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Archive for February, 2007

Crocus 1

I’ve talked earlier about the beautiful flowers I get to see on the way to the tube – despite efforts to walk to work every day this week, the sky looked grey this morning so I took the tube instead. This allowed me to capture these flowers, to balance the unLondonness of my other post today. In the mornings, (which without flash assistance from the digital camera are somewhat dark,) they are a stunning patch of colour amongst the grey of the streets.

Crocus 2

Until my construction site is ready, I’m based in the City, and the walk to work is only about 3.4km (or 2.1 miles in the redundant get-with-the-program-already units. Remind me to rant on Google Map’s use of local units, and my hatred of all things Imperial units in another rant post) – it generally takes just as long to get to work on the tube, but there is the added benefits of good coffee (mobile baristas) where I get on, and a ripper of a cockney fruit vendor when I get off. Also, one can test today’s mood by seeing how annoying I find the Poms who insist on standing in the doorway, despite the large numbers waiting to get on to the carriage. Grrr.

Crocus 3

On a somewhat-related note, a gentleman from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew did a piece on the BBC One news last night about how early these flowers are blooming in recent years. Traditionally, the appearance of crocusessignifies the arrival of spring (which in the UK is either 1 March, or 21 March, depending on who you believe) – but in 2007, nerdy garden spotters have been reporting blooms from as early as 1 January. Much like Column 8 (of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper) tracking ‘(insert geographical region here) is as dry as a tinderbox’ to signify the arrival of summer and the bushfire season, it is another reminder from nature that the seasons are on the move.

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My friend Nat had this list on a Note in her Facebook account – SUPPOSEDLY if you’ve seen over 85 films, you have no life. I say it shows careful parenting, friends who study film, etc – OK, so I blame cheap DVDs in Malaysia, flying too much for work and not having a TV…. Thankfully, it doesn’t ask you record how many of these films you cried in – easily double figures.

Instructions
Copy this list, go to your own facebook account, paste this as a note. From the 239 films on this list, put x’s next to the films you’ve seen, add them up, change the header adding your number, and post. Have fun.

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
(x) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
( ) Airplane

Sub-Total: 8

(x) The Princess Bride
(x) AnchorMan
(x) Napoleon Dynamite
(x) Labyrinth
( ) Saw
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
(x) White Oleander
(x) Anger Management
(x) 50 First Dates
(x) The Princess Diaries
(x) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Sub-Total so far: 17

(x) Scream
(x) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x) American Pie
(x) American Pie 2
(x) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp

Sub-Total so far: 23

(x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x) Harry Potter 3
(x) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(x) The Wedding Singer
(x) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
(x) Lilo & Stitch

Sub-Total so far: 30

(x) Finding Nemo
(x) Finding Neverland
( ) Signs
(x) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
(x) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
(x) 13 Going on 30
( ) I, Robot
( ) Robots

Sub-Total so far: 35

(x) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(x) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
(x) Never Been Kissed
(x) Meet The Parents
(x) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
( ) Joe Dirt
(x) KING KONG – only the original

Sub-Total so far: 41

(x) A Cinderella Story
(x) The Terminal
(x) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
(x) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
(x) Surviving X-MAS
(x) Flubber

Sub-Total so far: 48

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
(x) Practical Magic
(x) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
(x) I Am Sam
(x) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards

Sub-Total so far: 52

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child’s Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
(x) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
( ) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
(x) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask

Total so far: 57

(x) Bad Boys
(x) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(x) Ocean’s Eleven
(x) Ocean’s Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
(x) Bourne Supremecy
( ) Lone Star
(x) Bedazzled
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(x) Ice Age
(x) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
(x) Curious George

Sub-Total so far: 67

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
(x) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
(x) My Bosses Daughter
(x) Maid in Manhattan
( ) War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
( ) Rush Hour 2

Sub-Total so far: 73

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
(x) She’s All That
(x) Calendar Girls
(x) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3

Sub-Total so far: 83

(x) X-Men
(x) X-2
( ) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x)The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
(x) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions
(x) Cruel Intentions 2
(x) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2

Sub-Total so far: 96

( ) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street – only the original
(x) Old School
(x) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf’s Tribe
(x) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
(x) The 40-year-old Virgin

Sub-Total so far: 101

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Sub-Total so far: 107
( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
(x) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three

Sub-Total so Far: 108

( ) The Jacket
(x) Kung Fu Hustle
(x) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(x) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard

Sub-Total so far: 114

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) Chronicles Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(x) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld

Sub-Total so far: 118

(x) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
(x) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness

