Just to let you know we're still here, and we know we haven't posted anything in ages, but we've been running around like maniacs trying to get everything organised for our trip back to Melbourne via the USA, plus trying to tidy up our Bath place prior to moving to London. Yes, after our flying visit to Australia we'll be coming back to the UK for more, this time in the Big Smoke!
Bath has been great and we've loved being in the beautiful English countryside, but we both miss the convenience and perks of living and working in a big city. And they don't get much bigger than London Town.
So there'll be plenty more blog postings for a good while yet. Just not right now... :-)
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Monday, 13 August 2007
After a slightly disappointing tour of Northern Ireland and erm, northern Ireland, we decided we'd have another craic at it ... this time the western coast around Shannon. RyanAir are almost entirely responsible for putting Shannon on the tourist map, offering return flights from Bristol in exchange for 2 pints of Guinness and a four-leaf clover. Well not quite that cheap, but close.
However you do get what you pay for, and with RyanAir that means the plane you sit in has been shuttling back-and-forth between Shannon and Bristol all day, spending no more than 25 minutes stationary at each end, and with no backup plane waiting to take over. So if there's ever a delay, every flight from then on suffers.
After a mad Friday-evening dash from Bath, everything went quite smoothly and we boarded our (on-time!) 1830 plane with high hopes of getting to our B&B in Doolin at around 10ish. With cabin doors locked (not cross-checked though - that would cost extra) we rumbled out towards our take-off runway while the flight crew went through the final checks. And then the trouble started. Apparently a warning light in the cabin refused to go out (and I'm assuming an important one, not AFT TOILET BLOCKAGE - SUGGEST MANUAL DE-CLOG). They tried power-cycling the plane a few times, but were unable to fix the gremlin (or should that be leprechaun?), and we were soon herded back onto buses and sent back to the terminal, being told "we'll get it sorted and let you know as soon as we can".
The monitors in the terminal building told a very different story though - next to our flight number was the ominous text NEXT ANNOUNCEMENT: 2200 - a three hour wait - and that was just for an announcement! We eventually found out the story - only one mechanic in the entire RyanAir organisation knew how to fix this fault - so he had to be flown out from Dublin to come and fix it, which he then did in 15 minutes. There's something very Irish about a company that operates aircraft with double- and triple-redundant systems, but only one human who knows how to fix them! What if he gets hit by a bus?
Finally, at about 10.30pm, we got shuttled out to where we'd abandoned our stranded A319. By this time, the obligatory Hen's Weekend group were all nicely trolleyed, and were singing up a storm in the bus. They weren't too bad either, and when they launched into the der-dat, der-dat, der-der-DAT-DAT bit of You're Just Too Good To Be True the entire bus spontaneously joined in! Awesome.
We hit the ground in Shannon with a ragged cheer at about quarter-to-midnight, and were relieved to find that our car hire place had stayed open for us (others weren't so lucky) - although they stung us an extra 50€ for the privilege - grrr...
We arrived at the B&B at 2am, with an incredibly warm welcome from our host - would things finally be turning up for us in Ireland? Well, the next day we discovered we had a nice neighbour too!
Monday, 6 August 2007
With Brett and Belinda over from Germany (via Ireland), we nipped over to the other side of the country to catch Stage 1 of the Tour de France, as it passed through Kent near John's Granny. Brett and John, as keen cyclists and former BRW Corporate Triathlon team-mates, were very keen to see some top-flight cycling, and the first TdF on English soil in 20 years was too good an opportunity to miss! We had originally planned on spectating near the finish line in Canterbury, but word got out that half-a-million-plus people had descended on that fair town, meaning we might have to lower our sights a little.
Johnny's Auntie Lizzie had a great suggestion - to quote:
"over in Goudhurst, there's a bit of road with a really sharp left followed by a really sharp right, with walls on each side - should be great for crashes!".
Ahem. Still, it did sound like a good spot. However consultation of the day's paper showed that Goudhurst Hill was the scene of the second King of the Mountains stage and thus would likely be very busy. We parked our car about a mile from Goudhurst and soon discovered this was very much the case. In the end, we just plonked ourselves on a nice but of country road outside Goudhurst and waited. The caravane whistled past for more than two hours - hundreds of French and English police cars, motorbikes, strangely-shaped promotional vehicles, and numerous trucks booming out French techno and blaring out heavily-accented "'ello evrybodee!"s in every direction.
While Brett and I held our prime shaded position by the roadside, the girls moseyed 100m down the road to a pub that was probably having its busiest day in 300 years, and came back loaded up with crisps, softies and cider. Top work ladies!
Finally the riders arrived - there was a breakaway group of 5 riders, who whistled past at about 45 km/h, chatting casually to each other! Five minutes later, the peloton screamed past, a sea of ludicrously-loud lycra, extremely-expensive equipment, and freakishly-fit fellows. And then it was all over.
Well for us at least. The riders still had a very long way to go. But huge congratulations must go to my old Eltham High School buddy Cadel Evans for coming SECOND OVERALL (and in many hearts, FIRST) - a truly heroic effort!