on the ground
I arrived in London yesterday after a productive week at Nottingham University, on the Summer School for my 2nd year Mechanical Engineering course. What a difference a week makes. When a 90-minute lecture teaches you what weeks of poring over the books fails to do, what does that say about the books?
One of my fellow students, L, is an RAF Flight Officer, not that you could tell by looking at her. I thought we were getting along well enough, with some future potential there, except that the only time I saw her light up was when she was discussing cars and bikes with the other guys. She drives some “hot hatch” and a Ducati 916, typical “live fast, die young” vehicles. She’s not a fighter pilot, so she doesn’t have that excuse. I don’t drive at all, and I stayed in Nottingham for the night after the course ended, happy to look around and enjoy my time off. In contrast, she jumped in her car and roared off the minute she could, not bothering to exchange contact details. Oh, well. If I feel like contacting her, I have her name and RAF base details.
My attempts to find accommodation in York over the bank holiday weekend were a total non-starter, so I’ll be heading back on Wednesday, unless I can find somewhere to spend a couple more days. There’s always that Marillion concert on Friday in Sheffield, but I do not fancy travelling in a holiday rush or paying inflated hotel rates.
Arriving in London, I wandered around the centre for a while, until I remembered that I had to post my assignment, and then dashed around looking for an open post office. Just as soon as I gave up, I then found one, so my assignment should get to Belfast by the end of Monday. I hope it does, because over the course of the week I went from don’t-give-a-damn through it’s-worth-a-go to I-can-really-do-this-stuff, thanks to the clarifying lectures.
So, early Saturday evening, I head for my hotel. I clearly remember where it is, according to the map on their web site, and I booked it because it’s close to public transport. When I get there… no hotel. Ask at another hotel nearby? They have a number for a different branch. OK, call them, the phone just rings and rings. So I call directory enquiries, they don’t know them at all, the whole chain, but I remembered that they have a sister chain, and I got their number. After all that, I have a number for the hotel, but the phone just rings engaged. Try the other hotel again, and someone there gives me an address which is a mile away from the address I had. The cab driver knew of a hotel roughly matching the description, and it turned out to be the one, and it’s over half a mile from there to public transport, barely manageable. They say they fixed the web site 2 weeks ago? I booked 3 weeks ago.
It turns out that this hotel (ETAP City Airport, London) was only completed a month ago, which is why no-one’s heard of it. They couldn’t explain the phone problems. I wish they’d pick the whole thing up and move it somewhere accessible. Based on the construction of the place, I suspect they could do just that. It’s a wood frame building, wooden floors and plasterboard walls, with a lovely view of some light industrial facilities. There are still piles of building material in some corners, but at least they’re neat piles. The room is perfectly adequate, cosy, if a bit creaky. The shower is the really powerful type I like, meaning you get a more satisfying shower in less time, probably saving water in the process. Everything about it is designed to keep costs down, from the window blind (no curtains) to the single towel (good thing I brought my own big fluffy one). The price is the best I’ve seen in London, so I’ll probably be back. As I said before, I don’t expect much from hotel rooms, as long as the basic functions are well taken care of, and they are in this case.
From the time stamp on this, you can probably guess that I didn’t go to the Farnborough Air Show. I could have, but decided not to, as a mark of respect to all those who were hurt in the air show disaster in the Ukraine yesterday. As I write this, the casualty list is 83 dead and 118 injured. I don’t know if Farnborough air displays went ahead today – I suspect not. Watching the footage last night, it’s clear that the plane (a SU-27 “Flanker”) was stalling, unable to stay in the air, but it remains to be seen whether that was due to pilot error or technical problems. An engine failure could cause the pilot to pull up too sharply while attempting to avoid the ground, stalling the plane. On top of that, there’s been another plane crash today, near Moscow.
I’ll probably have another update on here by Wednesday, before I leave London. I have no agenda for Monday, but Tuesday will be Art Day, including the V&A and the Ansel Adams At 100 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.