Saturday August 5, 2017
I've adulted pretty hard this week. Ubisoft's been really great with helping me relocate; all the people they've put me in touch with have been amazingly kind and helpful in getting me sorted. I got my social insurance number, a bank account with debit card and a mobile phone SIM card already; I viewed some properties and submitted an application to rent.
Today I got an email from the real estate agent saying my application had been successful and that to secure the property, I needed to make a deposit with a certified cheque within the next 24 hours.
Everything else has been so smooth and easy, but banking seems horribly backwards if you're still operating with paper cheques. I begrudgingly hot-tailed it to the bank 15 minutes before closing time to pick up a chequebook, then walked to the real estate agent's office in the pouring rain to write out the cheque and hand it to them.
It then occurred to me I had no idea how to write a cheque. Why would I? I've never needed to use one. The receptionist didn't know either; she went to find someone who did. Anyway, after sorting all that out, I handed over the cheque and went to grab some food, again, in the pouring rain.
On the way, I got an email from the real estate agent saying the cheque wasn't certified, which is where the bank certifies it to say I have sufficient funds in my account. Given that the bank is closed now and that it isn't open over the weekend, I'm not really sure how to progress from here.
Why is this so unnecessarily complicated. Adulting is hard. I miss New Zealand's wonderful cashless society.
Tuesday August 1, 2017
This is it. The final few minutes in London.
I managed to catch up with Jono and Charlotte before I left, which was good, considering Charlotte's based in Oxford. We had a barbeque in the rain out at Jono's flat, which I'm told is a very British thing to do. I admire the British resilience when it comes to weather, but I suppose they do have to make the most of summer while it lasts.
On Sunday, I went for a bike ride with Aaron around Teddington and up to Ham House, where we stopped at the cafe for tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is exactly that - cream so thick that it will clot your arteries. I found it quite sweet and perhaps a bit sickening.
My final dinner was spent with Theo in Hammersmith at a random Italian restaurant. We walked down to the Thames and followed it back to Chiswick where we parted ways.
It's strange. I'm excited and nervous, moreso that when I left New Zealand. I'm actually going for work now, as opposed to going for a holiday. It's getting real. I'll have to find a place to rent, sort out utilities, get a SIM card, pay tax - all those adult things. I'm going to work for an amazing company at what is only my second job. It's a big life-changing moment for me but I'm looking forward to it.
Saturday July 29, 2017
I arrived back in London on Monday and took the train from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Station. I did something I hadn't done in a while - I went out and played Pokemon Go. Legendary raids have been released, meaning Lugia and Articuno can be found in boss raids in gyms all around the city. There was one near Liverpool Station, so I wandered down to see if anyone would show up. Sure enough, even though it was Monday, a small group had gathered to fight the Articuno, but I was unsuccessful in catching it. There were a couple close by, so I followed them around, dragging my luggage with me like an idiot, but neither raid was successful. The District line was in chaos due to maintenance and closures leftover from the weekend, but I managed to make it home for a haircut and quick shower before heading back out to Chelsea, where I met Alice for an incredible dining experience at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Full writeup in my food blog!
I was more prepared on Tuesday. I joined the PoGo London Discord chat and met with some fellow players near Notting Hill. I followed them around for a good 6 hours during the day, going from the west of Hyde Park and finishing near Marylebone Station. Of the ten or so raids we did, I managed to catch one Articuno and one Lugia exactly, so it was at least a fruitful day. I decided to call it a day and met Theo for dinner at Victoria Station. Afterwards, we saw Wicked the musical at the Apollo Theatre. I really enjoyed it! It was a slow start but quickly got better; Defying Gravity sent chills down my spine. The actors were all incredibly talented - magnificent voices - and the costumes and set design was equally as amazing. I'm so glad I got to see a West End show before I left London.
I met Mash for lunch out in Aldgate East, and then tried to find a quiet place so I could do some work on my laptop. I wandered over to the Barbican Centre in the hopes I could find a spot to sit down, but it turns out Kings College London were having their graduation celebrations there. I snuck in to the basement and swiped a glass of juice and some canapés before leaving. It was getting late, so I took the gross unairconditioned Central line over to Queensway and got some delicious char siu and roast duck rice from Four Seasons.
I met with Daniela and Sean for dinner at Putney Bridge yesterday and Jono for lunch at Strutton Ground Market; the rest of the week will just be catching up with people. It's all happened so fast, but I will be leaving London to work in Toronto, Canada with the team at Ubisoft Toronto. My work permit was approved last Friday and my flights were booked today, so it's all official now.
It's strange how curve balls can completely derail your plans; last year I had applied to a dozen or so companies all around the UK and Canada in the hopes someone would employ me and sponsor a visa for me. Both Ubisoft Toronto and Montreal were interested in me, but had a recruitment freeze on, so couldn't complete the hire. That was when I decided I would try for the UK youth migrant visa, but that meant I needed to get to the UK before I turned 31. Thus, I booked all my flights, sorted my life out and secured my visa for departure in January, when literally a week before I left, Ubisoft Toronto called me up to say they wanted to hire me.
