Bellack in London
Week Ten: January 8-14, 2001

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jan 8-11 - jan 12 - jan 13 - jan 14
   
jan 8-11 I spent most of the week sick. On Monday, I woke up with a bad case of chills. I ended up getting to work fairly late. Once there I got some work done but shambled around in my coat feeling miserable. We spent most of the day making changes to the Revolution proposal to try to win the business. I went home a bit early and went to bed around 10pm -- very early for me.

Even with plenty of sleep, I woke up exhausted on Tuesday. I started getting ready for work but quickly ralized that didn't have the energy to get to work, so I stayed home. I half-dozed all morning, but by early afternoon I was going stir-crazy. I went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of stuff, then made stock -- chicken plus vegetables plus water plus 2 hours of bubbling = soup. With noodles, the Thai spices, and some fresh spinach, I was able to make a pretty decent bowl of ramen soup. In early evening I got a call from Vim -- we didn't get the Revolution job, which sucks. I went to sleep early again.

I still felt lousy Wednesday morning, but managed to get to work. Stopped at the grocery store on the way home, attempted to roast a lamb shoulder (I'd had a really good one in a Windsor "wine bar" -- basically a restaurant -- a few weeks ago). Came out all rubbery, dunno if it was bad meat or I did something wrong in the cooking. I discovered one of the TV channels broadcasting the HBO series "Sex & the City," which I'd been enjoying back in the States.

By Thursday I was mostly better, but still a bit run-down. We got a presentation from a company that does search-engine optimisation -- they had a few good ideas that I hadn't heard before. Giles at BT finally sent changes to the SOW at the end of the day. Another tired afternoon, and the evening was a blur of stumbling around from dinner to TV. I did start updating the journal, finally.

jan 12 I spent the morning making a final version of the BT SOW, which hopefully will get signed on Monday morning. It also turns out that I need to go to Oxford on Monday to meet with another one of our clients. Lunch was at the Royal Oak to wish John Jones good luck. He's leaving G.Triad to work at Allaire, the company that makes ColdFusion. Just about everybody showed up. I spent part of the afternoon walking around Eton with Vim, helping him pick out a birthday present for his girlfriend Julia. We shut down a bit early and went to the Donkey House for a few pints. Vim, Jeremy, Steve Dousie (one of the sales guys), and Lauren Barham (the network operations manager) were there. Lauren's just separated from her husband, and with pints all around the conversation quickly degenerated into man/woman/sex/dating miscellany. Things didn't improve when Vim, Lauren, & I kept going, heading up to the Slug & Lettuce for dinner and more pints. We actually ran into a guy that Vim & Lauren had had a business meeting with, who joined in. After a cajun chicken burger I decided the night was getting silly and headed for the train. This was only around 8:30pm, but considering that we started drinking at 5pm it was a pretty full evening.
jan 13 Woke up bleary, made some scrambled eggs and pancetta, and eventually got out of the damn house for errand-running. I stopped at the Italian food store where I got the pancetta and put in an order for some food for the flatwarming -- roast vegetables, pasta salad, seafood salad, bread, a whole heap of Italian meats & cheeses, and enough tiramisu to choke a horse. All told it's about 25 people's worth of food.

After that, my main task was to finally get some new shoes. I started off at Church's on Regent Street -- Church's is one of the bigger chains in the UK. They only had one style in a wide size and it didn't fit. I did find myself sitting next to a vacationing American -- an HR manager for Microsoft living in Seattle. Small world. I also got an SMS text message on my cell phone for the first time. UK cell phones are all equipped to easily send text messages to each other, and this is a big subculture in some circles -- I think it's a big clubber thing. I ended up walking down Regent Street almost smacking into phone poles as I tried to figure out how to respond. The phone has a very weird mode called iTAP which automatically fills in words based on the first few letters you type. This saves time but is tricky to use.

Having tried Clark's, Shipton & Heneage, and Church's without success since I've been in the UK, I gave up and went to Jermyn Street, home of expensive (but hopefully fittable) shoes. I finally hit pay dirt at Crockett & Jones, a shoe shop right next to Turnbull & Asser (Prince Charles' shirtmakers). Turns out their size 10 width G shoes fit right, so I got a pair of simple black brogues (just the one strip of ornamented leather across the shoe, without all the fancy curlicue stuff on the toe). I also ended up buying a pair of boots made of incredibly soft textured leather. They're a bit funky in that they're pretty tall -- not like cowboy boots or anything but a couple of inches higher than your typical pair of clompy Doc Martens or the like. They're insanely comfortable, however. The bad news is that the two pairs together cost 415 pounds, which is a bit horrifying, but they do fit and as top-quality British shoes they should last forever.

I also bought a couple of French travel books in preparation for Angouleme, and a few CD's. I ordered some curry for dinner, then spent the evening doing a bit of cleaning & laundry.

jan 14 Woke up late and had to scramble to iron some pants and get moving. I had to get to Chinatown by noon in order to meet Jane for a dim sum brunch. Jane's an Australian who's been in the UK for four years, mostly as a banker in the City (old central London, now the equivalent of Wall Street) but recently left finance to become a doctor for the Navy. She's apparently a big believer in men wearing good shoes (hence some of my rush to find something better than my 5-year-old disintegrating Bostonians). I got to Chinatown in plenty of time and found the restaurant I chose, New World, easily. Jane showed up on time looking (as they say) very smart. We had a nice brunch despite the fact that she's allergic to seafood and prawn dumplings are my favorite dim sum. After brunch we went to the National Portrait Gallery for their "100 years of portraits" exhibit, featuring a chronological review of portraiture in the 20th century. Highlights included an interwar German painting of a family with distorted walls and jaded faces that made it seem like the visual embodiment of a Kafka story; a 1924 portrait of Lenin outside the Kremlin that made him look like just another worker who had wandered away from the crowd in the background; and one of Chuck Close's huge photorealistic black-and-white portraits, whose technical expertise amazes me every time. Jane also likes reading all the descriptions and talking about the photos, so we had a pretty good time. We split up at 3pm after finishing the exhibit.

For dinner I tried making a fish curry from the British cookbook. It came out OK despite the fact that it was all salmon (instead of a mix of fish & shellfish) and the can of coconut milk was so impossible to open that I had to bash holes in it with a pair of scissors and then cut open the metal. I used some super-hot Thai chillies, and after cutting them by hand, the chilli oil got into my fingertips, so I spent the rest of the night irritating hell out my skin wherever I scratched.

Kept calling my parents to get updates on the NFL championship games -- I couldn't find a bloody Webcast and of course they weren't on British TV.

next week Lots of meetings in & around London (FamilyGenetix in Oxford, Allaire, DeutscheBank); my flatwarming party; my post-flatwarming hangover.