Sunday, July 30, 2006

Another Postcard for Seoul

Paldalmun, the South Gate of Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, 30 km south of Seoul. Another UNESCO world heritage site.
Another two postcards arrived this morning from The Bat, and, even more exciting, a phone call! All is well, she is finding her feet and getting to know the ropes. She'll be a veteran by the time I get there.

It's been a day full of art and history for me. First off I went to the Banqueting House. The fifth property of the Historic Royal Palace's portfolio. It's only one large room : the Peter Paul Reubens pictures on the ceiling are stunning. It was outside this building that Charles I was beheaded for treason in 1649. Wandering through Horse Guards parade on to the Mall I noticed the Aviation Painting of the year exhibition, an interesting collection of paintings and drawings with something that flies in them. Continuing back into Trafalgar Square I went into the National Gallery and spent several hours looking at the amazing works of art. Finally still wanting a little more I spent a bit of time in the National Portrait Gallery next door. The BP Portrait Award 2006 exhibition is on. You can vote for your favorite portrait and I've just seen from the website, my favorite portrait won third prize. Well done Angela Reilly.

Needing something to eat I headed north to Soho to our favorite Japanese Restaurant oSatsuma but I was astounded to find it closed with no indication of opening times. Their website is just as uninformative. I hope it's not closed for good. That really threw me, so I headed home and cooked pasta and watched TV all evening, in spite of having bought a copy of TimeOut to find my next comedy venue.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More Comedy

Another late night tonight, not TV, but thanks to free tickets being given out at Blackfriars tube station this week I went to the Backyard Comedy Club this evening. It's close to Bethnal Green tube station, and anyone who knows London will know that East London is not one of the best parts of town, and coming out of the station it shows, however it must be the only comedy club in London to have a sign actually in the tube station directing you to the correct exit. Outside appearances can be deceptive and inside the venue was non smoking (a real blessing) air conditioned, and also a much better layout of chairs and tables than Jongleurs.

This time, the website still has who was on, so thanks to: the compere DOUGLAS DOUGLAS, very funny indeed; RHOD GILBERT, a very amusing routine; ZOE LYONS, much better than that dreadful australian comedienne at the last place; and a fine act from ANDREW BIRD to round off a very good evening's entertainment.
I wish I could remember some of the great lines some of them came out with, but I can't. I am seriously considering trying out as many of the comedy venues in London before my departure, now less than two weeks away. I need one of those count down displays of days hours and minutes to go on the web site.

More news from The Bat. The apartment is great: 11th floor of a new block 20 mins walk from the school. The view from the flat is..... another flat, but the view from outside the flat in the corridor is across trees and stuff - quite an impressive view, you wonder why they didn't put the corridor the other side. There's kitchen and bathroom, but no other furniture.

When I said they want a LARGE deposit, I was not joking. They want 10 million won, over £5,000 deposit! Now if we were Korean, that money would be guaranteed by the state, however Foreigners are not entitled to that right. So we have the choice of taking a risk with the flat owner or giving the money to the school boss and let him get him to get the govt. guarantee and hope that he repays us. Tough choice.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Postcard from Seoul

I got the first postcard from The Bat in Seoul this morning :

This is of a line dance performed in the Jongmyo Shrine. A UNESCO site considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. Jongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Choson dynasty (1392–1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century.

As we predicted the apartment provided by the school is tiny and The Bat has decided it will be impossible for us both to live in it. She is visiting a larger apartment to rent today. It is 670,000 KRW (approx 390 GBP ) per month, plus an absolutely huge deposit. Our main worry was the accommodation, so I'm hoping this place will be OK. Some places really do not want to rent to foreigners but apparently the school will be signing the lease so that should make it a bit easier.

Some highlights from recent emails from The Bat have been: "Fresh water melon: The most delicious piece of fruit since my childhood, they grow locally and are utterly wonderful"

A street protest: "Everyone in straight rows, about 300 men and women, red bandanas say they are protesting. All were singing songs and doing stuff in unison, absolutely excellent entertainment."

