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Archive for March, 2007

I have really tried to avoid polluting my mind with the free papers (and polluting my house with both London Lite and thelondonpaper.) I am also trying, in some small way, to avoid hideous gossip industry, but after a long day, last night I didn’t finish off my Economist, but dabbled in celebrity trash.

As I sat in the tube, feeling dirty for reading such crap, it was thelondonpaper’s inane lovestruck that broke me- such pointless, empty, drivel. Possibly, in a different light, I’d think it was hopelessly romantic, an adorable attempt to make Londoners more friendly, etc, but in the circumstances it all seems seedy and useless. Reminds me of those fake ‘Dear Dolly’ letters.

A sample:

Hi, Miss Sydney. I met you at the National History Museum. Walk?

To the girl in the purple coat with the beautiful dark almond-shaped eyes and long dark hair, who sat opposite me on the Tube from Wood Green to Leicester Square on 17 February. You were reading, but our eyes met once or twice and I wished I had said hello. Get in touch.

You: tall, with glasses, on the Northern line Bank branch at 10am on Wednesday. I was the charmingly dorky girl in the patterned coat. Drink?

To the beautiful brunette on the overland on Saturday afternoon. You asked me as we alighted from the train whether we were at Charing Cross. Inanely, I replied: “I hope so.” Would like to see your smile again.

Gorgeous travel adviser at St Pancras station. There are only so many tickets a man can buy. I want to take that gorgeous smile for a drink.

Sort of like the witty London Review of Book’s personals, only for creepy people who should never get a book deal.

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Today I made my first blood donation since arriving in the UK, with the NHS’s Blood Service. Blood donation is important in my family – my parents took my brother and I with them to donate from when we were pretty small, so it was a pretty natural thing to start doing once I was old enough.

When I worked at Evans & Peck back in Sydney, I helped organise our corporate blood donation program – and had some success in increasing our corporate participation. I find most people (other than those who are ineligible due to the organisational criteria, or are unable to stay conscious when around blood/needles) get into it when you organise it for them, and when they have mates to go along.

If you can, you should give blood in either Australia or the United Kingdom (or wherever else you live) – blood donation is important, and of course saves lives.

So how does the mobile blood donation unit in EC1 compare with the Red Cross’s Blood Bank in Chatswood, Sydney?

Service/Atmosphere: Surprisingly, the NHS’s Blood Service team were very efficient – faster that the Chatswood ladies by at least 10 minutes. I was in and out of there (not that it’s a race, but I know I beat Smithers last year at least once) in less than an hour, which makes it an easy thing to do in a lunch hour. Also, there are heaps of locations, several I could walk to from my desk, so that’s convenient. However, the staff were reserved, avoided both eye contact and conversation, and generally ungrateful and unfriendly. Not rude mind, or unprofessional, but perhaps some more positive behaviour would encourage others to donate (or do the other donors like this??) ~ 3 & 1/2 stars

Food/Drink: We’re not in Chatswood anymore – no milkshake, no Le Snac, and unlike the Sydney branch, no hot food. In true Brit-cuisine style, there were crisps (salty enough to suck any remaining moisture from your body) and biscuits, with tea and cordial (but there might be a funny Pommy word for this…orange flavour in a polystyrene cup) ~3 stars

Overall: I did enjoy participating in my community, and certainly got through quite a bit of this week’s Economist (and my blood is absolutely gold, btw) – even though I didn’t get quite the same ego-stroking (either because the stocks are much higher here, due to less stringent criteria or less ready-to-use-blood surgery spots?), the people who need blood here are no less dear. I’ll still be back. ~ Totally inflated 4 stars so you’ll still think about doing it…

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badoyster stickerbadoyster walletdragonette wallet

Two posts from Londonist inspired me today, both takes on the Oyster that is a bit of a London institution – this one about the band the Dragonette’s cool promo wallets (not the day for my music industry rant) and this one about badoyster‘s deliciously subversive wallets and oyster stickers.

I generally love both the tube (tube-hating is such a bizarre sport – would be funner if less whingers were in it, no?) and the Oyster because I am both tragically optimistic and a nerd – but clearly these guys aren’t happy campers. My sneaking feeling is that they stand in the door way and block the way of others, but who is to know.

I have been in the market for a cool oyster wallet after missing out on some wicked TfL ones, and got a cute, celeb-designed (very London) one from Oxfam instead… the blue wallets everyone else uses are, I suppose, iconic, but thought it would be nice to have something different and nice for everyday. Also, it reduces the chances I will confuse my Oyster card with my spare one for guests. Mum has now used my visitor’s Oyster, as have Bonne and Alex before her – adding to my existing stash of hospitality features (add them all together and I might scrounge a star??)

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A quick post as life’s been rather busy since Mum arrived and lots of work happened at once. I was inspired to post at lunchtime today when I returned to my office from site, and along the way I GAVE DIRECTIONS to a woman who SOUNDED ENGLISH (to me, my accent ear is crap nowadays) very cool.

But while I was standing around in EC1, I saw these cool mosaics of old school Space Invaders characters, which are on buildings and structures around the area:

CharterhouseStreetInvader

FarringdonRoadInvader

And my favourite one, above Kurz & Lang, one of Farringdon’s best lunch shops:

CowcrossStreetInvader

So what’s it all about? This French artist puts them in cities all over the world, as part of his street art project. An interesting aim, but also something to spot in London. There seems to be a small collection here, but this map suggests others have gone up too, or that some tribute acts are around. Strangely appealing.

