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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 20 Oct 2006

Location: UK

MapAs Tupac, (and I’m sure many before and after him) once said, Life Goes On. Well, actually he sang it, but that is beside the point. At the moment I am stuck in a holding pattern, desperately needing a holiday (after just clocking up my first full months work since February). Nah, not really, but I am definitely looking forward to the states. Life in Southampton is definitely not what I pictured when I said to myself I’d work in the UK (thinking London all the way) for a few months to recoup some costs before heading home. What’s different? The ability to get anything 24/7 as seems to be the case in London is not here in Southampton, with the only ‘late night’ shopping being the 8pm closing time on Thursdays. What else? The pace of life is much slower than what I imagined London was going to be:

London routine – leave for work at 7am, work 7.5 hours, go to pub, drink for 5 hours till 10pm. Repeat.

Southampton routine – leave for work at 630am, work 8 hours, get home at 7-730pm. Cook, eat, wash. Repeat.

But hey, that does have one good point behind it, I’m not spending 5 hours in a pub every night, doing my liver further damage, and further straining the finances that are at snapping point with some major surgery required on the plastic to avoid further haemorrhaging. Which brings me to my next point – I’ve been here a month, can I have a pay rise? Ha. Given I haven’t seen my first full months pay check, and wont know what will end in the back pocket after tax (which will be high cause I’m on a temporary NI – or tax – number till November), I’m still worried that the finances aren’t going to allow the swift (if much at all) payment of credit card bills at home in Aus. Guess I’ll have a better idea on Monday when the pay goes in. Doing some quick calcs, it would actually work out cheaper for me to buy a cheap bike, have it stolen at the end of every month and have to buy a new one, than take the busses I take to get to and from the ferry each day… interesting.

What else, work is going well on all accounts. I am adapting to the hours and travel quickly (quicker than the Motorola SMS dictionary on my new mobile) and usually find the days moving pretty quickly now. The period of looking for something to keep me busy is well and truly over, and by the sounds of it, at the start of next month the work only going to get twice as busy cool. Add to that the encouraging words I have been getting from my direct manager lately is handy, including the gem today “you are performing as we expected”. I didn’t have the guts to ask exactly what it was that he was expecting! But on the whole it sounds positive, so at this stage I am gunning for the pay rise at the 6 month pay review. My permanency there is in a little more doubt now though, with the other Aussie working there not being able to get an extension on his visa (I haven’t spoken to him about specifics, but will find out).

So what’s been keeping me busy? Well last Friday was an interesting night. Having got fed up of doing nothing in this town, mainly because come Friday, either the house are out at work drinks, or not going out period. I headed into town, planning on hitting a bunch of places, starting at Above Bar Street and working my way towards the water and possibly finishing down the way at the Walkie, or perhaps opposite at the Table-Top dancing place (knew I’d find a strip joint eventually, and to think it was in front of me the whole time, directly opposite the Walkie!). Anyway, never got that far… I went into a place called the Whitehouse, and it was near empty, but they were playing some nice Hip-Hop and I thought I stay for a drink. Well, £2 all drinks, all night for uni students, and I was getting charged £2, I decided to stay for a second, and third, and so on and so forth. But the place packed out just before 11, when the cover charge kicked in, and the hip hop went most of the night, as well as a live beat box demonstration and eventually turned to garage. The drinks were good, but the crowd was full of first year uni students, and got a bit annoying with the MC yelling constantly SOUTHAMPTON UNI IN DA HOUSE… me thinks he was a uni student too. On the whole though, not bad, and at £2 for anything, a great place to start future Friday nights – oh yeah, and the uni girls weren’t considering the outside temperature when deciding what to wear either ;-)

Tuesday after work I picked up the new phone and that has taken some getting used to. Add to that the problem that the bloody speaker doesn't work when I receive calls, unless the thing is loud speaker. That was damn annyoing. Anyway, my early Friday finish was not so happy given I spent an hour trying to get the bloody thing exchanged. I did howver in the end not need to send it off and had it replaced in store - with a black one, the color I originally asked for, instead of the silver I initially had. Fingers crossed it is all good now.

Most of the week has been spent rushing to the gym after work, and then rushing back home to host the house poker tournaments. I have no idea, when playing with 5 other people, most who have never picked up a chip before, I still haven’t managed to win a game after 4 tries? Poker seems to really bring the housemates together, for the 90 or so minutes we play! Monday – Wednesday night all saw a poker game, with three different winners (I finished 3rd, 2nd, 2nd), to go along with the initial winner. So 4 games down, 4 different winners, leaving me and Tom as the only ones yet to notch a victory. Having said that, I did deal an incredible hand to send me packing on Wednesday night. With a huge disadvantage in the chip count, only barely covering the big blind, I threw the rest of my chips in with 2-6 spades, knowing I had little chance. Paul turned A-Q and at least I had two playing cards, and a flush chance. Well, the flop destroyed all of that coming Q-K-Q and leaving me needing runner spades to get a flush to win. Well the next card came with a spade, but it was a Queen. Yep, I’d dealt him four of a kind, queens with an ace kicker, and a king on the board. To rub salt into the wound, the river came Ace, and I didn’t manage to catch anything, apart from another loss.

Around Town…

Well, Halloween is actually a big thing in this part of the world, and parties are kicking off everywhere. I was accosted last night in the supermarket buy a guy in a Scooby Doo outfit, buying some dog food? Wish I’d had my camera for that one. I did however notice that chicks have Halloween easy, tending to put on a torn pair of stocking and the rest of the outfit is the same as what they’d wear on a Friday or Saturday night to as club, and they get away with calling themselves tramps. If the get really creative the put on a pair of ears and call themselves (tramp) pussy cats. But in any case, they do seems to get into the Halloween parties and stuff round here, plenty of places selling costumes, and pumpkins being sold at the supermarkets.