By a remarkable co-incidence I met someone this evening on the tube coming home that I used to work with four years ago, and it turns out she has been working on setting up a new branch of the business in Seoul just now. Is that uncanny or what?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Fifth Element

I was going to write a long detailed post about my weekend: About how I went to see my parents in Bradford on Avon; how we went down to Wimborne to see my sister and her husband and my nieces and nephew; how we went to Wimborne Model village; how we went to Corfe Castle; how Barny the Jester was there; what a thunderstorm there was on Saturday; how I booked the train ticket with First Great Western.

I was also going to write about work: how the new guy who is going to replace me has just started today; how much he has to learn in the next week; how complicated my job in Application Support is.

I was also going to mention shopping and cooking for one; the trip to the supermarket; organic foods; my loathing of supermarket plastic bags; how I think we should introduce a tax on plastic bags, the same as the Irish have just done recently.

I could also have mentioned how I met up with an old friend I know from primary school at lunchtime and his work; how I got an email from The Bat about how she is looking for an apartment that is large enough for the two of us; how I visited three Korean estate agents websites and afterwards having to de-install three different Korean language programs that those sites managed to install on my PC.

But No. Thanks to that old timewaster TV, it's now gone midnight and I ended up watching a whole evening of TV. Starting with Grand Designs: Kevin McCloud and a very determined Scottish couple who converted a derelict shell into ... well I don't know as I missed the end; followed by Mastermind: Four individuals with some very specialized subjects; followed by University Challenge: well done to the Statisticians; followed by The Fifth Element, Bruce Willis saves the world again. Thanks to Film Four, new to Freeview as of today, for completely wasting my evening. It was too long to record onto a DVD, so I just had to watch it tonight.

Trust me, when people ask "What are you going to do out there?" I really don't think I am going to have a problem.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My Day off

I had to take the day off work today to wait in for a delivery. A new washing machine in fact. The old one, a hotpoint, which has caused no end of problems in the past four years, was declared unrepairable. As part of the service contract we were offered a replacement machine, but having had such problems with this one, a Miele was purchased instead.

Now, I know they are heavy, 85kg in fact, but the way these two delivery lads whinged and moaned you'd of thought I was asking them to carry a half ton motor car up the stairs: Oh there should have been three people; Oh I've got a sore wrist; Oh It's so heavy; Oh I don't think we can do this Sir; Oh we might have to leave at the bottom of the stairs; Oh it's not right we have to carry these really heavy washing machines; Oh I'm not sure we're going to be able to lift this. Well guys I'm sorry but you are delivery drivers, what do you expect to do? After much huffing and puffing they managed to get it upstairs without denting the paintwork anywhere. Of course they don't install it, Oh no, you have to get someone else to do that. There's no way I could install it, but The Bat has, of course, already organised this and the next two guys arrive later in the afternoon and speedily remove the old one and install the new one. One shiny new washing machine running smoothly and quietly now.

We got a gas bill in the post from EDF energy, with Estimated written all over it, so I phone up to give them the actual reading and they explain they are very sorry, but because it is a "Final" gas bill they cannot alter the bill, your new supplier will have to adjust that for you. "What do you mean New supplier" I asked, "Well you've cancelled your contract with us Sir", "Oh no I haven't", "Oh yes you have". "Who says", "The computer Sir". So after a bit more panto banter I ascertain that they cannot tell me Who, How or Why my contract for gas supply has been terminated, not the electricity mind, and that I have to phone another company to find out who is supplying me now. So he gives me a phone number. I ring off and try this number. It's not a valid number.

So a little bit of searching takes me to and a phone number with the extra digit missing from the one I was given. Even at this 10:30pm this evening there was an operator there who could tell me my new supplier was. Can you guess? Yes it's EDF energy! Now I am in a bit of dilemma here, EDF energy have sent me a final gas bill and claim not to be supplying me with gas, however the gas transporter company, who are the only people capable of telling me who my gas supplier is, tell me it is EDF. How long do you think I can get free gas before they discover there is a problem? Or how much time and effort do you think I will have to spend trying to convince EDF to start sending me bills again?

