Of best laid plans…part 2

Do I feel lucky?!

In a previous post I detailed my nearly coming unstuck in getting to an airport on time, today another fiasco, this time not from me trying to save a few pennies but from our inclement – very inclement! – weather.

For the holidays I was planning heading south to visit my brother and his family in London. Usually I do this in my car enjoying as I do the journey as much as the destination and a journey travelled in a car I find hard to beat – my own route on my own time with the radio and my iPhone collection of music for company pumping through my car stereo.

It had started snowing though back in late November and had not relented.  My neighbours had all got their shovels out – they had to work and unlike me did not do this from their homes – I though decided not to join in – I would let nature take its course.  But nature’s course in this case was to keep on snowing so come yesterday I had to invest in a shovel myself and start the laborious process of rescuing my car from the snow – and by this stage as you can see the snow had been snowing on the snow – it was a long job. After an hour or so I had cleared a way for my car to reverse but my car doors would not open – I tried de-icing the seals with boiling hot water but to no avail – my only entry to my car was an undignified one through the hatch. But then as it was cold I had the reasonable idea of then closing the hatch whilst I tried to get my engine started. The engine would not start and you may have guessed just as I could not get into my car I could not now get out of my car. Fortunately I had only to wait ten or so minutes for a neighbour returning home and to open my boot for me – however being locked in your own car, that is embarrassing!

Eventually I gave up on my car – it clearly needed rescuing but I wanted to be with my nieces and nephew for Christmas Day and the TLC my car needed would have to wait.  I needed alternative transport – I would have to take the train.

My journey alas was not going to improve with my transition from private to public transport – the train was severely delayed so a coach was laid on to take me to Edinburgh.  Then once in Edinburgh the planned journey to London’s King Cross was halted only several minutes out of Waverley station – the joining doors apparently were not disconnecting and we would not be going anywhere.  Eventually the train returned to the station and we were shunted onto another train.  This train though was not going anywhere either – another train was broken down on the track outside of Berwick and we would have to wait for its removal before going anywhere.  Four hours later this train too was cancelled and those of us heading to London were transferred to a Caledonian Sleeper.

I did therefore belatedly make it into London in time to open presents on Christmas Day with my brother’s family.  But next time it snows like this I won’t be letting Scottish nature take its course, I will most definitely be out with a shovel!

Passport Photos – Smile Please

I had to get a passport photo today for my pending holiday to Australia.

Passport photo booths just do not serve me well – they do not capture my spirit!

I am sure I am smiling but when the photo comes out I always appear grim like a recent recipient of some awful news. Likewise I try at least to appear relaxed but come across instead as on edge, a slightly suspicious looking figure. And my hair though I am sure I have combed it so it looks reasonably tidy always manages to come across squint, out of place, a law unto itself.

I don’t consider myself entirely un-photogenic and other family photos for example I am happy enough to share around. Perhaps it is just the nature of the booth – having to ensure I am looking directly at the camera, that my stool is the right height, that I don’t blink – all that concentration sapping the energy out of me.  Who knows – one thing for sure I have a digital copy of the photo and I won’t be sharing it here with any of you!

Battersea Park Children’s Zoo

Careful, now!

A few days back I posted about banana biking with my nieces at Battersea Park – today I was back again with them and my nephew this time to the Children’s Zoo – but adults can come too!

In effect a mini-zoo with usual facilities there as gift shop and cafe and a smaller menagerie of animals. We visited mid-afternoon and it was not very busy and that was certainly an advantage giving us the place pretty much to ourselves and made it easier for me to keep an eye on my roving young company.

Conservation themes are well addressed though the children were more interested in some of the more unusual animals – meerkats – children always love meerkats!, Piggle and Wiggle the exotic Kune Kune sedentary pigs, mynah birds ‘they’re copying us!’ and perhaps most pleasure from those they could stroke such as the ponies and rabbits. The only cause of alarm being Ant and Dec – no not the famous Geordie duo but the two Emu’s named after them – they would occasionally charge toward the fence as we peered over at them!

