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UK TRIP – DAY 5 Part 2

May 26, 2018 2 comments

I realise the previous post was a bit short, but I wasn’t joking about being tired. The day we arrived I fell asleep on the couch (which is actually my bed) at 7.30. Last night I managed to stay awake til 9, but the last hour and half I was simply sitting on the couch/bed, drooling, watching TV, so I don’t count that as much of a improvement. Unfortunately that means I woke up at 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep, hence this second post for the day.

I forgot to mention a few things from yesterday. The first is I managed to get lost 3 times yesterday. Not lost in a call the police sort of way, but it made me realise that I really have no sense of direction whatsoever. I need to finish reading that book The Lost Art of Finding your Way. I don’t want to be like the girls who went kayaking and got lost and died when the fog rolled in because they got turned around.

Ok, that is probably not a good example, as I can’t see that I would ever go kayaking at all, but when we are travelling from Edinburgh to Bath, I don’t want to end up in Ireland when I am trying to find the York Crown Derby factory.

The first time I got lost doesn’t really count because we were in the underground at Victoria station, trying to get to the street. Even the English get lost down there. One couple got on the wrong train, and had to leap back off again before the doors closed when they realised it was going in the opposite direction to where they wanted to go.

We eventually found our way out, obviously, but no idea how.

The second time was at the Chelsea flower show, and there is really no excuse for that one, as we had a map. But if you don’t know where you came in and there is no compass or designated north, then how are you supposed to know where you are? I also got turned around in the pavilion but it is larger than a football field, and a sea of flowers. It got confusing.

The last time, there really is no excuse. We were walking from the Oxford Circus underground to our apartment, which we had done before, but I thought I was being clever and was going a slightly different route. Even the map on the phone didn’t help because I couldn’t orientate it to where we were as I thought up was down. Pathetic.

So, if you heare about lost Australian tourists in the news, it’s us.

The other thing I had to mention (and it isn’t because I think you are particularly interested, it’s so I don’t forget all this stuff) is that these poor English don’t know good chocolate. On the way back to the apartment, before I got us turned around, we stopped at a chocolate shop and bought a small box of chocolates. It was a flash shop, in a nice suburb dedicated to it’s own brand of chocolates. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is Cadbury and 10 is Belle Fleur, they only rated a 5. Obviously I will have to do more research. I will keep you posted on the chocolatiers of the UK.

Another thing, this one is for Fiona, when we were at the show, there was an artist there who does embroidery paintings. They are amazing. From a distance you think they are painted, but when you go in close you realise they are a combination of painting but all the main detail is embroidered. Totally amazing. The artist, Alison Holt is coming to Sydney in November to do classes at the embroidery guild. Mum thought Fiona’s mum might be interested.

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Can you believe that is embroidery?

And finally, the picture from yesterday with mum next to the sculpture was by K Paxton Blacksmiths. the URL is http://www.artfe.co.uk. Mum thought Andrea’s boys might be interested.

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Categories: Blog Entry

UK TRIP – DAY 5

May 26, 2018 2 comments

Today was the Chelsea flower show. Mum was in heaven, except for the whole, can’t buy any seeds thing. I told her I would hand her over to border security if she tried to slip them through customs.

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Mum’s favorite stall at the Chelsea Flower Show

She also liked a few things that would’t fit in the overhead luggage bin on the flight home. OMG there was a lot of people there, so we had to be patient to get a look at the gardens. They were pretty impressive especially when you consider the work that must be involved in setting them up.

In addition to the garden displays there were numerous stalls of people selling everything you could imagine. There were gardening implement, bedding, art, clothing,  stuff. Lots of stuff.

Inside the main pavilion there must have been over a hundred different flower displays. It was too much to absorb.

We spent most of the day there, though there was just enough time for a short foray to the bookshop I spotted yesterday.

Then back to the apartment for an early night. This being a tourist is exhausting.

