journal for 2004-01-05
I got through the flight without incident, and I did read some more Maugham. There was a bit of turbulence, and I feared a rough landing, but everything ended up going smoothly. Looking back at my last entry, I see that I mumbled something about finishing Of Human Bondage on the flight. I must’ve meant on the trip. It’s quite a dense book, and I’m at best a quarter of the way through it.
I got off the plane and waited a for some time to claim my baggage. I’m not sure if I’ll try to carry my bag on for the return flight. It would be nice, but I expect that if I’m forced to check it while boarding, it will be far more inconvenient than if I just checked it to begin with. Everyone was complaining about the lack of push carts for luggage, and there were several apologies made over the PA system, informing us that there were a lot of arrivals at present, and that the staff was rushing to find the free carts. It didn’t bother me, my bag has wheels.
Once I had my bag, I headed to customs, only to find a line to get in. I followed the line to its end, growing amazed at its length. I spanned nearly the full width of the baggage claim area. Fortunately, it moved quickly, and once in it I had only to walk back toward its head. No one stopped me in customs, though a few people were having their baggage thoroughly searched. When going through the paperwork, I got to tell the clerk that I would be here “for a fortnight.” Despite the coolness of the word, I think “two weeks” is just a clearer bit of English. I wonder if there’s some significance to the fact that Britain has a word for two weeks and a coin for two pence, while we have neither.
With customs cleared, I headed out of the airport and to the Heathrow Express—that’s the train that runs from Heathrow to Paddington. I got a few photos for Keegan (and myself) and hopped on. I got to Paddington at about seven, so I felt I was making very good time. I bought a ticket for my train (I still think £35 is too much) and checked the departure times; my train wouldn’t leave for an hour and a half. I wanted to eat, but I wasn’t sure how much I really eaten in the past day or when I was due for another meal. I decided to just have a little hot ham and cheese sandwich, and it was OK. It could’ve done with more ham or cheese. Mostly it tasted of bread.
I walked around a bit, taking some photographs, and tried to think of ways to pass the time. I didn’t want to go wander around London at seven in the morning, so I wandered around Paddington instead. I looked at the bookstore, and found that they had no poetry section. I used the toilet (for 20p; I’ll have to note that expense). It was pretty nice for a public toilet. I wanted to get photos, but someone came in, and I felt strange about being seen taking pictures of a public restroom.
The train showed up around 08:15 or so, and I wandered down to the end and got on. I’m not clear on what makes a “super saver” ticket different from a “standard” ticket, and I always end up looking for the “super saver” class seating. This ends up confusing me, because there is none. I didn’t look too long, this time, before just taking a seat and relaxing. I figured that if I had to move, I’d move when told.
I got some more photos and started reading. My goal was still to get to Cardiff, take a nap, eat dinner, and then be productive for a bit before sleeping. Shortly after I started reading, though, I was nodding off. Once or twice my book fell out of my hands in mid-paragraph, and I finally gave up and decided to sleep. Sleeping in a seat on a train is tough, and I kept waking up and falling asleep, usually at stops. Having become a fan of The Office since my last visit, I was tickled to pass through Slough and Swindon.
After a few stops, though, I realized that I didn’t recognize the names of the stops. I had no map and didn’t know the timetable, so I didn’t know whether I had slept through the Newport and Cardiff stops. I waited to see what the next two or three stops were, and finally asked the conductor whether I’d been asleep for the stop. He assured me that I hadn’t and told me that he’d wake me up if I fell asleep. The guy behind me also told me that he was going to Newport, too, and would make sure I got off there.
It was only two more stops, though, and I managed to stay awake, except for a few momentary nods.
Once at Newport, I struggled to find the way out. I didn’t remember having to cross to the other platform to get to the exit, but I guess it’s always been that way. The fact that I was completely beat didn’t help. I found a cab, got in, showed him where I needed to go, and sat in the back, semi-dazed, until we got there. He made a bit of light conversation, and I got to say “fortnight” again, but mostly it was quiet.
I didn’t tip him. I don’t know whether it’s expected, and on this trip I’ve decided to err on the side of not tipping. Also, the tab was about 9.90 pounds and I paid with a twenty pound note, which would have made tipping awkward.
The hotel looked just fine, as we pulled in, as did the attached pub. I was a little worried that they would have a room ready, yet, and the woman at the front desk did seem a bit surprised that I was checking in so early, but she gave me a key. I had to let them charge the room to my credit card, which I found somewhat annoying.
Once in my room, I dumped my things, plugged in the knave, called Gloria, and fell asleep. I thought about setting an alarm, but didn’t. Several times I half-woke, looked at the time, and fell asleep again. Finally, around 18:00, I decided that I really needed to get up. I wasn’t sure whether to eat, so I didn’t, but I did call Godfrey and make sure that he could get me to work in the morning.
I really should have set that alarm.
I took a shower, and then tried to decide what to do. I watched a bit of TV, but it took a great effort. The television has five channels, and one is in Welsh. One channel was playing Dateline London, on which the talking heads were telling us that Bush is a shoe-in for re-election. Another was playing the professional darts championship. Seriously. Channel Five, though, had a documentary on Spider-Man. While it was clearly produced to hype the movie, it was tolerable, and I watched it. Following that was Batman, the movie, and I watched most of that, too.
Around eleven, I thought I could sleep again, and I tucked in for the night. I woke up around two, wide awake and sure that I wouldn’t be doing any more sleeping. The dart championship was still on channel two. Seriously. I even watched a fair bit of it, trying to understand the rules. I think I got most of them, but will ask Godfrey later.
After that, the channel switched to some kind of bizarre information report, presented in a blocky CGA font and accompanied by a screaching emergency broadcast sound. I have no idea what that was all about. Another channel was playing a show in which a man was conducting an interview while painting a portrait of his (very boring) subject. I believe this was the same channel that, earlier, had a program in which three artists each tried to paint the best portrait of a celebrity.
I watched a bit of a fairly execrable movie about three half-aborigine sisters who hated each other and their mother. The climax was mind-blowingly pointless. After that, it was clear that I wasn’t about to sleep any time soon, so I did some more reading. I thought about doing some writing, but I didn’t feel up to it. I tried to sleep, but failed.
It’s 07:45, now, and I’ve been doing nothing for hours. I can’t imagine how insomniacs, who go through this every night, deal with it. Of course, they aren’t usually stuck in a hotel with nowhere to go, no channels on TV, and no internet connection.
I’m sure there will be work-related things to do today, even if it’s all just going over the agenda for work. The only things I’m really hoping to do are: eat a steak and mushroom pie at the pub, buy some simple things to eat and drink while at my hotel room, and stay awake until ten, if possible, to get into the right sleeping pattern.