Saturday, December 31, 2005
The London Underground map: an iconic symbol of London if ever there was one!(apparently the poor lad who designed the map back in the day only got paid the equivalent of one pound for doing it - even though it is world-famous today and helps makes sense of one of the most complicated transport systems in the world - ripped off!) Anyways, I am blabbing! This is the theme for our NYE party tonight- you have to come dressed as a London tube station, and although a lot of people are keeping theirs secret, it sounds like there are going to be some good outfits!
Hope everyone back home has a great New Year. I've heard the theme on the Sydney Harbour Bridge this year is "Have a Heart", which is feelgood-nice. Pretty apt considering the disturbing news of racial riots we've been getting over here. What's going on? Honestly, I leave the country for three months.....
Anyway, must be off as there is punch to make and fireworks to buy. A safe and Happy New Year to all. Here's to 2006!
Thursday, December 29, 2005
After a few days of the most (and best) Xmas food and drink that I think I have ever consumed, I'm back in London feeling like a little fat pudding.. and yet I must continue the indulgences, as it is almost New Year and there is still lots of celebrating to be done! (the pic is not from xmas day, but from our orphan xmas dinner at our place last week).
Christmas was lovely and I was rewarded with a gorgeous (but brief) snowfall in the country and in London. (I even did the whole ten-year-old kid thing: "Wake up everyone, it's snowing!!" and then running outside in to the snowflakes in nothing but my PJ's and jumping around stupidly - yes, i was a tad excited). Paul's family were all so nice to Ben and I (us being orphans and all), and we had a very decent present haul, and they didn't even mind when it became obvious that there is truth to the rumour that Aussies tend to drink a lot. (I felt a little sheepish when Paul's 80 year old aunt said to me the next day 'Are you feeling ok dear, it all seemed to hit you at once didn't it?'!). Oh well, I always like to operate on the basis that even though yes, I may have been drinking from midday to 8pm, I still appear to be as eloquent and sober as a judge at all times :)
The extremely exciting development of the last couple of days is that Shell and Ray have arrived to live in London, and they will be the next fabulous addition to our expanding gang of Aussies. Being the London vet/tourguide/expert and all, I'll be showing them all the wonders of this fine city and revelling in the virgin excitement of the newly arrived traveller (awww, it's so cute when they don't know what money to pay with!).
Stay tuned for more exciting news about the NYE party of the century...
Oh, and for more exciting pics from the Xmas party, go here
Friday, December 23, 2005
London is getting pumped for Christmas, only two days away! I spent a good ten minutes transfixed by the HUGE Xmas tree in Covent Garden last night, apparently donated to London each year by Norway (or somewhere like that). The famous Xmas lights on Oxford Street and Barnaby Street are also really cool.
This might be my last post before the big day, as Ben, Paul and I are off to the Cotswolds for a country Christmas (and hopefully it will snow!). There has a lot of drinking and eating this week, and not much else. I'm in my office at the moment and it is completely empty since everyone has jetted off early. Probably because everyone has been driven more than a little mad by the insanely repetitive Christmas songs everyone goes crazy for. You can't escape them. I think every crap band from the Spice Girls to the Sugababes have released a Xmas single over the years, which get dragged out and massacred again and again every year.
It's my first Christmas away from home, and it doesn't really feel the same. It's cool being in a big new city though and seeing how it's done over the other side of the world. It's a cool 38 degrees in Sydney at the moment which I'm missing, but I'm also hanging out for some mulled wine and turkey by the fire, with the snow falling outside frosted windows (I'm living the Bridget Jones/Love Actually Christmas!)
Anyways, better get back to pretending I'm finishing up lots of important work before I leave for my little holiday. A very merry Christmas to everyone!!!
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I'm nursing a terrible hangover at work today after a fabulous night of festivities at our Christmas party last night (what kind of crazy people have Christmas parties on Monday night?!). This morning on the tube I was extremely glum, with a bottle of Coke in one hand, and a Ribena in the other (they are my hangover cures). I may as well have had 'seedy drunk' plastered on my forehead as I tentatively sipped the Coke at eight o'clock in the morning, much to the disgust of fellow passengers (who gave me some dirty, disapproving looks).
This is me at the party with Stacey and Matt - fellow members of my trust editorial team (Matt in the middle is actually my boss, the Senior Editor). It was a really great night, although fairly tame for a Christmas party! I was very well-behaved and in bed by 12 (albeit more than a little bit sozzled). The funny photos have been circulating around the office all day and there are a few red faces - bless Christmas!!!
Getting in to the festive spirit again: my funny Santa site of the week is one that Phil sent me and kept me amused for hours this morning when I was incapable of anything requiring more than the brain capacity of an ant. You can make Santa do whatever you want! Go to http://www.santasez.sig-ad.com/
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Check out this funny Santa site that made me laugh - there's some Santas looking like they just got out of jail and some poor scared little kids, what a recipe for comedy.... Scared of Santa??
