Tuesday, October 31, 2006

First leg

This'll get posted (backdated) whenever I'm next near an internet connection I can use (there's a port at the desk in my hotel room here but I sensibly left the PowerBook at home.) I've arrived in Singapore after the first leg of my big adventure (the ankle of which began about 22 hours ago if my time-zone maths is right, with a bus ride from Haymarket station to Edinburgh airport) LHR to SIN took a swift 12 hours, but when you add in the flight from Edinburgh down and all the assorted waiting, travelling between and around airports, it all adds up.

Happily I don't mind that stuff: Air travel is still very much a source of childlike wonder for me, even the bits involving bus rides between terminals, or squeaky travelators. I spent pretty much the whole time I was in Heathrow with a loopy grin on my face in spite of having to wait several hours between flights - that didn't matter I was on an adventure!

It'll be interesting to see if that holds for the whole trip, but so far Quantas are doing a good job of keeping me smiling, I'm surrounded on the desk by all the presents and toys they gave me (daft stuff like a little fuzzy pair of socks, and a clever travel toothbrush, but they make me happy - yay for proper airlines!)

Meanwhile I'm safely at my hotel here and not too jetlagged to enjoy the view from my room* I suspect however that an early night is in order** so I'll leave exploring until the morning.

*I took a photo but can't upload it here, will hopefully fare better at Aussie net cafes

**it was, I slept well but not too long and woke in the morning feeling bright and alert. I've been up and doing since 7:30am (it's actually just after noon on the 1st as I type) with plenty of time and energy to make the most of my only full day exploring Singapore, I'm halfway through it now and on my way back to the hotel for a shower and some air-con because it's VERY hot and sticky here!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

(almost) ready for take off

So with only a few days left before I set off on my adventures I'm pretty much all sorted. The important stuff is all done, I have a shiny new passport and an ethereal electronic visa for entry to Australia, all my travel documents have arrived and I've got somewhere to live when I get to Perth that should be comfy and quiet and which isn't costing me a fortune. The wonder that is the internet has allowed me to start making friends in Sydney and Perth even before I've left which has been a huge help too.

I've a few loose ends to tidy up though. The nice people at the Nationwide still haven't sent me an important piece of plastic for example, but I'll chase that up tomorrow and if it doesn't arrive before I leave I've made arrangements today that will mean I can have it safely posted to myself down under.

Frank is still awaiting a new owner, I've had some genuine interest but so far nothing that's materialised into a sale. Happily that too I've made arrangements for handling if I have to leave before it's sorted (which is looking very likely).

I still need to actually pack, and get a haircut and do a few other odds and ends jobs before I go but everything's going pretty smoothly so far. A trivial but very pleasing part of my preparations was the arrival of this little wonder, it's deeply cool I think, little power reservoir that was produced carbon neutrally and can be hooked into any mains outlet (comes with the best modular mains adaptor I've ever seen) but also unfolds into a little solar charger so wherever I am, so long as there's sunshine* I can get power. I'm only taking two gadgets but it's good to know that I'm not going to be stuck for power with either of them.

*probably not in short supply down under

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

choo choo

Today's job was going to Glasgow with assorted papers and getting my glitched passport fixed... yeah, I know, I booked a trip to the other side of the world, you'd have thought I'd have a passport... well I did but somehow (three years ago - so sue me I have a low Follow Through) my fore- and surnames got transposed on it. I've never realy gotten round to having it fixed since it's not really been a problem for EU travel but I figured I should get it sorted ahead of going to Australia.

This post isn't about that big journey though, it's about the little one I made to Glasgow. See, the trip to Guisachan last week was the last excuse I had for owning a car and I decided a while ago that now was the time to say goodbye to my friend Frank*... OK so I haven't actually placed the advert yet, but I'm thinking of this as buffer-time, it's been a really good few months and I'm going to miss my big old Sweedish brute when he goes.

Meanwhile this morning as part of my aclimatisation to the ranks of the carless I thought I'd take the train to my appointment with the Passport Office in Glasgow. I like train travel, it's relaxing. I did some bits of work (yes! I used the W word!) and listened to some chilled out music like this and watched the world flit past the window without having to worry about which exit to take, or how close the car behind was... I could get used to that...

... though I'd still going to miss my car.

*no, scroll down the post! I'm talking about my car not my nephew!

Monday, October 02, 2006

57°17'31.48"N, 4°49'39.39"W

It wasn't really planned as such, but I spent last week kind of reconnecting with Scotland - I went north with Liz and Keith meeting up here with Lara, her husband Tim and a couple of their friends who I'd not met before. Hamish and Karen joined us later in the week since we had two chalets booked and plenty of space for everyone.

Originally Lara and I had planned it as a kind of Aberdeen University Creative Writing Society reunion but in the end she and I were the only ex-CWSers there* so instead it turned into just a week of chilling out in the hills, gently wandering in small groups through steadily changing birch woods, or over rolling bracken covered hills, or alongside rumbling grey rivers and waterfalls, all under benignly autumnal skies. In the evenings we'd retreat into our snug little wooden houses or the hotel down the hill for excellent food, wine/beer and conversation.

Before we left I started thinking of the trip in the context of my imminent departure down-under, as a serendipitous chance to reconnect with the landscape of the country I've made my home in these past ten years. It was certainly that: I love Scotland, and perhaps most of all I love it for its seasonal nature. Here you can really feel the shifts from one season to another and in Guisachan last week we could almost see the leaves changing colour in front of us, feel the summer moving into autumn... I was expecting to come away from the week feeling connected to the country and I really do.

More than that though the week reminded me of what's kept me here for a decade: the people. Spending a week in that easy mix of company reminded me how socially rooted to this place I've become. I suppose it's something I'm always aware of in the background, but its a good thing to be reminded of in the foreground too.

* The rest of you (you all know who you are) missed out and were missed - Next time get your collective arses in gear and come along if you can