Monday, September 29, 2003

Goonhilly Earth Station

Greetings from the Goonhilly Earth Station, Cornwall, the largest satelite earth station on the planet! The keyboard on this thing sucks, so hopefully I'll get to post fromm somewhere in Penzance tonight.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Crazy Driving

This is pretty much a rant, hence it's separate.

I think I'll die in England. Most likely in a head on collision.

You see, in my little hire car (VW Polo, dark green) I've been trying to navigate Kent and Sussex. It's not easy. My map book doesn't have many villages marked on it (more localities) and the villages themselves don't actually have any sign posts saying what they're called.

The big problem is the twisty country roads. Apparently outside of the villages, which are mostly limited to 40mph/60kph, it's open slather, up to 70mph/110kph.

Now, I'm no baby driver. I drive fast. At speed. Around corners. Grant can testify. The corners on these roads are mostly sharp and blind, having tall hedgerow on either side. And I'm not comfortable doing much more than 45mph around most of them.

Now, the on-comong traffic is doing much faster than that. I don't have a problem with that. What I DO have a problem with is big trucks, buses and cars hammering abound these corners at full clip on these narrow roads, WHILE STRADLING THE CENTRE LINE!

Aiee, Aiee, I'm going to die.

There'll be Blue Skies Over...

I went to Dover, just like I said I would. And then after the train arriving in Dover 45 minutes late (due to someone falling ill on the train ahead of us somewhere near Beckham Junction - it too ages for an Ambulance to arrive. I'd hate it to be a real emergency), I found the B&B that Lonley Planet recommended. Which smelled of perfume. Really strongly. Lung constrictingly strong. Of course, I only noticed after I checked in. After wandering about the town for 20 minutes trying to find it. And noticing the complete lack of car rental places.

Spent a couple of hours just walking about town feeling very sorry for myself. Did end up on top of a rather tall hill, with a gorgeous view, and walked down through a wood with lots of wild blackberries. At least, thats what I thought they were. Ended up with KFC for dinner, to my shame. But it was familar, and had suprisingly good music.

On Wednesday, I got up early, had a nice fried breakfast, and headed off to the cliffs. Which involved a rather long walk out to the cliff tops, followed by a rather long walk along the cliff tops, followed by a rather long walk back. Found the lighthouse where Marconi made the first cross channel radio transmission, and the place where the first airplane across the channel landed.

Then I went to Dover Castle.

Well, the Keep itself wasn't anything much to write home about, but the tunnels...

During the Napoleonic Wars, a bunch of tunnels were dug into the chalk to make barracks for the soldiers. They lay disused for a while, until the Navy got hold of them in 1930's and set up a secret headquarters there. The entirity of Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1941 - was overseen and orchastrated from there. The tunnels were expanded a couple of years later to provide a hospital and a huge lower level called DUMPY (Deep Underground Milatary Presence Yellow - sounds a bit forced to me), which was converted after the war to be a seat of Regional Government in case of nuclear war and decomissioned in 1984. But we didn't get to see that level.

Spent the rest of the afternoon organising a hire car - there were 4 hire car places in town - I'd just managed to miss them all, by not quite making it far enough down the right streets.

Left Dover this morning. Went to Canterbury to see the Cathederal, and then drove to Rye, which Lonely Planet says was very pretty. Can't say I agree particularly. Drove from there to Hawkshaust, and found the church from 'The Curse of Fenric'. Sad Fan Man strikes again!

I'm now in Hastings, staying at a B&B. I found an internet gaming centre while trying to find somewhere to have dinner, so I'm surrounded by mid-teens playing CounterStrike.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to get to Battle - site of the Battle of Hastings (1066), the Long Man (chalk hillside carving) and Brighton. Not sure where I'll spend the night. Thinking of trying YHA's, just so I get some human company. (These mid-teenies are barely human, I assure you)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Cutting Loose

Things get a little bit scary from today. I'm leaving London, and the safety net of the flat. Once I finish up at this 'Net cafe (which isn't letting me get to either my blog proper or my email today. Grr), I head back, get my bags, and then head for Dover. I'm going to stay there a couple of days, hire a car and use it as a base for Canterbury (it's spelt wrong - sigh) and the surrounding area and basically head clockwise around the United Kingdom.

