Messages to Kevin

Over the past week I’ve been getting a chuckle during my train ride to and from work. I must not be the only person travelling between London Bridge and Charing Cross who has been looking forward to what new message will be broadcast to Kevin.

What am I on about? There’s a building on the south* side of the rail viaduct just past London Bridge that everyday has an A4 print out taped to one of the windows. So far I’ve seen ‘Good Morning, Kevin’, ‘Smile Kevin’, ‘Smile Kevin’ again but with a 13 beneath it and today’s was ‘We’re digging’ with a 12 beneath it. I’ve been wanting to get a photo but it’s a bit tricky to A) always be on the the right side of the train and B) get something that isn’t a blur on an iPhone camera. What Arial type faced missive will there be when I’m back that way on Friday?

*correction – I originally posted north, it’s actually south.

Odds & Ends

I haven’t had anything really big lately to post about, so I thought I’d do a collection of odds and ends; new acquisitions and places I’ve been.

Vitches of Inkland
Vitches of Inkland

This past Sunday, not having much else to do, I thought what the heck, let’s go to London. There’s always something to do there.  The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green has an exhibit of Quentin Blake illustrations from Roal Dahl books.  Seeing the original water colour of The Witches cover was pretty amazing.  Roald Dahl (and shortly thereafter C. S. Lewis) got me into reading, and The Witches was really the book that did it for me.  I still love Quentin Blake’s drawings.  There’s loads of them covering some of the scaffolding at King’s Cross and seeing it always makes me smile.  After that I had one of my clothes horse moments and did some shopping for new trousers, shirts and sweaters in Oxford Street. The thing I had last  year for jackets seems to be back.  I wanted to buy nearly every one I saw at UniQlo.  Not the big puffy ones though.

Roundels R Us
Roundels R Us

The Saturday before last I had a ticket to go on a behind the scenes tour at the London Transport Museum Depot in Acton. It’s a bit like their open days, but with only a handful of other people there and a museum volunteer giving plenty of info and stories about the items. I really liked seeing all this stuff in more of a working than a staged environment, which prompted me to think that more museums should be like that.  Just a big jumble of lovely things to discover.  I filled a 2GB memory card with photos and managed to prune that down to a selection of 87 to post on Flickr.  Of particular interest was the collection of station signage and maps.  I didn’t even have time to see it all before our group had to move on to let the next group have a look.

They’re going to have another open day in October and I reckon I’ll probably go back.  If nothing else just to see the rest of the signs.

Speaking of transport, National Express have been on strike lately.  What does this matter to me?  Well their strike involves zero service on Thursdays and Fridays, making it a bit tricky to get to and from work.  It started last week and looks like it’s going ahead again this week.  On Friday there were loads of National Express East Anglia trains (the ones I take to work and London Liverpool Street) parked at Cambridge station:

The row of trains in the foreground went on for ages - I think it was at least 24 carriages.
The row of trains in the foreground went on for ages - I think it was at least 24 carriages.

And even more transport!  I got myself a bike last Saturday.  I’ve been thinking of it since moving at the end of June (did I mention that?  I don’t think I did).  I was looking at classified ads, but weary of them as the majority are probably stolen.  I ended up going to Station Cycles which is pretty handy as it’s in the rail station car park.  They had a nice second hand mountain bike there that was an agreeable price with a 3 month warranty and they even had a look at the gears ticking a bit before I even said I’d take it.  I’m pretty happy with it and my rediscovery of how aces cycling is.  I was one stop short of going “wheeee!” when I took it for a test spin around the station car park.

Not stolen.
Not stolen.

For the past two years I’ve been using a great little Canon camera, a Powershot A550 to be exact.  I’ve had an itch to upgrade to one of the Powershot G models.  First the G9, then the G10 came out.  I’ve saved up and  bought a Canon Powershot G10. From Canada.  Yes, they do sell cameras in England, but it was a decent sale price so I went for it.  It went through customs today and should hopefully be arriving before the end of this week.  I’m really looking forward to it.  It shoots in RAW format, so my poor ol’ MacBook’s (upgraded) 320GB hard drive is going to take a hit and I’m going to have to get better at archiving stuff off.  Still, it’s going to be neat to learn all about how it works.  Any votes on what my first shooting spree with it should be?

Lastly, I’m digging Street Fighter IV on the XBox Triple60.  Oh and I haven’t had broadband at home for nearly three weeks.  A mixture of mobile broadband an a neighbor’s iffy open wireless network to the rescue.  Right I think that’s about it, or at least all I can think of for now.

Thar Be Wintar in the Norf

Edinburgh castle in the snowTime for another update, and a fresh new look to the old kuhlschrank. For this post I’m going to mostly focus on my recent trip UP NORTH.  Scotland. Where everything is deep fried and the snow flakes are so big it would scare an English person back behind Hadrian’s Wall.  It was snowing quite heavily when I arrived in Edinburgh which made the city look at the lovelier.  It was just getting proper dark out as well and things were beginning to light up. 

I really enjoyed my four days there. I got around quite a bit of the city (as it is rather compact) and saw: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Royal Yacht Britannia, The Scottish Museum, The Royal Museum and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the views from Calton Hill.

On Saturday Pat arrived for the weekend. That night we took in a couple ghost walks. The first tour was of the South Bridge Vaults, which are supposed to be very haunted, despite not being inhabited for very long. It was pretty spooky and we got to play around with some EMF readers.

 

The second one was a tour by the name of City of the Dead and has been featured on Britain’s Most Haunted (you know, that show that’s filmed almost entirely in night vision camera with the lady shouting a lot and the chap who does all the medium work).  Anyhoo, our guide for that tour was a bit off the wall and nearly completely clad in leather.  A fair amount of the tour took place at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, where we entered an area that has been locked off because it’s ghostly happenings have been so off the radar.  This area had been used as a prison for several hundred Scottish prisoners of the English in the 17th century.  An exorcism was attempted on the area but failed and the priest responsible died of a heart attack shortly there after.  At one point we were all ushered into a mausoleum that was reportedly the most haunted area in the grave yard.  Nothing too extraordinary happened in there, however earlier in the vaults Pat did have the feeling of someone breathing behind him.  Thinking it was me, he turned around but I was at the other side of the room.

The city itself was quite interesting.  There is the Old Town in the south and the New Town in the north.  Edinburgh is home to some of the earliest high rise tower blocks.  The Old Town was so cramped, and difficult to build outwards from that they built upwards instead.  Some of the buildings reached 14 stories, and that’s several hundred years ago.  The richer you were, the higher up you lived.  The crazy layout with it’s numerous little lanes and closes makes walking around the city pretty interesting, and most of the street layout is all intact.   Makes me all the more want to be able to go back to the City of London pre-WWII to see the old city before it got hit by bombs.  Someday I shall find the Tardis and do just that.

I haven’t even mentioned the train ride from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh.  That alone would have made the trip worth it.  Being in a train rushing along the coast, over looking the ocean.  Yes please!

This trip was the cap off to a rather busy Christmas.  My dad got his passport in time to come over for the holidays and he and I did quite a bit of jet-setting.  We did 3 days in London (during which I finally got to see the finished insides of St. Pancras Rail Station in all it’s glory and my dad was thrilled to see Greenwich Observatory and take in some classical Christmas carols at St. Paul’s), 3 days in Bristol and Salisbury (Salisbury Cathedral being a highlight) and day trips to Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds, Norwich and Ipswich.

My first English Christmas went well.  I now rather enjoy mince pies and this year I could watch the Doctor Who special on TV on Christmas day rather than downloading it on Boxing Day, hurrah!

Have a gander at my photos of Edinburgh over on Flickr.