walking west iv
Latest About Archive Before Others

Friday, 31 August 2001

I'm determined to get this new design up before the weekend, so here it is—tried and tested on IE5 and NS6 for Mac, falls over on NS4.x for Mac, and does God knows what on a PC; I'll have a look next week and tweak if necessary. Of the related pages linked on the left, the only one that's changed significantly in content is the 'others' one (which, if I was being honest, should now be called the 'webloggers who write to me' page). I haven't implemented my mouseover idea yet, but dammit, it's time to go home.

Thursday, 30 August 2001

So, um, yeah. All quiet on the Walking Western front. A new design is on its way; it's in the elaborate Photoshop mock-up phase.

Been busy at work, but mostly busy stressing out about money. The Personnel department have dragged their heels on reimbursing us for relocation expenses, to the point where our mortgage deposit would have been at risk had some money from Oz not finally come through yesterday. We'll still have to visit an ATM and draw down our daily limit every day for a week to get it all over here in time. If the sums involved weren't so daunting, and if we weren't at risk of being out on the street if the flat sale doesn't go through—well, then we'd be skipping gaily down the road and laughing at Personnel's peccadillos. But they are, we are, and needless to say we aren't.

Please go through smoothly mortgage, please go through, please, please, pleeeeaaase. (My God. I never thought I'd be this keen to be up to my eyeballs in debt.)

We had our first visitor over the weekend—a friend of Jane's who had been planning to visit Europe, then added three nights in Scotland at the beginning when she heard that we'd be here. A few hours after her jetlagged arrival we all went along to that mighty Edinburgh institution, the Military Tattoo; not something Jane or I would normally have done, particularly after four weeks of passing busking bagpipers on Princes Street, but our friend had wanted to see it all her life. And I must admit, it was fun. Hundreds of pipers marching in formation turn out to be more enjoyable than a busker on the street with an upturned hat in front of him. But then, hundreds of guitarists marching in formation and strumming Neil Young songs would be quite a sight too.

Over the next couple of days we rented a car and drove out to Stirling to see its famous castle and tour around some country lanes, then visited every tartan shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. All very touristy—which felt a bit strange. The one thing we haven't done in our first month in the country is any of the tourist stuff (unless you count going to those Fringe shows, which I don't; none of the performers was Scottish, and there were plenty of locals in the audience). Instead, we've been approaching it as people who've moved to a new city; it feels different, and being tourists for the weekend felt odd.

We plan to visit the sights, of course—Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Castle, the museums and galleries—but gradually, at a leisurely pace, without that feeling of watching the clock before racing off to the next one. When we visit them after having lived here for a while they should be all the more meaningful and enjoyable. It was like that when we toured New Zealand after living in Christchurch for a few months in 1997, and I'm looking forward to doing the same here.

Still, it was good to see our friend, who's now hovering in a balloon somewhere over Germany.

Since I linked to an amusingly damning book review a while ago, I thought I'd link to an amusingly damning restaurant review from Sunday's Observer. All the more exquisite for being not just any old restaurant, but Richard Branson's restaurant.

And on the subject of reviews, Bob Ellis's pre-emptive strike against reviewers of an unauthorised biography of himself makes entertaining reading for those who know a bit about him, and for anyone who simply enjoys scathing prose. If you follow Australian politics make sure you also read his 'Reply to Henderson'.

Even the mighty are doing it: Bloggus Caesarii [via Lukelog]. I'm waiting for Bloggus Asterixii.

This week's UK papers are full of mega-tsunamis (England will be flooded!) and the latest boat-people affair (Australia will be flooded!), which is also being covered by various bloggers—probably best by Matt at Cataract. I'll leave the debate for elsewhere. What's striking from this side of the world is that this comes only a few weeks after a refugee was murdered by thugs in a dilapidated council housing estate in Glasgow, which prompted some similarly inflammatory anti-immigrant media coverage here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2001

This is why I haven't been posting. Setting it up and exploring takes a while. Forgive the technolust, but I'm pathetically relieved to be back on a Mac, and still in awe of how wonderful this monitor is. The last one I saw that did a readable 1280x1024—only two short years ago—was so heavy it took two people to carry it, and so big its box only just fitted through a door. This one seems to float above the desk.

