Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Wottr Feetchr

As some of you may have guessed that means "The Water Feature". In English. The water feature is rather large and dominates the entrance to the main building of the Acergy campus. Apparently it cost £40,000 to build however it is a one off and causing the builders to have nightmares in the wee hours. They are having a great deal of trouble getting it to stay level and perform as required. This can also be true of applications created by software programmers such as myself so I can sympathise with the people mucking around with it. I am sure it will keep somebody employed for life.

So in a round about way I finally get to tell you all a little about my work and work environment. The Acergy campus is a set of 3 brand new buildings on approximately 3 acres of land in rural Aberdeenshire. It is in a little town just outside Aberdeen called Westhill, or possibly Elrick. The building site, and indeed the building I work in, is still a construction site. I was to have started work in an old building in Aberdeen but just before arriving I had an email saying go to Tarland Road, Westhill. As it turns out there is no road called Tarland Road but there is a road that goes to Tarland. Hmmm, very handy.

Anyway, Acergy had to get out of the old building in Aberdeen and organised to occupy two floors of the new (unfinished) main building. We have very strict paths to follow and places that are off limits because the campus is still a construction site. All in all though it's very nice and in October when the site is handed over we will also receive 600 people from another Acergy campus in Aberdeen. The main building will have a restaurant/cafeteria; not sure which as they use the english language meanings a bit differently over here. One of the other buildings is a massive company health and fitness centre (but no pool).

The people I work with are an interesting and generally fun bunch but not many Scots. Last night we had a little team social at the Monkey House. Its a bar. Honest. Really lovely evening and nice to be out of the B&B at night. On Saturday week I am meeting up with some more work people at The Queen Vic (public house) to watch Scotland V Macedonia. Promises to be a hoot, and my son Elliot will be so jealous. I have been set to work on a project and am meeting some nice people. The work isn't challenging yet which is a good thing as I can focus on getting to know people and processes. Even though we use Lotus Notes Release 7 everyday I have to do my development work in Release 5 because our applications are used by ships at sea who haven't yet come into port and been upgraded to Release 7. OK thats enough of the technical stuff, I am sending myself to sleep.

Getting to work is always interesting. The local buses have a different notion of time up here. I have had all the variations - turn up on time, turn up late, turn up early, drive right past you, and don't turn up at all. That almost covers it. The only other thing is the route they take. The drivers each seem to have their own notion of where they are going. Thankfully there are some common points for them all and one of these is dropping me off and picking me up on the corner just up the road. And the X15 or X17, which I catch, all say their destination is Elrick not Westhill. Confused? Then join me in Aberdeen, Elrick, or possibly Westhill.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yards and Inches

What a blast into the past. Miles, yards, inches, gallons, pints. Well that last one is how you order beer at the Old Blackfriars where Tracey and I meet after work everyday. They do a nice pub meal. We have nearly worked our way through everything on their menu. Only two of these tet a tets left as Tracey flys back to Oz on Saturday. She will return with the boys once things settle down here. I won't bore you all with the various issues that we have had to face since arriving in Aberdeen, and there have been a few, but I will tell you about a little trip we did last weekend.

We hired a car for the weekend, and on Saturday we took a little trip to the Loch Ness tourist trap. Very nice day even though it started out with bucketing rain. By the time we got to Inverness the rain had stopped and the weather was starting to clear. A generally gorgeous drive with lots of the green beauty you expect from Scotland. Black faced sheep and hairy brown cattle are quite popular. So is wheat!! Ah hae ne'er seen so much wheat. Even though Australia probably grows more wheat than Scotland can dream of you come face to face with it here. Wheat, potatoes and barley. Mile after mile of it. I suspect the farmers are gauging when to harvest though as it all looks prime. In fact it seems very little of Scotland is not farming in some way. If it isn't agricultural crops its forestry - hundreds of acres of forest. All very picturesque.

Inverness was a lovely little place, a nice relief from the grey of Aberdeen. We stopped there for lunch and a look around. We passed a shop window which was decorated with rain coats and funnily enough some of them were advertised as being water proof, but not all them. It seems that a notable couple were being married in the church (kirk) at the centre of town and there were lots of interested bystanders hanging around outside waiting for a glimpse of the bride and groom. We moved on but later as we were leaving and walking past the church again the skirl of pipes began and the bride and groom appeared to general applause and celebration from the waiting throng. The bride looked delighted and the groom emanated a touch of "how embarrassment" before accepting it all good naturedly.

