Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ushering 2009

A "quantitative" analysis of the articles in my blog showed that 2008 was a mixed bag of happenings.

I've developed a heat chart of the articles in my blog and divided them into four equal quarters in a year. Each quarter is made up of the coloured cells and each cell represents an article in the blog.
Hot colours (red and orange) represent negative events and cold colours (light green and cyan) represent positive events that took place in the year. The white cells represent neutral articles or events that didn't take place, for example, "let's lepak in Israel". They are neither positive nor negative. Just wishful thinking.

Overall the chart showed a cold hue and this means 2008 was quite a positive year for me. But this could also mean that I've only blogged about the happy events and left the sad ones behind.

Q1, Q3 and Q4 were splattered with hot colours. Q1 was quite evident of the agitation that I was going through in the way things were happening especially at home e.g. Malaysian General Election. In balance, were some fantastic happenings. It was the time when I achieved my personal best in the Reading Half Marathon, a great time during Chinese New Year, visit by Noris and my first trip to Rome.

Q3's hot colours indicated a period of frustration with the highly rated move to London. It was the time when the theft incident of my bicycle took place at a time when the economy started to provide a gloomy outlook of what was to come in the years ahead. At home in Malaysia, the political bickering was causing a "flight of Malaysian talents" as frustrated nationals leave the country. In balance with this were some surprises that I received e.g CP's and my cousin's visit to London, the many summer festivals in London, Chris' souvenirs from Seattle, another PB in the Nike 10k race and the Beijing Olympics!

Q4 was the gloomiest of all quarters. This period was the time I wrote off a huge personal financial loss through CFDs. It was also the time when I failed my first driving test and to get the Tier 1 Visa renewed. On the back of all these, the £ was falling and reaching parity to the €. There was also a continuing uncertainty of employment in this country as the economy provided a gloomy outlook of the new year. Also, not too long ago I wrote about the drug raid in my house. In balance with this was the transformation of the bad to good news e.g being accredited by the ICE, passing my driving test and getting my Tier 1 visa. Then I had a good time jointly celebrating my birthday, the Liverpool trip, Hari Raya, appearing in Wolfson College magazine and being accepted into the 2009 London Marathon!

I left Q2 to the last because it was the best period of the year for me. Saving the best for last. This was the time I graduated from Cambridge with my family and friends around. During this time, we traveled to Europe and spent a great time together. It's been a long time since we traveled together in a family. So this was something really special to me. Q2 was also a time for sports. It was the time I participated in several aquathlons and runs. It was also the first time I went to the Wimbledons.

Other highlights of 2008 that deserve mentioning:

1. Made and met new friends through this blog e.g CP and family, Amy et al and Christopher.
2. The story of hope from Barack Obama
3. The opportunity to work in the 2012 project.
4. Opportunity to meet the Mayor of London, the guy behind the London Olympics and the Prime Minister of Czech Republic
5. Watched four musicals and four plays.
6. Played fatherhood and realise that having a baby is not as easy and cheap as I expected.

2008 was a good balance of happiness and sadness; laughter and tears; pleasure and worries. There are mistakes and misjudgments made along the way. Some cannot be undone, some can be corrected. But every mistake is a lesson learnt. The strength that I have acquired I shall build further, and the good that I have built I shall strengthen further.

God bless and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grocery shopping: The best and the worst

In Reading, I did a lot of grocery shopping in Waitrose and Tesco because they were the nearest to where I stayed.

In London, I have pledged a different allegiance. Well, Tesco is still in the shortlist but Asda is the new kid on the block to me. Asda is owned by Wal-mart and is in the bottom league of superstores in terms of product quality.

But if you do not buy the store's own-brand products, then that is not an issue at all. Even if you did, no one is entirely sure how low quality the products are. For all we know they are just scare-mongering.

This Christmas has brought out the best and worst of the two superstores in my area. Shopping in the Southwark Tesco has always been a frustrating experience. I can never find all the stuff that I want and some of the items are printed with the wrong price information! They are just rubbish!

