From Norwich

A fine city in south-east England

Christmas at Marsh View

Surlingham Sunrise

On Christmas Eve I made the 18 hour journey from Shenzhen to my hometown in the UK; Norwich in Norfolk to spend the festive season at my parents home a little way outside the city center. Unlike last year they knew I was coming so there were no big surprises, only the inevitable jet lag brought on by the 8 hour time shift. Read more

Flying Shotgun in a Fokker 70

Pre-flight Checklist

It just so happens that my parents neighbour is a pilot and by coincidence it turned out that he was flying the first leg of the flight I was taking back to China (Norwich -> Amsterdam). He very kindly invited me to sit with him and the co-pilot in the cockpit on the “jump seat” for the journey – I felt like a boy who had been allowed to ride in a fire engine – absolutely awesome!

P1050509

The aircraft we were flying in was Fokker 70 which is relatively small with only 70 seats and made in the Netherlands. They’re used by KLM for their short-haul cityhopper service. As we were flying at night it was a bit dark to take any good photos (and I definitely didn’t want to use the flash!) but I did get a bit of video (below):

Fokker 70 Flight Deck

The coolest part was undoubtedly the take-off and landing which is so much more exciting when you’re looking out from the front. Amazingly most aircraft are able to do this all on auto-pilot which they showed me when we landed – totally automatically in thick fog. As we approached the runway it was mesmerizing to see the tops of building poking out of the misty shroud covering the ground.

Pilots clearly have to be very skilled and focused, especially when it comes to flying and eating dinner at the same time! I feel so lucky to have been able to do this, especially considering the fear-mongering around terrorism these days.

A Surprise Christmas

Amsterdam Dawn

Having spent Christmas 2008 in China it seemed a bit of a pity to miss out on the festivities for a second year running so I decided to make a last-minute surprise visit home without telling anyone I was coming.

Warmth

After nearly 20 hours of travelling I flew into Norwich via Amsterdam from Hong Kong on the morning of Christmas Eve and turned up on my parents doorstep shortly before midday. To say people were surprised would be an understatement (luckily none of my family have heart conditions!).

Tree + Sarah

It felt rather weird to be thrust directly into the Christmas spirit without the usual months of buildup which usually proceed it in the UK. It was however much nicer to experience it in person rather than through a Skype webcam session as was last year (however novel it may have been).

Christmas Turkey

Of course food is a big part of Christmas and the traditional turkey is a must. While looking like a big chicken the taste is markedly stronger and more flavourful. As ever my mum excelled herself – the 8,000 mile trip was almost worth it just for this! I often wonder why people only eat turkey once a year…

Marsh View

Coming from the relatively warm south of China to the freezing south-east of the UK was a bit of a shock to the system but being a hardy Brit my body soon adjusted and a few nice walks outside in near zero degree conditions were had. Although there was a bit of snow when I first arrived most of it had thawed after a couple of days.

Windswept

I have a terrible memory but was happy to find that after nearly a year of not driving that the old skills hadn’t disappeared. I always find it’s weird how your brain is able to learn and retain certain complex things as if they were second nature but for other simpler things it’s near impossible (for me anyway).

Monopoly

I’ll be heading back to China on January 4th so get to enjoy jet lag twice in so many weeks. Hopefully someone will invent a teleportation device before too long!

Reverse Culture Shock

Norwich International

Last Thursday I arrived back in the green and pleasant land I call home on my private Fokker 50 turboprop plane weary from the flight and the previous four hours spent stuck in Schiphol airport. Nevertheless it was good to be back on British soil and as my driver pulled up on the runway tarmac to greet us I reflected on how much I had personally changed in the past year since leaving the UK. It was fast becoming clear that you don’t realise what you’ve got until you loose it…

Overgrown Tavern

Back on my country estate I had a dull feeling like something was missing and after about half an hour of wandering around aimlessly it hit me: where had all the people gone? No longer was I surrounded by crowds giving me dodgy looks or asking why I was there and I felt strangely lost. Later on I had another revelation when I realised the only sounds I could hear were that of birds singing in the trees and my own breathing: was I in the mythical garden of Eden?

Tideway

These strange occurrences continued throughout the day but it wasn’t till I was meandering down the river in the family yacht that it suddenly hit home: I was no longer in China and didn’t have to battle my way through millions of cars honking their horns or people spitting on the street or children emptying their bladders in the gutter or breathing noxious fumes omitted by factories or… my mind imploded. What hell was this I had been transported to?!

Golden Grass

Joking aside it’s nice to be home and as the saying goes “the grass is always greener on the other side” (or in this case a shade of golden yellow) but going from an urban city like Shenzhen (15 million people) to a rural city like Norwich (200 thousand people) highlights just how diverse a world we live in. The two mindsets required to exist in either are almost completely different but somehow mine has to span both and I was in for a bit of a shock coming back to it – whilst nothing had changed much on the ground I most definitely had.

