Observation 2: Smelly people

In all the places that we have been to which includes Dubai at a cracking 43 degree heat, we have never come across so many smelly people in our lives. We are talking serious reflex gag action BO! The kind that “impregnates the material in the bus seat so years after the person has left the smell still lingers” kind of nastiness. It afflicts English men in particular but has been noted as applicable to some of the ladies as well. Why?
After long observation, discussions and hypothesis we have narrowed it down to the following: 1. lack of personal hygiene and of course deodorant (the obvious one) 2. slow drying clothes. As it is particularly damp, often the clothes from the washing machine can’t be hung outside therefore they dry quite slowly inside while drapped over chairs or airing racks while the heaters are on. This slow drying seems to encourage a particular bacteria that gets a bit woofy when the cloth heats due to contact with the skin. 3. Beer. The BO has a distinct yeasty smell which can only be surmised as coming from the excessive amount of grog they drink here. When the guys sweat they seem to emit this distinctive smell. Phewwwwww.
Anyway, that’s the gross out for this week. Yuck, yuck and again I say yuck. Obviously not a lot happening at the moment due to the rain! 🙂

Flooding in North West UK

Just a quick note to all that have been asking. The flooding has been taking place in the towns around Bristol but thankfully we have been spared. It is a very odd situation really as we have only been noticing the affect of the rain through cancelled public transport or events. The rain ceased yesterday for a glorious day of sunshine but alas, today, it started again. So in short, we are both fine if not a bit miffed by this continual rain during what is supposed to be “summer”. Meanwhile we are both using the heating, buying jackets and jumpers much to the surprise of our work colleagues!

Movie: Harry Potter meets Transformers

Our weekend plans got rained out (actually more like flooded out). We were heading to Berkeley Castle in Glouchester for the Joust Festival www.joust.info
So what is one to do on a rainy day, with a mediaeval costume already paid for in honour of the Joust. Well, I can tell you now that spending the day at the movies comes to mind, but sure as heck not while wearing my mediaeval dress. I wore that around the house last night!
So this afternoon we headed into town to watch the new Transformers movie. OK so we were feeling a bit “movie deprived” and had to see anything. Let me tell you it is a guaranteed good time movie. Far removed from the disgrace that the first movie was, this was fantastic. Graphics are incredible, music totally cool, acting more than adequate for a kids movie, storyline that was actually understandable and finally not chessy in any way! It is very rare that I would even consider buying a soundtrack to a movie (I think the last one was Top Gun) but this rocked. 8 out of 10.

Harry Potter on the other hand – very dark and could I say, rather boring. I think I am going through the motions here as I have seen all the others. It is kind of a new Stars Wars situation. You have invested time in the previous movies so you are just hoping to get to the end and complete the series. This Potter movie very much felt like a filler waiting to get to the real one to end it all. Bring the end on quickly. 5 out of 10.

Caerphilly, Wales

Another day trip to Wales. This time a bit further up into Wales. Only around 1.5 hours on the train from Bristol. Bristol to Cardiff with a change into Caerphilly.
First impressions of Caerphilly were a quaint village town with great public toilets near the station. At 10p it was the best money I’ve paid so far for the “public conveniences” as they so nicely put it. So it may be strange that I am talking toilets but seriously, a nice smelling loo stands out after many nasty ones!
Walking down through Caerphilly village it is quite well stocked with shops and then you come to the bottom of the street and there it is. Caerphilly Castle. Literally in the middle of town about 4 minutes walk from the train station.
Built in the 13th century it is the largest and (at the time) best strategically crafted castle using man made moats as its key defence mechanism. With a huge moat and then two sets of walls to breach before getting into the inner sactum it is truly interesting to walk through and understand how hard it would be to breach it. However, it apparently didn’t see a lot of action.
Comparing this to Cardiff Castle is quite easy. Cardiff was more about how the Bute Family lived in there during their time with the luxurious room designs and colourful decoration. Caerphilly Castle is cheaper to get into and more hands on. It is not as glamourous as Cardiff but far more fun for a family. You can climb/walk/run all over the castle, investigate all the hidey holes, laze on the grass or on a park bench eating lunch in the sun. It was a great day out with plenty of photos today. Highly recommended at only 3.50 each (plus train fair of 11 pound each).

Observation 1: Queues

OK. So what’s with the queuing in the UK?
Waiting for my bus the other day of which there is a queue of people. OK, so I’ll go with the flow and queue as well so no one goes all “postal” on me for jumping in front. Bus turns up, queue appears to be moving. Bus LEAVES!!! If you are not queuing for that number bus, get out of the line right? Seems simple. Anyway, have learnt, don’t stand in the queue but hang back and observe, bus approaches, go straight for doors using All Black tackling technique. Not really, but you get the idea!

