Thursday, August 31, 2006

Out of Frying Pan; into Fire

Well, I was feeling a bit rough as we headed out for dinner on Monday night and, while it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the evening, it did curtail it somewhat. Dinner was pleasant, if humid, and afterwards we headed to The Piano bar where they have a singer regularly performing. With a beer in hand, we all sang along when he played ‘Seasons of Love’ from the Rent DVD before his set. It’s one of the Chorus’ signature tunes so we all know it well. It seemed to go down well with the locals… As the bar got more crowded though it became harder to chat and as I sank deeper and deeper into my seat I began to think how comfy my bed would be, so we bade the others goodnight and took a gentle stroll back to the hotel.

Tuesday morning, we breakfasted said farewell again to John and Rich and headed off to the airport in a taxi with PK and his partner Ken. Having allowed plenty of time to negotiate queues for security, we arrived to find that there weren't any. Nobody even challenged us as we carried our water bottle through. I guess nothing was flying from Barcelona to America that day…

After having been left with plenty of time on our hands in the airport, the flight was delayed by about twenty minutes but was otherwise mundane. We arrived back in the UK to what the weather men term ‘sunshine and showers’; we left a sunny Gatwick to drive through torrential rain over South London to arrive in sunny Wimbledon shortly thereafter. Once home, cases were ignored and sofas were sat on.

Wednesday was back to work.

I had spoken to Sid, my boss, on Tuesday afternoon and got an idea of what to expect but it was still like being run over by an express train; several problems had all kicked-off over the long weekend and he had had a bitch of a day Tuesday trying to get everything running again. On Wednesday it was his turn to be on holiday so, with Rav away in Canada for his sister’s wedding, all those responsibilities immediately became mine. I worked an eleven-and-a-half hour day yesterday and look set to complete another ten hours today and tomorrow.

I am looking forward to the weekend.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Holiday That Passed Me By

Well, to cut a long story short, I didn’t get much of a holiday. I left work at lunchtime on Friday as planned, but feeling very unwell. I sent Brett off to the Prado by himself while I tried to sleep off whatever it was. It turned out to be a revisitation of the malady that has plagued me, on and off, for over a year now; fatigue, headache, nausea, total loss of appetite, dry mouth, hot and cold flushes. I slept through Friday but was in a passable state on Saturday morning for the transfer to Sitges, although Brett was doing all the heavy lifting, while I shambled alongside.

The train journey was long and a bit tedious but the Spanish rail network is modern, clean and efficient so it was bearable trip. I even managed to eat some pasta on the train. I think I overdid it though on the section from Barcelona to Sitges itself as, once we’d settled into the hotel, I began to feel queasy again and by the time John & Rich arrived, I was in full relapse.

I passed on dinner that evening and basically stayed in bed in purgatory through Sunday, emerging only to see them off to dinner without me on Saturday evening. By the end of the evening my head had mostly cleared though and I went to bed hoping to be able to eat again in the morning.

Sure enough, this morning my appetite returned as I gently ramped up my food intake over the course of a ninety-minute breakfast. Still fairly weary though, so I spent the morning reading at the breakfast table (which was on the terrace in the shade next to the pool anyway) which turned into a pleasant social hub as John and Rich came by periodically to chat and, having napped some after breakfast, Brett came back to join me also.

Compared to previous occurrences, I seem to have recovered my strength fairly quickly and felt up to a brief spell in the Jacuzzi followed by a walk along the promenade to enjoy a late lunch with the boys. There was more reading to be done when we got back, although John & Rich went off to sun themselves by the pool, and we eventually retired to the room for a siesta before dinner.

After dinner we’re also supposed to be meeting up with a couple of the Chorus boys who are in town at the moment, so I fear I may end up indulging in a little alcohol after all…

Crouch End Johnny did come up with an interesting thought over breakfast though; knowing I’ve been abroad with work, he wondered if I might have picked up some foreign recurring bug – which would explain why no-one else I know seems to suffer from it. I do recall talk on my recent travel safety course that the London School of Tropical Medicine will do consultations with you if you suspect something of that nature, so I think I’ll give them a call when I get home rather than going to my GP and being told “oh, it’s just something viral, you'll get over it” again!

Friday, August 25, 2006


I am feeling rather rough this morning. We only drank half a bottle of wine and a beer or two, so I think it must be simply that I ate too much yesterday… Hopefully I will be in better shape by this afternoon for my one little bit of proper exploration of this lovely city!

Thursday, August 24, 2006


It was another good day at work today. The whole morning got taken up by a meeting with the local IT support contractor, then it was lunchtime and the office insisted I join them for Paella (a tradition on Thursdays, apparently!) so I invited Brett along too and he got to meet about half of the staff in the office over an enormous lunch.

The afternoon was all about documenting my work from yesterday. (Well, all about that and trying to stay awake after consuming so much paella and tortilla!) The office had heard about our lack of guidebook over lunch and really rallied to our support in the afternoon. I eventually left work laden down with tourist guide printouts and no less than seven restaurant recommendations for the remaining two dinners in Madrid!

