Bellerophon symbol, variation 7
Sunday 2nd November 2003

Australia, Day 14

Nothing here yet? Amazing. Just found another receipt . . . hello? Yes. This is for somewhere called 'Ashoka' . . . wow . . . I like that . . . even as I write Ashoka and see the word Indooroopilly and the time . . . 19:22 it all starts to pour back. We walked back the long way that night, in the dark. It's only about a 10/15 walk back from Indooroopilly central back to Jerrang Street . . . and I believe we hadn't drunk all our beers that night, so they came back with us too. I stayed up for hours that night, writing up (backwards, naturally) the events on Friday night in as much detail as I could possibly remember. I don't have a decent map to hand, but I guess we walked back along a road that would have run close to Moggill Road but this turned into Kate Street and got a bit weird around here. It was dark and deadly quiet, it being Sunday night. In a distance, a car was screeching around corners and my over-active imagination was creating scenarios . . . a stolen car, full of drugged-up freaks, looking for some way of scraping together a few more dollars, so that they get a few more beers . . . maybe kidnap someone, take 'em to an ATM . . . blah, blah, blah. Anyway, having just spoken to Robert (as in now, not on November 2nd . . . although of course I would have spoken to Robert on this day) a few more details spring to mind . . . such as Rob wanting to get back fairly early that night so that he could spend some time with his uncle, Dave. This did happen, but it was more in the context of watching television together. Ah well . . . I think I went to bed, with pen, paper and a few beers, as mentioned before.

Great: I'm about to scan a little chunk of a map of Brisbane into my computer, but the scanner connects via USB and this Linux thing has this huge problem with USB. And so the mouse (also USB) has decided to stop working. I guess it saw what the scanner was doing and thought, "Yeah, man, I like your style. Not working, hmmmmm, that's the way forward." So I unplug the mouse, plug it back in and I get:

usb.c: USB device not accepting new address=x (error=-110)(where x increases by one upon each time)

And I despair . . . my god, how difficult is it? It's just a mouse . . . it's been working up until now so you clearly know how to interpret the electrical signals you receive from it . . . what the hell is the problem?

So from Station Road (Ashoka was actually more on Riverview Terrace (near the bottom (east) end of Station Road), but very close to Station Road) we wandered to up Station Road, along Finney Road and it got a bit at this point . . . Isles Road was when it got dark and ominously quiet, apart from that distant car . . . and, weirdly (I thought), was a mine belonging to the University of Queensland . . . and this road kind of bended, rose and dropped all over the place. Can a road drop? Or can you drop a road? Doesn't matter. Yeah, but anyway . . . why am I going on about our journey home so much? Is that interesting? Erm . . . so it was Kate Street that finally headed down-hill (seemed like downhill was long due for . . . just as I was beginning to think, "Is this right?") and then turned into Jerrang Street.

Dave and Gladys were watching some kind of historical drama . . . Gladys especially. I'm not sure where Rob's granny was.

The food. Hmmm? The food, at Ashoka? Oh, sorry, yes. It was an Indian restaurant, run by seemingly Indian-esque people, but with a gorgeous waitress to serve us. She would pop back every so often to bring us one of our beers that were being kept in their 'fridge. BYO, you see. I can't remember what we had . . . as usual, the food was exceptional, or near enough. I can't recall a single duff meal throughout our time there . . . well, except for that chicken sandwich I had at Indooroopilly Westfield Shoppingtown that time; it was exactly that: four triangles of chicken in buttered white bread. Most unimpressed. But the chicken was good and I suppose I was given exactly what I had asked for. I just assumed salad and non-white bread would come as standard. Oh well. But, yes . . . we had curry. What curry it was, I really couldn't say. I wonder what else happened today? Rob?

Ah . . . another receipt, from earlier on today. 18:21:50. And as this one was at the Indooroopilly Hotel Drive Thru, that must have been the drive through bottle shop where we got the beers for our meal at Ashoka. I see. Doesn't help with the rest of the day though.

Monday 3rd November 2003

Australia, Day 15

That picture of the bridge . . . I'm not sure who took it, but it's one of my favourites of the many pictures we took.

Not entirely sure what's going on here . . . this one's from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited. Today's date, 14:06 and then it says, 'Bathurst & Castlereagh' (the name of the branch?) and the amount $200 (roughly 85). Maybe I took this money out when I reached Sydney . . . not really sure. Need more information.

