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28/04/2006
[11:35] 133 Imagine you've spent five or six years planning, planting and maintaining a garden with youthful saplings and trimmed borders to a velvet-smooth lawn, and there's a pool - yes, with a fountain - and some lovely decorative flowers and shrubs. But it's a working garden too; there's a healthy, fully-stocked vegetable patch and by God do you get a good harvest throughout the year as things ripen and fruit. There's always a little something to do, even if it's just day-to-day weeding and picking fruit or vegetables for that evening's meal. There's a small project section too, just down the side. Can you see it? Yes, that bit. It's perfect for trying new ideas in without disrupting the rest of the garden. Right at the back, in a shaded, secluded spot there's a shed, with an easy chair in it, a radio with Radio 4 on, and a couple of good books. You spent a lot of time there towards the end of your tenure as gardener. You would do when there's little to do but sweep the leaves and prune a rose for your amour's morning breakfast tray.

You're justifiably proud of your garden, people stop by to admire it and ask how you got such wonderful results from initially stony ground. It won prizes...

And then you leave it to someone else because there's another garden that needs some work and you know with just a bit of common sense the person you've been asked to give the dibbing tool and garden twine to should at least be able to maintain it and keep on top of the feeding of the fish. So when you come back a year or so later to find out how things have been going and help select a new gardener it's a bit of a shock to find that the fountain is clogged, and the pond water is green and there's algal bloom. There are no fish now. Weeds have encroached on the borders and no-one's been cutting the lawn which looks wild and unkempt. To top it all off the trees - the actual bastard trees of which you were so proud and had high hopes of being of being able to hang a hammock on for anyone who wanted to relax - have been torn out, just as they were about to blossom (probably because the person in charge didn't know how to keep them healthy). On the plus side, the shed looks a little larger and the chair a little more comfortable. No-one stops by to admire the garden now.

Welcome to my return visit to my previous place of employment. By God I'm going to make sure the next person in that post knows what they're doing.

[16:30] It's been a moderately good afternoon all in all. Got in to work and puttered around doing things wot needed doing and then went up to the Windows support team to get a 100M switch, a PC and a monitor and came back with them all. I even got an LCD screen. Amazing. What's even better is that it had one of those Dell AS500 soundbars underneath which (better than nothing) gives me a set of powered speakers for my computer and an amp for my headphones. The speakers are good for times like now when there's no-one else in the office and I don't feel like filling my ears with plastic.

So yes speakers, a PC built for the temp sysadmin so that the new boss can actually have a desk and PC of his own to sit at when he arrives on Tuesday (it's a bank holiday on Monday so I won't be here) and some reasonable poi practice while the sun was out. I'm still having trouble locking down a fool-proof 5-beat weave/chase and I'm not entirely sure it's not the 4-beat version. I'll spend some more time on it this evening and over the weekend when I'm not flying kites on the beach, partying, or doing some T-shirt design.

I also get a lodger on Monday. That's going to be weird in all kinds of ways. I need the money at the moment (more on that some other time) but the concept of not living on my own or with someone I'm intimate with is probably going to take a little bit of getting used to. Still, the person is lovely and the money is going to be very welcome. It's not for the rest of my life either; I'm hoping something exciting and happy occurs eventually and I have a different kind of housemate, so short-term it'll probably be excellent. Especially as the house will also have a car.

27/04/2006
[16:50] 134 I'm now eating sticky buns as a "well done for having a huge needle stuck in your arm" present. Ninth time giving blood and this time it hurt. I think the nurse nicked or otherwise touched a nerve. Still, the bun is nice and sticky, but no poi practice this lunch time or tonight if I don't want to bruise...

... damn these buns are sticky. So, feeling oddly 'up' today for some reason, couldn't say why. Best to go with it for the moment. Finally got the money I was owed from a month or so ago which is good. Now I have to try my damnedest not to spend it all and a bit more on the new lens I have my eye on. Maybe if I can sell the lens I want to replace I can feel a bit more justified. Or not. Maybe I'll wait. Bah.

I think the sugar is leaving my system. My arm's gone a tiny bit numb and it's getting to the point where I can't sensibly start anything else to finish in time to get home to tidy the house for my part in this evening's festivities. Norah Jones has just popped onto the music-o-phone in the corner of my screen and suddenly I could just curl up under my desk for a nap.

Actually, this entry has taken me so long to write (started at 15:!5) I'm just going to go home.

26/04/2006
[10:30] 135 Last night I was honoured and privileged to be the first person ever in the world to read a bedtime story to my friends Shaun and Linda's son Tom, other than the both of them. I was round at their place for a lovely dinner which has given me some excellent ideas for things to do with roasted vegetables. After dinner as Thomas was getting ready to go to bed he was asked which book he wanted to be read to him. He planted his choice firmly in my lap before sitting next to me to wait for his milk. The book was The Runaway Train from the Little Red Train series by Benedict Blathwayt (I looked it up this morning on Amazon). And yes, I did do the chuff-chuff and woo woo noises at the end of every page. I don't know whether it was the soporific effects of the milk or my captivating story telling manner but Thomas seemed to be entirely focused on what I was saying. I have to admit it was one of the nicest things I've been able to do in months.

Cycling home was good as I got to go on the 'runway'; a solarcharged set of white LEDs which line both sides of the shared-use foot/cycleway between the village Shaun and Linda live in and the city. I popped into the pub on the way to the house but didn't stay long pleading tiredness.

I found myself at work waiting for lunch time so I could go out and practice with my poi again. I crave displacement activity yet something to keep my mind in the here and now. I have a feeling of drifting without destination; an almost palpable sense of being out of time and place. Work seems dull and flat and not even the imminent arrival of a new team leader, new kit and Big Things happening can hold me in place. My direction is as confused as the spinning of my poi. Maybe this is what I need to maintain my 'no plans except for today' feeling.

25/04/2006
[13:40] 136 Ended up helping a friend move a recently bought set of dishwasher and washing machine from one side of town to the other last night. Probably the lightest washing machine it has been a necessity for me to lift. Getting it into the van and then out and into a storage unit was oddly easy. Either I'm stronger than I thought or this is one washing machine that is going to make a spirited attempt to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God when it reaches the spin cycle.

I'm having dinner with friends this evening which'll be absolutely lovely although it does mean missing out on going to the gym. I'm sure I'll make up for it later in the week. I've done one bit of very useful work today thus far and a crap-load of tiny little niggly things which I'm having real trouble concentrating on. In fact I'm having trouble concentrating period...

