Steve n Jen's UK adventures

UK and European adventures. Read on my pretties, and discover what two stray Aussies can get up to on their travels.......

22 December 2012

Dec 2012 a

Tue 04 Dec 2012
This afternoon Jen received confirmation that her third round interview in trendy Soho was successful and could she come into work this afternoon? All a bit sudden, so Jen started the next day.

Wed 05 Dec 2012
Jen's commute now takes twice as long, costs twice as much, the hours are longer, two weeks' fewer holidays, more responsibility and of course loads of stress when starting a new job. But it gets her out of the house to have some social interaction. 

Fri 07 Dec 2012
Tonight we hopped in the car and Steve drove us to Oxford. This gorgeous gothic city has been on our "to do" list for years and years. Our B&B room has a jaccuzzi and four poster bed. It's time to celebrate!

Sat 08 Dec 2012
Oxford Day 1. 
After an early breakfast, we arrived at the Old Bodleian Library for our pre-booked exclusive "upstairs downstairs" tour. The tour began in the Divinity School (a single hall/room) - which is where the hospital scenes in the Harry Potter films were shot. The guide explained it was built with private funding, an very early example of sponsorship, as patrons each had a ceiling boss carved and installed to represent their contribution.

Next we saw Convocation House, (the next room along) a Jacobean parliament room with a throne at the end which did indeed see the King hold parliament here. 
Then upstairs we climbed, to Duke Humphrey's Library (part of the Bodleian Library complex) which was completed in 1488, and later restored by Thomas Bodley. It is the oldest working and purpose-built library we've ever seen - and just as it would have appeared in the 16th century, same stunning painted ceiling, shelves, wood carvings, everything - it's amazing! No photos allowed, so here's what it looks like inside: 

Next, we ambled across to the Radcliffe Camera, again a purpose-built library (but in the English Palladian style) built in the 18th century and is a single, circular domed room with a large terrace/balcony encircling inside, creating a second floor of sorts. Next, we walked through the "new" underground tunnel (crammed with an overflow of books) back to where the tour began.

The tour guide had mentioned the "oldest" cafe in town (well the building is old at any rate) the Vaults Cafe at University Church. So we decided to seek it out and have lunch there. An excellent choice, the food was truly superb!

Above: the Vault Cafe, located in the church before us.
So, next we strolled back to the Museum of the History of Science, next door to the Bodleian, and Jen went snap-happy with the Orreries, pocket sundials and various other curiosities.
Above: a small Roman pendant sundial

Above: Armillary Sphere with planets.
Below: Orrery.

Above: Behind Steve is Einstein's handwriting on a blackboard.

By now our feet were tired, so Jen had a hot choc and Steve enjoyed a pint at the Prancing Pony (OK, the White Horse) pub across the road, which is one of the places where Tolkein (Steve's all-time favourite author) liked to meet with his friends.

Sun 09 Dec 2012
Oxford Day 2. 
Some morning wandering about the town, including poking our noses into the quadrangles of several colleges. We also stopped off at Carfax Tower, climbing about 80 steps to the rooftop, to take in the views of the "dreaming spires of Oxford".

 We spent the entire day at the Ashmolean museum where many fine artefacts caught our imaginations. Steve lingered most in the Gold Coins of Britain room. Jen was delighted by the Coptic patterned cotton fabrics. Also of interest was the 'Pre-Roman Italy' room, the silver room, the renaissance watches and the Victorian Pre-Raph gallery.

Above: the only known surviving coin in the world depicting
this Roman emperor.  Dug up in England of course! 
Above: renaissance pocket watch - compass and sundial in one.
Above: a very small Roman brazier

Above: 'Ariadne' by Waterhouse
 Next, we enjoyed a most excellent dinner at the Eagle and Child pub which is where the "Inklings" regularly met - i.e. Tolkein, Carroll and friends. Then off to a fab 16th century concert in St Barnabas Church, with interiors best described as a fascinating mash-up of pre-Raphaelite and Byzantine styles. The concert "To Shorten Winter's Sadness" was most excellent and made Jen feel like madrigal singing all the way home.

Mon 10 Dec 2012
Oxford Day 3.
We arrived early for our pre-booked behind the scenes tour of Christ Church and private gardens. There was time enough for a free guided tour of the Christ Church Cathedral and cloisters.

