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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 29 Sep 2006

Location: Southampton, UK

MapSince Oktoberfest…

I guess the main thing is that I now have a job, and after four painful years at RIMT, three years ‘gaining experience and six months of backpacking half way around the world, I have finally landed an aero engineering job. Yawn…

The first week started out as all first weeks do:

Step One…
Induced hear, induced there, induced everywhere.

Step Two…
Okay, done with that already? Damn. Well, we hired you, we just haven’t figured out what we’re gonna with you yet. Play round on the computer for a bit and familiarise your self with it. Yeah no worries, what else can you suggest to fill in the massive expanse they call ‘time’ between now and knock-off? Trust me, I’ve seen a computer, and if you’re not gonna give me net access (someone must have warned them ahead of time…) then I ain’t gonna pretend to be ‘familiarising’ myself.

Step Three…
Your first task. And you know it is just something that the guy who has been put in charge of you has had on his desk for a while, either because it doesn’t really need to be done, or he can’t really be f--ked doing it himself.

Now you reach the cross-roads….

Choice A
Complete the task really quickly, look efficient, smart and all of that shit

Or

Choice B
Take your sweet ass time, because you can tell the boss is gonna get less work done, and take longer to give you something meaningful if you’re over his shoulder every five minutes asking for something else to keep you busy…

And besides, the IT department has finally connected your email. Why it ain’t the net, you once again have contact with the outside world.

Of course, like any first week on any office job I have had, I chose B. Besides, in the condition I was in after the most gruelling drinking weekend of my life, my liver was crying out for me to stay put, and not get out of my chair for as long as possible.

Eventually the work started coming to me, slowly at first, and still pretty slow – the manager described the current situation as being in a holding pattern, and my own personal feeling is that the minute the holding pattern is over, I won’t be leaving my seat for a long time. It seems like there is plenty of work just around the corner.

Travelling

Well, one of the big things about the job is the travelling that I am doing to get there. Taking one look at the Isle of Wight, and listening to a few people, I figured that I’d start aging prematurely living there, and perhaps take up lawn bowls and bingo (no offence Biggie) the life style seems so slow. However, living on Southampton takes so long to get to work that I can’t be f--ked socialising after work anyway. Of course, with the bike getting stolen whilst I was in Germany, I have had to result to catching busses. I am not a PT kinda person, and this is killing me. I have managed to tweak the travel, but it still takes the best part of forever to get to work. I’m on the 630am bus, a 7am ferry, and then an 807am bus to work, assuming that the ferry gets there on time. I have switched to taking the car ferry that takes ’55 minutes’ (my ass) to get to the island instead of the Red Jet that takes just 23 minutes. This is for a couple reasons.

Firstly, if I had a bike I could take it on the slow ferry, but not the quick one… but I guess that doesn’t matter right now does it?

Secondly, the slow ferry docks in East Cowes, and the Red Jet docks in Cowes (on the west side of the river). If I get the quick ferry, I can’t make it across the river in time to get the bus to work. In that case I have to walk all the way up there, 45 minutes from the point I get off the fast ferry.

If I catch the slow ferry it ‘should’ take just ’55 minutes’ and have me at the bus stop at 755am. Well, I have missed the 8:07am bus once in the last week, and haven’t arrived at the stop before 8am once yet.

So, assuming I do get that bus, my journey starts at 630am, and I get to my desk around 820am, but thankfully have an hour to kill on the boat, so have decided to learn how to read. Sorry, learn how to enjoy reading. This week I have so far polished off 360 pages of a Ben Mezrich book, Bringing Down The House, about the MIT blackjack team (truly inspiring stuff given the destination of my New Year’s Eve celebrations) and just finished another Mezrich book Ugly Americans, about the American and English cowboys riding the Asian money markets in the 1990’s, on the train ride to London tonight. As well as the long boat ride to work (and short one home, where I take the fast ferry) I have all the time in the world on train rides into and out of London when I make these trips.

Added to the ‘self-time’ I have on the boat, they also do a mean looking breakfast that I haven’t hooked into yet, but that is just a matter of time, and a hang-over requiring a greasy breakfast away.

If I had my bike, I’d save 15 minutes in the morning riding to the ferry instead of bussing it. Then I’d not have the problem of missing the bus on the other end either, with a steep 15 minute ride to work. On the way back it’d be even easier, maybe 5 minutes down hill to the ferry, and another 15 minutes to get home from the Southampton terminal. I’d also be able to coincide my work hours with the ferry much easier too, whereas no I have to finish near when the bus comes past, which of course is never synced with the ferry.