Sub-Total so far: 120

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor

Sub-Total so far: 126

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
(x) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
(x) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal

Now Add them up and…

Put in the subject line and repost

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3 foods

Three foods that English people all seem to love, that I’m getting into

  1. Jaffa Cakes – Made by the McVities people responsible for my favourite pity party biscuit, the Digestive. People here are mad for the chocolate-orange combo, and these are supposed to be ‘the bench mark Jaffa Cake, the Model T Ford of Jaffa Cakes’, but are also the official snack of the ruddy English cricket team.
  2. Minstrels – along with Wine Gums, we have these in the office as a Friday afternoon corporate sugar rush. Like big, flat M&Ms, but without the slight flavour the coloured coating gives. Also a must for cinema visits, quite cozy with Maltesers.
  3. Smoked Haddock – everyone made a big hoohah when I reheated some Cauliflower and Smoked Haddock gratin in the office, because it did smell a bit. As soon as I pointed out that weird and smelly seafood is pretty British, they looked really proud of how hard I’m clearly trying to fit in.

Three TV shows I have seen over here worth mentioning

  1. Party Animals – when the Poms make their own West Wing, it’s just the same, but waaay more smutty and not nearly as aspirational/fictional. At least some of the show’s writers have to be disgruntled Torys who got sick of all the good looking people being on the Left of politics – as the Labour staffers are all a bit daggy.
  2. Dragons’ Den – reality show where entrepreneurs pitch a show to the ‘dragons’, who are real world investors considering putting their cash into the companies they see. They’re cranky, contestants have crazy ideas, and one of the ‘Dragons’ is Aussie and clearly a cad.
  3. American Idol – never saw it in Australia, but out here they have the annoying Cat Deely, also of So You Think You Can Dance, to ‘translate the show’. Oddly, she appears at either side of the add breaks to anglify a rather obvious show. Not sure why, but she does.

Three rather sensationalist stories that summarise the kind of free newspaper I read here

  1. Connor McCreaddie, (who at 8 years old has been roundly named and photographed,) whose pre-Christmas weight of 15 stones and eight pounds (99kg) is three to four times the weight of a healthy child of his age. Although he’s around my height (5 foot), and despite the fact that he’s lost around 9kg in the last two months, his mother and grandmother have been summoned by letter to a child protection conference today to discuss his case. While taking him into protective custody is the last resort (with protection lists are more likely), Connor has difficulty dressing and washing himself, misses school regularly because of poor health and is targeted by bullies. I think a debate on obesity as child abuse is important, the type of footage shown and the photos of Connor’s body are sickening.
  2. Lots of gossip based on the two tribe theory of London celebrities: one set (including the Princes and their gfs) all seem to eat at Nobu (celebrity-magnet restaurant) and party at Boujis (and other private clubs,) despite there being a lot of other places to go in the West End; the other set have their own social customs involving being dirty, drinking in Camden and having large hair (arguably cooler, even if just as shallow.) The interest in photos of the same people leaving the same venues in similar states of intoxication is insatiable. Have started printing my own paper to read on the way home.
  3. Jade Goody’s visit to India, in an attempt to rebuild her personal brand after her racist rant on Celebrity Big Brother. This whole black hole of human endeavour needs little comment. Today’s edition of The Sun, with headline “Kebab Belly goes to Dehli” and her quote “Everybody knows I love an Indian” (referring to the curry houses open at 1am here, not the people) will suffice.

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I found this cute sign on Londonist, one of the interesting London blogs I collect in my Google Reader account:

Not what The Bill crew are up to, sadly…

Ah, bless. Not that I’d actually watch EastEnders, but there aren’t enough warm-fuzzy signs being put up, are there? (Clearly, I’m not counting Singapore’s ‘Singapore: It’s OK!’ efforts.)

This was a nice bit of lame humour after reading two (OK Mum, go do something else – nothing for you to fax to Grandma here…) of these in the streets of Islington/Barnsbury near my flat over the weekend. The first is about an assault on the tube platform (middle of the day, under the all cameras that are everywhere) and the second was a series of robberies (gangs confronting individuals, sometimes with guns) on the street I use to get to the tube. Both a few 100m from my house.

So reading all them, I started to get a little bit paranoid – even though, to be honest, the signs are quite calmly worded. I suppose a little reminder to be safe/careful, (even a large, lit, physical one from the boys with funny helmets,) is always a good thing. Am trying to avoid right-wing-newspaper-type the-kids-are-making-the-streets-unsafe paranoia – and remember that crime, at the moment gun crime, is far worse in other parts of London. Also, I’m pretty sensible/careful, so no need to stop all the gallivanting about.

