Heathrow Express

The Heathrow express?  We used it on our recent trip to London because although it’s expensive if you buy tickets “on the spot”,  the value is OK if you buy advance tickets on-line (as we did) and your accommodation is within a reasonable taxi ride from Paddington.  However, as I have mentioned, it didn’t work very well for us as we were leaving London.

I wondered if I’d be pushing my luck claiming compensation,  after getting compensation from Virgin Trains which turned up.

The Heathrow Express claim must be submitted on-line, but in its favour is that no attachments are needed – you merely quote the ticket number from the print out.    In due course, I received an email stating my claim had been rejected because our train was “only” 12 minutes late.  Of course, this isn’t what happened.  I replied asking that the matter be reconsidered, and setting out details about what occurred.   And in due course, another email arrived, stating that our fares would be refunded in full!

But there was a catch!   I had to ring a British phone number to tell them the account into which the refund should be paid.   Oh well, I wondered about trying to avoid this, but in the end, since I’ve got a substantial rolled over credit on my mobile, I decided I’d use some of it up.  To my pleasant surprise, there was no queue, and as soon as I gave the “reference number”, the operator knew I had a credit waiting to be collected.  I gave details of my card and it was all “done” very quickly.

Just for the record, of course exchange rates have moved since I originally paid for the fares, so the credit I received was  about $1.30 less than the cost I’d initially paid.  On top of this was the expense of the phone call.   But I’m not really complaining (although life would have been better if the train had been on time).




It looks as though we’re going to have to some work on the house, so in preparation for this, I’ve started cleaning up some of my “stuff”.   This includes quite a few old papers (as well as other things!), and in turn, these include folders with itineraries and other nitty-gritty documents from past trips.  I’ve been guilty, over the years, when returning home after a trip, of just putting all the papers that I took along with me, along with the brochures and other materials that one invariably collects on the way, in a folder, thinking that “one day” I’ll get around to sorting it all out (typically, using jet lag as the excuse for not sorting it immediately).

Brochures (from various trips)

Since “that day” now appears to have arrived, there’s a bit of a back-log!   For example, one folder had a lot of materials from a trip to the US in 2006, where we attended a conference and then did a road-trip from Chicago to Philadelphia via Detroit and (yes, oddly) Long Island.  That was a few years back, but some of the memories seem as if it was “yesterday”.

Sure, there are photo albums with pre-digital photos from earlier trips, and then CDs and blogs with photos from other trips in the digital-age, and perhaps I need to look at these, too, but in the meantime, it’s been rather a fun – if slow – process going through all the nitty-gritty details of that particular trip.


We saw Gloria at MTC, after having glanced at a couple of the reviews, which were fairly good (here, and here, for example) and which mentioned that we should expect the unexpected.    The Age told us that “Gloria lulls you into a false sense of security before unleashing a shocking twist”.   Well, yes, there is an unexpected twist, but suffice to say, this play is basically about inter-actions between people and how they react to each other – 20-somethings, mainly, but their reaction with the generation ahead of them, too.   In this way, the play is certainly “interesting”, and by the end we’re asking, what’s “normal”?  Perhaps it varies from person to person?

The play is set in New York, and clearly a lot of effort has gone into getting the accents “right”.   However, just as a comment, authenticity doesn’t always result in clarity, and there were just occasional exchanges where I struggled to pick up each word.   However, the general thrust generally came through.

Most of the cast play multiple roles, adding a bit of interest.


Cave diving

Like (I would guess) a large proportion of the population, we’ve been following events in Thailand about a group of boys being found deep underground in a cave with fascination and admiration.

However, reading about the challenges that face “cave divers” has brought a new perspective to my life.  Until now, sky diving has been at the top of my list of “things I would never voluntarily do”.    This activity has been relegated to second on that list;  cave diving is now top of the “things I would never voluntarily do” list!

The train is going to ……

Upgraded displays have been installed on the platforms at our local station. Quite nice, I suppose, although the more relevant information was already available on the previous display.  The new display lists all the stations that the train will stop at, and also shows the 2 following trains.   It also gives details of disruptions, although it will be interesting to see whether these are helpful.

But, on weekdays,  city-bound trains are still shown as heading to Flinders Street.  True, they do go there, but the majority of them then proceed after a short stop on to Southern Cross and then to places out west.


The older style, now replaced

But, the destination of the train after it arrives at Flinders Street is a big mystery until you get to Flinders Street, where you have to check what the train does next.  Even at Flinders Street, it’s a bit “hit-or-miss” whether an announcement will be made as to where the train is headed;  the only  sure way of knowing is by looking at the displays on the platform.   It would be so much more helpful if the display at the local station gave us this information, as many passengers seem to go past Flinders Street.

Disruptions in yellow (at weekends, trains still go around the loop)


4th of July

I guess we can’t let American Independence Day (also known as “America’s birthday”!) go by without a mention?  Of course, with the benefit of time zones, we get to have it before the Americans do!

Liberty Bell, Philadelphia

It’s the day on which, in 1776, the final wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved, and the document was published.  It was read publicly for the first time on 8 July 1776.

There seem to be lots of patriotic events in America, but not so many in Melbourne.   Perhaps the expatriates do their own thing?

Sweeping the leaves

By now most of the plane trees in out street have shed their leaves, and the gutters are nearly clear again.  However, not a lot of thanks are due to the Council.  True, they send their street sweeping machine along, but it’s hopeless around parked cars.  The residents (or at least some of us) end up sweeping the leaves up.  Perhaps it’s our civic duty!

The street-sweeper has been past, but the cars are in the way!
The parked car has gone, but the leaves were there, and you can see the path the machine took!