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.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Workin' Hard for the Money... So hard for the money...

I am now working in Elephant and Castle. And I commute from Haringey. People have commented that I just can't help but chose the choicest parts of town.

I must say there is something about Elephant and Castle that is familiar. The building I work sits on top of a shopping centre, and the centre reminds me of the Valley Centre Plaza back home. I don't know whether it is the smell of piss and last night's hobos that does it, or the stream of cheap bargain stories that abound here, or the fact it is surrounded by major roads to other parts of London. Elephant and Castle may be the arse end of London, but there is something quite likable about it. I am not the only one to think so. A new TV series on BBC one called The Crouches , which is set in this area. The show is badly written and just gross in parts but what sets it as "cutting edge" is that it contains an all black cast set in the local area. The Elephant and Castle shopping centre and its markets feature in the show.

How I came to work here is an interesting tale. But even more interesting was the abuse I received from a disgruntled job agency person on Monday when she realised I wasn't going to go for an interview that day. It was for a council that was as respected as Maroochy Shire is back home so I figured taking the position would make me unemployable.

But anyway, I am working 8-9 hours a day which means that it is keeping me busy for now!

Farewell Leni
On Tuesday night watching the 10pm news, I was saddened to hear the death of Leni Riefenstahl. The partner of one of my flatmates was more surprised that I knew who she was... Doesn't everybody???

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Just what is the deal with Barbican?

After my simulated post-apocalyptic trip to Barbican the other night, I decided to venture back there on Friday because the Museum of London was there and I wanted to see the remnants of the Roman Wall that was built around the city (that were also at this site).

The guidebooks were right about saying this is the most inaccessable museum in London, but having been in this part of town earlier in the week I was prepared for the convoluted walk up three flights of stairs to a flyover of a deserted road that then took you past a walkway and into a side entrance that then led you to the museum. To be fair, they have thrown a lot of money at revamping the site, and the new entrance opens on Tuesday. But all that new entrance will do is cut out the last side entrance. But anyway, inside there was fascinating stuff about the Roman settlements, and the periods since.

It is surprising how much history has been lost over the years. There are gaps of hundreds of years where very little evidence of life in the city exists. The museum ends at the Victorian era which was just as well as there is only so much one can take before getting information overload!

TV night
That night caught up with the aussies and watched Sex and the City and ate pizza. It was my first chance to catch up with Yvette. She had been touring Africa and Spain and the rest over the past few months. We agreed to go out one night as Yvette seemed to know the town well... She had also seen more celebrities than I (well actually she had only seen Sophie Dahl take money out of an ATM) and so I thought she could point out where I was going wrong. Maybe celebrities dont hang around those shops full of Turkish men at Haringey I don't know.

By the sea...
Saturday I decided to leave London and head for Brighton. It was a real treat, although walking on pebble beaches is a lot harder than I thought. Good leg workout perhaps. Had fish and chips on the Brighton pier and dodged the seagulls before making my way back home on the Brighton Express to Victoria station. Nice clean airconditioned train with a buffet cart should you feel a little peckish... Mind you at a 50 minute train ride how peckish can you get?

Calendar Girls
Caught up with Skye Saturday night and we decided to go and see Calendar Girls. Leaving the story out of it, it was the first film I saw where some of the little cultural references were known. Set in Yorkshire, it is a fictionalised account of a group of middle-aged women who take their clothes off for a calendar to raise money for Leukemia research. It was Skye's choice of film so it was a girly film but it was amusing and well-acted.

It was also my first foray into a Leicester Square cinema where I noticed a few things:
* The cinema was really nice and you have reserved seats
* There are really daggy ads to tell you to keep your hand on your valuables otherwise they might get knicked.
* The popcorn is served without coconut oil
* They give you drinks in a bucket

On that last point... Skye ordered a diet coke in a bucket and couldn't drink it all by the end of the film. As the credits started to roll she offered it to me but said, "It is hot and flat..."
To which I responded... "Well you are what you drink..."

After that we searched for a cafe and settled on belgian waffles at a nearby venue.

Be alert not alarmed...
With the amount of reality television on the box and number of CCTV cameras on the streets you could wonder if anything could happen in the Greater London area that wasn't caught on camera. But today a mock terrorist attack was staged at Bank station in The City.

