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.