Categories: Blog Entry

UK TRIP – DAY 3 OR 4

May 25, 2018 2 comments

Is it day 3 or 4? I’m not sure, what with flying overnight, and going back in time, I don’t know exactly where we are day wise. Anyway the flight was, as expected, crap. I hate flying overnight, and the flight was full. Though that doesn’t excuse mum from throwing her orange juice all over the man sitting next to her. And this was at the beginning of the flight, not the end. Lucky he was wearing shorts rather than trousers.

So we are in London. I love, love love it. The people are so polite. We got the train into London, and then the underground to Oxford Circus, and this young man insisted on carrying our bags down the stairs. How nice is that. Then, we had hit morning peak hour. The trains were crammed to the rafters, but there was one every minute. There was no pushing and shoving, everyone just waited their turn. In Sydney people would have been pushing each other onto the tracks and giving us dirty looks because of our bags.

 

I tried to take a photo of mum outside the pub just across the road from our apartment but the phone went flat at the critical moment. She was pretty excited about that, and that was before she found out there was another one half a block away on the other side of our building. Of course she might not be so excited if they are noisy at night, though on second thoughts she probably wont be able to hear if they are.

MUNDY FAMILY CONNECTION?

Next to the pub is, possibly, a Mundy family connection, though there may be more than one lot of Mundy’s over here.

I had a nap for about an hour and then went and posted Fiona’s parcel. The postman said it would be received before 1 tomorrow. Mum was still asleep when I got back from the post office so I trotted off to the Petrie Museum, which is only about a 12 minute walk. I won’t bore you with the Egyptology stuff, but I will just leave you with this picture of a rather awesome bookshop I happened to spot on the way to the Petrie.

Now THAT is a bookshop.

Mum would have said hi, but she’s napping.

Word count on Regency novel hasn’t moved. I was tired damn it.

Categories: Blog Entry

UK TRIP – DAY 2

May 23, 2018 Leave a comment

View from the Langham Hotel courtyard room

 

There is a saying about mad dogs and Englishmen. We need to add elderly Australian women to that list. (Obviously I am not referring to me.)

So, if you are stuck in Hong Kong for 1 day in between flights what do you do?

Option 1. Relax in the hotel, wander down and have afternoon tea served off Wedgewood china in the Rococo foyer.

OR

Option 2. Take a three hour walk around the city in 30 degree temperatures and 100% humidity.

Needless to say I did not get afternoon tea.

The Langham hotel is quite nice, and they offer a half day fare which extends checkout from noon to 6pm, which will be handy since our flight to London leaves at 12.55am. I still think the 6pm checkout isn’t actually a half day, it’s only a quarter, but no point in quibbling.

None of the shops seem to open before 11am, which makes the walk around town a bit pointless if you go charging out of your room at 9am. Just saying.

We went to the Jade market, but I must confess I don’t understand Jade. There are thousands of pieces there that you could have for a few hundred dollars. On the way back to the hotel we passed jewellery shop that had some jade pieces in the window. One of the pieces was a jade bangle, which was priced at 2.9 million Hong Kong dollars, and it didn’t look any different to the ones in the Jade market. Maybe it’s like diamonds with different grades. I should google that.

I had a little panic attach earlier. I had an awful thought that I had got the am/pm mixed up on the flight to London, and since I had that thought at 2pm, we would have been well and truely screwed if that was the case. Fortunately it was a false alarm. What a Wally. I have only checked those flights about 50 times. Talk again tomorrow.

Mum says hi.

Word count on Regency Novel 7865.

Categories: Blog Entry

UK TRIP – DAY 1

May 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Hello family. I have a warning. Automation may result in the end of mankind. We were waiting at the airport, and I was people watching, as you do, and my gaze wandered over to the marvel that is the MacDonald semi automated restaurant.

First the customer orders their meal using a screen, with an option to pay electronically, no human interaction required by the MacDonald staff. The order is transmitted electronically upstairs where they have the burger making area serviced by a conveyor track that runs up the wall to this kitchen area. The staff up there bag up the meals then clip them to the track and the food trundles back down the wall. It’s collected by the staff at the bottom and they hand it over to the customer.

If the customer orders a drink, a cup is automatically dispensed in another machine which moves a conveyer to the correct beverage slot and the cup is filled.