Friday, 24 August 2001

And today's quiz question is, Is Tricity Bendix:

  1. a well-known London socialite?
  2. a former 1960s fashion model?
  3. one of the stars of the 1970s BBC series 'The Good Life'?
  4. a Gaullish villager from the Asterix books?
  5. a UK brand of electrical appliances?


More UK quirks: we have a head of broccoli in our fridge that we bought three weeks ago, and it's still green. Aah, irradiated food, you've gotta love it—well, more than a week-old bunch of yellowing florets from the Vic markets. British vegetables must have a use-by date of August 20,001. Trouble is, you have to bury all your compost under a concrete pyramid in Nevada.

Okay, so it wasn't our final Fringe show after all. Last night we went along to Spymonkey's Cooped on James's recommendation, and he recommended well. Four talented comedians performed this ridiculous gothic horror tale involving radio-controlled pheasants, tasteful nudity, a Spanish soap-opera star and some wonderful physical comedy, with a perfect sense of exactly how long to milk a gag in order to send the audience into hysterics. My favourite moment—after the pheasants, which were probably my favourite props of the Fringe so far—had to be the mysteriously Spanish-sounding bishop holding his ring out to the lord of the manor and entreating him to 'Kiiiissy kissykissy... kiiiiiisssy kissykissy...,' like Python's bishop played by a gruff Miss Piggy. A lot of fun.

And we got to sit behind Sylvester McCoy in the audience. (Ooh what an outrageous name-drop. Go on, if you were a devoted childhood Who fan you'd do it too.)

My new work machine has been arriving at the office this week in tantalising instalments—first an LCD monitor, then a pair of transparent ball-shaped speakers, and finally, this very afternoon, the G4 tower itself, oh wondrous design, oh divine creation, let me bow down and worship thy Appleness. Now all I have to do is set it up and it's farewell, BSOD, hello, OSX. I mention this not to gloat—oh no, for mine is a higher sensibility, unsullied by mere materialistic motives, unswayed by thoughts of three thousand quid's worth of stonkin' hardware, woo-hoo!—but rather, because it means that next week I'll finally be able to redesign this weblog at long last, once I'm no longer stuck with an ancient copy of Photoshop for PC.

Yes, that's why I've had this wonky design all this time: no access to Photoshop 5.x for Mac. Tools, workman, poor, blame, legal exemption for users of Microsoft operating systems.

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés (via Caterina). Number 43: 'The protagonists destroy the entire social structure and governmental system of the society they encounter, and only a few old fuddy-duddies complain.' Science fiction cliché or time-honoured colonial credo?

Tuesday, 21 August 2001

Saw my final (?) Fringe show for the year last night, The Mitchell and Webb Clones—and laughed my head off. Terrific script, terrific performances, terrific everything. A great relief, after last Friday's increasingly-annoying-in-hindsight outing and a few other unsatisfyingly un-genius shows along the way. But part of that dissatisfaction was down to me, I admit; as more of the hassles of settling into Edinburgh disappear I can feel myself relaxing and enjoying it all more. I wish that I could go back and see the first couple of shows again; which doesn't mean that I'll go a second time—just that I wish I could see them again for the first time, like one of the non-Bill-Murray characters in Groundhog Day.

So let's see, the three shows I've liked the most have all involved, in one way or another (from performing, to directing, to being-friend-of-ing)... this man.

There may be a pattern here.

Whenever I think of electric penguins I think of Python's Scott of the Sahara sketch, which is probably not the effect the publishing giant is aiming for. As the Guardian breathlessly reports:

Unburdened of the costs of typesetting, printing, binding and distributing the printed word, eBooks will sell for 20% less than their printed equivalents.

Ha. I prefer:

Unburdened of the costs of inflated retail mark-ups, remainderedBooks will sell for 20-50% less than their newly printed equivalents.