My mind keeps skittering to other things and I mostly wish it didn't. I'm just feeling restless, like there's something else I should be doing, or something I'm missing out on. I'm sure I'll get a handle on it eventually. For the moment I'm looking forward to the end of the week which will potentially be a whole lot of fun, relaxation, laughter and chilling in that order. Then there's the long weekend to fill...

[16:40] Just found myself looking through a few collections of photos from 2003. It's amazing what the passage of time can do for memories. I found myself smiling and laughing at the pictures and captions from various collections (even caused a coworker to ask what I was doing at one point). There were less lines on the faces of the people in those pictures (curlier hair in some cases), and a whole lot less knowledge in their eyes. In some I can see an innocence which I sometimes wish I could go back and recapture. To quote two phrases not of my devising; "You can never go back" and "Only Forwards" I find myself wondering just what tomorrow will bring. How will my life develop from here? Where will I be a week, a month, a year, five years from now. What new things and people will I know, and where will the people I care about be?

It's enough to give you the screaming willies, really it is.

24/04/2006
[12:25] 137 I'm stuck waiting on other people this week before I can do anything substantial. In the meantime I can start adding powerfail.sh script references to the APC UPS daemon settings for all of the machines here that the DBAs have written them for. That should take a while.

The weekend was a tail of two days. Saturday I took Cat climbing in London at The Castle where she did her first real bouldering and was pretty damned good, doing some fairly complex 4C routes and breezing 4Bs with ease. We ran into Elaine climbing with her friend Nick and all had some lunch together out on the grass behind the Wall. At the end of the day Cat and I went home and Elaine got to have a cooked dinner courtesy of her friend. On Sunday I woke feeling really rather on edge and frankly just a little bit mixed up in the head so I sat and watched the London Marathon until the wheelchair, women's and men's races had been won and then jumped on my bike, stuck a map in my pocket and went for a cycle. By the time I'd got back a quick guestimate on the map indicated about 20km. My head was still whirling so I put the bike away, pulled on my Asics and ran the exact same route as the clouds drew in and it began to rain.

I know I've said before that anything over 6km makes my right knee ache and, true to form somewhere around halfwayish the knee began to ache but I was so far from home and it was getting cold that I kept going. The run worked, by the 15th kilometer all I could think about was bananas and chocolate Geobars. When I got home I had a banana, a Geobar, a banana, a Frusli, two oranges and another Frusli and then went for a shower. Next time I must remember to have either breakfast or lunch before going to do exercise.

I'm still not completely settled in my head at the moment. Like one of my good friends is feeling at the moment I'm in need of company, I'm just not sure what kind. Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

21/04/2006
[13:30] 140 A busy busy morning for once. I feel quite useful. From the off Ben (the Network guy) and I added another service to the load balancer, cleaned up a shed-load of mess on them too before I got the right certificate for the service from Central and Thawte's site, then we organised a new static NAT for the card purchases server/project/application thingy and I got the web team to footle about with the httpd.conf file until we were sure it'd work when the new virtual interface I'd just created came up and the DNS changes go through tonight. After that we popped out to help someone with some SSL tunnel/thin client issues and then came back and updated a ton of firewall rules. Phew!

All I have to do now is rackmount two new servers, work out a schedule for moving two more services onto the load balancers which will enable me to down two physical interfaces on a massively multi-homed machine (thus making it a whole lot tidier) and then go and get my hair cut, go to the gym, go home and collapse.

20/04/2006
[12:40] I was bloody impressed with Elaine's climbing last night. She was on fire and at one point did a climb I'd made a bit of a meal of better than I had. Don't listen when she says she used more features than me she did the better climb plain and simple.

I don't know why but I'm very, very tired at the moment. Admittedly I didn't get to bed before midnight last night but even so I was knackered in the morning. I spent the morning unpicking the Oracle client issues that'd occured while I'd left the developers to their own devices and proclaimed the whole box fixed about ten minutes ago. I'm off into town in twenty minutes to escort a Sun engineer to a machine room to change a disk in a 3510 of ours, then hand-deliver some SSL certificate purchase orders and then potter around for a while. I don't know why but I'm really not getting back into this work thing very well.

[16:55] Went into town, got the disk changed in record time and then wandered around town for a bit just stretching my legs before grabbing some food from one of the myriad sandwich shops about the place. I walked around for a bit more and then headed into Central to get the SSL certificates sorted. One, a new request got sorted in seconds. The other was a renewal but unfortunately I'd not read some of the email; basically the bit that said "we can't do a simple renewal, we'll need a new CSR". Damn. Off I went back to work and spent some time looking into how you do SSL certificates and CSRs with a BEA Weblogic server until consultation with others reminded me that we're putting that particular service through the load balancer so the HTTPS will be being turned off on the web server and the certificate'll be on the load balancer instead. This means creating the certificate is a point-and-drool operation and all I'm waiting for is the real certificate back from our Thawte proxy as soon as he has the time to do it.

I'm doing a Thursday: tonight and hopefully spending some time working on all the photos I still haven't dealt with as yet. Depending on how late people stay I may ask some of the people who were there to help. I should get my hair cut tomorrow, it's a bit bushy. I'm just a little worried I'm going to reveal untanned bits.

19/04/2006
[16:25] OK, after some speedy typing last night I've been able to put up the journal of the entire holiday in the last few minutes. It's no work of great literary expertise and frankly there'll be some shocking bits of grammar, spelling and terrible descriptive and repeated phrasing but it should give you a taste of what happened on the trip. I fully intend to get the photos done before the end of the week and put up in at least two collections, if not more. Other than that today has been spent trying to figure out what in god's name one of the developers has done to one of my boxes with regard to installations of Oracle 10g client and various CPAN modules. Have you ever tried to pick apart wet rope, or worse wet string pulled tight into a messy ball of confusion.

Picture me for the most of the day dealing with that. Still, I got to pop out at lunch time to pay in a birthday cheque and buy a very cheap and hopfully not-quite-so-cheap performing wireless access point/wired switch to replace the one which died before I went away. Someone had a spare Netgear WRG614 which I managed to pick up for a song, which is damned useful. I think I'll head home and see if I can get it up and running before I get picked up for climbing.

