Bellack in London
Week Nine: January 1-7, 2001

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jan 1-2 - jan 3 - jan 4 - jan 5 - jan 6 - jan 7
   
jan 1-2 New Year's Day was another slow day with most things closed.

I started listening to my French language tapes this morning. It's actually a very good program, with the teacher starting with useful blocks of syntax ("I want," "Will you," etc) instead of drilling grammar and memorizing words. The lessons are all on the tape, so there's no extra work required, and I definitely feel like I'm picking up bits of the language.

Work got very stressful before I even got on the train. The senior management in the US is focusing on profitability in Q1 of this year, and with the economic slowdown times are tough for IT consultancies and solutions providers. We've been asked to defend our sales projections and what that means for our staff utilization to the COO and CFO. Vim, Jeremy, and I had to drop a lot of what we've been doing to focus on this.

I did manage to start inviting people to my flatwarming party (Jan 20). I've invited a bunch of people from work, plus the few people I've met outside work (the Shepherds, Will Bunker), and am encouraging everyone to bring their friends to make it a full party.

jan 3 I spent all morning meeting with Giles Clayton, the project manager for BT, going over our project plans and talking about how to get things moving again. It took almost four hours and was fairly tiring, given that neither of us are totally happy with where the project is right now. In the afternoon I had to present our sales projections to the CFO in a conference call -- fortunately Gerry (my friend & boss) was on the call and helped defend what I had to say.
jan 4 Based on Giles' comments, I got out a revised version of the BT documents. Hopefully they'll be approved. Helping with the presentation for Three Rivers District Council -- 8pm presentation weirdly enough. The Three Rivers District was the home of William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania (where I was born & grew up), and Penn is actually buried in the district. Presentation went OK (Kam, our project manager, did very well) but hard to say if we'll get the job.
jan 5 Afternoon was our presentation at Revolution Magazine, an eBusiness mag aimed at marketers. It's part of Haymarket press, a relatively big UK publishing house. We emphasized my own publishing background (Wolff New Media, Consumer Reports, SmartMoney.com), then Kam gave project presentation again. Went OK. Presentation in Hammersmith -- when leaving, passed the Hammersmith Palais, mentioned in Elvis Costello song "London's Brilliant Parade," took picture. Stopped at Shipton & Heneage shoe store in Battersea, had heard they were good-quality shoes -- turned out they didn't have wider sizes, so tried on 10 pairs and nothing fit. Annoying.
jan 6 I spent most of the morning and afternoon cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and so forth. I finally found a dry cleaners in easy walking distance, and picked up some funky sauces and noodles at a Thai grocery store, and some Italian pork called pancetta that was recommended by my British cookbook. I had lunch at a Japanese place on Upper Richmond Road -- good miso soup.

In mid-afternoon I went into the city to meet Adrienne for drinks & dinner. Adrienne is a woman from Tasmania who just moved to the UK to be a teacher -- we traded some email before she moved here and agreed to meet. We met at the Salisbury (Victorian pub in Covent Garden), had a few pints, and started wandering around causing trouble. I've discovered that Australians are a very frank and straightforward people -- no girlish reticence in an attempt to impress. It was a lot of fun, though -- given that we're two foreigners from different places it was easy to feel free to act goofy without repercussions. I showed her around Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus, and we had dinner at a place in Chinatown called Mr. Kong, featuring some very authentic dishes. Not great, but not too bad. After dinner we wandered around again, heading to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson's column and catch the view of Big Ben that you can get from the north end of the square. After some more pints and some more wandering, the night was about over. Adrienne crashed at my flat because it was too late to catch a train back to her place north of London (but this was a first date, people, so don't get too excited -- proprieties were observed).

Last note -- all hail the British for the slang phrase "snogging," which in my opinion sounds much better than stupid US terms like "making out" or "necking."

jan 7 Slept in, saw Adrienne off, and made myself some scrambled eggs and pancetta, which worked very well (pancetta cooked is sort of like ham but with intense Italian flavoring). I then headed into the city to pick up my Spain photos. I went into the British Museum to sit down and go through the photos. The British Museum has built an amazing new central court that covers a huge area. There's an elaborate skylight/ceiling of triangular glass pieces, set against a few well-chosen artworks and a large central building that houses the museum's reading room. Well worth a visit. I wandered around the museum a bit, awed again by the sheer density of brilliant pieces plundered from all over the world. In the China room I had a nice conversation with a college sophomore who had spent a semester in France and was vacationing in London before she headed back to the US.

That night went to Clapham to meet up with Will Bunker & two of his friends. Intention was to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it was sold out, so we ended up seeing Unbreakable. The other three didn't appreciate it at all. Since it's a movie with a big comic book tie-in, I rather enjoyed it. Took the bus to & from Clapham, ended up talking to my parents the whole bus ride home from the top level.

By the time I went to bed, I felt quite ill. Adrienne had been complaining of stomach upset and being very tired, but we thought it was a reaction to the prawns we had for dinner; in retrospect it must be some kind of weird Tasmanian flu, because I went to bed feeling serious chills and totally exhausted.

next week Work gets busy again; still hunting for shoes