DSC_8293

Trying to explain it is a little difficult and perhaps the shock will lessen over time but a part of me now exists in a parallel world, 6000 miles away, which another small part of me is already looking forward to returning to. The UK will always be my home but I think my perspective has changed to somewhat of an outside yet hope I’ll never be a stranger here. Rule, Britannia!

Subterranean Danger

Continuing the theme from earlier in the week, this is what happens when metro construction goes wrong:

Lausanne Metro

Lausanne Metro

“While building the tunnel for the Lausanne (Switzerland) Metro Line 2 the construction workers discovered water flowing into the tunnel and at 18:00 yesterday evening 50 m3 of rock collapsed – exactly under a McDonalds building in the city center. Also a 10×7 meter part of a big supermarket collapsed 3-5 meters into the new hole underground. Two blocks had to be evacuated (and still are til now) and nobody knows, if the ground will hold or if whole buildings will collapse.”

Whoops…! [Via SkyscraperCity]

Reminds me of the time many many years ago when a double decker bus feel through the road outside my school into a disused chalk mine which apparently run under much of Norwich. I seem to vaguely remember much excitement on the day it happened, luckily no one was seriously hurt.

For those of you who are so inclined a new Linux Kernel (2.6.11) was released yesterday. Grab it while its hot!

I should get on with some work now – so much to do, so little time… 🙁

Technologicque

My rather nice new 19″ Neovo X-Series TFT screen arrived today! It’s a beautifully designed piece of kit with a proper glass front and a metallic body meaning it’s not likely to get damaged all that easily. Considering the amount of time I spend in from of my computer every day I think it’s worth having a decent screen which pleases the eye rather than hurting it!

New Screen

Thought I might share a couple of cool photos sent to me by Nik yesterday taken in the fine city where we live:

The Forum
The Forum – (c) Nik Howard 2004

The first was taken in the local millennium-esq (post-techno-cool!) library known as ‘The Forum‘. It’s actually a combination of three different photos photoshopped together using transparent layers to create the effect of the ghostly looking figures – pretty cleaver, even more so considering it was taken hand-held without a tripod!

Blurred Lead
Blurred Leaf – (c) Nik Howard 2004

This second photo has also been heavily modified by extracting the dark elements of the leaf and then motion-blurring the background – very artsy.

And if you thought that was cool… check out the zoomage on this gigapixel image! It reminds me of something out a modern spy film where the agent hooks into a satellite feed and homes in on a target with the image sharpening itself as the image is zoomed in.

BTW… Anyone know where the title for todays post comes from?

Christmas Time

Happy Christmas one and all!!!

Just taking time out from the hectic preparations going on here to do a quick update since I missed out on posting yesterday (way too busy!). Echo has come to visit for a few days which is nice, especially as she has never experienced Christmas before. Yesterday afternoon we went to the Cathedral carol service in which my sister was singing in the girls choir. It was very busy but we managed to get good seats as we arrived quite early.

Christmas
Inside Norwich Cathedral

The music was very good and the atmosphere in the Cathedral was nice with the lights dimmed and all the decorations put up. After this we went home and had dinner which consisted of lasagna which I cooked with mum earlier in the day. I think it went down quite well – it certainly tasted nice to me!!

Christmas

Today we went to a short church service first thing in the morning and then had a pleasant walk down by the river. Along the way we encountered a curious flock of swans who seemed very curious about us but considering their size I didn’t want to get too close! Although the weather is pretty cold outside today unfortunately we’ve had no snow yet but fingers crossed there might be some in the next couple of days 🙂

Christmas
Outside Norwich Cathedral

The smell of lunch is wafting temptingly from downstairs so I will sign off now. Hope everyone has a good day and most importantly don’t forget to watch the Queens speech!!! hehe

In Tune (?)

Today marked the release of my sisters first choral album. OK, so it isn’t exclusively hers but she’s is the choir! What really sets this little number apart from your general church type music is the title which is just sensationally good – “In Tune with Heaven”. Whoever thought that one up must have graduated from the school of cheese!

In Tune

Its been produced by “Lammas Records” and can be ordered off their website. Go buy it now! If you’re not convinced you can listen to the first track here (Blest Pair of Sirens by Hubert Parry – 9.8mb). There are 17 tracks in all on the CD and overall its not bad.

In Tune

My sister is on the top row of girls right in the middle, I was going to include a bigger picture but I think she might kill me if I did!

Btw… I’m back in Norwich now for the summer. The server move seemed to go OK, please drop me a note if you notice anything astray!