Saturday, October 29, 2005


London and elsewhere

Just back after another trip to London to see the family. Deputy Dina joined me for some visits to various discovery/science centres in the UK - Eureka! in Halifax and At-Bristol - and Paris (La Cite Des Sciences). Lots of good stuff to see, as well as some tired-looking exhibits, but the important thing was to just get a sense of how things work, or don't work, in places which have been running for some time.

Found Dina a cheap but slightly odd place to stay on the Bayswater Road, the Soroptimists' Residential Club. Her room was tiny and smelled of paint as it had just been redone. However, it was good enough for the few days, and the location just north of Hyde Park is excellent. Dina was surprised that people said good morning at breakfast, and that London generally was a chatty place. Her impression had been that British reserve was still the norm.

The pattern this visit was week off first and then work week second, the reverse of usual, and I found it strange. Couldn't unwind until end of week one, by which time I had to do all the trips, which took most of a day each. Then had to get stuff ready at the last minute for the trip back to Damascus, which meant that various things got forgotten, like renewing my international driving licence (just have to hope noone stops me here), or left behind, like my wallet. Luckily all my credit cards were with me, otherwise I'd be here without means of support.

Had some great meals in London and two not very satisfactory ones. The worst was in a restaurant called Island, beside Lancaster Gate tube. Stylish place. However Dina's "medium" steak was rare, and my "pink" grilled liver was raw, with that particularly unpleasant jelly texture that raw liver has. The broccoli was too tough to cut with a knife. I don't recommend this place at all, for anyone, ever. At 190 Queensgate, where we went with the family, Jon found a sizeable piece of plastic wrapping in his pudding! Pointed this out to the waiter who said he would pass it on to the chef. Noone apologised, noone offered to deduct the pudding from the bill, and the whole place felt as if it was being run by sloppy amateurs. A pity, because the food there is good, and this sort of thing makes me want to avoid it in future. These spoiled what was otherwise a good trip.

Back in Damascus interviewing web designers. We haven't reached the end of the list yet, but so far the level of creativity has been so LOW. I'm hoping, perhaps vainly, that we will unearth some young web genius who has been in despair at the unremitting bordom of the websites that get created here, and enable her or him to do something wonderful. I'd just like to interview someone who has ideas, even if they're not very good. But too many agencies turn up and say, we can do whatever you want. In fact of course they can't because I want them to do something that I haven't thought of and which will blow my socks off.

Zuhair has left for a short break in Russia, where his wife comes from, and is looking forward to seeing snow again. A cleaner who was supposed to start work today called, late, to say there had been a death in the family. It's a sad thing, because there may well have been a death, but I just don't believe it, it's a sort of cartoon excuse nowadays. I'd prefer it if someone just said sorry I slept in. So now, possibly wholly unjustly, I have him pegged as unreliable, unoriginal and untruthful. All that before he's actually started work. I hope I'm proved wrong.


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