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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Has it really been that long since I blogged? Yikes.  A first batch of photos from my trip to Turkey with Alexandra – some highlights from Istanbul, with more to follow. Apologies to those who’ve never sat through all my photos before for the excessive number of structures, building materials, etc – people to go in Facebook albums very soon.

Isti1

Isti3

Isti4

Isti6

 

Isti2

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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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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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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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A quick list of random pieces of information (yes, strange post, but am straining under the weight of my own expectations):

  • On my new site, new signs went up today about our zero tolerance policies (for which we remove people immediately from site for infringements) ignoring the practical safety ones, the sign also includes exclusions for urination and spitting.
  • Now that I live in such an expensive city, I can justify going to two plays (both free), out for dinner twice (with discounts – 50% off) and to the movies twice (Barbican membership discount) in a 10 day period, plus a girls’ weekend in Switzerland, and still genuinely cry poor. Tough times, clearly.
  • Apparently, the Dutch are years behind the Germans, French and Belgians in the tree-growing game. Years.
  • Now that I live in the UK, I’ve lost 2 shoe sizes. I have less respect for myself now that I am wearing a 2 or 3, rather than a 5 or 6. There are less small shoes in London, even though Poms are shorter than Aussies. As they say, big feet, big shoes.
  • Am thinking of a future-thinking irrigation business in London, driven by climate change and associated fears. These people are not ready for real water restrictions, and have none of the components for the more complex limitations. Gold mine.
  • From my office to London City Airport, including the walk to the tube, is less than half an hour and is paid for by my work travel pass. Swoon.
  • Tomorrow, provided I don’t urinate anywhere I shouldn’t or get caught spitting, I will finally have my first ever workplace massage. Hooray.

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