Travelling & London – day 387

387 days… 1 leap year and 3 weeks of travelling. Of course, day 1 of the adventure was always journaled as being in Delhi, when in fact day 1 could have been leaving the UK. BUT, by the time we noticed that little blip in our counting we were already a hundred days or so into the journey and my parents were printing out the blogs, and unbeknownst to us, so was Tracey. So, the adventure has come to an end and so too have tales that have filled books and cyberspace. img_0671

Writing the blog entry for this day a few weeks later, it is still fresh and clear the day we came home. The simplicity of the airport, the familiarity of meeting Nicola in the arrivals hall (thank you Nicola for collecting us, #1 Third Wheel), the navigation of the route back to Raynes Park, seeing the same buildings still under construction. All of it made us feel like we had never been away.We stayed at the Travelodge down the road from the flat – one of the few projects in the area that got completed in our absence – as our tenants hadn’t technically left yet. But, we later found out that they had been in the US for almost 6 weeks and the flat was being repainted in their absence. We could have moved in home straight away. But, the hassle they had given us during our year away was continuing. Ugh! [Insert sad emoji face and a sigh of despair] Lots of bits and pieces to slowly put right in the days that have passed and more still to do… the single biggest problem they caused was not paying Thames Water and other bills. Poor management by the letting agent and a fault in the Royal Mail redirection service meant we had come home to letters from debt collectors and bills that weren’t even ours. But, that was not part of day 387 and shouldn’t be included in this eulogy.A spot of breakfast with Will and Nicola and we headed off to the storage locker. Still too early to check in at the hotel, we rummaged through the contents of the bin to get at work/interview clothes and essentials we’d need in our first few days. Dragging it all back to Raynes Park was tiresome and jet lag and such was kicking in. A nice warm shower, a bit of daytime British tv and we managed to get through the afternoon. A kebab from the lovely Turkish lads down the street for dinner and it really was starting to feel like we had never been away. img_0677Friday 28th October 2016

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London & Travelling – day 272 (J)

When Julie Andrews sang of her favourite things, she certainly wasn’t referring to long haul flights. But, now that that iconic song is stuck in your head, as it has been mine for some hours, let me detail the rest of the day, which has been quite pleasant. 
With the alarm going off and not being in any rush to get up, I Skype’d Katherine before I even got out of bed. There was mention of 3-in-1 coffee sachets, as you can’t get them in Oz. But, having brought similar coffee sachets all the way from India and finally using them in Thailand so as not to pack them, I reckon there were no major/serious requests for items back in the UK. 

Clare ploughed through work, with me being interchangeably glued to Border Control & Bailiffs on tv, supplying Clare with coffee top-ups and generally packing my bags. It was really nice that when we were both ready we went through Carshalton Gardens on the way to a cafe for a final coffee and natter.  The decor called to Clare like it was the mothership. Quirky staff, floral aprons, delicate tea china and a menu to suit. I didn’t order the high tea or scone, but opted for a rather quaint egg mayo sandwich. Very sophisticated and proper. I reckon if they stay as busy as they were for the next few months, they should still be there when we return and definitely be worth a visit. Chances are Clare might be working there, so it could be our only hope of seeing her in the future.  Detouring back and forth through the Ponds, I escorted Clare to the train and said goodbye. The walk was nice and the squirrels were a big plus. On the X26, in to Kingston and I picked up a new debit card for Katherine. The other one was cancelled 272 days ago as we sat in the terminal about to board our flight to Delhi. The same terminal that I wandered around later today. Collected and with loads of time to kill I went to the cinema. Independence Day: Resurgence in IMAX 3D, up close to the screen, was mega. Predictable to a tee, with so many quotes and references to the first one. I loved it, Katherine would have hated it.  Back on the bus, (lots of people have developed an impatient shovey trait to get on), it crawled to Heathrow. The Heathrow Express has recently started a service starting and finishing at Terminal 4 – which is a big plus to commuters. Not too sure if it’s always been this way or also a new thing, but it was a free transfer from central station to terminals 4 or 5 on the express. So I was delivered safe and sound with plenty of time to a massive queue for the airline. I had already managed to check-in for the flight to China part of my journey, but wanted to try and get my bag checked through all the way to Melbourne. Hence, couldn’t use the bag drop service and waited patiently, with a teenager bumping the back of my legs constantly with a trolley, parents apologising that hopefully she’d be better after a year in Australia. All sorted and through a mixed bunch of very cheerful and very curt security staff. At this stage I had ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, stuck in my head, alternating between the one line from each, driving me bonkers. Clearly an issue has been developing at Heathrow with people just boarding the plane whenever they feel like it. Every boarding announcement was repetitive to the point that some PA’s were shouting, that only certain sections could board and people had to sit down and get out of the way. I think this has stemmed from both cultural traditions and the era of cheap flights with unallocated seats.  The gentleman next to me on the plane had a thing for leaving the arm rest up, but otherwise was well behaved. Only got up once and wasn’t fidgety. He was only home visiting family and spent most of his time awake playing Chinese word games and watching Star Trek on his tablet. The elderly gent in front actually asked me if it would be OK to lean his chair back so he could get some sleep. How bizarre that I wasn’t surrounded by wind-up toys for a change. But, some things never change – the flight was delayed slightly leaving while waiting for some paperwork and I didn’t put my seat back as I feel that it would be unfair to that person, the seats being incredibly narrow. 

