Friday, July 29, 2011

A Buxton Blog - 29/7, first day

I woke up this morning at quite a reasonable hour and headed to Aldi for some essentials. Over breakfast Chris and I tried to get the wifi working but they've gone and disabled NAT so's UK operation is scuppered. Damn it.

David and I have just come back from the Vodafone shop, where Christian and Hannah gave us excellent service in the very best Midga tradition. Getting overseas phones to connect to 3G services is tricky but they kept at it and eventually got us going. Hooray! It took a couple of hours, for which glowing emails will be sent to their head office.

And now I have nothing (much) to do. I guess the thing to do is show David round town so he can't get lost, settle some rosters for shopping, cleaning up, cooking, etc and catch up on what the rest of the world has done for the last 48 hours.

Buxton Bound - 28/7 arrived!

It's just gone 10pm and we're settled down in our flats at the uni. For the sake of the narrative I will back track to the landing at Manchester.

David was snap-happy all the way down (I was thinking of telling him to stop as the wheels touched down in case he bashed himself in the face with the camera) so hopefully there's some good shots there. Coming down I recognized a Class 170 and a Class 185, which got me all excited. As we taxied in we saw some sort of observation point with a mini-museum attached - a Concorde in a building, and a Nimrod and something else outside. Must go check that out.

Getting off the plane was a pain in the neck, the business class people just didn't seem to move! Or maybe it just seems like it because we're tired and want to get out. Manchester Airport is quieter and less commercialised than most, it makes a pleasant change.

We had just missed our Route 199 bus from the Airport to Buxton, but that was OK because we had to find a money machine, a water fountain and open wifi, and of course take a gander at the 156 and 185 sets at the station. We also swapped over our SIM cards, and discovered that they'd been cancelled. So quite possibly our phone numbers are going to change. But I'll sort that out at Manchester tomorrow.

We got our bus, paid our £8.40 return fares, reacquainted ourselves with Stockport's massive bus station and railway viaduct, tried to tune out the conversation of a couple of drunks, and arrived in Buxton about 80 minutes later - much better than the two hours I estimated. Off-Peak traffic does make a difference.

The staff here at the uni greeted us with "Ah, three from Australia? Yes I have your keys here", and showed us to our rooms with zero fuss. I like working with competent people. We're all in rooms looking out over the railway viaduct, so my Class 66 alarm clock is (probably) back in business.

Right now I'm lying on my bed with Clippy on my lap, having peeled my socks and shoes off and opened the window to let out the noxious gases contained therein. I will now turn in and wake up at whatever time I feel like it, and hopefully adjust my body clock to this side of the world. Have fun!

Buxton bound - 28/7 last leg

Takeoff from Dubai was great - daylight means visibility, and that means we can see the sheer size of the place. Also the number of freight aircraft, which are converted from older airliners like 737-200s and 727s.

Dubai from the air is much like any other city, except bigger... and browner. There's quite a lot of street trees, but the overall look of the place is sand coloured not grass coloured. I didn't think any Australian cities had that much grass but there's obviously enough to make a difference.

Killing time... I've read all the emails on my phone, played the games until I'm bored with them, and watched all the nerd-friendly stuff on the plane's movie server. Sore gluteals, worse than when I went from Pakenham to the city stopping all stations on a Siemens train. Are we there yet?

It's 3:30 Melbourne time and we're less than an hour from landing. Apparently London and the Midlands are under ten tenths cloud because we can see nothing but glaring white light. David managed to snap a shot of a cu-num formation that looks like Stonehenge... using my brand new camera which he seems to have taken a liking to. Good thing I brought them both. And hey, it's good for him to have something other than a point and squirt to play with.

Forgot to say that this 777-300ER must be one of a new batch - the first thing we noticed was power, USB and ethernet at most seats even in economy! Also the entertainment system has been uprated with more movies etc, and widescreen LCDs with a more responsive touch screen. NICE.

We're about to land now so I have to shut Clippy down. brb...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Buxton Blog - 28/7 - Dubai Airport

Here we are again folks, and once more (thankfully) able to reach via free wifi. Go Dubai. Well actually, it's sponsored by the Hilton Hotel, you know, the ones that charge for wifi at their own hotels. So it seems if you pay to be there, you pay for the wifi, but if you're there for free, so's the connection. Must remember that.

So, on takeoff from KLIA the first thing we noticed was that the row ahead of us was crowded with screaming kids. Groans, this is going to be a long flight. Thankfully they settled down somewhat.

The captain warned us that the weather in Dubai would be "even hotter" than in KL - maybe up to 40 degrees. Now that we're here it's 42. After 8C on the weather clock next to the Tullamarine Freeway I could stand 42 degrees for quite some time before it got too much for me, despite having dressed for cold weather.

