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Archive for the ‘Poms’ Category

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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            Roadtrip may be over doing things a little – I am, after all, car-less and not at all keen to get back into driving while in London. But I did, on Tuesday morning, go to Croydon for my CSCS Health & Safety Training Supervisors test. It was a lot like my L-plate test as a 16 year old girl – as the sort of person who rubbishes anyone who fails such a simple, touch-screen test, the consequences of failure were unbearable, so I did some study and was fine.

            The highlight/lowlight (depending on your views of corporate travel) of the experience was the trip to Croydon (inside the M25, but waaaay the Deep South for this Zones 1 & 2 Princess,) where I loved this sign: (I have a sneaking suspicion a fellow engineer wanted this one erected…)

            Wider Croydon

            Work-Related Rant

            The whole process of becoming accredited to be a construction industry big cheese over here is just crazy – I am still not really ready to work on a site more than 8 weeks after I first started here. By comparison, a NSW ‘Green Card’ (the Construction Industry’s General Safety Induction certificate, administered by WorkCover) takes around 6 hours to obtain, is an industry wide standard and a new worker can ‘rock up’ at one of many approved training centres with 100 points of ID and get one. Here, in typical UK-process-loving-hell style, I’ve had to fill out forms to work out what forms need completing, been a hideous number of stages (each with a small delay for processing), all before this involved test to get one of the many (over 50) different types of cards. I just pray I have the right one! Lots of people in industry admit that some European workers just buy cards from the pub for £150 – if I looked like a middle-aged man I’d be sorely tempted as it would be worth the sanity break.

            The second part of this rant is just how many people (there have been lots of them involved in processing my application) have spoken to me like I am a complete freak-show. I know women are unusual in the construction industry, and by being a young Australian engineer I am even more exotic, but I guess I just hoped people would be more British (ie reserved) with their surprise.

            I posted earlier about the man in the CSCS test booking centre who asked me if I was booking in for a test ‘for (my) husband?’  – similarly, everyone at the test centre kept checking I really wanted to do a Supervisor’s test, but I just had to let it pass. I then had to wait for a certificate to be printed and call two different call centres to advance my application (ever closer to the elusive card!) where both people asked me if I really was an engineer like it was the most incredulous notion.

            Having once (rather infamously in my old workplace) taken my dry-cleaners through the HREOC process, am not going to let a the testing centre (Thomson Prometric), subcontracted to the CITB, get away with it. I don’t really enjoying being a gender warrior (it’s fun in debating land when it involves mere rhetoric, but less fun when you actually have to use the tools available to change people and systems) but think these people need some angry young woman reform.

            Phew. Feel soo much better!

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            Apologies for the lack of posts – a brutal combination of the weekend, laziness, studying for an exam and a massive drinking binge with corporate sponsorship intervened.

            I did over the weekend catch up with some more Australians (trying not to be one of those Australians that just hangs out with other Aussies all the time, but they’re so addictive!) over the weekend, and discussed some of the following differences between life back home and here in the Old Dart.

            You know you live in a globally important (but still terribly British) city when…

            1. Your Economist magazine arrives on a Saturday – this means your postie delivers 6 days a week (even if they do that in NZ too, perhaps undermining the argument), and you find out two days earlier how much the readership cares about the UK than your own, much-missed-but-not-that-important country (whole sections cf single article occasionally, generally unflattering…)
            2. People openly admit to loving the racist and embarrassing method your government uses to process illegal immigrants, rather than pretending to be offended/outraged and then privately (but compulsorily!) re-electing the perpetrators. It is alarming how many Poms would like to put all Eastern Europeans into a Woomera-like centre. Alarming too, how open they are about it, for a reserved people.
            3. The media is so unapologetically smutty, all the time. Crikey, get some clothes on! Have a few more women on telly who are more than bubbly/hot, co-hosting with an older, funnier, fatter, cooler man! As well documented by Kate Fox, even though Poms are highly reserved and private about their own lives (and even about those of close friends) the level of intrusive, smutty and sensationalist information about others in the avalanche of trashy media is boggling.
            4. Everyone has given a truly bizarre holy-cow-like status to things that don’t seem to deserve them. Trying to discuss institutions that perhaps could do with somereform do not go well – people respond with disbelief when you suggest that the Premier League, the crazy amounts of packaging on food or even the size of coins here are anything other than perfect. The number of people who can’t detect the kitsch value of the Eurovision Song Contest is enough to tell you people are taking the wrong things seriously!

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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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            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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