Tuesday 5th July 2016

Travelling – day 271 (J)

I spent the morning uploading photos on to the blog and publishing up to where we both had something written for that day. I am uber impressed that I have managed to stay ahead of Katherine. Pat on the back for myself.

We went for breakfast down at Heidi’s, again, and I had the posh breakfast roll. Still a manageable size and not too messy, even my parents began commenting on the number of food photos I take for the blog. Sure, do they want photos of us all looking upset for the day?IMG_8363Up the N22 to the airport and we spent ages driving around the car park looking for a space. I personally think it’s deliberate so as to rack up time in the short stay parking and get more money out of ya. Cheating gits the lot of ’em! My point was further emphasised when we got a juice and sat down for a bit and the geezer at the till put through the most expensive juice three times. Grumpy security staff didn’t make the parting any easier and I barely kept it together.

I have never paid for allocated seating on a RyanAir flight and I doubt I ever will. Thus, it was kinda cool to have seat 1A allocated to me. The leg room is incredible and there’s nobody in front bouncing a chair back and forth every 2seconds. However, there was a slight engineering problem that required a technician to come from the hotel and fix something in the cockpit and being in the front row looking out the plane, one could see all the staff in fluorescent yellow bibs running around and talking over the walkie-talkies. Not what ya wanted to see on any flight, especially when you’re about to blubber your eyes out.IMG_8367Departing 30mins after the scheduled departure time (what is it with me and delayed flights lately), I tried to occupy my mind with word games on the phone. No good, a few secretive cries looking out the window; watching the coastline fade away as we passed out further over wave-crested blue seas, gradually ascending over a blanket of clouds and I felt a bit better afterwards.IMG_8369First off the plane – WOOHOO!! – I was zooming through the arrivals hall, bypassing passport control altogether and strolling through the terminal till I found the escalators down to the train. And away it went, darting in to Liverpool Street and the train even had wifi. SCORE!! Being ever so efficient (and clever) I walked up the street to Moorgate station to get the Northern Line, rather than getting the Central at the station which would have been manic.

A typical sardine can tube line experience in the infamous Northern, I got out at Balham and waited for a train that would pass through Wallington. On the train I remember thinking, if I had to describe it, “it would have been quicker to crawl uphill over broken glass with my hands and feet bound.” It was painfully slow, aggravating the need to pee and I was charged the extortionate price for getting on a train so soon after zone 1, thus qualifying for a transfer under TFL rules. Grrr!!!

Clare was there for a massive hug and catch up, cooked an amazing home-made sausage roll with a fresh salad (no more yellow food in the house) and Martin came back from his bike ride for us all to sit down, chill out and watch Marco Polo on Netflix before bed.