Midweek touristing
Comes to an end for now. I have taken a temp job that will keep me busy for the next couple of months. Will wait and see after that! The days are getting shorter now anyway. It is now basically dark by 8pm!

Friday, September 05, 2003

Diets
It is still warm enough for people to go jogging around the streets and in the parks, so they do. The fitness levels of Londoners are quite fascinating. While many were having panic attacks when stories about the aitken's diet being a health risk broke, there are plenty of gyms and other weight control products for the punters out there to amuse.

Those returning from their holidays with tans and tone are keeping up their healthy regime by jogging the parks and streets. It all makes for interesting people watching... Mind you, none of this happens near me. Its all Turks and Kurds hanging outside shop stores, but it is only about 10 minutes away where it all happens.

Hot spots
The holiday spots of choice seem to be Ibiza and Africa. Well Australian's go to the Pacific or Bali...

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Zip! I'm a little hectic
One thing I didn't mention about last Saturday was that two things happened to me.
* I stepped in my first dog poop
* The zip to my Marcs trousers (thats WITHOUT an apostrophe) broke while I was at Oxford so I had to walk around with my fly down for most of the trip. Fortunately I was not only wearing high quality underwear, but I was also wearing a jersey that covered the problem.
Well anyway, I thought that I could get the problem fixed this week. Alas it turns out being somewhat fashionable trousers (you can't call them pants here as that is what they call underwear) they only have a five inch zip. Standard issue zips come at six inches. I was told on Green Lanes if I could come up with a five inch zip the tailors would fit it for £6.

Touristing II
* After hearing about 2 jobs that didn't work out, I went to the Tate Modern gallery to take a look at what was there. There was something for everyone there, although I did tend to wonder about some of the exhibits just being there as a dare by the artist to the curator. The best thing was the inflatable sculptures out the front, the black one being the largest inflatable object in the world. You could go inside it and buy for £3 candy from a vending machine based on its nose. Quite a joke.
* Armed with this weeks time out magazine (which has been very useful in finding out what is on in London since without a 128 page guide you wouldn't have a clue), I noticed that there was a new print of the Charlie Chaplin film "The Great Dictator" screening at the Barbican .

Had I checked my Time Out guide of London I would have read that the venue is the most inaccessable building in London. Located in the heart of The City, a massive sprawling complex of 4000 dwellings and purportedly the largest arts centre in Europe was built in the early 70s. It made me think of the tasteless Bardon Education Centre but multiply that at least ten times. This area was levelled by the Blitz and many Londoners are hoping something will level this attrocity again.

But it gets better. Inside the Barbican there are foyers and levels and walkways and signs all telling you not much. There was an eerie quiet inside the building as well. All you could hear was the hum of the fluro lighting and the opening and closing of a faulty automatic door. I eventually found out that the cinema was located two floors below the building and managed to get a ticket. The cinema itself was gorgeous, but it was such a perplexing adventure to get to it. Incidentally they are redeveloping the foyer section of the building and are demolishing many walkways and entrances that people have never used.

It is amazing how one building could be so bad. The stage door is more prominent than the entrance way. The signs are incoherent. There are only two lifts to take you to the basement out of four and you find out if you are on the right one once you are on it. Even the bathrooms are over-engineered. Rather than taps you have rubber steps that you step on to release water. You release the paper towels to dry your hands by pushing forward a lever and then the paper comes out and then you tear it off. Upon leaving the cinema and walking back to Barbican tube, it was like a set out of a futuristic sci fi film where only the hum of the air ducts and the whir of the CCTV cameras could be heard. The City at night is really quite deserted!

But as for the arts program at the Barbican... well it is very smart. The LSO and the English National Opera are there, so now that I have navigated my way around the place I will be back! Oh and the Charlie Chaplin film wasn't too bad. It is a bit eerie watching satire about persecution of jews made as they were being killed. His view of the industrial age pervades throughout, and he ends with a speech direct to the audience that was used against him during the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s suggesting he had socialist sympathies.

