Friday, October 10, 2008

Diary of Oct 09

9th of October; it is 3 o’clock in the morning. I woke up suddenly, not because of alarms or bad dreams, I guess it was heat. The portable, old-fashioned heater was switched on to heat the air, and it indirectly heated my bed as well. My stomach was full as well, of the foot long subway sandwich I ate last night as dinner-cum-supper. I got up and turned off the heater, got back into the bed. It felt cooler already. Still, I couldn’t keep my eyes shut and get into sleep mode. As I look out the window, I saw stars glittering above the clear sky.

This is the 11th night, and most likely the last night I am in this old restaurant. According to the owner, Mr Colin Perry, the restaurant is about 25 years old, older than me. After being vacant for 4 months, I came here and became the temporary guard of the restaurant.

It was a mutual thing. I watch the restaurant for him, and he gives me a place to stay for these few days, no food supplies though, but I am happy enough to save a lot of money.

Throughout the period staying here, nothing much really happened. Well, probably some mishaps here and there, but it was bearable. One major thing did happen. There was a false fire alarm.

It was a Sunday night, the night of 5th October. It was the night where I had plans arranged for tomorrow, and I headed to bed early to get up early. I even slept without turning on the music. For all other days I couldn’t really sleep without the music, because it would be too quiet. Too quiet. No sound of insects, no sound of fan, no sound of air-conditioner, no sound of nothing, besides passing vehicles. Just for this day, I went to bed without music. I do not know what happened to my mind, it wandered into the restaurant, and had a vision of a fire in the restaurant. I have kind of ignored it, and went into sleep mode.

I was jolted up by loud fire alarms installed in all the rooms in restaurant. I looked at the time; it was a few minutes to 1 am. Oh goodness, what triggered the alarm at this time of the day? I immediately called Mr Perry and informed him about the alarm, and I investigated the whole restaurant for fire. I looked everywhere, but I do not see or feel any heat.

One of the LEDs of the fire alarm panel was flashing. I looked at it and it says the triggered alarm is somewhere near the room I was sleeping at. It was really spooky. I tried to silence the alarm but I wasn’t able to do so. I went to the room and wore my jacket, my tartan scarf, grabbed my phone, my keys and got out of the restaurant to wait for Mr Perry to save the night. The neighbour restaurant heard the fire alarm as well, I saw them peeking out of the window to satisfy their curiosity. I wanted to shout to them, ‘It’s not me! Don’t call the fire brigade!’ but I decided not to. I kept quiet, and stood in front of the restaurant. At that time, I was seriously hoping that the fire brigade not to come. They would really further spoil the night which is already so spoilt, as they will need to do examinations and all the questionings. No-no.

As I have nothing to do while waiting, I looked around. The dark woodland gives me somewhat a creep, and I am so not looking into them. I looked up at the sky instead. To my surprise, a hole was formed in the clouds directly above the restaurant, clearly revealing millions of stars in the universe. It was amazing. I have never felt so fascinated about what has happened. I do not have the right word to describe my feeling at that moment. But the feeling was soon over due to the noise made by the false fire alarm, and the chilly wind which was blew on me.

After I was distracted by the alarm and the chilly wind, the hole in the sky seems to be closed by the clouds nearby. The hole was disappearing. Then I heard a car drove in the driveway of the restaurant. Thank goodness it was Mr Perry. Mr Perry says it is too late for an investigation, what he wanted to do was to silence the alarm. So am I. After some manual browsing, I managed to silence the alarm. He was relieved that the alarm was silenced; it was a major relief for me too.

We had a small chat after that, as he noticed that I was unsettled even when the alarm is silenced. I told him about what I have observed and witnessed, he was surprised and fascinated as well. I told him too about the déjà vu I have experienced at some places in the UK, such as the hostel in Exeter, the University and some other places. It was like I had dreamt about them few months back, but I know I had been there.

He told me that I might be gifted with precognition ability. Well, it might be true, but I don’t think so. He even joked that I should make use of the ability to get lottery numbers! If I knew how to manipulate them, I am a rich and happy man already. Naw, even if I do know how to manipulate them to get the numbers, I won’t buy it most probably. It breaches the written path. Unless it came to me, that is a different story.