You'd probably need to sacrifice your newborn in order to get everything in your shopping list in the Southwark Tesco. The days running up to Christmas brought out the worst of this store. They obviously couldn't cope with the huge turnout of the customers. To be fair, behaviour of the customers also play a huge role in keeping in check with the order of the store.

These photos are self-explanatory to what I've been through a day before Christmas Eve. These guys have literally cracked under pressure!

What is this?!!

Tesco's Christmas greetings to customers. Their products were all over the place!

On the contrary, I found Asda, which was only located 400m away from Tesco, to have stood out well to the test. And this is what I observed.

Asda coped well

Despite the huge crowd

Sainsbury's too did remarkably well.


Despite all these, I know I would still shop in Tesco from time to time because of the clubcard points that I could accumulate for cash vouchers and the irresistable deals against Asda. Still, except for the good deals, Waitrose will still have my vote for the best grocery shopping experience.

Christmas in London

I had a great time celebrating Christmas in London.

Work has closed for the year since Christmas eve until the second day of the new year. This means I'm currently on a long break! Yay!

But this is how most of the companies in the UK operate. Christmas is a time where offices will be shut for the entire week until the new year. This means staff have to take compulsory leaves for those days that are not covered by the bank and public holidays. This is similar to the Malaysian Chinese New Year and Hari Raya festive seasons.

I have celebrated three Christmas-es in the UK now and each of them was in different cities. The first was in Cambridge, second Reading and third London. Reading and Cambridge were similar in many ways. Both were small cities, so moving around was not a problem when the public transportation system was shut during Christmas. And because it's not a big place, people could move around by foot or bicycles.

However, it is different in London. London is a huge city and it is really difficult without the tube or buses running.

I had dinner at Fiona's. Planning for midnight mass was a little tricky because the buses would stop running by midnight. Going to the church was not a problem but going back to my place was. So I had to choose a church that I could reach easily and one that I could walk home afterward. I chose St George's Cathedral. It was located between her place and mine, which was just perfect!

Dinner at Fiona's

Dinner was good. We didn't have turkey because no one likes it. So we just settled for chicken. There were 8 of us and we had a potluck dinner. It was a fusion of English and Chinese. Everyone brought a dish. I was in charge of vegetables. Being a meat person, this was a challenge. I prepared the one which I was most familiar with. The plates were wiped clean so I guess it was okay. I hope I didn't kill anyone that night. The last I checked everyone was accounted for.

I left the place at 11.30pm for the midnight mass. I reached in the nick of time and managed to find a good seat. The mass ended at 1.30am. I had to walk home. Thank God it wasn't too far. It took me about 40 minutes to reach. I was knackered by the time I went back to my room.

The next day was Christmas Day. I cycled to Westminster Cathedral in the early hours of the day for the sung mass. I decided to cycle after learning how exhausted I could get from a 40-minute walk from St George's Cathedral, few hours before. Shame on me for saying this. Oh what pride holds of a marathon runner?!

Westminster Cathedral is known for its boys' choir, just as how King's College Cambridge is. The only difference is denomination. The church was packed. I've already expected this, so I went there early for a nice seat and I had.

Westminster Cathedral

The mass was in English and interjected with Latin. The choir sang in Latin most of the time. People could get lost easily if they couldn't follow what were said in Latin. The boys' voices were angelic. I wished I could take a video of the event but I don't think I was allowed to do so. At the end of the mass, many cameras were raised and flashing away. I took mine out too but not for the sake of it. I've already wanted to record this. So this came as an opportunity.

Below is a snippet of the choirs' closing song - O Come all ye faithful.

Westminster Cathedral Choir*

On my way home, I decided to detour to Oxford Street. Just wanted to see how's it like over there without the double deckers and shops opening. I know it's sad. I should've done something more interesting but what could I do at such an early part of the day? And my radius of mobility was already limited by how far I was prepared to cycle. Oxford Street came out to be a good option.

I took some shots of Oxford and Regent Streets on Christmas Day. It was eerily silent. I could hear a pin drop in Oxford Street! This is how I'd imagine London to look if Will Smith acted "I am Legend" here:
Above: Regent Street; Below: Oxford Street

*Additional info of the Westminster Cathedral Choir here:

Who knows if your son is talented with music and studies, he could well qualify to this prestigious school!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas or Xmas?

