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Archive for the ‘happiness’ Category

[To everyone who’s been complaining about my lack of postings – at least the no news was good news! To everyone who is reading about this for the first time and freaking out, sorry.] 

I’ve learnt a few things this week:

  • Emergency medical care in London under the NHS is awesome as well as free;
  • despite being very worried about it at the time, I didn’t need to worry about my passport, Medicare card, health insurance, etc;
  • I should have taken more reading material, teeth cleaning stuff and slippers;
  • calling your Mum from a clean, safe, excellent hospital after a minor accident does NOT make her any more confident you’re OK; and
  • even in hospital you can get your five cups of tea a day here.

So what happened? (Kate, skip this paragraph) In short, I fell over at home and cracked open the bridge of my nose, loosing blood and flesh (sorry Damo, I know you’d just done the mopping) in the wee hours. I rode in an ambulance to University College Hospital London, and then was seen by an awesome Maxillofacial surgeon and then spent the night up on wards while they decided that I was OK in the head injury department. 4 stitches inside and 6 on the outside.

I refused to pay for TV in hospital, but got through two days of the Guardian cover to cover. I caught up on sleep, was treated so kindly and professionally and all without payment or any questions about my status in the UK as an immigrant/visitor. They sent me home, four meals heavier, with a bevvy of medication, toiletries and some treatment materials. Winner.

After stressing my Mum out (despite playing it mostly tough/cool, I was wishing she was closer) a bit, I am just now laying low, vowing to blog more often and missing work a lot. Very bored at home and frustrated that all this sleep is hidden by grotesque bruising on my face – will post photos when I look more normal (and less like a Star Trek extra…)

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London 5-day Istanbul 5-day

No prizes for working out which 5-day BBC Weather Forecast is for Istanbul and which is for London, hosting a range of outdoor events while I’m away! Very pumped about needing sunscreen, being warm and being on holidays for the next 10 days.

Apologies for not elaborating on any of my own headings from my previous post – I am not sure if I will have time to post to this blog much between the eating, sunshine, relaxing, etc to catch up in Turkey. Lots happening here in all departments, with a raft of new arrivals, festivals, travel, etc on the horizon!

Quite excited about needing sunscreen – Happy Birthday Mum for today, and Rose for tomorrow!

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Regular readers of my blog (now numbering onto a second hand!) will have noticed that I haven’t been posting of late – a combination of work, travel, work, homesickness, and well work (with a whack of exhaustion and apathy, mostly caused by work) have conspired against me.

On Sunday morning I am off to Turkey with Alex for a much-needed 10-day break, so in the meantime I am going to ambitiously attempt to jump down off the no-blogging wagon by updating the following areas:

  • Travel (or Cat Empire in Paris and the Durham Open)
  • Work (or the box truss and other pressures)
  • Homesickness (or the £2.50 Twisties and the worst mango ever)
  • Interesting Ideas (or Facebook is for snobs and The Grand Tour)
  • Politics (or voting in the UK and depressing news from home)
  • Visitors (or Alex and Lauryn, and soon Christina, Nic and Alex)
  • Random Stuff (Pommy engineer’s happiness and clothes sent from home)

Clearly the above  gives away most of it – but promise to try and embellish when I post tomorrow and Saturday, while completing mammoth lists of work, packing and socialising!

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Paris IV

Regular readers of this blog will remember that Beck and I went to the LSE Open earlier in the year, with something of a mixed bag of results. We did well at the tournament, and made some good friends, but the whole experience fell a little short of our Australian-made expectations of the tournament. To be fair, we were perhaps a little ill-prepared for the less than welcoming approach taken by lots of people on the British circuit. (I know, why wouldn’t they love two Aussies with lots of Pom-bashing material? Odd.)

So I’m pleased to report that the Paris IV was a magical weekend – am now looking forward to both the Durham Open later this month (faith in debating tournaments restored) and my next trip to Paris this weekend (for a Cat Empire gig, and just because I am seriously getting the hang of the three day weekend.)

The weekend started with another very late Air France flight on Friday, and a late night taxi to find Anna’s place where Beck & I stayed. Fellow corporate travellers will be pleased to learn that I explained (in bad French) why the 2 plus hour delay was an inconvenience, as was the mooted change of arrival airport, so we managed to wangle a taxi reimbursement, some frequent flyer miles and two whopping £3.50 vouchers to spend at London City Airport. Sure, £3.50 only really buys a Czech beer, but still.

Our arrival at Anna’s led to excited gossiping and the first of several rounds of the house brioche (dubbed “chocolaty boozy bread” by me because it was choc-chipped and tasted a little alcoholic) with Nutella until the wee hours. We dragged ourselves out of bed and onto a local bus with every intention of making the 9am briefing, only to find an odd protest/march blocking our arrondissements from the rest of Paris. We were a little late (not a drama, the organisation was superb) but I felt the blend of Catholic priests, youth involved in the Scouting movement, crucifixes, Sea Scout types in pom-pommed berets, large banner bearers, etc was something to behold. With cries of “Onward Christian Bushwalkers”, the bus broke through the hundreds, if not thousands, of people to deliver us safely. Hoorah.

