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Je1f vs. England 2007 - this is a battle I must win
by jeffwith1f
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x jeffwith1f   - at 11:40 pm on Thursday May 17 2007 x
x my trip to england x
x jeffwith1f Old Tunbridge Wells England - Tommorow morning I give my cats a hug and set off for work, not to return for over a week. At the end of the day I will bus to the airport (for lack of a rail link) and fly overnight to be re-united with my wife and son, whom I have not seen in 3 weeks.

I believe I am envisioning our reune with overly ruby tinted glasses. I keep seeing sun shining, joyous expressions as we run towards eachother (in slow mo) and embrace, Luke in arm, all happy as sin.

What, perhaps I am failing to anticipate is that I am coming off an overnight fligh which I am unlikely to have slept on, and perhaps, the general dankness of Gatwick.

It will be an interesting non-vacation. We're not really up to much except seeing zoe's family. We will not be in London carousing at all due to the recent addition to the family, nor will we be out doing many touristy things during the day either, as such this will not really be like a normal vacation abroad.

I do hope to meet our esteemed collegue Billy T for a luncheon before I leave, and if I'm lucky, I will also get a day to troll the shops of London looking for those things which I love that are not easily found in Canada (namely:Tango soda and Corgi die cast airplanes)

Beides that I'll get to spend some time at pearson, and check out the bus link to the terminals, opting to spend $15 to get there by this link instead of paying upwards of $80 for a cab from my house.

I also hope to get a glimps of Tom Baker, who resides near UKGirl's parents, but I refuse to hassle or badger him, so perhaps I will not get to run into him.

So be it. After three weeks, all I really want is to see my wife and son again.
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x Unread post xJess   - at 10:16 am on Friday May 18 2007 x
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x Jess Have a great trip! I'm sure it'll be a welcome change of scenery. smile
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 4:51 pm on Tuesday May 22 2007 x
x First Half x
x jeffwith1f The Pacific Western Airport express was an excellent option at 25% of the cost of a cab, and it got me there in approximately the same time. I'd recommend it if you are at all in the downtown core with your luggage already. Even if you are skint, and can fathom taking the TTC to Union, this is a potential cheap an efficient option to get to Pearson.

I got to Person with lots of time to spare, so I spent my time hanging out at the airport, which, while potentially some people's private hell, is actually something that I kind of enjoy. I rode the quicklink train over to Terminal 1 and looked at the art installations and had an overpriced and overly fancy Wolfgang Puck pizza (I'll bet he's never even been close to this "restaurant" of his) and then rode the train back and forth for a while.

Air Transat did an adequate job of flying, feeding and entertaining me on my overnight flight to Gatwick. Take off was at around 10PM, and I must first say that Toronto was respendent on a clear night, and that Dundas Square stands out like a sore thumb, even from 5000m up. God I love Toronto.

The meal (serverd close to midnight) was an edible veggie pasta in a Rose sauce, that was not half bad, an the films were Music and Lyrics (which I watched) and the Holiday (which I did not) Music and Lyrics is a reasonably good chick flick, although now 4 days later, I have yet to get the song that they write out of my head, which is on the one hand a sign of good songcraft, but on the other quite annoying, as it really isn't my prefered style of music.

Arriving at Gatwick, I made a dash ahead of everyone on our plane, and I suspect a couple of other planes as well, to be greeted by what I thought was a very long line to clear customs. However, after standing in line for 5 minutes I looked back to see that the 1500 people deplaning that did not walk as fast as me were now in an even longer line behind me. As it stands it took me an hour to clear this vital transfer point, and could have been at least a half hour longer had I not been as fleet of foot. I would advise Gatwick that if thier Custom's cue runs not only entirely though the legthy cue maze, out of the room, up a ramp, and then down another corridore, but well past that as well, that perhaps they would be advised to put a couple more agents on desks. That being said, it's not the job of customs to make it easy to get into a country, and by that measure, job well done then.

