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Showing posts from August, 2003
Please Hello...
After being in London for less than a month, one of the striking things is how uncultured the mass of the city is. Starbucks is on every corner serving bland coffee and styrofoam food. Deep pan pizza buffets are on every other corner serving stuff that wouldn't rate at a Sizzler restaurant back home. Fosters is a popular drink here and they have a special tap to generate an "artificial head" on the beer so it lasts while you finish it off. Ben Elton has a hit show with his stringing together of Queen songs into what is purported to be a musical, and he is about to do the same to Rod Stewart songs with the show Tonight's the night. Fortunately amongst all the trash in London, there are quite a few bright spots. One being the Donmar Warehouse.

On Friday I saw their latest production, Pacific Overtures (a co-production with the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre) and it was a knockout. A small all-male cast, a theatre in the round, and Sondheim was all t…
As luck would have it...
I read in today's papers that I was a few minutes away from being stranded underground on my tube ride to Hampstead Heath. Darn missing out on that adventure... The best commentary was a cartoon in tonight's Evening Standard where the station billboards stating when the next trains arriving were instead displaying "Next passenger... Joe Blogs 2 minutes, Mary Rose 3 minutes" and you could see these dirty people trundling out of a tunnel.

Spin to the end...
In a city desperate for news Alastair Campbell's resignation has filled the gap for now. Tony Blairs right hand man of spin was going to go anyway so it was not really a surprise... but the media to make a story started writing about why he went today instead of tomorrow for instance. The PR was that he wanted to spend "more time with his family". Such are the times we live in when such a noble cause is trotted out as an excuse when one's job situation is untenable. Yo…
Dark and Damp
After staring at government files all day trying to put them in order I decided that despite the light drizzle, I would go for a walk around Hampstead Heath again. It was nice to walk in open spaces and a light rain (the first rain that has occurred since I have been here). Little did I know that the Underground was shutting down as I walked around taking in the open space. Well New York had its outage, it was time for London I guess to follow suit...

While it is possible to walk home from Hampstead Heath, by the time I wanted to the light rain became a little less light than I was hoping for. Still I had some sense of direction so I just headed in that way. I could have pulled out my London A-Z but I thought I would keep walking for a bit and not try and stuggle in the rain with silly things like where I was heading.

About 20 minutes later I realised that I had walked to South Hampstead when I really needed to go west. Fortunately I spotted a tube station on my l…
Safe at work and play...

Working at Whitehall isn't all that bad... once you get used to the security procedures. It reminded me that yesterday after I strolled from Hyde Park back in the city and stumbled onto Grosvenor Square where the American Embassy was behind two layers of temporary fencing and a concrete barricade on the street. It would have made for a wonderful photo but I didn't know whether the guards with automatic weapons would have understood I was merely a tourist. Well I was struggling to work out where I was with a map but I wasn't so sure.

The other thing I have been travelling around with is my Diesel side bag. It is quite useful for storing an A-Z map of London book, a cd player and my pocket computer or camera. Of course when it is stocked full of these goodies it has caused some guards to be slightly alarmed at what I was carring to make it looked so packed. How could I explain it was just a few maps and Ute Lemper? I plan to get a more sensible …
A holiday comes to an end...

Just when I was enjoying myself at the Science Museum and wandering through Hyde Park I am back at work again for the rest of the week. In the meantime I have posted the photos from my first three weeks. Select the link "Paul is in London" and you will get there.
Bank Holiday Weekend

Regarded as the last gasp of the summer holidays, people use it as an excuse to get the hell out of town. By Friday night convoys of caravans and cars were clogging up all routes out of London. I didn't think it would be the best of weekends to go touristing so I decided to take in the city with Skye. This weekend huge sections of the National Rail were going to be closed for repairs but you could still be creative

After Hamstead Heath on Saturday, on Sunday I went back to the Theatre Museum for a jazz concert with Rosemary George. Well it was jazz versions of broadway music so it was very sensible. Legendary reed player JD Parran was also there to accompany her and did a solo version of "My Favourite Things". It was a pity such a jazzy show was in such a stately room full of pensioners (and me) but you get that. The show went late after ending with the song Ain't misbehavin' (which I thought was very sensibly appropriate for me) which…
My first working week...

