Monday, 16 July 2007

Serenity Prayer

Saturday night was our first night out in a club since the smoking ban. We all went to Sugar Reef bar in Piccadilly Circus, and I can't even begin to tell to how awesome it was to get out of there smelling like roses instead of rubbish bags! It was Jez's birthday on Wednesday, and he's back in town from the oil rigs for 3 weeks, so his girlfriend organised him a surprise party. It was great - we drank, danced and cavorted in style - but made the rookie mistake of setting up a tab without first checking the prices. It turned out to be the most expensive bar we've been to in London, and our plan of spending £60 for the night was obliterated with a bill of £107; CRINGE. Oops. Oh well, it was worth it - I think. Yesterday we woke up to fresh smelling rooms (seriously, the usual aftermath of a night like Saturday has us waking up and hurling ourselves at the window to stick our heads out and gulp fresh air - it makes SUCH a difference!) and spent the day chilling at home. We'd decided on Friday to make a lamb roast for dinner. Recently the days have been cool, rainy and cloudy up until about 6pm, when the skies start to clear and it gets really warm. It's quite bizarre. We didn't take this into account when making our roast, and it started heating up at about 3pm yesterday. By 6pm, when the lamb had been in the oven for an hour and a half, the microwave was cooking the potatoes and we had the stove on to make gravy, our kitchen felt like the Namib Desert and we were all rushing onto the balcony every 5 seconds so we could breathe. The red wine we had with our dinner resembled tepid sea water from a baking rock pool in temperature - it's hard to get used to putting red wine in the fridge for 5 minutes - but other than that, the meal was delicious. We're all getting quite good at this Sunday lunch thing.

I have yet another saga from the Torturous Travel Diary to tell you today. At last look, we had bought our flights and party tickets for Portugal, and everything was looking good to go. Then we phoned to make our visa appointment, and found that the earliest appointment we could get was 14th August - and we fly on the 16th. What followed was 24 hours of harrowing fear that we wouldn't be able to go. The Portuguese Embassy was most unhelpful, saying that there was nothing they could do to bring our date forward by a few days. I was so desperate that, in a moment of illumination, I decided I was going to ask Shoes to marry me - in name only, for now, to be reaffirmed with the ring, the wedding and the pizazz when we eventually go back home. This would give me the passport I so desperately want, and would make my travel for the next 3 or 4 years 10 times easier and cheaper. I managed to convince my work colleagues that this was a great idea, and they were all cheering me on. Then I had a think about it on the train on the way home, realised that I might piss off quite a few people back in SA, never mind the fact that I think I would have to drug and drag Shoes to the altar (to say he's not quite ready to marry me now is an understatement), and decided against it - all in the space of about 3 hours. I know it wouldn't have helped me for Portugal, but I was thinking of Turkey - if we'd done this at the beginning of the year, I would have been able to go - and also my future travels; or rather non-travels, the way things are going. I haven't actually told him what I was thinking - don't want him running away for home or anything - and although I am still convinced it would be a good idea for ME, I do realise since it is not only me involved, I am unfortunately going to have to give up on the idea for everybody else's sake. Anyway. Moving on: we finally found out that the Schengen Office does Portuguese visas. We are now going to take our documents to them next week, and they will organise everything for us and have our passports back in 8 days - for three times the cost of what we would have paid had we gone to the embassy ourselves, but what can we do.

So, what's the problem, I hear you asking? Come on, if you've been reading this blog for 2 months or longer, you should know by now that there is ALWAYS ANOTHER FUCKING PROBLEM WHEN IT COMES TO ME ATTEMPTING TO TRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pardon my french. So, this is the latest: our whole trip to Portugal revolves around going to the Freedom Festival (see pic to the left from last year's party), the mother of all trance parties in the universe. This means that we have to drive 400km from Porto, which is where we land, to the location of the party. Before you ask, no, we did not plan it that way - we decided to fly to Porto because it was cheaper than flying to Lisbon. In the party info, they said there would be two shuttles to collect people and take them to the party - one from Porto and the other from Lisbon. So, we figured that if there was transport from Porto, surely it couldn't be that far to the fesitval location? Not so. As is so often the case with trance parties, they kept the location secret until the last minute. In this case, they just so happened to release the location details 3 days after we booked our flights. It was a surprise; there was no prior warning, and it was too late to change our tickets. Lisbon is only 200km from the party - Porto is 400km. So we have no choice but to spend half a day in the car travelling there. Now, this in itself is not a disaster - hey, we're young, free-spirited and a road trip across Portugal doesn't sound like such a bad idea. Except that not a single one of us has a valid driver's license with which to hire a car. That's right people, in a group of 6 travellers, not one of us could pull ourselves together in time to get this sorted. Shoes has recently swapped his South African license for a British one - the whole purpose of this was so that he could do all the driving in Portugal and Italy. However, the license only indicates the date it was issued to him - ie May 2007, not how long he has actually been licensed for. Car rental companies require a minumum of one, and sometimes two, years on one's license before they will rent to you. With his current license, Shoes can't prove how long he has been driving for, and his SA license has been sent back to the depot for return to SA - in fact, I'm sure it is home / lost / stolen from the post office by now. We are going to see about getting a letter of endorsement from the SA Licensing Department to prove he has held his license for more than two years - but will it arrive in time? I still have my SA license, so I could get an International Drivers Permit. However, my license expires in October this year, and IDP's are usually valid for a minimum of one year. Will they grant me an IDP on a license that is about to expire? Eyes and Scarves both have valid SA licenses, but got themselves IDP's when they first came over here. Apparently, according to Eyes, they will only issue you with this once within the first year of your stay in the UK; thereafter you are required by law to swap your license. Which means neither of them can drive at all. Still need to confirm this. OJ does not have a license at all, and Neutrino is driving on an expired Irish license. Schei├če!

God, grant me the cunning to persuade those who are hard to manipulate; the balls to steamroll over those who won't help and the wisdom to know when to turn around and run. Ok, thanks.

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