When I was in high school, I was told by a religious boffin that "Xmas" was anti-Christ. I was asked not to use it. Apparently Xmas was the absence of Christ in "Christmas". From my teenage mind then, this was how I depicted the explanation:

Since then, I have never used "Xmas" in greeting cards, email greetings and text messages. But it was during the period when internet was in its infancy and there was no such thing as Wikipedia, that I accepted the explanation.

Today I checked on this claim and found that it was true. However, it was not the only explanation. There was also an alternative explanation.

As the saying goes, "time will tell", so I did a search on "Xmas" (after more than a decade of ambiguity) and found this interesting take by Wikipedia:

""Christ" was often written as "XP" or "Xt"; .... This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the Greek letters χ and ρ, used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for "Christ"), and are still widely seen in many Eastern Orthodox icons depicting Jesus Christ. The labarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches."

Right, so now I've heard the other side of the story about Xmas and that it is not anti-Christ after all. In fact, there is no connection linking it to being one.

But as people continue to greet each other at this time of the year with Xmas or Christmas, I begin to ask if it really matters after all. People neither have the tendency to be anti-Christ nor meant to be disrespectful to the religion. I am sure we all meant well when we greet and wish each other. At worst, Xmas is just a shorter word to mean Christmas.

Having heard both sides of the story now will not change the way I write my Christmas greetings. I will still stick to Christmas. I am neither anti-Christ nor disrespectful to my own religion. And if I can address VIPs, who are mere mortals, by their titles when I meet them (like Datuk/Datuk Seri/Tan Sri in the case of Malaysians), I don't see why I can't write in full the name of a King, who's also a God.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas

To everyone who is celebrating Christmas, I wish you a blessed Happy Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008


There was a commotion outside my house. I could hear someone was struggling. I peeped out the window and saw four police officers apprehending two yobs. Soon two more yobs were rounded up.

The police were searching them. Some doors in the house were slammed. I was still watching a comedy but I couldn't laugh anymore. My attention turned to the windows. I was drawn to the commotion.

Then the police officers entered the house and clattered upstairs to my floor. Chane the landlady knocked on my door and asked permission if some police officers could check my room. I obliged. Still in my pyjamas, I held the door for the officers to enter the room.

"Is there a problem?" I asked.

"We're looking for a drug suspect and we believe he's hiding in here. We saw traces of drugs linked to this house. We aren't sure where exactly. We're searching this place. Sorry mate." one of the officers explained.

"It's alright. Anything you want me to show you?" I asked.

No response from him.

The officer took out his torchlight and started searching my room. He pointed the light at the concealed areas behind the cabinets and under the bed.

Then he asked, "Are you a student?"

"No. I'm working but I was.", I responded.

"What are you doing now?", he asked.

"I'm an engineer", I responded.

"Can I see your passport?", he requested.

I took out my passport and showed him the pages. The officer took down details of the passport. He looked around the room again, thanked me and left.

Ten minutes later, I could hear clatters up to my floor again. I looked out the window and saw the police team grew from a van to a few more cars parked outside.

There was a knock on the door again.

"Sorry mate but we're going to bring in a search dog to sweep through this whole house," an officer explained.

"Right. So you want me to step out?" I inquired.

"Yes please" the officer replied, "please go into the other room. An officer will join you."

Once inside the other room, the other officer kept me comfortable and started a conversation about Malaysia, his trip to Bangkok and marathon races! I have completely lost the mood to talk but I continued with the conversation anyhow.

I could hear the dog wrecking my room. Things were falling and drawers were clattering.

"Someone's in big trouble?" I asked, "you did a search earlier and now you're doing it again."

"Yea we have to. We found half a kilo of drugs downstairs. It's protocol.", the officer explained.

"Half a kilo?! That's a lot of drugs!" I retorted.

If you don't know how much half a kilo is? Imagine half a kilo of flour can make me 60 pancakes!