So did I make the right choice by not living on the island? Time will tell I guess.


Insurance

Well, my travel insurance has finally come in handy, with the company forking out for a blood transfusion last week, to get rid of the alcohol, and also a liver transplant. Having been on dialysis for the best part of a week now, I am feeling much better, and thankful that I got my travel insurance.

Having said that, they appear to be stinging (or at least being a pain n the ass) with my Spanish claim, and of course in reading the fine print on the Insurance form, I find that any damage or theft to a bicycle is not covered. That was the biggest waste of £190, or nearly $500 bucks ever – and trusted me I have wasted some good money in my time… often on good times though ;-) Ahhh, Thank F*ck It’s Summer Party 2006! Trust me I would have rather spend the money that way than buy a bike, ride it twice and have it knocked off inside 4 days.


Last Weekend

Last weekend was predictably quiet, but I tried to get something going. I headed into town, and on a beautiful Saturday, the place was crawling with people. Everywhere, it might have well been Burke Street Mall, actually, it is kinda similar – there’s a HMV, and probably more people in a narrower space… no my idea of fun. But I needed stuff - when you’ve been backpacking for 6 months, and move into a house that seems as sterile as a hospital, all you ever need is stuff. I didn’t know what I needed, but I needed it. I ended up with socks and jocks (key elements) an umbrella (more key than socks and jocks over here as I discovered this week), a casserole dish (I can cook ma, as long as there’s directions on the packet!), a set of bowls and plates for four people (okay, I ain’t planning a dinner party, why did I buy a set of four?), a clothes drying horse (pretty obvious) and a chalk board.

Chalk board? Well, as I mentioned, the 9 bedroom house, ain’t a home yet. At this stage there are three people living here, me, a bloke electrical engineer who is studying to be a chartered accountant, and bloke that works at HSBC. A woman moved in a week or so back, who works for public transport planning, but has been on holidays for the last 10 days or so. Two more guys move in this weekend, and an airline hostess mid October, leaving two rooms still up for grabs. The chalk board is basically to organise something to do. We all went out to the pub (3 of us) the first night I got here, and since then I haven’t seen the other two guys in the same place at the same time. So whilst the body (liver) was happy to have a quiet weekend, I’m keen to get pout and sample the Southampton night life, and given these guys have been here much longer than me, they gotta have a better idea where to go. But no, they didn’t seem to do much last weekend either. So next Thursday (with 6 people in the house) is officially pub night… the chalk board says so.


Jay-Z – Wednesday Night
I bought a ticket to the Jay-Z concert at Royal Albert Hall a few weeks back, after the concert at Wembley sold out. I was pissed, as I was never a huge Jay-Z fan, but after he retired, and has since ‘done a Jordan, and come back wearing the 45’ I was keen to see him. If he’d come out to Australia sooner I would have gone for sure, but he never came. Anyway, the ticket rocked up on Monday to the place I was crashing at before I moved to Southampton, and the concert was Wednesday. I made my mind up and left work at 330pm. I was on the fast ferry at 430pm, and the train to London at 530pm. It was due to arrive at 645pm, but a broken train somewhere caused havoc, and it rocked up after 7pm. The broken train was also causing havoc on the Northern line, so rather than wait 15 minutes for a train to pick up the tickets, I decided to bus it, and the traffic was horrid. I eventually got my hands on the tickets at 8pm, with the doors opening at 730pm… ahhh. I was literally running from bus to bus to train etc. Finally I got to Kensington High Street, and walked, jog and ran the rest of the way to Royal Albert Hall. The sounds of scalpers offering to buy spare tickets was ringing like a symphony in my ears – the show hadn’t started; scalpers aren’t going to buy up spares once the show had started. It was now 840pm, and I had finally made it to the Hall.

Now, if you have ever been to a concert with me, or seen me go through the concert process, you will know that I am damn picky about my seats, and generally speaking, get pretty good seats, or hard to get GA tickets if that’s what I am going for. The joys of net access at work and internet pre-sale tickets. Instead, with this concert, I knew I was on second tier, which in UK terms means third floor up, and was worried as to the quality of the tickets. Especially as they cost me £60. Well RAH has the possibly the best seating every. I was on the second tier, which was nothing but ‘royal boxes’ each seating 5. By the time the show started, at 940pm, the seats were all stacked at the back, and the five of us, plus 4 other ‘mates’ of one of the other ticket holders, were dancing the show away.