And this one doesn't have a time . . . but it was when we checked into the Grand Hotel, Hunter Street, Sydney. Perhaps this hotel was grand once, but now it was a bit kind of . . . run-down. New buildings had popped up around it and somewhere I have a picture Rob took from his window. This picture looks a bit like you're looking down some weird, dark corridor, but he was just pointing the camera downwards. So . . . yes. $462 for three nights accommodation, two single rooms, which seemed pretty good to us. Like I say, it wasn't amazing there, you didn't have your own shower or toilet, but these things were nearby. But there was some weird television . . . this channel that showed weird foreign films . . . Japanese, German, Russian, Asian . . . one in particular I remember . . . a young Japanese couple who gave this freaky hitchhiker a lift some place . . . but, erm . . . yeah, they somehow managed to lose him (they thought), but he found them at this diner, and then the girl disappears and the guy freaks out. And, erm . . . yeah. There was this scene where the hitchhiker was breaking the other guys fingers, saying, "Just tell me to kill your girlfriend, and I'll stop," but, of course, he wouldn't. The hitchhiker decapitated her in the end anyway, but the guy with the broken fingers didn't know that would happen, so erm . . . Yeah, it was a good film.


Tuesday 4th November 2003

Australia, Day 16

Till number 5. Docket number: 2010839. Angus & Robertson. Imperial Arcade 168 Pitt Street. Sydney. Sold by Maggie on 4/11/2003 at 4:37pm.

This one refers to two books Rob and I bought whilst there . . . some kind of special deal . . . two books for twenty dollars, so I bought 'The Remains of the Day' by Kazuo Ishiguro and Rob . . . a book, yes . . .

I wonder if it was today when Rob and I spent ages at that art gallery . . . hmmmmm. Anyway . . . more receipts . . . perhaps if I have enough receipts I can piece together everything that happened between such receipts . . . d'ya think? Yep. So . . . 15:55, somewhere called "Dirt Cheap CD's", Shop 1, 238-242 Pitt Street Plaza . . . and they even have a web-site - It was here that I bought a rather dodgy looking copy of The Beatles, 'The Magical Mystery Tour' . . . still haven't got round to watching this.


Wednesday 5th November 2003

Australia, Day 17

So this must have been at Winyard station . . . 72 Australian dollars (I paid for two 36 dollar tickets) at 10:42. This covered a return trip from Winyard to Katoomba and something else . . . some kind of red London bus (Routemaster?), does circuits around Katoomba and all the typical interesting tourist places . . . this ticket meant we could get on and off this bus as we pleased. I have a feeling Rob was a while at the post office (Pitt Street) this morning, as I tried to eat this crazily-packed sandwich that I had bought from this place in another of these food courts (this one almost opposite our hotel, Hunter Street) . . . a very, very nice sandwich, but difficult to eat . . . contained, as it did, ham, mayonnaisse, grated beetroot, grated carrot, some watercress-style stuff . . . maybe tomato, maybe cucumber, maybe some lettuce stuff . . . god, I don't know. Receipts, it's just receipts.

18:15 . . . Katoomba Book Exchange, 34 Katoomba Street . . . bought this cookery book for Rob (?!) and Whit for myself . . . started reading it . . . started reading many books. Checked my e-mail . . . nothing interesting.

And this one doesn't even have a signature . . . yeah, I remember that train back from Katoomba to Sydney and that girl testing her boyfriend, Anthony, for some exams (they can't have been older than 19) . . . god knows . . . I smelt history, geology, astronomoy, biology, chemistry, physics . . . loads of stuff, and this poor guy hardly knew anything . . . but this girl wouldn't shut up . . . relentless, and far too loud . . . they even started going on about isobars when the girl eavsdropped into Rob and I talking about the cafe we had just been to in Katoomba, Isobar. $24.10 well spent, on beer and nachos, as we waited around for this train we now found ourselves on. A joke I saw in the toilets at Isobar . . . no, not Isobar . . . somewhere else . . . a cafe along the main road, before the Three Sisters and all that . . .