Before dinner we took the Metro down to Puerta de Atocha (the station from which we travel on Saturday) to collect our tickets. (The first time you use a credit card to book tickets with RENFE over the Internet, you have to collect them in person: Some kind of anti-fraud measure I suspect.) The station is huge and we went to no less than three ticket offices before we found the correct one. The queues were frighteningly long and were all of the ‘take a ticket and wait despairingly for your turn’ variety but it turned out that I was the only one in the queue for collecting Internet Bookings, so in the end it was quite painless.

We ended up having a tapas dinner at one of the restaurants Enrique had recommended and it was very pleasant and very filling. The fine cured ham and chorizo was definitely the highlight. Then we wandered home via the Chueca district (kind of Madrid’s equivalent to London’s Soho) stopping off in a couple of bars along the way but, alas, I am not on holiday yet so we didn’t linger.

Two things struck me about the city tonight. Firstly, because so many locals go on holiday in August, it seems to be the month when all of the road works and municipal renovations go on. Secondly, this is a REALLY beautiful city. It has all of the wide boulevards and grand architecture of Paris, but without the attitude of the Parisians – and some of the government buildings are truly spectacular, with dramatic bronze statuary erupting from the roof of each point of the porticos. I would like to live here a while I think.

Tomorrow (Friday), I hope to only be working in the morning and then escaping for an afternoon in The Prado with Brett before we leave for Sitges on Saturday morning.

It's Hot Up Here

It’s actually quite hot here.

You don’t feel it so much because it’s a very dry heat but when you inhale through your mouth and it goes totally dry you know it’s hotter than you think. This evening Brett remarked that I had caught the sun on my face, but I’d only been outdoors to walk the two-minutes to and from work and for a forty-minute lunch break where we sat in the shade for most of the time. I’m clearly going to need to be well-oiled in Sitges to avoid coming home looking like a lobster!

Work was very smooth today. I was essentially deconstructing and then rebuilding a server and I’d anticipated the job running into the night but in the end I was done by 6pm so it meant I got to go home and have a nap before we went out in search of dinner.

I had managed to forget to pack any form of guidebook to Madrid, so we were entirely in Brett’s hands (as he’s been here more than I have) to find the kinds of places we wanted to be.

We had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the fountains in Plaza de Colón where my fish came with what looked like an entire bulb of garlic chopped and deep-fried! I forced Brett to eat some of it too so he won’t notice the reek so much tomorrow… Rather worrying experience when we asked for the bill though; two of my credit cards were declined. A couple of concerned phonecalls later though and there was nothing to worry about; one of them had been the waiter’s incompetence (not asking me to enter the PIN) and one of them had been mine (late payment on a new card) so we paid by cash and went on our way.

Our way took us along the Paseo de Recoletos and around into the Justicia area, which has some gay life to it apparently. We were really there too early for much to be open; Madrid is a late night city and sadly I’m not up to that kind of partying when I’m working, but we wouldn’t have minded a drink or two before bed. Alas we weren’t really too sure where we were going and the madrileños seem to be rather shy about flying their rainbow flags which didn’t help either. We kept passing pairs of guys, who we judged to be family, but no matter which street we took they all seemed to be going in the other direction; very confusing. In the end we decided to call it a night and that Brett would come back this way tomorrow to pick up a gay map from one of shops we saw.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

London to Madrid

Well, it’s been a varied day today; flying to Madrid tonight meant I had an excuse to only work a half-day, but it was a fairly productive half-day. A planning meeting resulted in a number of useful decisions and I even got all of my actions either done or timetabled by lunchtime.

Had a pleasant lunch with Crouch-End Johnny in the City (with a truly scrumptious dessert at Patisserie Valerie!) then headed home for some last-minute chores before setting off. Because of all the recent security restrictions we decided to leave as soon as we were ready to go and in the end it paid off; between heavy traffic on the way out of London and a half-hour line for the security check we only had about twenty minutes in the lounge before they were boarding our flight.

Lower flight costs and lower margins are clearly affecting British Airways; now you don’t even get a hot baguette onboard – we had to make-do with a fairly basic sandwich, but the crew were happy to let me have second helpings once they’d finished the service.

We arrived at the new terminal in Madrid and it’s huge. The old terminal feels like a long corridor – you always seem to have to walk miles no matter where you need to get to. The new terminal is much the same, except that it’s on several levels, kind of in the vein of Westminster tube station; it’s a huge shell of a building where you can look up from the vast expanse of marble floor and see escalators and flying walkways weaving in and out of each other above you. The ceiling is almost a sine wave of wooden slats that goes on for miles, supported by steel columns sprouting from the top of the central concrete supports. It has something of a cathedral feel to it.

The hotel is a refurbished old-style Spanish hotel but, according to the floor plan on the door, we have one of the biggest rooms and it is more than adequate (with the exception of the wardrobe which is tiny and inadequate for two people!