He noticed I was feeling better already, and it was late. I wanted to ask him if it was OK for me to overnight at his house, but I didn’t, because I don’t really want to disturb him and his family. He left the house after the chat, and assured me that the alarm will not go off again, and that he is just a phone call away if anything happened. I really appreciate him of doing that, but the thought of having the vision of a fire and triggered the fire alarm is really unsettling.

I have no idea what to do after he left. My first reaction was to call home and talk to my mother about what had happened. With over 150 minutes of free international talk time left in my phone, I called home straight away.

My sister picked up the phone, and told me that mum was not around as she was out for breakfast. I was surprised that she was up so early, because it was only 10 minutes to 9 am. I told her about it. I felt much better after that. Mum came back after that, and we chatted about it as well, and we discussed about our next trip to Canton in the coming Chinese New Year. I really felt much better after that. In fact, I am glad that I have such a loving family. I went to sleep after that by listening to Janice’s soulful ‘Day and Night’ album. The next day, I got an antique portable heater from Mr Perry, which kept me warm for the last few nights I am around.

It was the stars which glittered in the sky made me wrote this down, and since I was unable to sleep well, this has been a past time for me to stay awake until 5:30am. I need to catch a 5:59am train to London Victoria to catch an 8am bus to Liverpool.

Hell yea, you are right. I am off to travel again. It is a big plan as well, but this time it was meant for relax and less of backpacking. I will be in Liverpool and Manchester for 9th and 10th of October, then I will fly to Prague, Czech Republic with Rachel and a couple (mind you, me and Rachel is just friends) for 3 days 2 nights, and fly back to London Midlands, near Derby.

I will head to Nottingham alone for visiting purposes on the next day then catch a 3:30pm train back to London St Pancras. I would probably head to my new ‘harbour’ which is a friend’s house in East London for a quick rest and dinner, then I will head to London Victoria again to catch a bus to London Stansted Airport at 10:30pm.

I will overnight at the airport... (to be continued)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Days back in the UK

As you have known, I was out of my accommodation in Liverpool on the fifth of September and went on a short trip around Europe.

When I was in London for a few days before I left UK to Italy, I had doubts where I would live after the whole 16 days’ trip in Europe.

I was worried because I would have about a month time before I go back to Malaysia because I was unable to move my flight dates forward.

I was naive. I thought I could make it in the UK after my studies. Thus, I had decided to return at mid November. After being here for a few months, things just aren’t looking very bright, and I miss home a lot.

After some discussion with my parents, I contacted the travel agent to move forward my dates, they was unable to help me because the seats are all booked up at economy class, and since I purchased the return ticket with student price, I was unable to change the class of the ticket. The best date of return is 30th Oct, with 18 hours of wait in HKIA for transit back to KLIA.

Oh well, another month in UK, without much help I could rely much on besides money, I could survive I guess. If I were to stay in hostels, it would easily cost me £15 per night, and with at least £5 of food, I would need at least £20 a day, and £140 a week, and £560 a month, to survive in the UK.

Thanks to a friend I know who is living in London; his uncle offered me a place to stay at Tadworth, Surrey - a small town in a county south of London, which has train services running into London every half hour. (Insert map with driving direction from London to Tadworth)

It was an Oriental restaurant known as Royal Phoenix, but it has been left alone, or to be exact, abandoned for a few months after being notified that it would be purchased for redevelopment.

I visited the place before I leave London, it was not very dirty, but it was dusty, and things were out of place. After having looked at the rooms, I told myself I will go through this, because this is been offered to me to stay for free.

After getting this accommodation, I felt much safer when I leave London on 9th September to continue the journey with my friends.

When I got back into London from the trip on 25th September, I was feeling very happy because I am seeing English words again! Italian, French and German were what I see all the time during the trip, with little English word. I could even speak and understand some basic Italian and French (Just a little).

I went back to Liverpool to get my luggage and see autumn in Liverpool. It was gorgeous.

After grabbing my 30kg luggage, my friends and I got to Manchester to spend the last two days together in the UK this time. They flew back to Malaysia on 28th September from Manchester Airport.

We went on a little tour in Manchester as well, to Manchester’s China Town and the famous Old Trafford, Football ground of Manchester United.

As you know, I spent my birthday and Mid-autumn festival in Italy, so I didn’t really get a chance to eat mooncake. I ate a red bean paste mooncake in Manchester’s China Town!