A guy on this road-trip, yeah? He stops in at this cafe for a bite to eat. A break, if you will. Pops into the toilets, into one of the cubicles. Sits down, relaxes. Then he hears this voice, from the cubicle next door, "Say, where you're heading?" and the guy, a bit freaked, but thinking that p'raps this is how people behave 'round here, he replies, "Oh, you know, I'm just on this road trip . . . I'm travelling all over," so the other guy is like, "You here for long?" and so he replies, "Erm . . . what here? No . . . I'm just . . . you know . . . a little break before carrying on . . . got two hundred miles to do today yet," and so there's this pause . . . and then the guy who began the conversation goes, "Look, I gotta ring you back. Every time I try to speak, this freak in the cubicle next to mine answers. I'll catch you later."

At the time, it made me laugh.


Thursday 6th November 2003

Australia, Day 18

Gee, it's awful dark in here . . .

CIMG0657.jpg Our last day in Sydney . . . and the clouds had appeared. We had gorgeous weather the previous days here though. This receipt I'm looking at is from Sydney Tower. Oh yes, I remember. Twenty two dollars. Half past ten in the morning. The twenty two dollars covered going up Sydney Tower, having a wander around, as long there as you wanted and then there was some kind of audio-visual show downstairs, should you be interested. Yeah. So I just went up the tower. Rob waited around at the base of the tower, in the gallery area . . . or whatever it was called. The picture above is (obviously) from earlier this week.

Commonwealth Bank, EFTPOS, Indooroopilly Hotel, Drive Thru, QLD. I think it all means something. We have the name of the bank, EFTPOS is something to do with electronic point-of-sale . . . it just refers to the machine you swipe your credit card through, I guess . . . and the hotel bit? God knows . . . maybe it used to be a hotel, or maybe there is a hotel somewhere above this drive through 'bottle shop' (off license), but I can't recall. This was apparently at 21:40:02, and I see no reason to doubt that. It was a long journey back from Sydney, 'engineering problems' (whispered) having brought down our first plane (18:30?) . . . not literally, you understand.

"You guys here for the rugby then?"
I heard a voice, as I stood in the queue for our re-scheduled 19:45 plane. Rob heard it too, but neither of us reacted. Maybe it was just one of those voices . . . middle-aged, kind of tired and gentle sounding . . . inoccuous.
"Are you guys here for the rugby then?"
I turned around, trying to face where the words had come from . . . a man in a suit, I'd say about 58/59 years old, smiling slightly, waiting for an answer. I felt a bit uncomfortable that I had not responded to him the first time.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was . . . miles away, I didn't realise . . . no, erm . . . we're on holiday. We don't really follow sport all that much."

So we told him where we had been, and why we were heading for Brisbane, and I tried to prise out some conversation from him, but nothing much was forthcoming (he probably thought the same about us) . . . almost as if we were just trying to kill time until we could reach the check-in desks . . . and it worked . . . before we knew it, we were at the front of the queue.

So the bottle shop I referred to above, we did pop into on our taxi journey from Roma Street Transit Centre back to Dave & Gladys's place . . . Indooroopilly (love the word). I bought something like a six pack of Toohey's ('New'), a bottle of Duvel (yes, I know, European beer, imported, expensive, blah blah blah) and some kind of salami stick that looked a bit like a Peperoni (but tasted nothing like). All this came to $19.40.

I couldn't place it, but when we got in that taxi and the driver started talking I knew it wasn't an ordinary Australian accent . . . there was something English going on there. He was originally from Birkenhead, which was kinda weird (but then during the course of our holiday, most Australians we had spoken to had been able to drag out some tenuous connection with the UK), that being Rob's birthplace and all. So, yeah . . . they talked about Birkenhead and the driver knew bits of Sheffield. And then this joke . . . he started telling us this joke . . . we reached Jerrang Street and still the joke went on. I would re-tell it, but it wasn't really that funny. We kinda politely laughed nonetheless, Rob muttered something about, "and not at all predictable," and we hurried ourselves outta there.

DOMESTIC AIRP TO BNE SPECIAL2 . . . eh? What? Oh, I remember . . . yes . . . the backpackers coach. 20:32. $15 for two single tickets. We got back from Sydney, a hour or two later than expected and thought it reasonable to get the train back to Brisbane Central . . . maybe even Indooroopilly. Hurried to the bridge to the train just as the last train left . . . Thursday night and the last train from the domestic airport to Brisbane Central left at about 20:15 or thereabouts. So . . . we get these cheapo mini-bus back to Roma Street, full of . . . 'backpackers'. The driver drove like an absolute maniac but we only had one near-miss. At one point Robert remarked, "We should travel faster now," as two enormously, hideously obese gentleman squeezed themselves off the mini-bus on perhaps the second or third stop . . . it was many, many more stops before we finally reached the Transit Centre, as the driver called it. And it was then that we got the taxi with the guy from Birkenhead. During the mini-bus ride, we fly through the Valley, past a few vaguely remembered bars and pubs . . . their names will come back to me . . . just a moment . . .

