A Travellerspoint blog

No Update. Repeat No Update

sunny 12 °C

Just to let you all know that there is no update today, repeat, no update.

I was going to blog on about all the beautiful scenery, outrageous prices, and sensational beer in Iceland but had to spend the evening trying to tell the property manager of our apartment in London that we were not going to pay the $150 for a blind that "broke" 5 minutes after we got there. This is a blind that only dropped 70% of the length of the window, gave us no privacy, and was known to the owner as an issue.

You can actually fix these things for $2 (moot point as we are not paying a cent) but her handyman says the whole blind needs to be replaced, effectively getting us to pay for them to get a blind that actually fits the window!

Anyway, as I said there is no update at this point in time, no update.

Posted by mljjs 12:02 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Pile of Rocks

sunny 22 °C

On the Saturday between days 2 and 4 of the Test, David Walton drove us to Stonehenge with his son Zaak. Jacinda, Louisa and myself caught the train to Reading and we were picked up there. The train was an express and took no time at all to get there.

The drive was interesting but one thing that struck me was what Service Stations sell....apart from petrol. Wine, very good sandwiches and other fresh produce and beer. Sort of a mixture of Dan Murphy's, Coles, Bunnings and a petrol station all rolled in to one.

We eventually got to the pile of rocks called Stonehenge which is more than 4,000 years old. We opted to walk there from the tourist centre but it was a little further than we had thought. I cannot believe that they placed those rocks so far from the tourist centre.

A number of people had commented to us before and since that there are two types of weather at Stonehenge, blow a dog of chain windy or pouring with rain. We must have been lucky as it was quite sunny with little wind. In fact we didn't rate the sun when we were at the car and opted not to put on sunscreen. Schoolboy error.

It is amazing to think of how the people who built Stonehenge could do it, and to think that most of the stone is not from that area but 30 odd kilometres away and averaging 25 tonnes! Couldn't they have found something closer? Smaller stones that only weigh 4 tonnes were carted for 200 odd kms to get to the site. And I was pissed off that the site is a couple of kilometres from the tourist centre. It is estimated that it would have taken 30,000,000 hours of labour and I was starting to wonder if it was actually worth it until I was dragged through the souvenirs shop. I tried walking around the barricades to get to the car park but an attendant told me that I had to go through the shop to get to the car park. When in the shop it was clear that the 4000+ year plan was finally paying off.

Throughout the next day or so we knocked off more London sites and there are far too many to take in over a week.

Tower of London was far larger than I had thought and was interesting to see the Crown Jewels and how some monarchs were not very nice people. They would take your head off for misplacing the TV remote!

Talking about taking your head off, we went a did a Jack the Ripper tour one night. Gee did Jack have an issue or two. We saw where some of the ladies were killed and pubs where some were last seen. Some of these spots are still there and we walked down these little back streets where Jack did his dirty work over 2 months in 1888.

Also saw where William Wallace met his fate. All pretty gruesome really.

On the day of our flight to Iceland we had a few hours to kill so we went and did a Stamford Bridge tour (Chelsea Football Club). It took over an hour but was great. We saw the ground itself, the press room, the away and home rooms and the dugouts.

Interesting to note that Chelsea sought out some advice from a sport psychologist on the standard and design for away rooms. Previously Chelsea had terrible away rooms (like most clubs apparently) but the psychologist said that it can come back to bite you when your visitor rooms are so ordinary. One toilet and two showers just gets the opposition pissed off and wanting to belt the crap out of you.

In the renovated away rooms, they are smallish but well appointed. They are however designed to make it a little harder for the opposition to come out and whip you;
- Small lockers under your seat. This way after a 2 - 3 hour bus trip you may just stretch that back and hamstring too far.
- Lighting is dimmed and causes players to relax....too much
- Coat Hooks are high, causing some players to have to stretch.
- Heating is hot in summer and colder in winter. it was too warm when I was there.

And Chelsea went on to create a new record of consecutive home games without being defeated, 86 games from 21-Feb-2004 to 26-Oct-2008.....go figure! Might have to get this looked at down at Hampton.

Home rooms were 4 times the size with extensive rub down areas, ice baths, large lockers and the players arranged in friendship groups rather than by player number. John Terry's idea and apparently unusual in the Premier League. You could see all the Brazillians together for instance.

The tours run every 20 minutes and they would have 20 people in a group. At $20 a pop, no wonder they can afford the cash they spend on players. We were shown the seat that Roman Abramovich sits in, the Russian billionaire/owner of Chelsea. It is in a good spot and the seats around that area can be yours for $250,000 a season. Before you race off to buy one, there is a catch. You must sign up for 10 years!

