Saturday, November 15, 2003

I surprised myself too

Well in the end it was an adventure leaving work for the last time (especially after noting on the JAL website that the flight was landing in ten minutes).

Marc breezed through customs and was already waiting by the time I got to Heathrow Terminal Three.

He just looked at me and laughed and various airport meetup scenes from movies of past ensued.

Apparently he figured something was up when nobody emailed him back after his emails from Osaka. Darn forgot that. So much for the great cunning plan. But hey it didn't matter...

So now I am going to bid farwell to my trusty bloggersite. I am leaving paulinlondon.blogspot.com and now you will be able to see my continuing adventures at Paul and Marc in London...

Over and out...

Friday, November 14, 2003

Aha! The counter-surprise operation is still in full swing...

I thought after yesterday's posting the game might be up but then I got this email this morning...

Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 18:40:26 -0800 (PST)
From: "Marc"
Subject: is something brewing????
To: "Paul"

Hey there pauley.... sorry I haven't called or emailed in the last 24... hope you haven't been worried too much. All is well....... Lets just say that there is a little surprise coming your way....you won't know when and how it is going to hit you but I think you'll get a kick out oif it!!!

Love you lots pauley and will talk again real soon


M


Well really, it is all good. We will be back together in less than four hours... not that I am counting down. JAL reports the flight is 20 minutes ahead of time as well... Will Paul make it to the airport in time? Will Marc breeze through immigration and be left waiting for Paul to show up? I have decided not to arrive in disguise given that might startle security there. Being well acquainted with Heathrow now I do know all the good spots to stand to wait for people to arrive. I will be the one wearing the Marcs shirt too (of course).

Other surprises

I have to fess up too, there are a few things I will need to tell Marc when he gets here. I will do my best to put them in a good light!
* The coffee in this city is shit. I don't know if its the hard water, the poorly trained baristas, the chain stores or what, but my tastebuds have had to adjust to poor quality coffee. But I know three places in London where the coffee is good and they are not chain stores so you have to go out of your way to get to them!
* We will be living in a bit of a construction site for the next month. But we are only 3 mins walk from the tube and I think location location location is paramount!
* On the plus we are living next door to a place that serves all day breakfast for £3.50 (including coffee)
* The flavours are not as intense here in general, but I have noticed the eggs are bigger...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Outplotting the plotter or the plotting and planning in London...

Ok lets talk about Marc. After working out he was arriving this FRIDAY and not MONDAY I have been plotting a suitable counter-surprise... Here's what I emailed Skye earlier this week...

Subject: ok here's the plan...
To: "Skye"
From: Paul
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 13:51:41 +0000

Skye,

At 11pm tonight Marc will be in the air... he may try and call you... lets pretend that all is still going to be as he planned... I am assuming that he will try and contact you in Japan either by phone or email so as possible talking points....

* If he starts to waver about the surprise thing then say no you have all set it up and that I seem to be getting over my cold. I informed him that I am getting over my cold just now so he will be aware of that...

* Tell him that you talked him into having my farewell work drinks near West Hampstead at (insert name) bar since it isn't that far from work anyway (he won't know!) so it is still all set for a surprise on Friday.

* On Friday he might try and sms or call you when e arrives. You will need to give the impression you are still on the train there but only five minutes away from the airport so get him to sit tight (that usually works as an excuse for me!).

I will be there to counter-surprise him instead. Ha!

* Btw I have dropped enough hints about "Monday's arrival" to make him think that all I have is a lingering suspicion about a surprise rather than the full plan...

* I should be able to get away from work at 3pm Friday so the airport should not be a problem.

Any other thoughts / suggestions on the plotting
and planning?

:-)

Paul.
---------


How did I find out?
* Travel itineraries are not sent as MSWord documents
* Skye after 3 ciders can't lie convincingly
* Idle chatter with Marc made him let the cat out of the bag anyway

Visuals
In other news there have been some great autumnal scenes in London this week. These have included
* Walking to work from Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank in between the trees with the golden brown leaves. The leaves are gone in this image but you could imagine what it looked like on a foggy overcast day...
* Finchley Road...

Ok and now tonight... haircut at Covent Garden... (snip snip)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

What the punters have emailed me about Finchley Road...

Oh the humanity! Been very busy the last two days setting up the new place...

Compared to other parts of London (ie Haringey) it was a no-brainer moving to this part of London, and this is what a colleague (an Australian from Melbourne) said:

Finchley road is a really nice spot... close to city, a bit posh without being over the top, great transport links, o2 centre is good (this is the large shopping centre with multiplex cinema and gym), close to hampstead heath/regents park/etc, and quite safe...

It was exactly what I was thinking... Of course the downside is that it is a busy road and the studio is much smaller than where I was... But I do have double glazed windows and the street isn't strewn with litter and scummy vegetables from the 24-hour fruit and vegetable stores.

More on Haringey

Speaking of 24-hour vegetable stores, who is going to go out at 3am and buy mouldy vegetables from one of these stores on Green Lanes? The local women won't be since their husbands will have locked them in for the night. Shortly after moving in to Haringey I popped in on one of these stores and noticed that the fruit and vegetables lacked a freshness that one expects and demands nowadays. I walked out and went the extra half-mile to the local Sainsbury's where everything was much more shiny, pert, fresh and glossy...

Really the neighbourhood isn't that bad. I only ever saw one concealed weapon in my time there and I didn't study it too closely so it may have only been a replica as it was tucked under a fat Turkish man's tracksuit... Like any neighbourhood it has its good spots... But I never particularly wanted to venture out and try every kebab shop on the strip. I have decided I have had enough exposure to Eastern Eurotrash culture. Its all good, but enough with the halal meat!

A foggy day in London Town
Today really was a foggy day. It was grey, bleak and miserable... and since it was the first real grey day in three months I loved it. Of course cold damp weather isn't so crash hot when you are coming down with something.

A person can develop la grippe
Damp nights, moving house... it has meant one thing... I'm coughing up a lung right now... trying to have early nights and lots more chicken soup...

But meanwhile...

* It is hard to not get distracted by some of the news about town. First we are told still to be alert but not alarmed by the fact there is a new report highlighting how ripe London is for a terrorist attack. It does need to be put into perspective. London has had years of experience dealing with the IRA and every corner of the city is covered by CCTV cameras...

* Anyway next week when President Bush arrives will be even more of an interesting experience. The local Haringey Socialists have ensured there are plenty of "A Killer Comes to Town" posters put up. Oh and there will be a series of fun events including one where a statue of George Bush will be pulled down!

* I had a ticket to go to today's dedication of the Australian War Memorial, but alas by changing jobs next week needed to stay in the office. It was probably for the best not to be caught out in the foggy damp air of Hyde Park Corner.

* Tonight's the Night has opened. The critics had to sit through it so the rest of us don't have to. I couldn't sit through one of Ben Elton's tedious standup monologues so the thought of sitting through his crap book and crap Rod Stewart songs would be torture.

* The British Press isn't allowed to talk about what Prince Charles was going on about the other week (or what George Smith was going on about). But they are talking about everyone else talking about it! Legal issues around the matter have meant that distributors of many foreign language newspapers did not offer many titles for sale over the weekend.

But still there is this great blogsite which is a bit of a smashing read...

Incidentally a good reliable source of Royal Scandal, The Sun reported today that “The incident could not have happened. It would not have been in George (Smith’s) remit to attend the Prince or serve tea in his bedroom.� Which would have to seem quite reasonable... unless his bedroom was a tearoom?

Friday, November 07, 2003

Hmmm
The end of the week and not much to report...
Except that for tomorrow I try to start moving to finchley Road...
I get the feeling that the next week will be very interesting as I finish up in my old (two month) job...
Right now I am in Soho making use of the free Wifi access!

Thursday, November 06, 2003

A grey area...

Today I spent a good deal of the day setting up my private company for my new job. If you work through an agency on a temporary basis you can do this and not have to pay PAYE tax. When you work in government and know where your 27% of your earnings goes, it makes for an even more sensible idea...

There are loads of companys that advertise on the Aus/NZ/SA TNT magazine to do this. It is a little bit of a grey area in tax law but well worth the effort in doing so. After my 8am meeting to set this up and then a 3pm bank appointment, I could do with an early night! Zzzz

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Guy Fawkes Night

Well as I am working back in the office reading emails and the news (and updating the blog), I can see fireworks out of every office window. All good fun and much more fun than the rocket that went off after 1am in my neighbourhood. Meanwhile The Times released new data on "what if" Guy Fawkes succeeded in blowing up Parliament? The answer is that he would have destroyed the whole Whitehall area.

Work

Working on the South Bank gives you spectacular views of the city, and is handy for Tate Modern and the National, but isn’t so great for doing most of the daily routine things like shopping, eateries etc...

