Back to normal

Well, I've worked out how to fix the layout and it took me quite a while, but it should work again now! Although the "Friends & Links" logo won't display properly above my link list... but I'll get it sorted out eventually!

My Flight Statistics

A friend of mine gave me the link to a German website called "FlugStatistik" (Flight statistics). There you can enter all the flights you've been on and it calculates how far you've flown in your life, how much time you've spent on planes and the distance you have travelled.

Each leg of a multi-legged flight counts as 1 flight - so when you have 2 stoppovers, it's actually 3 flights, which makes sense, because you take-off and land 3 times as well.

Anyway, being the traveller I am, I decided to check out my statistic! Here it is:

Yep, that's right!
I have flown a total of 135,996km or 84,504 Miles on 55 flights until now! That means, that I've technically been around the world 3,39 times (or 0,354 times to the moon!)
So far, I have spent 179:12 hours of my life above clouds, which equals 7,5 days!

My longest and longest-distance flight to date was from Frankfurt am Main (Germany) to Singapore on 15.07.2003 on my way to New Zealand. Flying time was 11:56 hours and the distance covered was 10,290km!

On average, I fly 2,473km in 3:15 hours!

Oh, and there will be another 4 flights at least from now until September! (Going to Germany, back to England, back to Germany and back to the UK again!)

Impressive, much?

Postcard from the Lake District

For the first time since I moved to the UK two years ago, I had visitors from Solingen last week. My sister and my best friend came over to stay with me for 5 days.

We started with a typically English breakfast and a tour around Carlisle and its castle. The next two days, I rented a car and we drove around Cumbria. Since this county is famous for the Lake District, we first of all went to Keswick, which is on the shore of Derwent Water. Although I'd wanted to go down to Ambleside and Windermere and from there to the coast, we decided to go straight to Maryport from Keswick.

The next day, we followed the old Roman footsteps along Hadrian's Wall (the old border of the Roman Empire which was supposed to keep the savages from the north away - I like that explanation!) near Brampton. We visited Lanercost Priory and Birdoswald Roman Fort, though the weather was quite British. It was pouring it down, so to say.

We also went out for a couple of pints in some of the pubs and went to TC's Nightclub with a few friends of mine from uni, since my sister wanted to know what British nightlife is like. My best friend wanted to see whether he could understand an English film, so we went to the cinema together and a shopping spree on the European market was part of the programme too.

However, on the way back home, they missed their flight! Virgin trains was running late in Carlisle, which made them miss teir connection in Preston. The next train down the Manchester was running late too, which got them to Check-in five minutes after closing time. They had to stay the night in Manchester and book new flights the next day, but they finally made it home in the end.

Back at uni

Well, uni has started again, for the last 2 weeks of this semester.
This morning should have been "Multimedia Workshop" with Tony - however, since we've handed everything in and didn't even need to be there BEFORE the holidays, I decided not to go today and work on my assignments instead.

Wise decision! See, I had this gut feeling about it all. I just talked to someone who has been to today's workshop and found out that we were not expected to go!

And the best thing is: I am wasting tuition fees on this!

"We're not late, until we're 10 minutes late..."

All those, who have had the privilege of experiencing Virgin Trains at work will know what I am talking about. All you others: Take notice!

“The Virgin service to London Euston will be approximately 6 minutes late.” Six minutes is not too bad, you think. However, in six minutes time, there will be another announcement, saying that the train will be 10 minutes late. Which makes a total of 16 minutes. If you are going straight to London and stay the night, have nowhere in particular to go to and don’t mind a few minutes delay that’s fine. However, I can guarantee that half of your fellow travellers will miss their connections because of this.

The problem is: If you book a journey either online or at the ticket office, they will give you the most direct route most of the time. And they will reserve a seat, which is not good. Because most connection times (at least every time I travel) are less than 20 minutes – so if your first train is delayed, chances are you’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere sooner or later. And your ticket might not be valid on the next available train. Even if it’s Virgin Trains operating the service and calling at the same stations, chances are your ticket will not be accepted. For example: Say your train to London via Preston is delayed, but the next train to Birmingham via Preston leaves before your delayed train is due, they’ll charge you for the ride, although you’re calling at the same stations.

My sister missed her flight because of Virgin Trains! The train she was supposed to get was 20 minutes late – but she only had a connection time of 10 minutes in Preston. So she got on the next best train, just to see the taillights of the train she should have been on in Preston. She than had to wait an hour for her train to Manchester Airport – which was also running late. She was 5 minutes late for check-in and wasn’t allowed through, although she explained that it was not her fault. “You should have calculated 2 hours at least for delays” she was told. She would have had 2 hours, if delays hadn’t put her back by 1 hour and 30 minutes! Left at Manchester Airport at night, she had to make her way back to Manchester Piccadilly to complain to Virgin Trains – whose members of staff had long gone home for the day when she got there. So she found a hotel and had to book a new flight – and anyone who ever had to book last minute knows that that isn’t cheap!