Posted by mljjs 00:24 Archived in England Comments (0)

Lords - The Home of Cricket and Corks

sunny 24 °C

We Took two trains to get to Lords. First the Piccadilly Line then Jubilee Line to St John's Wood Station, about 500m from Lords Cricket Ground. Still feeling jet lagged but excited to be at the first day of an Ashes Test at the home of cricket.

Got there at about 10:00 and found where to collect my tickets and Reciprocal Guest Book which is rather special. Louisa came with me for the trip and to check a few things out but she knew she wouldn't be able to get in....and I'm not entirely sure she wanted to. Whilst we walked around the perimeter we must have seen 30 scalpers.

Of course scalping is not allowed but I have never seen so many people asking to buy a "spare ticket", asking if people need a ticket, or even worse, "happy to buy OR sell tickets", but usually these guys were on the move walking along the footpath through the crowd as they made their requests. I heard one guy ask a scalper "how much for a ticket" and the scalper said, "how much have you got?"

Must be a huge trade given the number of people doing it, and police were on every corner.

Once I went into the ground, Louisa walked on and stumbled onto the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing that the Beatles made famous. She then went into London and checked out Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hamley's Toy Shop (biggest toy shop she has ever seen), Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and a few other attractions. Clocked up 27,000 steps on the Fitbit!

Whilst Louisa was thinking she was having the time of her life, I actually WAS.

In the first 50m I had fired off 20 pictures of the place. Gardens and lawns with Champagne tents, members entrance, and just the buzz of the place made me keep pinching myself. Of course there were a few too many Poms around but they seemed friendly enough.

Found my seat and to my surprise, two people I knew, Mike Reidy (Hampton CC) and Graeme Williamson (St Finbarr's Primary School) were sitting within a 10m radius of me. I went over to Graeme to say g'day and half tripped on a step, sending half a pint of my first beer over one of his mates! His mate wasn't too happy so I went back to my seat.

I was sitting next to a lady who had been to four Lords Ashes Tests. She was one of the first 10 women accepted into the MCC when women members were first allowed in. A solicitor from Brighton who could tell a story or two, but I was trying to watch the cricket. She would be telling me something about London or Will processing and the crowd would erupt in applause, so she would clap whilst still telling the story and not an eye on the cricket. She had no idea what she clapping but she was having a great time. She had tickets to all five days and I was kind of hoping that we wouldn't be seated together on Day 2.

She handed me her business card towards the end of the day and when I got home I noted that her user ID and Password (for something) was written on the back. Hope she was right for cash!

Days 1 and 2 were clearly won by the Aussies. The Pommie press was blaming the pitch and the fact that a toss of the coin decided the test. What a load of crap. Same wicket both days. One team made 566, the other team was 4/30 with an hour or so to play on second day. I had to admit it, I started wanting the Poms to hold on a bit as I had tickets to Day 4 and at this stage Day 3 looked to be the final day. Besides, watching grown men cry into their jugs of Pymm's was putting me off my beer.

A few things at Lords separate it from the MCG.

1. It has a capacity of about 28,000, not 95,000.
2. You can bring bottles of champagne, hampers, beer, your favourite wine, just about a whole damn BBQ and enjoy the day as you would a picnic. It appears that the entertainment early in the day is to pop your champagne cork as far as you can and land it on the field of play. I estimate around ten people were successful in doing this. A groundsman would pick them up or a pommie fielder would whilst chasing more Aussie leather.
3. Jugs of Pymm's. I was a little surprised by this drink but it was very refreshing, with ice and half a fruit salad thrown in. I didn't notice any plums so Watto might like a drop of this too.
4. Picnics at the Nursery at the lunch break. People bring their blankets, hampers, champagne, Pymm's, wine and spread out on the lawn in front of a big screen.
5. You can buy a bottle of wine/champagne and they put it into a handy thick plastic carry bag which has heaps of ice in it. Your wine/champagne is cold for hours.
6. The Lords Urinals. Well I love history and the place wreaks of it, no more though than in the Gentlemen's toilets. Frankly they need an upgrade. If they swabbed them I am sure there would be traces of W.G Grace's DNA in the troughs, and anyone else who has found the need for a pee since 1814!

In general, the English public are not treated as morons by officialdom, and are allowed to bring things into the ground that make their stay there, a happier experience. There are plenty of food options in the ground and they seem well patronised, so why can't Aussie stadiums adopt this policy? Bloody catering contracts that are designed to screw the public for every last cent and fill the coffers of stadium and sporting association management.

Day 4 turned out to be the last day and I had access to the Pavillion and Long Room. Louisa was not allowed access to the members till 30 minutes after the close of play so I didn't stay in too long.

