Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Italy driving and Paganello

Learning the driving culture in Italy was an interesting experience.
It started with a taxi ride from Bologna airport to the train station and we added to our experience by driving from Rimini to La Spezia. We learnt:
- speed limits are guidelines
- marked lanes are guidelines
- side of the road is a guideline
- indicators are only used to indicate hazards (which is when all the traffic stops to go over a rise in the freeway or to read a sign)
Pretty much, anything goes. .

Bologna was an interesting mix of old and new. I was a little disappointed with the number of '70s flats, but had some great fun taking shots of brightly painted buildings with window shutters. We also started our daily intake of gelato at a deliciously authentic gelateria.

One of our primary reasons for travelling was to play Paganello, an international beach tournament. I was playing with Super Hot Pot, the defending champions and Lee was playing with WizMix, a mixed version of the Swiss team he played with last year. Lee's team beat their 22nd seed to finish 12th. We were beaten by FemBots, a US team, in the final. Some nerves on our side (for me at least) plus some hard defense on their side saw them off to a 3-1 lead. Our defense was lucky to get a turn and our offence fought for every point. In the end, our sand legs (probably also aggression and skills?) weren't as strong and they took it away 13-5. I loved playing with my team mates, I loved my new Skins, I loved the sunshine, I love that I don't have a sock tan and I have new love of playing on sand - it's hard going and I am sore, but it makes you realize how much impact is going through your body usually, even on grass.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day trip to Brighton and the London Marathon

With our passports being securely kept at the home office, and a midweek day trip to Sheffield, we decided to spend our last non-frisbee-weekend-until-September seeing some local sights.
Saturday we caught the train direct to Brighton with our bikes to experience the seaside. I use the term 'seaside' on purpose as there is no sand, just a mix of charcoal, beige and rouge rocks. Very pretty in their own way. An hour long walk with my new camera saw us 50m up the beach.

I'm very lucky to have a very considerate and patient husband.

Refueling with fish and chips, we head in the other direction towards the pier with its rides and fairy floss, a very entertaining magician and Henry IV's summer pavilion. A cup of 'sipping chocolate' was our supply for a bike ride along the beach, which increased the travel distance and time between photos. A very enjoyable photographic day for me. There is no going back to my previous camera..

Sunday we checked out the London Marathon. An inspiring number of people in costume. Most people were running for a cause - Oxfam, nurses, kids with leukemia, cancer, rhinos. There was a Will and Kate in wedding finery, numerous gladiators, fairies and a few soldiers carrying packs. One guy was even carrying a washing machine. There was a real festival atmosphere, which combined with Anke (my workmates)'s enthusiasm, has prompted me to consider running one myself. Our day was topped off with a BBQ feast with Tim and Tara.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Visa fun

After arriving back from our Australia trip with 14 days left on our visa, and the UK government changing all the visa rules, we have spent 2 work days, £2000 and an overnight trip to Sheffield to try and stay in the country.

The UK government is cracking down on immigration (Cameron just made a big speach about it today) and they changed all the rules about who can come in and how many people they are letting in each year. Luckily my company is allowed to sponser me and I fall inside the list of people they are allowed to keep in the country. We had a day of panic the day before the visa expired because the UK borders department was dragging its heals issuing a new certificate of sponsorship. There was serious talk of going to Paris or Dublin to leave the country so were weren't here as illegals :)

Because of the rule changes there are tons of people who are applying at the moment so the only place we could get an appointment in time was Sheffield (which isn't the same when it is Fullfordless). We got to see the city the same way we normally see places when we are travelling for ultimate, which is, arrive late, sleep, spend all day in one location that could be anywhere in the world, have 20 mins to see something about the place, the leave. Looking outside from the train, it seems really pretty and we will have to come back.

We are now in the situation where we are hoping to get our passports back before next Wednesday, so we can go to Italy for the Easter long weekend.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Visa extension

This morning we had the pleasure of applying to extend our visa at the Home Office in Croydon. We should not have been surprised that the process was slow moving and full of red tape. After a visit to Australia I can again appreciate the British quirks.

The first step was to fill in the 50-60 page application forms the night before. Arriving in Croydon at 9:45, we were assessed at the front door of the building and directed to a seated queue. Next came a security screen with x-ray bags after which we were in a queue to be
asked our purpose and directed to another queue. Next it was checked we had our booking reference number and we were directed to another queue.

Application stamped and signed, cost determined, upstairs, greeted, payment pages separated from pack, queue, pay, queue, passport details entered, queue, fingerprints and photo taken, queue... By this point it's now midday and they haven't looked at any of the detail in the
application forms.

Our outcome that day was not successful as a previous step of registering the business as a sponsor was not yet set up.

Most businesses have an appropriate by-line: Nike - Just do it; HP - Innovate; Tesco - Every little helps / Safeway - The fresh food people.
Here at the Home Office, UK Border Security, it's Thankyou for waiting.