Visitor from Oz and a visit to Wales

Last weekend we were well chuffed to have Kerryn stay for a night. As you may all remember Kerryn started the journey from Sydney with us. Her first long haul flight and having to sit with me and Steve for numerous hours. She has survived us very well indeed. After having spent 3 weeks travelling together in Dubai and France we parted ways in Provence, met in London for a day and then she came to stay for a night at our new home in Bristol. So what do you do in Bristol when you only have a day stop over and it is rainy? Go to IKEA of course. Anyway, it was great to see you Kerryn and hope your trip to the Cotswolds went well!
This weekend we decided to take a day trip to Cardiff in Wales. Only 1 hour by train (quicker if it didn’t stop so much) we were there for brunch. Having just come into Wales where do we go for brunch? An Irish pub. Hmmm. Not very Welsh at all. It was then on to a quaint indoor market where we had a great freshly squeezed OJ (just a nice as the Kerikeri oranges) and then onto some church investigations. We came across th Parish Church of St John the Baptist. What is really interesting here is the story of the St Johns Ambulance.
St Johns Ambulance:
In the 11th century a group of Benedictines in Jerusalem started the hospital of St John of Jerusalem (John the Baptist) which cared for sick pilgrims. They were the oldest of the crusading order and founded hospices all throughout Europe along the pilgrimage routes. During the reformation period the Order was suppressed but revived again in 1877 for public service in the fields of health, safety and first aid. The brigade as we know it today was then formed in 1887. The eight pointed cross on a black background that makes up the St Johns Ambulance symbol represents the cross of Christ (the sign of the redemption of humankind). The four arms of the cross symbolise the four cardinal virtues – prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude and the eight points of the star stand for the eight Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12). It continues to totally amaze me every time I learn about something else that I have seen all my life but had no idea that it came from something so interesting.
Next on our list we saw Cardiff Castle. Smack bang in the middle of the CBD you can’t miss it. We did the touristy thing and took the tour. Glad we did as again there were really interesting items that she pointed out on the tour that you would have no idea about. For example, in the dining room is a little monkey on the wall. Steve noticed it had a nut in its mouth. It turns out the nut is a button you could push to summon the servants.
The castle was well worth the visit, the rooms were spectacular, the lawns well kept and the keep in the middle of it all was a great climb up to the top with a stunning view of the city. One of my favourite parts though was the outside wall surrounding the castle. Part of the wall is called the Animal Wall because of the animal sculptures that adorn the top as you walk past it. They watch you as you walk towards the castle and keep an eye on you. I loved them, especially the wolf lurking on top of the wall covered by a tree (I have attached a picture). Would we go back again? I think so, especially in August when they are holding a medieval festival there. Well that’s it for now. Until next weekend when we go on another adventure: Da boch chi (goodbye in Welsh).

My first week

Eventually the realisation sets in that your holiday must come to an end and you need to set forth and enter the working world. This was achieved on Monday. I joined a UK agency. They found me a job inside their own company. I won’t go into too many details about the job on the blog as it is a new service being set up within this particular style of industry (I’m handling the building of my department).
I will however comment on first impressions (from a week) of working in the British system. First and most important, 25 days of annual leave per year. Heck yes!!! Add on to this the bank holidays (we would call these public holidays).
The hours are a traditional 40 hour working week. In reality it is 45 hours (take into account the hour for lunch each day). Believe me this is a long day. We have been very spoilt in Australia working a 37.5 hour week. The day starts at 9am with an hour for lunch and finishes at 6pm. After 2 days of this I was incredibly brain dead!
The induction process and even OHS does not seem to rate highly in this company. I must say I am very proud of the systems we developed in my last job to induct our staff properly into work. On my first week working in England it was a matter of finding a pen, paper and all that you needed yourself which basically involved collecting items off the desks of people that were leaving.
I am not sure they have ever heard of ergonomics or that there are chairs out there with lumbar support! Ouch. Seriously I think we have been treated well in Australia.
Possibly it is early days here and it will improve. What ever happens I know my staff, as I recruit them, will benefit from the induction process that I am developing for them.
The people I work with are incredibly busy however are able to take a brief time out to have a bit of fun and conversation. I have been used to working in an open plan office but this is much larger with about 25 people in one room. It can get a bit noisy so thankfully I am quite capable of “tuning out”.
When I started looking for work it was an incredibly scary process. After having spent 10 years in one industry it was difficult trying to think outside of that box. However, I think this place has a great amount of potential both for myself and the industry it is in and I am excited about the new service being developed. As usual I am impatient to learn it all and understand the process so this has been a great challenge this week. We will see what week 2 holds for me. I will keep you up to date on the progress.

Movie: Curry Goat and McClane’s back again

Having gone out for lunch at the St Nicholas Markets this week I decided to be a bit adventurous. My first Caribbean meal – Curry Goat with spinach.
My verdict – delicious. Far nicer than the nasty billy goat we had for Christmas lunch one year in NZ. Two days in and not sick yet so this is a good sign. The meat was tender and mild tasting, with more of a beef flavour than anything else.

Tonight we also went to see Die Hard 4.0. As expected John McClane has everything thrown at him yet again by the baddies and comes out looking pretty trashed but truimphing over the bad dudes. Lots of explosions, great one liners and great aircraft action with a bit of CCR thrown in. That’s Creedance Clearwater Revival for those of you not in the know. My verdict – 8 out of 10. Great nonsensical, blockbuster, “explosions for the sake of it” movie at its best.