The only thing the staff has to do is pick up the bag of food from the food conveyor, pick up the beverage from the drinks conveyor and yell out the number matching food to customer. It was like watching a zombie movie or something with Boris Karloff featuring mummies. They actually shuffled. I have never seen such demoralised staff anywhere. Not only that, it seems because everything else is automated, they are incapable of independent thought or possibly they have simply lost the will to live. I saw one of them pick up a drink and put it down near the food area, but the rest of the order was’t ready, so she wandered away. The food came, someone else picked it up and handed it to the customer but without the drink. Said customer then stood there, trying to get one of the four staff’s attention, but they all managed to keep their backs to the customer while staring vacantly around waiting for one of their automated conveyors spring to life.

I like tech more than most, but in this instance, perhaps the Luddites had the right idea.

Mum says hi.

Word count on Regency Novel 6905.

Categories: Blog Entry

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge Again – Banjo and the Wormhole

October 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Chuck Wendig has issued another flash fiction challenge. The deal is, week one you make up a title. Week two you pick someone else’s title and write a story. I selected the title ‘Banjo and the Wormhole’ submitted by writerchick, ie: Anita Rodgers.

This title stuck in my head, especially since I had been watched a program about Banjo Paterson’s birthplace. A few ideas flitted through my head but I couldn’t bring myself to mess with an icon of Australian poetry, though I did find the idea of the swagman jumping in the billabong actually jumping into a wormhole appealing. Maybe next time.

Banjo ran. He charged down the tunnel looking for the side corridor Sanjay had assured him was there, just a quick ten or fifteen minutes away from where this tunnel split off from the main corridor. He forgot to mention those minutes had to be spent running at full tilt, careening madly around corners, sliding down or scrambling up the undulating tunnel, desperate to stay ahead of a giant worm sliding down the tunnel behind you.

It wasn’t the worm’s fault. It probably wouldn’t even notice him as he was crushed against the tunnel wall as it galumphed by. The indemnity clause would definitely have to be rewritten. When Banjo had signed up to beta test his company Timex’s new Travel the Universe package, which involved jumping from planet to planet through inter-dimensional vortexes and space and time spanning worm holes, there hadn’t been any mention of actual worms.

Sliding down yet another nearly vertical decline, Banjo spied a break in the wall just ahead of him. He put on a last desperate burst of speed, bounced off the wall opposite the corridor and launched himself inside just as the worm dogging his heels slid by. This was definitely going to be rated as requiring a five star fitness level, certification required.

He lay on his back, panting, waiting for the blood to stop thundering through his veins as if it was trying to escape. Once he could breath normally he sighed, sat up and retrieved his pack where it had landed. After drinking the last of his water, he pulled out the data pad containing his itinerary. Damn, it said don’t drink all of your water. He quickly scanned through the rest of the instructions for the day. Not only was there no way to obtain any additional supplies, there were no comfort stations. He looked at the empty bottle and put it in his pack. Better keep it in case of emergencies.

He flicked back through the document until he reached a map. Apparently he was supposed to traverse through a maze of smaller tunnels that ran in roughly the same direction as the main corridor he had just left. It reached the same exit point only it took several hours longer. The up side was you were unlikely to end up as a smear on the wall.

After an hour of dead ends and backtracking Banjo realised two things, One, the map was crap. Two, he was hopelessly lost. Where was a panic button when you needed one? If his company wanted to include this side trip as an optional extra in their package, they were going to have to either map this maze properly or put in sign posts. Not that he could see the point. According to the outline Sanjay had given him, this mishmash of worm holes only lead to a third class agricultural planet a mere fifty years in the past. It wasn’t even interesting enough to be classified as a backwater. His accommodation for the stopover, should he ever get out of this maze, was a room in a boarding house. Not exactly the sort of thing the clients of Timex had come to expect. They typically wanted either seven star or the authentic native experience.