Actually the area is underdeveloped... The nearby Oxo Tower is a bit of a white elephant and some substantial reworking of the area needs to happen before the area becomes popular... Part of the problem is that it is just too far away from the major walking bridges (the Golden Jubilee Bridge near the London Eye and the formerly wobbly Millennium Bridge near Tate Modern) to bring the punters to the area. It is right near Blackfriars Bridge but that is not a particularly popular pedestrian area (thanks to the roads around it and the fact it is only a hub for The City. It is still nice however to walk to over Blackfriars Bridge to the tube at night and see St Paul’s in lights. In 10 mintues after I post this the camera on this link will capture me walking across it but I guess nobody will really see me doing that!

Conversation with Skye re sensible dating policy
Skye: This is the phone number of the guy I am seeing tonight so if my body turns up in the Thames you know who to call to ask about it.
Paul: Okay...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Aa-choo

Last night on the tube home. A large man sits down next to another man opposite me on the Circle Line. Not all these seats have arm rests so I think it was an issue of personal space that made the man who was sitting down get up. It was a wise move. Next the large man lets fly some really wet sneezes. He sort of covers his nose but he sort of doesn't. I register my discomfort in my scrawled up face. Other passengers concur. He lets another one rip. Achooooooooooooo. I am just imagining the fine particles of mucus now flying around as we pass between Blackfriars and Temple tube stops. So THIS is how you catch a cold in London.

So much for the bang...

It turns out Londoners aren't so easy going about these late night fireworks. The Guardian reports that the Government is set to introduce 11pm curfews on fireworks and stop children from carrying them in the street. There are too many louts about afterall.

Wildcat postal strikes

It started over some dead rotting maggot-ridden rats in a men's toilet in one of the Royal Mail sorting rooms, but over the course of the past week it became a bit of a problem as wildcat strikes spread throughout Britain. Now we are told there is a three-week backlog of mail.

The Guardian has been useful in showing what people in essential services earn:
Starting wages in London and average hours
* Nurse (40 hour week) £15,455
* Teacher (32.5 hour week) £21,522
* Policeman (Met: 40 hour week) £25,953
* Binman (Westminster: 36 hour week) £23,265
* Fireman (average 48 hours on call) £21,193
* Postman (basic based on a 42 hour week) £13,572

These figures show you will earn more in a bar than you would being a postman... or you will earn more sitting in an office answering phone calls than you will teaching. Despite the use your head - teach campaign, it doesn't pay the pounds to make it worth the while...

At least with Royal Mail it can hardly be seen as an essential service. Its monopoly on written communication has been eroded by technology and business needs. There are private couriers to ensure delivery of essential items and email is replacing snail mail here anyway. In my current job I have never mailed a letter but emailed plenty. What is left for Royal Mail is basically for it to be a social service - a company providing the unemployable with employment. It is just those letters back home that will take a little longer to arrive!

A chill at the Heath...

The avid (and possibly mad) winter swimmers at the ponds of Hampstead Heath have a new threat to their lifestyle. Fearing litigation the Corporation of London is thinking of putting a stop to early morning dips and mid-winter swimming. It is part of the charm of visiting the Heath to see these mad bathers so it would be a pity!

And speaking of chills the weather has become a little warmer over the past few days. It was a quite pleasant 12-15 degrees today. The change in the weather still didn't stop my flatmates from having the central heating at 25 degrees. It is a very London thing to overheat everything so I should take it as part of the experience... But I secretly turned down the thermostat to 20deg as well...

Conversation with Skye on flatsharing
Paul: I wouldn't mind flatsharing if it was with a sensible older person and his pet poodles Chamanthy and Latisha
Skye: Isn't that what you had back in Brisbane but with a different breed of dog?

Monday, November 03, 2003

Bang, crash etc...

Guy Fawkes night isn't so much of a night anymore but it is a season. Especially since November 5 is a Wednesday, and due to the fact that an Indian / Asian festival event also falls around this time, the nights over the past few weeks have been full of bangs and pops. Walking home from my bus stop at Haringey the other night I heard an explosion. As I looked I saw the tell-tale cloud of smoke from yet another banger gone off. Since the UK isn't a nanny-state like Australia all that seems fine and dandy with the punters. People are free to blow whatever they like up... Of course there are also the official bangs and pops on the usual river barges and parks sponsored by insert name of company or local government borough. But the odd banger on the street is much more interesting... even if it is at 3am

Tube glorious tube

One of the nicest things about working where I am (well for the next two weeks now) is the nearest station. Public works here in London aren't like those horrible things they toss together back home. When your stations look like this it does make going to work that more enjoyable. Southwark station did win a design award in 2000 as well.

South Miss Tessmacher

After working on the southbank for three weeks, on November 17 I will move further south to take up a new job... the usual reasons apply (a change is as good as a holiday and (lots) more £££). I start my new job in Peckham which is part of Southwark.

I may also be moving to a studio on Finchley Road. This is sort of south west from Haringey. If this goes to plan it will all happen from this Saturday.


Your just damn irritating neighborhood Spiderman

First it was Batman and Robin on top of the courts. Now it is Spiderman on top of tower bridge. You could be forgiven there is something about that area that just needs to have a local idiot and since David Blaine moved out last month it hasn't been as much of a tourist attraction. The police have closed the bridge however so it is more of an incovenience than an attraction. Spiderman is up there because the courts won't allow access to his three year old daughter. Oh and spiderman is her favorite superhero...

Saturday, November 01, 2003

All I want is a room somewhere...
Well a room
* Within zones 1 and 2
* Wooden floors
* Washing machine
* Own bathroom
* Walking distance with the tube and near night busses
* For around £170 p.w including as many bills as I can get away with fitting in within that tight budget.
* In a decent neighbourhood
These are the things that you come to realise are the priorities of life in London. Well failing that there is always the streets... I can say: Welcome to London I live very central. Its Oxford Circus tube exit six. Bring your own cup.

Addios IDS (as The Sun reported)
It had to happen. The Conservatives have dumped Iain Duncan Smith. It was a necessary business as the only time IDS ever made headlines since I arrived was when his leadership was in question. Michael Howard is poised to take over and will be the first Jewish leader of any major party (well one who hasn't been baptised)...

Uxbridge
Didn't make it to Pinewood Studios last night as we couldn't get a cab to see the BBC TV show taping I had tix for... But made it as far as Uxbridge... which is technically outside of London. It was a long way to go cider and a dodgy Indian meal but at least Skye and I can say we have been to Uxbridge.

Friday, October 31, 2003

A difference of a few days

Since my last update I have done the following:
* See three one-act musicals
* Get offered a new job and accept it
* Look at a place at the fabulous location of Belsize Park.

So a lot has happened. One of the pluses of where the office has moved to is that it is practically just across the river from The Bridewell Theatre. It is fringe theatre but nowadays since what passes for shows on the West End have become so bland fringe theatre seems so darn entertaining. Last night's show was "Notes Across a Small Pond" - the pond being the Atlantic and the notes being 3 short musicals from writers from both sides of it.

Settling down to the first musical called "Blood Drive" it was a pointless but watchable musical about a guy giving blood. The second musical called "The Happiness of Fish" was a perplexing tale about a woman with insomnia who feels better after dreaming about goldfish. At this point there was an intermission. I was beginning to think if this was fresh new musical theatre then we were all in trouble. Neither really made sense and they weren't terribly good. The stories didn't make sense or they tried to be too many things. But after intermission there was the longest musical of the night: "Re:Love". It was a mix of jazz and blues sung a capella and told the story of various relationships between the cast of characters. It wasn't really a musical but more a piece of music theatre. It was great stuff. A pity they didn't have a recording available... But they are sure to one day.

The cast were great (and particularly pleasing on the eye) and they had loads of talent and energy throughout the night. Just as well they included the third piece however as the first two didn't really show off their talents.

This morning after getting my usual coffee (well it has been usual since Tuesday) at Blackfriars Tube and walking across Blackfriars Bridge to work I noticed upon my arrival that a sign had been put up in the office kitchen. It was basically telling people to shut up when they were in the kitchen. Whatever z-grade office designer they hired to fit out the floor, the kitchen was meant to be a "networking hub". It has bar stools and tables for this to happen and brick glass on one side to make it its own space. In reality the effect makes you feel you have stepped into some hideous bar complete with pale wooden floor panels (already marked before we even moved in) and nauseating pastel colours. It also means that it is a very noisy area where even quiet walking echoes and booms throughout the floor. So it didn't take very long for those with desks nearest to the kitchen to get the shits with it and the note was their eloquent way of expressing it.

But the note in the kitchen to me highlighted what a pack of assholes I was working with. They were probably the same assholes who signed off on the shitty office design in the first place. I guess we have all worked with assholes before, but when you are on vacation like I am, you have to limit your exposure to them.