To offset this, when I walked up to the baggage carosel, my bag was not only already there, but literally going right past me as I walked up to. It was too easy.

As predicted the re-une with UKGirl and Luke was not quite the ideal situation that I had envisioned, as Gatwick is somthing of a hole, and I was quite zoned from only a half hour of sleep, coupled with being quite parched from a plane that was slightly too hot to be comfortable in a pleather seat, and Luke seemed wary of me at first, but it was excellent to see them both, and soon we were on our way to Tunbridge Wells courtesy the apt driving of her father.

So far it's been a largely uneventful trip, as expected. We've eaten well, courtesy of UKGirls mother, who has cooked up both dinner and lunch for us each day, and beyond that I've assisted throwing 3 tonnes of stuff into a 6 tonne skip (they are clearing out the basement in preparation for a move), seen the new apartment that her parents are moving to (it's lovely, and has a secret door!), wandered around Tunbridge Wells, had some naps, and spent much time with my son.

I not only saw Tom Baker, but met the man. Twice! He waved at us (having previously met UKGirl and Luke) as we walked past him on one of our sojourns into town, and I actually spoke with him while he was getting caught up with UKGirl's parents. He is quite friendly and ameanable as well as quite erudite, and seemed more than willing to sign things. He even asked it I was set for sandwiches. (I am not kidding). He produced a bunch of postcards featuring his likeness from his pocket, prefacing it with "I know this is sad really..", but I think not, as he is frequently recognised, and does take his responsibility to the fans quite seriously. I didn't get a picture taken with him, although I am under the impression that this would be no problem, assuming I caught him at a good time, but do think that the biggest problem will be swallowing my pride to ask for one. I feel like such a tool.

Today we went into London with Luke on a touristy day trip to the British Museum (home of the Rosetta Stone, and lots of Egyptian bits of antiquity all stolen during Britan's days as an imperial power). It was frankly a bit of a let down, as Luke slept through most of it (I kept trying to tempt him with "culture", but he seemed unimpressed) and UKGirl was really never one for museums herself. At least it was free, and had a stonking impressive covered courtyard that I do not recall from my last visit approximately 18 years ago. Almost more enjoyable was our lunch out (Burger for me, Pannini for UKGirl) at an outdoor cafe on Museum Rd, a quick trip into a games shop on the same rd, where I was able to talk my silly pirate game with the shop owners, who had recently discovered thier own love/addiction of the game, so I was the old hand at it this day (I bought a tin of cards), and a quick dash down Denmark St, where there were a truely impressive array of guitar stores. Of note, were a 795 Gibson Exporer III with 3 P-90 pickups and factory camoflage paintjob from the mid 80's as well as a Gibson RD Artist for sale in the window for 1695 (I paid $1100 CDN for mine a year ago) And that's just what I saw in the limited number of shops (2) I let myself go in while Luke and UK Girl waited in the street.

Pricing is insane compared to Canada, but the selection is unlike anything I've seen before, even including the Great Guitar Hunt of 2004 in New York that I had on our Honeymoon.

I guess I should this take this time to thank UKGirl for not leaving me over my clear obsessions with silly pirate games and guitars, as it seems she ends up in tow as I hunt for my own version of white whales. Darling, thank you.

So, up next:
-Dinner out in Tunbridge Wells sans Luke, at a fancy Italian place close by that comes recommened by UKGirls parents, who have generously offered both to look after Luke and pick up the tab for the prix fix menu. (very very nice)
-Back into London for a luncheon with our esteemed collegue, Billy T. A plan cometh together for Thursday Lunch.
-If I'm lucky I'll get into a hobby shop a pick up a Corgi diecast or two while I'm in on Thursday as well
-Laundry. Woo Hoo! Laundry.

this will all be capped off with a transatlantic flight with an infant. Something UKGirl is now a vetran of, but I remain unspoiled. This will all be followed by a return to work to get yelled at over the panic du jour, no doubt.

a lengthy report to follow.
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x Unread post xBilly_Tascademo   - at 11:19 am on Thursday May 24 2007 x
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x Billy_Tascademo Luncheon happened.

