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UK visa run - again

After the fiasco in July when my application for a Work Visa was refused (because my Business Visa had not expired), I returned with a fresh batch of paperwork for the Visa Agent and the Saudi Embassy in London. The application was accepted this time and I travelled on home to Biggar. The visa was granted and my passport posted back to me within 4 days.

It was great to spend some quality time with the family.  I also did all the accumulated odd jobs around the house and garden, and caught up with some pressing family business.

On the Wednesday I had a day trip to Belfast to meet up with relatives whom I hadn't seen for a long while. No.3 daughter went with me and we travelled out first flight from Edinburgh to Belfast City airport, now named after George Best, and back on the last flight. As an aside, I actually saw George play once. It was on a wet, dark and windy evening in 1980 at Somerset Park, Ayr, when  he was playing his twilight days out in football with Hibernian.  I looked up the event on t'internet, and see that the game was an Ayr United v Hibs League Cup match, 2-2 draw. He didn't play more than 50 minutes or so, was slow and unfit, but when he had the ball you could see the flashes of brilliance and his passes were all pinpoint perfect. The crowd was swelled by people like me who turned out just to see the legend play. 

Our day in NI was lovely, and we saw lots of people and we went out for a nice walk up to Scrabo Tower near Newtownards. For me no time in NI is complete without coming home with a bag full of wheaten and soda breads, something that for me is the true taste of Ireland. I took some frozen samples back to Saudi too, managing to get them past the country entry bag search without having to explain what it was.

I also managed to get to Hamilton Ice Rink twice, once for an umpires training session (I am a qualified curling umpire) and once for a practice session to blow the summer cobwebs away. Curling isn't like riding a bike, you have to coax unused muscles back into action after the summer and warm them up. I have the English senior championships in early December to look forward to, and will have to keep supple for that. Regarding establishing curling in Saudi, I have not been inactive, and hope to report some positive development soon. 

All too soon I was heading back to Riyadh, but refreshed with quality family time, and proper bacon and beer. During a 4 hour layover at Heathrow I went to look at the driverless "Pod" system that shuttles people between T5 and a car park. Rubber-tyred battery powererd 4-seat enclosed buggies follow a guided route for about 1km where they split left and right to two set down / pick up stations in the car park, called A and B. When I used it it wasn't busy and pods were available for me to use at all the stations, making it an on-demand system. Presumably it has replaced a shuttle-bus. I imagine that when the car park is busier at peak times there may be some queuing, and if all four seats in the pod are used luggage space for travellers may be limited. With my interest in transport resilience, safety and business continuity I would like to understand how equipment failure situations are managed. There is an escape hatch from the pods, and presumably stranded users have the option of walking along the concrete walkway to the destination.  There are no obvious safety notices, so I am guessing that the system operations control centre issues voice instructions to travellers. If anyone has knowledge of this system, I'd be interested.


 A driverless Pod approching car park station B, with T5 visible in the distance.                                   The guided trackway.




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* Call Alastair Fyfe directly on 07785 370074 (UK) or +966 503095212