that I can be ready for that early morning cab ride. However, having been told that I need to be at the airport at 4.20 a.m., as my flight is boarding at 6.20 a.m., it is immensely annoying to find myself standing in a queue for a counter which doesn't even open until 5.15 a.m. That gets filed in the "for next time" folder in my brain. It's so true that you need to have done something at least the once to be able to know how to do it the best, fastest and most efficient way.

It's only an hour and forty minutes from Heathrow to Barcelona - as the girl in the seat next to me commented, "We were at the airport longer than it's taken us to get here." That's certainly less time than it takes to get from Sydney to Cairns, on the east coast of Australia, and I hardly have time to get through even one of the three newspapers I have with me before we've arrived. It is a magnificent, modern airport, all chrome pillars and vast expanses of glass, but I'm truly mystified as to why our baggage has been unloaded onto a carousel at the extreme opposite end of the terminal at which we have landed. The advantage of this is that by the time I walk up to the conveyor belt, my bag is right there in front of me.

I commit a brilliant gaffe before I even leave the vicinity of the airport. Used to cars in Australia and England, I walk around to the left-hand side of the taxi, only to be confronted by a steering wheel! Luckily my taxi-driver is young and amused, and not even phased when I walk back to the other side of the car and attempt to get into the front passenger seat, only to be find it filled by his personal collection of paraphenalia. He quickly and cheerfully dumps all this on the back seat, which is clearly where I'm supposed to be, before I can even muster an apology, so the front seat is mine after all. We're quickly whizzing off down the road into this fascinating city! It's so very quiet on the streets, but he explains that today is a national day, and everyone is at home asleep. Great idea, I silently think, particularly since I'm anticipating a few boring hours stuck in the hotel foyer before I can actually check into my room.

It's not too unpleasant a wait, except for the English "lads" waiting for the taxi to take them to the airport. They are definitely the ugly side of British tourism, and apparently have no shame at tying up a PC in the hotel's business centre by playing games because they're bored, meanwhile discussing their exploits of the previous night with misplaced pride. To these boys, the volume of alcohol consumed is directly proportional to the enjoyment they've had, even if they can't remember a thing about it.

Once I do get into my room, I have a short nap in the afternoon before heading off to the the Welcome Cocktail Party at the Centre de Convencions Internacional Barcelona. The place looks fantastic, all decked out in Novell red, and it really is nice to be rubbing shoulders with the converted. There will be some intensive sessions in the next four days, but I'm already impressed. Concerned that the coffee at the conference was going to be the usual stewed urns of weak instant, I'm delighted to discover that in fact the beverage of choice is my beloved espresso, made fresh on the spot! There will be no caffeine withdrawal this week!
 
Monday, September 12, 2005 - Thursday, September 15, 2005
Novell Brainshare, Barcelona

Tourism meets Geekdom. Or something like that. I've been having a great time hanging out with a whole lot of other networking experts from all over Europe, attending talks and tutorials during the daytime and spending my spare time making new friends or catching up with old ones, which means long, leisurely dinners and "Meet The Experts" panels until late into the night.

One of the coolest things was an impromptu side-trip for a select group of us on Wednesday, organised by IBM, to the Barcelona Super Computer Centre, at right. This was a classic case of 16th century chapel meets 21st century technology, the most fabulous computer room I've ever seen.

We all make our way out to the airport on the final afternoon in dribs and drabs, but end up congregating in the same departure lounge as there's bad news - most flights into the UK are delayed due to inclement weather. Damn. We pass the time with nibbles and conversation until our respective flights are called. I'm the last out, and it's a late flight - even later by the time I get in. I've gone from T-shirt and sandals to multiple layers, capped off by a spray jacket and umbrella as I wait in the Heathrow drizzle in the dark for my minicab! Summer in London seems to have ended while I've been away.
 
Friday, September 16, 2005
Back, in the very familiar surroundings of Isleworth. Tired after all that activity, I take it fairly easy, particularly since I'm about to plunge back into the weekend gig whirlwind, starting with The Red Cow at West Drayton, tonight.