"Sorry I'm a little nervous but can I sleep in my room tonight?" I asked like an innocent child. I continued, "I've only seen this on TV. It's different being in a real situation."

The officer laughed. I joined in. I thought it was quite funny too. He said, "Of course you can! There's nothing to worry about. You haven't done anything wrong!"

The officer took details of my passport again and asked me some questions about the people around here. My mouth was dry, an evidence of being nervous. My voice was puffy. It was almost like a scene in CSI where I was seated on a chair and two officers were in front taking notes of what I was saying.

They were very professional. Whenever I became nervous, they interjected with jokes and talked something else like the London Marathon. Of course, I had nothing to worry about. It's just that I don't get through this everyday and being subjected to this was completely uncomfortable.

As soon as the search dog operation was over. I was allowed in to my room again. The room wasn't as messy as I expected. The officer instructed me to stay in the room until the search for the rest of the house was over.

They stayed on for another hour before leaving the house. I didn't want to ask the landlady yet what has happened. It's 1.15am now and I am disturbed by what happened. I am sure the landlady is more shaken by this than me. But I did hear mobile phones ringing non-stop.

After this was over, I thanked God repeatedly that things didn't turn out nasty. I was very thankful because I just recently sorted my visa and had a passport to show. I was also thankful because I was treated humanely and professionally by the officers.

In case you've been asking who and where the heck have I been living? I can only say there's nothing wrong with the location. Waterloo is great. Somehow, you just don't know what people do in their rooms, do you?

That said, what else have I not experienced in London! Gosh....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Practical Driving Test - Last Episode

In Malaysia, owning a car is a bigger deal than learning how to drive. Here, it is the opposite.

Having a full UK driving license is a recognised skill that one can put in a CV along with other skills like MS Office, Adobe Photoshop etc! That's how big a deal it is!

Yesterday was my second attempt after two months to get a UK driving license. I woke up early feeling jittery that I would fail again.

I had in mind these things to remember:

- do the M-S-M (mirror, signal, manoeuvre)
- finish parallel parking in less than two car lengths
- look for blind spots
- how to open the car bonnet (this is not the normal type where you can pull a lever below the steering)
- not to stall!
- don't move until the pedestrian has cleared the lane even if he/she has passed the car
- put on the handbrake every time I needed to stop
- put both hands on the steering at all times (no digging nose or checking the phone!)
- check the mirror before I press the brake
- change to 2nd gear every time before I turn at a junction
- use the bus lane during the out of operations hour (you can fail if you don't do that!)
- not to signal at a turn in a one way street
- signal in every other turn
- check for speed limit (it's a driving fault if you drive below the speed limit!)
- remember all these!!

The more I tried to remember all these, the more I couldn't. In fact the more nervous I became because of the long list of things that I should and shouldn't do.

Just to keep myself calm, I kept repeating to myself it's a piece of cake. But everytime when I did that, the thought of my first test came to haunt. My confidence would be all over the place after a while.

As if I wasn't nervous enough, there was a twist on the event. Unlike Malaysia, the UK requires candidates to provide their own vehicles for the driving test. Hence the extra cost too.

Usually this would be the same car that you've been trained on by the driving school. The car that I had been training and meant to be tested on yesterday had a deep cut on the edge of the tyre. My driving instructor only found out about it when he picked me up.

The deep gash at the tyre edge. Notice the sports rim in this and not in the other

This would have disqualified me from going on with the test because it would have apparently undermined the safety of the examiner and I when taking the test. That's how strict it is.

So my driving instructor asked me to pull over to a nearby tyre shop. Thank God my exam time was at 10.44am and a tyre shop was opened by the time we found one at 10.15am. We had less than 20 minutes to fix a tyre as there was a mandatory 10-minute reporting time before the test.

My driving instructor, Mike, was a little manipulative. He was using me as the reason to accelerate the repair. It worked...in the end.

He said, "I've a student here. He'd be taking an exam in 20 minutes. Can you help?"

The foreman responded, "20 minutes?! I've got a few more cars to go before I can do yours. Can't jump queue. I don't think I can make it, mate" he said with an apologetic tone, "unless you wanna D-I-Y?" he continued.

