Update - 17 January 2001



Hello all!
Hard to believe that the holidays have already passed us by. Monday before last, returned to the UK after two weeks in the States. Spent a week working (while Shelly SHOPPED) and the rest of the time visiting as many family / friends as possible. Thankfully, we had an extra week (originally expected to be home for a week) though it still was not nearly enough time to see everyone (sorry if we missed you). Anyhow, thought I would get an update out while I have a brief moment...

Since the last update...
A number of weeks ago, enjoyed our first London Walks. There is a company that offers a variety of themed walking tours throughout London, most lasting a couple of hours. Our first one was called "Where The Other Half Lives" which was around Belgravia and included the Margaret Thatcher residence, along with the Duke of Westminster. Amazingly, learned that very few homeowners in London own the land beneath their house! Since that first tour, Shelly has been on "Eccentric London" during Vivianne's visit and "Legal & Illegal London" during Michael's visit.

Spent the first weekend of November in Bath. The train ride there was a little miserable - we did not get to Paddington Station until after 5:00PM, so the train was packed and we ended up standing until Swindon (1 hour & 15 minutes). Prior to leaving we were concerned that the town might be flooded (since it has been such a rainy season and the town is along the River Avon). Discovered that they had not been as affected as many of the other towns in the south / west. Bath is about the perfect FONT SIZE for a weekend trip. It is big enough that there is plenty to see, without being too large to see it all. Lots of good restaurants too.

Viv spent a long weekend with us. Not too surprisingly it included a minute amount of eating and drinking (limoncello anyone?), though we did manage to figure in a bit of London. Had hoped to catch a football match, though none of the area Premiership teams had tickets available. Since Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) is the closest to us, we tried our luck at buying from the local ticket touts. There was not much available with three seats together (probably easier to get singles or even two together) and they wanted nearly double the face value for restricted view seats. Interesting that we talked to a number of people selling tickets, though as it turns out they were all working together (we realized when two different people, a few hundred yards apart, showed us the same tickets). We gave up before long and ended up in a pub instead. We were having a great time until after the match when they refused to put on the Steelers game (despite Viv's best attempt) in lieu of a rugby match. That Sunday, we took in the London Eye, the huge Ferris Wheel along the Thames. Strangely, you do not get much of a sense that it is moving and even Shelly was not uncomfortable with the height or motion. Not sure how many people are "flying" at one time, though each one of the "capsules" holds 20 people without being crowded. The weather was very clear so we got a number of good shots above London.

Got together with my cousin Chris and his girlfriend Kelly for dinner while they were here for a visit. As it turns out, Chris is here occasionally (he works for Ericsson, one of the companies we are partnered with on the Met proposal) for work. He was taking the opportunity to show Kelly a bit of London. Have not seen him for a long, long time so it was very nice to catch up a little.

Caught up with Michelle (Norkus - Kristin Rath's sister) just before Thanksgiving. Michelle was involved in getting quite a few people organized for the American Society Thanksgiving Dinner at the Savoy (work friends, etc). Apparently, the American Society organizes events for all the traditional American holidays. The dinner was good, and Warren Hoge, Chief London Correspondent from the New York Times was the guest speaker. Certainly had fun getting dressed up (actually, I bought a tux for the event) and as expected, the hotel is very "posh".

Finally talked Michael (Elias) into a trip across the pond. He came over for a week around Thanksgiving. Aside from venturing around a bit by himself, he spent one day with Shelly's ex-boss (Wade was here with his wife and daughter), spending Thanksgiving with us (going to the American service @ St. Paul Cathedral and enjoying - hopefully - our first attempt at preparing a Thanksgiving dinner) he took a trip up to the Manchester United Superstore. The three of us made a quick visit over the weekend to Dublin. Various delays (apparently the plane returned too late to land @ London City Airport so they had to bus us up to Stanstead Airport, and Dublin was enduring a cabbie strike) made for a much longer than anticipated trip there. Did not get to the hotel to drop off our bags until sometime after 1:00P (expected to be there by 9:00AM!). Saw a bit of the city including the outside of the Guinness brewery (unfortunately, it was closed) and spent the early evening hopping around a few pubs. Settled on a Frommer's recommendation for dinner that was very good. Thankfully, the return trip was much less eventful.