Cry Wolf haven't played here for quite a while, and in fact it's the venue I missed out on during my first trip, two years ago. It's lovely to have Jan along, and we slip across the road to order take-away curry and samosas as she's come straight from work, and I haven't eaten either! It turns out to be quite a good venue - the boys tell me that they used to set up in an alcove around the corner, but tonight they use a big empty space at the back of the pub usually used for the snooker table. The acoustics are good, and the crowd appreciative, so it looks like one they'll be pleased to play again. Not to mention I had a lot of different angles to shoot the photos from.
 
Saturday, September 17, 2005
It's down to Shepperton for the evening's gig, which I've been priviledged to be allowed to attend, as it's a private gig - a wedding, in fact. It's rather fun to watch the proceedings, but I dress appropriately, donning my "It's okay, I'm with the band" T-shirt, just to make sure! I also eschew using the cameras, as the night is really for Ray and Kay, and the proud groom even took a turn on stage belting out Johnny B. Goode.
 
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Fighting CocksTonight was another new venue, The Fighting Cocks in Kingston, a pub with a cavernous venue hidden away inside. It comes with its own lights and engineer, and is an unusually early start (8.30pm) with a finish right on 10.30pm, allowing absolutely no time for an encore (the previous night being something of a record for an encore, so I guess it all evens out). It's also one of the few venues the band play on an actual stage, and also where I can get the entire band in the shot. The UV lights made the wolf logo on my T-shirt glow a treat!

The early start had made it a hectic day for me. I'd been over to Docklands again to meet with friends, and it's only with great reluctance that I say goodbye and head on back across London. It was three tubes and a bus back to Isleworth, where I take ten minutes at the most to change into gig gear, dump my cameras and MD into my bag, and then I'm off out again, for another 2 buses to get to Kingston. All that, and I'm right on time, though ultimately the band started a little late - just long enough for me to grab a lime and soda and a good seat.
 
Monday, September 19, 2005
After three gig nights in a row, and three late night trips home, I've woken up with a sinus headache, but I still have a stash of my marvelous anti-histamine tables from Australia with me, and its soon banished. As I'm the only one in the B&B this morning, I had a table set up just for me, and a full three course breakfast! I'm so tired I flake out for a little while after all that food, before heading off to the Internet cafe to catch up on the day's messages and see if either of the two people I'm meant to be meeting at lunch have materialised. One does pop up online, so after reconfirming our arrangements, I walk straight out onto the street and catch the H37 to Richmond. I'm still full from breakfast, but I don't say no to an espresso.

After a bit of a wander, I head off back to Kingston, which is slightly richer in terms of shopping, and pick up a fabulous coat. Then it's back around to Hounslow, but I make a strategic mistake - I pick the 281 bus and not the 111, and we get caught up in a snarl of traffic near the rugby stadium in Twickenham. I know it's a mistake, because the trip takes over an hour, and for most of it I'm forced to listen to the girl behind me complaining about everybody else  on the bus annoying her, either with their choice of music or their conversations. Just as we were arriving in Hounslow, she phoned her brother, who had gotten the 111 from Kingston, and he had beaten us there.

It's another quick catch up in an Internet cafe on the way back, as I want to check out my options for getting out to Oxford the next day. I've definitely started to morph into a local - I buy a take-away kebab on the way home!

It's a quiet night to unwind, relax, read, and update the travel diary. The TV chatters away in the background, and I'm delighted that Michael Moore seems to agree with me (I've picked up a copy of "Stupid White Men") on British newspapers and television: "Unlike [the US], they have numerous media outlets (London alone has eleven daily papers, and their four national networks have more to offer on any given night than the two hundred plus [US] channels combined)." I can heartily agree. Tonight there's a documentary on eBay, for example!