But more than Halloween I am looking about a week further forward to what the Brits seem to call fireworks night, and I can only assume is actually Guy Faulk’s night. Really, I don’t care what it is called, I just know what my pay check is going on this month. Buying and selling fireworks is legal, and for every shop selling Halloween paraphernalia, there’s a shop selling fireworks. Ahh, my career as a Fire Starter, Twisted Fire Starter is about to take off again! Can’t wait. Keep an eye for that in the dairy – 5th November.

The weather has been holding up so far, with the news reports usually saying the words I love to hear “above average for this time of year” except of course when they are referring to rainfall. I guess most days are in the high teens down here, but it hasn’t stopped some crazy downpours of rain. Thankfully (touch wood, hmm that feels good) it seems to be happening whilst I’m either at work, or asleep, and not whilst waiting for busses etc. The mornings aren’t as cold as they were a few weeks back either. But the days are definitely getting shorter. Most days of the week I will walk the 15 minutes home from the train station rather than catch the bus, and to date, it hasn’t rained a single time on this journey. But if I am immersed in my book, I do have a tendency to read it while walking. Well the sun is setting so much sooner these days that there is barely enough light to make out the words on the pages any more. Having said all of that, I did get caught in a down pour on the way to the pub this evening – I was contemplating the gym, but with a pub next door to the gym on a Thursday night, I was drawn to the dark side. In any case, the weather has been reasonable so far, but the water way between home and work hasn’t been so kind.

Some of the afternoon trips lately have been throwing the hi speed jet all over the place, and it has been quite entertaining. I am definitely not looking forward to the days where the Solent is considered rough! But more than that, it was actually the morning boat that pissed me off this week. Wednesday morning, having not had my toast for breakfast because I forgot I was out of bread, I rocked up to the boat and made use of the on board breakfast – over priced and over rated, but that’s another story. I sat down in my seat (yeah, I have a usual spot) and tucked in, watching my clock tick past 7am, the departure time of the boat. Any time later than this, and I know I’m gonna struggle to catch the bus. Well, time continued to pass with us stuck in dock, and I knew the chance of getting the bus was all gone. Finally, just after 715, the boat departed and an announcement came over. “On behalf of the captain I’d like to apologise for the delay. With a gas leak last night, they closed the Solent with the ferry’s stuck in berth, so many trucks that were supposed to cross overnight were left stranded. As such there were an excessive number of trucks to load this morning”. Furious, I decided not to get too worked up, and grabbed a whole hours sleep on the boat. But the question remains. If the ferry was stuck in berth all night, why not load the bloody trucks earlier, and avoid the bloody delay. As if to rub salt into the wound, the minute I stepped off the ferry at 815, 20 minutes after scheduled arrival, I saw my bus depart with all of the school kids I see every morning – 10 minutes late… If only we’d docked 1 minute earlier. A half hour wait for the bus, and I made it to work an hour late... yeah, great way to start the day. At least I had my new phone.

Around the house…

Well, we have a couple new faces now. Generally the house is as follows:

Daniel – He was the first to move in, and works in investment finance at HSBC. First floor – UK.

Gerard – Second to move in, an having done an electrical engineering degree has thrown that in for an accounting job of some description, with a three year work and study program in which he come out as a chartered accountant. First floor – UK.

Me – Aero eng stress monkey. Ground floor – Aussie.

Tracy – Fourth to move in was Tracy, taking the room next to me, and the person I share my bathroom with. From the best of my ability to guess, she work in planning for Public Transport. UK – Ground Floor.

Tom – Next to move in was Tom, again to the best of my ability, he works in accounts for a company. Dunno who. First Floor – UK.

Sarah – Sixth to move in was Sarah, doing the last 6 months or so on her pHd in Computation Chemistry at Southampton University. Whilst I did ask what the topic was, it made no sense at the time, and I can’t remember what it was now. Next move is to Post-doc research at San Diego University. First Floor – UK.

Natalie – Nat was the 7th to move in, and has been here a couple days, moving all her gear to the second floor. Working as an airhostess for a small private airline out of Southampton, she’s the second non UK person in the house. Unlike what the housemates all proclaimed to me, she does not have an Aussie accent. She is however a fellow antipodean, from Johannesburg, South Africa. Second Floor – Saffa.

Steve – The mysterious Steve who also moved in the last couple of days – apparently. I still have not met him. There was rumours we were getting a nurse, but he/she has yet to materialise. Steve however apparently works at a hospital, although according to one housemates reports, he “looks like he would fix boilers” and not so much a nurse. Apparently there may be tatts on the arm and plenty of gold chain wearing – perhaps he’s a crip or a blood? Second Floor - ???

So that’s it so far. One more room available on the ground floor. Of the 8 people in the house to date, we have 5 guys, 3 girls. 5 from the UK, a Saffa, an unknown in Steve and myself. Will let you know when the finally room is filled.

Finally, congratulations to a couple of the newest Aussie citizens going around – my Mum and Dad. After more than 30 years they have changed camps, and finally become fully fledged Aussies. Dad breezed through the BBQ trials – having perfected the “raw on the inside Swedish meatballs” he created at my 21st - and even held his own in the ute muster, knocking out the Italian that thought he was taking part in a drifting comp. Mum reverted back to the prehistoric days and showed her mastery in the Hill Hoist challenge, knocking out the rival Afgan refugee couple from the competition in the process. All in all, you’re a welcome addition to the team.

Short one this week – net access at home is coming to a head slowly. Will have a much better idea in the next week or so when I’ll be connected again, and then I’ll actually be able to respond to emails quicker, update the website regularly, and chat to anyone that has Skype.

Till next time…Life Goes On. Love ya’ll