The show itself was incredible, lasting 100 minutes, and was non-stop the whole way. The show started with a symphony from the30 odd person orchestra, which broke into the opening song ‘What More Can I Say?’ from his ”retirement” album The Black Album. Note, this is the track that Russell Crowe appears on (with a clip from the movie The Gladiator)

What More Can I Say?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vIUajrpSBA

Dirt Off Your Shoulders
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y52N9LrNYTY

Change CLothes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg6Ydk8zdl8


The crowd was fired up from the beginning, with DJ Green Lantern, official mixtape DJ for Eminem’s Shady Records, spinning the tracks, and the orchestra putting the accents with strings, horns and drums. After the first song, Memphis Bleek came out and played the ‘hype man’ and worked well Jay. The tracks came fast and furious, polishing of 3 minutes of a song before moving to the next, eventually squeezing out probably the best part 30 tracks, taken from over a decade of albums.

A lot of the material of course came from his most recent album, including the hits ‘Change Clothes’, ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulders’, ‘99 Problems’, and of course the final song of the night ‘Encore’, with the whole audience changing Hova and holding their diamonds in the sky. He also dived heavily into the Blueprint album, playing the audience favourite ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, ‘Jigga That Nigga’, ‘Hola Hovito’, ‘U Don’t Know’, and a couple of the real surprises of the night ‘Song Cry’ and ‘Heart of the City’. One of the problems with Australian concerts is that it is so far from anywhere that unexpected surprise guests don’t just show up. Well, not in London. Gwyneth Paltrow dragged herself from her birthday celebrations to sing the chorus/background vocals for ‘Song Cry’ and Chris Martin, lead singer from Coldplay, showed up to do the chorus for ‘Heart of The City’.

Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJgWVtmlYiw

That Nigga Jigga & Hola Hovito
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTx8EclyCTw

Of course, that wasn’t the end of the guests. The long time, much publicised, feud between two of NYC’s recent great lyricists, Nas and Jay-Z, finally came to a close last year, and Nas showed up to do his own set during the show, the only ten minutes that Jay was off stage. Nas worked through Made You Look, If I Ruled The World and Hate Me Now, before Jay returned, and we saw Chris Martin for the first time, jumping in to work the keys on the Jay and Nas collabo ‘Dead Presidents’.

There were many more familiar songs running as the night carried on, including the Annie inspired, ‘Hard Knock Life’, the first song of the encore, ‘Big Pimpin’, the PG-rated ‘Can I Get A f--k You?’, ‘Ain’t No Nigga’, ‘Jigga That Nigga’, the Neptunes produced ‘I Just Wanna Love You’ and the crowd involving ‘Jigga What, Jigga Who?’.

Jigga What, Jigga Who?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9Wyijv7puA

But what would be a rap concert, not to mention a Jay-Z rap concert, without two more vital ingredients.
Firstly there has to be a tribute to all of the folks that done been shot dead, and as usual 2Pac got a majority proportion of the cheer. However, when the chorus for ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’ drew to a close, and Jay yelled out how do you spell my name, the whole crowd took of for the first half of Biggie’s verse:

‘B.I.G. P.O.P.P.A.
No info for the DEA
Federal agents, mad cos I’m flagrant,
Tapped my cell, and the phone in my basement’

But then, with Jigga laughing to himself, and probably wondering why the crowd weren’t so proficient with his song lyrics, the tribute turned to Aaliyah, and Jay-Z sang his part on the song Miss You Remix, when he raps over the Aaliyah song of the same name. With the tributes out of the way…

Secondly, you need to have a big of boasting and showmanship, and since the “beef on wax” song ‘The Takeover’ wasn’t performed, mainly because of his criticisms of Nas, Jay took it to the acapella. Numerous times the record stopped spinning, and the orchestra went silent as Jay-Z finished his song, verse or whatever track he was on and even started free styling. The most memorable was of course when he finished with the line, “I may not be a genius, but I know the difference between a B and a bitch”. At that point it didn’t take a genius to figure out what was coming, and the DJ gave it away with the instantaneously recognisable beat to ‘Crazy In Love’ and Beyonce graced the stage with three dances and did what she does best -performed. Next on the play list was her new track, ‘Déjà Vu’ and Jigga performed his verse on both tracks.

Crazy In Love
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ5qYXeC5iY

All in all, it was a great venue and a great show. Weather it was the start factor of performing on stage with Jay-Z, or as he suggested, just the allure of being on stage at Royal Albert Hall, one thing is certain – this was a celebrity infested performance. Then again, maybe it was the knowledge that “After the show it’s the after party and, after the party it’s the hotel lobby and, after the Believe it’s probably Chrys, and after the original it’s probably this!”

