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Archive for April, 2007

I have been having some fabulous after-work jaunts lately:

  • The Secret Life of Others with Analeise at the Barbican (an amazing, powerful, beautiful film)
  • A delicious Brazilian BBQ/Birthday Party with Alex, Marina & Emma – so much delicious food and drink
  • Equus with Nathalie at the Gielgud (impressive production, screaming girls watching Harry Potter/Daniel Radcliff get naked a little disconcerting)
  • Half Nelson with Hannah again, at the Barbican (complex, still digesting)
  • Have started my new Spanish class at City University
  • Dinner with Renee and Cisco in Chinatown

And lots more in the coming week or two. All this gallivanting around London has left me weary, so at first I thought I was seeing things when I saw posters for the cinema release of ‘The Upside of Anger’, which opens on May 4th in London. Although the publicity poster wasn’t familiar, I’m sure I’d already seen a similar film years ago – aren’t they flogging it on DVD in ‘Straya? What the? How many Joan Allen/Kevin Costner films does the world need?

I must confess to being useless in remembering actors and actresses and film titles etc, so am a regular user of the Internet Movie Database, IMDb.com.  (As an aside, this is a useful tool when you work with someone who retells movies often, but can also not remember things – ‘you know, the one with the guy from that movie about the two chicks that run away’, etc) I check just to that I’m not dreaming things on my way home on the tube and yes, the film was released in 2005! And, the Australian release date was 12 May 2005! Shouldn’t things come here first? Why the delay? If you read my blog and work in film, or just know about this stuff generally…. please explain.

[Yes, I’ve been on a little blog-holiday, sorry. Thanks to everyone who nagged me back into form!]

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Alarmingly, over the last few days I’ve realised how completely changed I am when it comes to obscene prices in London. On arrival in the UK, I stopped converting everything mostly just to retain my sanity and deal with my guilt at such expensive living (if you keep thinking of prices in Aussie dollars, you’d be huddling inside, in the cold and the dark, never leaving the house.)

After all, I had savings (and some Christmas money) to live off until I started earning pounds. And now that I do earn the funny money, I have a comfortable income (without being obscene or anything – I constantly remind myself that lots of Londoners are living on less.)

So how the crap did I find myself hovering with a mouse this morning, almost buying a pair of Havaiana ‘flip flops’ (aka thongs in the old language) on-line that were a ghastly £18?? They’re about that in $AUD!! [Yes Mum, this is your cue to go get me some metallic Havis in a 35/36, and post them…] All this sunshine has made me mildly giddy, but that is nuts. There is no reason for the price hike here – other than the willingness of locals to spend silly amounts of money on things. I spend crazy amounts on the most trivial things – my morning coffee (on the days I get one) is AUD $3.70 (!!) and while our washing machine is still broken, each load of washing I was and dry costs AUD $17 (crikey!)

In the past few weeks I’ve spent a small fortune on some cinema tickets (for the same money in Australia, I’d need help to carry the food I could buy with the change, even at candy-bar prices rather than servo-sneak-ins,) and the equivalent of Australia’s foreign aid budget on three books at Books etc. I don’t earn that much more here than I did back in Sydney, but wow I spend a lot – hardly in the lap of luxury, but scary how quick your base prices adjust… I noticed while in Spain that I’m already one of those powerful-currency-losers who delights in converting things to their minuscule cost in pounds! Aggh! Keen not to loose touch with how much money I make in relative terms, but everyone else is living crazy.

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Despite being a little sickly (and correspondingly whiney about it…) over the weekend, I had a glorious time in the sun – more sunning of self in summery clothes (have started to think about all the best things sitting in Melbourne… sniff!), complete with sunglasses and sunscreen. Nuts. Am really getting into this English sun-worship, and completely ignoring the cells at the back of my brain that realise all this warmth induced high has to crash eventually. After all, they call it global warming, not global miracle!