All in all time and money well spent and good to get up and close to the country in the city.

Banana biking in Battersea

Among the many attractions at London’s Battersea Park is the cycle hire available from London Recumbents which I attended today for the second time this month with a couple of nieces in tow. Battersea Park is large and cycling is a great way to see it all in good time.

London Recumbents provide a wide range of bikes for adults and children – my nieces opted for the ground level banana bikes where you change between left and right simply by tilting your body in either direction accordingly.

To the left, to the left

I on the other hand opted for something more boringly traditional in a standard upright. Tandems and Trikes are also available.

Prices are good value and sessions can be booked for thirty minutes and an hour.  I would recommend the latter option if you have children in tow!

It is a great way to encourage cycling for children and provide exercise into the bargain.

This also in the context of the Transport for London initiative Barclays Cycle Hire which I welcome as a healthy, green and cost friendly way of getting about London.

Now London Recumbents any chance of making a Unicycle available to hire?!

Of best laid plans

My month long vacation with my sister’s family had sadly come to its end and I now had to prepare myself for the journey home – the best part of two days awaited me and that if all went smoothly!

Let’s hit the road Jack!

I had hired a car from Avis and could drop it off at Brisbane Airport.  It needed to be returned with a full tank of petrol and I thought too it needed to be cleaned. Having all said our goodbyes we – the car and I! – set off on our final journey, final time to travel with top down too!  My first stop would be for petrol and there was a BP at the Coomera Travel Centre on the Pacific Motorway to the Airport and had I stopped there as I almost certainly should have then there would be no need for this chronicle.

But I did not stop there – I reasoned I had enough fuel to get me to the Airport and I could fill up the tank there as I wanted the fuel deduction by Avis to be as little as possible.  Absurd really as the monthly car hire alone was thousands of Australian dollars and the amount I was looking to save would be twenty dollars tops!

But if there were any petrol stations nearer to Brisbane I was not finding any and the fuel indicator on the dashboard was moving ever closer to empty – even then I was not too concerned – my own Mini I could often reach the empty mark and drive on for fifty odd miles – my own Mini though also would have a small container of fuel in its boot for just such a contingency of running out before being able to replenish.

My hired Vauxhall Astra’s indicator alas was as good as its word – when it got to empty the car drove to a stop – luckily there was not much other traffic on the road and I was able to pull over to the hard-shoulder without any drama just as I was on the airport approach roads. Now panic was beginning to rise in me.  There was a telephone number to call for emergency but I was not getting through.  I then decided to call my sister’s home and her husband managed to get me the number I needed to call.  I got through and they would send someone out with petrol to re-fuel – an hour tops they said – and this despite me being a bit clueless as to the name of the stretch of road I had broken down on.

I still had about two hours before I needed to check in so I was determined to remain positive though having occasional thoughts about missing my flight and having to book another one and spend an unholy amount of cash into the bargain. In the meantime I had Airport Security to distract me from such thoughts turning up in a Jeep and questioning me naturally enough about why I was stopped in my car only a few miles from the airport for no apparent reason.  I explained my predicament and that help was on its way and that seemed to satisfy them.

Thankfully all ended well – help turned up in good time and I did get the car back to Avis if with a half-tank of fuel and uncleaned.

But should I ever be needing to return to an airport in future in a hire car and needing to re-fuel I will make sure I am filled up the day before at least!

Wheel of Brisbane

Today my sister, her three daughters and I went aboard one of the more recent attractions to Brisbane, the Wheel of Brisbane, having an air-conditioned pod to ourselves.

The London Eye is the benchmark I think but even at about half the size of that it afforded a good aerial view of Brisbane from its South Bank location.

Children can enjoy it as a fairground type attraction – a more sedate Ferris wheel ride! – and adults can take time out to view the Brisbane skyline, its buildings, parks and other landmarks as the wheel rotates four times giving you time enough to take in the sights from many different perspectives.

Audio commentary is provided too including a choice of languages.

I would advise bringing along a still or video camera to not pass up the opportunity to record some unusual perspectives of Brisbane!