18/04/2006
[09:35] 143 OK, I'm back. I've got a whole load of entries to type up at some point, the photos to go through and organise and generally to get on with life back here again. Hopefully I'll get the text typed up before the end of the week although I doubt many of you are that interested that you can't wait a little bit longer. So anyway, back at work, feeling tired and run down already, I guess I needed more sleep than I thought. The holiday was bloody excellent though for the most part. Turning thirty wasn't as traumatic as I thought it'd be. Well, it was in some ways, but there's not a whole lot I can do about that. I had all my friends (who could make it) around which was lovely and for the most part I didn't make a complete fool of myself, which was good. I also didn't drink enough to make me make friends with a large black bin, which was definitely a good thing. There'll be more in the entries preceeding this when I can get them done.

Hopefully today will be fairly quiet work-wise. I'm glad I wrote a todo list before I went because when I got in this morning I had no idea what any of these buttons or knobs do any more. I wonder what that one does...

17/04/2006
[18:00] Elaine spent a night at my place in the first week I was away to make sure that everything was OK and enjoy a night in a non-single bed. As it'd been a school night she'd used the beside alarm and set it to 06:50. Unfortunately she'd forgotten to turn it off again before she left. I was awake for 06:50 this morning. Unable to sleep because of the bright sunshine I got up and unpacked properly, had a shower, put a wash on, had some breakfast and then mowed the lawn.

By the time all of that was finished the bread I'd put on was about done so I settled down to some jam sandwiches (all I had in the house) and read for a while until Cormac and Steph came by to take me shopping for essentials. Now I'm back, doing today's journal, looking through the 1000-odd photos that I took, doing some preparatory work for tomorrow and thinking back over the holiday and the high and low points of the trip that saw in my 30th birthday.

It should have been today, hell it should have been months ago, but hopefully from tomorrow things are going to change.

16/04/2006
[23:40] The train went through the night and I managed to get some reasonable sleep considering I was in the same room as the master snorer Keith. Pulling in to Paris we were up and about and off the train in short order looking for taxis to get us to the other station. While the first taxi in the queue was an estate and fitted half of our bags the second one was a sedan. We were sure everything remaining wouldn't fit and asked the man to move out of the way so we could get the estate car behind him. He wasn't having any of it and had to try to fit everything before admitting defeat. Well that, and us using our combined bad French to tell him we knew better.

At Gare du Nord we dumped the bags again and decided to pay various amounts of money to use the urinals, toilets or showers. I went for the 60 Eurocent option of a urinal and was disgusted to see a man naked from the waist down cramming his arse into a small urinal and defecating painfully into it. Surely he could have paid 40 Eurocents more for a cubical? I turned my back and tried to get on with what I'd paid to do.

On leaving we met up in a cafe in the station before taking the plunge to attempt the Paris Metro. I'll never complain (not that I ever did) about the London Underground after the bad signage in the Metro. The only saving grace was the double-decker trains they have (similar to the ones in the Netherlands). Nevertheless we got to the Eiffel Tower, were suitably impressed by the size, etc. but elected not to go up as for the first time on the holiday it had begun to rain and the queues were huge. Instead we paid for all day tickets on the river tour boat that you can hop on and off. We took that upriver to Notre Dame and got off to look for somewhere to eat. A crepe place with more reasonable prices than those nearer Notre Dame was selected and we had some much-needed sustenance. While other people hung around for dessert crepes a few of us wandered off to look around Notre Dame (again not going in as the queues were huge). We all met up again by the river boat stop and boarded again to go downstream eventually to the Louvre.

Although due to close in a few hours we checked in some coats and wandered some of the galleries and of course stopped in to look at the Mona Lisa. I have to say I'm not terribly impressed with it to be honest and was much more taken with the Egyptian exhibits, although much more time to look around the entire place would have been useful. Basically about three days. The glass pyramid over the entrance and the spiral staircase with the lift up the middle was impressive too. The whole estate was far larger than I thought it would be to be honest. That's what happens when your only frame of reference is Team America: World police I guess.

Back on the Metro we headed straight for the train station and grabbed our bags before heading to Eurostar check-in. Getting Cormac's bags through was a lot less eventful this time around and before long we were on the train and Elaine was popping her Chunnel cherry as we made our way back to Waterloo.

On the station at Waterloo we split up for the last time and those of us heading back with me entered the Underground bound for Finsbury Park (owing to Kings Cross being closed). At this point we found that we really did have the wrong tickets for underground (rather than overground) rail travel to London Terminii. Rather than argue with the same ticket guard as last time we just bought singles and dashed onto the Tube. After changing to the Victoria line we ended up running full speed from Finsbury Park Tube to the overground rail station looking for somewhere for Elaine to buy a single home (having come out via plane). In the end we made the last decent train home with one minute and thirty seconds to spare.

The train home gave me time to catch up on the last few days' worth of journal entries before we arrived. A people-carrier taxi dropped most of us off at my house where everyone except me piled into Steph's car and vanished into the very early morning darkness. I was home. I went to bed.

15/04/2006
[16/04/2006 - 23:15] In the morning we all awoke much the same time and I took the opportunity to grab a shower. Unfortunately my towel was inside a plastic bag inside my rucksack so retrieving it wasn't the quietest operation in the world. Once clean and dressed I headed down to the small reception cum food area for a 2 Euro breakfast which at least stopped me feeling like I'd be in danger of folding half despite the food I'd had the previous night. We formed a plan to head to the other train station to store our bags and then wander around Barcelona for the remainder of the day so walked the mile or so across town and stuck them all in storage lockers. After that we moved in the direction of the harbour before splitting into two groups for a while. One went to look at La Rambla straight away and the other (mine) to look at the huge private ships in the harbour. We all met up on La Rambla a little while later for some food although the prices were a little high so I just had what turned out to be a large goblet of Pepsi.

Everyone wanted to do something different after that so we split again into even smaller groups and I headed off with a map north to find some of the Gaudi buildings and take some photographs. The one annoying thing of the holiday occured shortly afterwards when I attempted to pay for something with a 50 Euro note and had it snatched from my hand as I was leaning over to pay. Not really anything I could do about it but it coloured the remainder of the day a little. In a bit of a mood I headed north looking at buildings and the people going by before turning east to find the Gaudi cathedral. I sat outside for a while admiring Gaudi's sheer genius talent for disregarding straight lines and right angles before realising that the queue was just too long to bother standing in to enter. I walked on to potter around the Gaudi hospital before turning south and passing by the Arc de Triomf and then down into the gothic quarter again. At this point I put away my map and made myself get thoroughly lost for an hour or so in the narrow and twisty streets. Naturally I ended up in what could be described as the red light district and had an interesting walk down the middle of the pedestrianised road to the far end where I could reach the harbour again.

