Thursday 13th April 2006

I set off early to avoid any jams which would delay me no end. The inter web directions had taken me on the M25 and M11, but I had decided over the weekend, that the best option was the M40, A40 and A406. No nonsense, just the most direct route. There was an air of optimism in the air as I drove to into London, in the semi-darkness. For some strange reason I was really looking forward to my week away from Wycombe. Sure East London is not most glamorous destination in the world, but having the world’s most expensive capital city on my doorstep was an great opportunity. This one was not going to pass me by. I had already checked on my AZ and there was a DLR station (at the end of the line, of all things) right next to my hotel, so commuting was not a problem. I actually found myself over at Gallions Reach retail park, tucked away behind the main road (with no visible sign posts!). It was here, in a deserted car park, that I recorded my first pod cast. This is a milestone for me and this web site. I was planning to record some more audio on my 6230, but never really got around to it. Instead I focused on taking photographs. The sun was shining bright in a clear blue sky, so I had to take some photographs. A few minutes later, I was driving again towards the client site, to arrive much earlier than expected (8am) eager to start the job, but perhaps that was the only way to ensure the job got done. Around 5.30pm in the evening I headed, with my colleague following to my hotel, which was about a five minute drive away. I checked in and was in room 64, in the second adjacent building. We got to my room , after signing the necessary papers and confirming arrangements for breakfast just before 6pm and I got to watch the BBC News for the first time in what seemed like years. I text Tazza, who lives down the road in Manor Park if he wanted to meet up this week. His reply was Saturday. I wanted to laugh. We opted to try the Brewers Fayre, a pub, part of the hotel complex, both owed by parent company, Whitbread PLC which also has fingers in other pies across the high street, as a hospitality super group. It was coming up to 6.30pm and it was busy but we found a seat, overlooking the main road and ASDA superstore. We decided on our order, only to go to the bar and be told that the following were off the menu, whereby I was handed a till roll with over ten items that could not be ordered. What a joke! Thankfully my meal was available but for my colleague, he had to choose something else, which he did. The food arrived a bit later and wasn’t too bad. The sun was setting in the distance and you could make out Canary Wharf, just above the trees, beyond the supermarket.