Stripes are holding
As for what is fashionable around the town...
* Stripey shirts are still in for another season... although more variety
* Shoes that are pointy are everywhere. If they are not pointy they are decorative (such as with a flower)
* Urban streetwear is still everywhere. Smart track tops, funky street shoes, and denim with marks or paint on it is the way to go...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I have not often walked down this street before...
* But there is less trash walking down the other side of the street where I live.
* I don't bother looking into the dark alleyways

Job on offer I can start next week. But there are a few others (that pay more £££) in the pipeline but they look like they are going to take a bit looooooonger to happen. A job in the hand I suppose is worth many more that could be out there...

Touristy things...
* After yesterday mornings interview I hit the internet cafe and then went to the National Portrait Gallery. There were quite a few things to fascinate and amuse there. The civil war section was interesting and so was the Victorian era and early 20th Century paintings. Incidentally on this day in 1658 the Lord Protector of England died trying to work out what sort of republic and system of government England should have. Silly git. By the time one got to the Andy Warhold silk screen print of Joan Collins, you couldn't help think that the last half of the 20th Century seemed to miss something that the previous five hundred years of portraiture offered.
* After spending a couple of hours at the NPG, I took the tube to the British Museum. I really wasn't in the mood for seeing room after room full of stuff the Empire had plundered from Egypt and Greece, although the Rosetta Stone was pretty interesting. I focussed mainly on the European history which was quite fascinating. The Roman occupation and the Viking invasions were most interesting. There was also a special exhibit on London in 1753 that also caught my interest. All told, four hours had elapsed before I emerged out of the museum. I believe my brain was full by then.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Welcome to the Jungle...

It took a while to get going to move on Sunday afternoon. There was a lot of emailing and blogging to do for starters, and then when I got back to West Hampstead "The Way We Were" with Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand was on Channel Five. Since neither Skye nor I had seen it from beginning to end, that was an excuse to delay things as well. And then after the ending we both had to compose ourselves before heading out. Well actually, it wasn't that emotional for me as just as those chords started playing for the intro to the title song, the voice over for the upcoming programs started which sort of killed it for me. But I digress...

It took under an hour for us to get to Manor House station, but there was a good 10 minute walk to go. A good 10 minute walk is more like a good 15 minute walk with luggage. Fortunately Skye was there to assist. As we walked up the street past Finsbury Park and smack bang into Haringey, Skye started to get a little jumpy. I hadn't noticed the groups of Turkish men hanging outside all the shops. There didn't seem to be very many women about at all. Strangely enough I didn't notice this fact a couple of weeks back. Fortunately Skye was there to point this out. At some point the topic came onto the prospects of getting mugged but I didn't think that was likely just because we were dragging matched Parklite luggage down Green Lanes. There also seemed to be much more trash on the street than the last time I was there. Still, by the time I got to my new home, Skye and I were relieved and impressed at how big and spacious and light and airy and nice it was. It actually is double the size of my room back in Brisbane so that was an added bonus. We decided to go out to eat that night and enjoy some of the fantastic (and cheap) eats in the neighbourhood.

But I will miss West Hampstead... It was my first stop in London and I was just getting the hang of the neighbourhood. It is probably a 40 minute walk away. It is an hour on the tube and God only knows how long on the overland trains so it isn't that far by London time standards.

Cheep Cheep
Yesterday was spent buying cheap sheets from Argos (sort of like a counter-only version of IKEA) and catching up with Lish hearing her stories from her week in Scotland. Sounds like a fine place to go.

Honk if you're...
The English are very polite when they see a girl they think is a bitofallright. Rather than doing something Australian like yelling out the window of the car, "Show us yer tits!" they just give a quick peep of their car horn. Regardless of class, race, creed or culture they all seem to do it. Yesterday I was a bit perturbed stepping out of Sainsbury's and hearing it and there was not a girl in sight however... Hmmm....

Putting the V back in Variety...
It is so refreshing having a choice of newspapers to read here. Mind you, some of them are a bit suspect. But it is so refreshing to read news that isn't full of crap about superannuation, the dire future, floods, property prices and one's place in the world. Mind you, I do miss reading stories about David Oldfield showering with his budgie. I guess one can't have everything.

Housekeeping...
I have changed the format of this page so I could also include some links on the top right hand side. Mainly so you can view or sign my guestbook. I have no idea who reads this!