St Pauls and All...

On Sunday morning, I caught the Tube to the Embankment station and walked along the the Thames up to Westminster. Big Ben just started to strike 11am just as I came around the corner and it came into view - magic. Wandered over the bridge to the otherside of the river to get some better photos, and decided to walk around the river up to Battersea Power station (and Dog's Home!). It's a very long way. I never made it.

I got back on the Tube at Vauxhill and went to Green Park to visit Buckingham Palace. Green Park... wasn't, and Buckingham Palace was a bit of a disappointment. There's not much to see, really. Wandered up to Hyde Park and tried to find the statue of Peter Pan. Soon discovered it would be over a kilometer trek in the mid-day sun (it was hot, really hot) and my feet were killing me, so I abandoned that plan and caught the Tube to Hammersmith.

Why Hammersmith? Well, some location filming for Doctor Who was done there back in 1964. I'm a sad fan, remember. Found the place where the Dalek comes out of the river at the end of episode one of 'Dalek Invasion of Earth', which was right next to Hammersmith Bridge, which is an amazing structure.

Went back to the Tube and headed for St Pauls, to see the cathedral. I've seen pictures before, but in real life it resemebled scaffolding. Tried seeing inside, but they weren't letting people in very far, as they were setting up between services. Stood around waiting for 20 minutes or so and then left, frustrated. Wandered from there to the Old Bailey - very nice. On the way back to the tube station, I passed a side street which afforded a fantastic view of the St Paul's and the Dome, framed by tall buildings. Looked great. Not sure my picture quite does it justice.

Yesterday, Kevin had the day off, so went out and about. Finally got to the bookshops. Foyles didn't have Jeremy Dyson's short story collection, Silver Moon didn't have the t-shirts I was sent to get, and the manager at Forbidden Planet wasn't there, so I didn't get to ask about stocking Borderlands. Did get Paul Cornell's most recent novel, though. And Murder One have a better depth of SF stock than Forbidden Planet. Piles of old Analog's. John and Anna would have loved it.

The afternoon was taken up by a trip to the Tower, where the myth of Richard III and the young princes is perpetuated. Although one sign did say 'according to tradition' in reference to the tale. Clambering around the tight spiral staircases, it's quite sobering to realise that people have been doing so in that building for the past 1000 years.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Simon's Big Adventure

Right. Let's just say that 13 and half airflights are NOT fun. Ever. The genuine video on demand in the back of the seats was great, however. Watched Finding Nemo 30 minutes at a time between naps.

Arrived at Heathrow - very disappointing. Apparently Terminal 3 is poor cousin of the other terminals. Can see why people die with blood clots - sitting for 13 hrs and then having to walk a couple of kilometers to the arrival lounge. Very dingy building. Not a patch on Changi.

Caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington (£11, but only 15 minutes), where I was supposed to meet Kevin, who I'm staying with. Due to some complications with mobile phones, it took over an hour to find each other. I'm not sms's from my phone go anywhere. (Grant, did you get my one from Singapore?). After I recovered a little from the flight, we went walking down Tottenham Court Road (he's right on the corner of Tottenham Court Road in a tiny two bedroom flat - I'm sleeping on the floor in the lounge room, but it's comfortable) to Trafagar Square (BIG Lions and a very phallic column) and from there to the Embankment to the Thames and back again via Chinatown for dinner and a random walk through Soho.

Yesterday I just did the British Museum. Very, very large. Many, many antique gold coins. Oh, and the Rosetta Stone, huge chunks of the Parthenon, Cleopatra's mummy, and various other treasures off antiquity. My favourite things were the Reading Room and the room of Clocks. The new Great Court is very impressive. It's the largest covered court in Europe, decked out in white marble and build around and over the reading room. To large to even photograph.