And it highlighted that all this week the new office just hasn't been doing it for me. It has great views, but you have to share it with assholes who have no taste. The area is a sterile part of London as well. The building I work in comprises mostly of white bureaucrats with pink skin and dandruff. I could have been in Brisbane if it wasn't for the smarter coats.

I missed the hobos the mess, the piss and the squalor. It was chaotic but it had character. So it was rather fortuitous that a job agency rang me yesterday about a position in South London. I had the interview today at lunchtime and was offered the job by 3pm. I accepted it as it will get me through winter... and with more pay. It was my third interview here and the feedback was I came across darn good so the ego was well inflated for the rest of the day. I start the new job on November 17...

Tonight it was raining. Real London weather has finally come. But I had agreed to check out a place at Belsize Park on the Northern Line so north I went with umbrella in hand to check it out. The Northern Line was finally re-opened after the derailment of two weekends ago so I didn't have to get a bus to get there and the house was close to the tube. The place wasn't as clean or as beige as where I am now, but it was in a great location full of sensible tapas bars and other good establishments. Not sure if I will get it as they want somebody to move in now and not two weeks from now... But I did put in a darn strong showing as a contender for the top double room with its own bathroom...

After all that excitement of the day, I caught a bus to the O2 Shopping Centre at Finchley Road to meet up with Skye and have Nandos Chicken - a cheap but popular restaurant chain in London where you get grilled chicken. I had resisted eating at this chain for so long because its faux-Spanish motifs that I thought looked silly... But hey it does taste good and not bad value for £10... Maybe image isn't everything...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Teething troubles

Moving into the new office with sweeping views of the City and on the river Thames has come at a price. Apart from being away from colleagues I worked with at Elephant & Castle (as only half the office could move), I have found the following:
* The building is a bit mid-eighties-hotel-chic. Maybe it is because of its height (11 storeys). Or maybe because it was built in the eighties. But whatever the reason it has the look and feel of a hotel with its brass fittings and pale marble floors. The cleaning products used even give it that hotel smell... There is a restaurant on the second floor with a great view of the Thames and a dodgy gym in the basement which also adds to the hotel feel about the place.
* There is no Flavia coffee machine. Ok so the coffee wasn't that great, but there was a roast that was the equivalent of a Robert Timms coffee bag that I used once back home so that was enough to get me going in the morning and it was enough to restart my caffeine addiction. Fortunately at Blackfriars tube station there is a coffee kiosk that makes great coffee. I will be stopping there to get my fix from now on as I walk across to the office.
* The place is still a bit under construction as glass panels need to put in and cables need to be wired properly.
* My workspace is dark. There is a whole section of the office that is dark as there is no light switch. By 4pm yesterday as the sun had set it was really dark. Today it is extra dark as half the building has lost power. An announcement has come over the PA system saying they are looking into it which means they have no idea what has happened.
* The office layout is a bit of a rabbit warren, but we are near a fire escape should today's power blackout mean something nasty...

What's happening in the world?

Haven't been ingesting my usual diet of news from all over London as I start searching The Gumtree over The Times for the latest... in where to live. Still everyone is talking about Son of Squidgy (er our future head of state) meeting up with that Butler. Paul Burrell says everything could have been avoided (I think that means all that stuff he put in his forthcoming book) if somebody had given him a call during his trial last year. Just goes to show that you should never work with (or for) children, animals or members of the aristocracy.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Okay, the last update was a bit angry. You know you're in trouble when you read that you put the words "modernity" and "shit-hole" in the same sentence. Next thing you find out that your housemates are having second thoughts about wanting you to leave... But more on that later in the week...

Concorde

Three Concordes flew past Elephant and Castle on Friday. It was a moment when I wished I had my camera. Not just to capture the planes as they flew past as we had a fabulous view of them from our office, but to capture the madness and the phenomenon they inspired. As each one flew by people stopped what they were doing and ran to the windows. As we could see them circle the entire city we had a great vantage point from every side of the building so people ran to every side. Of course I joined in (not one to miss a phenomenon even in Elephant and Castle).

I was probably a little bit light hearted about it after the great Italian lunch we had nearby. My colleagues and I went for a farewell to the office lunch and ended up staying for a few hours. It was mainly because the service was slow. Fortunately the non-stop eighties music and the antics of the peculiar waiter kept us amused. Since we waited so long there was red wine on the house. Several bottles later we were singing along to the eighties tunes and creating all sorts of merriment.

Paul goes to Essex

Saturday saw me venture to Southend. Its only an hour out of London and by the sea. Okay I've been there now. They have a really long pier that you can walk on and take in the not-so-gentle breezes coming off the North Sea.

Later that night I saw Finding Nemo at a multiplex near West Hampstead. Seeing it with Skye and Alicia and Dan there was a noticeable collective gasp at the sight of a computer-generated Sydney Harbour. It was a semiconscious nod to being homesick.

At the beeb

Today after a sensible lunch at Notting Hill, Skye and I went to a taping of Celebrity Mastermind. Which is just like watching the show on TV, but all the more tedious. We sat behind the contestants who included Home Secretary David Blunkett (which was very exciting as he is probably the most human politician in the UK parliament).

There is another TV show at Pinewood Studios I am going to on Friday, but I think the radio shows are much better. We don't have to wait around for hours to see them or have to wear dark clothing, and they are recorded closer to Central London.

Still waiting in line is a great way to meet the locals. While waiting outside the studios at White City we were able to say:
* The weather is 30deg back home and that is centigrade not Fahrenheit
* The Victor motor mower is very popular back home even though neither Skye nor myself have ever used one...

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Necessary Business

I am a little bit tipsy as I write this update thanks to the UK taxpayer and some farewell drinks as the office moves (I see it as a small rebate for the huge amount of tax the government takes from you here)...

Anyway last night I had the discussion with my housemates that I was avoiding all week. It was the I won't be alone in a few weeks and I need to know if I should be moving out conversation. And yes I will have to move out.

It was a polite sit down conversation over supper... but one that I had to have as I need to give four weeks notice and it is now less than four weeks.

I have mixed views about leaving beautiful Haringey. Well lets face it the neighborhood is a shit hole because it is full of Turks and illegal immigrants who have no concept of modernity. They haven't built a community in this neighbourhood as so much as replicate a middle-eastern slum. On the other hand, Soho is only twenty minutes on the tube...

There are plusses and minuses about moving out. The house - while all beige and proof that a queer eye is no guide to style or taste - is still quite lovely by London standards. And the guys I share with - while full of the popular London self-loathing and anal retentativeness - have been nice in their own way too. I think they will be sad to see me go as well. As lets face it, I am a dream tennant. I'm clean, tidy and good for a few laughs. Assuming you overlook:
* the time I left the coke can and the toaster out on the kitchen bench and went out for the day
* the time I left the good knife in the cutlery drainer to air dry rather than dry with a towel and put away in its proper drawer
* the time I ate yoghurt on the non food couch

So today I started looking for a place for two. There was a bedsit in West Hampstead that looked just right advertised on the gumtree - a popular site for Australians looking for accomodation in London. I rang the lady who was the contact in the ad and said I was enquiring about the place for myself and my partner.
"Is your partner a female partner or a male partner?" she asked.
"My partner is male" I replied.
There was a pause, then:
"I'm sorry, but I cannot let this place to two gentlemen"
"That's quite allright you have a lovely day" I told her and hung up. Hey if she doesn't want two dream tennants that's her loss.

Besides, I still have to check outlet.co.uk and gayshare.co.uk exist. I have a hunch they offer much better places (even if they may suffer from a bit too much beige)...

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

I have seen more radio shows than heard now

Last night I went to a taping of Concrete Cow. It is a mild-mannered sketch show which was funny at times too. Had one of the actors from the odd C4 comedy Peep Show (the actor on the right).

Leaving E&C

Only two more days left at Elephant & Castle before we move to more sophistimicated south bank space. This week there have been lots of explosions going off as the local children play with fireworks (well this is Southwark, and Guy Fawkes night is coming up). Today one of them went off a little too close to the shopping centre creating a small-scale emergency response by police and fire services... possibly because one of the shoppers thought we were under terrorist attack. But it wasn't rabid muslims, only silly Jamaicans. It was over before it began however, but the fireworks have been a fitting final week finale I would have to say...

Incidentally this is one of the views from the the office that I will be giving up...

On the street where I live

Oh and traffic cams are so wonderful... Here is one taken from near the Manor House tube station. It doesn't quite give justice to the litter strewn across the streets but you get the general idea of what the neighbourhood looks like.

Baby Stabbing

Its a story The Sun and every other paper just had to carry today... Shocking murder of a baby yesterday by his illegal immigrant father... It all happened at a Greggs Bakery. They are very popular at lunchtime as you can get a sarnie (sandwich), drink and doughnut for £2.35.