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Ahh, perhaps Aussie sport is not dead after all! I got sent this photo today - this is my lovely friend Shell from back home celebrating after the Aussies qualified for the World Cup. Seeing the Sydney Morning Herald made me miss home! Shell is also sitting in what used to be my office back in Australia (before the OE adventures started). i'm sure she'll be featuring lots more over the next few months, as she arrives on London's doorstep for a working holiday on the 28 Dec.
Monday, December 12, 2005
As I sit here and gaze at my tackily decorated office Christmas tree (I can't complain, it was me that added the purple tinsel), I'm missing the sunny build up to an Aussie Christmas. BUT, we are doing enough celebrating to compensate, and today was my team's Christmas lunch which was a lovely decadent three hour booze-up at the delightfully titled Giraffe cafe. Next week is the real Xmas party for the whole office which should be great. In the spirit - here's a letter I pulled from the Metro this morning which made me giggle so much on the tube everyone looked at me strangely...
Letter from Chris in Edinburgh:
"We had our annual office Christmas party the other night. I heroically did my bit for the common person by telling my boss he was a fat slob, two girls had a serious slap fight over a Spanish barman, and another normally quiet guy fell off his seat and vomited all over my boss' wife. Needless to say, it's a very quiet office this week. I love Christmas."
OK, so I've only been working here for a couple of months, so I'm going to be very well-behaved!
In other exciting news, our Trivia/Quiz night team made it's spectacular debut last night, with no help from me whatsoever! The Heathrow Injections (plus one Pom) stormed the Jolly Gardener to take out the £50 bonus round cash prize (but came in a measly fourth place thanks to my poor Charade skills). We didn't even use the old 'mobile phone in the toilet to check answers' trick, and now Ben (my brother) has enough money to buy some groceries this week - woohoo!
Friday, December 09, 2005
They drink so much tea here it's ridiculous! Now I'm not adverse to a nice hot cuppa of Tetley's every now and again, but the UK should adopt tea drinking as a national sport. And it's not just little old ladies sitting down to their afternoon tea, it's the big English blokes, and they all have it so milky and sugary it's horrible!
I've been sucked in to the 'tea cycle' at work - the endless tea runs that have someone coming to your desk every 5 minutes asking if you want a cup of tea while they are fetching their own, will have you drinking gallons before you know it (and have me needing to go the bathroom every five seconds because I've drunk so much). I appreciate the friendly service - but I had TEN cups of tea the other day and it's got to stop! I've bought some green tea now, so I've started getting cups of hot water delivered instead. What I would give for an espresso machine....
The tea thing I can kind of understand (and it's definitely acceptable at work when a trip on a tea run is the perfect distraction) - the English obsession with Neighbours however, is still a completely mysterious phenomenon. A man here can also profess his love of Kylie, Take That and gossip endlessly about the results of the 'I'm a Celebrity..get me out of here!' show and 'X-Factor', and no-one will even question his masculinity. Maybe Aussie men are missing out :)
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I realised today that I have been in London for over three months and have not yet set foot outside of the country! This needs to be rectified immediately, however I just looked at my calendar, and don't have any spare time until the beginning of February!! (just call me Miss Popularity :) I think I may go to Karneval in Germany, but I really want to go to Edinburgh as well, and just about everywhere else! I never even thought about going to the US while I am here, but now I really want to go there too because it is much closer to here than Australia (and people go to New York just for the weekend! crazy). I definitely want to get something organised soon - heaps of people from my work are going away for Christmas and were making me very jealous yesterday with their plans for Morocco, New York, Italy etc. At least I know I have plenty of time - I've just been so happy about being in London that I haven't thought yet about going anywhere else!
In other good news for travellers - of my friends who arrived from Australia about a month ago and settled in around the corner from me, two of them have found jobs they really like (one of the girls is now working for Associated Press), and two of them have found temping work. So more evidence that it can be done.
Last night we attempted to resume our quest for the best 'Quiz night' which has so far been unfruitful due to our complete lack of effort. The pub we went to has theirs on Monday nights (not Tuesdays) so I'm sure we will go soon.
We ended up having a great night at this brilliant pub though (plug here for the Jolly Gardener in Putney) - really cosy pub and they have..wait for it....board games! What could be better than a beer and Monopoly? We actually played Taboo, which can get a little violent once everyone has had a little bit to drink... :)
My photo for the day is this one - This is me feeding a squirrel in Hyde Park - how cute!! (the squirrel, not me :).
Sunday, December 04, 2005
After a lovely weekend of country living in the Cotswolds I'm back in London - all the country villages are looking so beautiful with all their Christmas lights, but getting woken up at 6am on Sunday morning by the cows mooing next door was not that enjoyable. Back in the big city, there's only the ducks in the river to worry about (and the psycho seagulls that divebomb me when i'm on my way to work in the morning).
London is getting excited about Christmas and the shops are manic. And of course, everyone is buzzing about just which song will make the number one Christmas single on Top of the Pops (yes, I thought this was something they just made up for Love Actually but apparently not)
It's late and i'm dreading going back to work tomorrow but this lavish lifestyle of mine must be funded. And there's always the Christmas party which is in a couple of weeks to look forward to....
