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Monday, 1 October 2007

The move

The following post was typed on Sunday evening

I decided to delay my ferry trip to the overnight ferry, which turned out to be a very good idea. The day ferry wouldn't have disembarked until 23:00 and getting from Harwich to Birmingham at that hour would have been exhausting. Not that six hours of sleep in a tiny bunk on a big boat wasn't also exhausting.

Fortunately, all of Xena's paperwork was more or less adequately in order. There was much todo because there was no written record of what date she got her microchip inserted. The fact that it was detectable and the number matched the reported number was not enough information. I offered to call my vet in California and ask, but instead the person checking suggested that I might suddenly remember the date and write it down. It came to me in a flash. Sort of. More or less. Anyway, Xena cleared immigration.

I should back up a bit here in my story. The ferry left from Hoek van Holland ("the Hook of Holland"), which is a bit more than 20km south of Den Haag. There is a very nice bike route that goes along the sand dunes to get there. Very pretty. We opted not to take it because the non-pretty route is flatter and less windy and I was carrying probably 100 kilos of stuff. No really. My bike is, um, not made of carbon fiber. I had a backpack in one saddle bag, which contained two computers and a whole lot of cables. A backpacking backpack on the back rack which contained all my paperwork, a synthesizer component (specifically a sherman filter bank), a sleeping bag, a bunch of camping gear and more cables. On the front, I had the giant basket I got for moving Xena around. She doesn't like it much, but the basket itself is still handy. For example, in this case, I fileld it up with all of Xena's dog stuff (toys, pillow, food, ceramic bowl, the door to her crate, etc) and also a bottle of Czech communion wine, a bottle of abscinthe, a small bottle of african compari, um, yeah. And finally, I was towing Xena herself, with the two halves of her crate stuck over the trailer.

It was rather much. When we got to our cabin on the boat, I passed out almost immediately.

The Mayflower left from Harwich. When the Pilgrims got tired of Leiden, they went back to Harwich and sailed for America. What's little known is that they were actually supposed to leave a year earlier than they finally set out, but they got delayed by the confusing and contradictory signage.

The British immigration guy did a bit of a double take when he saw our bikes and the amount of crap on them, but we got through much more easily than I expected. It was way better than when I came two weeks ago. Then we got horribly lost and biked in large circles trying to get to the train station. Also, everything was bloody backwards. Cars on the wrong side is a lot to deal with at 6:30 am. (Okay, 7:00. Fine, 7:30, but still . . ..)

The train ticket from Harwich to Birmingham cost as much as the ferry. I saw a sign yesterday for a flight to Spain and a round trip airplane ticket from Grenoble cost less than a train ticket from Harwich to Birmingham. About half-as-much less, not just a few pence less. (I'm imagining them trying to get from London to Cardiff and going via Iceland because it's cheaper.) (This is all Thatcher's fault, but that's a later blog post.)

We arrived in London and Nicole procured a bike map of the city. We had to get from Liverpool St Station to Euston Station in 1.25 hours. No problem, there are even bike signs up around the city. No problem until . . . that sound I hear could not possibly be the sound of hissing, rotating around like a Leslie speaker. Um, damn.

The back tire of my Dutch bike completely deflated in a few minutes. Some of the Londoners didn't quite understand what "Dutch" means in this context. It means that my back tire has a fender, a shirt guard, saddlebags, a chain guard and a few other pieces of flat metal designed to keep me out of contact with the tire. Also, the bike is gigantic. It's the Cadillac of dutch bikes. Meaning it rides nice, but it's big, heavy, inefficient and hard to find parking for.

After a long while I found a bike shop, who agreed to fix my bike. But then freaked out when they saw the size of it. Apparently, it wouldn't even fit in their workspace. (What, is their work space on the 7.5th floor?) They sent me to another bike shop who said they could do it on Monday. Sob story. sob story, ok come back in an hour. "Those chain guards are a real pain in the arse." "Yeah, but they keep grease off my pants. [long pause] trousers! trousers!" (for Brits, pants = jockey shorts.)

It was then that I passed off the dog trailer to Nicole, who was aghast at the amount of stuff I was hauling. Not that her load was light. I'd say it was more or less even when she had the trailer. Anyway, the rest of our trip was pretty unremarkable.

We got to my flat and my key didn't work in the front door. Fortunately, my flatmate was home and recognized me from our very brief meeting two weeks ago. He's terrified of dogs. So is his sister, who is my other flatmate. They want Xena to stay in my room all the time. I'm hoping their fear decreases. Meanwhile, Xena is terrified of the stairs. She'll go up them, but shakes in terror when asked to descend. There's a climate of fear around here.

My room is large. It has a big bed and a table and a bed-side table and weird modular closet stuff in the closet. The bed has a pink upholstered headboard. the bed actually has a good mattress. Since arriving, I've spent most of my time asleep on it.

When I go out, I cannot decipher the Brum accent at all. It was actually easier to communicate in the Netherlands because there when it became impossible, I could ask "Sprekt U engels?" and we'd switch to something I could understand. What am I going to ask the Brits to switch to? I can't understand my housemates either. I think they're from Nigeria, but I should ask.

Things to do tomorrow:

  • Go to my letting agent and exchange October rent for a working key.
  • Go to school and get an ID card and get on the network
  • Purchase dog food
  • Purchase a bathmat and two waste baskets
  • Find an ISP
  • New tag for dog
  • Unlock cell + new SIM

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