As luck would have it I came across a small market where one of the stalls was manned by an American who was selling Poi, Devil sticks, Diablo and juggling balls. He allowed me to borrow a set of Poi and within ten minutes I had the basics of the Three Beat Weave down. Within the hour I was well past that and onto Butterfly-with-flick (my name) basic turning and the beginnings of the Five Beat Weave. I must have been there about four hours in total and had one of the best times of the holiday standing there in public learning new tricks and not caring who saw when I failed. In the end I was almost late for the train and paid the guy for the Poi I'd borrowed and dashed off, arriving just on time with everyone else.

We retrieved our bags and boarded the Trainhotel before trying to get off again to walk along the platform to the restaurant car (rather than trying to negotiate the narrow corridors). The jobsworth platform guard demanded that we go back and use the train instead. Weirdo. Once seated food and drink was ordered while I entertained the small child behind me who was almost climbing into my lap from the seat she was on. Others in the group just amused themselves by pelting fellow diners with food (by accident). After food was done we retired to the bar which we proceeded to prop up for most of the night drinking until Keith bought the only other woman in the bar two drinks and then tried to pull her using someone else in the bar we'd never met before as an intermediary translator. After an hour or so of this both we and the impromtu translator left them to it and we went to bed.

Keith rolled in (literally) around an hour after we'd settled in for the night some time around 02:30.

14/04/2006
[15:00] I probably went to bed too late last night as the 08:00 alarm this morning wasn't appreciated. I ended up getting out of bed around 09:20 and glad that I'd packed the night before. Fairly efficiently everyone else packed or headed into town to do some last minute shopping. I wandered down to el Portete to walk on the beach before sitting at the top of the cliff near the villa to watch the boats go by.

Around 12:00 Francine (the villa owner) arrived and did her inspection. Everything seemed in order so we said our goodbyes, loaded up the cars and drove to Valencia to return them and wait for our train to Barcelona. The drive was uneventful and now we're all just sitting around waiting until train time.

[16/04/2006 - 23:00] I ended up going for a short wander around Valencia for an hour or so prior to departure. Saw some of the architecture, etc. The train to Barcelona was uneventful and we arrived on time as we have with every other train journey this holiday. At the station Elaine dashed off to give Tom his lens which she'd brought all the way from England before we jumped into two taxis to take us as close to the hostel we were staying in as possible.

A short walk from the taxis we found the hostel and sorted our bags out in the rooms. Dunk and Andrea had previously left us at the train station and dashed off to try and get tickets for the football game at the stadium that evening and they rang as we were arriving at the hostel to say they had tickets for everyone who wanted them. This left just four of us to go out for the evening and find some food. We wandered around the gothic quarter for a while before finding a place called Gaucho's Grill (possibly not part of the chain in the UK) and ordered more meat than Man was meant to consume in one sitting. In fact it actually beat the human dusbin known as Cormac. Fully stuffed we wandered back to the hostel where we met the others freshly returned from the match. The game hadn't been stunning but the stadium was apparently amazing. Those people went off for food, the rest of us settled in to bed for the night.

13/04/2006
[14/04/2006 - 14:30] For the first morning since the holiday began I stayed in bed late. By the time I'd made it upstairs around 11:30 breakfast was being cooked and I was famished. The plan for the day was to drive to Calpe and the Penon and walk around and up it to see the view from the top. Unsurprisingly we were our usual thirty minutes late leaving but it didn't really matter.

At the Penon we walked around the base, took some photos and some shots of Sooty before walking back and watching some climbers high up on the face. After walking back into town a short way we found the approach to the rock and began to climb the path. Just as we were leaving the road a black AC Cobra with gold stripes roared underneath the bridge we were on. I didn't manage to get a shot in time though unfortunately. Heard it though. Wonderful sounding car.

The first part of the ascent was on wide crushed gravel paths and was easy for all but quick quickly the terrain became highly polished limestone. It's a popular route. A short tunnel through the solid rock gave me an opportunity to try the 50mm lens in low light. It's surprising what it'll pick up given the opportunity to shoine.

Now on the other side of the rock we continued to ascend and stopped off at a half-height peak to look out over the sea and made sure we avoided all of the gulls which were nesting near or actually on the path we were following. Around this time a large proportion of the group decided that the going was just too tough for the satisfaction of getting to the top so headed back. That left four of us to make the final attempt on the summit. The rock became quite treacherous in places and I gained a few scratches. We made the top in about another half an hour though. The view was excellent and we managed to see the others down at the bottom when Keith rang them and asked them to wave. We took some more Sooty footage (I'll have a link to it at some point for you to watch) and then made our careful way back down again, ending up at the same cafe as the rest of the group for some food and drink.

Back at the ranch later on Cormac, Steph and Dunk went snorkeling while some of us sat and watched them swim around/took photos of the sunset over the marina. Dunk now has the snorkeling/diving bug and may end up doing a BSAC/PADI course at some point.

Some vague plans for the evening were formed but I just wanted to eat some of the food we had in the house, shower, pack and read. Given the amount of stuff we'd be doing in the next day or so I needed some chill time.

12/04/2006
[13/04/2006 - 12:10] In an effort to be vaguely organised, fit, fed and watered the early risers split into pairs to go for a jog, the bakery and the well. Elaine and I took a jog to el Portete and then back and down into town to circle around the beach, etc. Ian and Andrea went to get more crossants and Cormac and Chef went to fill up the water bottles again. We all arrived back around the same time and chowed down before packing up and driving out to Javea (or however you want to spell it) and the beach which was just a short car ride away.

As the weather was good I obviously and immediately drew out a large square in the sand and began to fill it. Pyramid time! There were other, more delicate sculptures on the beach; a ladybird, a serpent, a dolphin, but nothing says total beach domination like a six foot tall pyramid of sand with almost perfectly smooth sides. Keith and I worked hard doing the donkey-work of filling the area with enough sand to give the necessary tonnage required to make it the right shape. While we did this the others swam, paddled, snorkeled and generally had a great time sunning themselves on the sand and in the sea. Eventually we proclaimed the pyramid finished and had attracted the attention of a good few others on the beach who either attempted to copy our pyramid or (get this) posed next to it with buckets and spades while their parents took pictures of them. A few children were interested enough to do some sarcophagus designs on the sand which were amusing.