After reading the paper at an outside cafe on Saturday with my coffee and pastry, I also had a dreamy time reading on my bed in the sun and drying my nail polish on the back steps. Real summer leisure – at 24 degrees! Have totally acclimatised…

On Sunday I had a lovely time out in the huge beer garden down the road with my housemates after a spot of toil in the backyard – the emergence of the deck, ready for BBQ is the big project at our place. Should have taken some before shots (haven’t taken any of it since the snow melted in Feb!) but the end results will be magic – local mates and visitors to this sunny town can expect lots of invites to functions…  Is very novel to not need citronella, as there are no bugs really to speak of – also no fly-wire on the entire house. My delight in not dealing with flies gives some insight into the reverse effect for both the colonials and UK holidaymakers. Not looking forward to seeing a fly or mozzie ever again!

My lamingtons last Friday went off, but will post about how selectively patriotic I’m becoming – other news to come are my two trips planning in May (to Berne for an Aussie Girls’ weekend that I’m calling “Weekend in Bern(e)” and a trip to the Paris IV, to adjudicate…)

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Because this blog is something I dash out during my lunch-break or after work, I worry that too often I use it to relax – with a rant. Life is generally really pretty good – awesome in fact, so here’s a few positives I missed recently.

  1. Jaffa Cakes – very English, very addictive, have decided to overlook the fact that the English cricket eats them, but can’t keep a whole tube in the flat. Still a mystery to me  how a nation of complete choc-orange lovers could be a stranger to the Jaffa….
  2. Drinking outside – meant to snap a shot of everyone standing around the Clerkenwell Green yesterday arvo, enjoying the early evening sunshine (such a novelty after the darkness of just 10 weeks ago…) and chatting over a pint (mostly cider, which I will discuss another time!) There are huge problems with drinking in this country – alcohol related illness and deaths are on the rise in the UK, and there are waaay too many alcohol outlets for good taste. That said, when it comes to being sensible about drinking on footpaths from a glass, these Poms are on to it. All related to sunshine appreciation I guess.
  3. The rollercoaster that is the English sports fan – more fickle than an Aussie counterpart. Just by beating Bangladesh (not by much) – the same pessimists who’ve been telling me their campaign is over now all think England are peaking at just the right time in the Cricket World Cup! (At the same time, they will call for the blood of a football manager without any thought about the availability/affordability of a replacement… cripes!) It is silly, and stupid, but the optimism, in the face of some rather shabby play, is cute.

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Had meant to post these late last week, but have since gone a little arty on the whole thing – check out some ‘textures’ of my current site office, in an ‘unfurnished’ room in the Strand campus of KCL. No telephone line, no computer, no Internet connection – and minimal phone reception!

3×3 of my office at KCL

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I’ve had my first, shocking, oh-my-I’m-turning-into-them moment over the glorious Easter long weekend. I am turning into a Pommy-sun-loving-tragic, and I love it.

Over the gorgeous Spring weekend (since when was 18-24 so magic? Since it snowed and was dark – my standards have been reset!) I wore sandals, a sundress, a knee length skirt, etc – and had a chat about how nice “getting your legs out” is with a lady in my local.

So how exactly did this happen?

Back on the Thursday before Easter, I was chatting with one of my English flatmates about English food and English supermarkets. I made a list for him of all the foods and produce that are better in England – which is something like this:

  1. Bacon.
  2. Bacon again – the English really know what they’re doing in this department.
  3. Gü and Frü puddings.
  4. Losely yoghurt (refuse to use the word yoghourt yet.)
  5. Ale
  6. Cider

(Actually, this list is an alarming insight into what I’ve eaten in addition to regular healthy fare since I arrived – no idea why I’m loosing weight…. worms?) I’ve always been ready to add my voice loudly to something flippant, but back then I didn’t realise that the English have, rather stealthily, got this summer/sunshine down pat. Us Aussies have had it too good for too long!