While we were away for our so-called European trip, there were some changes to the local transport fares.

Daysaver bus pass in Liverpool was £3, now £3.20.
One way train ticket from Liverpool to Manchester was £8.80, now £9.10.
Daysaver bus pass in Manchester was £3.30, now a f***ing £4.

Things are getting more expensive in the UK. It is so hard to live in the UK now. I have to find ways to save.

Too bad we did not take a group photo before I bid goodbye to Chalis, Kien Fu and Kelvin. Or else they could be featured here too! Lolz!

I took a 5 hour bus from Manchester to London with my 30kg luggage, 7kg backpack and 5kg plastic bag containing miscellaneous items. I hand-carried them from the London Victoria coach station to Victoria underground station (10 minutes walk without luggage), where no lifts or accessibility access is available (this means I carried all of them by stairs), and all the way from East Putney underground station to my friend’s house which is about 10 minutes walk without luggage.

It was tough work. I was sweating even with the cold weather.

Finally, after some hours, I got to Royal Phoenix.

Things weren’t right when I reached there. 1. It was very dusty.
2. It has the abandoned-for-some-time smell.
3. No hot water – no shower
4. No heating – cold nights
5. No workable kitchen – no hot food and hot drinking water
6. No Internet access (of course, I am in an abandoned old restaurant).
7. My laptop spoilt. This is because:
a. My laptop doesn’t have enough space to store all the pictures taken during the trip. So:
b. I had to remove my Ubuntu to store those pictures. But:
c. My laptop requires Ubuntu’s boot files, removing it makes my computer unbootable. To solve this:
d. I had to boot with a Windows XP CD to fix the Master Boot Record of my laptop’s hard disk, which governs what should the laptop does when it is booted. But:
e. My laptop’s CD drive is spoilt. To fix this:
f. I need to plug in an external CD drive to boot my computer with it. Luckily: g. There was an old computer in Royal Phoenix which has a CD drive in it. But:
h. I don’t have a screwdriver to unscrew the computer to get the CD drive.
i. In conclusion, I need a screwdriver to get all this fixed.

Well, definitely I didn’t really want to stay there, but I have no choice because I have limited budget to survive for a month, my budget has to include the journey I am heading to, which is Prague in Czech Republic and the Netherlands, which is about 10 days, 3 days in Prague and a week in the Netherlands. My budget is about 50 Euros a day, which means about 500 Euros for the trip and that makes about £420 has to be allocated for the trip.

I only have £10 budget to spend for a day, anything more than that means I will have to ask my parents to transfer money to me again. This is something I do not want to do. I understand that with the credit crunch going on in the States and the UK, they need the money to survive. I sure hope things are not as badly affected in Malaysia.

Well, seriously, things have not been looking very bright. I had to go to my friend’s place to eat hot food, shower and get online, which is something not very good to do, since I am not paying anything and I don’t feel very much welcomed. In Chinese, I feel very bad to 寄人篱下.

As far as I want to tell what happened when I was in Royal Phoenix, I don’t really want to mention it because it was unbearable.

On the first day, I wasn’t really allowed to leave the place because I didn’t have the key to it. But due to some discussion with one of the family members of my friend, I got to the house and showered, ate, and relaxed. I got some groceries too. And I got the key in the end.

On the second day, I didn’t go anywhere. I wanted to go out badly to get breathing mask for cleaning purposes. Mind you I have a very sensitive nose towards dust. I was basically sneezing around almost all the time. I wanted to get a screwdriver to fix my laptop as well.

When I got ready to go out, it was raining. Just to avoid being wet and sick, I stayed at home, and searched the whole restaurant for a screwdriver. I could find none, but some wine opener with a small knife attached to it. With all my might, I tried and tried to unscrew the computer with it, and finally, after few hours of attempt, I got my laptop fixed, and everything seemed less unbearable.

I was in Starbucks and I just love the Jazzy music they played, which calmed me so much and gives me the mood to write so much. I had spent a few days writing this already. Too bad there is no free WiFi connection here, and they are closing at 7pm. Lolz! I am heading to McDonalds to post this online, and to get my dinner before heading back to the old Royal Phoenix. And McDonalds here don't have power points for laptops. Sorry my battery can't last this long for more. So, I will post again soon. Seeya!