Two days later, I embarked on a train journey myself. The Virgin Train starting at Carlisle was 10 minutes late – How can a train that starts somewhere be late there already? Wouldn’t you make sure you leave on time? On the train, we were told that all our connection replacement buses would wait for us in Preston – well, they didn’t. They were just gone, because the staff at Preston had not been notified. Another bus was called in to take us to Warrington and we were actually making good time – until we broke down on the on-ramp to the M6 just south of Wigan. Needless to say I missed my connection bus to Chester and was running an hour late. At least on trains, they have bistros and most importantly toilets – features the replacement buses were missing. All of us were relieved when we got to Warrington, just to get to the toilets!

You complain about Deutsche Bahn? They’re really quite good compared to the public transport system in the UK! And yes, Deutsche Bahn trains (excluding ICE’s) are usually running late as well, but you can usually get your connections. And they know that they are running late and apologise for it! Virgin Trains, however, say that they are not running late, unless they are more than ten minutes late. So if you’re delayed by 12 minutes next time, remember: You’re actually just 2 minutes late – so stop moaning or else!

Wouldn’t that be great though? Getting to work 15 minutes late and apologising for being 5 minutes late? If only everything would work that way! “Cook for 18 minutes” – pop it in the oven for 8 minutes – and voilà!

Virgin Trains is easily the worst service when it comes to being on time. So, I guess I don’t have to rush to the station anymore… I’ll have plenty of time before my train gets there. And one thing I’ve learned: Buy Off-peak Anytime Tickets, don’t reserve a seat. If you miss your connection, you can then just hop on another without running the risk of being charged again!

Film-Review: How to lose friends and alienate people

***** Rating

Learn how to really rub people the wrong way

British journalist Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) wants nothing more than to expose celebrities as being only human too. Therefore, he takes his chance when Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), the editor of upscale magazine Sharps invites Sidney to work for him in New York City.

Once in the Big Apple, the Brit abroad has to discover, that things work rather differently on the other side of the ocean. Managing to irritate most of the people he works with on his first day and tackling everything with a rather British approach (“In London, everybody hates journalists, and we don’t care!”), his time at the magazine seems doomed. Only colleague Alison (Kirsten Dunst) learns to tolerate his talent for alienating people and tries to save Sidney from embarrassments.

All Sidney wants to do is write gritty articles about the shallowness of the celebrity world – a world he desperately tries to be a part of. However, he soon realises that this will not possible if he stays true to himself.

How to lose friends and alienate people is a great comedy about clichés and the “Brits Abroad” attitude. Simon Pegg, known for films such as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead is brilliant in the role of sarcastic, idealistic and British-to-the-core Sidney Young.

This movie is a must-see and laughs are guaranteed – even if British humour is usually not for you!

Film-Review: Burn After Reading

*** Rating

What happens if blackmailing the CIA goes wrong?

When blackmailing someone, it helps to have something powerful to blackmail them with. So when not-so-clever gym employee Chad (Brad Pitt) finds a CD that seems to contain information about the Central Intelligence Agency, he hopes to cash in big.

Osborne Cox (John Malkovich), an analyst for the CIA, has quit his job and decides to write his memoirs about his time at the Agency. His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is divorcing him to be with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), who himself is cheating on his wife. After being advised to do so from her attorney, Katie copies all of her husband’s personal and financial documents onto a disc. However, the attorney’s secretary leaves the disc behind at the gym, where it falls in the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer. Linda especially is desperate for money, as she wants to have cosmetic surgery done in order to find love.

Chad and Linda come up with a plan to play good Samaritans and hope for a reward from Osborne – after all they cannot make sense of the CD and figure that he most be a highly important agent. In fact, all they have is a copy of his memoir draft – and he knows exactly what it is they’ve got. So when Chad screws up a meeting with Osborne, Linda decides to get outside aid – and takes the information she’s got to the Russian Embassy.

Meanwhile, Katie and Harry’s affair is running cold, and he meets Linda in an online dating forum. Katie kicked Osborne out of the house and changed the keys, so when Chad tries to observe the house, he sees Harry and Katie instead. Because Linda promised the Russians to get more information, Chad breaks into Osborne’s house, just to be surprised – and shot – by Harry. When Linda mentions her worry that Chad might have been kidnapped by the Russians to Harry, he thinks she’s a spy.