The tournament itself was great – as a judge, all the teams I saw were enthusiastic, keen to learn, competed in the spirit of the competition and all had a good day. So many of the speakers improved, all the debates I saw were entertaining, etc – basically a lot of love in the room. A very functional, beneficial day all around, and in Paris too!

The motions were:
1. TH would nationalise prostitution
2. TH believes that states where abortion is illegal Have the Right to Prevent their Citizens from Travelling Abroad to Have One
3. TH would pay legal immigrants to return to their country of origin
4. TH would provide extra welfare payments to impoverished men and women if they agree to be sterilised
GF. TH believes that terrorist organisations are legitimate democratic partners

After the rather swish GF, we kicked on to Mandala Ray, (aka Man Ray, or so I’m informed) a club owned by Johnny ‘Dreamboat’ Depp, Sean Penn & John Malkovich, which was very Parisienne (so I’m told) and rather cool. There, on the dance floor, I was able to get a dose of bad tournament dancing, gossip etc, to complement the functional day. Swoon.

Beck and I spent much of the rest of the weekend catching up on sleep, like true corporate cats, but am looking forward to returning to Paris again rather soon – and plan to do the Paris IV in 2008 too.

(I’ve been travelling lots lately, been a little homesick and rather busy at work. Throw in some (minor) personal dramas and computer problems (at work) and you get complete inactivity. My apologies. On the upside, I have now got a back catalogue of material ready to report.)

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One of the many differences between UK and Australian society is water – these people have no idea what a water restriction is, or indeed a drought. This became clear at work during the week when I was attempting to clarify an irrigation scope and struggled to comprehend the exact meaning of the phrase “hose pipe ban” – in the end, the only level of restriction last summer, was that people couldn’t uses hoses. At a stretch, certain types of sprinklers were restricted. Trying to explain a multi-level system was a big sell. A good fear monger could clean up here with a bogus consulting role, like the government’s Water Tsar. (Also, in many parts of the country, the phenomenon of a sports match or training session being ‘rained out’ seems foreign – odd, I suppose when they’re the ones getting all the rain, but just some trivia nonetheless. Try telling tales of the ‘wet weather line’ at school/uni if you want some strange looks or giggles.)

The point to all this talk of rain (yes, there is one) is to lead to the highlight of my trip to Switzerland last weekend. (In truth, the highlight was a girls’ weekend and associated sleepovers and gossip, but from a blogging-adventures, this stuff is easier to report.) On Sunday Flick organised for our crew to join a trip to Glarus, where we got to see Landsgemeinde, a uniquely Swiss phenomenon, and in this case a wet one.

As you can see in these photos:

Landsgemeinde1

Landsgemeinde2

Landsgemeinde3

Once we arrived in Glarus we went to the main square where they’d set up benches and platforms to house the voters of the canton, who vote with a pink card that seemed to have some form of agenda, but was primarily a voter registration or proof of entitlement to vote. The outside benches under a sea of umbrellas are all the visitors, outside the fence that keeps the voters in.

Each motion was debated (in Swiss German), often amended to the delight of procedure junkies everywhere, and then eventually votes were cast. It was rather good to be an observer as you could have your umbrella up all the time (they were lowered for voting) and just adjourn to a nearby cafe when the weather got too much.

Bizarrely for such a precise people, the vote was not done on exact numbers, but based on a “clear majority”, and obviously the voting was very public. The absence of the private AEC cardboard booths, and the numbers of tourists and observers was certainly unique. Interestingly to us compulsory voting types, organisers only plan for about 20-30% of eligible voters to attend- but then again, the Swiss are over-franchised, with a constant stream of voting opportunities.

Glarus was a gorgeous corner of Switzerland, and a beautiful spot in spite of the fairly miserable weather. It was actually really nice to see mountains and cliffs after the flatness of London. There was something for the family – a parade in robes, traditional banners from the public buildings, Swiss military guards and a market of food and everyday market crap.

The real process highlight was the final motion of the session when Glarus became only the second Canton to lower the voting age to 16. We followed the detail at intervals when interpreters were available, so got a sense of the speeches (including an old man who kept everyone in the rain to bang on about how young people can’t be trusted with such matters, but ended with an assurance he likes them very much, just thinks they’re useless) and then watched the tussles as the votes were recast a few times to get a clear majority. After several rounds, the motion carried and we joined in with the cheers.

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I am a staunch Republican, but have developed an admiration for Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor since I realised she was as real as Helen Mirren. So I was delighted to read that she’d put the boot into a man no film could make me admire, George Dubya Bush.

Bush’s made a gaffe a day earlier, 14 minutes into his meeting despite extensive coaching, when he began to referto a previous visit by Her Maj for the USA’s bicentennial as occurring in 1776 (rather than 1976 – who let this guy graduate from High School? Who preps him?) A day later, the Queen bought down the house at a dinner at the British Ambassador’s place by beginning her remarks with:

“Mr President, I wondered whether I should start this toast saying I was here in 1776 but I don’t think I will.”

(By all reports, the guests went crazy for it.) Clearly Dubya is  a rather soft target, but the image of two hereditary office bearers going toe to toe on this in a fairly reserved venue is delicious.

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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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