I've become quite a master of navigating my way around by public transport. In particular, I'm often passing through Hounslow Bus Garage - not always to catch a bus, but often to check timetables for upcoming journeys - and sometimes just to dodge the old guys who seem to live on the bench on the street in front of the bus station.
 
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Off to Oxford University for the day. Gorgeous weather, a fascinating and long day, which includes lunch at St. Hughes College, and which eventually sees me on the 10.30pm "tube" coach back to London. I disembark at Shepherd's Bush and race down to the bus stop to catch the 237 back to Isleworth, and I'm back in my cosy room in less than 2 hours after I got on the bus in Oxford!
 
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
"Good Evening, Wembley!"
It's Cry Wolf's first gig at The Old Post Office, Wembley, and it turns out to be a great venue, with an enthusiastic audience. The verdict is a unanimous thumbs up from all concerned, so the band will hopefully be playing there again!

It was a very interesting experience for me to get there. After looking at my travel options, I decided that British Rail was the go. Starting out at Isleworth, with no ticket machine, I hop onto the first of my three trains for the trip. It's a change at Clapham Junction, my old haunt in the early hours of the morning when I was commuting back down south, and then onto a Silverlink train. Once again, there's no conductor for the trip to Willesden Junction, and then I have one final change in order to get to Wembley Central (with Cozy's Na Na Na  dancing in my head). And here I finally come to a ticket wicket.

Two smartly suited customer service people are there at the barrier, so I explain the journey I've taken from Isleworth, which they've clearly never heard of. But one of them latches happily onto "Willesden Junction", and leads me over to the ticket machine. We walk past a policeman in the process of passing a metal detector over a young lad, and then he stands patiently and helpfully by while I purchase a ticket for that last short leg of my journey, for all of £1.30. I then ask him where I would catch the tube from for my return journey, and he tells me that I can also catch Bakerloo trains from here. I thank him very much, and when I turn around, there are about a dozen transport police, with dogs, all intently watching us. It's rather unnerving - it's not as if these are the days when there are big football matches on at Wembley Stadium, after all - it's still under re-construction! It does make me reconsider the grotty, grimy arcade leading from the station with a wary eye as I head out towards the street, but once I'm outside, it looks just like any other busy High Street - and I've seen far worse!

The venue is in fact only about 3 minutes up the road, if that, and is a spacious high-ceiled pub with a well-positioned stage, visible from pretty much the whole pub, though it's a tad cramped for the band. I'm treated to a lift back afterwards, so I don't get to see if that impressive police presence is still keeping an eye on the ticket wicket back at the station!
 
Thursday, September 22, 2005
It's off to the University Of The Arts today, a newly forged university who are deep in the throes of implementing Voyager, the Integrated Library Management System which started me off on this whole trip, so in a way, things have come full circle. To my delight, I'm able to help out with a scripting problem that the system administrator is having, and we all grab a quick bite to eat for lunch afterwards.

My nose had inexplicably started to run during the visit, as if I've been struck by hayfever. I have to keep moving though, as it's a long distance to tonight's gig, in Wheathampstead, a one-off gig at The Swan.

On the way back, though, I take a quick detour via Oxford Street, as I've decided I am going to buy the T-shirt I saw earlier, because I want to wear it tonight. GOOD GIRLS GO TO HEAVEN; BAD GIRLS GO TO LONDON is the slogan. It's perfect. Though the gig tonight is in Herts., of course... so the Hertfordshire banner will be out!

It is entry by ticket only, totally packed to the rafters, and all for a good cause. It's great, as always, to have Eddie and Lynn along to join in the fun.
 
Friday, September 23, 2005
It wasn't hayfever - I now have a fully-fledged cold, something I've managed to avoid on my three previous trips, including my New Year/winter fling. Of course, though, as summer descends into autumn and the leaves fall from the trees and become crunchy underfoot, it is the optimum temperature for viruses to proliferate, and they've found a perfect host in me!

Luckily the Cry Wolf gig for the evening has been cancelled, as I doubt I would have been in any state to get there, let alone enjoy it.