Nobody trusts anyone, and a mess of gigantic proportions is the result – all because of a half-finished book.

The two outstanding performances in this movie are those of John Malkovich and Brad Pitt. Malkovich plays the agent with a drinking problem and foul mouth and you believe every word. Brad Pitt’s character on the other hand, is a rather dumb gym employee, who probably couldn’t even spell the word “blackmail”.

Throughout the entire movie, the focus changes from one character to the next and back again, but the relationships between them are easy to follow. All these lives and more are affected because of one CD – and one person who has no clue how to handle the situation.

Film Review: The Boat that Rocked

***** Rating
15 Certificate, Opened UK 01.04.2009

Rocking the Boat!

The music that defined a whole generation in 1966, was not played on the radio. Unless one tuned in to one of the pirate stations, which played rock around the clock - and 24.000.000 Brits listened!

Fictive "Radio Rock" is one of these pirate stations. Afloat in the North Sea, the boat is home to 8 DJs, who live for Sex, Drugs, and - most importantly - Rock 'n' Roll.

Radio Rock is ruled by The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an American who declares himself "God of the Airwaves". He is rivaled by DJ Gavin (Rhys Ifans), who, after returning from the US claims to be Britain's greatest disc jockey. The crew also features DJs Dr. Dave (Nick Frost), Small Hours Bob (Ralph Brown), Midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom), Simple Simon (Chris O'Dowd), newsreader John (Will Adamsdale), and comedian Angus "Nut" Knutsford (Rhys Darby). The only constant female on board is lesbian cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson) who "can't just let the boys starve".

After being expelled from school, Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent to the boat to spend time with his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy), who owns the station. A "spectacular mistake", as Quentin puts it, as there couldn't be a wilder place in the UK than Radio Rock. While Carl becomes part of the crew, he finds friends, love and a father he's never known. The crew, as different as they might be, agree on two things they will not give up: their boat and Rock 'n' Roll.

In the meantime, the British government is trying its hardest to outlaw pirate radio stations once and for all in favour of the BBC. And they won't stop at anything to get "that filth" off the airwaves.

Packed with beats from the 60s, The Boat that Rocked is directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four weddings and a funeral) and partly based on real pirate radio station Radio Caroline. Although the movie is running for 135 minutes, it is packed with comedy, great acting and beats that have been rocking the world for 40 years. And times flies when you listen to good music!

Verdict: A feel-good movie that really rocks the boat!

Love is in the air

Thank God it's the holidays!! I am sooo glad I don't have to go back to uni for another week, because that place really knows how to depress me! I usually spend my holidays doing nothing or catching up on things I meant to be doing a long time ago... like working on my scrapbook or updating my contacts list or writing this blog. Not these Easter holidays, though!

To start off, I spent a great weekend in Southport with my boyfriend, and he took me to Blackpool as I'd never been before! We went up the Tower, on a Ferris Wheel and I even taught him how to dance the Slow Waltz in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom! I didn't want to have to leave!

When I got back to Carlisle, the house (especially the kitchen) was in a state you wouldn't believe! It was seriously disgusting. And I'm sick and tired of having to clean up after my housemate!
I tried my best to make the kitchen and bathroom look half-decent, which didn't really work.

My sister and my best friend from Germany came to visit me on Monday!! It was the first time, anyone from home has visited me in Carlisle, although I have been living here for one and a half years now! The house came as a shock to them, but other than that they really liked their stay. I rented a car and took them round the Lake District and Keswick, and to Lanercost Priory and Birdosald Roman Fort along Hadrian's Wall, as well as into Scotland at Gretna Green! They tried a traditional English Breakfast, we went to Carlisle Castle and especially my sister enjoyed a shopping spree in Carlisle. My best friend wanted to try and see whether he'd understand a movie in ENglilsh, so we went to the cinema and saw "The Boat that rocked" (review to follow!). We went out to the pubs and to TC's Nightclub and we had a great but tiring time. They've just left, and I have a couple of hours to myself to breathe. Now I have to tidy up, do my laundry etc. I've got to work tomorrow afternoon.

However, on Sunday morning, I will go down to Chester to meet up with my boyfriend again! I'll be spending the week with him and it will be the longest time we've spent together yet! Usually, we only see each other every 2-3 weeks from Friday evening until Sunday lunchtime. Although he will have to work (and I will have to do some work for uni as well) we'll be trying to make the most of it! While he is at work, I will catch the bus or train to some cities in North Wales and have a look around. And as it's his day off on Wednesday, we will catch the ferry and go across to Dublin and spend the day in Ireland. Just because we can! I can't wait!
For once I really feel alive!

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