But what does mere cost matter, when one can have restricted end-user rights and time-limited access into the bargain.

Monday, 20 August 2001

Typical. Fine weather on Saturday morning, so Jane and I go and buy two new bikes as we had been planning to do before winter sets in, and then it rains on our way home, and then it rains all day on Sunday, and now it's a glorious sunny day on Monday, when I'm stuck in an office. Last Tuesday's entry comes back to haunt me. But hey, they're kick-ass hybrids with aluminium frames and front shocks, so we're stoked. It's the first time I've had a new bike since I was 14; for years I rode around Canberra on a crappy brown ten-speed that I picked up for twenty bucks at a college bike auction, figuring it 'wouldn't be long' before I moved elsewhere and got a better one. So I'm hardly about to let minor details like the prospect of eight months of inclement weather stand in my way now.

All this for only £56,789.98 (approx.). Thank you, Messrs Westpac and Visa.

I've tried not to complain about the price of everything here, I really have. It's hardly dignified playing the whingeing Antipodean telling anyone who will listen that food in the UK costs in pounds what it would cost in dollars back home, which at today's exchange rates is almost three times as much; there are precious few everyday items, in fact, where this ratio of 2 or 3 to 1 doesn't hold. Things get a bit better for big-ticket items like cars and electrical goods, but until we feel like coughing up ten grand for an Audi I can't see this helping much.

There are exceptions. So far, they are:

Hence I've been buying newspapers every day, and have switched to a chips-and-crumpets diet. Probably not a good plan in the long term, but the new bike should be an effective ying to this dietary yang. And what exercise can't conquer, oatmeal can.

Ah yes, the mighty oat. The one ingredient that truly reminds you that you aren't in England. The supermarket shelves positively groan with competing brands of porridge (or sometimes 'porage'), and it doesn't stop there: oatmeal cookies; oatmeal crackers; oatmeal in the wholemeal bread; oatmeal rolled around the outside of soft cheeses in the deli. The next thing you know, they'll be mixing it with minced offal and stuffing it into sheep stomachs, or some such madness.

This surfeit of oats is clearly the only way the Scots can cope with as much deep-fried food as they do. The Scottish stomach must resemble nothing more than a giant oaty sponge soaked in grease: a haggis, in fact, so that if they've actually eaten haggis that day they're carrying around a haggis within a haggis and are only one step away from turning into a recursive haggis loop, like a TV camera pointed at a live feed of itself.

Fortunately, next Tuesday is pay-day, so we can soon stop thinking in converted A$ and start thinking in unconverted pounds. Eight more days and we can buy all the oatmeal we want.

James and Mark get a well-deserved four-star review at last. Here's hoping for full houses in their last week. There were certainly enough people packing the Royal Mile today to populate every audience in town...

Our own Fringe-going hasn't gone so well. On Friday we went along to Andrew Clover's 'Puppy Love', another frustrating instalment in the search for Genius. Clover got five stars in the Scotsman, but I'd give him only three, and a just-over-the-line, averaging-out-the-good-and-bad three at that. He had moments of real invention, and then moments of real desperation. One element of the show—the appearance on-stage of his actual pet dog—seemed to be included only to elicit exactly the sort of sympathetic cooing that James and Mark satirised in theirs; once he'd brought it on, he virtually ignored it for the rest of the show. (At least it was well-behaved.) There were some clever video inserts, though, and at one point he changed the pace completely by hypnotising the audience en masse to discover the secrets of success in love and relationships; at moments like this the show became truly memorable. But at other moments it was truly ordinary, with few actual jokes to be had. Not a waste of time, but not what I'd hoped.

Another show tonight, and then that might be it for us this year—we'll see. Might get along to another before the Fringe wraps up on Sunday, but at nine or ten quid a ticket that's a lot of oatmeal.

The return to weblogging normality continues. On Friday, an actual Link. Today, Another (via Cataract). Tomorrow, perhaps, an indulgent cliquey hello to some fellow webloggers. (Friday, Amazon wishlists? No; let's not go crazy here, people.)