Deciding to ignore the map altogether, Banjo shoved it back into his pack. At each intersection he chose the path most travelled. Several hours later he was seriously contemplating both filling and then drinking from his water bottle. He was covered in grime, having fallen down a sink hole. The roof had also collapsed on him, not once but twice. As he turned what he thought was just another corner he found himself at his destination.

The small tunnel he was in terminated at a massive chamber, the roof invisible in the gloom. The walls appeared to be at least two football fields across and there was a constant stream of worms passing from one tunnel to another. Sanjay was reclining on a banana lounge in the centre of the room well clear of the worm flow. He had a cooler at his side and was reading something on his data pad.
Banjo marched over to him. ‘Bathroom?’
Sanjay waved at the wall where Banjo had come from without looking up from his book. ‘Two tunnels to the left.’

Banjo returned after taking care of business. He pushed Sanjay’s legs until there was room on the recliner, plopped down and opened the cooler. Pulling out a beer, he drank deep. ‘That map was crap.’
Sanjay grunted.
‘Seriously, you can’t expect clients to find there way through with something like that.’
Sanjay looked up from his book and frowned. ‘Actually, we weren’t expecting you to find your way out. We were planning on deploying our rescue response team. The auditors have been complaining the hasn’t been enough situational testing and I thought we could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.’
Banjo smirked. ‘Are you still sore about Alana? She was going to dump your sorry ass anyway.’
Sanjay sat up straight. ‘I told my mother about her.’
Banjo goggled at his frenemy. ‘She’s not the sort you take home to mother, unless your mother is an ex hippie or stripper or something.’
‘My mother is a very respectable mother, thank you very much.’
‘See, I did you a favour.’
Sanjay held out his hand. ‘Give me your data pad. I need to load the next itinerary.’
‘I thought I was staying in some craptastic boarding house for the night.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. That was booked when we didn’t expect you to make it out of the maze. No, you are going to Optima Beta Three, for the civil uprising. Should make for an interesting three days and two nights, breakfast and dinner included. The itinerary contains a list of all the highlights, culminating in the arrival of the patriot army who crush the rebellion in it’s meaty fist.’
‘Great. Do I get a vortex this time?’
Sanjay smiled. ‘Sorry, this is a space and time jump. You need a worm hole for that.’ He pointed at the far wall. Over there is the tunnel you need. It’s a high traffic tunnel, lots of worm activity, but there is no maze for this one. There are niches carved into the wall at intervals so you just need to pop into one and let the worms pass.’
‘And how far apart are these niches?’
‘It varies.’
‘Great.’ Banjo trudged over to his tunnel and watched for a few minutes, gauging the traffic flow. He looked over his shoulder, but Sanjay had gone.
‘Oh well, here goes nothing.’ Banjo ran.

Categories: Blog Entry

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge – A Space Opera

September 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Chuck Wendig has issued a Flash Fiction Challenge, and I thought I would give it a go. As he often points out on his blog, practice, practice, practice.

Zero lay on his back in the airshaft, trying to keep his breathing slow and deep. Digging that microchip out had hurt more than he’d expected, but not half as much as inserting the replacement. The pain and lack of air was making him light headed. They had turned off the fans hours ago to force him out and the air was getting stale. And it wasn’t as if he could crack a window; they were in short supply on galactic battle cruisers. He was beginning to think cutting off internal sensors might have been a mistake. Sure, they couldn’t track him, but he’d never subscribed to the death before dishonour crap. He was more a live to fight another day, kind of guy.

His closed his eyes and mentally checked his link to the mainframe. Yep, it was still up and so was the hidden subroutine he had started once he realised he had missed his rendezvous. Plan B had never been attractive and he wanted to reassess the potential downside again before committing.

‘Computer, do you have the results of subroutine beta three?’
The computer pinged an affirmative.
‘Well what are they?’ he asked. The damned computer always got difficult if he didn’t use her proper designation.
A female voice purred in his ear, despite his request for a neutral gender. ’30 percent chance of success. Possibility of death 18 percent. Possibility of injury and recapture 47 percent. Unknown outcome 5 percent.’
Shit, it wasn’t the 47 percent that bothered him, or even the 18 percent, it was that pesky 5 percent. For some reason he always ended up in the 5 percent.

