Saturday, April 28, 2007

We're off to Paris!

Just for the weekend, but I'm really excited! Even the poor weather forecast isn't going to dampen my spirits. After all, a 40% chance of precipitation doesn't necessarily mean it will rain, does it? But I suppose it means I should take a cardigan and proper shoes with me, and not just sandals, as I was planning to. Oh well, forewarned is forearmed and all that.

At least I have plenty of shoes to choose from. Up till now I'd admit to 40 pairs, although I suspect I have a few more than that (ahem). Then I read in this month's Cosmo that 2.5 million UK women admit to owning at least 30 pairs of shoes. I suspect a few of those (2.4 million perhaps?) must own more than 40 pairs. Which is grand, because it means I've got nothing to be ashamed of. I'm just average, really :-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Coconuts at the ready

Yesterday was St George's Day, the closest thing England has to a national day. Traditionally this isn't celebrated much, and there are no great parades and festivities in London like there are, for example, for Chinese New Year and St Patrick's Day. However, in recent years, the Mayor of London has been making an effort to mark the day with a series of events, and one of the events this year involved 5,567 people getting together at Trafalgar Square to participate in a Coconut Orchestra. What on dear earth is a coconut orchestra, I hear you ask. Well, it's when a group of people get pairs of coconut shells and clip-clop them together to a musical tune - in this case, the Monty Python classic Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Apart from being enormous fun, yesterday's giant orchestra smashed the previous record of 1,789 people gathered in one location playing coconuts (set in New York last March) and apparently made it into the Guinness World Records. The attempt was inspired by the 1975 comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which knights pretend to ride horses while porters bang coconut shells together to make the clip-clopping noise of hooves.

Once the record had been broken amongst much cheering, laughter, clapping and coconut clipping, most people stayed on at Trafalgar Square and watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail on a large screen, clip-clopping at the relevant points in the film. It's always exciting to watch a film in the open air, with another few thousand people all laughing and cheering simultaneously, and the coconuts gave it that extra zing. It really was a very enjoyable evening, and I hope that the Mayor continues organising similar events on St George's Day.

By popular demand, I'm posting a couple of the photos that I took yesterday, but here you can see some pictures that capture the atmosphere a lot better than I have managed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Photos from the Marathon

Personally, I'd never run a marathon. I just can't imagine anything more mind-numbing than running and running and running for hours on end at a steady pace. I can just about see the point in sprinting, but a marathon? No way. Still, it seems many would disagree with me - to be exact, 36391 people disagreed with me today alone. That's how many athletes started the London Marathon, a mix of professionals and amateurs.

Normally there's nothing that would convince me to go watch a marathon (I'd rather watch paint dry - seriously) but I was tempted by the people in fancy dress. I reckon these really do deserve to be cheered on, not just because they're amateurs who run for charity, but most importantly because they're willing to humiliate themselves in public. I mean, what man would ever run through London in a pink tutu or a Bob the Builder outfit out of choice? On a day like today, they deserved an extra cheer because of the weather conditions - it can't be fun running in a full bear/dog/camel/Scooby Doo costume in near-summer weather. I imagine those who opted for the Flintstones look must be very pleased indeed with their fortuitous outfit choices.

These are some of the pictures I took while cheering the runners on, all the while thinking smugly "rather them than me" but still admiring them for their determination and courage. Well done, guys and gals!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

St George's Day celebrations

As we've been promised a sunny and warm weekend (again - yay!!) I thought I'd remind you that if you're in England and looking for outdoor activities this weekend, you could consider participating in the celebrations for St George's Day. In London there will be a series of events at Trafalgar Square, Bankside and Covent Garden, including a free screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on a big screen in Trafalgar Square on Monday evening.

See here for details of what's on.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Flying is such fun not

I was planning to write a long post detailing my journey back from Greece, but I ran out of steam before I got round to it. The highlights of the story are as follows: my flight left Athens late due to the late departure of the plane on its outward journey, but we managed to arrive at Heathrow more-or-less on time (and most importantly, without first going round and round in a holding pattern over London, as is sometimes the case). The food on the plane was edible and the crew not too irritating. So far so good.

On arrival at Heathrow, we spent 20 minutes taxing through the airport, because it's impossible to land anywhere near your allocated parking spot - that would be too efficient. Instead you land as far away as possible and then taxi all the way back to where you should have been. We finally arrive at said parking spot to find it occupied by another plane. Once this plane vacated the spot, we still couldn't move, as someone had to come and take away an unidentified object which was on the ground in front of our plane, apparently preventing us from moving the final 40-50 feet. Grrrr.