11:48 . . . some kind of music shop . . . 'The Basement', maybe . . . discount CD's and DVD's . . . I'm getting . . . George Street . . . Syndey, of course . . . yes . . . and . . . you bought . . . True Stories, for $11.95 . . . god, that ain't much. $11.95, eh? Wow.


Friday 7th November 2003

Australia, Day 19

So this would be the day where Rob and his granny went . . . somewhere else . . . I can't recall. But I had things to do in and around Brisbane city centre, so I was on my own throughout most of today. I walked to the centre of Indooroopilly, wandered around the Westfield shopping centre for a while . . . this place still amazes me . . . yeah, okay, it's a foreign country and all, but shopping centres are shopping centres, surely? You would think. But, no, this place is different. Shopping centres don't smell like this in the UK. It's a sweet smell . . . caramel . . . kind of nutty . . . I don't know . . . it's gorgeous though. At 12:06 I completed a transaction at the post office there, posting a 1.162 kg cardboard tube back to the UK . . . this containing a map I had bought for Gav (centred almost at the international date line), a map for myself (upside down), a poster Rob had bought at that art gallery in Sydney, four magnetic soft-toy things (two koalas, two kangaroos, bought at Alice Springs in the first week), a bag of 'Clinkers' and the rest of the space stuffed with a T-shirt and bubble wrap. It cost me $25 to see this package safely home. So, erm . . . wandered around Westfield shopping centre for a bit, then made my way to the train station, going via this odd little cafe thing, for a cold drink. Ah yes, I remember many things now. I knew this would happen . . . it would all come flooding back . . . I recall the slices of garlic bread I was served in a bar/cafe roughly opposite Ric's Cafe Bar, and how one of these slices had a small depression in the surface of the bread that was nonetheless large enough to have gathered a puddle of garlicy oil. I recall searching around Fortitude Valley for an internet cafe, as my forms of communication with Rob and friends was restricted. No working mobile phone. I bartered with a guy running the only internet cafe around and managed to get a 15 minute slot for two dollars.

But I digress . . . I began this with a receipt. A receipt from Borders, the transaction having occurred at 15:17. The address . . . 162 Albert Street, Brisbane. I tried several book shops (and several Angus & Robertson (?!)), but I wasn't really sure what I was after . . . just a decent present for Dave and Gladys, and I thought something arty.

And the juice bars . . . so many juice bars . . . I popped into one (in so much as you can pop into a shop that opens out onto the pavement . . . no door), perhaps on Ann Street, and this beautiful ginger girl working there greeted me, "Hi there. How are you?" which always floors me, so I replied, "Yeah, I'm fine. How about you?" which they don't expect. She smiled, mouthed/said something (couldn't make it out) and seemingly gesticulated towards one of her co-workers who, when he was free, took my order. Damnit. I wanted to be served by her. But these juice things haven't really hit this country yet . . . perhaps the price/availability of fruit is the problem . . . but there's nothing quite like a pint of some freaky, chilled, fruit juice drink, containing ginger, beetroot, celery . . . maybe tomato as well. Gorgeous.

So I had to get the shop assistant on the information desk at Borders . . .

"His books are amazing, aren't they?"
"Yeah . . . erm . . . I've only read 'Stone', I think it was, but that was good."
"Oh, okay."

. . . to unwrap the shrink-wrap polythene on one of the copies of 'Time' as . . . well, it being that price, I wanted to have a good leaf through before . . . but it was all good.

Saturday 8th November 2003

Ah . . . what a confusion was today . . . time-zones, planes and airports. Rob got up at some crazily early time in order to go rowing along some nearby creek with his uncle, Dave. Rob thought they would be leaving the house at 6am, but failed to appreciate that Dave would be waking him up at 5am. I politely declined the offer. As it turned out, the creek they were heading for was pretty much bone dry, so they went rowing along Brisbane river instead. I got up some time between 8am and 9am . . . I'm not sure exactly, but does it matter? I had pretty much packed my bag last night, so it was just a matter of hanging around, waiting for everyone else to turn up. Today was our last day in Australia, so Dave and Gladys were preparing a huge breakfast.

