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Michael’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 18 Jan 2007

Location: Southampton, UK

MapG’Day all,

This is the first entry I have made since I got back to the UK, so there is plenty to fill you in on.

Firstly - the bag saga. Gotta love the folks at United Airlines. Since I left Melbourne in March last year, I have taken 18 flights with my bags, and twice I have lost my luggage. Both of them just happened to be at the hands of United Airlines, and in the USA where language clearly isn’t, or shouldn’t, be a barrier. I got into Heathrow just before 11am on Wednesday morning, and being in the bulkhead row at the front of economy, thanks to Virgin Atlantic, not United, I was one of the first off the plane. Straight through customs with essentially no line, and secured myself a great spot next to the baggage carousel with my luggage cart. And like that I stayed for the next 50 minutes, watching the carousel start up, the first bags slowly come out, then the carousel fill, and eventually empty. Still sitting there with an empty cart, I head over to the Virgin luggage services to be told that the bag never made it from the United Airlines flight from Vegas to San Francisco.

From there it was a two and a half day wait to get my luggage, with all of my warm UK clothing stuck somewhere between Vegas and Heathrow. I had none of my work clothes, nothing in the way of jocks and socks, and all of the stuff I had bought in the USA was in limbo. Finally, at about 430pm on Friday afternoon, my bags finally arrived at the door and it was like Christmas all over again. Everything aside from the plastic Jaeger bomb glasses made it back in one piece, but the red duffel bag that I got for Christmas wasn’t so lucky. Both handles were ripped from the bag and the bag was slashed at the bottom – it ended up in the rubbish after the trip.

There was no rest on the first weekend back either. First task was to fill the fridge and cupboards and the read all the mail. Saturday was the night of the Poitjke. What the hell is Poitjke? Yeah, that was what I was asking myself. Poitjke is some sort of traditional South African stew that involved meat and veggies cooked in a big old cast iron pot (the Poitjke) on a BBQ. So Nat and I headed round Cari’s place and met a few others round there.

The night went well, aside form the brief time that we were locked out of the house! But the poitjke that we had was made of lamb, carrots, onion potatoes etc. It was actually quite tasty all served on a bed of rice. A few drinks, and another late night, and my jet lag was persisting into the following week.

So, the week after… my first ‘full’ week back at work. That information isn’t really that exciting, but it is safe to say that I wish I was still travelling! There is a bit of a lull in the work at the moment, so I find myself tying up loose ends for other people. Never a very exciting prospect and I hope that it gets a little more exciting / interesting soon.

So, the reason for the ‘full’ week statement? Well, I’m getting in the habit of working 4 day weeks, but the day off is chewing into annual leave, and I am personally a fan of keeping all of the annual leave I can for taking holidays. You see, the other thing I love most about England at the moment is the weather! Last Wednesday, was the first day since I’d been back (a week) that I had seen the sun. In fact, that is a lie. I didn’t see the sun, but I did notice that the sky was clear and blue outside of the office. And that point didn’t fall unnoticed to the other people in the office. When the sun finally did break through, the whole office kinda rose out of their seats, and moved over to the windows. For the entire time the sun was out, about 2 hours, the office kinda revolved with the sun, as a sunflower follows the sun over the course of the day. In fact, during the lunch break, almost the entire office emptied and went walking outside, despite the fact that it was all of about 5 degrees outside. I chose to stay inside.

Despite the lovely day on Wednesday (which was repeated for a couple hours on Sunday), there have been some horrible days too. Last Tuesday was the worst ride I have ever had on the trip over to the Isle of Wight. We were less than half way in, and The Solent showed me what it was capable of. I had got rid of the book I was ready earlier, as I couldn’t manage to hold the book steady enough to read it. A minute or two later, I was reaching for reading material again – this time the emergency procedure sheet. Next thing I know, my stomach is turning, and the boat is turning too. The boat was hitting waves, and pitching 90 degrees to the right each time. By the time we got off the boat and walked up the ramp, I felt green, as did most people on the boat. Judging by the reactions on the peoples faces waiting to board to go to the mainland, we must have looked green too, because I saw fear in their eyes!

So with the few people that make the trek every day in consensus, it was deemed the roughest ride any of us had taken. But it would get worse. The Thursday was forecast for high winds, and therefore a rougher ride. Somehow on the Wednesday night I forgot to set my alarm clock, and when I woke up at 720am, about the time the ferry is usually pulling way from the terminal, I called the ferry company. All services to and from the island, on both the Red Jet and Red Funnel (car) ferries had been cancelled due to weather. Looks like I’m staying home! Unfortunately, as was the case, it also meant that to get paid I needed to chew into one of my annual leave days. But I did get a chance to do a bit of shopping in town and sort some things out which was pretty good. Only catch, I didn’t plan on coming down with another case of Cancelferryitis today. Two Thursday’s in a row? What? To make matters worse, I actually got up at the crack of dawn, even earlier today, and was at the ferry terminal at 6am, when I usually take a 715am ferry. Still no joy, the Red Jet’s had been cancelled since the first one (545am) and I just missed the car ferry by 2 minutes. It was the last one till sail until almost 2pm. Damn. So, from people last week saying that can’t remember both ferries ever being cancelled before, to having it happen twice in a 8 days, kinda gives me the shits.

