My Trip to England

In the Summer of 2016, I went to England for a series of conferences. This is my story.

The trip over was sortof not bad. British Airways 777. Minimal leg room, and what there was was taken up by a space-heater-looking box under the seat ahead. Seat itself was comfortable enough that my back didn’t die from 9hrs sitting in it. Heavy turbulence almost the whole way.

Spent an hour or so running around rescheduling flights and hotels. The downside of booking everything through a travel agent is that many changes have to go through them as well.

After too big of a mixed grill and rather too much cask-conditioned beer, I wended my way back to my hotel room. Small, overheated, noisy. On the other hand, the headboard does have two USB ports.

One mat bigger than the room in Kobe

One mat bigger than the JR hotel room in Kobe

And now it’s 5AM, even though my body says 9PM. Time to get on with the day.


Up earlier than I wanted — jet lag. Morning rain, so I stayed inside, prepping for the conference. To dinner with one of the other presenters, then walked her to St Pancras station, stopping to look at the sights on the way.

Memorial to the members of the British Army who died in the Iraq War. Not that one, the other one. No, the other other one

Memorial to the members of the British Army who died in the Iraq War.
Not that one, the other one. No, the other other one

On the way back there was a beautiful Solstice Moon hanging right next to The Eye.

Up early and had my now-standard breakfast of pancakes, mushrooms, fried potatoes, and boiled ham. Off to register for the conference and have a look around campus. Parts of the campus are new, and parts are old. Here’s one of the old ones:

Kings College Chapel, London branch

Kings College Chapel, London branch

That night there was a dinner — small and sparsely attended (this is, after all, London). The meal itself was quite odd: goat curry, vegetable curry (mostly sweet potato) and vegetable salad, also mostly sweet potato

Curried Curry

Curried Curry

Add some rice, an adequate white wine and an inadequate red, and you are ready to go. And sorry, England, sorry, India, I like the Japanese version of curry better.

Today was the big day. Up early to check out the facilities. Session room is small and stuffy, about par for the course. Nobody embarrassed the side too badly, and I got one complement.

To get to the session room you go into this guy's lab, and across his bridge.

To get to the session room you go into this guy’s lab, and across his bridge.

Attendance was poor, but it was, after all, the last day of the con.

That evening I did a bit of a walkabout. Crossed over Waterloo Bridge — lots of cyclists, lots of joggers, all fleeing the city.

The Thames, looking East to the Shard and St. Pauls.

The Thames, looking East to the Shard and St. Pauls.

I promised MJ we’d come together next year. The Southbank area seems a good place to do things.

The Thames, looking West towards Westminster. Many of the props from the Harry Potter movies are still in place.

The Thames, looking West towards Westminster. Many of the props from the Harry Potter movies are still in place.

Woke up early to the sounds of thunder. Nasty, but fast-moving set of storms passed directly over London and my hotel. FlashBang close.

The Hotel. I'll have more to say about this when I revise these entries.

The Hotel. I’ll have more to say about this when I revise these entries.

Had planned to go out while traffic was low but it stayed pouring rain until 10AM. Had an early lunch with Jen, and we set off for Cambridge. Of course we went through King’s Cross, and of course they had a Platform Nine and Three Quarters set up. Not however, between platforms 9 and 10, but off to the side, where the crowds wouldn’t interfere.

Platform Nine and Three Quarters.

Platform Nine and Three Quarters, the tourist version.

After which we had a nice train ride through rolling green countryside, to Cambridge. It was raining there, the traffic was horrible, and that’s a story for tomorrow.

Hotel in Cambridge is nice, in a small, two-star sort of way. The room is bigger than the one in London.

Two mats bigger than the JR hotel

Two mats bigger than the JR hotel

The view out the back is of the green buffer zone around the airport — hedges and grass and … rabbits.

Watership Hotel

Watership Hotel

There’s a paved footpath across the commons, and I took a walk in the cool of the morning.

Nothing like this in Cheney

Nothing like this in Cheney

The path takes you past a small Army Reserve training area, complete with an assault course, warning signs, and … rabbits.

Only combat troops and rabbits allowed

Only combat troops and rabbits allowed

Late that morning, I walked to Jen’s for a grant-writing meeting. Afterwards, she took me on a foot tour of Cambridge. We were going to get dinner at this posh restaurant she knew about, but we got caught in a T-storm and ducked into a little bistro across the street from this building.

There's some goood eating near here.

There’s some goood eating near here.

Garmin says I did 9.6 miles today. I think that’s wrong. Google Maps says the distance from the hotel to Jen’s (plus my morning walk) covered almost exactly 4 miles (pretty much a straight line), while the Garmin swore blind it was six. Checking the settings, I find that some update or other wiped my stride length, so the Garmin was just guessing.