Diana... she was dun in

Readers of the Daily Mirror (if you could call looking at headlines and photos reading) really believe she was murdered. As someone who thinks she was so last century I am much more ambivalent about this. Yesterday we found out that Prince Phillip wrote to her saying why the hell would anyone want that ol' gal Camilla and today we found out her brother thought she should seek help for her mental state. Can't wait to see what tomorrow's papers will tell us about it all.

Greater Manchester Klansmen

Last night BBC1 aired an expose on entrenched racism within the Greater Manchester police. Five officers have quit so far. The police have been waiting to see this doco after the BBC journalist filming it was arrested late August for posing as a police recruit. He managed to film such charming things as officers wearing Ku Klux Klan uniforms and the like. The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester posted a very long-winded apology today on his site...

Tubes tied...

With no Northern Line until at least next week, this morning's commute was interesting when the Victoria Line had a defective train at Oxford Circus (so essentially no trains were going anywhere on that line) and then the station was closed. So my usual Picadilly - Victoria - Bakerloo line interchange and my back up (Picadilly and then changing to the Northern Line) were foiled. Nevertheless I still managed to get to work... Darn!

Monday, October 20, 2003

Things the guidbooks should tell you to take while riding the tube:

* Torch. You never know when the power is going to go out and you are stuck somewhere dark and unpleasant.
* Water. Not just for drinking but washing off all that tube dust when you get stuck in a tunnel and have to walk out.
* Steel capped boots. So the mutant mice dont bite your feet while you are walking in the tunnel back to the station.
* Crash helmet. No trains have derailed today but they seem to be happening every second day of late...
* Padded clothing. You may be secure in your position but Betty next to you might be too engrossed in some tawdry magazine to be holding on to the handrails.

The Northern Line has been out of action in Central London for today while they figure out how to get the train out of Camden Town station... Lets hope it doesn't take them too long to figure that one out...

Squidgy knew she would get squashed is the fun news of the day... The Daily Mirror (not known for delivering news so it runs this as its headline on the day of a tube derailment and Blair's health scare) broke the news as part of ex-butler-and-minder-of-her-things-and-not-a-thief Paul Burrell's tell all book.


Handwriting experts have confirmed she wrote the letter (hell I have seen copies of letters from Diana so I could have said that), but that doesn't confirm whether she was out of her tiny little mind. The conspiracy theories will linger forever, but she was the silly one who didn't wear a seatbelt...

Odd bits
* David Blaine is out and he isn't dead.
* Tony Blair is not dead either. He was having an irregular heartbeat and reports indicate it wasn't over the price of a flat.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Bar Bitches

This weekend I decided not to go on an out-of-town excursion as enough excitement had happened in the week to deserve a jolly good sleep in.

I did go to a funky bar at Balham (gateway to the south some may recall Peter Sellers once saying). It is zone three south London on the Northern Line - aka a bloody long way to go for a bar!

What was I doing in Balham? Well it was for Helen's birthday. Helen grew up with Skye so that's the connection. Anyway I was due to meet Skye early at the place but tube delays meant I was a little late. Well over an hour late. There was a line up to get inside this bar that was probably the most sophistimicated bar in Balham. It was quite funky once you got over the fact that it was located outside a Sainsbury's car park.

So I had to enjoy the October London night air. London in October is quite refreshing.

Twenty minutes later and still standing in line to get into a bar however the novelty begins to wear off and you start to realise that the refreshing night breeze gets a little icy.

Eventually I did get inside. Skye was looking hot to trot with a new hair doo so we started checking out the talent. The bar had several peculiar things about it:
* Lots of large tropical fish in a huge tank set against the wall. The fish were mesmerised when one of the punters held a copy of a copy of a Chanel bag up to the glass.
* It wasn't terribly crowded (which made me wonder about the need to wait outside)
* It was full of fauxmosexuals. This is the new London term for metrosexual males or those who are ambiguously straight.

Highlights of the evening included the following revelations...
* Some guys don’t mind having a girl kick them in the pants to get their attention. But he still told Skye he was gay.
* We made new friends with four guys - blue shirt guy, stripey shirt guy, star trek guy (because his shirt looked like it was something Captain Picard would wear on vacation) and paranoid guy (because he thought we were talking about him when in fact Skye and her friends were checking out the others).
* By midnight it was time to head back north. Sobered up in Soho over blueberry pancakes and bacon at 1am and made friends with a drunk waiter who was about to be fired. At least he got our order right. Neighbouring diners were disappointed we were not from Sydney but relieved we were not a couple (well we were in Old Compton Street).

Things to do
* Catch more nightbusses home. You can make new friends when little people fall asleep on your shoulder.
* Stop applying for tickets to BBC shows. I am swamped with them. Have two radio shows to see early this week and Celebrity Mastermind next Sunday...

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Obsessions...

Recycling is not really a priority in this country. London has seven more years of landfill so that should be plenty of time to come up with a sensible solution. On train rides out of London you can spot the transfer stations by where the flocks of pigeons and seagulls are. Everything is packaged and sealed from sandwiches to cakes to three peppers (that's capsicums to you back home) red yellow and green that you can buy at the supermarket (Actually that is very of them to do that... the traffic light peppers are such a lure I almost bought a packet once even though I only wanted one).

So I figure to hell with recycling. But there are two recycling bins near me however so I try to use them. But there is this strange thing that a colleague has... He insists that the staples get removed. He stressed to me a week after starting work that you must remove the staples from the paper. I had visions of staples flying out wounding helpless paper recyclers or some other horror but he never said why. He just said that's the way it had to be done. So I started removing the staples one by one from all these documents before throwing them into the recycling. Two minutes later I thought what the fuck am I doing and tossed the lot in there. Staples and all. We don't have to remove staples in Austrlia! Several weeks have elapsed and no reports have come in about paper recyclers getting maimed so I think I am in the all clear.


Anglicans praying up the road

Just up the road from where I am during the day at Lambeth Palace, Anglican Leaders are working to keep the church together over the decision of the Episcopal Church in the United States to allow a gay bishop.

In what is really just another garden variety clash of cultures in London, leaders from the most colonised and most unenlightened parts of the world - Africa, Asia and Latin America (where tolerance, understanding, democracy all those values that really are important in Western society don't really exist) propose stripping the Episcopal Church of its status as a province of the Anglican Communi. It will be interesting to see who prays the hardest and whether the Western leaders are willing to sell out our own values (which are reflected in our laws and our way of life) just for the sake of unity.

Things to do
* Start planning trips that I won't be doing just on my own... Bologna in November is first off the mark... Why? Because that's what Ryannair had going as a special!
* Need to be having drinks in smarter locations to spot celebrities.
* Work back less (although I do get paid by the hour)
* Need gloves soon
* Start finding more free wi-fi hotspots... although the one in the heart of Soho is a very smart locale... its just I can't always get there!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Actors of no importance

I wasn't planning on going to see an Oscar Wilde play tonight. Skye made me do it. Well Skye and her friend in town for just a few more days and wanting to catch some shows on the West End. But how could one turn down the chance to see the play "A Woman of No Importance" at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (which is where it premiered 110 years ago)?

The cast was Rupert Graves, Prunella Scales, Samantha "You always were a cunning linguist James" Bond and Joanne Pearce. But the real star was Oscar Wilde. In the end who cares about the actors and their rather young lookng photographs in the programmes that don't quite look like who they are on stage? Actors come and go - and some like Graves and Scales even drop a few lines under the table - but Wildes sharp observations of his time will remain.

Afterwards Skye commented that it was the best show she had seen here and that was because I hadn't picked it. Well if I had it would have been a musical and had the previews to Thoroughly Modern Millie not sold out that is where we would have been. But a play by Wilde was still a real treat.

After all that culture we decided to get some food so naturally we opted for Burger King at Picadilly Circus under the new Coca-Cola electronic billboard. A statement that we did indeed have our priorities right...

My local GP

I registered for a GP last week but I saw a nurse for a health check up, and this week I went back to get some shots. Registering for a GP is one of those awful time-consuming tasks where you have to prove where you and let some receptionist photcopy your passport so you can have the luxury of phoning 3 days before you need a doctor to be able to book an appointment.

Bits

If it looks like chicken and tastes like chicken it may not necessarily be
chicken. It could be chicken filler. Filled with traces of chicken meat
and some other white goo, it sometimes is what passes for a chicken
sandwich. It's probably more appropriate to call it "chicken in a tub" as
that's what it is sold in at Sainsburys.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Sunday shopping

Spent Sunday browsing for coats, gloves and jackets. There is too much choice. Couldn't decide on anything. Explained my dilemma to Skye over Japanese at OSatsuma. We then had coffee in Soho and was up until 1am because of it.

So that's why everyone was at the pub... the telecast of England v Turkey drew the highest ratings ever apparently...


Tonight A play by Oscar Wilde...

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Mahler in the Cathedral

Another Saturday rolls by and I had no idea what to do with it, except to catch up on lost sleep from during the week. So I decided to head to one of the train stations and catch a train somewhere.