Found Bloomsbury Square, but later discovered Virginia Woolfe lived on Fitzroy Square (there's a marker).

The weather is fanatisic. It's hot. I'd reckon today is about 25C, easy. And sunny. It's insane. This is London in Autumn! Humid, too.

Today, have just wandered about with Kevin to various stores, including the hugest toyshop I've ever seen. Hambly's I think it was called.

Tomorrow hope to go and see Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the like. Hope to spend the rest of today in a quiet fashion so my feet stop hurting. I'm going to be quite fit at the end of this, methinks. I've walked so far in the last couple of days.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

A thought...

When you're urinating in relative comfort 11500m above the Earth, travelling at a speed of roughly 860kph, after having watched a recent release movie on your individual, personalised viewing screen, you really start to wonder if the Future really is here, and if SF really does have nowhere new to go.

PS. Grant, I could have watched Daddy Day-Care in solidarity, but I didn't.

One small step

So, thie big adventure has begun. I'm currently in Singapore, so it's just a little step - havn't even left the timezone.

Changi Airport is HUGE. There's this huge mall, many shops, cheap electronics. (Dammit. Could have got my camera cheaper!) And it's warm. There's monsoon clouds outside, and it 26C when we landed at 6am. Two more hours until departing for London!

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Mind Numbing Terror

It's a little over 45 minutes 'til I have to check in at the airport. I'm finding the whole thing to be a bit scary. Earlier this evening I was frightened bordering on hysterical, and wandered about the house mubling about the whole trip being an enormous mistake and wanting to call the whole thing off.

Fortunately the presence of some supporting friends, both in person and on the phone, distracted me sufficently to pack and get ready and I think I've come out of the other side in a vaguely Zen state. And with a nice cough.

Anyway, I must go now. I guess you'll hear from me when I'm on the other side of the planet and 7 and half hours in the past.

PS Stiches is a boy bear.

Monday, September 15, 2003

There's a Bear in There

It seems there is a tradition of taking teddy bears on holiday amongst my friends. Now that I stop to think about it, it's pretty widespread. Emma offered me her rainbow beanie bear but I declined on the basis that I'm staying in hostels and I really don't want a bunch of lads from Leeds who have come south for a bit of a lark to get the wrong idea and kick the shit out of me.

So instead, I've got one of Jenny's bears. It's small clip-on bear named 'Stiches'. I wonder if it has a gender?


Doctor Who was back on television today. And I missed it. I sodding well missed it. I'm blaming Alexander Downer. You see, in the little book that comes with my passport, published by Alexander's department, with a forward written by him, who makes his obviously responsible, it mentions that if you're traveling overseas and you're taking some form of prescription medication, you should have a letter from your medical practioner saying what it's for. As I was planning on taking my eczema ointment, I thought it would be a good idea to have said letter, as five and half weeks without the ointment sounded like a hell I was unwilling to face.

After making me wait in the surgery for over 30 minutes, he saw me, wrote the letter and then told me that I was unlikely to need it, really. And then charged me forty dollars for the privledge. And so I didn't make it home in time to see Doctor Who. Although, it's not like I haven't seen 'An Unearthly Child' 7 or 8 times anyway. And the pilot. And it I know it's followed by three episodes of not entirely convincing cave people. It's next week, when I'm in the UK when the first Dalek story screens that I'm a bit annoyed about.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Come Fly Away

Come early next Thursday morning, I leave for the United Kingdom on a Holiday of a LifeTimeTM. Many of my friends tell me it's about bloody time I had a holiday, and I've been talking about this one since late last year. Grant and Anna both threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't go. (Hmm. My friends want to get rid of me.)

