Yesterday was the Group IT Away Day for work. For it we hiked out to Wotton House Hotel in Surrey which is where John Evelyn was born in 1620. I’m not sure it looks much like it did then. Mostly boring hotel interior with flashes of old bits of architecture that I could spot.
At any rate. There was a note pad in my room that said ‘Pen Your Thoughts’ across the top of it. I couldn’t resist doing something to maybe give the cleaning staff a chortle.
Five years ago last night m’colleague Patrick and I were going a bit silly with boredom in the Hamilton ‘International’ Airport. Sure there are flights to and from international destinations there, but the place itself isn’t much to write home about. I think there may have been a tiny Tim Horton’s that wasn’t open if it was there at the time and a cafe area that did close fairly early in the evening. That left us with a waiting area by the baggage claim that we sort of took over as our patch.
The one thing we found to entertain ourselves with was a wheelchair that was stashed away in a corner. Here’s Pat looking a bit dead. This photo makes me giggle every time I dig it out.
The other thing that gets me about this photo is that I moved here with just the three bags on the left side of the photo. That’s what I started out with. Holy moly, how did I do it? I remember I had my laptop, camera and a few hand held game consoles in my rucksack, clothes and a Nintendo Wii wrapped in clothes in the big red bag (that ever since that trip has been known as Big Red) and misc. bits I don’t recall in the black hand luggage. Insane.
By the time we landed at Stanstead and got the train to my new work place I think we had been awake well over 30 hours and were smelly and slightly mad. We were put up in a tiny room in a tiny hotel in Newmarket for the first couple of nights until our flat was ready. Here’s Pat trying to repair the ‘3’ key that and broken off his Powerbook G3 Pismo the first night.
On the window sill is a pizza box which contained possibly the worst pizza either of us had ever eaten. I don’t recall the name of the place we got it from, but there was a cartoon horse on the sign. The next night we tried a pub for dinner instead. We sat at our table for some time before thinking that maybe we need to go up to order our food. Oh silly Canadians.
Our flat was supposed to be ‘partially furnished’, which ended up being quite a liberal use of the word ‘partially’. In the lounge there was a heater, a lamp, a clothes drying rack, and a vase with fake/dried flowers.
Pat’s room had a single bed and mine had nothing. We used an inflatable bed as our sofa for a while before we got some sofas in (more on them in a bit).
The one bit of decoration we immediately added was this:
Which I’m sure makes zero sense to anyone other than Pat and I. When we finally got to the departure area for our flight from Hamilton, there was this English chap there who very loudly would say ‘yeah right’ in response to anything and everything anybody else would say to him. And it wasn’t ‘yeeeeah riiiight’ in that North American way, but a clipped ‘yeah roight’ in that English way. It drove us batty and made us laugh all at once. So Pat sketched him to have as something to look at in our barren flat.
One thing the place did have was this:
A dazzling array of electrical bits that sort of perplexed us. We thought all was go, but lo and behold the shower wouldn’t work. We found this out after the first evening spent in our new home and were prepping to head into Cambridge for a Saturday adventure. Not being able to work it out, we decided to just carry on and figure it out when we got home. I don’t remember which of us worked it out, but one of these many switches was actually in the off position, and that’s what controlled the power for the shower. Utilities 0 Canadians 1.
As we took the train into Cambridge, our first glimpse of the place was outside the rail station where we came face to face with the most bikes we had ever seen. Ever. Just look at it:
We stopped and laughed and photographed and shook our heads. Several years later I’d have the joy of trying to find a place to lock my own bike in that mess a couple times a week.
By this point in our first week I was getting pretty well exhausted. So much so that I think it was after getting home from this trip that when I sat down on the inflatable bed in the lounge to take off my shoes I just sort of passed out. Pat has a photo of this and it’s pretty awesome.
Fast forward a few weeks. I know it’s not in the spirit of telling the tale of first moving to the U.K. but it’s still pretty good. Pat found a couple of sofas on eBay for a really good price. We just had to collect them. We got the help of a couple of people from work, one of which was the accountant who had a horse trailer. We arrived at the collection point, made our payment and found out that these sofas were incredibly large and very much in charge. They sort of fitted standing up in the trailer. Getting them up the narrow stairs and tight corners to our second floor flat was a an impressive feat of engineering.