The somewhere became Canterbury. It seemed like it was going to take forever to get there, but eventually I arrived, and not finding any maps for £1 at the station, I just walked to where the town centre looked most likely to be... Well the huge cathedral helped guide the way too.

I had just enough time to browse through the Cathedral and hear a bit of the Evensong service and then I noticed that tonight maked the start of the Canterbury festival. The opening night concert was at the cathedral and it was Mahler's 3rd Symphony.

After browsing through the rest of the town I made my way back to the cathedral for the concert. I figured it would be a great way to hear Mahler's 3rd for the first time. I managed to grab a cheap seat at the side which had great sight lines for the conductor and soloist. It was only after sitting down did I realise I was sitting next to the tomb of the first person to represent the Church in Australia. What a nice touch I thought. It then occurred to me I was about to watch a concert with the remains of a dead guy in a box right beside me.

Fortunately the thrilling opening of the horns made me forget about that minor point. The concert was great, but I spent most of the last movement checkng the train timetables on my phone just to make sure it was possible to get back to London (it was).

Leave it

As the temperature drops (especially if one is in Canterbury) and the leaves start to change colour there are a few noticeable things
* Napthalene replaces fragrance on the tube as those big jackets come out of storage
* New timetables come out for trains (darn those leaves on the rails)
* Suddenly you no longer have a natural cover for your window... But neither do your neighbours!

This entry was done via wi-fi so excuse the typos!

Friday, October 10, 2003

Steppin' out...

This morning I nearly stepped in it. Walking the subways to work from E&C tube station, there was a fresh pile of crap. It was everywhere. I assumed it was a not-so little calling card from one of the local hobos. Ah one of the problems of not having public lavatories.

As I was arriving at work earlier than usual the street cleaners had not yet had time to deal with it. I thought it would be an opportune time to talk about my experiences to date with hobos.
* I have avoided engagement with hobos. Its a parasitic profession. Most people would view it as hard enough to earn enough to get by in this city without giving it away.
* Yesterday at London Bridge station one was reading a Tom Clancy novel while holding out an old Starbucks cup.
* If you get out your wallet for someone in the street who asks you for some spare change don't be surprised if they mug you.

If The Sun won't support you and your conservative... who will?? IDS's speech last night was called a flop so the plotting will keep going on... and on... and on... Even The Times ran stories about his speech being "ill advised"...

The football rape case has had its first arrests. The players haven't been named but one player has come out and said it has nothing to do with him... despite the rumours.

Its not really news, but it is free and since I caught an early tube to work today I managed to grab a copy at my station before they were all snapped up. The Metro is a free news tabloid that tube riders love. The news reporting is probably slightly above The Sun standard but you can spend an hour reading it and end up not knowing much. But it is probably better than staring at the other passengers for your entire journey. Mind you that can be fun. Almost as fun as trying to delicately force somebody to give up part of their armrest...

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Things about interviews
* They are a great way to see parts of London you wouldn't think of travelling to (Enfield yesterday, today it was Lewisham)
* They offered me the job from yesterday even though I told them in a roundabout way I was lousy for the job (hey honesty must count, or maybe I was too roundabout)
* I am still happy where I am for now...


BBC Radio 4

After hearing a few weeks ago that you could apply online to get tix to BBC shows - and they were free - I spent an evening applying for anything and everything. My efforts paid off and in the mail I got tix to a recording tonight of The Now Show. It was at the Drill Hall where I had been to see the True or Falsetto show a few weeks back. Not having listened to much radio in the nine weeks I have been here now I had no idea what it was about. So tonight I discovered:
* It is a comedy show based on current affairs / current events similar to the "Good News Week"
* BBC Radio 4 is for slightly-liberal middle-class intelligensia types who like to talk about issues in moderately-priced restaurants. They must be mainly white too (certainly if the audience was anything to go by)
* Political satire is still alive and well in Britain. And some of it was surprisingly good. The best bit was their sketch on WMD in the vein of looking for the pellet with the potion by following the tank tracks for anthrax and so on and so on.
* Only half the jokes went over my head so I must be keeping up with the latest here
* The studio audience was full of "Now Show devotees" who knew all the cues and the set pieces.

Housekeeping...

Darn I forgot to mention...
* Last Thursday I went out to Heathrow to say farewell to Dr T. It marked 8 weeks since I had arrived at Heathrow so I tried to get something out of that.
* Sunday night I stayed in and watched my very first episode of Coronation Street. Why? Well there was this matter of the first ever gay kiss on the show. It was a bit of an anti-climax to say the least. It was more of a stolen peck. And having to sit through 25 minutes of the show to see it just before the credits came up made me wonder about the Coronation Street and Eastender marathons they show on the weekends... How can people sit through 5 episodes back to back???
* This week the Conservatives have met in Blackpool for their annual conference. Their leader Iain Duncan Smith (who the press call IDC in the headlines which is a rather unfortunate TLA as it sounds like some sort of contraceptive to me) told the Tories today that he has delivered. What he has delivered is anyone's guess. The real opposition to Tony Blair's New Labour is the various other groups within Labour. Poor old IDC has a hard time getting his message across while his partyroom is making no secret about dumping him for somebody else. Anybody else!!
* Freakshows abound now David Blaine is starving in a perspex box near Tower Bridge. This week another freak Derren Brown played Russian Roulette on C4. The catch was that the gun was switched and was fake. But debate ensued. Coronation Street was looking good by midweek!

It might be a good idea to get out of Haringey this weekend as England will be playing Turkey in the Euro 2004 qualifying match. With threats for the players safety and everything else that goes with Turkey - and football / soccer - added intrigue came this week when star player Rio Ferdinand was excluded after failing a random drugs test. The rest of the team were going to strike.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Hey Enfield isn't that bad!

This evening I had an interview out at Enfield, which despite the drab website, is a pretty picturesque part of London. It is quite a civilised part of town with just enough urban funk thrown in if you want to still keep gettin' jiggy with it. Such a pity you need to take the overlander and a packed lunch to get there (especially if you are coming from Elephant and Castle) but never mind. Oh and the job is not for me. Too much number nerding...

Something to put on a happy face...

A run of Bye Bye Birdie has been playing at the South West End so last night I caught it. The theatre was upstairs from a pub and was quite low maintenance but as I paid only £5 to see it, I tried not to complain too much (or move) on the wooden bench I had to sit on to see the show.

While my glutes were going numb, I managed to be quite impressed with the calibre of talent. It was a professional production. And they did their best with rather dated material.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Tube adventures

I was late getting to Wagamama's last night. There were this cute elderly couple who got on the tube at Lambeth North and there were no two seats together available. I thought it was a shame to break up such a cute couple all dressed up in their smart coats and scarves (and the rest), so I did the very untube-like thing of getting up and offering my seat. The man kicked up a fuss so I said, "No it is no trouble, I'm getting off the next stop". Well I wasn't planning to, but I could change at Waterloo for the Northern Line to take me to Leicester Square. It was a good way to end the debate before it began. Anyway the woman was happy and the man thought that made sense so they let me stand (as by the time this conversation finished there were no seats at all free).

Well I get off at Waterloo and sombody was under a train somewhere on the line so there were huge delays.

So what is the moral of the story? I have no idea. It just amused me at the time. And it was a smashing excuse for being late for Skye!

Monday, October 06, 2003

We interrupt our regular broadcast...

The events of the past 24 hours have made me wonder if David Blaine isn't the only person in the world interested in self torture. Just letting everyone know I'm all ok...

Off to go to Wagamama for theraputic reasonably-priced Japanese food with Skye tonight in clean minimalist surroundings to put the mind at ease. Hommmmmmmm

Saturday, October 04, 2003

1066 and all that

Hastings was an interesting afternoon adventure. I forgot about all that 1066 business but was reminded about it when I got there. The town itself has seen better days. It seems to be a relic of tourist salad days long gone. Now it seems to be over-populated by post-pubescent teens with a penchant for breeding as there isn't much else to do. It is a bit of a pity given the history of the place.

I took a cable lift up to East Hill and went for a walk around the Hastings reserve. It struck me as very quiet. There were people about but it still was strangely quiet. The park scene with low bushes reminded me of the film Blow Up. I was expecting a flustered Redgrave to run into me while I was photographing badger holes (well that's what I hoped they were) and other things and then to find a body. It didn't happen. Just an active immagination.

Walking through Hastings and then to St Leonards along the seafront was great for some fresh air (and to note the maps that pointed out just how far away the French town of Dieppe was) but it was still a little quiet. It was a little too early for the hibernation period, I just assumed that Hastings and St Leonards (unlike Brighton) were just quiet places.

Worth every bit? Apparently if you sold everything in the UK it would be worth £5 trillion. I wonder if that even counts for the shabby footpaths in Haringey and the endless amounts of rubbish everywhere? Actually there were some stats about that too. Londoners produce enough rubbish to create a Canary Wharf-sized tower every 10 days. I don't think I have lived here long enough to care about this problem. But that's okay. London's recycling authority calls my market segment Urban Trash. I guess that's a bit better than being called "white trash"! Now where is that pizza box??