The silver lining for this cloud (ever the optimist – Mum, you can read this again) is that my reaction to the news shows just how at home I’m starting to feel in my area. I don’t have to so obsessively look for landmarks any more, and when I walk into work in the mornings I’m not gripping the A to Z so tightly. In fact, I’ve been out and about a lot more with out it at all, and have been for a few runs and so know where the iPod in shirt, put phone in pocket areas generally are. I feel at home in my area – but am off to get a bus home that stops right outside the door tonight!

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After arguing it was a time waster I was too old/cool for, filled with time-wasting types I didn’t have time to keep up with, that it was not something I needed, that most of my friends weren’t on there, etc – I got an account on Facebook today. I got two more emails over the weekend inviting me to join and so I wasted a few hours (my boss was out, and I had no control over the addiction once I started looking for people) today getting set up. Am now just waiting for my UNSW Alumni email account to get sorted out (who’d a thunk I’d be so keen to get one?) and it’s done. I have found lots of people (mostly debaters, sure) already, but if you’re out there and read this and I haven’t added you, look for me here.

My logo,with blurred name to reduce the weirdo count, looks like:

my Facebook badge

My main motivation for doing all this was Robbo – he thinks that he doesn’t have time to email/write to me between beach holidays unless I’m here, so will see if this works. May have to leave both?? To be fair have found a few friends that I’d lost email touch with, and it won’t be too time-consuming if I can manage my friend-farming addictions!

(Clearly by thinking the technology was unnecessary and then getting on board sooo late, I am a text book late adopter on this one…)

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Eureka!

 

A Barclays Connect card !

As of 2.02pm this afternoon, I now have a Barclays Connect card – so as soon as I deposit some of my cash in there, I will be able to buy things with plastic! No more walking to as many as 10 cash machines to find one that takes my card. No more paying for everything with cash, like a mafia wife! No more carrying dangerous quantities of cash because of the outrageous withdrawl fees. The establishment of my British bank account, more than 12 weeks since I first called HSBC to organise it, is officially complete.

Without dwelling on the desperate acts of heroism involved in any of these applications, but this means that I now have succefully organised:

  1. a job,
  2. a flat,
  3. a bank account, and
  4. a pension fund and health insurance!

(even if I am still working on:

  1. an NI number,
  2. registering with a GP,
  3. ICE membership &
  4. a CSCS card…)

The sad truth is that here, in the birthplace of bureaucracy, these are massive struggles – so am off to celebrate after work!

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The good people at Lonely Planet (hello Amy!) have been running a “132: Seize the Days” campaign for a few weeks here to inspire UK workers to travel, where 132=52 weekends + 8 public holidays + 20 days leave. So with my current contract of 25 days leave, as well as some time in-lieu if I work a Saturday, I’ve got at least that many days off until my current visa runs out. With my 6 days to date (an alarming 5% already !) I’ve been to Camden and several other markets, a day trip to Greenwich and my share of nesting/battling British bureaucracy.

A few things are motivating me to get with it:

  1. Nat, Aidan & I were out having tapas in Clerkenwell last night – all the sangria made me think Spain and I are overdue for a reunion (possibly eating jamón serrano in Zara…) – so am planning a trip there with them and some others soon,
  2. the number of emails you all keep sending me asking where I’ve been so far, (all fair and reasonable, but a little anxiety-inducing)
  3. this cool map from Visited Countries, a cool site that lets you select from a list all the places you’ve been and then generate your own for download. As of today, 23 February 200, I have covered:

Countries I’ve visited

[Clearly, living close to Asia has been a thing – my neglect of the Americas (despite years of studying Spanish) is woeful – I’ve only been to San Fran for a few days and Philly to change planes (and give up biometric data to the US Government), so it seems unfair to colour such a large area. Especially when I’ve been to lots of Australia (every state and territory) and a few places (NZ and Singapore) so many times. Also, a weekend in HK makes the colouring in of China a bit rich.]

  1. plans that Emma and I have to have a night out for her birthday in April (perhaps in Antwerp – see this article that was in the London Lite last week) for an all-night party in another country, and
  2. the fact that I will never live this close to Europe again, so it is time to stop nesting and get amongst it.

Off to do some research – but thinking of travel opportunities like this (even if LP are using the 132 days concept to sell guides) is a good way to look at my year. I think I will stay here longer than a year (on a different visa) but this could easily become a reason not to do anything now.

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