I said, "Well, I don't mind if that's going to help."

Mike and I quickly picked up the tool from the boot and hurriedly jacked up the car. The tools were complicated. They came in parts that needed attaching to each other!

Struggling to change a tyre

The foreman sensed we were struggling with the tools. Then he dropped everything and wheeled over his hydraulic jack to help. Within seconds, the tyre was lifted mid-air.
The foreman came to the rescue!

Mike took over to loosen the tyre nuts. Again, he was asked to step aside as the foreman offered to help since he was already on it. I couldn't be more thankful. The foreman looked like he worked in an F1 race before. He changed the tyre, locked the nuts and rested the tyre on ground in less than 2 minutes! He didn't even charge us for labour!

Without wasting time, I drove to the test centre. I said a short prayer before I entered the room.

An examiner came out from the office and called out my name, like how a nurse would in a clinic. I responded.

After verifying the right documents, we went to the car and he did a check around it. Then he asked to get on with the test after the "show me tell me" component. I breathed a sigh of relief even though the tyre was changed. You never know what could happen since the spare tyre stood out from the three. The spare was without the sports rim!

The tyre incident has overwhelmed the nervousness I had earlier about the things I had to remember. But I was also very conscious of what I needed to and not do.

I thought I was not nervous until the time when I forgotten to engage first gear before moving away and expected the car to defy gravity at a slope. It dropped back a little before I slammed on the brake. I apologised. From memory, I would have been failed straight away! I guess the examiner was very understanding. He probably sensed I was nervous or because I apologised.

I also remember if you make a serious mistake but are able to recover from it with good control, the examiner can use his/her discretion to give you another chance. In my case, it didn't fall back like it was rolling downhill and hit an old lady or so. It was just a slight tug. So I guess it was considered good control. ;)

The test went on for 40minutes. Upon reaching the centre, the examiner asked me to park at a spot. He was ticking the form and writing something. It was eerily silent in the car when he asked me to switch off the engine. I didn't want to look at him. I kept my face looking in front.

Then he turned over and said, "Okay, I think I am able to offer you a full driving license. Congratulations, you have passed."

I turned my face to him and had a wide smile.

I was so happy I just thanked the examiner and told him, "This means a lot to me, you know!"

He smiled and continued, "Well, I think you did well. But there was a time I was hesitating whether or not to fail you. The part when you dropped back. But because overall, you had a good control of your driving, I decided to award you a pass."

The tick that I've been waiting for since August!

I couldn't contain my joy so I started sending the news via SMS to a few friends and colleagues after the test. They shared my disappointment earlier so it was only fair I shared the good news too. I told them the same thing that it meant a lot to me.

Can't wait to get my driving license. I was told it would take three weeks. But I could start driving now with the test pass certificate. This is how it should look

I didn't realise how much it meant but I knew it did. I sat down and consolidated my feelings. Then I thought about some of the things I could now do with a valid driving license. These are some I could list out immediately:

1. Take up a site position in engineering where a company vehicle may be provided
2. Do road trips anytime I want without the worry of the validity of the international license running out
3. Able to drive in EU countries! Autobahn here I come!!
4. Able to convert into a full Singaporean/ Australian/New Zealand/Commonwealth countries driving license had I chosen to leave this country for good and/or work in these countries later on.
5. Able to drive in other countries like Japan and South Korea without the need for international license.

Best of all, the UK driving license is for life! Unlike the Malaysian driving license where drivers have to pay RM30 or RM150 for international license every year, the UK driving license is a one-off payment for the driving test only and is valid for the rest of your life until you're 70.

I hear you ask how much have I spent on this? £747.50.

That's equivalent to renewing the Malaysian driving license for 130 years or the international driving license for 26 years. Then again, we all know our international driving license is only valid for a year in this country. If you're still on an international license after a year, obviously, you have been breaking the law.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A humbling experience

Wolfson College is one of the colleges in the University of Cambridge which I am a member of.

Two months ago a member of staff from Wolfson found my blog when I wrote about my graduation. They were interested in the article and asked if they could publish it in the College magazine. From this blog, they also found the article I wrote about the matriculation dinner in the College and asked if they could use that too.