The flight itself was rough in places - I was reminded of the little old lady who asked the hostie to "tell the captain to stop turning the seat belt light on - every time he does it the ride gets bumpy!"

It was quite rough on approach to landing too - but we got as close to a perfect three point landing as I've ever had. Come to think of it the landing at KL was pretty smooth too.

On landing David tried to count the Emirates tails lined up at the terminal. As with my attempt in 2007, he was not successful. I'll say it again - this place is HUGE. The shopping centre hasn't changed much, but unfortunately the plane spotting has - they've put a sort of shade screen over the windows and the camera focuses on it instead of on the planes. Grrr. Ah well, no doubt it keeps the temperature in here habitable.

Now it's time to board so I'll drink my water bottle and go off wifi again. Next stop, Manchester.

Buxton Blog - 28/7 - flying Emirates

So the day has finally come - we're flying out to the other side of the world, where it's possible to assemble more than five people who can sing "Eagle High" without scores.

The trip to the airport was a classic farewell to the public transport system I live and breathe. Bus no 868 (one of the few low floor buses with well padded seats, and the only one with a pleasantly musical "next stop" bell), a new gen Xtrapolis, and a three axle rigid Skybus.

Then there was just the usual procedure of baggage check-in, security, the long walk to the gate, and the interminable waiting time before boarding. Luckily we found a power point so we could all charge our laptops (and play a few games to de-stress).

It all got exciting again as we boarded the plane - I've been on a few 777 flights and the sight of that twin aisle layout brought it all back to me. We pushed back 23min late after boarding started only 15min before departure time. David, since it's his first flight, gets the window seat. During the taxi and takeoff he took quite a few photos on my new Pentax DSLR (which I still haven't learned how to use properly) - hopefully some of them come out, but it's dark so they'll probably be blurred somewhat.

Considering I spend most of my free hours poring over satellite photos of Victoria I found it difficult to pinpoint our location as we took off. Patterns of lights don't follow the same major landmarks that are visible in the daytime.

I'm primarily taking this trip to see people I've met before and not seen for ages, people I've missed sorely. I think it's started right here on the plane. :D

Emirates have just served us a "midnight snack" (3:30am is close enough to midnight), a chicken roll and berry muffin. Plus water and juice, which I needed. Somehow when I emptied my 1.25l water bottle before going through check-in it made my system accustomed to being damped down properly... which is probably a good thing, I might still be able to sing when we arrive.

We're flying via KL, which has a fairly amazing airport from all I've heard. I want to be able to take it all in so I think I'll grab a snooze.

9:35am Melbourne time: I was woken by the hostesses serving breakfast, which surprised me as I thought I couldn't sleep on a plane. We do have the luxury of an uncrowded plane so we have two whole rows of seats to sleep on. Even so it's not possible to stretch out properly. I started thinking about options for landbridging on international flights, with Darwin or Broome as the hub and most flights being run with A380s (or something even bigger). Unfortunately Melbourne-Broome in four hours just isn't possible by any affordable form of land transport, so airline seats are with us to stay.

The windows were all shuttered for the night of course. Opening them is initially blinding, but as our eyes get used to the light we see bright blue sky, bright blue sea... and a few wisps of alto-cirrus cloud several thousand feet below us! This is what you can do on long flights.

We're just over an hour out of KL, so I should tidy up my stuff. Last night when it got warm enough to take my coat off I very carefully stowed EVERYTHING from its pockets into my backpack to avoid unpleasantnesses like lost phones and passports.

Battery life on my new phone is 69%, after being charged at 4pm yesterday at home! Nice one.

We're flying at 575mph ground speed in a 33mph head wind. We're at 36,000 feet and it's minus 26 degrees outside. So when they they'll ask you to step outside if they find you smoking, you'll probably need the heat of the cigarette to keep you alive...

11:10am and we're in the terminal at KLIA, on wifi (free, provided by the airport - Tulla, take note) but not on power. We have only 20 minutes so I won't be able to check out the high tech airport, which is a shame. But hopefully we can get online long enough to keep our fans up to date.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Buxton bound!

Those of you who keep an eye on Facebook will have seen the news. Those of you who can read will know what it means. Yes folks, the Angelico invasion of the International G&S Festival in Buxton UK is on again - this time with 50% MORE!

It's true - me, Chris and David are right now heading towards Southern Cross Station to pick up a Skybus for Tullamarine. From there an Emirates 777-300ER will wing us to Manchester Airport.

So - only a few more hours in Australia. Australia, land of bumpy rails and low service frequencies (Skybus excepted). Land where peace and joy had birth. I still call Australia home and always will - but Buxton is a great place to be for a month. Excitement is building. Watch this space.