Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Lakelands

The last two months have passed at light speed. Before I started at the NAO, Kat treated me to a weekend in the Lake District. The weather was wet, but the scenery was gorgeous nevertheless. In fact, the constant rain treated us to come pretty damned amazing rainbows over the Lakes. We hired a car from possibly the nicest customer service attendant in the country, at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. She gave us a day free and gave us the rest of the days half price - if you're even in Kendal and need a car, go to Enterprise and ask for Shona!

After days spent walking up waterfalls and driving down winding, narrow country valleys it was nice to relax in our gorgeous hotel, complete with four poster beds.

A return is pencilled in for the summer, when perhaps my jeans won't get quite so soggy...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Jobless? Not Me

Goodness knows what the National Audit Office have let themself in for. In a few months time, they'll be letting me loose on the government's accounts, making sure that they've been spending our taxpayer pounds on NHS beds rather than holiday cruises in the Bahamas.

I'm chuffed to bits. My presentation on Crime Rates: Are More Prisons The Answer? went well during the interview, and I was even able to use some of my "back-up" slides (i.e. slides that I'd prepared, and then realised wouldn't fit in with the time limit) during the question-and-answer session afterwards. In another stroke of interview luck, during the group exercise I whipped out the stopwatch I'd taken with me (to time my presentation), because we weren't provided with one. I suppose interviews are as much about luck as they are about ability and preperation. This time, I was lucky, suitable for the job and well-prepared.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Until We Meet Again

Farewell Granddad; my mentor, my teacher, my supporter and my friend.
There are so many things I wouldn't have been able to do without you.


Rest peacefully, babu.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Malaysia Travelogue

My first updates from Malaysia will arrive soon. I'm going to make a short post for each day, because there's lots to tell and see. So far, I've been here 9 days and the photo count is up to 910.

This is what's happening; while Jason is at work, I go exploring during the day. Night-time is food city, and at the weekends we're going on road/air trips. First weekend to Cherating, second to Penang, third to Singapore...

Check below for updates!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chinatown Chopstick Canai



Chinatown: home of Lewey Veeton, Ralf Lorren, and all things pirated! This is a pic from Petaling Street, where Westerners are constantly pestered to buy DVDs and fake belts. I soon got tired of this and headed off to a hawker court for teh tarik and some mushroom noodles... mmm.

My 3rd full day in Malaysia, and I found myself getting frustrated with the public transport system. The "LRT" system (a poorly integrated version of the Underground, including monorail as well as underground tracks) particularly annoyed me, when in trying to change from one line to another I was told that my ticket was only valid for travel on the line I had come in at. The different lines are run and owned by different companies, so you have to buy a seperate ticket for each. However, the trains themselves are pretty nice and well air-conditioned so offer a welcome break from the humidity. The buses are mad - I asked for a bus map at the Tourist Centre and they looked at me blankly. I tried to look for information at the bus stop, and at the bus information office, but nothing. There's no way of telling which buses stop at which stations, or where they are going to be heading until the bus arrives which makes planning journeys pretty impossible... Makes me miss the super-efficient service in Linz!

Also went to Central Market today, and enjoyed getting into the the habit of bargaining for goods - although inevitably tourists are always subject to "tourist-tax", it's fun trying to get them as low as possible. Ended up buying various presents for Kat and Mum (really pleased with the gift for K!).

I spent an hour or so writing postcards underneath the towers, watching couples wander the banks of the lake. A romantic setting, but overwhelmingly man-made. Thought about holding hands with Kat, and missed having her here to banter with.

I walked around the city a lot today, and got a good feel for the layout. I hate getting public transport everywhere - you don't get to see how everything joins together. Walking through the scruffy parts is just as rewarding as walking through the beautiful areas. More pictures on flickr when I post them up...

Monday, July 10, 2006

First Glimpse


My first foray into KL proper, including a glimpse of those towers...

I met an odd chap called Azli while drinking coffee by the side of the KLCC Gardens (which are overlooked by the towers and surroud an artificial lake). He's a highly enthusiastic photographer, and after half an hour of telling me all about his hobby, he gave me his card with a link to his photo blog. He also showed me some of the photos on his camera - mostly of children, and mostly boys. Hmm. Then I saw the tagline on his photo blog - "Touching lives through photography"... I'd heard enough! I ran away and hid in a shop opposite Starbucks.

Off on a tangent here; for the price of a Starbucks coffee, you could buy 5 main meals at a mamak, or stay in a local hostel for 2 nights (yet it's still half the price of a coffee in London)...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Madness Of King Zizou



Madness, utter madness.




My day started with a trek through the jungle just outside KL, including a walk across a canopy bridge whose entire integrity seemed to rest on the shoulders of a screw no bigger than my little finger. The walk was really good - it was nice to get a chance to catch up with Jason and to get to know Kat a little better. They're a really lovely couple, always smiling and chatting.

Other highlights included eating roti canai again, and seeing some keep-fit enthusiasts thrusting their hips in the direction of a waterfall. Only in Asia...

Lunch was at a collection of hawker stalls nearby Jason's house - these places have an amazing atmosphere, really family orientated and bustling. The food is great too - Malay cuisine is a unique mix of Chinese and Indian cooking, but undoubtably with its own distinct style and taste.

The tagline "Football Mad Nation" is dotted around the city, advertising a Malaysian phone company. This is certainly apt - the party for the World Cup Final in the centre of town was incredible. In the absence of a Malaysia national team in the finals, everyone chooses a team to support which adds to the carnival feel. It's certainly a spectacle - this year only Flipsyde (or however you spell his misspelled name) and a live Crazy Frog performance spoiled what was otherwise a superb festival atmosphere.

We moved onto the "football district" to watch the game, and Zidane's inexplicable moment of madness. I feel pretty sorry for the old chap, but it was moment of utter stupidity from a player we all once revered. Rather than spoil our memory of him, this incident will ensure that one of the world's greatest players is always remembered, but as a human being with faults like Maradona, rather than the god-like genius that was Pele.