Tits and Press

My CD walkman was playing up this week after spilling water on it last Friday. So yesterday I grabbed The Sun to read on the tube. It isn't a real paper, but it was tabloid size and I thought that would be easier to manage while riding the tube during peak hour. After boarding at Manor House I opened to page three and there staring at me were the two biggest tits in full colour newsprint I had ever seen. People on the tube love to read over your shoulder if they don't have anything so I was well aware these humungous knockers were on full display to everyone. But then I realised it was okay. I was in England. If there is one thing that the punters love here it is Tits... Well tits and poo-poo jokes... I pulled myself together and just turned to the next page which had a full page photo of a dead dog that somebody weighed down and threw into a river and continued my quality read. The Sun is a little at the extreme end of the press but there you can learn a lot about what the English like to read and think:
* If it isn't pictures of tits it is stories about tits and particularly stories about celebrities who don't wear bras and / or like to show off their tits
* Lots of stories about robberies and burglaries... you could be forgiven that is all that happens in this country (as an aside, I looked up the crime stats for my neighbourhood, and except for a nasty terrorist incident earlier in the year when ricin was found up the road, the stats for all major crimes have been going down)...
* There are only two countries in the world. They are the UK and the US
Of course there are the quality broadsheets but I find they reflect this vibe as well but just supress it a little.

U turn, the Tony's not for turning. In a speech that made everyone think of Maggie Thatcher's U-Turn speech, Tony told the Labour party conference this week that he isn't going to do a U-turn on all the things that the unions and backbenchers are thinking to be very un-labour (such as foundation hospitals, education reforms and the like). All told despite Gordon Brown wanting the top job, he is going to have to wait quite a bit longer.

We are not amused say the Royal Family over the latest Belgian adds for the faster new Eurostar service. The ads are running in Belgium and feature the head of royal look-alikes on athletes bodies. The spokesperson for the Royal Family say they never endorse products, but Royal Warrants are splashed over a variety of products ranging from breakfast cereal to deodourant. From morning to night you could spend your day using products that carried "by appointment of HRH..." should you like that sort of thing... Endorsement by some other name.

Gang rape by footballers in London last week has been the sensational news of the week. Their names of those under investigation have been supressed in the papers, but news should be out in a matter of days as to who they are. A quick search on the net can find who the penters think they are. The rape took place in an inner-London hotel last Saturday night. Everyone was caught on CCTV. It appears that the footballers assumed the girl wouldn't mind after agreeing to sex with one that six others could join in... The test today was to see if TV coverage of today's matches wouldn't pick up crowd taunts of the players in suspicion. Apparently it didn't

Palace of Westminster
Today was the last day the Palace of Westminster was open to the public (until next July) to tour both the house of commons and house of lords, so I just had to go. It was great. It was funny that I was touring here before setting foot in Canberra but dirty London would beat sterile Canberra anyday. Entering the house of commons chamber, newly elected Tories for good luck touch the left foot of the statue of Churchill beside the entrance as they go in. It is also the thing to do for tourists to do as well. So I did. It was not as exciting as I thought it would be. But it was fascinating to be in the room where great debates since the 1950s have occurred. WW2 bombing destroyed the original Victorian Gothic building and the contrast is stark. The building was built on the site of the first Palace of Westminster that was destroyed by fire in the 1830s. The palace shows off everything grand about an empire at the peak of its power. The somewhat dour and basic replacement house of commons shows off a nation bought to its knees from a brutal world war. But hey it still shows up nicely on TV.

Now off to Hastings...

Monday, September 29, 2003

Lets talk about Sangria

I forgot to mention that on Friday I had my first encounter with Sangria. It is a special treat that one of my housemates makes and I had never heard of it. Being a Cadbury drinker at the best of times after three glasses there was much merriment. I contributed to the evening by making my usual pizzas but the educational experience of the night would have to go to Sangria. It was quite a bit of all right. And it must have been all the goodness of the fruit that prevented a hangover the next day.

Brisbane boys are everywhere

Last night Dr T was in town and I caught up with him for a bite to eat and a drink. We naturally went to Soho for eats. After not being smart enough to find the Soho Wagamama we settled for the Soho OSatsuma which is where I went with Yvette a few Friday's before. Sensibe Japanese was consumed on communal tables just around the corner from Old Compton St.

Afterwards Dr T was keen for me to show him the bars. I felt a bit embarrassed like I should have my pink card revoked as I hadn't been to many. Our first stop was the Duke of Wellington. It is nice and casual and relaxed... well maybe a bit too casual and relaxed but it was enough for one drink. It was there Dr T commented that London lads have a strange thing going about them... short hair. It is the dreaded live-in-hard-water-London-you-need-to-have-top-shit-shampoo-or-you-go-short syndrome. I pointed out to Dr T that I had gone short now too. It just wasn't worth the personal humiliation.

After finding not too much to admire in the short-haired lads at the DoW, we went next door to Rupert St. There there were a much smarter assortment of London lads in neat and tidy outfits. There were a few shabby ones as well so I didn't feel so much of a dag having arrived in merely a Ralph Lauren T-shirt and jacket, and my Diesels that I had been wearing all day... But anyway, I picked up the press for Dr T and told him to go study and suss out the sensible venues that might be his cup of tea. I picked up the Pink Papers for myself as well as I figured I could do with a bit more of a brush up on these things as well...

A (girly) hit in the office

I have created a minor sensation in the office thanks to Ryvita. Well, the multi-grain Ryvita and Philly cream cheese to be precise. Every morning at 11am I break out a stash of Ryvita's and offer them around. They are quite a hit with the female colleagues I work with. I have been informed however by my flatmates this is not a very butch thing to do. Ryvitas are a bit of a girly eat treat and seen as something women desperate to diet munch on... Well dammit, they taste good to me! I have my appetite back since I am sitting at a desk all day so I thought it was a sensible snack!

In the news
* Honour killings. They are a bit sensationalist but it does sum up the extremities of the culture clashes that exist here...
* Labour Party Conference week in Brighton. It is exciting times for the Guardian newspaper. You can sign up for SMS updates from the conference so being such a techy junky... I have!

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Evensong at Kings College

Well it was Saturday afternoon, I didn't fancy going to the latest anti-war demonstration in Hyde Park (given the demographics of my area it was a popular option), so I hopped on a train to Cambridge and caught the evensong service at Kings College at 5.30. It was good way to see the Chapel and the choir.

Afterwards I took a leisurely walk around Cambridge and wandered through various bookshops. I stopped by the Town and Gown pub - a gay friendly pub (according to Spartacus) - but it didn't look that friendly so I just moved on for coffee at the local Cafe Nero. Of all the chains of coffee houses here, I think I like this one the best. Their coffee isn't too bad and I can usually find a free wi-fi hotspot for my pocket pc nearby so that does me. Anyway I got home by 10pm and managed to catch Blow Out on BBC1 before falling asleep!

Regression

While I have been here, every now and then I find myself doing something that I haven't done in years. Yesterday it was Refreshers. They are like fruit tingles as they are fizzy. But I haven't had them in years. I used to have a stash of them at home and would consume them in mass quantities. I inhaled the packet I bought yesterday in Cambridge in 20 minutes. Small things that are fizzy can be so enjoyable. I haven't yet found the perfect extra strong mint to replace the ones I used to eat back home but I am working on that...

Various pieces from around the traps...
A great new feature of the latest google toolbar is that you can automatically blog things to your site... Alas it didn't put them in this blog so I have moved them to here now!

Well somebody had to do it...
Southwark council apologises for David Blaine. They didn't expect the crowds or the taunts or the litter apparently...

Politics tonight
The lib-dems have just concluded their conference in Brighton with a declaration that they are the only credible alternative to Labour. I suspect Brits are not going to care for a dull bloated and ineffectual Charles Kennedy no matter how many verbs he drops from his speeches! Such a pity there is no credible opposition here as the government continues to get attacked for using the late political weapons analyst David Kelly for political purposes...

Tastes funny
A performance artist is to sit in a bath full of baked beans for 100 hours to promote traditional
British cuisine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A place where elephants go to die

A recent poll taken claimed Elephant and Castle shopping centre to be the second ugliest building in London! The ugliest? The Barbican!

Of course with E&C to be redeveloped and the shopping centre to be demolished there is hope for this neighbourhood (pity about the Barbican)!
Some goings on about town worth writing home about (or not)!

La

At £20 ($A50) for a CD album I have decided that if I want to purchase music I will be doing it from amazon.com. But I couldn't resist at HMV on Oxford St the newly remastered and expanded Original Broadway Cast recording of "Nine" for £10. Besides, I need more new music to listen to on the 40-50 minutes it takes in the bus and tube to get from door to door. Not that one needs an excuse to listen to show tunes (although some may disagree), but they are mentally stimulating enough to listen to while in transit!