I went for a swim to cool off and then played bat and ball on the beach for a while before joining the others at a nearby bar for drinks and food. While we all sat that we were mildly piqued to see people come along and draw on the sides of our construction. So much so that Keith went back down onto the sand and repaired the damage. Shades of the Roman graffiti at Karnak, etc.

When we got back to the villa we tossed around ideas of what to do for food for the last few days before settling on home-cooked pasta and then drinks. Once food was done everyone except Cormac, Steph and I went out to the same cocktail bar as on my birthday and would probably return rather rat-arsed. Those who stayed watched a film and chilled out. Eventually the two of them went to bed and I remained up reading and listening to music to let the others back into the villa again. On their return (drunk as skunks) we ended up sitting around with our feet in the pool cooling off before retiring to bed. Elaine popped down to get something from the safe and accidently fell asleep on my bed. All attempts to wake her proved to be more trouble than they were worth so Dunk, Keith and I quickly readjusted sleeping arrangements to accommodate her and left her to sleep.

11/04/2006
[14:30] Enough being introspective and stuff, on with the holiday! When I woke it was probably about 07:00 and I just couldn't sleep any more. I staggered up to the kitchen, got a glass of water and then sipped it down out on the terrace while seeing Steph off to help her mum take her dad to the hospital for some checkups. After that I tried to go back to bed and managed to do so although I felt very ill. I must have dropped off because when I woke the nausea had gone and I didn't feel too bad at all. I got dressed and went upstairs to find that everyone else was up, about and making food. For want of something better do to we put on Air Force One (Keith's favourite film) before I showered and a few of us went down to the sea again to watch Cormac and Elaine's stuff while they snorkeled and fed the fish hard-boiled eggs. I took the opportunity to do some silly rock climbing which in retrospect I probably shouldn't have done. Still, life's not a rehersal and you only live once.

[12/04/2006 - 15:30] Once back at the villa we prepared to go climbing at the original place we'd started off in the bright sunshine last week. Hoping the mildly overcast weather would keep the heat down a bit we started to climb, only to be rewarded with bright sunshine again.

Chef and I got some excellent repeat climbs in although my attempts weren't as slick as they'd been the first time a few days ago. Elaine did her first ever outdoor climb (duly photographed) and appeared to be instantly hooked on the experience and even Ian (scared of heights) made a fairly good attempt at one of the routes. Aside from some amusing footage of Dunk's Sooty hand puppet falling off the cliffs a few times and down a live rope via carabina there were no accidents at all and no falls of any kind. Steph also did her first mildy assisted lead climb ever so it was a real day of firsts all round.

The weather chilled off rapidly as the sun went behind the mountains behind us so squeezing one last climb in we headed off to go out for a curry. Again, don't ask. It was delicious though. Everyone bar Elaine (tired) went out for it and we brought back her order in a doggy bag for her to eat while we chilled down from the day and then flaked out for the night.

10/04/2006
[11/04/2006 - 10:10] I was awake before everyone else again on my birthday. Again it turns out that Elaine elected to sleep on the sofa rather than in a room with a snoring Andrea so I made as little noise as possible and sat on the other sofa writing up yesterday's journal entry. Thirty. The first of the really Big Ones. It feels different. And not.

When I popped out to the terrace for a few minutes I came back to be presented with a birthday card from Elaine which was lovely. Dunk and Andrea also had ones for me which I duly arranged on the mantlepiece over the fireplace. Eventually we were all ready to leave for Guadalest at which point I was presented with my semin-frozen birthday cake and a round of Happy Birthday sung while I looked vaguely embarassed. Once the cake's defrosted it'll be scoffed.

We jumped in the cars and drove away from the coast and inland properly for the first time and up into the mountains. Eventually we reached Guadalest and decamped to a cafe for a drink and some chips. Once filled we walked up into the rock and paid to enter the house and go up to the top of the thing. The house wasn't that interesting, although the views from the various lookout points were stunning and the art gallery was very absorbing for me. The view from the top of the tower was amazing and we had the added bonus of seeing a red kite (a bird) in flight. Although we walked to other parts of the rock we couldn't get a decent shot of the kite so there are no photos, sorry.

Heading back down the steps to the road again we delved into the cars and pulled out the remains of the day before's paella and dug in with forks. That didn't last long. Obviously it wasn't enough so we went back to the same cafe and ordered slices of cake.

Back in the cars we drove to an animal santuary where we got to see lions and tigers and bears (oh my). Also civets, ligers, leopards, ostriches and tons of other things. That was a lot of fun and also sobering to see how injured/badly treated some of the animals had been before they arrived here. We also got to meet the world's most friendly German Shepherd called Rex. Shot four times he's lost the use of his rear legs so either sits around a lot or has a custom-built trolley with all-terrain tires for his rear-quarters.

After we'd finished looking around the place we drove back to the villa via a roadside shop that sold all manner of food and drink and then relaxed for a while. I chose where we'd eat and once we were all ready we walked down to the place and after sitting outside for a while to wait for there to be room (drinking obviously) we sat down to eat around 21:00ish. The food was very filling, quite excellent and the next time I asked what time it was it'd gone midnight by quite some amount. At this point things get a little hazy but I know we went to a cocktail bar not far from the place we'd eaten, had a lot more to drink, were the only people in the bar and monopolised the barmaid utterly, amusing, surprising and shocking her in equal measure. I think Keith fell in lust again. There was some mildly drunken dancing, hugs, and the most alcoholic Long Island Iced Tea ever concocted. A little after 03:00 in the morning we headed back to the villa, Elaine racing me at full pelt up the hill neither of us in running shoes and frankly a little the worse for drink.

For some reason a few of us ended up in the pool (freezing) diving in the deep end and swimming around while giggling. Eventually, feeling stupid and not a little confused I retired to bed. Thirty and still just as unsure about how things work. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever keep (or even get) a handle on how I can keep my life straight and moving in a sensible direction for the majority of the time. More often than not I'm swinging between extremes even though I know life is very much about the grey and uncertain area between the two ends of the spectrum. Perhaps now's the time I can explore it a bit more. You make your own life, I know that now.

09/04/2006
[09:30] I woke early and came upstairs to write my journal and watch the day wake. I was surprised when I found Elaine asleep on the large sofa in the lounge. Apparently Andrea was a little the worse for wear when she made it home early this morning and sleeping in the same room as her wasn't really an option. I'm now updating my journal and drinking some fresh orange juice while Elaine sleeps and the day brightens. Even though it's not stupidly early the light is still increasing.