I said yes as I was more than happy to share the articles.

However, I was not promised that the articles would be published. A part of me was excited while the other part of me was very nervous because I knew my English was rubbish and the articles wouldn't survive the high standards of English in the College.

I remember my dissertation went through this test and came back like it has just been through war!

Today I received the alumni magazine from Wolfson. I quickly tore open the plastic cover and flipped through the pages. I was extremely excited when I found out that they have published the two articles in five full colour pages! The magazine is also available for download here.

Papa, mummy, kor!! Look you're in the magazine!! All of us are in it! One family!!

What's more, the magazine also gave the same credits as I have in my blog e.g Fr Charles Serrao, CP, Evelyn, my housemates in Reading and God! I was so surprised the names didn't go under the scissors.

After seeing my articles, I continued reading the rest of the magazine. I realised that the rest of the articles in the magazine were of high quality - high profile members or achievements of the College. The two articles simply paled into insignificance as compared to these articles.

Wolfson could have easily chosen members who are far more qualified and could write much better than me to contribute to the magazine. However, they chose my articles which I have a lot to be thankful for. This is truly a humbling experience for me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who's more beautiful? The cake or the lady?

I attended a birthday dinner yesterday.

I found it extremely funny during the cake cutting session.

Joanne who was the host, was dressed up for the occasion. She was as colourful as the birthday cake! It was a huge cake with slices of fruits on the top like the ones we normally have in Malaysia.

When the cake was drawn out from the box, I took photos of the candle arrangement on the cake as they were really cute.

The shot I was taking

Seconds later, other people took out their cameras and started taking photos of the cake while Joanne was standing in front of it. They were completely oblivious that it was her show and not the cake's!

At first it was just one person

I doubt we would be so generous taking photos had our cameras still work on films!

I couldn't contain my laughter. I turned my camera on them instead.

And then everyone drew out their cameras!

I exclaimed "Hey what is this?! The cake is more famous than Joanne!" They laughed.

Not being beaten down by this, Joanne took our her camera and joined in.

An SE1 resident

Staying in Waterloo makes me part of the SE1 community. SE1 is the first half of the UK alphanumeric postcode system for my area.

Not every area has a "postcode community". The other postcode communities in London that I am aware of are W4 and SE23.

The postcode community is what a Malaysian Rukun Tetangga would be like if implemented successfully and supported collectively. I would imagine my Malaysian postcode 58200 would make me an 58000 community in a like-for-like comparison.

What I like being part of the SE1 community is that I get loads of updates about what's happening, latest offers and alternative news in my area especially along the Southbank - from the London Eye to Tower Bridge.

I also get invites to events in my area. Best of all, most of them are free!

Just last Wednesday I finally made use of this privilege to attend a function organised by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

For most of you who don't know him, he was the guy who represented London at the handing over ceremony in the Beijing Olympics.

Boris Johnson in Beijing

The event was a Christmas Carol Service at the Southwark Cathedral, which was also in the SE1 area. The cathedral was apparently the oldest Gothic building in London.

Southwark Cathedral

When I attended the function, I felt a little strange. It was the Church of England. The ceremony was a "yeah-but no-but yeah-but no-but yeah" of a Catholic kind. It was a little Catholic but it wasn't a Catholic Church if you know what I mean. Well the Church of England essentially came from the Roman Catholic Church anyway if you remember King Henry the 8th who started a new religious order so that he could remarry.

Anyway, when I was handed the Carol booklet, I turned through the pages to check out the order of the event.

So, there were among others, an Olympic gold medallist and the Chairman of the London Olympic Games in the service. Then there was Boris Johnson.
Susan Ohuruogu won gold in the 400m sprint in the Beijing Olympics

After the service there was a drink reception at the back of the church. That was when I met and had short conversations with the people who attended the event. It was a great opportunity to network! I even saw a lady warming up to and exchanged cards with one of the VIPs for a finger in the Olympics pie!