Monday 4th July 2016

Travelling & Ireland – day 264 (J)

Tip-toeing around the flat I managed to leave without banging anything or tripping on stuff in the dark. I was like a ninja and stealth mode was working for such an early start. It thankfully didn’t start drizzling until I got to the bus stop, with the agonising countdown of 16mins in the cold waiting for the 157. The Northern Line, constantly busy no matter if it’s the first or last service of the day, had seats and got me to Moorgate on time. There was no info on the boards at Liverpool station for Stansted airport, so I asked and got directed to an empty train with plenty of time to stop fretting and relax.  The staff at the airport were in great form, shouting loudly to the massive queues and keeping spirits up in the slow march to the security gates. For the first time in a long time, the sensor beeped as I passed through, although I have no idea what could have set it off. So my hands and waist were swabbed and my shoes sent through an additional x-ray scanner. The wifi at the airport however didn’t work, so I couldn’t avail of my free Harris+Hoole coffee and joined the masses in front of the jumbo screens waiting for a gate number to appear. The mad dash to check-in was indicative of a RyanAir flight where nobody wants their bag to be taken away and put in the hold. Such a stupid system – they should all just properly enforce the one bag rule and they’d all fit in the overhead lockers.  The uneventful flight was quickly over, I passed some stunning aerial photographs of Cork’s coastline on my way to passport control and I was able to show my new passport. The Garda on duty just kind of waved me through and I was greeted by my Mam in Cork Airport. My Dad was outside in the drop off lane, keeping the engine running like a get away driver. And we went as far as the electrical store down the road to have brunch in their restaurant. Clearly the mischief gene runs in the family as they were totally up for messing with some of the items we passed in store.  Homeward bound we chilled out for a few hours, did the usual small gift thing and watched some Wimbledon tennis on tv. The early start was catching up with me when we plonked ourselves done for dinner. Yet another, ‘I Miss’ moment when we had Irish Stew and soda bread for dinner. A nice few hours chilling out and chatting.  Monday 27th June 2016

London – day 263 (J)

A very simple relaxed day was exactly what the doctor ordered and yet I managed to do loads and have nothing to show for it. Clare and I went out for a lovely walk around the Wallington area. You’d never realise how close you were to the city or the main roads, these beautiful homes tucked away behind massive hedges and at the bottom of immense gardens. All of them spoke of wealth and decadence in their own way and it was nice day-dreaming of living like the other half. IMG_9700We ended up getting to the garden centre before it closed and for the extortionate price of 20p Clare was able to feed the koi and carp in the big pond at the back of the nursery. It soon became very crowded and we left the brightly coloured fish to gawp at the water surface in the hope of more food being thrown at them. The aquatics centre was very well taken care of and the garden centre had a wide selection of plants to satisfy any green fingers. IMG_9681
Our preamble down the country lane meant we saw a juvenile fox out and about and a selection of different coloured poppies. We picked up some dandelion leaves for Hercules and Clare created a simple, stylish display on the window sill from some lavender she picked up outside the front of the building. I worked on the website design of the clinic while Clare watched Penny Dreadful. I watched the new Jungle Book afterwards with a plate of yellow food for dinner and avoiding packing until the last possible moment. IMG_9697
Sunday 26th June 2016

London – day 262 (J)

Clare and I were discussing the blog no less, some of the stuff that Kat and I write about, the audience it now has and how somedays there just isn’t anything to blog about and she has to suffer with a photo of what we had for dinner. I was relieved that I wasn’t to blame for then missing our stop. But, it proved to be a fortuitous stroke of luck, with the station we were heading to going to be closed. We weren’t to know yet that our little preamble from Moorgate up was the best option available and we loved it. The streets were empty, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds and we saw some graffiti and wall art that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It was also how Clare found a vintage inspired clothes shop that she’ll visit again some day. Sorry Martin!