Of course, I'm hideously underprepared. My planning for this trip has mostly consisted of me asking on a mailing list what other people considered 'must-see'. Which is a great start, but so far it's all I've managed. One well meaning friend has given me the Lonely Planet guide to England, but I've yet to do anything other than flick through it. It certainly hasn't helped that I've spent pretty much every walking hour at work. Working.

You see, the computers know that I'm leaving. And they don't seem to be too keen about it. So they've been blowing up, running slowly and being generally irresponsible in an effort to distract me. It won't work, however. I'm getting on that plane, dammit.

Over on Grant's blog he's asking if 2003 is the crappest year ever. I'm inclined to agree - crap things have been happening to the people around me, I almost had a bit of a breakdown and things have generally gone wrong at the worst possible moment. But on the other hand, I've been involved with launching a magazine, I've help run a successful convention and I've made my stage debut in a show so successful it had to be restaged due to popular demand. And I'm about to go on the aforementioned Holiday, so I'm wondering if I'm in a position to judge.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Family History

In recent years, I've become vaguely interested in the family history, which I guess was fuelled a couple of years ago during a vanity search on Goggle. (Y'know, you put in your name and see what you get). After discovering I was the only Simon Oxwell mentioned on the internet, I turned my sights a little higher and looked for just 'Oxwell' instead.

I found references to Oxwell Hall in Thomas Hardy's writing, which is a play on a real place called Poxwell Hall, a street somewhere in the US, a place called Oxwell Mains in Scotlands which is a rubbish tip and references to some Oxwell's getting married in parish records from Yorkshire and Middlesex. In the 1500's. Which left me going "Huh?"

You see, as it had been told to me, there was this guy, William James Nicholson, who came from somewhere (I recall it being England), came to Perth, and changed his name to Oxwell. Just like that. No reason. Suddenly adopted this made-up name. This man went on to become my great-great-grandfather. So, if it was a brand new made-up surname, where'd these people in the 16th century come from?

My Mum got interested in this. Really interested. And my great-aunt Helna. And they found out that William, in fact, had been born in Collingwood, Victoria, in 1873, and that whilst his tradepapers said Nicholson (he was an engineer - he came to Perth to work on the Fremantle pumping station), his birth certificate said Oxwell. (Which, William apparently found out about and changed his name back to his birthname) And the only name on the birth certificate was one Elizabeth Oxwell. His Mother. His father was listed as unknown. The Nicholson bit comes from a one Niel Nicholson, whom Elizabeth allegedly married in 1877. William would have been four.

Elizabeth was the daughter of James Oxwell and Catherine Poulton and was born in Launceston, Tasmainia in 1855. She was the second child - she had an older brother, William Thomas Oxwell, (b Dec 1853) and two younger brothers, both named Thomas. The first Thomas was born in 1859, but died in 1860. The second Thomas was born in 1862. The family had moved to Victoria by this time, possibly to a farm named 'Armstrongs'. (Certainly the first Thomas was born here).

All that we know about James is that he came from Yorkshire, was probably born in 1823, and was a farmer. No records have yet to turn up that document a James Oxwell being born in England, or emigrating to Australia - voluntarily or otherwise. In fact, most of what we know about James comes from his marridge certificate.

James and Catherine's marridge certifcate is a gem. Mum has actually sighted it and has some data off it. The certificate itself seems to have been written by the priest when they were married on 16th March, 1853 - the handwriting matches the signature of the priest. It has some other stuff on it too - Catherine's name was written as being Sarah, but she's signed the certificate as Catherine. She was 18 when was wed. James, it says, was a farmer. It says he was 30. And he signed it with an X.

Today, while trying to find the parish records I mentioned above (I was thinking about visiting the churches duing my imminent holiday to the UK), I came across some links in Google that I hadn't seen before. And they both mentioned Oxwell and Yorkshire. And suggested that Oxwell was a corruption of a different name. Hawkswell.