Friday, 17 August 2001

Okay, I'm now officially bored with this slapped-together temporary design. Look at that crappy compass graphic—anyone would think I used the first thing that came up on a Google search for 'compass clip art'. (Cough.) It doesn't even have the title in the banner. And what's all this stuff about Scotland? That photo doesn't look like Scotland...

I'll do something about it soon. Been a bit busy this week putting together a new design for my research centre's website. (Ohmygod, hold the presses—he's actually doing some work! Lawks-a-mercy, lan' sakes, and other expressions of surprise and alarum.)

Charlotte on Benzedrine. Next week, Wilbur on steroids.

Thursday, 16 August 2001

For once I've been asked by someone to spell 'Rory' not because they've never heard the name before, but because 'there are so many ways to spell it'. In a country where even newspaper columnists are called Ruaridh (the Gaelic spelling), I guess that's true.

Went along to see Emo Phillips last night at The Pleasance Over the Road (a great venue—an old church converted into a theatre, with the audience sitting among the stone columns). Some great one-liners, but it took a while to get used to his delivery—the sharp intakes of breath into the microphone, the wild arm waving, the vague suspicion that he was smashed out of his skull. Fun, though. Fun without being oh-my-god-i-can't-breathe funny... dammit. When will I get that adrenaline rush, that comedy high? Priorité à Gauche were fine, amusing, polished, entertaining, but weren't about to rewrite anyone's perception of what comedy can be; Ubersausage had some clever sketches at the beginning but fell a little flat in the middle before picking up again at the end, though they were always enthusiastic and generally good; Bachman and Evans were very good (though I'm biased, I admit) but unfortunately I saw them on a bad-audience night, which made it hard to launch into the air-i-need-air comic stratosphere; and perhaps the funniest thing I've seen so far has been Garth Marenghi's Netherhead, a clever take on horror-writer pretensions with some beautifully surreal moments, though I did feel that it would have been even more enjoyable had I seen last year's show as well, to get a fuller picture of the characters.

But nothing yet to match Ross Noble, the Boosh or Dave Gorman at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in April. Maybe it's me... maybe my head's too full of mortgages and flat hunting and new city and job stuff to switch into comedy mode.

Maybe this is also why Cats and Dogs didn't do it for me at the movies last week. Its excellent trailer suggests a non-stop sequence of high-tech battles between felines and canines; the movie pads out some short (and good) segments along those lines with a bunch of cheesy family movie stuff. Mom gets boy a dog, boy at first rejects and then warms to dog, Dad is a wacky professor... the whole thing should really have been called Humans and Cats and Dogs. Or, even better, it should have been rewritten to cut out the family stuff and beef up the cat/dog warfare and the bad jokes, which as it is are still enough to rescue it from total pointlessness.

The next movie I see had better be special-effects- and animal-free. Shrek, Planet of the Apes, Cats and Dogs... talking donkeys, talking monkeys; it's anthropomorphism gone mad. Admittedly I did watch The Mexican and State and Main on one of the flights over here, both of which were good and talking-animal free. But they were good without being great...

Nope, the only really good film I've seen lately was You Can Count On Me, which was close to perfect. Beautifully written, acted, directed, edited, and the best meditation on rootlessness in a long while.

Whoops. Just remembered a special-effects-talking-monkey film that really was worth seeing*: Monkeybone. Incomprehensibly ignored at the Melbourne box office, even though it got four stars in The Age, and it seems to polarise people at the IMDb. But any movie that takes the Tim Burton sensibility (director Henry Selick worked with Burton on The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Monkeybone has more than a shade of Beetlejuice) and features a brilliantly funny script about a dreamworld taking over reality gets my vote. Forget Tim Roth as an ape general, go and see Brendan Fraser as a cartoonist possessed by his inner monkey instead.

*Unless, it seems, you're an American movie critic.