Of course, I took the job. It meant that I'd have to wait 6 months for the work permit to be approved by the Canadian government, but it meant that I was free to travel around Europe while waiting. It's been an incredible time, and I couldn't have asked for a better situation. I've seen so much of Europe, but there is still so much more. I've met cool people and caught up with long lost friends as well. It will be hard to go back to working after such a long time, but I'm honestly so thankful that the job materialised when it did; it means that I don't have to sort out a bank account and social security number for the UK, I don't have to find a flat or contend with the ludicrous bureaucracy here. Ubisoft's relocation team have really taken care of me, and it will make my move quite smooth.
Monday July 24, 2017
In true Scottish hospitality, I was greeted at Edinburgh Airport with cold and rain. I didn't have long in Edinburgh, so regardless of whether it was raining, sunny, windy or tornado, I had to get out and see the city. I had a very quick run through of Edinburgh Castle, perhaps the city's most famous attraction; I was thankful for the many indoor exhibits, even if it was super busy that day. I enjoyed some whisky tasting on the castle grounds, saw the Scottish Crown Jewels, walked through the War Memorial and some of the military prisons, and visited the various batteries for some great views of the rain clouds covering the city.
The next day, I took a full day tour of the Scottish highlands; from Edinburgh to Callander, Glencoe, Fort Augustus and Blair Atholl. Our tour bus driver was an amazingly interesting person - he came dressed in his kilt, and sang to us on the bus. He'd been a soldier and had done many mountain treks and kayaking trips across the country, and I couldn't help but admire all his knowledge and talents.
The Scottish countryside reminds me very much of New Zealand. The lowlands resemble the farms around the Waikato, flat and expansive, each growing their own type of crops. As you head towards the highlands, it becomes more like the South Island, with its beautiful mountains, valleys, rivers and waterfalls. The forces that shaped Scotland are of course very similar to those that shaped New Zealand, and as long as we continue to have good conservation laws, we can enjoy this natural beauty of many years to come. At the start of the day, the clouds were low and misty, but towards lunch, a few spots of blue began to peek through the grey.
We reached Fort Augustus by Loch Ness just after 1pm, and I got some delicious fried fish, onion rings and the Scottish national soda Irn Bru from a nearby takeaway before hot-tailing it to the cruise boat. The boat floated on the water for a good hour or so, and we learned about the mysteries of the lake, as well as the sonar system they use to map the topography. The area around Loch Ness is full of peat, and as the rains fall and water runs into the lake, it takes with it this dark sediment and deposits it into the lake, making it dark coloured. Visibility is almost nil in the water; water hovers around 4C or 5C throughout the year. All these factors make it difficult to look for any large animals that may be lurking in the water.
It was late by the time we got back to Edinburgh, and after dinner, I wandered around the Old Town, admiring the sunset hitting the castle and various buildings. I wish I could have stayed longer; there's more of Edinburgh to see, and today, as I sit at Edinburgh Airport, it's brilliantly sunny and finally a proper summer here (go figure). Edinburgh Fringe would have been really fun to attend next month, especially if it's bigger and better than Wellington's Fringe Festival. Next time!
Saturday July 22, 2017
In classic Irish style, I arrived from sunny Norway into cold, wet and windy Dublin. It wasn't too bad though, it would have still been around 15C. I met John at his apartment and we went for dinner at a local pub.
I was up early the next day to get on a bus tour to Giant's Causeway, all the way up north in Northern Ireland. The weather turned out to be magnificent, with blue skies and sun all around. The area is quite amazing by itself, there's some beautiful bays overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean towards Scotland. There weren't too many people as well, which meant I could admire the beauty of the area at my own pace and leisure. The stones weren't as large as I was expecting, but still a decent size - perhaps half a metre in diameter. Curiously enough, they were almost all hexagonal, probably as a result of the peculiar volcanic activity that created the area.
We had lunch nearby at a place called the Barn, which did a pretty mean Steak and Guinness Pie, then we continued on to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Originally used by fishermen to bridge a 20m long and 23m tall gap between the mainland and an island where they would place their nets to catch salmon, the bridge is now a national heritage site with strict rules regulating how many people can cross the bridge at any one time. From the island, you can easily see Rathlin Island and Scotland.
The rest of the tour took us to the Dark Hedges, a filming location from Game of Thrones, where a narrow road is flanked by a long row of trees. It didn't really have much significance to me since I've never watched Game of Thrones. It had also started raining, but as it was our last stop for the day, it wasn't too much of an issue. By the time we got back to Dublin, it was fine.
Yesterday I spent walking around the city, visiting Trinity College, Dublin Castle and the Guinness Storehouse. John's girlfriend Monica took me around the castle area, showing me all these cool little shops and food areas; I really enjoyed the vibe around the area. It's as lively and jovial as many other European cities I've been too, just not on the same scale. The Guinness Storehouse was pretty interesting, and I was given a free pint to "enjoy", which I managed about 1/5th of before ditching it and bee-lining out of the rooftop terrace. I met Amnon and John for dinner at Token, a bar with a dozen video game arcades and pinball machines inside. We played Tetris, Space Invaders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metal Slug and a couple of the pinball machines. I really wanted to play the Simpsons Game, but it was always busy so never got the chance.
It's my final weekend of travelling for a while, which I will spend Scotland. It's slowly dawning on me that the real world approaches - very fast! - and that I'll have to become an adult again.