Later . . . The plane left Brisbane airport at about 15:00 (local time), or 05:00 GMT. Brisbane is ten hours ahead of GMT, you see. About seven and a half hours later, and we landed at Singapore airport. I like Singapore airport - it just seems to go on forever. Does this airport have an end? It just seems like a infinite corridor of airport gates, and the usual plethora of airport shops (bookshops, cafes, god awful gift shops, strange water features, toilets, sleeping/waiting people, duty free stuff) . . . but also, free internet access, orchids everywhere and the duty free stuff is very cheap. Two one-litre bottles of Gordon gin, working out at about 7. So then there was a wait of about three . . . three and a half hours at Singapore airport, which pretty much flew by . . . a bit of duty free shopping (up to our limit - 600 cigarettes and three litres of spirits), a coffee, a quick e-mail check . . . and, yep, that was it. The next leg of the flight took about 14 hours, and meant crossing 8 hours worth of timezones, rather than the two we crossed going from Brisbane to Singapore. But, yeah . . . watching all those films, it never really seemed like 14 hours.

So I'm at Singapore airport and I have this receipt dated today at 21:52:40. Apparently I bought 200 Silk Cut (which M****** has since all consumed), 400 Marlboro Light (for Rob), a litre bottle of Absolut (please don't tell me this is now empty), and two bottles (one litre) of gin. This came to SG$102.80, or nearly 103 Singaporean dollars, which worked out at exactly 36.42. The vodka was 7.37, the gin 11.51, the Silk Cut 6.77 and the Marbolo Lights 10.77. Bargain- tastic. There should also be a receipt for the coffee we had somewhere . . . erm . . .

Sunday 9th November 2003

20-30 minutes of sleep. Catch the 07:05 from Manchester Airport to Leeds . . . direct. Taxi from the station to M******'s place. Babble incessantly for a few hours. Coffee. Babble some more. Get out of the taxi. Pay the driver. Note the buildings, the air. What is this place? Knock on M******'s door. Start reading a book on the train. Get bored after a page or two. Start another book. Unpack bag. Go home. Carousel number 3. Checkout number 4. Gate number 51. Flight number 244. Get out some paper . . . pen . . . ticket from Manchester. Put book back. Seal bag. Head for the 'Food Counter', remembering the table number. Walk alongside Rob, who himself is marching on the 'assisted walkway' . . . speculate about the difference in blue light used in this long corrider (connecting the airport with the train station) and that which we saw in a Leeds coach station toilet. Wait for an answer. Clean teeth again. Go back to bed.

Monday 10th November 2003

My plan to get over the jet-lag pretty much worked (this involved not sleeping throughout the 21 hour flight and all of Sunday), and I felt largely okay at work today. When I reached the security barrier at work, which requires either a proximity card or else a brief exchange with some security guy over the intercom (in the case of temporary employees), I discovered there was some new guy on security, who had never heard of me, and was a bit suspicious of my weird looking identity card (this bearing the old company logo and actually being a magnetic swipe card (and therefore of no functional use in the new building)), so (and perfectly reasonably) asked that I sign in (or whatever) at the reception desk. So this I did, and as I was there, showing my identity card to the security guard, I saw Steve go through the security gate. We greeted each other and blah, blah, blah, and then Steve said, "So what are you doing?" and, in Steve's eyes, I was just standing there, holding my identity card aloft to the security guard, who had long since acknowledged and let me through. But, you know, I was talking to Steve and . . . well, just didn't realise. Steve put it down to jet-lag. Yeah . . . I like that, "Sorry I butchered your wife and children - I was jet-lagged, you see."

Yeah, so . . . got to work fairly early (well, for me anyway) and left late. In the evening, hopefully almost over the jet-lag, I found myself asleep on M******'s living room floor . . . apparently I was out for about half an hour, as M****** and Liz laughed at my sleeping form.

Tuesday 11th November 2003

So this would have been Tuesday . . . just another busy day at work, largely. Still trying to catch up from the previous three weeks. I think I was at work from about half past nine (it would have been earlier, only I was trying to attached some frigging mudguards, which ordinarily wouldn't be a problem, and certainly wasn't for the front one (no problems there), but the rear mudguard was seriously lacking some important bolts and lug-holes (?!), which apparently was my bicycle's fault - it should have had these bolts there already) until nearly six in the evening . . . which isn't that long, really . . . but it felt it.