On the plus side, my antihistamine of choice is still on sale here in England, whereas I couldn't get any back home. The pharmacist at Superdrug is very suspicious of me asking about the ingredients in the tablets, but I always do this at home - perhaps I should have explained I have a Chemistry degree? I find it strange that the actual dosage of the active ingredients is not on the packaging - clearly it's not a requirement of the law here. But how can you comparison shop when you can't tell?
 
Saturday, September 24, 2005
A frustrating day, still in the grip of the cold, and with my travel around via bus thwarted by rail diversions and road closures for roadworks, rendering a 57 minute trip about twice as long, but at least I get a few phone calls out of the way while we're making our halting way through Greater London. The worst bit is, I'm in for just as long a trip back! Not if I can help it... while we're inching along, I spend a bit of time perusing my North West London bus guide, and plan an alternative route back.

I'm feeling a great deal better though, by the time I'm heading off for The Rising Sun at Slough, which is sure to be a busy gig. I have yet another friend along for the first time to see the band. Peter throughly enjoys himself, despite some bemusing encounters with some of the locals, and so do Sue, Miranda and Trudy - fantastic to see you all again. A big thank you, too, to Ron, you're a great mate. Don't forget to email me!

Even a cold is not going to stop me from singing along, but I have almost entirely lost my voice by the time I leave the gig!
 
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Final gig September 2005The end of this trip has come around so fast! It amazes me. I'm so used to being here, it feels like I live here. My life in Sydney is like another lifetime, it's been left behind so thoroughly.

I nip down the road to catch up with my email, and then go on one last shopping binge. I lash out on a few pairs of earrings, because they're so very cheap here, and just what a rock chick needs.

At least there is one last Cry Wolf gig for me this trip, tonight, at where else but The Six Bells. It was a great gig, with the classic Radar Love mixed into the set, plus old favourite Blurry. By pure luck, I happen to be sitting in the best place in the pub - I'm hearing a perfect stereo mix. Photos

Eddie and Lynn have come all the way down to catch the gig and say goodbye - it's great to see them again, and I so appreciate them coming this distance. All too soon they have to head off home, as it's Sunday night and there's work tomorrow, alas.

Things got a bit rowdy afterwards, when a fight broke out between some girls down at the back of the pub - and no, it was nothing to do with the band - there's never a dull moment in Brentford! I then snaffle the boys for a final photo, and it's a fabulous one. A great memory of another great holiday. That was my fifth late night out of six!
 
Monday, September 26, 2005
Here it is again, the worst day of the trip, my last one. My flight home is only hours away now, and it's time to cram as much as possible into my bags. I've posted home as much as I could, but what may well tip the balance is the Novell bag and all the extras I got at the conference. Am I going to be up for excess baggage charges this trip?

I'm pretty well over my flash cold, just a bit congested now. There's just enough time for a quick update to this diary, which will have to do until I get back home. I will create a seperate page for this trip, as the combined file has become so large, but it will have to wait.

One last decadent fling - it's bruschetta and a Knickerbocker Glory for an early tea, because it's going to be a very late meal on the plane, with a 9.00pm take-off.

Though I'm ready early, my minicab driver is running late, enough to have an unfortunate knock-on effect, though I get there in fine time to check-in, even, for the first time, risking sending my tough flight case to the hold rather than carrying it onboard. This means I will be tempting fate at the other end with the Sydney baggage handlers, but all I can do is keep my fingers crossed. It's a relief actually, as the Novell bag has wheels and a handle, and my usual (tiny) cabin bag fits easily inside, as do all my cameras and notebook and my fat cache of newspapers.