Definitely satisfied with my ticket and the show, I made off like a brother running from the LAPD and high tailed it to the underground. It was on 1130pm by the time I hit the street and IO had a 1205am train to Southampton. I broke into a run, that quickly slowed to a jog, then a brisk walk. No food since lunch and work clothes were not conducing to getting to the station. I made it to the train, switched lines once, and got to Waterloo with 2 minutes to spare before the train was due to bail – damn that was close. Eventually I made it to Southampton, to the not so welcome sight of rain, at 140am. The two waiting cabs were snapped up quickly and I set off home by foot, walking in just after 2am, and getting to sleep around 230am… Thursday was a tough day.

Thursday night I was due to see Jurassic 5 in Southampton, but given how tired I was from Jay-Z night, and none of the house mates were that keen to go, I passed in preparation for the weekends events. After work Friday I head to London, and gear up for AFL Grand Final day. With tickets in hand for the Shaftsbury Ave. Walkie, which opens at 5am, I am told that I will be lined up from 4am, waiting to get a good position to see the TV’s. Cool. So that should be a good day, with the game starting at 6am London time. What I do about the NRL game on Sunday is still up in the air. Depends how I feel after a big week of going back and forth from London I guess, and how easily I can find a place to crash Saturday night.


Well, for now, that about brings me up to date, but I am sure that I have missed stuff. I am still waiting on my desk, so the computer (and me) continue to sit on the floor. I also wait to see what is happening with the Net connection here, and hope that it comes soon. My holidays have been approved, and after being out of work for over 6 months, I am working less than 3 months and taking one off! Ha. Other than that, I am out of ideas, and in need of sleep, so I will leave you guys now, and hope you all enjoy Grand Final weekend.

Boar

Just a couple other notes at the last minute:

Southampton People.

Well the men seem to be from all walks of life. From the young student crowd, the young professionals and the bums of all ages. But there doesn’t appear to be too many older, retiree type blokes, maybe they’re all on the Isle of Wight… yes, yes they are.

Women. Well there’s an interesting one. Like they guys, there are plenty of uni students, but something in me has changed now, and they look like uni students, not just ‘age ain’t nothing but a number’ type of people…. Then the older women, well, in honesty, there are quite a few good looking twenty something’s walking around, but they are carrying two big issues with them:

1. The BSF. Many of you have heard this before, more of you haven’t, but it is the Boar’s Smoking Factor, and no matter who you are, it cuts you down 2 points. A glamour is a glamour, but if she lights up, she’s just gone from a 10 to an 8.

2. They’re all bloody mum’s. I shit you not. There are more baby strollers in Southampton than anywhere I have ever seen before. Certain European cities (Amsterdam) have bicycles, Southampton has baby strollers. And a ring (or lack there of) can tell you a heap – most of these women are single. Having said that, there are a fair share of scrubber mum (Mingers?) walking around out there too.

The old people, what few of them are in Southampton, seem just like the ones in the Isle of Wight – out to make your day hell. They seem to have radars, and as you’re rushing, almost running, to catch busses, trains or ferry’s, pop out in front of you, moving at a snails pace. At first I was frustrated, but lately I have just been getting lower than them (which is tough when you come up against a 75 year old with osteperosis and a walking frame) and clean them up and continue on my merry way. It is much more rewarding. But seriously, what is it with old people pushing to the front of the ferry exit, just so they can hold up the other 100 people trying to get out the one person wide, uphill, gangway. I swear, I’ve been trapped in that 50 meter tunnel for up to 5 minutes behind an oldie on more than one occasion.

Also, I have switched to gearing up for winter mode, and bought myself a coat… not a jacket but a coat. And man, it’s cool, and expensive. When was the last time I spent $250 on anything, let alone a jacket… sorry coat. Ahh, the pound, can’t wait till it comes streaming in a little quicker… bring on the next (and first full) pay check. But importantly, why haven’t I been wearing longer clothes all my life. The jacket comes below my knees, and makes me look sophisticated, but more importantly, tall and slim. Hell yeah!

Reading the paper the other day, I noticed that yahoo had done a movie quote pole, and he old ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ trumped ‘I’ll be back’ for the best movie quote of all time. My only question is… where was Samuel L. Jackson, playing the lead role in the remake of Shaft, with the line “It’s my duty to please that booty?”

On that note… have a great weekend.