Anyway, off to work now. Could be a long day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Trevor's Party

Well, it’s the morning after the night before, but I actually don’t feel too bad for it.

Yesterday Trevor G and his partner Kenny hosted a summer party at their lovely house in the Kent countryside. It was an entirely Chorus affair. After a fairly lazy day at home, we loaded the car with beer and bedding (for staying-over with limited guest rooms) and headed off towards Biggin Hill.

We were only about the fourth or fifth to arrive and people continued to trickle in throughout the early evening. There was a barbeque with prodigious amounts of food available and, as Trevor & Ken apparently BBQ regularly, it was all nicely cooked. Although it had rained heavily during the day, the evening was dry and temperate and it was lovely to sit out on the terrace chatting away under twinkling fairy-lights. Some time after we’d eaten our fill, Rich C and Crouch-End Johnny suggested the hot tub and so Brett and I changed into our shorts and hopped in with them. It was a spacious tub, designed to seat seven, but as the night wore on more and more people joined us. I’m not sure whether we equalled last year’s record of twelve people in there at once, but it was certainly quite cosy for a lot of the evening. As it began to get dark, Trevor brought out a number of nightlights and, once we’d found places to put them that didn’t get swamped by the swell from the tub, it added a lovely atmosphere.

Inevitably, with plenty of alcohol already consumed, shorts were eventually dispensed with and, although I didn’t notice anything “legally actionable”, I know that there was a certain amount of scandalous behaviour going on under the water; certainly at least one couple was formed for the night in there!

After having spent several delightful hours being massaged by warm waters though, we got out and dried off to have some dessert. This was shortly followed by performing the age-old Chorus party ritual of singing show tunes loudly and off-key around the piano with one’s fellow drunken choristers: A fine time was had by all involved (except for those listening!)

Poor old Gary S was throwing-up in the toilet for a while and later passed-out on the sofa – although by morning, he’d found his way back into Martin L’s arms. (I know they exchanged numbers in the morning, but sadly my intuition tells me that it isn’t a relationship that will last for long.)

Eventually though, everything began to wind-down and we eventually got to sleep around 2:30am.

This morning, I was in pretty good shape considering how merry I’d been last night. I was up before most of the house so helped myself to cereal and coffee and made some small inroads into clearing up the mess left over from the party. Around 10, Brett woke up too and once he was fully compos-mentis, we headed home from whence I went on into work to spend a tedious afternoon working on a couple of servers… (Nobody mention karma-balancing!)

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Well, I suppose I’d better write something before people start calling Missing Persons…

I don’t really have a good excuse for the long silence, except that I couldn’t bring myself to write. I just didn’t want to do it – and since I really only keep this blog for my own enjoyment and possible future reminiscing, that’s all that really counts.

And I’m not saying I’m full of the joys of blogging right now either, it’s just that the keyboard doesn’t seem to hold quite the revulsion it has recently.

For those of you who’ve known me a long time; I’m going through one of my antisocial phases: Don’t want to know. Can’t be bothered dealing with people on their terms; it’s my way or the highway. Don’t push me or I’ll bite your head off!

Work is crazy-busy. I think I’m in need of a get-away-from-it-all holiday and fortunately there’s one just around the corner. (Things have been busy while I’ve not been talking to you.)

I am doing a lot of travelling with work in the second half of the year and the first foreign trip I managed to wangle so that it falls around the time that Crouch-End Johnny* and Rich C had invited us to join them on holiday in Sitges. I am managing to take what amounts to a four-day holiday without actually using up any of my annual leave. Brett’s coming with me to Madrid for the first half of the week too, although I probably won’t see much of either him or the city. :o(

Oh and in case you were wondering what the link to Starship Intrepid was all about… Nick C, who is one of the cast and one of the producers too if I recall, was at college with me back in Dundee.

* As John W will henceforth be called after I found out that this was his handle on a particular online service!

Sunday, August 06, 2006



Still got pretty much nothing to say.

Maybe you can check out Starship Intrepid while you're waiting for me to come up with something...



Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Putting It Together

Had another dismal day at work; unfocussed and unenthusiastic. I think I am suffering a mild depression: I’m not enjoying company in quantities bigger than one person at a time. I certainly have a deep-rooted feeling of dissatisfaction within me. I want to break away from the daily routine, of being anchored to the job by having to pay for the flat. Something a bit spontaneous would do; I rather fancied a first-class trip to Paris this weekend, but alas the diary has a non-moveable in it. So I guess I’ll plod my way through another week …and maybe see if I can fit some spontaneity into the schedule for the following weekend! ;o)

This evening we went into town to see Sunday In The Park With George with Brett’s friend Mark. I enjoyed it more than the last time I saw it. (I think my recollection of the second act may have been somewhat darkened by the uncomfortable seating at Menier, although the stalls at the Wyndham were not exactly spacious either!)