Super

(Supermarket Chain) Tescos are apparently hiring more staff for the Christmas season ... But what about now? It takes about 15 minutes to buy lunch.

Slower

The much anticipated postal strike looks set to happen in London. But will anyone notice the difference? Royal Mail appears to be a place that employs the unemployable, which is all fine and good for noble social reasons, but if you have to wait half an hour to buy stamps for postcards, you can appreciate why email is the way to go.

Rain on Blaine

Despite the rain, the David Blaine stunt has still been attracting the usual spoilers. Most recently a group of hoping to give david a burst of anarchic meditation.

Chatrooms no more

Microsoft has shut down all its chatrooms in the UK, not because they were crap, but because they were worried about adults preying on youngsters .

It comes after the hysteria surrounding a recent report suggesting one in five children aged nine to 16 regularly use chatrooms, of those more than half have engaged in sex chat, and a quarter have received requests to meet face-to-face and one in 10 had met face-to-face, but only two fifths of one in forty swallowed. (Sorry that last part was not part of the Cyberspace Research Centre report, July 2003)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Chill...

Hmm the weather has dropped a little in temperature for the first time in nearly seven weeks that I have been here!

Meanwhile... the papers are fascinated with Alistair Campbell's full and frank account of spin in Downing St. Such a pity the inquiry forced him to reveal it... would have made smashing reading in a book years later when no harm could have been done!

Celebrities...

On Saturday night Skye pointed out the black female cop from the Bill walking towards us in Covent Garden. She tells me it doesn't count as a celebrity spotting for me since I didn't know who the hell she was. I have on the other hand walked past Lady Archer in a corridor. I don't think bores count as celebrities. And I forgot to ask her about her husband's prison term...

Monday, September 22, 2003

Not Sondheim but important... Bea Arthur at the Savoy

I had been warned off this show by people who had seen it saying that it was contrived and she came across better on the album of the show. But there were two things that struck me about this.

First was that these days contrived is all that is on the West End. The most enjoyable things I have seen have been Fringe performances.
The second point was this since today was my birthday I wanted to celebrate I with something a touch sophistimicated... Especially since my favourite frivol Ute Lemper was about to play in Brisbane while I wasn't there!

Bea Arthur's show was a real treat. It was a bit of a running joke between Skye and I as we started to see the posters go up around town for her show that it was one show that I wasn't going to drag her to. This week she decided to surprise me and book tickets to it for tonight, but that didn't quite go to plan. Instead I offered to get them Saturday morning from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square... Very smart and sensible move as not only were they half price, they were fifth row centre.

The downside to being so close was that you got to see how old she really looked. After my initial recoil of horror (and it was horror, she looked like hell) that she resembled only vaguely the airbrushed-vaseline-coated images in her publicity, we got into the show.

Ah but there is another thing before I should proceed. Skye had a moment of horror when we walked into the fabulous foyer of the Savoy. No it wasn't the Art Decco pannelling that got her, it was the fact she felt she was the only woman. It turns out Bea has two audience types: Elderly couples and queeny gay men. It was like walking into a bar with all these beady queeny eyes in Versace prints fixed on you.

Still we both managed to nervously laugh at the scene and make our way to our fabulous seats.

Anyway as the show progressed it was like being in Bea's lounge room. She sang she talked, she wore no shoes. It was all tightly scripted and contrived and never once was sincere. Except perhaps when she talked about Tony Curtis returning to their acting school whispering loudly to them (while they were in class), "I just fucked my first movie star." There was a pause. "Oh we were just so thrilled for him" was her dry reply.

I guess nowadays we expect our one women shows to be more soul-searching and heart aching. Bea didn't go there (except for hinting about divorce and lost loves and liberal causes). But as the show progressed I was kinda glad she didn't. From the snippets of her life she gave and the quips that accompanied them, I got the impression she could be a real nasty piece of work. Great entertainer, but one sure-fire bitch... I was happy for her to keep it bright and breezy and to supress her personality. And hey, that should be enough.

At the urinals during interval, an American guy quipped "hey I could get up on stage and tell anecdotes". He could probably sing in a gravelly voice too... But it was the way it was delivered, the skill and craftmanship of an old pro that made it a night.

One particular ditty Bea sang she interrupted during the laughs, "its not Sondheim but its important". It summed up the show for me.

That turned out to be my weekend birthday. The rest was spent looking after a sore head... Ah well... dems de brakes!

Friday, September 19, 2003

Work work work...
Not a great deal to report. Apart from work. I did discover the joys of large music stores on my way home last night. There was too much choice with the cds on offer so confused I gave up. Besides, pay from last week came through TODAY!

Blainia
* David Blaine in a box is now a set piece for other news. Paul McCartney went to the press today saying he didn't fire his publicist for tipping off the press that he was visiting the man in the box. Punches flew and chairs were smashed in two apparently.
* Oh and in true British style you can bet on him failing!

Other news today
* Labour loses a seat in a by-election to the Lib-Dems, underscoring the sentiment that the punters now want anyone but Blair leading him. It took a 29% swing to do it, but Brent East now has the youngest sitting member in the House of Commons.
* Cherie Blair's soothsayer / lifestyle guru Carole Caplin is still in the news but not for nice reasons. Reviews on her new column offering lifestyle advice in a newspaper have been mixed. Still lifestyle coaching is so in vogue here. A new series of a TV show called What Not to Wear is starting up again. There are already two books written from the series.
* The foul fowl sellers get jail for selling dodgy chicken to hospitals, schools, supermarkets and the rest. Sometimes the black market here doesn't always triumph!

Train late but at least you know!
* People don't seem to mind that the tube system is crowded and old and got problems. As long as they know WHY there are problems that seems to keep them at bay. The Underground website has a news service that informs you of where the problems are on the line and why. Since according to the website the Picadilly service was playing up this evening I decided to stay back and update the blog...
* Incidentally I had my first jam-packed tube ride yesterday as well. Well after six weeks it was bound to happen. I arrived at work for a nine am start which meant I was right into peak hour. This meant some girls tits were against my right arm, some guys crotch was pressed against me from behind, someone's armpit was in my face and some shorty was dandruffing on my tie. Mental note to get to work early in future or otherwise bring lubricant...

Thursday, September 18, 2003

So dip me in chocolate, and throw me to the lesbians

Last night Skye and I decided to see Jerry Springer: The Opera at The National Theatre. It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing when I got into work yesterday morning when I decided to browse their website and I saw that two second row seats were available for the evening performance. I thought why the hell not?

If there is a show in town with buzz at the moment (that doesn't involve a man in a perspex box) then this is it. It has had raves from all the major papers, and from various celebrities. The tube is full of poster ads for its upcoming transfer to the West End. So one just had to see it eventually.

Buzz and hype aside, it really is still a show in development. With rousing operetic choruses set to libretto such as "what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fucking fuck" and "chick with a dick" and "dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians" it is quite a night. You do walk out of the theatre with a few of these ditties in your head.

It isn't all opera either and some of the better songs borrow from a variety of musical pastiches. All of Jerry's audience types are there... the hobos, the hillbilly's, the tough guys, the fats, the fems, the drug addicts. Having them express themselves through opera and other musical forms is quite an inspired idea. My only quibble was that as satire of this day and age set to music, the songs from South Park the movie were better. Still this is live theatre and for a show ten years in development I suppose the times have moved around it while it was in development hell.

The first act is pretty much his show on an Operatic scale. At the end of the first act, when Klansmen do their tap dancing routine and a black man with a diaper fettish grabs a gun to shoot them, Jerry gets shot. In the second act, Jerry goes to hell, and things start to get a little weird for him. But it doesn't matter. Jerry says he is just offering up a mirror to the world and so all is okay.

After the big all-singing all-dancing finale, the plot really didn't matter that much. They were handing out buttons to take at the exits. Skye didn't want to partake in it, but me thinking "Ah theatre memorabillia!" grabbed as many as I could. They all say "chick with a dick". Skye declined my offer to give her one. Smut has never been so classy as everyone left the Royal National Theatre on a high (and not the "crack whore junky" kind of high)

In the news or not
* If one thing pisses people off in London, it is Council tax. Blairs admission that it has risen 70% since he took office is yet another thing for middle class voters here to hate Tony for.
* Lord no more as Jeffrey Archer is to loose his peerage
* David Blaine seems to have escaped the past 24 hours without somebody trying to hurt or kill him. Never mind... there are still three weeks to go.

Sensible touristing
If there is one thing that helps in this city, it is to have the latest copy of Time Out. When visiting London it is all you need (well maybe that and a London A-Z so you can find the places). Whether you want to go to a nightclub, an opera, a movie or watch tv it is all there. It comes out every Wednesday and for £2.20 is pretty handy (not to mention the discounts that come with it).