We had lunch at Dishoom, a lovely Indian restaurant, where I was able to help order a selection of dishes; lentils, mattar paneer, tikka paneer, bhel, okra, gunpowder potatoes, veg biryani, raita and roti. It was so nice knowing what I was actually ordering and eating, normally sticking to a safe option. Plus, with four of us at the meal we could sample a wider selection of dishes. I even treated myself with a Limca, oh how I’ve missed you, synthetic lemon fizzy soda. But, with the weather closing in and all of us getting cold we decided it was a good idea to walk slowly around the area in the sunshine for a bit of warmth before our meeting time at the station.I had absolutely no idea what to expect, Clare organising this event as one of her Fabulous/Frivolous 40 presents. I just knew that we would be doing a walking tour of the area looking at graffiti. So, presented with a clipboard from the University of Bulderdash, I didn’t know that we filled out the form as a spoof and weren’t to take it seriously. I was confused by the manner in which they were speaking, that of a lofty professor with a broomstick stuck up there ass. Still, things started to make sense and it all fell in to place by the end of the first work of art – the padlocks on the fence. There was a padlock for every failed relationship that Sir Shoreditch Richmond III had. And the stories of their forbidden love, anguish and suffering were portrayed in the type of lock that he added to the fence. IMG_9605The graffiti work was equally nonsense, with Clare being one of the only ones in the group to challenge the ‘professors’ on their thinking and subjects. The questions asked were silly and the responses were farcical. We upped the ante when we were told that the Prof’s had been hypnotised at the Christmas party and if we didn’t like the explanation of a piece that we say ‘correction’ and they have to make up something else entirely. They sometimes painted themselves in to a corner and I’m surprised I didn’t bawl my eyes out from laughter.

 

I’d highly recommend people doing this improv theatre. It was such simple fun, you didn’t walk very far, you got to be silly and relax and see some amazing stuff that you otherwise would just walk past. Sure enough we finished with the red arrows passing over head and then the heavens opened with torrential rain. We took ‘shelter’ in a pub and eventually got home to watch ‘The Boss’ (good film) and enjoy more yellow food for dinner.

Saturday 25th June 2016

London – day 261 (J)

As the world awoke to news of the UK’s decision in the vote to Leave/Remain in the EU, the posts and comments on social media and news feeds was hard to stomach. People that were ‘out’ were now regretting it, finding out their repercussions – with the truth becoming clear as the morning progressed – and finally realising what their decision has meant, stood for and what will / won’t happen. The people who voted ‘in’ were equally vocal; writing tirades of comments, directed at no one in a way of venting their frustration and anger. The two sides were equally amusing and yet not funny at all. The implications for Katherine & I with our travelling is just one of the many aspects of how F**ked up the whole situation has become. My transition with the NHS was a close second. It just struck a cord and I would love to present a lot of people the Darwin Award. 

But, life goes on and my clothes were grateful – they would have jumped in to the washing machine themselves after all the running around yesterday. Then I ploughed in to the pile of redirected post that has been coming here while we’ve been away. Nowhere in the bundle of letters and statements was there a letter from work back in October. The new one had arrived and I would deal with that in due course. With films on in the background I was easily distracted and had a quick dash to get ready to leave for the evening. 

I needn’t have fretted. With trains still severely disrupted because of the weather I was lucky to find a train passing at all, with the PA saying it wouldn’t stop and everyone hesitant to board when it did pull up. Thus, I joined Clare only a tinsy bit late in the Cabin for a pre-show drink.

Our walk across the river, jostling between commuters, tourists and the kamikaze bike riders was, for me, one of the few things I didn’t miss about being in London. Do people ever learn to look around them before they slam on the brakes and take a photo?? I had far less patience and tolerance for it in the city than I did in most of the countries I’d been travelling through. How odd!!

