The New Contract Dance

By | RL | No Comments

I’ve just started another contract. I feel like contracting is one big dance from one project to another. There are lots of us that do this, and I’m beginning to recognise names and faces of other contractors as I move from one role to the next.

This new contract is another agency, with a pretty fantastic app with a big-brand name. It’s pretty cool to be working on this kind of stuff, and a little heartbreaking to see behind the curtain with how they work their magic. I recognise their process and their skills and it’s all so very good, and so very ordinary (isn’t it always, though?) Being considered ‘good’ enough to work on big brand stuff is pretty flattering, and it’s exciting to think that part of what I’m doing might end up being used by many millions of people.

Still, I’m doing the contractor dance again. Meeting the new people, making all the small talk and sharing snacks and slowly, slowly making friends. There’s all sorts of new to figure out, how timesheets work, how to connect to the printers, where to find the leftover pastries or nice lunch places… The office itself is nice, it’s a newly designed fancy office, in a quite fun and new-to-me part of London.

This contract is a short one (only a few weeks) and then I’ll be on my way, but it’s nice to be here while I am. I’ve had worse contracts to settle into.

Right Now: A Snapshot

By | RL | No Comments

Back in London, now feels like such a bizarre time… I’m between contracts at the moment and the extended downtime is both glorious (with afternoon movies and sleeping in) but stifling (no routine, no drive, less social everything). I find myself easily distracted, pottering from one errand to another. I’m working on some design projects… but I’m chipping away at them rather delicately rather than bulldozing through like I would if I was on a job. Pottering… I spend time crocheting a line or two, my progress is slow, I suspect winter will be finished before my new scarf is. I’ve taken to just standing over heaters, enjoying the warmth. If it’s not raining, I might run, but without the limitations of time or a buddy, my runs often become a walk, and then a meander. I almost never run 14k now. 8, maybe. Sometimes 5. My walks make up the shortfall, cold, but lovely.

Sometimes I think about little adventures I should take – museum trips, art galleries, market wanderings. I think about the things I could teach myself (the guitar, how to speak French, I could bake something, I could start yoga…) and then I think… perhaps I’ll just lay here in the sun a little longer.

Well after the suns gone down and I know Zee is to be home soon, everything is rushed. I’m up and moving and doing all the things. I tidy the house, put away all the dishes and washing and messes and start dinner. A facsimile of productivity.

I’m lining up interviews, and if something comes of it I know I’ll shift it up a gear or three back to normal. If not though, thanks to some rather large holiday plans, I may not be working till April. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime though… everything is slow and lethargic.

Hows your January going?

Belfast – The Titanic Quarter

By | nubbed | One Comment

Almost everyone has heard of the Titanic, and I don’t know anyone that hasn’t seen Leo do his thing in the movie, but I had NO idea the ship was built in Belfast. It was, and there’s a whole load of interesting Titanic related things to go visit.

We hit up the Dry Dock first, which is where the ship was built. It was HUGE. Ridiculously huge, and only standing at the bottom of it did I get an inkling of the immense scale of the Titanic. It was also pretty interesting to check out the old school tech that pumped water in and out and opened the 1000 tonne door. It was pretty innovative (for it’s time).

Eventually we wandered over to the Museum, which was this ridiculously shaped silver building. You can’t miss it.

There was a lot of good stuff to be learnt, especially around how it was made in relation to the existing technology of the time (one bit I stuck with me was the teams of rivet men, who worked in teams of five to hammer by hand each individual rivet). It was incredibly impressive, actually.

After it’s launch the information get’s a bit sketchy. There is no real information about why or how it sank. The exhibit just kind of glosses over it. There was a big enquiry after the Titanic sank which found that there were insufficient lifeboats to save everyone (isn’t that crazy?). Apparently ships were seen as unsinkable and so lifeboats were for ferrying passengers to rescue vessels, not for the survival on a sinking ship. They had 20, but really they needed three times that.