This evening I went as usual to yoga with John Shirborn . Finding yoga lessons in Seoul I think is going to be a bit of challenge, so The Bat has already been planning to get me into Taekwondo classes when I arrive, however I couldn't understand why it would be so violent and dangerous, I thought it was all about soft gentle moves and co-ordination with meditation and aesthetic attributes. Umm, turns out I was thinking of Tai Chi. Anyway, one way or the other, exercise in Korea is going to be different.

So it's been the end of a long day, this retirement lark, I think I can handle it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

First Update from The Bat

The first email from The Bat in SK has arrived. Everything is going very well. The other teachers are all friendly, and the language school is as expected ie fairly disorganised. She has tried kimchi and does not like it all; I'll leave out the expletives with which it was described. I'm looking forward to hearing about the students when she starts teaching. Some of the stories from Japan were hilarious.

On a different note I thought up a little ditty this morning about the Northern Line. Much maligned as the Misery Line, I use it every weekday morning and evening. To be honest I have not suffered that many serious delays in the past 18 months, so I cannot complain, but here goes anyway:

"Morden has broken"

Morden had broken,
Like the first morning
Sonja has spoken ,
Like the first announcer
Praise for the tube lines,
Praise for the tube trains,
Praise for them running,
Fresh from the depot.

Sweet the leaves new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first leaf-fall, on the first tube tracks
Praise for the sweetness of the tube drivers,
Sprung in full comfort in their train cabs

Mine is the Northern Line,
Mine is the morning
Born of Victorians, Yerkes saw play
Praise with elation, Praise every morning
Ken's recreation of a new age.

with thanks to Cat Stevens

It came to me while entering the Annie Moles latest Quiz It may not be in the same league as Dr Suman Biswas and Dr Adam Kay's famous Underground spoof song to the tune of The Jams going underground, but it is my first attempt. (They are on the Fringe this year I gather)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's the weather like then?

One assumption that a lot of people have is that South Korea, being in Far East Asia, must have a tropical climate and be hot all year round.

Not exactly.

Yes, it is hot there at the moment (about 27deg C with 97% humidity) and it will be similar in August which is the hottest month. However in winter it goes down to -7deg C. has some nice little graphs. So we've packed lots of cold weather gear.

Just this morning on the way to work, in Metro the free newspaper I spotted this story about how South Koreans have a very real fear of death from electric fans kept on overnight It sounds like the most bizarre superstition, but in fact Korean newspapers report an annual average of ten deaths per year where a fan was left on overnight when the victim died. Wierd urban myth or real phenomenon? More on this at and other message boards dedicated to this national obsession.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Bat has Landed

Thanks to Incheon Airport arrivals monitor It looks The Bat's flight has arrived. Looking forward to hearing from her tomorrow. ( Try the Korean version of the site to see what Korean text is like !)
Must get back to work now.

The Bat has flown

I've just come back from Heathrow having taken The Bat to her flight this evening. Everything went very smoothly, she even got a seat over the emergency exit, so she'll have plenty of leg room. It's an eleven hour flight, she gets in at 4:30pm and she will be met by the man from the agency who has decided he will be taking her straight to the language school, where she will be teaching, to meet the director: just what you want after an intercontinental flight. Only then will they take her to the accommodation, we hope.

So, we really are going, there's no turning back now! Even up until Wednesday, when the agency who bought the ticket still had not sent her the confirmation of the e-ticket, there was a possibility that it might all fall through. They have got almost nothing fully correct in this whole process and have caused no end of aggrivation.

My countdown to departure on Aug 11th now begins. Thankfully I have don't have too much to do. In a couple of long sessions these last few days we (or rather The Bat ) have managed to pack together the essentials into 23 packing boxes ready for freighting out to Seoul. Let's just hope there is going to be space in the apartment for our belongings and us.

What I find most difficult about packing, is that it is time for a clear out and I hate to be forced to get rid of stuff. I especially hate to throw stuff away. We generated four bin liners of rubbish and nine bin bags mostly full of clothes to go to charity shops. We seem to have accumulated so much stuff that we are now giving away, I just hope our donations will not go to waste. I have always wondered what the charity shops receive and how it is all handled, and how much they have to discard or recycle or sell. It can't be an easy job, maybe there will be a charity shop in Seoul I could work in as a volunteer to see what it's really like.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

July 7th and all that

Everyone else today seems to have blogged about
July 7th this morning, so I thought I'd make a few
comments. I remember this day last year
very well. I was already at work when the news started
coming in. There are a number of TVs in the office showing
the news channels and it was a very strange feeling,
watching the news as it came in, minute by minute,
about such terrible events happening so close to home.
It was impossible to concentrate on anything else during the day.