We managed to squeeze in a visit to the infamous Millennium Dome. Would have been disappointing to have not seen it. The Dome has been a reoccurring topic in the press (a financial albatross for the Labour Party) for more than a year. Although it was not amazing, it still made for an enjoyable visit. Given the number of visitors (lots, lots), they REALLY must have been optimistic about the attendance to not be making money. Following the huge New Year's Eve party (Ministry of Sound), it officially closed and they are already selling off everything inside.

Spent a much needed long December weekend in Germany (first night in Munich, subsequent nights in Rothenburg o.d.T). Discovered in the process of trying to get out to the airport here in London (from Liverpool Street Station) that only half the trains were running (due to all the speed restrictions following the Hatfield crash). Thought we had plenty of time, but we just missed the 2:30 train and gave up on the 3:00 train sometime after 3:20. Afraid that we were going to miss our flight (the last of the day), we elected to try a cab. Though arriving on time, we were £60 lighter (luckily, we found another guy to share the ride, so we got away for a "mere" two-thirds of the £90 fare!). This was the second year that we have traveled to Germany to enjoy the Kristkindlemarkts, glühwein, and as always, weiße bier. The Munich markt was much like we remembered. Unfortunately, we did not buy a few things we wanted thinking that the Rothenburg markt would be similar. As it turned out, the Rothenburg markt is MUCH smaller and did not have many traditional crafts, etc. As many of you know, when I was looking for accommodations I discovered that Rothenburg has a webcam setup up to take pictures of the Rothenburger Marktplatz. Although we were there, the light was not very good (we even found someplace to stand above the crowd), and the pictures are too dark to see us (but thanks for saving them for us).

Contemplating a move to another (bigger) flat. Space is definitely a premium, plus we would like to have a distinct room (maybe even another bathroom) for guests. Also, we are in the process of working out the particulars to bring Daisy over (not that she requires much space - it would just be nice to be able to discretely tuck away her litterbox). A little anxious that we might encounter problems dealing with a new property management company. Our luck has been good, though coworkers have had a variety of difficult disputes. Signed a new lease in December, so we have another several months to make up our minds (like most, our lease has a six month break clause).

We have had a rush of visitors since returning from the holidays. Harold and Ali were in town between Germany / Ireland, then again before flying back to the States. Got out for a couple of nice dinners and an extremely late night bouncing around a few pubs / clubs (which did wonders to help my jetlag!). Never realized what an accomplished typist Ali is until waiting / watching him "hunt-n-peck" a work email out @ 4:00 in the morning (fortified by several Red Bull / vodkas). Stacey and Laura flew back yesterday after being here for a long weekend. Had a great Hungarian meal (Gay Hussar) last Friday night. Saturday they were joined by Stacey's sister (Lindsay) and roommate (Cory) who are studying in Paris. Made for an enjoyable group dinner, complemented with a few bottles of wine, and a half bottle of limoncello (our "somewhat" trashed waitress was nice enough to leave it on our table after joining us for a few). Moved on to a local dance club, where Stacey / Laura had the good fortune of meeting a very "excitable" gentleman named James (anything to add, ladies?). Looking forward to Shelly's dad's arrival this coming weekend. Have Tottenham (v. Southampton) tickets for Saturday, and "Stones In His Pockets" tickets for Monday.


Have a couple of upcoming trips planned and trying to decide on two more. Traveling to Italy for the first few days in February. Flying into Bologna, spending a couple of days there before moving on to Siena and San Gimignano. Also, have an April trip planned (flying into Amsterdam, then driving from there) to see all the Dutch tulips fields in bloom. Several newspapers have been offering coupons schemes toward springtime flights. We have collected vouchers for Go (considering a Copenhagen visit) and Buzz (leaning toward visiting Berlin). Just need to figure out where we can fit them in.

Nothing has changed in that no one is sure how long we will be here. The latest speculation is that contract closure might be sometime between January and September. Just before Christmas we received word that the structure of the procurement is going to change. Since then, we have been scrambling around trying to figure out what that means and closing out the major cost issues before the end of the month. Regardless of the tenure, it has been a good experience (exposure, project / scope role, etc). In the coming months, expect to be more involved with the PRC / UK office and some of the business they are courting. Ideally, that might include a bit of travel around the UK (Wiltshire, Dublin, etc).

That's all for now...
Take care, and miss you all!
Norman

P.S. Per usual, check out the website when you get the chance (http://www.SpeicherIndustries.com/). Added lots of new pictures including Esztergom, Salzburg, Oberammergau, Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein, Chiemsee and Warwick Castle.