01.12.2006 - 24.12.2006
Do you ever get the feeling that there might be a higher power trying to tell you something? It’s amazing how things occasionally turn out. Whether a twist of fate or irony, things sometimes just happen and it doesn’t always make much sense. Thus it was that I found myself in quiet reflection, pondering partly (a) what the heck the Russian beauty was doing in the men’s toilet, but mostly (b) how on Earth a non flyer, such as myself, had managed to end up at Bruxelles airport for the 5th time within 4 weeks. Whilst living in Sweden.
A Dodgy mobile phone picture of Bruxelles Grand Place in teh middle of one of it's nightly Christmas light shows
Gawd damned it. At this rate I’ll be reduced to issuing lawsuits for discrimination and mental anguish with all these attempts to get me to fly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly when trying to produce large series of maps from a database, the standard and availability of data is hugely important. But in any dataset you are supplied with, there is always extra information that needs weeding and quality control to be performed. Thus it was that after matching some stupid number of London buildings to their TOIDs, we had the fun of removing many hundreds of thousands of entries, first systematically, then logically, then by kicking the PC to see what corrupted, and finally, painstakingly, by hand. As an aside, we admit that we do sometimes make mistakes, but we employ the proofing techniques around, which is why it only took us a week or so before we realized that we had somehow managed to accidentally delete the Royal Albert Hall. But I digress. Apparently I need to digress three times during this entry to keep my blackmailer happy. Stoopid fr1ckin blackmail.
All of this is entirely irrelevant to travel, I freely admit, except in a vaguely abstract way, that if you get lost whilst trying to use one of them [disclaimer – It’s not my fault] we did our best. And also as vague background [read: filler] as a way of explaining why I ended up trawling around London in the pissing down rain on a grim Sunday afternoon getting the French Ambassador to open the door to me in his Pajamas.
The day had started badly enough. Whilst waiting for the train, I received the kind of call, I always wondered what would happen. Yup, it was the one phone call. From Paddington Green police station. *sigh* From what I can gather, Laj, a Hungarian friend recently moved to London, may have possibly been in a bar the previous evening – and previous afternoon, lunchtime and morning – talking to a Ukrainian girl. Two dodgy drunk Eastern European guys were sat at an adjacent table, and one seems to have made an unsavory comment about one of them, unaware that the girl spoke Ukrainian. She of course told Laj what they had said.
What happened next is unclear. Punches were probably thrown, but it seems at least as likely that Laj stood up, and the two idiots suddenly realized that they might be in a little bit of trouble. To be honest, anybody stupid enough to be making comments about anybody as utterly thug looking as Laj probably deserves all that’s coming to him, but for some reason this hadn’t occurred to the idiots. But such thoughts seem to have rapidly occurred when a somewhat drunk, 6ft 6 and 270odd pounds worth of angry skinhead Laj – and from their observations, it would be unlikely that they know that he is also a martial arts expert – stood up and headed in their direction.
Anyhow, bottom line is one of the guys falls over a table – he may or may not have had help, nobody really knows - cracks his head and more blood than is ideal in such situation pours out, thus Laj ends up spending an all expenses paid night in different location than he had previously expected. And thus four hours of a Sunday were spent trying to bail a hungover confused and slightly sheepish Hungarian. And that was digression number 2.
Where were we? Oh yes. Pyjamas. As part of our data quality control we had compared it to an older, different dataset and noticed some vague inconsistencies. The French embassy, for example, was listed in different locations, and independent cross checking suggested that the older data was correct, and we thus decided to investigate further. At a loss as to how to confirm the specific use of the building, it occurred to me that I had nothing to loose by ringing the doorbell and asking. Why the ambassador answered in person, and why he was wearing his pyjamas at 4pm will forever remain a mystery to most of us.
Heading off at a tangent as normal, It is with great sadness that I noted the passing of the truly amazing Turkmenbashi - Saparmyrat Nyýazow - the ruler of Turkmenistan. Not only was he idiosyncratic and individualistic in a way that few leaders these days are, but in possibly the most surreal day of my life so far, he also kind of offered me a job ( http://gelli.travellerspoint.com/co/113/ ) back in the spring. It was an offer that I never really confirmed just how serious it really was, and eventually had to turn down for an assortment of reasons, although it will always be one of the big ”…..what if’s…” in my life. At this point, no, I have not been contacted since the sad occurrence, but I have been thinking about it more and more and wondering what it would have been like in the circumstances. Being in such a position after the death of a leader, particularly such a one where there was nobody being groomed or an obvious successor (constitutionally, he was next in line, and the next person in line is in Prison), would almost certainly have been an amazing experience, although potentially also not the safest place to be…
Sometimes things just happen.
Anotehr phone pic, of the bottom end of Hamburg Radhusplatzm with the Christmas market going, on one of my regular passes through the city
Which also kind of explains why I ended up in Essen a couple of times. And why I was tasked with trying to find a submarine. Actually, no it doesn’t explain it. I’m not going to explain it, partly because I can’t and partly because it’s just daft. Anyhow, long and short of it is that I ended up trying to find a submarine. Approximately all we knew was that it wasn’t where it should be. There’s lots of really boring stuff in here, but suffice to say that it’s not as easy as it sounds, that is if it sounds easy. If it just sounds f*cking hard, then you’ve more or less got it. Even if we’d had some fantastically accurate data about where it was last known to be, it would still have be worse than looking for a needle in a haystack, or even submarine in an ocean… but as it is, we don’t even have that. Yes, it's all a kind of game. No. We haven’t found it, and I don’t actually think that we will, but all of my spare time is spent looking for the damned thing right now. I have this theory that it never existed in the first place [or it’s actually somewhere you wouldn’t think of looking, such as the West Edmonton Shopping Mall, or maybe Kansas] and this whole episode is just a front for something else completely. Nobody has yet told me that I’m mad – well, not mad in a different way to normal at any rate – and thus the hunt goes on. Expect this one to run and run. I wouldn’t like to bet if I’ll hear the end of Kiki or the submarine will finish first. Or, on current form, Kiki will be found on the submarine. Cripes.
And with that, it was back to Sweden in time for the Christmas party, a strangely relaxed affair of booze, food and some famous Swedish comedian guy who was occasionally reasonably funny. But for me, it’s just not Christmas until after I hear Slade ‘Merry Xmas everyone’ for the first time. It just isn't. In the UK, it’s played on every radio station about every 20mins from late November, possibly even by law. In Sweden, Mariah Carey and Wham are much bigger in the Christmas music stakes, and Slade never really hit Sweden. So, wonderfully, I got until 17.11 on Sun 24th December before I first heard it, and thus it was Xmas. The fact that Xmas in Scandinavia starts at 17.00 on the 24th is kind of irrelevant.
The Theatre in Kristianstad's Tivoli Park, Lit up at night (sorry, another dodgy mobile phone picture)
Christmas will be spent at my boss’s house in the country (where I am cat sitting for a couple of weeks – some of you will remember that I am allergic to cats, I know - whilst they are in California) and in the office, doing some bits and pieces when there isn’t any phones, emails or people around to distract me. And with that, all I have to do now is pray that in the next week or so I don\t manage to kill the cats, write off their car or burn the house own. And the worrying thing, I suppose, is that with my record, would anybody really be surprised if that happened?
That should keep you happy and from going through with your threat for a while, shouldn’t it. Please?
Have a great Christmas everyone.