[10/04/2006 - 10:00] We'd all intended to do some more with the morning but what with one thing and another, didn't. In the end we had a long leisurely breakfast and then began to prepare to go over to Steph's parents for the meal thingy. Andrea was still feeling rather fragile from last night's excesses so when one carload left the other stayed for a while to give her some more recouperation time.

Over at the house I took the opportunity to clear down my CF card of photos again before helping to clean up the area to the rear of the house. However, eventually the lure of the recently cleaned pool was too much and we had to jump in. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I pulled the dead mouse out of the pool filter.

A few times someone drove off to the shops, or to bring Andrea back but eventually everyone (including friends of the hosts) was there and master chef Cormac was well underway making the paella and other wonderful-smelling foods for us to chow down on. Food, conversation, sunning ourselves and lots of pool antics is basically how the afternoon and evening played out. As the temperature went down we left the pool and began to tidy up. Soon only a few of us were left and and we worked tirelessly to leave the place as we'd found it. With jazz on the CD player and just a few of us moving around getting things done it wasn't too much of a hardship and it was soon all clean. With a few more DVDs to watch and some CDs for the cars we bade Christine goodnight and headed back to the villa.

Everyone else there was already relaxed and chilling out so we popped on some DVDs until it turned midnight and my 30th birthday had begun. I popped open the bottle of Cava Francine (the villa owner) had dropped around and then we watched another film until people vanished one by one to their beds. Eventually there was only myself and two other people. Once they were gone I tidied the room a bit, went out on the terrace to watch the night for a little while and then headed to bed.

08/04/2006
[09/04/2006 - 09:00] Another one of those early morning deals for me. Today I have resolved to drink more water for the rest of the holiday. Allegedly we were due to leave the house at 09:00 but as is the norm for this holiday we didn't actually get out of the door until gone 10:30. Apart from some truly frightening traffic on the road between Moraira and Valencia we made excellent time in both cars and still had enough time to mess around (read: get lost) in the one-way system by the station. Once parked in the hire car storage area we waited in the station for Elaine to arrive on the shuttle bus from the airport. Dunk and I standing outside at the front missed her completely as her stop was right next to the hire car storage area at the back of the station. However, once everything was settled we all headed off into Valencia to overload a tired and slightly disorientated Elaine with a week's worth of news, questions and the One Joke. Don't ask.

After dropping into a department store for foor/lunch and a travel alarm clock (which we didn't find) I got to drool at the Canon L-series lenses before we moved on to the catherdral and popped inside for a look. We ended up paying for the personal recorded tour guide thingies and wandered around in the cool air looking at the chapels, etc. In the cool silence of the apse for the first time I began to unwind completely. I sat down on a pew nearby and just let things slide out of my head for a while.

Once the tour was finished a few of us went up the tower and took some shots overlooking the city. Valencia's a lovely place and oddly seems to have some domes which seem to be shiny very brightly. Also there's the occasional riot of purple flowers here and there.

Back at the bottom a trip to the chocolate cafe (serves mainly chocolate-related food and drink) was in order before the short walk to the station again where with perfect timing Andrea was just getting off her shuttle bus from the airport.

The whole group all in Spain finally and packed into cars we drove out of Valencia and back to Moraira, some of us going via the spring again to refill water bottles and then to the supermarket again for more groceries. When the car I was in had arrived atg the villa Andrea's had been there for a while so I quickly had to repack my stuff and move out of the room she and Elaine would be sharing and down to Dunk's.

After unpacking in my new room I lay back to watch the sunset from my bed until it turned out that some of the others were abseiling from the upper terrace to the pool level down the side of the villa. Yes, I know. Luckily it was shortly after that that the drinking started. This was done down at a tapas bar in town where much small food was eaten, beer and my arch enemy sangria drunk and conversation was made. Following that was a quick half in a faux-Irish pub and then for some of us home, and a DVD before bed.

07/04/2006
[19:00] We're just off out for a Japanese meal with Steph's mum in Calpe in a few minutes. I'll try not to be too brief. This morning I managed to stay in bed until gone 10:00. This is quite an achievement for me. Once we were all moving around we headed down to the market in Moraira on foot to see what was about. After some wandering I bought some swimming trunks as the elastic had completely gone in the old ones. I was also coerced into getting a widebrimmed hat to keep the sun off me as no-one things much of my sunny weather climbing baseball cap. That hat's been everywhere in the world I have and I refuse to get rid of it just yet.

Back at the house we made another plan to get out to Calpe for some more climbing on what we hoped would be afternoon-shaded rocks. It was shaded, but the climbs were polished, the bolted protection looked extremely dodgy and everything was pretty hard for the listed grades. Dealing with the closed systems by coming off belay when the bolt is both rusty and bent is not my idea of fun. Well, it is, but not all the time. In the end we packed up and came back to prepare for the meal this evening (shower, shave, etc.).

Cormac had enough time to pop out to a pharmacy to find something to patch up his legs which he'd managed to liberally puncture with thorns coming off one of the earlier climbs. I'm being called to leave now and also to come and see the very loud fireworks going off not very far away down by the marina.

[23:55] We picked up Steph's mum and drove to Calpe in both cars. The restaurant was absolutely stunning and I got some of my best shots to date of the people and food and also the preparation which included plenty of fire now and again. I had a headache probably brought on by not drinking enough (water) which I have begun to remedy. The food was excellent again, and although it appeared to be small amounts and the courses widely spaced I didn't manage to finish everything and skipped dessert. Really rather good.

06/04/2006
[07/04/2006 - 01:30] As was normal for this day of the week we had a Thursday: this evening. How we got to it was fun. I woke with an extremely painful stomach ache which stopped me getting out of bed at 07:40 as I'd planned and required a further hour before I was able to face the day. I have no idea what caused it. The reason for the early start was that Chef and I wanted to tackle some of the harder routes on the face we'd all been to previously while the sun was on the other side of the mountain. Leaving at 09:00 we were there for 09:30 via a car ride that did my stomach no favours at all. However, the four 5/5+ lead climbs I did seemed to clear everything up and I was feeling a whole lot more centered by the time the sun was heating up our rocks. Around 12:00 we packed up and headed back to find everyone else up and around.

After a shower and more relaxation, reading and icecream we headed out to drive to a nearby mountain and down the steep roads on the other side to a pebbly beach sometimes frequented by nudists. Naturally, today was Ugly Germans Day so I took myself off to try some breaking waves shots before climbing the cliffs overlooking the car park to lie back and contemplate the sky and have some time to myself. Despite the truly wonderful time I'm having I need some time just with me now and again. I expect when the extra two people arrive next week I'll need some more time to myself and will be a bit quieter anyway.