Tuesday, 14 August 2001

'Why does it always rain on me?' asked Fran Healy in Travis's poignant hit song of last year. To which the answer can only be, 'Because you live in Scotland, y'eejit.' It's no coincidence that every second block in Edinburgh has a tanning studio charging 50p a minute.

It's been raining off and on since we arrived two weeks ago. That day, fresh from a journey from the airport spent wondering if we would ever see our luggage again, we stepped from the bus into a light drizzle and looked up at a grey mid-evening sky; above us was a wall of medieval towers and spires, lining the edge of the Old Town hill that culminates in the Castle. A powerful first impression, rain or no.

And when it isn't raining, when the sun is out and the temperature hits the low 20s that's as good as it gets here in summer, when the light lasts long into the evening and wakes you up again at about 4 a.m., and when from the right streets in New Town you can see clear down to the Firth of Forth and the hills on the other side, this is as striking and captivating a city as there is.

Even though I've spent a year in the UK before, even though I've visited Scotland twice and Edinburgh itself fifteen years ago, it all feels new. Yes, there's the stuff of Britain here—pound coins and Sainsbury's and chocolate Hob Nobs and gooseberry fools—but it's all overlaid with another culture, and I'm reminded once again that 'Britain' is an artificiality, a name best kept for an island, not a nation. I eavesdrop conversations on the bus and can't understand a word except 'aye'. It feels like being a Cantonese-speaker in Beijing: you can read the signs and newspapers, but the spoken language is unintelligible.

We've been reading a lot of signs and newspapers. Apart from the jokey tourist trappings of the Royal Mile—your Haggis Backpackers et al—everywhere there are signs of difference. Street signs for Closes and Pends and Wynds. Menus boasting Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (turnips and potatoes, if you're wondering, and I defy anyone to find a more endearing name for a vegetable than 'Neep'), or at our local chippie, Fried Haggis. The last is part of an endless line of battered, deep-fried foods that amounts to a national cuisine: we've seen battered steak, the famous battered Mars Bars and, at the Pleasance Dome on Sunday night with James and friends, a battered piece of cheese that the cheese had melted out of, leaving behind a perfectly-formed finger of deep-fried battered air.

We've seen gilded biblical phrases carved into the stones of four-hundred-year-old buildings: prominently, the John Knox House's 'LVFE GOD ABVFE AL AND YI NYCHTBOVR AS YI SELF'; less prominently, one in Stockbridge reading 'FEAR GOD ONLYE, 1605', which sums up your New versus your Old Testaments in two pithy lines.

We've seen a B&B named after St Conan—patron saint of barbarians?—and endless orange and blue billboards for Irn-Bru ('iron brew'), the electric-orange soft-drink that tastes of ammonia and serves as a Scot-detecting litmus test.

We've seen newspaper boards announcing 'Bay City Rollers Set for Reunion', and others shouting 'What a Stoater!', which sent me off to the nearest bookstore to buy a Scots-English dictionary before I succumbed to total culture shock, had the thought of a Bay City Rollers reunion not already done for me. (A beauty. A stoater is a beauty.)

We've seen enough to know that Edinburgh and Scotland will keep us curious and exploring for as long as we're here, which is exactly what I'd hoped to get out of moving to another country: not immediate comprehension, but a gradual unfolding.

Unfolding... A new place is like a newspaper lying by the road. Visit it as a tourist and you see the headlines; you figure you've got the main points. Stay a little longer and the wind catches the pages, flipping through the stories inside, telling you a bit more. Stay longer still and it lifts them up and scatters them along the street, the whole story now jumbled up and spread out around you, making it seem impossibly large and uncontainable and unknowable. Gradually, you pick up the pages and put them back in order; finally you can make some sense of it. But you're still only reading the story of a single day.

Monday, 13 August 2001

Staying up late on Sunday nights drinking points of zoider with comedians who don't have to get up until midday is... a challenge.