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Beck sent me this interesting response, written by Australian journo Guy Rundle, to Patrick West’s spiked TV column last week that was a depressing attack/view of Australian life (both in terms of bleak assertions and research methods.)

An interesting quote of Rundle’s, in response to West’s “if things are so great Down Under, why do so many Aussies leave? arguments:

For a start, there’s the ex-pat diaspora. There are around one million Australians living outside of Australia, or about seven per cent of the adult population. About half of them say they have left permanently, although a proportion of these subsequently change their minds (1). By contrast, the number of British citizens living overseas is 5.5 million, or about 12 per cent of the adult population; around 100,000 Brits a year leave Britain permanently (2). Their most favoured destination is a place called Australia, with Spain coming second.

True, the make-up of British and Australian ex-pat communities differs, with the British composed of more retirees and fewer professionals than Australia’s diaspora – but that is simply a consequence of Australia being part of the global periphery. Like Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and many other fairly sparsely populated places, Australia’s citizens are responding to the increased mobility afforded by globalisation, and to the creation of global capitals like London and New York, which offer professional opportunities that are unavailable in their homeland.

[(1) Graeme Hugo, Leaving Australia: a new paradigm of international migration; (2) BBC News]

Interesting conversation starter. I also liked:

So why does the Australian version get such a kicking, especially from the left or ‘progressive’ direction?

The answer, of course, is because it’s safe to bash Australia. No one from the liberal or left-leaning fraternity can come out and say – as Simon Heffer or Theodore Dalrymple have done – that the British working classes are a slatternly disgrace. So instead such disdain is displaced on to a white settler country which does have – mainly in rural areas – all the residual racism common to white settler countries. And then such disdain is presented as a critical and progressive attitude. So in West’s article we find that the kind of thing once patronisingly said about blacks – that they have a joyful sense of rhythm – can now be transferred on to white Australians (or Kiwis or South Africans or the Irish) who are praised for their naive childlike drunkenness that we jaded metropolitans have long since lost.

This easy chauvinism serves another purpose, too. It assuages the all-pervasive anxiety amongst the left-liberal elite that mainstream culture is actually winning – that Jade Goody, Garry Bushell and Girls Aloud are setting the pace today, and that the remaining institutions of liberal elite culture (Radio 4, the Guardian, David-fucking-Hare) are being pushed to a position of utter irrelevance reminiscent of, well, Australia. More and more British liberals project their fears for their own self-preservation against the hordes on to a nightmare vision of Australia, where they imagine the hordes have been victorious.

Yes, like a first year law student on caffeine and three highlighters I’ve excerpted basically the lot, but it saves you needing to click the link before reading it, yes?

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Life is super just now, quickly turning on the trials at work last week. Lots and lots of good news, V-fans:

1. London is a hub – of visitors and friends

Lots of text book quality time this weekend, trying new things and catching up with favourite people – a good goss on the phone with Damien and Dad’n’Rose, a trip to a new market (Exmouth Market, in EC1) with Beck on Saturday morning, my regular Marylebone High Street Markets with Elizabeth and Louise, Andrea’s rock-star sister on Sunday morning and then (the real pièce de résistance) Alex to stay last night, and a girls night in dinner party with Kate and Beck too. Hooray! And Mum arrives tomorrow for a week, and the visitor calendar is continuing to fill! Lucky me, and lucky London to have so many awesome guests and residents.

2. Magical weather – novelty and a good attitude can turn shitty to schweet

I got up rather early this morning (5am – aka hideously early!) to take Alex to the tube (she flew to Paris – sigh), and we walked through some sleet. But instead of being what one would expect with such an ugly word, I like to call all not-rain-not-quite-snow a snow flurry, as it was more like rain flirting with being snow in the darkness. Yes we were cold, but it really was magic and a little bewitching.

Bizarrely, it turned all gorgeous today around lunchtime when I was coming back from site to my office (I stopped and ate my lunch in a little park in the sunshine, in just shirt and mac!) – and the only downside to this was that I was worried I will miss out on some more snow! To think I’d be lamenting sunshine already! But now that I’m safely at my desk, we’re back to good looking sleet stuff (that just might clear up if I go out tonight. Yay!) Looks like any snow is off though, for the time being, so should see more from the London Eye.

3. Sporting results roughly reflect my wishes

Despite the heart-break of the 6 Nations for Ireland (good quality time with John, my only housemate not on holidays over the weekend), they had success over Pakistan, and other underdogs, including giant-killers Bangladesh, also doing well. England not doing well in cricket or rugby leads to less teasing for me, plus my Australian cricket team are really getting it together at the right time, with the Victorian in fine form, even if the selectors will probably still leave him out. Bless – including a win for my Toffees over Arsenal, the football team my neighbour at work supports, sport is almost perfect just now. Ahh.

4. Madrid – and perhaps a sneaky sidetrip to Segovia??

Am off to Madrid next weekend for lots of jamon, sangria, real Zara, tapas, art, walking, sunshine, churros, some Spanish conversation practice and general adventure with Mum. If I can get to my favourite structure in the world, Segovia’s stunning aqueduct, then my life really will be perfect. My week is already flying by.

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BBC Light Snow Showers !

Yep, more snow is coming to town – after a week or so of gorgeous spring sunshine (including some hideous Poms-in-Tshirts sightings) that has been just magic, the BBC is now saying that some light snow showers will arrive Monday night, just in time for Mum’s arrival on Tuesday and my already-booked tickets for the London Eye. Might mean we get some magical views of the city, might mean the ‘flight’ is cancelled, but am giggly with the thought anyway! May need the extra layer of my doona for Monday night, as it’ll be -1!

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