Rules for Enjoying Spring & Summer in London, like a real Pom

1. Get your kit off whenever the mercury tops 18°C

    Do not waste a single drop of sunshine – if it is warm, or just warmer than it’s been lately, get amongst it. Take off as much clothing as seems suitable (see also #2 below) and lie, walk, bake, bask, display. Smile more, have an ice cream, wear daggy resort wear – who knows (even with global warming) when you will see the sun again. I have finally seen the genius of this rule – and stopped my silly, better-sun-will-come ways acquired back home. Sundress, Easter Sunday. Hot.

    2. There is no such thing as unsuitable for display – body or clothes.

      The Australian concept of certain parts of skin being too-pale, too-hairy and too-lumpy – gone. Missing this rule sometimes, but it goes well with #1 above, and is fairer. Sunshine democracy. But nothing excuses the lying around during lunchtime in boxer shorts, often with string vests. Nothing. Put it away!

      3. Only ever apply sunscreen once each day

        This Ozone layer is bang-up brilliant. It’s very hard to burn for me now, especially if SPF40+ or SPF50+ sunscreen is applied with brekky. No wonder so many Poms go the lobster look at Bondi – they have no concept of re-application. None required.

        4. Check to see who’s worse off

          Love this – the highlight of the weather on BBC London last night was not the glorious sunshine (relegated to item two by the following) – more importantly, most of Southern England was warmer than Spain, one of the most popular OS destinations for Poms. The references to Scotland/Northern Ireland (thankfully) aren’t quite as cutting or condescending, but generally these people are fiends for relative warmth, much like the relative happiness crew.

          5. Warmer weather makes cold snaps worse

            Lastly, because warmer-than-average days remove normal weather complaining (aka whingeing…), one is forced to save all this up – and go totally berserk during the cold snaps. It doesn’t follow that warm weather before cold is better than cold weather before more cold – even if it should. Thicker doona (also holding out on the word duvet,) pulling out the warmer coat, etc – just as tiring as you’d think!

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            As I lay in bed this morning, waiting for the heating timer to start my day, I had planned in my mind that I’d get a chance to take a photo of the site office I use at the Strand Campus of King’s College London. It’s a nice little microcosm of life on site, ripe for witty insights into my job. That and it would be a little startling to some of my more precious corporate mates.

            Even though I convinced myself that it wouldn’t get any warmer and dragged myself off to site, I never did take that photo. I am feeling pressured to keep posting every work day (knowing I have no motivation to go post in an Internet cafe after I enter the flat) because so many people keep in touch with me this way, and because an engineer I used to work with recently sent me an Excel productivity graph of my postings. If I don’t keep doing this, my gradient will slip.

            So in complete nothing-to-post form, here is something random, this time inspired by this article in the Guardian.

            Funny things I hear people say that I’m trying to work into my crowded vocabulary

            1. numpty – it’s Scotland’s favourite word, and is quickly becoming mine. Love, love, love it. From the above article:

            Scotland’s favourite word, according to a poll by BT Openreach, is numpty. Derived from “numps”, an obsolete word for a stupid person, rather than the more obvious numbnuts or numbskull, the term implies general idiocy, often in my experience accompanied by windbaggery.

            1. lastminute.com – I generally hate the way web2.0 apps and government departments shove words together for such hideous hybrids (despite being entirely guilty with goodtimes), but it is used in the construction industry here to denote something that’s a bit dodgy, something of a rush job, and I like it.
            2. Some of the local slang for various amounts of money – especially the use of pony or macaroni for£25, Pavarotti or Aryton Senna for £10 and sheets referring to notes (cf shrapnel.)
            3. And another local (on site) – marvey, short for marvellous for all good things.

            Each of the above is fairly mundane and commonplace, but having finally (almost) got myself used to everyone abusing “alright?”, I really am enjoying the beauty of a new dialect. New words can be really great fun – hard to use numpty with a straight face!

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