...and yet, I still decided to write a blog entry about it.
It has been two weeks since I got back from Lille, though thanks to my verbose writing, you've still been reading about it for weeks. In the time since returning, not too much exciting has occurred.
Spring has sprung in London. Here's a picture of the cherry tree outside my place. I took the photo a few weeks ago. The bright pink blossoms have now given way to tree of dark red leaves.
Even better, my hay fever, which was causing me much aggravation in the middle of March has disappeared. Hopefully it doesn't come back. It's strange to have been suffering the effects of hay fever at a time of year when back in Toronto they snow wouldn't have even been off the ground.
Right before I went away to Lille, I had to take my Apple down to the Apple Store. The CD drive had stopped working, which was impairing my ability to play the new U2 CD. To repair the CD drive and also fix the screen (which I had water damaged due to an ill advised attempted cleaning) cost £360. That is in fact more than my other computer, a Packard Bell Windows machine cost in total. Macs are a lot like German cars, I think. They are finely crafted and you pay a premium to own one. They run really well, and rarely have problems, but when they do... look out, because your wallet is going to be a lot lighter.
Well waiting for a "genius" from the "genius bar" to help me (god, sometimes you really have to hate the arrogance of the Apple folks, don't you), I went and bought a new phone. That was another £40. The previous day I had spent £180 on a U2 ticket. I don't know what I am thinking. I better hope I don't lose my job, otherwise all this conspicuous consumption is going to catch up with me. Trips to France, computers, phones, fancy soups from Sainsbury's. I tell you, I'm going wild.
Anyway, the genius at the genius bar, who looked like Earl Hickey from My Name is Earl, only with less hair, told me that he'd need to replace the drive, and that it would take a while, so I left the computer with them and plodded off to France. When in Lille, I got a call that I could come pick it up. Once back home, I dropped into the Apple Store, and picked up the machine. Nice and clean with a new, non-water damaged screen. Only one last thing to try. "Can I borrow a CD to check out the drive," I asked.
"Sure," the genius said, and went to retrieve a disk. Greatest 1950s TV hits, or some such thing. My computer apparently didn't like 1950s TV, because it refused to play the disk.
"Hmm, not working," I said.
The genius looked confused. "I need to take this in the back and get one of the technicians to look at it," he said. Not so smart, it seems, for a genius.
Anyway, turns out they had to replace the connector to the CD drive as well. I asked the obvious question - "Can you be sure that the CD drive needed to be replaced in the first place? I mean, perhaps the CD drive was fine all along, and it was only the connector that was busted." No, I was assured, that both the CD drive and the connector needed to be replaced. *sigh* Just like an auto mechanic. What can you do? Buy a PC that you can work on yourself, I guess... But there not nearly as cool as the Mac, right?
I returned to Sheffield, and was in for a treat. I walked into my hotel room for the week to find something I had never seen in a hotel room before. I've stayed in lots of hotels over the years, and seen some pretty decent things. I've stayed in places that had flat-screen TVs that arise from cabinets, sitting rooms with small bars and fridges, places wired for sound with decent hi-fi systems. I even once had a hotel room that had a jacuzzi tub that overlooked the Las Vegas strip. I could have, if I had the time and wasn't working, have spent a lazy evening watching the Bellagio water show from a bubble bath.
This room in Sheffield had something that none of those rooms had ever had, though. It had stairs.
The hotel room was split into two separate floors. One the main floor, where the door was, was the bathroom and a sitting room, with a TV and the internet connection.
On the upper floor, the bedroom with another TV.
So sweet. Now this is luxury I could get used to.
Of course, I didn't get to spend too much time in the room. Mainly just came back at night after dinner and crashed. I had a lot of work to complete that week, so I was in the office late.
How come I never get fancy rooms like that when I go away on vacation?
April 4th I was back in London. My flatmate said that the Grand National was on that day. The Grand National is an annual horse race that is held in Liverpool at the Aintree race course. It is, according to the pre-race hype on the BBC, the most famous race horse in the world. I'd never heard of it before, but I'm just a sample of one, so perhaps that is not indicative of its true fame.
My flatmate and her family has a yearly tradition of picking some horses and putting down a small wager on it. I joined in by picking a couple horses, and we debated about going down to the local Ladbrokes to put a tenner down on the action, but in the end just agreed on a gentlemen's wager.
I suppose that the Grand National would be similar to the Kentucky Derby back in North America (though I had previously thought that is what I would say about the Ascot, so who knows). Anyway, it is a big day for betting on the ponies, and folks who normally wouldn't watch horses race do so when the Grand National is running.
There is an image of the Brits has been a little prissy and uptight, not like the rough and tumble Americans. But horse racing here the UK certainly shatters that image. The Grand National makes that Kentucky Derby look a little bit like a merry-go-round.
The Grand National is a four-mile long steeple chase, with a total of thirty fences to jump. Riders fall off all the time, and the free horses run along with the race, sometimes impeding the progress of those still on their horses. Even the start is maniacal, with the riders all lining up behind a wire strung across the track, which sometimes doesn't get lifted fast enough at the start and you wind up with jockeys getting clothes-lined.
We each picked a long-shot and a decent odds horse. I picked Fleet Street at 100-1 for my long shot, simply because I liked the name, it being a street and all here in London. For my decent odds horse, I debated between the cool-named Comply or Die, but ended up going with Hear the Echo, who was listed as 15:1 in the paper, but by the time the race started had dropped to 33:1.
The race was exciting to watch. It took 9 and a half minutes to run, and only 17 horses finished. At one point, the leader of the race, a horse named Black Apalachi, was out in front with a comfortable lead, when he fell on the 22nd jump. The jockey curled up into a ball as the rest of the field jumped the fence and tried not to stomp on him.
In the end, Mon Mome won the race, a 100:1 shot! Sadly, my pick, Hear the Echo collapsed on the final ran to the wire and later died. Hear the Echo was the 58th horse to die in the 162 runnings of the race.
The next week in Sheffield, I had a regular sized European hotel room. It felt small, cluttered and claustrophobic after last weeks two story affair. *sigh* The good ol' days.
This weekend was Easter weekend, which means a four day weekend. Despite having four days to play with, I did very little. I took no trips, I didn't splash out on any big purchases. Nope, just stayed home for the most part, went out a few times. Nothing big at all...
...well, I guess I did buy a ticket for the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May... For £500. Plus hotel and travel and food...
Prior to the recession, I was quite a little saver. Now, though, I seem to have transformed into a big spender. Oh well, I guess that I am doing my part to try and bring the world back 'round.
Mr. Gordon Brown, you can send your thanks later.
I did slightly better in my NHL hockey pool, which I wrote about attending back in Toronto in October. I ended up winning the pool for the second year running. While this shot is from last year, as the trophy is currently safely in Toronto and not here in London with me, this is what I would be doing if I had the trophy here.
Get ready for next year. THREEPEAT, BABY!!!