A couple of weeks ago Kat and I went to Cyprus for a week. The main reason for going was the wedding of some friends, and so there were actually a fairly large group of friends, many of whom also IBMers, also going for the same period. This was the first time I've really done a non-UK holiday with friends. I had a really good time, it was extra fun to have a bunch of friends around, and the wedding was really very nice - it was a great location.Obviously I took my N900 with me, but was trying to avoid paying the crazy data prices so it spent most of off-line. However I took my TV out cable and loaded it up with some encoded DVDs and lots of music. During the time there, I got lots of great use out of the FM transmitter and the ability to just plug into the TV in the villa and provide music and movies. These are features of the n900 that I don't really use at home, but really came into their own in this holiday situation.
Just as we were really getting in to the holiday, something kinda crazy happened. A volcano erupted thousands of miles away in Iceland. Well I say erupted, it started venting ash high into the atmosphere. It is so easy, in a modern world of aeroplanes and tiny pocket computers that can pinpoint your location on the planet surface by talking to satellites and all that great stuff, to forget that our modern existence is so easily disrupted. I mean a volcano!? Anyhow, due to this our flight home was cancelled by EasyJet. Oh no...what a shame, stuck in Cyprus for extra time... In fact when I got to rebook a flight it was due to be 10 days before we could go home! On the surface this sounds like an awesome thing. However, I really needed to be back at work, as did many of the people now stuck. We had plans for the following weekend that needed to rescheduled. And it is far from certain what financial support I will get for the delay. EasyJet's terms and conditions pretty clearly state that they only expect to have to provide a flight home sometime. Though there is lots of talk about them being liable for some cost of living expenses. My insurance, I discovered did cover £35 per 12 hour period per person insured. But only up to a maximum of £200 per head. So that's something, but 10 extra days in a foreign country is not a cheap proposition. Fortunately friends that we were staying with have a friend with a villa on Cyprus and were able to arrange for us to stay there at a reasonable price to limit our unexpected costs.
I managed to contact work, and there was some discussion about how I could get to do work as semi-normal from Cyprus, so not just extra holiday. As it happens IBM has an office on Cyprus, but it was not immediately clear that they would have any equipment or space to use. I also discovered that the office is in Nicosia, which was a long way from where we were now staying. So I decided to investigate buying a netbook (this is definitely the last time I travel without at least a netbook with me. I love my n900, but I can't work on it). There was sadly never any question that IBM would be able to reimburse me for it, so I made sure it was something that I would actually like to own. I'd been toying with the idea of getting a netbook for a while and I found an Acer Aspire One. Turns out there are a bunch of models beneath that name, I got the Nav50. With that in hand I rushed back to an internet café in time to find out that IBM Nicosia could provide a laptop and a desk, and IBM would pay for me to get taxi there and stay in a hotel. The strange bureaucracy of big business means that there would be no problem spending €500-€600 on taxi and hotel costs, but not €330 for a netbook to let me work from where I was. This in stark contrast to my friend working for another smaller company who was quickly given the green light to buy a netbook and just expense it.
In any case it suited me better to stay with my beautiful fiancée and our friends and just work from an internet café on the beach, I now just have to make sure I get plenty of good use out of the netbook, and I am finding it really quite nice to use. The keyboard seems pretty nice at least so I may take to writing my blog on it more often. It took a bit of doing but ultimately I got up and running and was actually able to work fairly normally from an internet café on the beach in Cyprus. Sufficiently so that I could see me doing this more intentionally in the future, extend a holiday across more weeks, but work for some of the time.
Yesterday a colleague, also stuck, but working from the IBM office, let me know that our rebooked flight was now also showing as cancelled! However he had managed to book a flight for today, so full of hope I returned to the website and tried to amend my flight, and was horrified to find the earliest flight it would let me rebook was another 5 days on the original 10 day delay! If someone was going to be picking up the tab for living costs I would have been reasonably happy, but as it is my bank balance was not happy about the news. So I found a phone number and made an expensive call....
After 5 minutes on hold, at a minimum of 39ppm, I very nearly hung up and accepted my fate. However, shortly after I considered it the phone was answered. After a short conversation I was told that there are '2 flights tomorrow, which would you like'...erm the first one! I was expecting a call in which I begged them to cover some cost of living for the crazy delay, only to find out that flights were available the next day, despite their website being quite happy for me to book my flight a back over 2 weeks later than the original date (for a 1 week holiday).
And so it is that I am writing this blog post, on my shiny new Acer Aspire One, on a flight home from Cyprus, just 5 days later than intended. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, on the one hand I am sad to be leaving, part of me was looking forward to another week or so in the glorious sunshine working during the day and having fun with friends in the evening. However part of me is also very happy to be returning home, to my cats, and my comforting familiar routine. I foresee a certain amount of bartering with EasyJet and insurance companies to cover my costs as much as possible, but I've had a really nice time and have enjoyed my Cypriot adventure.