Once the sofas were in, Pat and I each unofficially claimed one as our own. And my word were they comfy. So much so I had a bad habit of falling asleep on my sofa. We’d be watching something or playing a game and I’d just be so comfy I’d drift off. It was always bad news when I’d go grab my blanket / duvet. Pat would exclaim ‘Nooo! Not the blanket, you know what will happen’. Well maybe not in those exact words, but that was the gist. If I got too comfy, boom, lights out. When I moved out of Newmarket in 2008 I had to sell the sofas as the land lord didn’t want any furniture left (to keep it partially furnished I guess). Getting those hefty, amazing things out was even more trickier than getting them in.
Anyways, enough about sofas. It’s quite hard to believe that it’s now 2012. And my work permit expires today. And that it doesn’t matter because I am now allowed to stay in the U.K. indefinitely. That first week five years ago, 2012 seems like this crazy far off time. It has flown by really quickly.
There’s been ups, there’s certainly been downs. There’s been far too much moving house for my liking, but each move was a new era. There was moving from Newmarket to Cambridge in 2008. Moving from my own studio flat to a shared house in 2009. The move I was dreaming of to London in 2010. And the move down the road from my original London digs in 2012.
There’s been a lot of train journeys to London and back. Sometimes on both a Saturday and a Sunday and the odd lucky day I would get to go to London for work. And there’s been changes at work. From starting out at a horse vets of all places, to helpdesk work outside of Cambridge, to now being based in London and working with some really great clients.
I guess the big thing at the end of my first five years is that if anything, I’m enjoying London even more. I’m still exploring and learning about it and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Remember not that long ago when there was a bit of a ding dong about the prospects of introducing a fee to go up the clock tower at Westminster Palace and see Big Ben and the quarter bells? When that hit the news it was the first time I had even heard about being able to do such a thing, let alone the fact it was free. Thankfully, the idea was thrown out and it still is free.
I was reminded about it when someone I was on a tour of the Parliamentary archives with told me to go for it and to do so I just had to email my MP to have it arranged. I got in touch with my MP via the futuristic medium of email and asked when the next tour was, hoping there might be one sometime in June for when m’colleague is visiting the motherland. Sadly that wasn’t meant to be, but I did get myself booked in for a tour in September. Fantastic. I got the paperwork email through a few days ago and it mainly stresses that there are 334 steps up to the top of the Tower to be sure you can make it up that long old haul on a spiral staircase.
That got me thinking about doing some ‘training’ as it were for the climb. I have done the Monument before with its 311 steps, though not for a while and last time I did it I was rather out of puff. I was talking about this with a mate at work and he suggested I give taking the stairs to the top of the building to see how I fair. This is at 338 Euston Road, also known as the tallest building I get to work in. He checked today and up one level is 18 steps. 18 steps up 16 levels brings us up to 288 steps. I was a bit amazed that despite how tall this shiny glass building is, it still has a way to go to beat the Westminster clock tower and even the Monument. Sort of makes it hit home just how amazing some of these old and lovely structures are. Like I need an excuse to think on such a thing, but there we go.
The fire alarm went off this morning at work. At first nobody thought anything of it as we usually have drills on Monday mornings. Every one dutifully started towards the stairwells. We weren’t outside that long before we noticed that this wasn’t just a drill today. Soon there were two LFB fire engines on site with another one to follow.
The engines arrive.
The firefighters get out and have a look around. There was no smoke so we were wondering what the issue was.
My IT partner in crime and I thought we may as well head off and pick up some lunch to kill some time before we were let back in. However, when we got back about 20 minutes later the area around Orion House had been taped off and there was an engine with a ladder going up the front of the building.
We had a chat with one of the fire fighters. It turns out that there were guys out cleaning the windows when the alarm went and they were now stuck up on the 7th floor. The ladder was out to get them down. He also told us that there was some sort of leak in the basement. There was a fire but it was put out by the building’s sprinklers. We all just assumed it was a gas leak. Now they were waiting for some electricians to show up to shut down the power so they could have a proper look around.
Everyone else could leave either for a long lunch or in some cases for the day. However, being IT we had to wait around. We had to go in as soon as we could to get all the systems shut down properly after the power was cut.
It being a touristy area, there were lots of people stopping to have a gawk and get their photos taken in front of a London fire engine.
Hoses that ended up not getting used.
Finally after three hours, we were allowed back in at 3pm. We trudged up the stairwell with everyone else because despite us being allowed back in the building, the power still wasn’t back on. Once we were back inside rumours of it being an electrical fire started to make the rounds. This seems a bit more plausible considering how patchy electricity was coming back on.
Thankfully, the UPS batteries still had another 1 and change left of power so the servers and network bits were all fine. We had to then wait around for the building electricians to get around to fully restore power to each floor and then give us the green light to power up all of our equipment. Eventually we were the only ones left in the building. Ah IT, the unsung heroes eh ;-).