Monday, 22 September 2003

I've been away......

Thought I’d get down a few thoughts for the blog while I’m sat in Edinburgh airport waiting for the plane back to London Luton. This is a bit long, so if you get bored I don't blame you.

Wednesday 17th

Well I *think* the trip was successful, although it started off with a bit of a struggle. Being cautious, I set the alarm for 4.35, allowing myself 50 mins before I had to leave. My bod apparently had other ideas, and I turned alarm off, promptly falling back to sleep, I woke just over an hour later, showered and left the house in about 15’ and made it to the airport in just under an hour. Unfortunately I then spent 15’ in the carpark waiting for the bus to appear. So that was my first experience of missing a plane! Not surprisingly, I didn’t pick up the digital camera.

3 hours late, I made it to Edinburgh.

The place I was going is situated outside the city, and despite having a map, it wasn’t easy to find. While trying to read a map and driving through slightly narrow streets, I managed to clip a curb with the front wheel of the hired ‘people carrier’. Instant flat. Notified the hire company, who passed me to their recovery people who passed me to the Kia importer, who said that they’d set things up with a recovery company, and that someone should be there within the hour, and they’d call me. Being the practical impatient type I just went ahead and changed the wheel. I was a mile up the road by the time the recovery people called. Finally arrived at my destination at 2.00.

Things went ‘OK’ thereafter. The instrument I was to collect tested OK, and with minimal hassle, was loaded into the bus. Looking at the map, the drive didn’t seem too bad – a guessed 80 or so miles. The truth was that it’s actually about 130 miles on twisty roads, and on the Scottish side of the border there are speed cameras every few miles. Made it just after 8.00pm.

The hotel was reputed to be in the ‘gay area’. I’d assumed this was a wind up, but walking from the bus to the hotel, I was passed by a guy telling some women what he was expecting to do later, after he’d pulled another guy. Yuk! The hotel was grand enough, with a chandelier suspended from the ceiling 4 floors up - looking down the stairwell gave me a major dose of vertigo. The room was OK once the windows had been open for a couple of hours. Finally got to sleep about 12.30am.

Thursday 18th

Nothing exciting happened during the day, with installation etc going as planned, customers being trained etc. By the end of the day I’m bushed, and when we went for coffee (at about 6.00pm with the head of the lab) I’m nodding off. We (UK sales manager and I) managed to slope off shortly after, and went back to the hotel to change and go out for dinner.

Newcastle is a curious mixture. Northern cities in the UK have a character all their own, and reflect the tough character of people that have had to survive harsh conditions and poverty. Thus architecture varied between grand and ‘quaint’. Restaurants varied from the exotic looking to the kind where you’re sure they serve rat burgers. I could happily spend a couple of days with a decent camera loaded with fine black and white film and a tripod, just taking atmospheric photos of interesting nooks and crannies.

You could also tell that it hadn’t rained that way for a long time. I was on the way through a ‘poor’ area, and on the mobile phone to Chris at the time. The pavement was most unpleasantly stained, and I remember commenting “you know how the streets of London were reputed to be paved with gold? Well the streets of Newcastle are paved with puke”. Earlier in the day I’d seen casings from used needles in the street, and later we passed a ‘cartoon-drunk’, staggering from side to side of the pavement. There were also groups of both men and women, all out for a ‘good time’.

To balance this up, there seemed to be a lot of church groups in the city. It was almost like God had said “where sin abounds, let grace abound all the more”. I reckon you can tell a fair bit by the name a group chooses, and many of these seemed quite reasonable – the sort of places you’d go if you were looking for a church in a city like that. Certainly not just traditional works that were planted 150 years ago, and have long since gone to sleep. It’s encouraging to see that God is doing something there too.

After dinner we passed the evening seated in a bar attached to the hotel (it seemed safest – lots of the pubs in that area were altogether too full of single males, and I also passed a topless bar – quite unusual in the UK). The hotel bar had a section outside, below ground level, and gave us an opportunity for people watching. There were a number of predatory groups around, and I must have seen ‘Jessica Rabbit’ at least 3 times that evening ;-) I was also quite amazed at the sheer volume of liquid people could consume. A group behind us went through 4 additional rounds (having drinks already when we got there) in the space of about an hour, and some were drinking pints.

Friday 19th

Everything went more or less OK, and I escaped about 1.20pm, having to drive back to Edinburgh for the 6.10 flight. Apparently much later in the evening there was a mechanical problem, but I returned blissfully ignorant, believing that everything had worked OK. Finally got home at 8.55 pm, tired but glad to be back.

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