Feeling lucky

We’re finally getting round to having the 1950s wiring in our house replaced (I’m so looking forward to having more than one power outlet per room – finally an end to the maze of extension cables and multiboards we live our life off!), so had the electrician round on Saturday to do a walkthrough of what we want.

While he was checking the connection where the powerlines come into the house, he pointed out that the lines were stretched taut between the house and the nearest powerpole, which was on a slight lean (thanks to earthquakes, no doubt).  He reckoned we were probably just a couple of centimetres away from having the lines pulled out completely – and given the latest swarm of aftershocks (a 5.2 on Friday, amongst a scattering of 3s and 4s), it’s amazing it hasn’t happened yet.

So we’re feeling very lucky he noticed it before it went, and the best bit is it’s not our problem – the power company will have to fix it (he said he’ll try and convince them the best solution would be to replace the lines with underground ones, which would make our view a lot nicer!)

In other news… um, there isn’t any, really.  Still up to my ears in study and work, but still enjoying both enough not to mind that I don’t have any other life at the moment.

Picture Hanging

I finally got round to hanging two cool things on the wall this morning.

The first is the Irish pub scene photograph I won at the Dublin convention, which I’ve added to the hallway with the other artworks I’ve brought home from various trips:

The other isn’t quite as artistic, but it makes me happy:

Only 22 years between them 🙂

Busy busy busy

I really will get round to posting the rest of my travel journal entries, but life is kind of busy at the moment.  Work is hotting up as we get closer to our big launch, and study takes up most of my free time.  And this week I seem to suddenly have a social life – as well as last night’s meetup, I’ve been invited to Jenny’s book launch tonight and another colleague’s birthday party tomorrow night.  Add to that ESOL tutoring on Monday night, and working late on Tuesday, and it’s amazing MrPloppy even remembers who I am, he sees so little of me!

Anyway, a good meetup last night, with a full table – I think almost all the regulars were there.  I released a few books (The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer), registered a few more (because one of the non-bookcrossing partners who often joins us had brought them along unregistered, so as I happened to have some pre-nums on me labelled them up for her), and despite my best efforts ended up taking a pile home – only for release, though, not to add to Mt TBR (which is still totteringly high after Dublin), because they were left on the table at the end of the meetup, and there were too many to just leave in the restaurant.

Currently reading:

  • Real book: Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
  • E-book: Orange as Marmalade by Fran Stewart
  • Audiobook: Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Study: Bickel, B., & Nichols, J. (2009). Case Marking and Alignment. In A. Malchukov & A. Spencer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of case (pp. 304-321). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

From my travel journal: Monday 26 March, 6.30 pm: Cardigan, Wales

The rest of the trip over went smoothly.  I slept on and off most of the way from Abu Dhabi to London, but was still pretty tired by the time we reached Heathrow.  Then I had a 4-hour wait for the bus (which felt even longer, because I was too tired to read, so spent most of it wandering the terminal aimlessly trying to stay awake).  When I booked the tickets I’d had a choice of 8.30 am or 11.30, and decided to go for the later one in case I was delayed getting through customs.  As it turned out, customs didn’t take long at all (even though the immigration officer gave me the third degree about why I was in the UK, and where I was staying (he seemed very suspicious when I said I was staying with my in-laws – he wanted to know why MrPloppy wasn’t visiting too, and didn’t seem to believe anyone would visit their in-laws by choice (I wonder if he doesn’t get on well with his?))) so I could have easily caught the earlier bus after all.

The bus took me to Swansea, where I caught another bus to Carmarthen, and the out-laws met me there and drove me the final 25 miles to Cardigan.  It was early evening by the time we got here, and by then I was so tired I only just stayed awake through dinner, then went to bed and slept for 12 hours.  After that long sleep I was feeling much better this morning, especially after a shower and a brisk walk round the block to stretch some of the stiffness out.

The outlaws had a flag flying in the front garden to welcome me

The out-laws took me into Cardigan (they live in a tiny village just outside the town), and the first thing I spotted was a charity shop with a bin of books for 10p each.  Needless to say, I quickly stocked up!

We had lunch in a lovely little pub on the riverfront, then wandered around the town a bit longer.

With a pile of books to register, I spent the afternoon sitting at the computer (good thing I brought plenty of labels with me!)  So I’m all ready now for our big trip.

Lytteltonwitch mentioned on the bookcrossing forums that she was planning to spend the night in Poppit Sands, across the bay from Cardigan.  When I told Father-out-law this, he drove me out to the cliffs where we could see it from – he even pointed out exactly which house on the distant hill was the YHA 🙂

Apparently that's the hostel where lytteltonwitch is staying

From my travel journal: Sunday, 25 March, 1 am: Abu Dhabi

Against all expectations, I actually fell asleep on the plane, somewhere over Alice Springs (I’d been hoping to see Uluru/Ayer’s Rock, as the map originally showed us passing almost overhead, but we ended up veering further north, so it was lost in the haze).

I woke up as we crossed the coast and hit a wall of clouds and turbulence, then fell asleep again at about Sumatra and pretty much slept all the rest of the way (I do remember at one point opening my eyes somewhere over India and seeing the lights of a city below us).  Not ideal in terms of adjusting my body clock, but at least now (after a wash in the airport bathroom – that exorbitantly-priced toothpaste I bought at Sydney airport to replace the one I had confiscated was so worth the expense!) I’m feeling alive enough to face the 8 hours to London.

Abu Dhabi airport is a wonderful mix of the boringly normal and the exotic.  Physically it looks like every other airport in the world (though maybe a bit more bling in the duty-free shops and a preponderance of camel souvenirs), but a very different mix of nationalities than in your average Australasian airport.  Muslim women in every form of head covering from a scarf to a full-on face-covering burqa, and men too whose dress conveys their nationality – I’ve spotted everything from Pakistani to Bhutanese to (of course) the local long white robes and “teatowel” headdress.