Once again, I found myself drifting asleep in the evening, this time as M****** was explaining some god-awful physcho-therapy book (if you really must know - 'What Do You Say After You Say Hello?' by Eric Berne). This book was god-awful as (citing one example) the author took pains to explain the greatest type of smile (a Fijian one), but then, via a footnote, proclaimed something along the lines of 'Oddly, I've often seen this type of smile in brown haired women in their late twenties.' What?!

The image to the right? Oh, okay then. Well, this being November 11th and all, I thought I would present a lovely picture of a poppy. I think the woman's name is Poppy.

Wednesday 12th November 2003

So this is Wednesday then . . . okay. So, anyway, the plane landed at about 06:10 Sunday morning, but as I intend to complete my web-log for the Australia holiday retrospectively, then this will appear in a previous entry somewhere.

And I find that someone (plural) has actually been reading my web-log throughout the three weeks that I was away. Incredible. Well, you know . . . I guess you just don't know when I'm gonna add something, waiting on my every word as I'm sure some freaks out there do.

So it's about quarter to six in the morning right now. I was listening to 'Seeing other people' by Belle & Sebastian, which kind of got me in a November mood (memories of '97), but this has been replaced with Beck now . . . hmmmm. Ah, that's better - Aphex Twin. Anyway . . . where was I? Was I anywhere? Yes . . . so I'm back now, and trying to get all these things done that could have been done during the three weeks I was away but, due to financial concerns, just never were. So what does that mean? Well, it means I've finally got round to ordering the Lego Mindstorms Robotic Inventions System 2.0 thing (pictured above). I found the cheapest place was direct from Lego - And I think I should also order Tom Bearden's 'Energy From the Vacuum', which I've been putting off for similar reasons. Besides, US$85 only works out at about 51 right now . . . oh, okay, 52.24 then. Right, so that's that ordered . . . okey-dokey . . . so let's go back a bit then . . .

Thursday 13th November 2003

Updated the entry for September 22nd 2003.

Saturday 15th November 2003

So this would have been the night when we went to Rachel's (and Mark's) party. James (far right . . . in the picture, not politically or whatever) took this picture. From left to right . . . although the middle person should be the only person not obvious at this point . . . that's Anna. I'll always remember this night as the night when Rich (Anna's boyfriend) kind of muttered something to me. I didn't hear what Rich said, so I was like, "What?!" and then Rich immediately said, "It's French, you ignoramus." Further enquiries as to what it was that Rich said in French proved futile. What a strange night . . . we were kind of rattling around a bit in Mark's huge house, the second floor of which Rachel admitted she hardly ever visits . . . there is no need. Everything she needs in on the ground or first floor. Crazy.

Tuesday 18th November 2003

The robot's have finally arrived (see the entry for 12 November). Now I just need 6 AA batteries. And also I had port 22 open for a few hours last night, allowing Robert to send across the pictures from our holiday in Australia. I have the pictures, I have the receipts . . . oh, and the memories . . . now I just need the time to write it all up.

Saturday 22nd November 2003

Her bones through my fingers they slipped.

Monday 24th November 2003

Just going through all the receipts, trying to make sense of the last few weeks. Might be back here later.

Tuesday 25th November 2003

The pains I must go through just to install the RCX software. Computer is behaving very, very oddly at the moment and I have no idea why. Last boot-up took about ten minutes, as the computer almost gave up starting sendmail. The hard drive just went dead for ages. The process (sendmail) was eventually completed and everything carried on regardless. Why oh why oh why oh why?

I'm sure I have the wrong date down there, with the receipts . . . I'm sure that was Sunday.

Wednesday 26th November 2003

I have absolutely no idea. Yes, I'm aware of the damaged cable off the French coast -, which explains some of the problems I've been having recently, but not all of 'em.

Still don't really know what's going on, but the web-server seems to be working now. Some time last night, I noticed that the web-server wasn't responding. A bit of digging around and it transpires that it was responding, but there was a problem with the bit in the script where the Unix function 'cal' is executed. For some reason unknown to myself, cal has just gone from that machine. Weird, eh? I only worked this out tonight. I've since re-installed 'cal' and changed the script as it also seemed to have a permission problem piping the output of cal to a temporary file. I've since changed the script to use backticks, storing the output in a variable. But what happened? Admittedly, I did turn the power on and off a few times to that machine, in an attempt to get it re-booted, and maybe it was then that the hard-drive got slightly corrupted . . . I guess. I don't know. Anyway, I got a puncture to fix . . . and loads of stuff. What?! And now I can't even save my web-log . . . eh?! Grrrrrr . . . permissions.