Even worse, the crew were pretty poorly trained in terms of evacuations, and didn’t know how many people could be put safely into a lifeboat (depending on it’s type, between 45-60) and a lot of the boats were launched only half full. Insaaaane.

The enquiry also found that the 3rd class passengers weren’t aware of what was going on and were left to fend for themselves. This meant that most of them got trapped below decks as the ship filled with water. I honestly can’t even imagine it. There were audio recordings of survivors and it’s heartbreaking to listen to.

Another interesting tidbit that I remember was that the Titanic actually had two sister ships: the Olympic and the Britannica. Zee was curious about what happened to them, and it turns out the Britannic for drafted into the war as a hospital ship and hit a mine in the Aegean sea (whomp). The Olympic got drafted to ferry Canadian troops into Europe, and then became a fancy trans-atlantic passenger ship in the 1920s and into the first half of the 1930s, though the Great Depression after 1930 made using her fairly unprofitable and she was scrapped. Sad face. The Olympic was apparently was the first ship to be fitted with a dance floor, which I love the idea of.

So yes. Visited Belfast, got a pretty intense education in all things Titanic.

For scale, this is the Titanic in the dry dock we were standing in…

Insane. I wasn’t expecting anything like this when I found out we were headed to Belfast, but I think part of why I love travelling, and being a tourist. Belfast Titanic Quarter? Well good.

The Troubles: A Black Cab Tour of Belfast

By | RL | No Comments

It had been recommended by friends and was #1 on Trip Advisors thing to do in Belfast, so we did it. A Black Cab tour of The Troubles.

Woah. Buddy.

This was another of those times where my antipodean background meant I was pretty ignorant of the history in Belfast, and in Northern Ireland. I had no idea there was trouble between Catholics or Protestants, nor how deep it really went. How many people were killed, why the IRA and the UFF were formed… It was heartbreaking and pretty sobering stuff.

Even crazier was how recent it all was, and how people are still moving forward from some pretty despicable attitudes. It was a pretty complex time, though. With people being born into poverty and taught certain attitudes, some folk being used as political pawns, on one side a hero and on the other a mass murderer. So complex.

There’s still a wall up, separating the two neighboourhoods with gates that close at night and on weekends. It’s stood longer than the Berlin Wall did. It’s crazy how close the two sides were. How close their neighbourhoods were… Belfast is SMALL, you could walk from one stronghold to the other in five, maybe ten minutes.

All of the conflict still resonates pretty strong, perhaps unsurprising considering how recent it all was (it all cooled down in the late 60s, we’re not even a generation out yet). Still, I think the main takeaway is that 99% of the population want peace, and peace (despite some pretty high costs) is what they have.

It was some seriously heavy history, but I’m glad we went. The tour was well good, definitely worth doing if you’re in Belfast.

The List: Number 107 – Visits the Giants Causeway

By | RL | 4 Comments

Well, I have never been colder in my life. Zee and I rented a car and drive up the Antrim Coast, which was pretty enough. It could have been part of New Zealand, or England. Blue skies, rolling green hills, stupid amounts of sheep. I was grouchy, so not the most enjoyable car ride up. I think we were both glad to finally get there.

It was cold. Pretty, but SO cold. It’s a long walk down to the steps from the visitors centre, and the wind was biting. Still it was amazing. The basalt had solidified in hexagonal pillars and steps, formed 66 million years ago thanks to volcanic activity.

I’ve never seen anything like it, and was immensely glad we’d made the trip out.

As we were out that way we stopped to see the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s a small rope suspension bridge from the mainland to a small island used by salmon fishers to cast off their boats. It’s mostly a tourist attraction now (salmon fishing had been made illegal in these parts because the fish schools had been overfished) and it was closed by the time we got there. It was a nice walk out along the countryside, and you could still see the bridge.

There was also a whisky distillery and an old castle (apparently where a lot of Game of Thrones had been filmed). We drove by both, but because the sun goes down so early this far north (3:30pm, ish) we passed on doing more than a drive by.

107 Done! Antrim Coast, well worth a visit.