So, this evening, after talking about all this Hawkswell thing with my Mum and Dad, I tried looking for a James Hawkswell, born in Yorkshire around 1823, on the International Geneological Index The IGI seems to be family register setup by the Mormans in their search to document their ancestors to get them into heaven (or something. I could be making that up. Correspondance welcome).

I found something.

From the Bishop's Transcripts of the Church of England, from the parish records of the church of Pickhill-with-Roxby, Yorkshire. A one James Hawxwell, baptised on the 31st May, 1822. Now, I'm told that baptismal records and birth records from that time are pretty much the same thing. That would have made him 30 on the 16th March 1853, the day James Oxwell was married. They can't be the same person, though? Surely James Hawxwell knew what his own name was?

Think upon this: our James signed his marriage certificate with an X. He didn't write his name. Odds are that he didn't know how to write. So he probably didn't know how to spell his surname. Now, try saying 'Hawxwell' with a Yorkshire accent.

So, it might all be a coincidence. Without any supporting documentation it remains a promising lead. I'll let you know.

PS: I'm fascinated by the jigsaw of history, it's my blog and I really needed to get it all straight in my head. So if you thought it was boring, tough.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Trading Places

I have it on good authority I moved house three weeks ago. The evidence certainly seems to point in that direction. I've seen the signed lease. I distinctly recall a large army of friends (to whom I am thankful) coming over and taking all my stuff out of what was my home and moving it to a different building in another suburb. As it's a free-standing residential dwelling, I guess it is technically a house. And since there's a room there with my bed and the clothes that I'm not currently wearing in it, then I guess you could maybe argue that it's my house.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not yet my home. Sure, it's got most of my crap in it, but that doesn't exactly differentiate it from a self-storage unit in poorly lit industrial area. So why isn't it home?

Let's start with my bedroom. It's a like a big box labyrinth with my bed crouched somewhere in the middle like a flat rectangular minotaur that needs to be negotiated before I can go to sleep at night. I'm just dammed glad I've got plenty of string from old convention badges lying about the place.

Oooh. Here's a good example. My Doctor Who books are still in boxes. Ok, so I've unpacked some of them - but there's a great deal of them still in boxes. How can I possibly call somewhere home while my Doctor Who books ARE STILL IN BOXES!

"So quit your whining", I hear you say. "Take some time and unpack your stuff", you suggest. "Ha!", I say, "Ha!", I scoff. If only it were quite that simple. The week after I "moved" was Borderlands: Trilogy, where I lived in a hotel for a weekend. I came down with the flu shortly after that, and things get a bit hazy. And then there was the weekend just gone. Saturday was spent weeding at the old place in a possibly futile attempt to get the bond back and watching life-size muppets (I'm fairly sure that was real and not the flu talking). On Sunday I had to come into work.

Home is normally where I spend most of my time, by my reckoning - watching television, eating, sleeping, net surfing. By my calculations since midday on Sunday to 8pm this evening (Friday) is 128 hours. I've spent 36 of them at my house. That's 28%. You're supposed to spend more time than that sleeping! And it's not like I can say I was out at someone else's house either. I can say that this week I've spent an excessive amout of time in my office at my place of employ.

And that I'm starting wonder what it would look like with a couple of shelves of Doctor Who books.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Public Knowledge
After saying that my blog wasn't quite ready yet and there was no point linking to it yet on Grants discussion forum, it seems that many have. And posted to mailing lists about it.

Ah, well. I had no idea that the occasion would be quite so momentous.

So, please excuse the mess. I've got some plans for the place. That supporting banner needs to be moved over there, and I'm thinking of growing some URLs over there. And yes, the spelling mistakes are all my own work.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

It's like this.

Some cool people on a mailling list I'm on starting doing blogs, and it just made them seem even cooler. Then some other people I know started doing them. Now my best friend is doing blogs and now he seems pretty cool.

What choice did I have? I want to be cool too. Maybe good friends shouldn't let friends do blogs, but its all too late now.

I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got a blog?