Sunday 30th November 2003

So there we are, driving west along the M25, heading for junction . . . 21 and the intersection with the M1, whereby we head for the ominously named place, 'The North'. Not just 'North' but 'The North'. As soon as we get to the M1, the plan is to head for the next service station, as M****** hasn't had any breakfast and, well, we were all a bit hungry by that point. This must have been an hour into the journey, when we came off the M1 . . . perhaps about 14:15.

And then . . . erm . . . yeah. So there's a Little Chef here, right next door to Burger King. And then, we also have a small (food and drink only) Marks and Spencers and - what's this? - Upper Crust. Lots of choice. And there's even a guy from the RAC, hanging around the entrance foyer, trying to sell car insurance, I guess. This guy probably ain't doing too well, though, as . . . well, there's me, probably still with the car keys in hand and he completely ignores me but, oh look, ahhhhh . . . pretty lay-deeeeez . . . "Excuse madam, can I interest you in . . . " but you got the wrong one . . . "No, I'm sorry, I don't drive," smile and walk on. Need food. So, anyway . . . we decide to go to Little Chef, M****** and I fancying some kind of burger. Anna pops into Marks and Spencers and gets some kind of wrap and comes back to our table. We order a coffee, a pot of tea and a glass of Diet Coke shortly after sitting down. No problems so far. Couple of minutes later, another lady takes our order.

"I'll have the . . . er . . . 'classic burger' please?"
"And, erm, does that come with chips?"
"Yes, they come with chips." (Mel)
"Oh . . ," looking at the menu, "No, it says wedges, chips or . . . "
waitress mumbles . . .
"Yeah, I'll have the chips please. Can I have that with chips?"
waitress nods and scribbles something in her pad . . .
"And I'll have the 'Seventh Heaven Burger', please."
"Thank you."

So . . . 14:20, and our food is ordered, so we wait . . . and wait . . . our drinks soon empty . . . someone finds a Daily Mail (there's a stack of 'em by the entrance). Flick through the vile sensationalism. "Yardies convert paint guns to use REAL BULLETS!" "Refugees sell their EYES AND KIDNEYS!" blah blah blah. Watch people leave who've waited (Mel says) fifteen minutes for food. Twenty minutes. Twenty-five minutes. Watch people complain. Watch miscellaneous serious health and safety violations being breached. Wonder about bringing in a secret camera to film teenage boy (wearing tracksuit bottoms, hooded top, trainers, carrying large cardboard box) walking through main customer seating area, through kitchen, around kitchen (all the time with box), and then out the back door. And wonder to yourselves, "Why so many staff and so little service?" as a large group of customers bring food production to a standstill, probably having waited so long for so little . . . and at so much expense. What am I paying? 6.99 for a burger? They complained (I'm assuming), some food arrived and the chef just kind of stopped . . . weird. Forty minutes passes. Start to feel slightly light headed. I stand up, put my coat on and . . . well, everyone else is in agreement - it's not worth waiting over forty minutes for two over-priced Little Chef burgers. So there I am, stood up, wearing my coat, looking around and this Little Chef employee comes up to me, meekly, with a plate of food, and asks, "Did someone order a cheese burger?" Poor guy. I felt sorry for him. There is a 'cheese burger' on the menu, but that's nothing we ordered. I can imagine someone getting very irate at this point. But I tell him, "No. Look, erm . . . can I just cancel the order? I'll just pay for the drinks and leave," and this guy just kind of says to the floor, "Okay," and slopes off. The girl who serves us at the till (who has no idea what our order was . . . the drinks we ordered) offers to fetch the manager, but none of us can be bothered with that. Pay and get the hell out of there.

Get some food from Marks and Spencer's, get distracted by this Cockney guy selling these hand-held PlayStation-style games controllers, that plug straight into a television, and have sixty-odd vintage arcade and home computer type games built into them . . . wow . . . and only twenty pounds . . . M****** drags me back to the car, just as I was getting into '1942' (I think it was called that)