I called The Bat to let her know I was safe,
but she had not, at that point, seen the news and was unaware.
With the tube network suspended I ended up walking
home, meeting The Bat half way where we stopped for
a drink.

The next day I was back on the Tube to get
to work and have never had second thoughts about
using public transport. You cannot let this type of
event change your behaviour.

On a much lighter note, a couple of other Tube related links.
Congratulations Tom Scott of Dulwich village who
is retiring this month after nearly 48 years working
for London Underground. Starting as an apprentice
in the signals department he rose through the ranks
to station manager at Clapham Common. He worked
at other stations and ending his career as Duty Train
Manager for the Bakerloo line.
How many people these days expect to work
for the same organisation all their working life?

There was another link I wanted to add
about the man who cleans the ventilation
shafts on the Underground. But I can't find the
article at the moment. It was in the Times Magazine
July 1st. Can I find it on their site? No.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What's Korea like then?

Good Question. I don't know much at the moment.
We bought the Lonely Planet Guide and it looks like
there is plenty to see and do.

We know it is close to North Korea. Recently the United States
and Japan were convinced Kim Jong Il was going to launch a long
range nuclear missile, however the South Koreans were equally
convinced it was a satellite, sadly I can't find the news story now.
However today it seems they really have launched some
short range missiles towards Japan.

I know they speak Korean and I plan to try and learn a few words
when I get there.

I know that Kimchee or Kimchi is the national dish
and that they treat dog as delicacy.

It also seems to be the second most expensive city
in the world to live in.

It will be interesting to review this when I get there.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have started telling friends
and family that we are leaving there are
a number of questions that come up.
To Summarise:

Where are you going?
Seoul. The capital city of South Korea

When are you going?
I'm leaving on August 11th. We've bought my
one way ticket from Korean Air already.
The Bat does not have a ticket yet.
The language school she is going to be working for
is getting the ticket, they have said July 15th.

What are you going to do?
The Bat is going to be teaching English
as a second language. Me, I'm going to
be a house husband.

How long are you going for?
The contract is for one year, after that
we shall see. If we like it, we hope to stay
out there, if not, maybe we'll go somewhere else,
maybe back to London. Who knows?

Have you done anything like this before?
We've lived in Amsterdam and Zurich
for a total of eight years. The Bat
taught English in Japan for three months.

Why South Korea?
Well, why not? We really liked Japan
and we think this will be just as interesting.
The Bat was reading a book called Plants
from the edge of the world
about collecting
samples from Taiwan, Korea and Japan for
Kew Gardens and it really seems to have a
lot of natural wildlife that we hope to see.

What do your family think?
I'll let them comment on that one.

Are you looking forward to it?
Errrr. Yes of course I am.

Any more? Please let me know.

Setting up the blog

Setting up the blog has been very easy indeed.

I read a couple of pages about starting a blog
and decided the quickest and most simple way was
to use a free service. I may be a computer programmer
but I try and leave that to work time only.
So I've settled on Blogger which is free and,
as I have discovered, easy to use.
But I discovered that adding pictures does not
work with Mozilla my browser of choice,
so I have to move to IE for that part.

Adding links to other blogs I read was easy. Welcome :
Diamond Geezer who covers all sorts of topics on life in London;
Grumpy Old Bookman My father's blog about writing;
Annie Mole on Commuting in London on the Underground;
Geoff who has just left London to start a new life in America;
Tom Reynolds Life as an EMT in East London;
Mike Myers on working in the Ambulance Control Centre.

Today I've just added a sitemeter
so I can see if anyone ever visits and the latest step
has been to create an RSS feed. A quick Google led
me to Feedburner. It gave me a choice of Atom 0.3
or RSS 2.0, and I soon learned the difference.
So I've chosen Atom, and created the feed.
Finding the code to add a link was a little
more tricky, but I think I found it.
Let me know what you think.