Today was a down day. Ran down to London to meet some friends I hadn’t seen for 40 years.

Darby and Joan

Darby and Joan

We just walked around London, and rode the tube here and there. London Transport is serious about safety. They have signs everywhere.

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

and they mean it. This gap is 8″ wide and 6″ high.

No, really. Be careful.

I don’t think they would allow this in Japan

We had a long discussion about Brexit. They are for exit “because the country is filing up.”

Nothing significant to report. Spent all morning in my hotel room (no a/c), working on tomorrow’s presentation. Spent all afternoon at Jen’s (no a/c but the windows open), working on tomorrow’s presentation. Spent all evening trying to get anime on Crunchyroll.

Today was the big day, my 2hr workshop for systems science students at Cambridge University. Actually, it was for everyone from anywhere — at least one person came up from London. The talk went reasonably well, and we had a nice lunch in the Eagle — the same pub that Crick and Watson used to hang out in (and the first bar I have seen that had San Miguel on tap).

Good beer, good food, good talk

Good beer, good food, good talk

Afterwards I did some shopping — I think I’m going to have to leave some clothes behind in order to fit all the new stuff in.

Went back to the hotel for a bit of a nap, then out again to find a pub for dinner. It turns out that the England/Iceland football match was on, and the first pub, half a kilometer from the hotel, was filled to standing with athletic-looking guys, cheering and shouting. Another half kilometer and I came to a second pub. Open mic night for prospective bar bands. But there was an open patio, away from the noise, where I could sit and drink and read my kindle.

On the way home I walked down this road. It’s typical of half the roads in Cambridge.

Two lane road. Can you spell narrow?

Two lane road. Can you spell narrow?

The other interesting thing about that picture is that it was taken at nine-o’clock at night, normal exposure. Summer days in England are long. Of course, in the winter, you’re going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark

DAY 10
Last full day in-country. Second day of the workshop. Started early, ran long. Did some final shopping and said goodbye to Henry VIII

No, I don't know what he's doing, either

No, I don’t know what he’s doing, either

On the way to get a cab we saw the mayor’s office at The Guildhall hanging out some post-Brexit flags.

Cambridge wants in

Cambridge wants in

I guess some folks didn’t like the outcome.

DAY 11
Got up early and finished packing — left all of my used underwear in the trash can because otherwise there was not enough room for the swag. Jen and I shared a taxi-van to Heathrow. Turns out that a two way share is slightly cheaper than a single person riding the train to Heathrow via London. Very enjoyable ride through a green and pleasant land — southern Cambridgeshire and Huntingtonshire.

At Heathrow, I found that the nice lady from British Airways who helped me on Day 1 had messed up the ticket and so we had to go through it all over again. I didn’t mind, because I had eight hours to kill (one of the drawbacks to shared transport). There had just been a bombing at the airport in Ankara, Turkey, and security was high — Army guys with automatic weapons, and police with bomb dogs wandering around. Still, there was a certain EuroSanity about it, with none of this silly remove your belts and your shoes business.


Hi! My name is Casey!! You got a bomb for me? Or maybe a cookie?

The trip back was about as expected. Long and boring. I watched a Japanese movie based on a Manga (Orange). I watched the first 10 minutes of the 2016 release of the movie “Dad’s Army“. Sorry guys, you just couldn’t pull it off. I had more footroom than on the trip out because I was in a center section and didn’t have to fight for space with the USB router box (as I now discover). Tried to stay awake, and mostly succeeded.

In Seattle, the basic ineptness of the US border control mafia was on display. Passport processing was relatively easy because there were around 20 automated machines that were smart enough to do the work of one border control official. Foreigners had a slightly longer ordeal. Then the two streams, totaling about 300 people, merged again, and flowed to the immigration checkpoint — two stations. Of course there was a big pileup (solar physicists would call it a shock front), and we had to wait.

After that, it was clear sailing down to pick up our bags and head out through a short, poorly lit corridor and around a corner to …. some additional TSA checkpointing. Unlike the highly alert UK on the edge of a recently bombed Continent, TSA wanted belts and shoes off and even paper out of the pockets and ran me through the particle accelerator scan — twice. Turns out my beltless trousers were too baggy for the machine, which missed the Garmin I’d forgotten I had strapped to my ankle. All in all, it took me longer to get back into the States, than it me to get into the UK, or onto a UK plane.

BA had pre-booked me on AK Airways, so I only had a five hour wait in Seattle. Ate at Wulfgang Puck’s. Had a dinner pizza, in this case a pizza disk heated up with a cheese and mushroom topping, with arugula lettuce added, post baking, as a final topping. As they say on MJ’s favorite TV program, “I’m sorry, Wulfgang”, but you’ve been chopped.

Got home at 12:15AM. Slept well.

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