I was in the Long Room at the start of play, when the umpires walked through to loud applause, then Warner and Rogers, the the England team to the loudest applause. I noted Rogers followed Warner as they had to pass the door to the Long Room Bar.....I am sure Rogers wanted to keep Warner focussed on the job at hand and make sure he went straight to the ground!

Great tradition this, the way the players walk down two flights of stairs, along the back of the Long Room, then down the aisle that leads to the front door and down onto the ground. Probably would be an odd place to be when a batsman has got out to a shocker, and has to wander through the members, Long Room and then two flights of stairs before he can throw his bat, helmet, gloves and pads around the dressing room!

The day went really well with the Aussie batsmen teeing off for the first session, scoring about 130 runs in 100 minutes. Then the declaration and 10 pommie wickets before 5pm. It was a great atmosphere and I got Louisa into the Pavilion where we could see some of the players and explore the historic place. Louisa dragged me out of the Bowlers Bar when I was starting to get a taste for their ale (and I reckon Louisa knew it.....getting experienced at this sort of thing) and we were having an entertaining chat with some other Aussies. Bit of a shame that but I was probably only a pint away from ringing the Lords Five Minute Bell!

Off to catch up with Jacinda and Chris McDonald (and Lisa) for dinner....why I was dragged away from the Bowlers Bar I suppose. Dinner was nice and Chris was hairy as usual.

Posted by mljjs 12:49 Archived in England Comments (0)

Up Up and Away

sunny 24 °C

The planning, phase of the 6 week holiday mainly by Louisa....well mostly by Louisa......all by Louisa, finally has moved into execution mode and we board our flight to London via Dubai at 10:50pm Tuesday night.

Louisa had booked us seats on the upper deck, and I have extended leg room (woohoo) and Louisa is in the seat behind me.

We have passed our scheduled departure time and I have a seat empty next to me and Louisa has a seat empty next to her. How good is this? We wait while the steward calls out to see if a Mr Coodengivashite is onboard.

Then the person destined for the seat next to me arrives. Now who do you think would be the worst seat neighbour on a long haul flight?

1. The parent with a 5 month old baby who doesn't want to be fed, played with, held or cuddled. The dummy pleasure had worn off hours ago and the constant screaming is giving the child a sore throat, and that in itself is causing the child to scream.
2. The dreaded fat bastard, weighing in at 156kg and his love handles sag over into your seat and his shoulders are pushing you into the aisle. He can't even spell "derodeant" but he sure can burp, fart and dribble! At takeoff you start to doubt whether the crew had taken his weight into account when sizing up the runway and fuel provisioning.
3. The lady who turns up late with carry on baggage that is too big to fit in the damn cargo hold, let alone the overhead lockers, and the overhead lockers are filled with other people's carry on luggage that you know, turned up on time. She pulls out her own seat cover that was probably designed for a Fokkha Friendship not an A380. She has a handbag that in itself should have been checked in, and then places that on floor in front of you. Surely she will move it in due course.

She then throws the first of 192 elbows in my shoulder, no apology as she tries to get comfortable in her seat. Her jacket is hanging over me and she continues with these erratic movements that deliver elbows 2,3 and 4. WTF?

Her handbag must contain 6 bricks or be bolted to the floor as my left boot cannot move it. I decide at this point to use it as a foot stool....stuff her, I paid for this leg room.

Meal time was problematic. The lady had at this point put in a claim for half my seat, but to be fair she did share her Chardonnay......all over my leg. No apology. She decided to ask for a new one when the air steward was trying to serve me....the air steward told her to wait till she had finished with me, but she still held her empty half bottle 3 cm from my nose.

I tried very hard to eat my meal and drink my wine on my half seat, and I reckon I could have almost managed it, but for her erratic arm movements that delivered elbows 10, 11, and 12!

Oh well, only 18 hours to go.

Meals out of the way but that only brought on the blankets, of which she had brought her own. She was incapable of lifting her blankets on to her without delivering elbows 18, 19 and 20. But she did love her book. So much so that she shared it with me by resting it on my shoulder as he sat on her side reading! I am beginning to think that she doesn't even realise I am there.

I get up to stretch my legs and return to find her meal, drinks, coats, and some rubbish on my seat. WTF? Where did she think I had got to at 33,000ft? She was astonished when I returned and wanted my seat back.

Louisa and the lady behind me thought it was amusing but they only saw the half of it. By the time we got off at Dubai, I had had enough. Them about 6 people on the flight nearby came up to me to congratulate me for my patience. And I thought I was enduring it in silence. One lady came running back to me after moving ahead, as she had heard the lady say to another passenger that she was a Barrister! It was all starting to make sense.

Anyway, 1, 2 or 3, none of them are a great option on a long flight. Will leave it to you to work out who I had.

Posted by mljjs 15:16 Archived in England Comments (1)

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