The walk did prove fruitful, with the discovery of a newly opened Five Guys next to Charing Cross station. The question of where we should eat for dinner was easily answered and I was able to tick off another ‘I Miss’ item from my London list. The guy at the till gave me the funniest look, trying to be as positive as possible, when I said I wanted all the toppings. When you pick all the items in black on the menu it’s called ‘All the works’. When you order the extra few items in red, on top of the ‘works’, they look at you like a gluttonous idiot. Thus, to go with our Cajun chips and Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke, I had on my Bacon Cheeseburger… mayo, relish, onion, lettuce, pickle, tomato, green pepper, jalapeño pepper, mushroom, grilled onion, mustard, ketchup, hp sauce, BBQ sauce and hot sauce. Of course, only writing it out now for the blog am I aware of what was actually on the monster burger and I possibly might have toned it down (just a notch). The musical ‘Funny Girl’ was incredible. The seats weren’t the best, with the the rails in front slightly obscuring the view and the unfortunate souls directly in front of the rail leaning over so far as to block everyone else’s view (despite being told not to several times). But, you needn’t have seen the stage – one was there for the songs, in particular from the leading lady, and wow did she deliver. Natasha Barnes is a good friend of Katherine’s and she was gutted to miss such a big show. They went for drinks one evening after her performance in ‘American Idiot’ and Tasha told her all about being the upcoming play and how she would be the stand-in for Sheridan Smith. It was the same show that made it big for Barbara Streisand and Tasha got her chance to shine when Ms. Smith was indisposed due to family circumstances for a bit. The air in the Savoy Theatre was charged and I had goosebumps when she hit some of the high notes. At the interval I’ve never seen so many people buying a program and they were all looking her up in the biography section. I was blown away and one of the first to jump up out of the seat for a standing ovation. She had recovered from a funny wardrobe malfunction with a moustache and delivered a performance that people will remember forever. Clare and I were both signing the infamous lines of the songs on our walk back to the train station, stopping briefly to take a photo under the London Eye, all lit up for Pride Week.Friday 24th June 2016

London – day 260 (J)

One would imagine that being back in London, is much like returning to the mundane, monotonous and predictable life of before. Some, most would agree with this statement. But, on the morning after some torrential downpours and lightning storms, the city was in a gloomy, ominous mood with everything pretty much grinding to a halt, causing havoc, and people unable to get to work/home and get kids to nannies and/or school. While Ed managed to vote before we got to the train station, neither of us were going to manage to get to Raynes Park before getting in to the hospital. The road passing under the bridge was like a lake with abandoned cars resembling lily pads and the streets were awash with continuing rainwater, spurting up from the man holes. And the trains… tuna cans would have felt more comfortable, as some of the only trains that were running were crammed to the max. So, we ordered a taxi, finally organised to meet him on the other side of the flooded road and waited patiently in Waitrosse for our chariot to arrive. Ed expertly navigated the streets for the driver, getting us out past the worst of the congestion. But, paying and abandoning the hopeless endeavour near to Morden station we power walked to the tube and got the Northern line to Stockwell, the Victoria to Green Park and the Piccadilly line westwards. Ed had by this stage missed his meeting at 08:15 and was hopefully back on track to make it to the airport in time to check-in. I jumped off at Baron’s Court and legged it, already being 5mins late for my appointment. 

2hrs 50mins after leaving house, 5min run to The GIC and I was 10mins late for a half hour appointment slot. I was so bloody stressed and the sweat was pouring out of me. It was with no relief that the Dr. himself was running behind. Bloody weather!!! Grrr!!! But, half hour story/conversation cut short and all I’ll say is that it was a productive and positive visit. I won’t be returning to the secretive offices above the supermarket and should hear directly from the next group of doctors about continuing my process and transition. 

I skipped down the road, annoying Katherine over the phone with the sound of the umbrella scrapping and thumping off the footpath. And before ya know it I was at the passport office collecting my brand new shiny passport. I was beside myself with excitement. I just sat in the waiting area with the page open with all my details and stared at it. I went to Starbucks (being very good good and not binging in Burger King), but ended up getting a cheese & ham toasty, a raspberry & white chocolate muffin and a chocolate & marshmallow s’more frappuchino. Their wifi provided me with a chance to Whatsapp Katherine and share my excitement and good news about the morning. 