The mistake I make is queuing up in the wrong VAT queue, with one anxious eye on the clock. By the time I get to the head of the queue and the guy there checks my paperwork, I'm cutting it pretty fine - and then he tells me the counter I want is inside Departures! I run through the terminal, glad I can drag the wheeled bag behind me, but not everyone is in such a rush. Two geriatric couples decide to strike up a friendship right across the passageway into Departures, and they're not in any hurry to move on! Normally I would politely wait and not push in, but I just don't have the time. I bolt on through, picking up my gate number from the monitor as I go, and then hit the next long queue, waiting to go through customs and the X-ray machine. I marvel at all these people who wait until they get to the machine and then slowly and haphazardly empty all their pockets, pausing to ponder the contents and exclaim at things they hadn't realised they're carrying.

I get through at last, and on my right, finally, is the VAT desk I need - but it's too late now. The message for my flight is "CLOSING GATE"! The terminal maps say I must allow 20 minutes to get to my gate! I cover the ground in about three minutes flat - I've never cut it so fine on an international flight.
 
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
I'm in transit, that strange transient state of being in which time seems to stretch to infinity. The inflight entertainment system is not working, we are informed, but strangely, I don't miss it at all. I have a window seat right next to the emergency door, with lots of leg room as there's no-one in front of me, and a sudoku puzzle book to while away the time when I'm not reading my newspapers or dozing.

Like all things, it passes eventually, and I'm back to Narita again. A veteran now, I'm through the departure procedures in a flash. After a quick freshen up and change of clothes, I indulge in a grapefruit juice and a cappucino, and then I'm off to the Internet lounge to fire off some emails and catch up on the latest goss.

There in the restaurant at Tokyo airport I'm amused to be hearing Lenny Kravitz' Are You Gonna Go My Way - it seems that no matter where I am in the world, if I go out for the day and there's music playing in the background, I will always hear a song out of the Cry Wolf set list. At least one!
 
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I'm back in Australia. It's funny how that final cab journey, from the airport to home, seems to drag on longer than the entire previous flight. As soon as I'm in I ring to organise to get my cats brought home - it's so very nice to see them again. I spend a bit of time unpacking, tidying, and doing some washing before I try to take a snooze, but a succession of phone calls keeps dragging me out of bed! Luckily none of them is a summons to come into work, I can deal with that tomorrow.

More pressing is the electricity bill which came while I was away, not to mention the associated Disconnection notice with a date of 30 September. I don't have enough cash to deal with it, and my jet-lagged brain can't remember my ATM PIN, so I'll have to sort it out tomorrow.

The baggage handlers look to have gotten the last laugh. There's a hole in my aluminium flight case which appears to have been made with an axe, or a similiar sharp object. Luckily it wasn't big enough for anything to have fallen out of, and only one of the MD cases is broken. As I feared never seeing the flight case again, I have gotten off very lightly indeed.

The place looks like a bomb has gone off, as I was so frantic before I left I did not get a chance to tidy up nor even make the bed, and my garden is half dead through lack of water. An aside for those with whom I've had chats about Australia's venomous wildlife - a redback spider had taken up residence in the handle of my dustpan. But not for long...!

And when I switch on the telly in the evening, I discover there's a new show on UK TV - none other than "How Clean Is Your House?" Am I in Sydney or in Isleworth?????? Unfortunately, I know the answer to that one.
 
 I'll be back. 
 
Epilogue, October 2005

The sandpaper merchants have made it out to Australia! They're now haunting my local shopping centre. The hand lotion fragrances are different, and the pack is only $35 (c.£14), but I still don't need one in my life!
 
November, 2005
The parcels I sent home to myself have arrived remarkably quickly. On the negative side, someone seems to have gained themselves a street atlas of Berkshire, as that particular parcel had been ripped open and the book was missing. Luckily I had lashed out recently during a sale at the local Borders and gotten the massive London and SE England street atlas, so it's all still in my grasp!
 
December, 2005
Some of the lovely clothing styles I spotted in H&M and other stores have made it over here at last - there's that 6 month lag in fashion again! In some cases they are noticably cheap and ill-fitting imitations, but it still tickles my fancy. The best buy had to be the skinny leg black jeans - £20 in H&M, $20 Australian (£8) here. As my American friends would say, one Happy Camper!

 

Continue on to my 2006 UK trip diary


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