Caught a couple more Fringe shows. Don't really have time to review them. The ones we've seen so far have all been good, but nothing yet that totally blew us away. The atmosphere in Edinburgh is fantastic, though. Just struggling through the crowds along Princes Street or the Royal Mile leaves you feeling like you've actually done something with your weekend. Like joined a time-travelling package tour to a medieval town full of bagpipe players, jugglers, and Japanese mime troupes.

Most of all, it was a relief not having to look at flats, pick up schedules, and nod politely at the lurid colours that local owners paint their walls (apricot bathroom, anyone? Lime-green bedroom with matching bedspread?). Although we hadn't had the final word on our offer of Friday, we knew it was pretty much a done deal. And as of this morning, it is.

We felt a little disappointed at not ending up in one of the romantic Georgian terraces of New Town or Marchmont surrounding Edinburgh's medieval centre. For once it would be fun to live right in the middle of a city, instead of slightly further out as we will be. But the flats that we liked in those areas were out of our reach, and those that weren't were... a challenge. Like the basement flat in New Town at £80,000: recently repainted, but that didn't stop a hardy colony of mould from reclaiming its territory in the bedroom corner. Or the fourth-floor flat in Marchmont, £92,000: the world's most impractical bathroom, with a bath and toilet jammed in at mad trapezoidal angles and an overhead watertank cutting off the doorway halfway down my forehead. And yours free with every hundred-year old building: lead pipes! Experience the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the safety of your own home.

No, we've ended up buying a 15-year-old ground-floor flat with no obvious problems and all mod cons. Funny how that can seem (a) a relief, and yet (b) slightly disappointing at the same time. Living in Europe has that effect.

Friday, 10 August 2001

Woah. Wow. We may have our flat. Saw it last night, and trying to get a formal offer in today.

Takes the breath away a bit, seeing that we only arrived in Edinburgh eleven days ago, but we've been walking the streets non-stop for the past week looking at places, learning how the system works here (strangely; there are few estate agents—it's usually arranged through solicitors), and getting pre-approved for a mortgage. I guess going through the process in Melbourne was useful after all, as it got us used to the idea of actually buying rather than renting.

But you'd be mad to rent here if you can avoid it. A two bedroom flat in a reasonably central part of town goes for upwards of £600-700 per month—double what it would cost in Melbourne. Compare that with mortage repayments on a comparable property of £500-600 per month. Even with council tax etc. you're no worse off buying, and at the end of our time here we'll get our money back when we sell. There's no contest.

In a way we're lucky to have ended up here rather than in London. London prices are maybe double again what they are here, and yet we couldn't hope to get a much bigger mortgage than we'll be getting, so we couldn't have afforded it. We'd have had to rent—at much higher rates—and would never have seen that money again.

Finally, it's all starting to come together. More on the subject when it's all definitely happening.

Meanwhile, thanks to those who have spread the word about my glorious (ahem) return to blogging, and rest assured that I'll get some good sideways non-personal stuff in here soon enough. Obviously, figuring out where the hell we're going to live for the next three years has been weighing rather heavily on my mind.

Edinburgh is abuzz at the moment with Fringe activity, including a fine show by Messrs Bachman and Evans, as James has been recounting in One Day Soon. [Gaah. This keyboard is driving me insane. UK keyboards, unlike US and Australian ones, swap the quotation mark above the apostrophe to above the 2, and the @ symbol to above the apostrophe. So until my new work machine arrives with its specially-ordered international keyboard I'm doomed to type <a href=@http://...]

As James mentioned today, Jane and I went along to his show last Sunday and were part of the 'weirdest audience [he has] ever experienced'. What an honour. I must admit I'm no help at all in an audience, being fairly quiet—no honking great guffaws from me, just a bemused smile now and then.

And the show? A nice little piece of sustained lunacy, with some excellent one-liners, great props, good facial contortions and general all-round amusement. I had in mind that I'd write a review for Funny Ha Ha, which would be an entertaining in-joke—one of the contributors reviewing the other—but perhaps too in-jokey, seeing that neither of us even list FHH in our links lists any more and so are probably the only ones who ever look at it. I thought the review might start as follows:

The last time I saw James Bachman onstage, I had a feeling that here was a future star of comedy in the making. Maybe it was the jokes. Maybe it was the timing. Maybe it was the big hair. Or maybe it was the fact that I was standing onstage right next to him.