My first working week ended with a whimper with the headache thing... But I had Friday off to do more of the job search thing. That bought about some more promising leads so I am optimistic there. But if all else fails... temping... while it doesn't pay so well... can cover the bills for the time being...

After meeting some ex colleagues at the airport I caught my first London cab.

As a bit of an aside, cabs like many things in London are such a scam here. While they are obliged to pick up people and take them where they want to go, when it is late at night the situation is different. Cabs will often not pick people up to take them home if they live on the opposite side of town to where they want to go. This has led to a proliferation of mini-cabs - both licensed and unlicensed - to fill the gap. It is an unfortunate problem that the unlicensed mini-cab drivers have been known to rape women trying to get home. But in a typical London response nobod…
Not last night I had a headache...

I was going to update the blog last night after finishing my temp job for the week but Dame Fortune had other ideas. She gave me a headache so after taking two Mersyndol I was off in another calm and tranquil world... This calm and tranquil world was still in West Hampstead on a comfy couch but I was still in another world. But I digress...

Theatre review
* The Madness of George Dubbya was great. It was a mild satire at first, but by the second act it started to get really on the money. One of the highlights was the voiceover at the beginning: "This is a reminder that if you have a pager, cellphone or other device to please switch it ON during tonights performance. That way in the event of a terrorist attack on this theatre you will be able to send final messages to loved ones." It was interesting times to be watching a show that had Jasmina the cleaner as a Hammas suicide bomber cleaning a US Air Force Base in Britain. Tony Blair cop…
Who gives a shit about Lara?

Tonight as I made my way through Leicester Square I found that I couldn't make my way through the square. There were barricades around a theatre. A movie theatre of course. Punters were out everywhere waiting for the premiere UK screening of the latest Lara Croft flick. The director was on the morning show this morning so the usual smoozing and PR is to take place. Alas cinema being at the forefront of our culture I guess this is what one has to put up with. You could say the square is a haven for shit flicks actually as apart from the Lara franchise at one of the theatres, there is the Terminator franchise at the theatre opposite and the Legally Blonde franchise at a theatre nearby. I sighed as I made my way to the TKTS booth to buy a ticket for the show The madness of George Dubbya... A retake on Dr Strangelove apparently...

Things I keep forgetting... is it jetlag?
* I got a haircut on Friday. I no longer have tourist hair. But the weather su…
Streetlife and XXXX

Things to do on a Saturday when you have time:

*Visit the Royal Park at Greenwich and see your first squirrel. I had no idea that there were deer there however. There were thousands of people at the park but you would not have known it. One also took in the views from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. On a clear day you really can see forever. Well at least past St Paul's Cathedral.

* Spend time around and about Canary Wharf. Apart from the lovely tube stations in this part of the woods there were plenty of sensimible shops to have a wander and a browse through. Resisted the temptation to purchase anything for now but made a mental note to return.

* Have a drink at The Gloucester at Greenwich... just because it was in the film Beautiful Thing. Also managed to pick up a copy of the Pink Pages which details sensible accomodation and jobs to look for...

Other things to do on a Saturday:

* Go with (straight) friends to Club Aquarium. Apart from the standar…
Shopping and... shopping...

After yesterday's adventurous visit to the London Transport Museum, I decided to cook pizza's last night. This mean a trip to the supermarket. Usually this wouldn't rate a mention but at Sainsburys things just looked a little brighter and more colourful than usual. It was an exciting adventure running up and down aisles trying to find Tomato Paste when it was called Tomato Puree, but what normally would have been a stressful endeavour was made all the more pleasant under the soft lighting and light pastels of the supermarket store.

The tranquility of my supermarket experience was just the tonic for having to take a diversionary route on the Tube after a security alert closed half of the stations in central London.