After about an hour I opened my eyes and found I'd timed things perfectly as everyone else was getting into the cars below me. I ambled down and met them just as they were getting ready to look for me.

As we drove back we stopped off at Steph's parents again to pick up some DVDs and make final arrangements for the big meal. Once we'd torn ourselves away from the hospitality we made a stop at the supermarket to pave the way for a monster stir-fry cooked by Dunk. For some reason, back at the villa I found myself crashing out for a good while on my bed. Must have been tireder than I thought. Luckily I was up and around in time to help Dunk prepare the mounds of vegetables required for the stir-fry before leaving him to be master of the pans.

Cormac and Steph had been out for a meal and they returned just as the food was done so all seven of us settled down to watch Ocean's 12 and then Hitch. A real Thursday: with most of the usual people. Hopefully next Thursday: will be just as good or better. It's late now, I'm full of food, wistful and tired.

05/04/2006
[23:55] A mostly slack morning was had by all. I made an effort to sleep in (09:00), Ian did the washing up and then went out to get crossants and pain au chocolat. When he came back we ate pretty much everything he'd bought and then lazed around for a while. I tried some more Poi and managed to achieve a solid contact with my testicles for the first time. I decided to write the session off as a short one. Still, before that there was some improvement.

By around 14:00 enough people were awake that we'd formulated a plan to go sea kayaking and so drove out to the place we'd been to the day before to enquire at. In short order we were dashingly equiped with 'shortie' wetsuits and were in the water and pootling around by 15:30. We paddled along the coast towards the Penon doing some waveriding where possible and beached once in Calpe for some people to change craft. Cormac and I paddled all the way to the base of the Penon and actually got our hands on the rock as the seas rose and fell right next to it. The extra distance required us to paddle continuously all the way back to the start point. The wind was rising as we made our way back so we had that to contend with as well as the slightly larger waves.

After a snack and a drink we headed home to get cleaned up and de-salinated. Cormac, Steph and I took a quick trip to her parents' house again to do another photo dump and for me to check my bank account to find out why I appeared to have less money in it than I thought I should. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I still have less than I'd like.

On the way back to the villa we topped up on beer and crisps again before we ate more pizza again and chilled in the villa in various poses of relaxation reading books and being quite quiet. Party people the lot of us.

04/04/2006
[10:55] I'm fairly certain I managed to master a move known as the Butterfly this morning when practicing Poi. There's a trick to it which might help me with the Weave I'm still not much closer to solving as yet. Either way it's been a damned sight easier to do things with the tails of the Poi tucked up and secured with elastic bands. I did a pile of washing up this morning while everyone else was still asleep so felt perfectly justified in having a large bowl of cereal. Now everyone else is up there's a large cooked breakfast being prepared (now that we've found out where to turn on the gas to the house). With luck we'll be climbing today.

[13:00] Cormac cooked a monster breakfast and we all lazed around digesting it before prepping for climbing gear. We have water, fruit, gear and a fanatical devotion to the Pope. Although I don't think the last one will help much with the routes. Anyway, climbing time.

[23:55] What a day! We got organised, and drove out in both cars to the Calpe region to climb. After a few wrong turns in the steep narrow roads we arrived at the right place and unpacked onto the road. At this point I managed to drop most of my camera equipment all over the hard, unyielding tarmac. Luckily nothing seems to have been damaged. Down at the rocks where we were going to climb we found that all the routes, the entire face in fact, was in direct sunlight and it was really bloody hot. I upgraded from factor 4 to factor 20 cream and tried to keep my camera equipment from cooking. After a few climbs (almost all routes in Spain are bolted sport routes) a few of the non-climbers headed off to cooler parts for the evening. That left Cormac, Keith and I to climb a few more routes. Bearing in mind that we were doing bolted slabs in the main we all lead pretty much everything. No-one fell and there were no accidents. Eventually the heat and time drove us away from the wall and to the car where the remote refused to work, leaving Cormac to have to resort to manual entry to get into the car.

On the way back we stopped off at the sea kayaking place to enquire about going out on the bay tomorrow. After that we went to refill all our big water bottles (initially filled with shop-bought water) from the natural spring taps in the town near to Moraira. We popped back into the supermarket for more food and beer before getting back to the villa. Steph was out for the evening with her mum so after cleaning up the six remaining people went down into Moraira for food.

What followed is best left unwritten but suffice it to say that although the food was excellent, Keith was unable to finish his on account of it beating him off.

03/04/2006
[10:00] The meal last night really was spectacular. A walk into town takes less than ten minutes from the front door and as Cormac and Steph already know most of the decent places to eat here (Steph's parents live about a five minute drive away) we just had to find one of them that wasn't full. I won't bore you with the menus. Suffice it to say that the the paella was absolutely wonderful. After coming home I tried my hand at some moon and star photography but I don't think they're going to have come out very well. My next purchase when I can afford it is going to be a tripod I think.

The owner of the villa had left a rather large amount of beer in the fridge for us we we made a good dent in that before one by one heading to bed. I slept quite well for me; only woke once. The bed is a bit hard but good enough. Around 09:00 I was up and about to make a start on some serious Poi practice on the terrace next to the pool. The Three-beat Weave still eludes me, but I hope to have it cracked by my birthday. More practice is needed.

[22:55] Eventually the others woke and we sat around for a while before making a shopping list and heading to a supermarket for essentials. Like more beer. On our return we walked into town and down to the beach to see what was available to do in and around town. As it was siesta time most of the shops were closed so we had some lunch before splitting up to do our own things until the shops reopened. I managed to find the one camera shop in the town and made them search through all their drawers until they found a 58mm polarising filter. Without it I think most of my shots on the holiday would be a bit glare-ridden. When some of us met up again there was icecream to be eaten before we sat on the marina edge and watched the masses of fish congregating there. After that the shops reopened and we trawled a couple of them for swimming constumes. I didn't find one but Steph managed to find a bikini.

Fairly tired and hot we headed homeward and a few of us prepared to go snorkeling. I scribbled out some postcards and then we walked a few dozen meters out of the villa, down the road and down the steps to the sea. It couldn't have been easier. Cormac, Steph and I pulled up our wetsuits and swam around watching the fish flit around for a while before the cold of the water finally made itself insistant that we get out and get warm. Ian had been sitting on the shore doing some charcoal sketches which are improving every time I see them although his knees weren't in particularly good nick after crawling around on the rocks a bit unprotected.