By this time it was quite sunny and warming up. We navigated our way out of town and onto the "A" road leading to Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness. This is the favoured spot for concentrating tourists and has a museum, tourist shops and the Urqhart Castle ruin. The drive down the west side of the lake, oops, I mean loch, was really lovely. A relief not to see wheat fields :) I took a number of film photographs and you will have to wait until they are processed printed and digitised before I can show you.

We saw a rather large bronze statue of Nessie in a little pond near the museum however I think the real thing probably had her fins up watching the football somewhere. We bought a number of little gee gaws for the boys but not a single Nessie as they were all crap furry numbers for tiny kids, not for budding-almost-teenagers-in-a-couple-years type boys. There was nothing plastic that would roar, bite, gouge or spit and shoot projectiles across the room; something they could take to. Oh, I did actually get them a pen each which had a floating Nessie in the barrel. Hahahahaha. Tracey persists in trying the coffee here but sadly Drumnadrochit, like the rest of the UK, makes crap coffee. They do however make a superb [ice cream] cone with double flake. Mmmmmm. It's called a cone here, you don't need to say the ice cream bit. Similarly you only need to order chips to get hot ones. The packet stuff are "crisps".

On the Sunday we went south of Aberdeen. Once again the day started out wet and grey with passing storms but cleared by lunch time. We had no real itinerary for the day just drive where the fancy took us. So we first stopped at a sea side village called Stonehaven just south of Aberdeen. Pretty enough with a lovely little harbour, and a ruined castle. I saw my first car boot sale market happening there. In fact people advertise stuff in the newspaper as being appropriate for a car boot sale, hoping that someone will buy it for re-sale in a car boot. Hmmmm. Makes you wonder. It started to pelt down rain again when we decided to drive to the ruined castle so we didn't see it.

We headed off down the motorway again and turned off to a place called Montrose. When we eventually got there after driving past an interminable number of wheat, potato and barley fields it was a bit like stepping back 50 years. Nothing was open and the place was dead as a dodo. We kept on going and eventually arrived at Arbroath. We got out here because we were getting fairly hungry. Once again it was a bit like stepping back 50 years and just about everything in the high street was shut. We thought we were going to expire from starvation when we found a mini-mart of sorts where you can buy the ubiquitous packet sandwiches. We got one each and a drink and bolted to the sea side to eat. They were shocking things to eat but we were so hungry that even dead donkeys ran away from us.

Arbroath has a lovely little harbour, and after eating those shocking sandwiches and subsequently not feeling hunger at all, we found a nice little fish and chip shop that was really well patronised. Ho hum.

Ah weel, thaat is ma wee story for noo. There are some scots ah cannae understand at all but for one or two words in ten. I must sound very strange to them. I know now that if I am asked to repeat something it's not because they didn't hear me. They heard me perfectly well but understood nothing I said. Hahahahaha

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mind The Gap

Woo hoo!! London Town. We arrived after an uneventful flight from Sydney about 4 days ago. Not much problem with j lag but last night was my best sleep yet. We are flying to Aberdeen this morning for a work start on Tuesday. It's been marvellous having a few days off. The last couple of weeks and days in Canberra were absolutely manic. Mostly packing and cleaning. We have successfully rented our house out. A lady vet from New Zealand will take up residence in about a week.

London is 'ot and steamy. By hot I mean mid to high 20s which believe me is plenty. Any hotter and there would be deaths, I am convinced of it. We have done a number of touristy things with Tracey's sister. Been to the Tate Modern and viewed the art, numerous tube trips, walked all over the West End, took a day trip to Brighton and saw that marvellous sea side town (along with half a million londoners and about 2 million other foreigners).

Getting used to pounds and pence slowly. They still have penny pieces as legal tender. Absolutely marvellous public transport system in the buses and trains. One swipe card will take you everywhere. Although the tube at rush hour is a thing to avoid!!

Still can't believe I am actually here, have to keep pinching myself. Looking forward to starting work and meeting new people. Starting a new job is one of my favourite times, it's crucial to setting you up for the remainder of your time there. Really looking forward to a snowy cold christmas where it isn't a crime against nature to have hot food. So indoctrinated :)