Other touristing...
The Times on the weekend talked about the trend to do counter tourism and other crazy things rather than take the same ol dull shots of Big Ben etc... I thought I tried to do that with my photos but now am armed with even more tips...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Coffee 2

Found out the name of the coffee machine at work. It is called a Flavia. The testimonials are a bit of a worry. Arthur Andersen said "The stylish, compact design of FLAVIA� is perfect for our offices where space is at a premium." I would have to beg to differ. Mind you it can be a hazzard with all this free coffee on hand... Can make you a bit... Anxious.


Mocks and Spocks

They may sell shitty clothes (think downmarket Target), but the Marks and Spencer take-home meals are so attractively packaged and nutritional they are hard to resist. Take home meals are popular here. I think because after working 10 hours nobody can give a shit about cooking!

I wish I said that
Overheard in the subway at Elephant Castle from a woman to a street beggar after he asked her for change:
"You shut your fucking mouth!"
Street begging is a profession with its perils sometimes the wrath of a woman who has had it with em!

Monday, September 15, 2003

Wake up and smell the coffee
Aside from the aromatic smell of piss as I meander through the subways from the Elephant & Castle tube to my place of work (you can see why there are underground walkways when you click this link), upon arriving I am greeted with other interesting aromas. The fire stairs have that smell of old fat from a greasetrap. A colleague said it reminded her of her grandmas house as in between chain smoking she used to always be frying something up. It is probably the same unmistakable lard and smoke combo that one is experiencing here. The other interesting aroma is from the coffee machine.

Where I am currently working has a tea and coffee machine that works on packets. You stick these packets in a draw and place a cup on a tray and gurgle gurgle gurgle later you have a cup of something. The tea tastes like tea and the coffee tastes like coffee, but the more interesting setting is the 2 packet process of making a "cappuccino". You place a packet called "frothy milk topping" into the machine first, and then you place a packet of coffee in there. The end result is nothing like a cappuccino and the taste is a little odd. It has led my colleagues to label it the "monkey spunk coffee". There is something milky-ish and creamy about it, but you just can't put your finger on it.

National Film Theatre
But anyway, I digress. Since tonight the Bakerloo tube wasn't working properly (which is the one I take to get to and from Elephant & Castle) I decided to hop off at Waterloo station (two stops north) and go to the National Film Theatre at Southbank to see Madame Sata. The whole National Theatre complex with its design and layout made me feel so much better about the concrete bunkers that pass for the cultural centre back home, but I guess this design was from another time and place. At least it was easier to navigate than the Barbican. Anyway I settled down to watch a film that almost held my attention. Naturally the musical scenes were better than the rest.

Around 8pm the film finished and it was still light. It was also unusually warm. So I decided to walk it back to The Strand via the New Hungerford Bridge. The view on that link is exactly what I saw (only a little bit darker). Very sensible and very ambient. Well I figure there are not that many more warm days left here so I should make the most of them!

Ongoing to do list
* Find a doctor and work out what National Insurance is
* Spot a celebrity (that isn't attached to David Blaine or who hasn't sold their story to The Sun)
* Try to work out what I am supposed to be doing at work while still appearing intelligent
* Eat more Turkish food (since it is so handy)
* Try and get tix to Bea Arthur
* Make note of the weekend when England play Turkey in football and get the hell out of Haringey
* Stay home on the night when the next season of Jamie's Kitchen starts

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Saturday night
After wandering throughout the city I decided to skip the Last night of the Proms or its cheaper counter-part Proms in the Park (in Hyde Park) for something a little more obscure.
I went and saw True or Falsetto - A Secret History of the Castrati. It is an encore season of Ernesto Tomasini's one-man show that first did the rounds last year. It is a whirlwind tour of musical history and quite entertaining as he moves from sacred music to opera and then to the music hall. Tomasini has a four octave range so he is quite up to the job.

The venue was intimate and warm at the Drill Hall. The Drill Hall is across the road from the Eisenhower Centre, the deep bomb shelter used by Eisenhower towards the end of WW2 so seeing that non-descript building was a bit of unintentional touristing as well. It was a bit like being a concrete bunker in the venue without much air and with hot stage lights. Tomasini was sweating like a pig towards the end of his performance. The small but sold out audience of 50 or so people were quite sympathetic to his plight. At the end we applauded very loudly...

After the show I made my way to Soho for a sensible drink and to watch the punters go by before catching a bus home. It was my first bus I successfully caught and enabled me to get better bearings as to where the hell I lived. It turns out that I am not that far north of the city as the crow flies. As the bus drives, well that is a different matter. But anyway it was early so it wasn't crowded. By the time I reached home I was entertained by a bad Pink Panther Film on TV.

David Mania
The biggest tourist destination at the moment is the David Blaine in a box spectacle near Tower Bridge. I didn't get to it yesterday as I confused the location with London Bridge so today I went back to London Bridge and walked the extra 500metres to Tower Bridge so I could see it.

Top things overheard as the thousands of people watched Blaine:
* I wonder how he pees?
* Eh si non comprende la toilet?
* Howdoeseegopee?
* Zzzha zha zha zha pee?
and then there was
* Ay Davidgiveusawave?
* Wave!
* Zzzzha zhaaa zha wave

I particularly like the bedsheets posted scrawled with writing on the temporary fencing around his box (which has expanded in the past few days so security can keep an eye on you as pelting eggs and other missiles at his perspex box is becoming a new London fad to do). My favourite:
YOUR MY HERO IM YOUR NUMBER 1 FAN

I thought it highlighted perfectly the literacy levels of London. No wonder the Home Office wants to give new migrants a basic test in English. In many ways it is too late. What is spoken in London now is some hybrid-English.

There also was some stick figure with tits and hair at the site that I assumed was his model girlfriend. Perhaps this stunt of 40days without food is to slim down to her size.

The Sun
Yesterday while on the tube I managed to grab a copy of The Sun. I had no idea what was really going on in this city! I particularly liked the Hook Benefits Scandal story. If this paper loves freaks, then they have got a goldmine in the muslim preacher of doom and hate who has gone underground. The paper is offering £1000 for information leading to his wearabouts... Hmm what would they do with him...?

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The week that was...
Today I enjoyed sleeping in. It was well worth it after working up to 10 hours a day in an office that was a little bit precious. Politics and office politics combined this week to set the grounds for an office turf war that may not be worth hanging about to see result for. Working for an office where arselicking of incompetent ministers and their flunkies is de rigeur... I could do that back home!

It doesn't matter. I took a call from a job placement agency who have a few things they want to put my name forward for so I will be following those up next week.

In a box near Whitehall
As it was announced this week that Tony Blair overrode his own security intelligence advice in going to war against Iraq, the whole boring affair was being overshaddowed by American pseudo-magician David Blaine being suspended in a box nearby. While many Londoner's are asking "why the hell doesn't he do his annoying stunts in his own country?", the punters are flocking to see him anyway. It really is just another variation on people watching. I intend to go later today!

£15,000 to have their baby
More bizarre news this week was the Asian couple who set up an internet site offering £15,000 for a woman to be a surrogate mother. In the UK, there is no distinction between Asia and the Indian sub-continent like there is in Australia so that is why they are Asian (which can get very confusing here) but I digress...

Watching this news item this week with my flatmates we were fascinated at how this two ever got together. He was a bit of a looker and said nothing and she wouldn't shut up and looked like hell. We concluded that conception was doomed to fail as either he was gay or that she was just psycho woman.

Friday night drinks
Friday night I caught up with Yvette and we went to a sensible English pub called The Cock just because for some reason we liked it. It must have been the large sign outside with the big bantam on it. Anyway inside it was pretty average. We were both in the mood for a chardonnay but the woman behind the bar told us in her thick accent from some Eurotrash country that only dry white wine was available. Riiiiiiiight I told her and just let her get away with that response.

After having our dry white wine (that wasn't a chardonnay) on the footpath, feeling a little peckish we went to Soho and had japanese at one of the great communal eating places in london. There are several places around the sensible traps of town where you can get a cheap eat (for under £10) and sit at communal tables and get a good feed, and this place was one of them. I went to a similar one that served Belgian food a few weeks back as well. The communal eating is novel and a great way to hear everyone's conversations.

Yvette and I agreed on a few things as well and have drawn up a tip sheet on being in London.
* Don't let anyone get away with lumping you with New Zealanders and South Africans. They are from quasi third world countries compared to Australia. We have nothing in common with them. Even their chocolate bars are different. And reject the Antipodeans label!
* While one has to annunciate words to be understood, at all other times one should be lazy with our vowels because most people here can't write good or talk proper anyway.
* Avoid long-term Australians with their rounded vowels. They try to be sophistimicated and put you down in London but they were more than likely to be the ones back in Australia who didn't use tweezers and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.