A long hot shower after jumping in the pool to rinse off the gear restored humanity and parts of the body which are adverse to cold. We laid the gear out and relaxed for a bit before visiting Steph's parents for the first time and boggling at hust how wonderful their house is as well as getting to download photos to date to the portable hard drive I've brought with me.

We decided to eat at home this evening so stopped off at the supermarket on the way home. Chef's cooking this evening. That's a nickname based on the fact he hates to/can't cook but loves to eat. Don't ask. Anyway it's just a bucketload of pizzas and salad and a few large bottles of San Miguel.

[23:45] We've now eaten the masses of pizza (it all vanished quickly), some goats' cheese and even more beer and basically come to the conclusion that Steph's mum is hot. What else happened today? Oh yes, We were shown around Steph's parents' house which was huge and excellent and has a pool, invited to a barbeque type thing later in the holiday and I did some more Poi practice this morning. Still haven't cracked the Weave yet.

02/04/2006
[19:10] We did sleep during the night as the train made its way south and east to Barcelona. I was on a top bunk so found the temperature to be almost perfect. We all woke now and again as the rocking of the carriage changed due to track conditions. Around 07:30 the conductor knocked on the door to tell us we were one hour out. This gave us time to get up, clean ourselves up a bit and repack what little we'd unpacked. Before long we were standing on Spanish soil in Barcelona Franco station.

After some confusion as to where Barcelona-Sant station was on the map (and in fact where we were on the map) we took two taxis across the city west to the station. Again, quite early we took the opportunity to eat some breakfast in a cafe before wandering out and around the station to a huge metal dragon-like sculpture which seemed to have integrated slides. On the far side of this was an artificial lake with some waterfowl swimming around in it. I went back and brought some other people and my camera and managed to get a few moderately decent shots. More pootling around followed before we wandered back to jump on the train to Valencia.

That has to be the first train I've ever been on that handed our free headphones and had an in-journey film on ceiling-mounted televisions. I read a book and listened to my iPod. The journey was two or three hours, I really don't remember as the number of trains we'd been on by that point meant that it wasn't so much a blur as none of us really cared if it wasn't more than five hours any more.

Arrival at Valencia station was on time, as usual for European trains and while Keith and Co. organised the car hires Dunk and I took the opportunity to see a tiny bit of Valencia as could be seen from the immediate area around the station. As luck would have it there was a Capoeira demonstration going on right next to the station so I took the opportunity to get some semi-reasonable shots of one or two of the participants airborne.

Once the paperwork for the cars was sorted we went out to find them. I took some shots of the damage just in case there were any disputes and we were about to leave before it turned out that the car she had multiple faults including the fact that the driver's side window didn't open. Not great for dealing with the toll booths. In the end we spent two hours getting everything sorted at the station before we were on our way. Then that was just a simple case of getting out of the city and driving down the coast to Moraira.

Aside from some classic examples of the lack of lane discipline that Spanish drivers seem to exhibit we had no trouble on the final leg of our journey and arrived in Moraira in good time. Finding the villa was easy and what a villa it is! Although Cormac and Steph snagged the best room all the rooms are perfectly good and all have on-suite facilities which is very, very useful.

We dashed around looking at everything the place had to offer before settling in, unpacking a little and then me SMSing the villa's owner to tell her we'd arrived. After that it was Party Time. We jumped in the pool and paddled around before I stood at the top of the house and got some initial shots of Moraira as the light began to fade a little.

Finally we realised we were all a little travel-worn and very hungry so we showering and heading into town for a slap-up first-night meal.

01/04/2006
[20:45 CET] So we've made it onto the Trainhotel. Theoretically we'll be in Barcelona tomorrow morning around 08:30 CET (which I'll drop the CET from from this point onwards). Happily things have gone flawlessly for the most part thus far. After a lovely Friday evening with company watching Family Guy and drinnking beer I stayed up until 01:45 BST packing and checking over all of my stuff.

Although I had no trouble sleeping I was still pooped in the morning when I awoke. Deciding I just couldn't sleep I got up, showered and had some breakfast. Online I checked email for the last time, did some final work and then shut down the house while Cormac and Steph (who'd just arrived) ordered a taxi. I'd had a dry run of shutting things down the night before and found that my wireless access point box wouldn't power on again. Still, it's the excuse I've been wanting to buy one that supports 802.11g. Not that I have the money to get a replacement at the moment.

Anyway, with everything powered down we tried briefly to fit Steph's car in the garage without success so left it in the driveway. The house would look more lived in that way anyway. The taxi which arrived and took us to the train station was a large people carrier which was useful as Cormac and Steph have some mighty big bags. We met Ian and Keith at the station and boarded the first of many trains, this one to London. It was an uneventful trip terminating at Kings Cross although I think we scandalised our fellow passengers with the large amounts of smut we came out with from the Lonely Planet Spanish phrasebook we had to hand.

Kings Cross to Waterloo on the Tube was easy but there was some trouble getting through the barrier at the far end which we managed to bluff our way through. As we waited at the Eurostar terminal Duncan and Duncan (hereafter known as Chef) met up with us and the week one group was complete. While most of us went through I waited with Dunk so that his girlfriend could get the following train he'd taken from Reading with something he'd forgotten.

Cormac's bags were thoroughly emptied at Customs given the confusion over the climbing gear, diving equipment (including knives) before a superior overrode the people doing the searching and smoothed things out. Other than that it was just a case of boarding the train and sitting down. I've not been on a Eurostar before and was pleased to find it didn't suck. A little cramped but what can you expect for the price. The trip to Paris was surprisingly quick and we disembarked at Paris Gare du Nord. Rather than try to negotiate the Metro we accidently jumped the entire taxi queue and found a very large people carrier taxi which fitted everything and was happy to take us to Gare d'Austerlitz. As we were 2.5 hours early for the train we took ourselves and all our bags off to a small food place nearby for some much-required food and beer before walking back to the station, buying some snacks and water and then boarding the Trainhotel.

It's rather cramped and claustrophobic the first time you experience the room with the beds down and the corridor doesn't fit my rucksack when it's on my back but other than that entirely tolerable. Once settled in everyone vanished to the bar and I took the opportunity to get today's entry done.

Cormac's just returned so I'm off to be sociable before we turn in.