Above: the outside of Christ Church Cathedral.  Below: looking behind
us at Lewis Carroll inspiring tree and tiny garden wall door.
We saw the garden and tiny door which reputedly inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and the Chestnut tree where Alice's cat would often get stuck, inspiring the Cheshire Cat character. 

We also heard tales of the old Dean who always was running late - most inconvenient when none of the scholars could start dinner in the great hall until he'd arrived - inspiring Carroll's white rabbit. Before entering the great hall, Jen was intrigued by the fine fan-vaulted ceiling above the Hall Staircase (which leads to the Great Hall). Let alone the feeling that we're about to enter Hogwarts!

Above: The tree had mirrors and playing cards as decorations on it - all very Wonderland themed.

We went back to our B&B and detoured slightly, driving north-west of Oxford, to see the most easterly stone circle in the UK - the King's Men stone circle, and Whispering Knights - part of the Rollright Stones. 

Above: the Whispering Knights
 Wed 12 Dec 2012
Steve tried and tried desperately to get tickets to see Kraftwerk at the Tate modern, but the website and phone system was jammed up. Most disappointing! So instead, for that night, Steve and a few guests will enjoy a video playlist on our projector, and make a night of it. Same city, same time (8 Feb), same music, just not live. But it will be in the comfort of our own home and without the press of the mob,  also with whatever drinks and nibbles we want to hand. The next best thing really.

03 December 2012

Nov 2012 b

A word of warning - this fortnight's posting is very Jen-centric.

Wed 14 Nov 2012
Jen has a phone interview for a graphic design position which is asking for a recruit with "a robust personality and attitude to be able to work in a vigorous, straight-talking atmosphere" where apparently about half the employees are ex-military. Sounds positively fascinating!

Thu 15 Nov 2012
Steve cooks up a tasty treat of vegetarian ravioli and garlic bread - for a pleasant and relaxing dinner with Ilva and Alex, new friends Jen discovered via a board game club called London Cashflow.

Sat 17 Nov 2012
Today Jen picks up an ebay find which Steve has asked for - a plush red leather footstool to match the chesterfield armchairs.

Sun 18 Nov 2012
Autumn is winding up for another year, after about a fortnight of the earnest shedding of leaves. The trees are about 90% done dropping their leaves, and each individual leaf is often splendid not only in colour range, but majestic in size.

Tue 20 Nov 2012
Jen popped into her old workplace to have a colleague fill out the co-signatory section of a UK passport application. Meanwhile, her old team mates asked "where are the muffins" hopefully wishing that Steve had magicked up a batch of gourmet white choc and raspberry muffins for them. They were sadly disappointed on that front, and Steve chuffed he's still "loved" by the old Marcoms team.

Sat 24 Nov 2012
We decided to stay indoors as much as possible this weekend since Steve has still not 100% managed to shake off a chesty cough.

Mon 26 Nov 2012
Jen today attended a round one interview for a Design Manager role based in trendy Soho. There were about half a dozen other candidates at this stage, vying for the same role. There was four hours of various tests including a design test, psychometric tests, plus the interview itself.

Tues 27 Nov 2012
The next stage of this interview process is to now complete (within 24 hours) a creative solution to a brief and present the end design at a 2nd round interview the next day. Talk about jumping through hoops!

Wed 28 Nov 2012
After busily coming up with a brilliant design solution, Jen presented her idea in round two of the Design Mngr interview process. It's now been narrowed down to herself plus one other candidate.

Fri 30 Nov 2012
Jen's Aussie passport was also returned by courier, and she's likely to receive her UK passport either just before or just after Christmas.

Jen has suitably impressed for this managerial role, and has ben asked to meet with the client, to see if she approves of her. Strangely, approx 80% of the way through the interview, a fire alarm goes off and the whole building is evacuated! The interview is concluded in a nearby cafe. 

Later in the afternoon, Jen is invited to a 2nd round interview for the "robust character" role, and the interview is scheduled for Tuesday. It will be a close juggle to see which role is offered to her first…

Sun 02 Dec 2012
Jen puts up and decorates the Christmas tree. Steve adds the finishing touch: the traditional angel on top. Here are some fab photos taken with Jen's shiny new camera.

Plus, this afternoon we had a pleasant surprise - Dan and Elizabeth invited us around for dinner tonight, and Dan cooked up a delicious lamb and couscous meal with cherry tomato salad. Steve brought along a spiced honey wine he'd prepared that afternoon for the occasion. Good times all round!