P-a-r-t-y….y? dunno…

New stupid content on the Anorak: this year, the support staff in my building are organising another party to celebrate the end of another year. Two years ago, we organised a grand event at Brown’s in Covent Garden – with a PA, lighting and an awards ceremony. This took the form of a series of video clips of various people, entered for awards such as ‘Boozy Bird’ and other birthday-card themes.

This year, we’ve neither the budget or the manpower to devote to such an event – plus I’ve no wish to spend three days editing video and designing stuff, then half the night operating equipment! However, no party is complete without an invitation, so this year I produced a small animated Flash, harkening back to the previous party.

You can find it >here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re invited…

Ben’s travels

Managed to get most of “Ben’s Travels” completed this weekend. Its doubly useful – firstly I’ve been meaning to get ben’s site sorted for ages, but I’ll be able to reuse the code and layout for other parts of the travel section – particularly the photo galleries from Prague, Tallinn, Stockholm and (new!!) Rome. We’ve also got various pics from Leeds and London which I might stick in a general gallery somewhere.

I’ll add the link to ben’s site shortly, once its been tested. Also coming (fairly) soon is the restaurant database – Lou’s be making great progress on that, and has taken _loads_ of pictures to use in the reviews, as well as writing summary reviews for just about every one of the entries, and a few detailed reviews

Testing the new layout

Finally, it looks like we’re getting somewhere with the interminable redesign. After donkeys fiddling about, its finally close to a useful design. Hurrah.

Now I just need to fix the practicalities.

Travellers’ caution

A travellers caution. Beware all forms of transport not involving your legs! A brief list of our travel woes:

  1. No train service on Sundays to Stansted for…umm…the forseeable future (track ‘maintenance’, hmmpf)
  2. The 7:45 National Express/Airbus A6 to Stansted, which helpfully left at 7:30 without bothering to announce this to the 15 or so passengers waiting in the boarding area. Apparently, this was due to an earlier coach being cancelled as the driver called in sick. Very helpful. The next coach therefore had to leave ‘early’ (by about 5 minutes – brilliant). Thankfully we’d given ourselves quite a bit of leeway.
  3. Also on the NatExpress/Airbus A6 service, don’t plan on using the toilet on board. A very suspicious “Out of Order” sign was present on both coaches we travelled on. We suspected a reluctance to clean the toilet after each trip – niiiice when the journey is 90mins+
  4. Ryanair’s ground staff at Stansted (pt1) – yeah, ok, it was pretty windy, but the grounding of all Ryanair flights came from them (as we understand it), not the pilots! Difficulties driving the little luggage carts? Eh? Anyway, add a 90minute delay here…
  5. Highly stupid people onboard aircraft, who, despite every instruction, insist on standing up, wandering about, chatting to their friends etc even after strict instructions to sit down & belt up. Always nice to end your flight with a message from the captain saying “If you don’t like the rules, don’t fly with Ryanair. If you want to stand up, you can remain aboard until the police arrive to escort you from the plane”.
  6. Ryanair’s ground staff at Stansted (pt2): once you’re on a plane, they’re not too keen for you to get off. So, we hung around for 20 minutes whilst they found some stairs for the plane – only one set mind, so I pity those who were stuck at the rear of the aircraft…although…
  7. …it doesn’t make much difference – you still have to wait a further half an hour before they get round to removing the baggage and loading it on the conveyor belt thingy. Yawn, and very frustrating when you’ve got about 5 minutes to get to the coach station after picking your bags up
  8. NatExpress/Airbus A6 again! Yet again they’d cancelled an earlier service – this time due to ‘traffic’ (how can you cancel a bus service due to ‘traffic’?? What? You weren’t expecting anyone else to be using the road at the time? Eh?). This meant a huge queue of people with ‘boarding cards’ who hadn’t been able to get their earlier coach.
    NatExp Bloke: “You’ll have to wait for the people with boarding cards to get on first.”
    Lou: Bollocks to that. *stomp stomp*

    What’s more, even though there were at least 6 empty seats that I could see, the driver declared the coach ‘full’ and drove off, leaving people who’d missed the earlier coach still waiting…poor buggers.

Wome – Wonderful Wome

No, I’m not tired of that joke yet.

Well, we’re back from Rome, and it was an amazing place. You can’t chuck a meatball without hitting some massively grand 2000-year old monolith/ruin/building/pope. Fantastic. We spent a couple of days wandering about, having first taken a 2-hour bus trip around the city, to get our bearings. Best tips:

  • DO go to the tourist information office and get a map
  • DON’T be fooled by the map – its on a really large? scale – we were constantly walking past things as we thought they would be further away
  • DO make a point of going into the Pantheon – an amazingly intact building which was constructed in something like 70AD
  • DON’T get too carried away in the Vatican. By all means wander round if you have time; we found it a bit “fresco, fresco, fresco, bored, tapestry, tapestry, tapestry, bored, Sistine Chapel, BLIMEY!”. If you’re short on time, look in St Peters Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Also, its worth getting one of the CD-audio guides. They’re not too expensive, are largely narrated by (we think) Emma Thompson, and have scads of info on pretty much everything.
  • DON’T forget to buy cigarettes before you get to the airport. Very important. And yes, I do feel like an idiot
  • DO think carefully when choosing a drinking den or eatery. Sitting in the square by the Pantheon listening to the fountain may seem like a fine location for beers, but at $/EUR:5.5 a glass (about £3.50) its a comparitively expensive way to do it.

Also of interest: of all the places we visited, the only places that charged a significant amount to get in were the Vatican and the Colosseum (and we didn’t bother with that – there’s not a lot inside to see, from what we could gather).