Tuesday 22 September 2009

Have you missed me?

Well, it's certainly been a while. Probably the biggest break since I started this thing.

What have I been up to I hear you all ask? Silence and tumbleweeds etc.

I've been in America for two weeks, the longest break i've had since Australia last year. It was great not having to worry about work (not that I ever do these days), but just not having that dread on a Tuesday morning knowing that you've got a massive project due in a couple of days and then wishing you started it a few months back.

As luck would have it, Steve's timing was great. Lloyd's ICA (how much money do we have to hold as capital to pay a 1/200 year event, plus a bit) deadline for 2010 was the last Friday, and I managed to miss the two week period prior, it's our biggest deadline of the year.

It sounds like I got off likely but in reality my syndicate was in a good state so I didn't really leave anyone in it. Just the boring reporting side. Ha, ha! Didn't stop me worrying though. What if i'd made a major mistake and it was only found out when I was away. Also I felt a strange feeling of jealousy too. Another member of my team would be messing around with my model. What if they changed something that I didn't like? What if they broke it? It's like my baby.

In other job related news a former boss who has recently started working for another Lloyd's agency asked me if I wanted to apply for a job at his 'new shop'. The role sounds great, Head of Business Intelligence. A friend said I should go for it, if anything i'd have great business cards. But i'm very happy right now and i'm only just approaching a year in so really have no desire to up sticks again for quite a while.

I've missed the cats loads and I think that they've missed me (and April too). I knew i'd miss the furry little things but maybe not quite so much. They ended up staying at my friends James and Vikki's. They, for some reason, volunteered to look after them. Despite them having recently got themselves a puppy! I've met Ted a few time now and I know he can be a little bitey. I hope the cats showed him who's boss. They didn't like travelling to Essex and back in their carry cage but i'm sure they enjoyed it much more than getting put in a cage in a cattery. Thanks again guys. Let us know when you're free for us to treat you to a free meal. KFC or we may even stretch to a Burger King.

What ABOUT America? Well, it was great. The flight over was fine, I watched 3 films. Night at the Museum 2, the new Star Trek (again), and now that I think of it, I can't remember the third, it must have been great...

Eventually (10 hours later), we arrived in Vegas. Ouch, it was hot. I think that was the theme of the whole trip. Outdoors in that part of the world is hardly suited for gingers. Thank Jebus for air conditioning. We didn't do much on the first day other than grab a quick bite to eat (burgers) as we were all shattered. We (April and I) were staying at The Flamingo. The hotel was dated (one of the original hotels) but our room had been recently renovated so we were very pleased. It all looked out onto the main strip. The Belagio and Paris were two of the main ones we could see from our window.

Don't worry I won't go into every day in detail...

The next few days were good, we got to know the area by looking round all the main casinos, I preferred those around Freemont Street (more how I imagined Vegas would be), we went to a Nuclear missile museum and of course Steve and Jenny's wedding.

I met up with a slightly nervous Steve at around 12:30 (not sure why he was so nervous, I had to do the best man's speech later), and we grabbed a bit to eat and a couple of beers before the event itself. We met the Vicar (or whatever he was) in one of the Belagio chapels. He was a funny guy and made everyone at easy. The wedding itself went smothing and I managed not to lose either of the rings.

Next was a trip to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, we of course did this in style. A massive 20+ seater stretched HUMMER. During the trip we almost drowned in champagne. After a few photos we drove to the dinner venue.

Steve'd booked us a private room towards the top of the Stratosphere overlooking the whole Las Vegas strip. The whole view was amazing. So too where everyone's reactions to walking into the room for the first time. Once again the view was absolutely tremendous.

The wedding meal was good but my best man's speech was better... What a great day.

The next day was Steve's birthday and we were all off to the Grand Canyon. I'd never driven on the right hand side of the road before but despite having a few initial problems with reverse in the automatic people carrier the trip was uneventful. That's if you forget the part where after we entered the national park we lost one of our cars. Unfortunately, there was no mobile signal so we had no idea where they were. I thought the worse, and that they may have crashed but thankfully they had only broken down. All was sorted before we had a great meal in a lodge right on top of the canyon (not that we'd have known it as it was pitch black).

The next day I took a trip round the canyon in a light plane. The first 10 minutes were great, the next 40 were not. I had to use all my powers of concentration just to not be sick. Thankfully we eventually landed and after an hour or so I was fine.

the next day we all made our own way back to Vegas then on to home or continued on our holidays. We flew to San Francisco on the greatest plane ever. It was a Virgin America plane. We upgraded ourselves for $10 (it would have cost us more than that anyway because of our bags in the hold), but as we walked onto the plane we both said wow! the whole plane was kitted out with neon blue strip lights . Other highlights were the Virgin on demand touch screens which included being able to order your drinks / food (which were free due to the upgrade) via the TV. My only disappointment was that the flight was only for one hour.

Our hotel in San Francisco was great, the room was tiny but we April did amazingly and found us the only hotel with free dog and cat named Pip. Pip spent most of his time in our room. In San Fran, as I hear the locals calling it we headed into Chinatown for food, rode the cable cars, had Clam Chowder, went to a great comedy night and ventured across to Alcatraz.

After San Fran, we (I) drove to Sonoma, it was only an hour or so a trip but they'd ran out of Sat Navs so we we had a heightened level of stressful driving. This culminated in me getting pulled over by smokey the bandit when turning left at a crossroads close to our final destination.

Basically, I probably should have done a little research on driving in America before venturing out on the roads but hey, what's the worst that could happen??? I wasn't 100% sure what to do at stop signs. I assumed as long as nothing was coming you could just carry on forward. We were a little streesed i'd missed the previous turn and had to to a big U turn a few minutes back to get back on track. The car in front was turning left at the cross roads so I just followed him. Also pulling out from the left was a police patrol car!!! What are the chances eh?

Anyway, he quickly wheeled round and got me to stop. After showing my licence and apologising profusely he thankfully let us go. Thank you Jebus! He was actually an okay guy.

Eventually we arrived at our Sonoma b&b. April did well. It was great and really friendly. The town was great and as luck would have it we arrived on a locals festival right in the central plaza. The best part of this part of the trip was a bike ride round 4 of the local wineries, meeting bicycle Bob and basically relaxing in the beautiful surrounds.

Leaving was sad, but i'm glad to be home.

Is that long enough of an entry or do you want me to continue?

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