My colleague left at 7.30pm and would be back to pick me up thirteen hours later. As I walked back to my room, I rang Tazza, hoping he was free later this week to meet up. He was busy for a few days but we arranged to meet up straight after work on Wednesday. Great. Now, what to do tonight? Rather than head off to London, I opted to spend the night in the hotel, I was tired and not really in the mood for traveling, plus it was getting late, I wanted an early night. Getting out my work laptop I tried to hook up to the wireless network (which looking at the leaflet in my room, was simple). I picked up a network, ‘Linksys’ and connected but received no bytes and could do little else. I then decided to speak to Chris and see if he could find an 0800 dial up number, so I could connect up via good old fashioned analogue. I remember years ago, having the BT Open World number on the family PC and although it did take ages to connect up, when you were online, you had completely free internet access for two hours before they cut you off. For once the power of Google left us disappointment, regardless of the key word combination we used. Never mind. I always had my X30 and 6230. Switching on infra-red, I connected up the PDA to the mobile and a GPRS connection was made, as slow as dial up, but I was online and able to quickly check my e-mail, a few web pages and then disconnect, weary of how much bandwidth I had used. The television choice was limited, with substandard quality to even Free View. Apart from the standard terrestrial channels, there was a multi Sky digital tuner plugged into the system but only screening selective channels. S4C for some strange reason, BBC Three (but no BBC Four) CBeebies, Chart Show Television and a select premium rate channel advertising among others tarot card readers. There were also a handful of radio stations being broadcast as well, but appeared to be the same screen from the days of analogue satellite (if any of you remember those?) After flipping around for a few minutes and finding nothing on worth watching, I got out my German phrase book and CD. For over an hour I listened to the CD and tried to familiarise myself with the key words. I gave up after a while, I had limited concentration and opted to watch Family Guy on divx, only to discover I had not downloaded the divx codec onto my work laptop. Great, can hear Peter Griffin but not see him! With that final defeat of the day, I went to bed, hoping that tomorrow would be better. My biggest worry was getting up late and having to rush to the office (even though it was only a mile or so down the road). Therefore I got up early, very early by my current standards, at 6am. (Even though two years ago, I would be leaving my house to go to London at that time) Eventually I dragged myself out of bed to get ready. I was suited and booted, and ready to head down for breakfast, when the fire alarm sounded. It was 7.04 exactly (the television has an inbuilt clock) and I rushed out of my room, then calmly walked down the fire escape out of the door at the back of the building. There was no one else about, a few other residents had made the trip over to reception. The lack of urgency from everyone (including members of staff) put me at ease as I headed over to the restaurant for breakfast. As I walked back through reception, I asked what the problem had been with the alarm going off so early. The helpful attendant explained a female had left her hairdryer running, right under the smoke alarm which had caused the alarm to sound. She was very courteous and apologised several times about the inconvenience. It was never such a thing, but had I still been in the shower, then it would have been a completely different story. I discovered that it was a bunch of American kids staying in my block that had been responsible. I say ‘kids’ but they seemed of high school age, if not college. Thankfully, their coach had arrived to take them off to their next destination, so I would have some peace for the remainder of my stay. I headed over to ASDA, to get some money from the cash point, it was a quiet morning with everyone getting on with their daily tasks, while I was on a mini adventure. After work, I got dropped off at 5.20pm. Laying on the bed and watching children’s television for the first time in several years, pondering what to do with my evening. I would not be spending the night within these four walls, that was for sure. I text a few friends but most were busy, I even called a friend but they too were either ill or too busy. In the end I opted to just head out and see what I could find. I was hungry but could wait a while for some food. I was going to just jump on a train and see where it took me. After watching both Hollyoaks and then Eastenders, I headed out at 8pm sharp. I bought my ticket for the monorail and the conductor, sorry I mean Passenger Service Agent held the train at the platform, while I collected my ticket from the machine. On boarding I asked when the last train back to Beckton was, 12 midnight I was firmly informed. Great. Less than four hours to do as I pleased. I had my CyberShotU in my pocket and was ready and willing to use it. I retraced my route back to Canning Town and then took the Jubilee Line back to Bond Street. Here as I came out of the tube station onto Oxford Street, across the road I saw the Subway sign, but also the unmistakable bright orange, easyInternetCafé sign. I was tempted to go straight across, but opted to casually walk up Oxford Street, then cross over walk back down. I ordered a 6 inch sub and then purchased one hour credit for £ 2, which does seem reasonable, but the quality of the service and equipment does still leave much to be desired. Yet, I am not one to complain, I needed my Internet fix and was hoping an hour would be enough until I returned home, late on Thursday evening. After having my sandwich I found a free computer, towards the back of the store. Overall it was quiet with a handful of machines in use. An elderly gentleman of scruffy appearance was asleep on two wooden chairs to my right and looked startled as I appeared and sat down. I logged in and entered my credit number. I was online! Yah! First things first, e-mail, read and check. Then I read a few of my daily blogs, one of which I captured. As usually I did not know which sites to visit, so ended up some browsing around. It was refreshing to be online, but when I looked up, away from the screen it stated that the store closed at 10pm, so rushed my final few minutes and then headed out. I wanted to go for a walk down by the river but was cautious of the time I had left in the capital. Taking the tube from Bond Street back down to Westminster, I went above ground to take a few pictures. There were a hoard of Japanese tourists also taking photographs of the London Eye and Houses of Westminster. I did the same, but after a few minutes headed back underground to catch the Jubilee line to Canning Town. Here, I waited a few minutes to catch the DLR to Beckton. I felt much better after doing something productive, having some good healthy food and get online. As I came to my stop, I took a few more pictures of the surrounding area. In the far distance, you can see the HSBC Tower and Canary Wharf. With a graving for desert, I headed over to ASDA, which was thankfully open until midnight to get a bottle of chilled apple juice and some chocolate choux. Heading back to the hotel, I watched some television while eating my food, I was not as tired as I had initially thought and actually listened to Radio 5 Live on my portable DAB radio until 1am, soon after which I fell asleep. Wednesday was a productive day, particularly with one of the directors helping us with the rollout. Although many would consider this be more of a supervision visit, our colleague was there genuinely to help. We seemed to hit a high gear and get box after box of laptops out of the door. The day itself went very fast, as days do when you are busy. I was back at the hotel by 5pm. I text Tazza, we had arranged to meet up at 6pm at Liverpool Street station. However, he let me down which left me in a dilemma. What to do? There was little chance of me staying in the hotel for another night, my last night out on business. I text a few friends around London, but none replied. I then opted to call my friend, who I had not seen in almost two years. To my surprise they answered their phone and agreed to meet in Leicester Square within an hour or so. I got ready and headed out to the DLR station and jumped on the monorail. It was 6.30pm. I got into the West End about fifty minutes later and it was busy, as usual. After waiting what seemed like a long ten minutes, my friend appeared at the opposite other side of the road. We met up, went for some food just off the main square and over dinner decided what to do? We had a few hours to spare so ended over to Embankment, walked across the Millennium Bridge to see the River Thames by moonlight.


A beautiful scene, but it could not last forever. We walked past the London Eye, to see the Palaces of Westminster across the river. It was our final destination, taking a few photographs along the way, mingling with the tourists out late in the capital. Then it was time to go and I felt my week drawing to a close. I headed east, while my friend headed north on the Northern Line. A pleasant quiet evening, chilled, mellow. The perfect way to relax after the intensity of the working day. I took an alternative journey home, to Bank station then taking the DLR from where it begins out to the west and my final destination, Beckton. I had a craving for a cup of tea, perhaps because this week I have had more cups of tea than I have in an average month. After watching whatever was on the television, I feel asleep, knowing that Thursday bought me ever close to Friday, the sea and the open road to Deutschland. Rather not give the exact time of day, but having arrived at the client office at 8.30am sharp, I feel I was entitled to leave a little earlier. After all the job had been done and to a high standard, as you would expect. I took off my jacket before taking a comfortable driving position. The sun was shining in the clear blue sky, and I had left my sunglasses at home. I blasted the stereo before starting the engine. Driving through the barrier and out of the complex, I put my foot down. I was on cloud 9, the mother of all weekends had finally, after months of waiting arrived. I sped onto the A406, driving past my hotel. It was busy, but the traffic did not bother me or my mood. Desperately seeking the perfect Friday night tune for a Thursday afternoon was interesting. I listened to Ultra and a mixture of other compilation albums on my drive home. Perhaps the most appropriate record to play (which of course I did) was Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind. The weekend was here baby and I was trying to prepare myself. I pulled into ASDA supermarket when I came off the motorway to get some Easter Eggs. On my way down to the store from my car, I called Pav. He must have been asleep but I left a strange message which ended with a reminder for him to not forget his passport. I was so excited, I do not think I have ever so jubilant about a weekend ever.

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