Ho ho. (Apologies to Mark. You're very funny too. But admit it, James does have the big hair.)

I have this feeling that James might be the first of my accomplished friends to actually become a Name that I can outrageously Drop ('See him on the telly? He's my mate, he is'). There's a thought. But when you've been around a while it's bound to happen eventually... your friends serve out their apprenticeships, otherwise known as their Twenties, and actually start to achieve things. Writing a book, getting a TV show, buying a house, having a kid—whatever it is, a lot of them seem to end up getting there.

Lucky that none of them become famous for buying a house, or the name-dropping would just get insane. 'See him in the good dec ord w/hall, lge lounge, kit, 2 bedrms/1 with BIMWs, bathrm/shwr? He's my mate, he is.'

Thursday, 9 August 2001

So, filling in the past two months: sorting out the shipping of our stuff to the UK was a headache; spending a week in an unheated storage shed in Fyshwick going through boxes we packed a year ago trying to figure out what we'd need to last us 3-5 years and what we could live without was a headache; having a friend accidentally back into our car when a huntsman spider ran across her windscreen and having to get it repaired in the few days I had left in Canberra was a headache; trying to then sell it in Melbourne in the space of two weeks was a headache; having a keen potential buyer bail at the last minute was a headache; getting two-thirds of its actual value because it was either that or getting half from a used car dealer was a headache; having to cover the cost of shipping and two international airfares out of our own now-meagre funds (read: credit cards) because the Uni of Edinburgh wouldn't reimburse us until we got there was a headache; trying to pack three months' worth of clothes and effects (enough for our final weeks in Melbourne and first weeks in Edinburgh) into two bags each was a headache; carrying them was a backache; saying goodbye to our friends and Melbourne and Australia was a heartache; spending fifty hours on planes and in airports in the space of a few days was a headache (backache, stomach-ache); missing our connection at Heathrow was a headache; arriving in Edinburgh without our 80 kg of luggage and not getting it back for 22 hours was a headache; spending Australian dollars in the US and UK was and is a headache; being flat broke because I don't get paid until the end of the month is a headache; being in a dingy student flat for six weeks is a headache; worrying about whether we can find a replacement in time is a headache; tromping all around a new city trying to find a decent flat to buy (because unlike in Oz, it's actually cheaper than renting) is a headache...

My head hurts.

So that's all the tedious stuff out of the way. We knew we'd be in for all of that, anyway; I always figured things wouldn't settle down until October.

The upside is, we went to Cairns for a week before leaving Oz to use up our Qantas frequent flier points, and enjoyed 25°C weather, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, glorious beaches (like Wonga beach, pictured above here) and the Daintree rainforest; and on the way through the US (why the US and not Asia? Twenty kilo limits and exorbitant excess baggage charges versus two bags of 32 kg each per person, that's why) we stopped at New Orleans and watched the paddle-steamers on the Mississippi while munching on beignets (French doughnuts) and swimming in 35°C and eighty percent humidity; and Edinburgh is beautiful, and looks like it will be a great place to live.

More on all of that over coming days, weeks, whatever.

Wednesday, 8 August 2001

Two whole months away from weblogging gives time to think. Time to think about scrapping the site and starting afresh. About keeping the site but abandoning the weblog. About how much time it takes to keep it all going. And any number of fleeting, trivial thoughts that fly about, evading capture. It's those that have dragged me back. Seems that weblogs, like webs, are perfect for catching butterflies.

Apologies (if they're needed) for the simple layout. No time or tools right now to devise anything fancier, so this will have to do until life quietens down a bit. Apologies, too, for yet another URL, although you could always use the WW index page. And apologies for an apologetic first post of no real substance.

I can't promise greatness. I can't even promise as much as there was before. But I can promise... stuff. Occasionally.

So, where were we?