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Weekend fun

Having been born in London, I've always had a soft spot for the city of London. I don't really know why - it's dirty, overcrowded, and the inhabitants can sometimes be really annoying. Yet, when I walk around London, I feel completely at ease - it's like a second (or third) home for me there. Since this past weekend was looking quite boring, I had decided to make the trip across the channel (and large swathes of France) since there were a few parties (read weddings) going on there.

The only small problem with my plan to head up to London was that I was missing formal-wear. I had a pair of black trousers, and some reasonable-looking shirts, but I wasn't planning on going to any formal occasions during at least my first year here. One major component which I was missing was a pair of black shoes - turning up in runners would probably overshadow the lack of a fantastic suit. Luckily for me, I was being sent a care-package from Australia, and my pair of black shoes were chucked in there. Now, the package was meant to be sent as an express delivery international package, at most about a day or two travel time (which I could follow using the useful package tracking widget for the dashboard). It did manage to traverse the world in about that time - but (and this is typical of German bureaucracy) it was stopped in customs while they rang me up to make sure that I was a student, secretly hoping they could charge me for customs tax or something. I fax across my details first thing the next morning, in the pathetic hope that I will be able to get my package by the end of the week. Of course, the package was stuck in customs for 5 days, arriving far too late for the wedding. It's pretty clear that the interaction between DHL and the German customs could do with some improvement. Are there any better systems that they could use for package management? I look forward to the community's response.

It must be wedding season again, since there were two weddings on the weekend, one in the northern suburbs of London (my old stomping grounds), and another in the supposedly rural part of England, just outside of Stansted airport. What was most interesting about the weddings was to have a look at the Indian "scene" in its homeland - London. I'm always interested in sub-cultures that you find all over the world (such as the stencil-art/graffiti culture that is somewhat popular at the moment, or the [New|Dark]-wave/Depeche mode music scene). Some of these sub-cultures are more than just hobbies for some people, and form large parts of their identity. They also use the Internet to meet up and communicate, so it's quite easy to go for a bit of cultural tourism by clicking on a few links and browsing some forums. It was with this tourism in mind that I checked out how the Indians all interacted with each other in London. Now, I've never really spent a lot of time amongst Indian groups of people (beyond family), which was largely due to my interests often being mutually exclusive to those other people. For example, I don't really enjoy the pure pulp Bollywood films, or the music that comes out of them, but I absolutely love dismantling them. I also dislike the R&B music that is so loved by many (Hip-hop is not R&B or gangsta-rap before anyone says anything), and I can't really identify with the majority of the youth culture. So with that in mind, I was expecting to see much more of the same in England, taking solace in knowing that the food would be absolutely fantastic. I was completely wrong about the Indian culture in London. Instead of being essentially India in England - it was more like a subset of the population at large, where everyone happens to be related to each other. You'll find people with diverse interests, and even little sub-groups within the larger group itself. I think it's something to do with the age and size of the Indian population in England that allows for this kind of thing to happen. No doubt, if I go to New York again, and look at the Indian groups there, I would find a similar thing. The best thing about the Indian culture is the food of course, and it was pretty good - the first time in about a month and a half that I've had properly cooked Indian food, and I engorged myself on the food such that I would not have to eat for a week.

We had driven up from London to the wedding just outside of Stansted, and somehow the responsibility of finding our way there landed on my shoulders at a critical juncture. I screwed it up, and we ended up finding ourselves in the middle of a village called Braintree. I'd love to know how they got the name of Braintree (Wikipedia knows), because as far as I could see, there wasn't a massive tree with brains hanging off it. You'd assume it would be zombie central, as the zombies would think they've hit the jackpot with a town that has a name like that. I could see a mummy zombie chastising a child zombie that brains don't grow on trees. Like my train of thought, we were thoroughly lost, but we ploughed on deeper into the town hoping that somehow we'll end up on the other side. Once we found ourselves on a small back-road, we finally stopped, and pulled out the ludicrously vague map, hoping to figure out where to go. Luckily for us there was a person walking past, and in a moment of divine inspiration, I decided to stop him and ask for directions.

Me:
Drawing on my years of English school education to produce an almost perfectly delivered sentence
Excuse me! Hello! Do you know the way to the A120?

Polite-looking quintessentially English man (with a beard):
Thinks for a second
Yes.
He stops, and then smiles, clearly pleased that he's helped me in the survey I am conducting.

Me:
Er.. Would you please tell me how to get to the A120?

Polite-looking quintessentially English man (with a beard):
Launches into a thorough description of where to go, involving several turns past several roundabouts and a great deal of witchcraft.
Did you get that?

Me (and my Uncle by now):
Staring blankly
How do you get here?
Stabs finger into the map roughly where we want to go

Polite-looking quintessentially English man (with a beard):
Oh, that's easy. Go left at the second roundabout, and head straight down the road.

And I thought I had trouble talking to the Germans. I wonder if Matt has these same problems in Cambridge, as I know Londoners are not like that at all.

Post-wedding, I returned from London, flying into Frankfurt Hahn, and began the long journey back to Heidelberg. It's not easy doing a weekend trip to the UK, but I've somewhat proven that you can do it. On arriving back to my apartment, I found a little note from DHL telling me that a package had arrived for me. Expecting my 10 kg care-package behemoth, I grabbed my backpack and walked off to the post office. Imagine my surprise when the package actually turned out to be the tiny DSL-splitter which was noticeably missing from the rest of my DSL package that I had obtained on Friday. I set up the DSL, hoping to get back into the broadband world, somehow managing to set it up pretty well, even though I didn't understand the router configuration in German. It doesn't actually work - since I don't think the router/modem is synchronising with the DSL signal. Does anyone know how to test a DSL line? Or do I have to brave the FreeNet customer service to try and get this working?

Update Damn, maybe I should have gone down to Z├╝rich for the weekend - Streetparade was on again, and Ben went along. Looks like it would have been quite a party.

1 comment

Hiren Joshi *

Finally got that posted! It seems like Blogger had identity issues with Sammy Jankins, and kept forgetting my FTP details, or failing to publish entries. I think it's fixed now. Comments should hopefully start showing up again too.

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