For such a wealthy country, I don’t think much of their free internet kiosks – I had to try about half a dozen before I could get one to work (I only persisted that long because I saw other people using them, so I know at least some of them must work).

We should be boarding in half an hour or so, so time for one more lap of the duty free shops to stretch my legs before the next enforced immobility.

From my travel journal: Saturday, 24 March 2012, 10 am: Sydney

First (small) leg successfully accomplished. The 3 am start to be at the airport by 4.30 for a 7 am flight wasn’t fun (although the kittens approved greatly of their breakfast being served so early), but I had adrenaline to carry me through (and MrPloppy had the anticipation of going home and back to bed once he’d waved me off). I thought I’d get some sleep on the flight over, but of course I was wide awake by the time I got on the plane, and didn’t start feeling sleepy until we were only half an hour out of Sydney, by which time it was too late.

Anyway, an uneventful flight, and then the novelty of going through customs with only a day bag (my suitcase is checked through to Heathrow (which technically means I shouldn’t have left the airport, but nobody officially told me that, or asked any questions, so I’m playing dumb 🙂 )) – it definitely speeds the process up!

Caught a train into Circular Quay, where a giant cruise ship is doing its best to make the harbour bridge look small.

In half an hour or so I’ll be meeting up with the Sydney bookcrossers for brunch, but for now I’m just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air (well, fresh compared to aeroplane air, anyway).

2.50 pm, back at Sydney airport.

Managed to get into the city ok, and met up with awaywithfairies, goodthinkingmax, Littlemave and xoddam for a very chocolaty brunch at the Guylian cafe. It was wonderful to catch up with them all (and meet xoddam, who I don’t think I’ve ever run into at any conventions). Littlemave showed me photos of her children, who have all grown up way too much (anyone would think it’s 6 or 7 years since I last saw them! (lytteltonwitch, remember that tiny boy who served us “sausage cappuccinos”? He’s now a gigantic teenager!))

I released a book in the cafe (chocolate themed, of course), and passed on a couple more to awaywithfairies and goodthinkingmax, and released two more on Circular Quay as we walked back to the station, so my bag is a bit lighter now.

Back at the airport, I fell foul of security by having a tube of toothpaste a whole 10 g over the allowed size (which NZ security had let through, so either the limits are different here, or NZ is just more relaxed about enforcing them (or, now that I think about it, maybe NZ security people understand physics better, as the limits are expressed in millilitres, but the toothpaste was labelled in grams. And ml = g only for water, not for denser substances like toothpaste. So the volume of my toothpaste was probably well under the limit… Yeah, probably wouldn’t have done me much good to argue that point with a security goon though.)), and then I compounded my sin by having forgotten about the bottle of water I’d bought while wandering around the waterfront. So both went in the bin. I don’t know if it was because of that, or just the luck of the draw, but then I was pulled aside to be frisked for explosives (which took forever, because they had to wait for a female officer to turn up). Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure of travelling these days…

I think the one in the middle is my plane

Somewhere over Australia

Actually, I know exactly where over Australia – we just flew over Orange (where I saw the most enormous open-cast mine), heading right across the centre. Ethiad has much better in-flight screen things than Air New Zealand – you can actually pick which maps etc you want to look at, rather than have them automatically cycle through (which always seems to show exactly the wrong information and by the time you wait for it to cycle through to the one you want, you’ve passed whatever it was you were wanting to see anyway…)

I think this is the first time I’ve flown across the middle of Australia – every other time I’ve flown along the southern bit to Perth. And best of all, we’re flying across in daylight, so I get to see everything (yeah, I know it’s a desert, but there’s still stuff to see!)

This is the longest leg of the journey – just over 13 hours. I’m trying to work out when will be the best bit of it to sleep through, but the trouble is, I think the times that would be the best in terms of beating jet-lag will coincide with flying over the interesting bits of the map (i.e. the landy bits), and my curiosity (some might say nosiness) generally wins out over sleepiness – there’s no way I’ll sleep when I might be missing something interesting! (and there in a nutshell you have the explanation for my habitual insomnia!)

But if I’ve figured out the time zones correctly, at some point nightfall has got to catch up with us, so hopefully darkness (= nothing to see outside) will inspire me to sleep. None of the movies on offer are at all tempting, so that should help too.

Ooh, looks like they’re serving food soon. Good, because although I’ve changed my watch to Abu Dhabi time (I always change my watch as soon as I get on a flight – another little way to trick my brain into forgetting what time it is at home and therefore hopefully reducing the jet lag), my body clock is still telling me that somewhere in the world it’s time to eat. Right, I’ve got about 10 rows to decide: chicken or lamb?

Some time later

(I chose lamb, and it was good).

Australia is big. We’ve been in the air for nearly two hours, and we’re only about a quarter of the way across.

I think we passed over one of the flooded areas – it certainly looked like there was a lot more water around than I’d expect for a mostly dry country, and the rivers had that look of being outside their normal banks. We’re over the desert now according to the map, but it’s surprisingly green – sort of a red and green patchiness, really.

The countryside is striated, with long ridges running in parallel off into the distance, which confused me (because they look so much like the ripples left a beach by the retreating tide) until I clicked that a huge mostly flat country must have a lot of wind shaping it. (I would have photos to illustrate, but (a) my camera is in the overhead locker and I can’t be bothered clambering over my seat-mate to reach it, and (b) I’ve never mastered the art of taking photos out of plane windows – they always turn out disappointing. So you’ll just have to use your imagination.)