On to brighter news: The new Southampton Aussie rules team is coming along nicely. We finally had our first team meeting at the Southampton Walkabout last Friday night. Whilst there weren’t a full teams worth of players at the meeting, I think we have enough contact details for a full team. The manager at the Walkie roped off an area for us, and even provided about a bit over a slab worth of beer. Not bad for how many people we had show up. We managed to settle on the team name, The Southampton Titans (turns out the Titanic sailed from here) and the team colors are white and red, the same colors as the Championship soccer team and the rugby team. With that we settled the meeting and decided that the first team training session would be this Sunday at 2pm. Should be interesting to see how we go.

Friday night also saw Kristy come down from London for the weekend. First port of call – The Walkabout, mainly because I had to continue chairing the football meeting, but Kristy loves a snake bite wherever the Walkabout is. I called Nat and got her and Cari to join us and we headed up to The Whitehouse, which plays some nice hip-hop on Friday nights.

On the way there, walking through up Above Bar Street, we saw four girls wearing knee-high boots and long winter coats… didn’t look like they were wearing much else. They had one guy with them as well. Kristy, being the princess bogan that she is, yells out “You girls are hot”, which of course managed to peel one of them away from the group to come over to us. They were all strippers, and handing out half price entry to the club FYEO. Of course, as Kristy does, she gets them chatting, and before long asks what we can expect in the club. She opens her coat and shows the matching bar and French underwear, which of course isn’t enough for Kristy. She asks the question that any man in the street probably would have got slapped for – “Can you show us your tits?” Whilst it was a negative reply, she didn’t mind, and Kristy at least managed to get her to turn around and show us her ass. Thanks Kristy!

So we end up at The Whitehouse, and a couple hours later and couple of drinks, including a notorious 1am Jaeger bomb, and we catch a cab home. The next morning I managed a small monster of a cook up for myself, Kristy, Nat and Cari, though I did have to wake Nat and Cari up.

Saturday was awful, but Kristy and I headed out anyway, and walked around soggy Southampton. The wind was fierce, but the rain wasn’t too bad. It was just that it was kind of always there, in one solid misty sheet of dampness. But we trudged around the city, and spent most of the time in the shops. The only purchase of the day was a pair of shoes that Kristy fell in love with immediately. They were pretty cool, kinda matches her with rainbows and skulls on the print. Not bad at all. Aside from that, the only purchase was lunch, which was going to be Japanese, but the place shut as we got in there at three so we ended up at Quizno’s.

For some reason Saturday night all I wanted to do was sleep. That was probably more to do with the fact that Kristy and I got Miami Vice on DVD than anything else. In fact, it was so bad that I did nod off on a couple occasions! And I don’t fall asleep during movies. Before that I put my culinary skills to the test and cooked up a masterful version of my favourite of Lora’s dishes – Apricot chicken! The only problem was that the recipe calls for a tin of apricot nectar. They don’t do apricot nectar in the UK. So what to do? I couldn’t find apricot nectar anywhere, and no-one seems to sell apricot juice either. Not that it would have been right, but it would have been worth a shot. Instead, I bought 5 tins of apricot and used the syrup. Ha! It wasn’t as good as I remember, and a fair bit sweeter, but I was a damn tasty impression if I do say so myself! Sunday was a much nicer day, and after breakfast Kristy and I headed into town - and did more shopping! We only had a couple hours to kill before she caught a bus back to London.

So, to fill in the blanks.

Last Wednesday night Tom, Nat, Cari and I went to the Bellemore pub to go to a pub quiz. We sucked. Well, actually, Tom was pretty good, but as a team we had like 33 points, against the winners 58.

Last Thursday night Nat and I went round to Cari’s where one of the pilots was cooking up a Green Thai Curry. It was really quite good, and a meal I had never had before.

Monday night I cooked up a couple of awesome salmon fillets. Haven’t had salmon in a while and it was cool – my culinary expertise is getting better.

Played poker on Tuesday night and I won. Nice hand straight to the queen that I got on the flop, went all in heads up against Gerard, took the pot, and the game.

Tonight I’m off to see a band that one of the guy’s from work son plays in. Could be cool. It’s at a pub called the Joiners, that has had a fist full of famous people and groups play there in the past.

So that about sums up most of everything to date. Hope everyone is well, and I’ll update again soon.