Boris Johnson at the drink reception

Lord Coe, the man behind the London Olympic Games

There were just too many people who wanted to chat with them, so I just limited to boring and safe subjects as well as thanking them for being there!
Busy with the crowd

Maybe I should participate more in networking events like this. Isn't this what being part of the SE1 community is all about? Hmm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I was in Canterbury last Saturday for a day trip. Malaysian Pacesetters runner Chris Jong, happened to be in London for a work assignment. So I asked if he'd like to tag along. He obliged.

The funny thing was we've never met. He found me in my blog. But we clicked immediately when we met.

The train journey to Canterbury took 1.5 hours. So it wasn't exhausting. Besides, having a travel companion made a lot of difference. Chris and I spoke about running almost the entire journey!

Before I found out about Canterbury, I've only associated this name with two things -a sports brand and a place in New Zealand.

Having some English tea. Coffee I think.

When I found out about this place being one of the oldest and most visited historical cities in England, I marked it out in my diary as a place to visit. Saturday came out to be the most ideal as the weather forecast was good and then I had nothing planned for the day.

When we reached Canterbury, the first thing that greeted us was a billboard that boasted itself as the "Home of the University of Kent".

As we made our way to the city, an old wall captured our attention. It looked like a mini "Great Wall". It was possibly the fort that once guarded this great city.

The Old Wall

Canterbury is one of the few cities with a rich historical evidence of the Roman Empire that once ruled England.

Today Canterbury is known as the home of England's head of religion - the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Medieval costume procession

The things that captured my interest apart from the City Wall were the Canterbury Cathedral and the breathtaking views from the University of Kent.

Canterbury Cathedral

And its ruins

The gateway into the city. Imagine the time when people rode horses through this gate. It must have been a busy thoroughfare.

Today this gate is a pain to double decker buses!

Views from University of Kent

Not only did the train journey offered some of the best rural English countryside views, but the historical castle, wall, gate, churches, canal and river in Canterbury are a good example of what England is known to have in a nutshell.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Move

We are moving out to a new office.

Well, we'll still be in central London over at Euston. We'll be occupying some of the higher floors in one of the tallest office buildings in the City.

Relocating is never my favourite thing to do unless I really need to. Oh well, who's favourite is it anyway!? After all, I'm sitting very comfortably in Holborn and it cannot be more central than it already is.

When I was working in PJ, I had to relocate twice because of the location of the projects. What I did remember was, I had to do everything on my own - packing, transportation and setting up my workstation!

I remember some of the staff in the Malaysian office also took the opportunity to miss out from work and claimed that they couldn't work because the network was not configured in time for them to log into the system.

It's really different in the UK. Or at least in the company I'm working in. Things are more organised and efficient here. In fact, there were so much fun moving out of the office!

We started counting down a month before we needed to move. We have put up a notice on the main door informing of our move and the new address.

Friday was the last day of the last week before we report to the new place on Monday. We threw a little "farewell party" for our office even though everyone will meet again in three days! We had cakes and sweets. Some of us even took it to the pubs during lunch.

I particularly admire the amount of meticulous planning that have been put into making the move as painless as possible. A week before the move, we were given a briefing of our new workstation - who sits where and which desk number. A seating plan was also presented to us even though we don't know how the floor would look like!

Emails also started circulating of a quiz on the first week of our welcome into the office. There are prizes to be won every day. The questions are believed to be based on our project and new office.

Then we were briefed on what, when and how to pack our workstation so that it gets delivered in time and in one piece. We were allocated crates to do that. Our PCs and IT equipment were handled differently.

Crates outside the office. Crates inside the office. Crates all over the place!! We're invaded by plastics!

The coordinators also printed out adhesive tags for us to peel and stick onto individual items to make sure everything gets delivered promptly.
And three have devoured some of our documents

We were given an information pack which included our new ID tags for the building and an invitation for a "welcome breakfast" on Monday.

Writing this seems like a detail account of what happened or a textbook exercise of what should be done when moving out. Maybe it did sound like that but really, this is what happened and I'm really looking forward to seeing everything, everyone, my new workstation and the aerial view of London tomorrow.I am sure everything out of the window will look so much smaller now.