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[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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On my way in to work in the mornings (depending on how far I walk… have had a few lazy mornings on the bus) I’ve recently changed my route to cover quite a distance on ‘Highwalks’ – meaning I’ve been experiencing less traffic, less noise and a new perspective on the the buzzing morning scene in EC2. It’s meant that I’m having some blog-worthy revelations, so I hope this will improve my blogging rate!

I thought it was worth noting some reflection from this morning – three ways I think I’m becoming Anglicised (perhaps a bit dramatic – at least a bit different):

  1. My Accent – despite the best efforts of the girls while in Switzerland, my vocab and accent are running away. I’ve stopped saying really Australian things (partly because no one understands them) and started to adopt some Pommy ones. I’m trying really hard to fight this and am listening to Aussie accents at every opportunity, but hopefully the Australian accent is deeply ingrained and readily recovered upon return. [Funnily enough, my technical vocab is lagging behind my slang. People still can’t understand me on site sometimes, but all my Aussie mates think I’m a posh git.]
  2. Commuting Professional – I remember my sense of wonder when I first read FridayCities’ Ten Commandments of Tube travel, but I notice how quickly all the English sulking, pouting and pointed looks has modified my behaviour.  I always have my Oyster card ready, and am so irked by people who break the rules (big bags! standing on the left!) that I usually avoid the tube altogether if I can. I hate people with suitcases so much I’m not sure how I’ll go away (or home) for any period of time. Of course, I love it despite not really enjoying my time there, and think all the Poms who complain about it have no idea.
  3. London Pride – I recently waited a few days to take site photos for posting here… because I wanted a blue day. Already I’m exaggerating the weather (which has been really good) as the grey days aren’t so bad (compared to say Jan/Feb) but have no idea why. London weather is crap, but for some reason I feel loyal enough to try to counter all the negative press – could just be a Melbourne thing?

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Name this country . . .

  • Richest in the World
  • Largest Military
  • Centre of world business and finance
  • Strongest education system
  • World centre of innovation and invention
  • Currency the world standard of value
  • Highest standard of living

Yep, it’s England – in 1900.

[From an interesting slide presentation “Shift Happens” by Jeff Brenman & Karl Fisch, winner of Slideshare‘s World’s Best Presentation Contest. (World in a very American way, in that it’s not really a global contest, but the winning presentations are all good insight into good presentation styles.)]

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I love good sports writing as much as I love sport. There’s plenty of media attention consumed by football in England, which means plenty of interesting analysis (generally) to absorb, even if some is obscenely detailed/complex (the Guardian, home of crazy graphics.)

Since I have arrived in my current flat, complete with Sky Sports News, I’ve really enjoyed some heated conversations with my English housemates about the strengths and weaknesses of the Premier League.( To avoid hate mail, I’ll not have the argument here, but enough to say the absence of almost all games from free-to-air television, and the obscene price of tickets is something to behold.) I have loved watching some big matches in the pub (we don’t have Sky at home), and am planning a trip to Goodison next season as a major investment. Many locals are far from swayed by my arguments for refrom, but to date no-one can tell me what’s so great about having a wealthy man in another country own your football club with a keen profit motive (other than a deep squad…) – at least for me, the passion exhibited by fans has always seemed at odds with the profit motives of owners.

(Clearly posting twice at the end of a long week has lead to these rediculously long intros. Sorry.)

What I just wanted to include here was a link to this incredible piece by David Conn (an excellent football writer) in Wednesday’s Guardian, about FC United, a football club formed by disgruntled football fans after Glazer’s takeover of Man U in 2005.

The contrast to the Premier league is stark: (a few quotes, because I am pretty sure pasting in the whole thing is not kosher)

“You hear […] bemusement that fans of other clubs have not protested against their takeovers – “Not even Liverpool,” the FC fans all murmur. Here they have moved on, to building their own club according to the principles they argued for when campaigning: supporter-ownership, with members (2,500 of them) voting for the board and policies; ticket prices affordable at £7 for adults, £2 for under-16s, and an agreement with stewards that supporters can stand. The club has established a youth policy which seeks to work with junior clubs who often feel exploited by the way professional clubs’ academies trawl for the best players. FCUM have also made partnerships with social welfare and community organisations, seeking to welcome marginalised groups and introduce football as a good presence in their lives.”

“The Formby match was designated a youth day, with under-16s allowed in free and young people before the game taking part in drama, banner-making and working with the Touch of Class rap collective, which promotes an anti-gun message. Thomas Cullen, a coach at Trafford Athletic Club, brought a group; he said he believed one lad had just been saved from being excluded by his school. “His teacher is here and she saw a different side of him,” he said. “This is great for them. They’re mostly black lads from Hulme and Moss Side but not one has ever been to a match at Old Trafford because they can’t afford it.

Bill Evans, manager of Rochdale Children’s Rights and Advocacy Services, brought 30 children, all in local authority care, saying it was a “positive way for them to feel included“. Maxine Seager of the Tameside Youth Service, a disaffected “Big” United fan herself, came with 70 kids – “Two coach loads,” she said, grinning and rolling her eyes. “They’re loving it, buzzing. They get so much out of this and we work our programmes, on anti-racism and social cohesion, around coming to the game.”

I felt inspired during my snatched lunch break anyway – worth noting that FC United has already developed a few players that are now up in the Championship, the squad is predominately English, and isn’t making a profit for anyone overseas from the contributions of fans. One imagines the changing room has fewer over-priced numptys, but probably some chav-ish WAGs??

[M, clearly this post is meant for you – see the reference to “lentil-eating social worker” in the main article….]

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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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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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