Meat. Stilton. Spitfire, (or a 'pint of history' as the vociferous barkeep put it) at the lavatory yellow Trafalgar.

Welcome and farewell from the glories of Tooting, 1fjef.

I seriously have no idea how you're going to get all those die-cast hunks of metal home...
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x Unread post xJess   - at 3:05 pm on Thursday May 24 2007 x
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x Jess Wonderful.. Nice to hear you guys got to meet up.

I tasted the bottled version of Spitfire last weekend. I remember it being pretty good, but bottles are never as good as pints of course..
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:59 am on Friday May 25 2007 x
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x jeffwith1f luncheon was great, I came a long way for this lunch.
It was fantastic to meet someone that I've never met, and because of our involvement in this site, we were able to pick up like we've known eachother for years. It was fantastic to see Billy T in person.

the spitfire from the tap was fantastic, B.T.W.

more about the whole rest of the trip when I get back
as it stands my back has gone completely out now, although zoe is on the mend. the pair of us are quite pathetic.

at any rate, more to come, in more detail than anyone cares, later...

packing now.
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Edited by jeffwith1f on May 25 2007 at 6:00 am
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x Unread post xJess   - at 10:42 am on Friday May 25 2007 x
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x Jess I care. smile I feel like I'm traveling vicariously thru you guys..

I hope to get over the pond for another visit one day. Could be a while though.. Next major trip might be westward I suspect.
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 10:16 am on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Part the Two: Wednesday through to Homeday x
x jeffwith1f England, England, England....
Where everything is so small, except for the occasional thing that is bigger (like, for some reason, papers). Home of the surprisingly easy Times crosswords. Where everyone does sudoku like some kind of zombie cult (actually, this is probably not contained in England). Where there is a surprising abundance of european built cars, which are dirven at insane speeds down "roads" that, while classified as motorways, would barely register as alleys in North America. A country where traffic collisions seem to somehow be avoided by painting a spot in the middle of the intersection and letting people from all sides just drive in and sort it out. England. Strange-milk-tasting England.

It was a lovely visit, but it's also nice to be home.

It was a week of healthy living. Almost no television, early to bed, (usually) early to rise, healthy meals prepared and eaten at regular hours, clean country air, lots of walking, limited alchohol intake (although around 4 PM every day, UKGirl's father would walk around asking if anyone wanted a gin and tonic, to which I would emphatically reply "Yes please!", exceptionally civilized). You would think that this would do a body good, no?

Well, it nearly killed us both. UKGirl had started to suffer from a bad back shortly after I arrived, and just after my last post, mine went as well. It was absolutely nigh vomit inducing to simply stand. I rarely have issues with my back, however this was something else. I've never had back pain so bad that I could not lift my leg to walk when standing. As such, we spent the end of the week, being invalids, lurching about Ashton Lodge, with it's many many staircases, drugged on a surprising variety of pills.

At any rate, the rest of the week en redux:

Wednesday's highlight was dinner out at Brasserie Blanc, just around the corner from our home base. It was quite good, as it should have been for a meal that cost about $160 CDN. A panalopy of flavours were presented which were thoroughly enjoyed by us both. I guess if you are only going to go out for a nice meal quarterly, you should not worry about cost and ensure that you enjoy it to the fullest.