Screw it. For a 30 percent chance of getting off this gilded prison barge he would risk it. He rolled over onto hands and knees and began crawling as quietly as possible through the network of air ducts. If he ever got back onto his own ship he was having that baby overhauled so there were no vents bigger than a hand span. The last thing he wanted was people roaming about his ship undetected.

He tapped back into the mainframe and hacked into the video feeds in the main dock. He knew they had suspended all regular outgoing ships but they couldn’t stop the diplomatic delegations from departing. There couldn’t be a hint from the Council he had escaped their control.

Three ships were waiting to depart. The ship from the Brennan franchise was out. They were carbon monoxide breathers. He would be dead before they uncoupled the clamps. The second ship was too obvious as it was heading for the Free Trading quadrant. Zero frowned and refocused the video feed onto the third ship. If he remembered correctly there had been an alliance from the Outer Rim. None of the members were rich enough to support their own fleet so they were travelling in a third party vessel. He didn’t know the markings, but the delegates had been air breathers so it should be safe enough. All he had to do was get aboard.

He felt a subtle vibration and a soft breeze which told him the virus he had installed had finally broken through their firewalls and the air was back on. Thank whatever deity was watching because if it had taken much longer he wouldn’t had had to bother with finding a way off this crate. They would have found him then, eventually. He remembered one time a sand crawler had slipped into his ship undetected and died in one of the hidden storage cubes. The smell had lingered for weeks.

Two hours later he had crawled his way to the air ducts above the slave quarters. Practically the only change the Empress had implemented since her ascending to her father’s throne had been outlawing slavery. Zero was convinced it had been a financial rather than humanitarian decision. Apparently it was expensive housing all of those extra bodies.

There was no video into the private quarters, so he had to listen at each room until he found one that seemed to have only one occupant. He waited another few minutes before cracking the vent and peered inside. A female. That was no good. He continued on. At the third attempt he spotted a male about his size. He scooted around until his feet were pointing at the vent, gave it a good kick and jumped into the room before the vent casing had hit the floor. The slave shrieked and leapt across the small room for the door. Before he could make it, Zero had him by the back of his tunic.

‘Calm down.’
The man struggled for a moment but as he twisted he caught sight of Zero’s uniform and slumped in his hold, whimpering. Zero let him go and he fell to his knees, then prostrated himself.
Zero tisked. ‘All right, that’s enough. Get up.’
The man peered fearfully at Zero from his prostrate position but didn’t move.
This got old so fast. ‘Where are your clothes?’
The slave pointed a trembling finger at a bag sitting beside the bunk.
Zero picked it up, opened it and rummaged through the contents. ‘Is this all you have?’
‘Yes Lord, Her Imperial Highness, Greatest of all Empresses issues each of her loyal servants with an extra outfit.’
Zero shook out the cheap pants and shirt. ‘Oh well, it will have to do.’
‘It is all I have,’ murmured the prostrate man.
‘Yes, well I guess I only need one outfit.’ Zero quickly stripped out of his uniform and donned the clothes. ‘Do you have shoes?’
‘Just the pair I am wearing.’
Zero wrinkled his nose at the idea of wearing someone else’s shoes. Oh well, needs must. He had already modified the manifest to the Outer Rim alliance’s ship so he had to look the part.

Zero shuffled forward until he was in the middle of the pack of ex slaves queuing up to board their ship. He tried not to think about the possibility the chip he had so painstakingly inserted was faulty as he held out his arm to be scanned. The wand beeped and he was waved on board. Keeping his gaze down as befitting an ex slave, he followed the woman in front of him. After he felt the clamps release, signifying they had left the docking bay Zero could hardly contain his glee as he queued up with the rest of the slaves waiting for room assignments. They were each offered a datapad and shown where to place their thumb print. When it was Zero’s turn he goggled at the screen proclaiming him the property of the ship and crew until his debt incurred for transport had been discharged. Seven years for a three week flight? Unbelievable. He looked around his new prison with dismay. Goodbye frying pan, hello fire.

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