Off to a straight nightclub tonight for a 70s car wash party... Hmmm!
The rain in spain stays mainly on the pla-in...

It had to happen. Last night I saw my first West End musical to mark a week in London. It was the thouroughly Londern musical My Fair Lady. Henry Higgins was played by Anthony Andrews which gave me some amusement since ten or so years back I had seen him again and again and again in the TV movie The Scarlett Pimpernel. As my favourite sister was a bit of a fan I sort of became a fan by default.

The show last night was sensational. I had only ever seen that dreadful still-born movie of it starring the lip-syncing Audrey Hepburn and directed by the near death George Cukor. He was good in his day but his day was thirty years before and I found the movie was as slow and decrepit as he probably was. The songs I could have danced all night and On the street where you live just simply stopped the show. There was spectacle and excitement in this production and it never dragged.

It is quite a unique show. And of course it was fun to …
On the buses

If you are going to familiarise yourself with a big city, a cheesy bus tour is definitely the way to go. Today I spent most of the day riding an open air double decker bus around the traps of London. It was called The Original Tour. Most sensible way to go about, although the commentary was a bit spotty I got a better sense of where I was including:

* Yesterday at Covent Garden I was a block away from the Strand
* Trafalgar square isn't that far away and Lord Nelson looked quite impressive way up there
* The British Museum had not lost any of its charm (but then again today was a smoggy day rather than a foggy day in London Town
* Margaret Thatcher has a police man outside her door still. Maybe it is to remind her nowadays where she lives since the press here love running "Maggies gone dotty stories". Like this one...

The tour included a complimentary £5 fish and chip meal at the Sherlock Holmes pub and that was edible. Alas it wasn't served with peas
Back in London...

Found a link to Kingsgate Castle. The road is a bit better now than it was then and the beach has a lot more litter on it nowadays but you should get the general idea. That's what I spent a lot of time on the weekend looking at when I was down at the beach.

Trying to master the local dialogue... Offie, the minicabs the underground or the tube (not the subway or the train)... Its all good as they say... I felt better yesterday when I saw the cover of this week's Economist magazine. The article was titled The world comes to London. Amen to that!

Things to do today.

1. Try not to stare at people with flabby bodies and man boobs even though it is hard not to! Yesterday a man took off his shirt in the Victoria Station mall and continued eating. I was eating too and the sight of his pasty white skin and inverted nipples was a bit off putting. Really. Maybe Australians are way too modest and too high maintenance. I would have to Veet and Clip before feel…
Its hot up here...

Well today I lived a little bit of London history. It was the hottest day on record. I was out of town for most of the pleasure but I did manage to sweat it out on an un-airconditioned connex train on the way back from Broadstairs. Only the hot dusty breeze coming through some of the windows could make it somewhat more of a cooler experience. It took two hours the train ride but for me it was all new and exciting I just kept watching the scenery whiz by on the train.

As for the rest of the time this weekend. I managed to travel to this castle for my first weekend. I think I can be forgiven for again forgetting where it was, but it was near Viking Beach which was voted the best beach in the EU... Well it was very pretty and very English but it still was more amusing this weekend seeing all those pink brits roasting themselves. When I could get away with it (and even sometimes when I couldn't) I just had to take a few happy snaps of the whole experience..…
Well there are worse things than sweating at the airport at Narita...

After an emotionally driaining flight to Narita where only the calmative properties of Maxolon could soothe the savage headache and everything else that I had, I was looking forward to the hotel stay at Narita to at least get a shower. A pity that the transfer bus was a little late and so we all had to wait outside in the heat and the smog for the next bus. As beads of sweat dripped from me everywhere I thought I was about to pass out. Only the Sondheim song "It's hot in here" kept me amused and conscious.

By the time I got to the hotel I was too exhausted to contemplate a trip to Tokyo. Maybe next time when it wasn't so bloody hot I thought. Fortunately the Japanese excel themselves with the wide range of isotonic drinks they have available. I spent the next 20 hours savouring them in mass quantities.

The next leg to London was bloody long but amusing enough. Although everywhere I went there…