Managing to get in to Wimbledon on the still very interrupted train service, I went to O2 to sort out my SIM. We both changed contracts and plans to be on a pay-as-you-go for travelling, with no need of mobile data or free calls and texts while abroad. O2 never migrated my sim and I was stuck in a position to use the card that was connected to the expensive contract. A fact that the cranky lady didn’t seem to fathom in my conversation to her yesterday. But, the gentleman in store managed to sort out everything and I had another job done before waking across the ridgeway to Cottenham Park and voting on the EU Referendum debacle. It was on this walk that I noticed I had lost/forgotten Ed’s umbrella – either in the passport office or Starbucks. 

I played some board games with Alex that afternoon before leaving the Park residence. I wanted to wait and say goodbye to Narae, but with transport still buggered up, I left for Clare & Martin’s before it got too late. We had a chilled out evening with pizza and watching ‘Warcraft’. An awful film that we were happy to see the end of.  

Thursday 23rd June 2016

London – day 259 (J)

With the fiasco at the medical centre yesterday, I had the enviable task of stabbing myself in the ass and doing my own injection. I had Katherine on FaceTime for a bit of moral support and it went alright. I brought the last few bits to the storage locker and doubled back down the corridors to check the lock, the haze and emotions clouding my judgement and I wasn’t sure if I had locked the place up properly. 

A few hours flew past working on the websites at the clinic. Basically, the whole site was getting a Botox and I had Azra sitting on the arm rest of the chair conducting the symphony with an elegant eye. What better way to chill out and give the eyes a rest… a nice lunch across the road, followed by warm chocolate muffins. A quick nip across the road and a tub of clotted cream ice cream made the desert orgasmic. Another few hours ploughing through text formats, button styles, borders and images had the site finally resembling something worth publishing. Serj was on hand to give some artistic flair to the seldom used (now decommissioned) .com, online shop website. I even managed to experience first hand the zero, pain free IPL machine that I had just written about – a nice new machine that I only wish was around years ago.  I had a text from Ed with tonight’s dinner requests and I went up to the Raynes Park Kebab House – probably the single best kebabs this side of Istanbul. I ordered far too much, as per the usual, and the aroma was intoxicating on the train home. But, there was very little left to show of the mammoth feast being washed down nicely with fruit cider before bed. Wednesday 22nd June 2016

London – day 258 (J)

I was being super organised and preparative and took the big bag with nearly everything in, down to the store locker. It was weird plonking it on top of all the boxes and then waking away from all the memories and keep sakes. 


The medical centre was its usual helpful self without the lovely Sandra. Nurse Louise has left and they didn’t want to book me in for an appointment with the male nurse. As the receptionist went off to talk to people in the back room about a solution, the other receptionist was asking if it was ‘a sensitive female issue’ and explained that this nurse wasn’t allowed to see women. Hmmm!!! Not sure when or why the rule changed, and I think given the circumstances I think I should have a wild card to see any nurse I so wish. But, shouldn’t complain and when he asked repeatedly for the name of the injection I was quite curt and eventually left them to their doodles. The next visit to the centre will no doubt have a new batch of nosey, pimply adolescents with an ego complex. 

I killed some time catching up with the charismatic Allistair, our letting agent while abroad. All is well with the flat and the accountant will get a telling off for sending me every file as ‘document1.docx’. It surely makes sense to have at least a month, year or initials on it. Too much to ask? Nevertheless, it’s nice to know the place is in safe hands and our adventure can continue. 

Lunch with Azra and Serj at Jin Go Gae was perfect. A nice mix of dishes; 2x types of beef, sticky chicken, fried omelette, 2x types of kimchi, chestnut jelly, a shredded spring onion salad and a bowl of massive lettuce leaves. With a miriade of dips and sauces. It seemed to go too quickly and they were kicking us out of the restaurant.


I spent a lazy afternoon with the kids and finishing the HD clean up. I even had a beautiful phone call from Lee which was nice as we didn’t manage to meet up on this occasion. I was blown away (again) by the exceptionally talented Narae, who, the minute she came in the door, started a rack of lamb roast dinner. All my walking around and exercising after lunch was needed as I couldn’t stop myself from eating the meal. We made Katherine jealous in Oz with our photos and when Ed went back in to work, myself and Narae plonked ourselves in front of the tv, streaming ‘Love Actually’ from my iPad. Tuesday 21st June 2016