Day 5 of UK Trip
July 9, 2009

Today again I had to go and slave away at the coal face to make sure that ends meet while the family loafed around London.  When I left for work this morning after rising at 6:30am to go and milk the cow … no wait … that’s my Dad’s usual story – I shouldn’t plagiarise.  Let’s start that again, when I rose at 6:30am this morning to get in an hour’s CBD work before I left for my paying job (I do this because I am so scared of Janet), the flat was quite, not a mouse was even stirring (doesn’t sound original but I will go with it).  In fact when I left for work 8am, not a mouse or a Chloe or Michael or a Stephen or a Helen were a stirring either.

I did my usual and caught the tube into work.  The problem this morning was that when the underground arrived it was packed full.  I did my Bakkies Botha impersonation and cleared the door and mauled my way in until I knew the door would close without my hair being caught in it.  Fortunately 2 people got off at the next stop, so that allowed me to breathe again.  At that point I managed to look up (before that I couldn’t because my head was wedged between my backpack and someone else’s neck) and there was some advice from the London Underground Company on if you feel claustrophobic you shouldn’t ring the emergency stop between stations but rather wait until the next station and then get out.  Brilliant advice really given that if you feel claustrophobic and the train comes to a halt in-between stations in the dark with no way out, that really can’t help you to feel any better!

I got to work about 30 minutes before my boss (who is based in Cologne usually) arrived for a quarterly meeting and update.  As usual it was from then onwards a busy day which only ended with me getting back to the flat at 11pm this evening.  It was a good day though with my boss and the meeting time was productive.  While I was working, the boys were setting up the newly purchased Nintendo Wii (1/3rd of the price of what you pay in SA).  It was my birthday present to myself though it might be worn out by the kids before I get to play it.  I swear they played at least 8 hours today and they were still up this evening playing it at 11pm when we got home.  When I called at just before 10am this morning Helen said the boys were still in their pjs and were playing tennis.  When I called at around 2pm, the boys were playing tennis on the Wii and when Helen called this evening the boys were playing tennis on the Wii.  Helen had to pry them from the remotes to take them through St James Park to the Cabinet War Rooms today.  This is an amazing museum (I know I have been there) about the 2nd World War and is really a museum in honour of Winston Churchill.  Helen said they have added a whole new section since I was last there including an interactive table which documents Churchill’s lifetime.

This evening we had a client function and while I went straight from work to the restaurant, Helen met me there.  We had dinner first (there were 12 of us in total – 5 from Gen Re and 7 clients) and the restaurant managed to serve us a 3 course meal in an hour (including coffee) and made it feel unrushed.  The food quality was excellent as well so definitely another restaurant worth returning to at some point (I am starting to keep a list).  We walked through to the Opera House for we were going to watch an Opera – the first in my life and I was soooo excited …

We watched Madame Butterfly and we had seats in row A.  Now for those of you that don’t know, this means at these seats you get to dangle your feet into the orchestra pit, help to flip over the pages for the conductor etc.  You can also smile at the cast and they actually smile back and if you sneeze you can throw them right off their lines.  Given that the electronic board with the text of the songs is at the topic of the stage, you also get to exercise your neck muscles.  Fortunately the Opera was in English (I didn’t know this in advance … ok call me ignorant) but I was pleasantly surprised especially since I was expecting Italian.  The fact that it runs for 3 hours 15 minutes was also not told to me but at least they give you 2 intervals where you can stretch your legs, though we needed this less than last night as we got to dangle them into the orchestra pit tonight at least.

The performance started with the director of the production announcing that the main male lead (Pinkerton), was unable to perform as he had a sore throat and while he thought this morning that it was getting better, when he started warming up his voice in the afternoon, it got worse.  So they flew in a replacement from Edinburgh (I am not kidding) who filled in for him tonight.  Imagine stepping off a plane and into a production that you have never performed with at all, don’t know the sets or choreography and have to perform as if you do it every day.   For me it would like being asked to do a presentation on life insurance, being told there was a slide presentation prepared but not being able to look at it before having to get up to present.  Can’t imagine how it would feel but he did brilliantly – even I thought so.  The Opera really was better than I expected and I managed to follow most of it and I got to watch the Orchestra really closely.  We were told by one of the clients (who are Opera fanatics) that Madame Butterfly is a good one to start with and that we should avoid Wagner.  I will try my best to follow their advice and maybe just avoid all Opera’s in case I hit on a bad one.

Fortunately we had car’s arranged to take us home after the Opera as it is total chaos at that time of night as all the shows come out at about the same time.  There was a Bentley parked across the road and I jokingly remarked to my boss that must be my pickup and we all laughed.  And guess what, yes you guessed correctly, it was our pickup.  I will have to explain to my boss tomorrow that I never ordered it … must have been my efficient PA!  Fortunately he got the Merc … no wait that still looks bad …  Helen (of course) simply says as we get into the car, “I could get used to this”.  As I mentioned above, we got home just after 11pm and Chloe had just gone to bed and the boys were playing tennis on the Wii.  I bet they will sleep well tonight.  They had gone out and gotten their own pizza for supper and as they couldn’t find a takeaway place (which Lynne insists is just down the road), they went to Sainsbury’s and bought gourmet pizza and cooked it themselves.   Helen felt bad they cooked their own supper – I was proud that they were so resourceful and independent.  I just would never have allowed them to do that in SA but over here kids half the size of Chloe are travelling everyday on the buses everyday to and from school (and in fact now that I cast my mind back I used to do that too).

Anyway, as it is now 12:15am, I need to get to bed because I need to get up at 6:30am again tomorrow in order to do some more CBD work before going to work otherwise Janet might shout at me again.

Good night …. zzzzzzzz

Peter, Helen and the Wii kids

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