Earlier in the day I also wandered down to the Aviation Bookstore, which apparently everyone had known about for ages, but never told me about (the cads). Here I picked up two very heavy tomes on aircraft that I would be hard pressed to ever find available in Canada, one a quite large Hardcover on the Russian SU-27 (arguably the finest fighter plane in the world, and almost certainly the finest display aircaft of all time) as well as a book on Flying Saucer Aircraft that bills itself as the first book on flying saucers ever published that is not fanciful fiction, focusing on real saucer shaped experimental and production aircraft produced by various countries over the last 100 years. Cracking stuff. I returned to our home base and continued to help empty the basement into the skip out front. I should add at this point, that it was with some trepidation that I watched the zeal and joy that UKGirl seemed to take in binning her family's former treasures. She seemed to particularly enjoy tossing in a pile of memorabilia regarding the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana that her mother had ammassed, as well as a stack of antique china and glass where that she not only threw out, but smashed while doing so. As a person that does not like to throw out anything useful, or potentially collectable, this gave me shivers.

Thursday was my trip into London, which I did solo, as UKGirl was bed ridden with pain by this point, I caught the train into Charring Cross, walked up to Hambleys where I had a nice chat with the store's Corgi representative regarding the whereabouts of the new Westland Lysander model that has been due out for a while (they don't have them yet either), and a couple of other models which I did purchase (1:72 scale Eurofigher Typhoon, and a 1:72 USAF F-104), from Regent street I rushed back down to Charring Cross, past Trafalgar square, recently covered in grass, to hop on the Northern Line and start heading south for my lunch with Billy T.

Lunch was fantastic, and even a lengthy lunch at the pub was not enough to cover all the things that I would have liked to have talked about. Looking back there were so many thoughts that I left half finished, that it was a shame that after a burger and some beers that he had to return to work, and I, to rush back to Charring Cross once again to catch a train back to Tunbridge Wells. It was a joy to meet him, and I do hope that we get a chance to continue our talks on some future visit to England. Billy T is an interesting lad, and is trying to get himself landed on the property ladder, as I take it that He and Obi have found a place not too far from where they curently live that they would like to be able to purchase. I wish them all luck in this, as home ownership is a many splendored thing, and should sit well with them. Interestingly, during our converstaion, Billy mentioned that in some ways he feels that he's always been 30, and it is only just now that he actually is 30, that his peers are getting caught up with where his head has been at. This is in stark contrast to me, where I have always felt like in many ways I am stuck at 12. While I am sure that neither statment about either of us is entirely true and each approach to life is fraught with it's own shortfalls, interestingly, we both seemd to get along quite well. Till next time then. I do hope the big gig on Friday went well, and I look forward to getting my copy of the next Thumpermonkey disc in the post. Expect it to be reviewed. Read it here first.

Friday was all about blinding pain. UKGirl was on the mend by now, but I was nearly useless, so we spent the day packing and doing laundry. We did venture into town to have a quick coffee and visit with UKGirls friend Annie, whom we quite like, and beyond that, not much else happened. I never did get my picture with Tom Baker, as while I saw him from the window of my bedroom (which overlooked his courtyard), I never did run into him in person again, a shame, but so be it. By this point I had seemed to have drunk Tunbridge Wells entire supply of Orange Tango, an orange soda far superior to the orange sodas that we get in North America. Fanta seems to be the local favorite, but I prefer Tango as it is partially sweetened with Aspertaine, and as such is not terribly bad for me. At any rate, I had all that was at hand, and there was none left to be found, which is probably a good thing as we had no more room left in our luggage anyways.

As it was, we ended up about 7 kilos over our weight allowance and had to pay a penalty. Needless to say, that two adults and an infant, two of whom had a months worth of clothing and assorted supplies as well as a smattering of souveniers can not easily be contained within the 46 Kg alloted to us. Fortunately Air Transat also allowed us to take on an exta peice of carry on luggage (the baby bag) for the infant, and as well transporting our car seat and stroller at no extra charge. Remarkably, they would also have taken a pack-n-play as well.