Patience, as we all know, is a virtue. Sadly it's a virtue I don't possess. Especially after a cramped 3+ hour flight, when I'm still fastened onto my seat while merrily rolling round Heathrow airport. To add to our frustration, the purser made an announcement informing us that he "could hear mobile phones being turned on and could we put them away immediately as the engines were still on". Tsk tsk tsk. Don't people know about the silent mode?

Once the object was removed from the ground, we rolled forward just a little, docked, the doors were turned to manual & cross-checked, and we were finally let out to find our way to the allocated arrivals area at the other side of the airport (possibly the same side we originally landed at). I walked as fast as I could and it still took me a good 20 minutes to reach the baggage reclaim area (by comparison, when I arrived in Athens it took me 15 minutes to leave the plane, go through passport control, pick up my luggage and find a cafe to sit and have a drink). This however is Heathrow, and fifteen minutes will get you nowhere. Still, as it was now almost an hour since we'd landed, I figured our luggage would already be going round the carousel, but no such luck. There wasn't even a reclaim belt allocated to our flight, so we patiently waited under the "Which Reclaim" boards, along with scores of other hapless passengers who looked equally jaded.

To cut a long and arduous story shorter, by the time I picked up my luggage another 20 minutes or so later, and once more walked through the airport to the Heathrow Express platform, I'd narrowly missed one train and realised that Heathrow Express were operating a half-hourly service that day. They apologised "for any inconvenience caused" but what good was that to me, when I had to wait 27 minutes before I could board another train? Not to mention it was almost 11 PM by that time (or 1 AM in Greek time), I'd been in transit for 7.5 hours and I was getting tired, thirsty and increasingly fed up.

So. I was going to tell you all this (in even more detail) because it pisses me off that it takes me some 3+ hours to fly back from Greece and another 3+ hours to get from the airport to my home in London, and I wanted to vent. Then I heard about a couple who returned from honeymoon that same day and were stuck on their plane for an hour after it landed, as there were no steps available (been there, got the T-shirt, and totally sympathise with their predicament). To add insult to injury, they had to wait 45 minutes for their baggage to appear, and when it did, it came through on two carousels at opposite sides of the terminal. At least I was only returning from a fortnight's holiday & only had one piece of luggage.

You've got to love Heathrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday in London

I'm pleased to report that London's enjoying the same sunny weather we had in Athens yesterday, so today we went for a long walk in the sunshine and spent the rest of the afternoon sipping lager shandies in a pub garden. Not quite the same as lounging by the sea, but pleasurable enough all the same.

We got home to find that some of our neighbours were having a picnic in the (communal) back garden. It feels as if it's mid July rather than mid April.

I hope the lovely weather lasts, although I doubt it. It's way too early for summer.

Still, it's nice to get a taster.

Saturday in Athens

This is how Athenians spend Saturday afternoons at the moment - enjoying the April sunshine by the sea.

I was still in Greece yesterday and my good friend Kathy came by in the afternoon and drove us to Notos, a "seaside lounge cafe" in Voula, a suburb of Athens, where we spent a couple of hours enjoying freshly made fruit juices, glorious sunshine and a cooling sea breeze. The cafe itself was massive. There was a shaded area with sofas at the back and a larger area with wicker chairs close to the seaside, as well as a large playground area with rides for the kids. It was packed with families, couples and large groups of people talking animatedly as Greeks do. The vibe was fantastic. It was really warm and there were people snorkelling, fishing and swimming in the sea not far from us. If I'd had my swimsuit with me, I'd have dived in too.

Can someone remind me again - why do I live in London?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Greek Easter wishes

We've been to church, eaten lots of yummy food (except lamb, which I hate), spent time with friends and family, drunk large amounts of red wine, watched the fireworks in the evening. It's been a good day :-)

Hope you've all had a good time, whatever you've been up to. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

On the subject of sleep

When I'm at home and working, I get by on 6-7 hours' sleep per day, usually a little longer at weekends. I sometimes think that's not quite enough, but overall I feel I cope OK. So why is it that as soon as I go on holiday all I want to do is sleep? Take yesterday for example: I got up just after 9 AM, had a siesta for a couple of hours mid-afternoon, went to bed at 1 AM and woke up at 11 AM this morning - ten whole hours later!

The way this holiday's going I'll have time for nothing else but sleeping, eating and reading books. Somehow it doesn't sound too bad ;-)