Sunday, January 27, 2008

Buses Versus Trains

Towards the end of last year, certain unexpected bills caused a cash flow shortage for me. Part of my coping strategy was to switch from taking the bus to my day job, to taking the train. The advantages are: the train is cheaper and I can pay for my ticket using a credit card. The latter preserves cash. The disadvantages are: I have a 25-30 minute walk to and from the train station and I have to get up a half-hour earlier. Originally, I meant this to only be a temporary measure. Once the cash flow crisis eases, I intend to go back to the bus. The bus is more convenient, as I only have to walk around the corner to get it. However, now that I have gotten used to the train, I am wondering, should I stay with it?
The enforced walking has caused me to loose more weight, which can only be a good thing. I am now getting an hour of exercise, every day. Also, my weekly train ticket can be used to get me discounts on travel, to and from London. There are also loads of free newspapers available on the train. I could pay extra and add the bus from the town centre to my weekly train ticket. Then I wouldn't have to walk home, although I would still have to walk to the station in the morning, as the buses aren't running that early. If I did add the bus, I would lose the financial savings I am currently enjoying, using the train. What do you think I should do?

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Christmas With a Difference

If Christmas 2007 had been typical of the last five years, I would have been facing another holiday season alone. Nando, my racist Italian housemate, went home to Italy. Hitler's Nephew, my other housemate, went home to Austria, thankfully. So, it would have been sitting home, watching satellite TV, sleeping, and fooling around on the internet. However, Christmas was different, this time. For the first time since I moved to England, nine and a half years ago, my good friends, Tim and Barbara, came to visit.
Not only didn't I spend the holiday season alone, but I received presents. I planned so much for their visit. I managed to carry out some of it and other things fell by the wayside. Tim and Barbara joined me for my big Christmas radio show, the night of the 22 December till the morning of the 23rd. If you missed that broadcast, you missed the best one since I have been doing my radio show. We went to the National Railway Museum, in York, on the 23rd. After spending the day in York, it was back to Bracknell. I had rented a car for the weekend, which was due back on Christmas Eve. The rental agency office closed early and they were shut when we arrived. We ended up keeping the car till Boxing Day (26 December), which worked out better for us anyway.
On Boxing day, we went to Paris. That's Paris, France, not Paris, Texas. Despite my best efforts to get us on the cheapest transportation alternative (the bus), Barbara booked us on Eurostar. At least it was more convenient. Although it was my third Eurostar round trip, it was my first one from the new departure point of St. Pancreas Station, in London. With the new, high-speed rail link in England, the trip should have been the quickest ever. Although I enjoyed speeds of 180 plus miles-per-hour, we had an unscheduled stop in Kent, due to "late running engineering works" in the Channel Tunnel. We ended up waiting an hour! This added 50% to our journey time, to Paris.
This was my first visit to Paris at Christmas. Previously, I had visited the French capital in the summer. The Champs Elysees was lit beautifully, at night. We managed to do some of the things I missed on my first visit, including going to the top of the Eiffel tower, visiting the Louvre, and a Seine river cruise. We also went into Notre Dame and, at Barbara's insistence, went to Moulin Rouge. Personally, I thought Moulin Rouge was overpriced and I don't really see the point in a bunch of women dancing with their tits out.
Back in the UK, we got another rental car. I drove my guests to see Stonehenge. On the way, we drove by my old house, where my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, lives. That felt odd. On New Year's Eve, we spent the day finishing off London sightseeing. To satisfy Barbara, we went shopping in Harrod's. This was my first time actually going inside the famous store. They have the most beautiful sales staff I have ever seen. Half of them look like models! I tried to take my visitors to see Jordan Marsh, for the evening, but we couldn't get in. The venue was sold out. We made it back into central London in time to see the fireworks on the Thames, at midnight. I was surprised at how few texts I received as the new year came in. I dropped off Tim and Barbara at Heathrow, in the early evening of New Year's Day. It was great having them visit, although not very restful for me. I returned the rented car after dropping them at Terminal 4, then it was back to Bracknell, by train. Now it's the new year. What will 2008 bring for me?

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