Leaving early (7:45 AM GMT) Saturday morning, we made our way through the chaos that was Gatwick in the morning, onto our flight and over the course of the next dozen hours, all the way to our home, thankfully still standing, just where we left it. Luke was fantastic on the way home. We were crammed into our coach seats (a real probablem, especially with the back pain), he hung out on our laps or in the Sky Cot and did not cry at all during the flight, even at take off and landing, sleeping for some time, and just generally being cute for the rest of the duration of the flight. Jet lag also seems not to have effected him at all, as although while in England he would seem to get tired and fall asleep around 6 PM (GMT), by the time we got home, around 7 PM (EST) he still did not seem to want to go to bed. This is over 6 hours past his bed time. Very odd, but truely we do have a miracle baby.

Interestly a by-product of flying with Luke has now left me not having sympathy for the parents of screaming children that ruin flights, in fact, now that I have seen what an angel he was, I now whole heartedly blame the parents and children in question. For shame, all of you! For goodness sakes, get your bratty children under control before you seal yourself in a can with 300 other people for 8 hours. If you can't do that, why consider staying at home? Your sub-standard parenting will no longer be tolerated.

We ordered Pizza, unpacked, pet the cats, and by 7 PM, shattered from the day and the jet lag, I was off to bed. I blinked awake at 5 AM. ahh jet lag. this is a wave I must ride (my next challange)

All in all, given the back pain for both of us, in the contest of Je1f vs. England, I would hazard to say that England appears to have won this round. but I'll be back....oh I'll be back. And when I do, I'll be armed with an indomitable spirit, and an older child.

Untill next time, cheers.
a smattering of photos to follow...
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Edited by jeffwith1f on May 27 2007 at 6:06 pm
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:44 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
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New Corgi

New Corgi
I love these...Eurofigher Typhoon and F-104 Starfighter

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:45 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Tunbridge Wells station x
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Tunbridge Wells station

Tunbridge Wells station
rail in england is king

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:46 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Trafalgar Square covered in grass x
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Trafalgar Square covered in grass

Trafalgar Square covered in grass
first of a short stint at green in downtown London

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:47 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Trafalgar square covered in grass x
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Trafalgar square covered in grass

Trafalgar square covered in grass
I love art

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:48 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Regent Street x
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Regent Street

Regent Street
street of toys, and some other shops of no consequence

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:49 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x the London Eye x
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the London Eye

the London Eye
stolen from the worlds largest bicycle

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:50 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Camaras are Watching x
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Camaras are Watching

Camaras are Watching
Big Brother is alive and well in London

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:51 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Celebrating the New x
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Celebrating the New

Celebrating the New
at the British Museum

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:53 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x UK Girl's parent's soon to be former home x
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UK Girl's parent's soon to be former home

UK Girl's parent's soon to be former home
This sounds like the most exhilerating vacation one can imagine.
"A Tour of the Homes of Famous European Statisticians"

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Edited by jeffwith1f on May 27 2007 at 5:53 pm
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:55 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x A Traditional English Slum x
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A Traditional English Slum

A Traditional English Slum

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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 6:55 pm on Sunday May 27 2007 x
x Dry Cleaners of Distinction x
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Dry Cleaners of Distinction

Dry Cleaners of Distinction
for your clothing of distinction

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x Unread post xBilly_Tascademo   - at 12:00 pm on Tuesday May 29 2007 x
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x Billy_Tascademo Better than 'Dry Cleaners of Indistinction"
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 7:33 pm on Tuesday May 29 2007 x
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x jeffwith1f that was taken in your neck of the woods.

also better than:
Dry Cleaners of Destruction
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x Unread post xxBilly_Tascademo   - at 11:29 am on Wednesday May 30 2007 x
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x Billy_Tascademo Yes. I have had my suits cleaned in there on several occasions. They managed to get the blood out of my suit from the 'Sororicide' brand violet video shoot.

They are dry cleaners of distinction. In a Brett Easton Ellis kind of way...
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Edited by Billy_Tascademo on May 30 2007 at 10:30 am
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x Unread post xjeffwith1f   - at 7:59 pm on Wednesday May 30 2007 x
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x jeffwith1f Dry Cleaners of Destitution
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