Friday, December 02, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Well it's now Tuesday and I'm still a little breathless over my amazing, celebrity-studded (and completely above my means) weekend. Although I spent a katrillion dollars, it was all worth it and resulted in not a singular, but a double celebrity spotting and lots of champagne swilling.
First off, I had a delighful (and extremely posh dahhling) afternoon tea at the Dorchester, which is a very swanky hotel on Park Lane in London. We were there for a hens night for one of the girls from work, and after some tea, sandwiches (no crust, mind), scones, 'pastries' and champagne, listening to a choir of Christmas carolers and basking in the adoring attention of the French waiters in tails, we were all feeling quite refined (and slightly sozzled) - see pic.
Then we were on to the Dorchester bar, where for the privilege of paying £10 for a vodka, we were treated to sharing a room with the divine JUDE LAW (neck scarf and all)!! Earlier in the day I had already spotted Hermione from Harry Potter (Emma Watson) which was very exciting in itself, however nothing can prepare you for just how gorgeous Jude is in person :) Although divine, it was all slightly embarrassing as we were all involuntarily reduced to giggly 16 year olds.
Although the weekend peaked there, more fun was to be had that night as we moved on to Zeta bar near the Hilton (where we continued to pay exorbitant prices for cocktails!!). Later on I left the girls and headed to meet more friends in Soho, however by the time I got there, I was slightly worse for wear and had to head home soon afterwards via the dreaded night buses, which never really seem to get you where you want to go (or where you think you're going!).
On Sunday, Paul and I went for shopping in Harrods (quite suitable to round off my indulgent weekend) where we bought overpriced gifts and dined on fabulous sushi and gigantic chocolate sundaes, almost equally priced with the vodkas from the night before. Ahh, i am truly living the hard life of a backpacker in London.....
PS Happy Birthday Greggus!!!
Saturday, November 26, 2005
In celebration of the fact that this week I got my first substantial pay cheque since arriving in London(woohoo!), and that I received my National Insurance Number three weeks early, I thought I'd write some info about Tax here (also to benefit my brother who returned to Australia three years ago after living in Manchester for a year, and has yet to claim his tax refund).
The tax year here ends on April 5th (I have no idea why?) and if you have earned less than £4,745 in the 2004/2005 financial year, or £4,615 in 2003/2004, then you will receive a full refund on tax paid. If you have earned over your tax free allowance you will get a proportion of the tax you have paid back.
You can claim at any time of the year and expect to receive your rebate within 4 to 6 weeks of claiming, providing you do not work again in the same year, and you can make claims that are up to six years back (lucky for Mike).
When you get a job in London, your employer will ask for your P60 and a P45. A P60 is a statement of income and tax to the end of the tax year, which your employer will give you at the end of the tax year. A P45 is your Group Certificate received when you finish employment.
If you're a traveller new to London, you of course will not have a P45 or a P60. You must make sure you tell your employer you don't have one and they will give you a form to sign so you will not have to go on Emergency tax.
You can either do your tax return yourself online (look at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/sa/) or by going through an agency. Make sure the agency is accredited by the ATA though (http://www.associationoftaxagents.co.uk/). If you think your financial affairs will be fairly straightforward, there is a new 'Short Tax Return' introduced this year you can do. Only four pages long!! Go here for the short tax return
You can quickly check to see if you are due a rebate from previous financial years in the UK by entering your figures here
Hope this is of use to someone!
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Chav- this is my favourite new word. Would best be translated in to Aussie as 'bogan' - used to describe anyone trashy. Think dark roots and platinum blonde hair, tight white jeans on not-so-tight bums and ugg boots outdoors. Variations on the noun: chavvy, chavster (They actually use this word in newspapers it is so widespread - I love it!)
Scav/Scavvy - seems to be a variation on the above - but applied to things/people with a more disgusting meaning
Are you having a giraffe?- Cockney rhyming slang translating to 'are you having a laugh' (I like to follow this with 'guv'). Other cockney slang (which appears to make no sense at all) are Apples and Pears=Stairs; Would you Adam and Eve it?= Would you believe it?
You awrite? - Is the Brit way of saying 'How are you'. This requires more than a yes or no answer - but an answer as to how you actually are, ie yes, well thanks. If you just answer yes, people look at you funny.
innit- can be added to the end of practically any sentence 'it's raining, innit'
well-chuffed - as in 'I was well chuffed' - translates to 'i was really stoked'. The word 'well' can be subsituted for 'very' anywhere... ie well smart, well good
crisps - This is the most annoying - they're called CHIPS dammit! Yes, BOTH the hot and cold ones.....
Well I suppose I should be adaptable if I'm going to live here - i DID accidentally call soccer football the other day...
That's all I can think of for now (I had a million earlier and they've all gone from my mind!). Feel free to add to the list.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Another week, another fantastic London weekend filled with friends, frosty mornings and sunny days, drinking and shopping (and Harry Potter)! After a quiet Friday night in (hey, a girl has to rest sometimes!) I woke up hangover-free on Saturday to go and watch the rugby. While everyone else was interested in England Vs All Blacks, I scored a plum position in a pub where I could see both TVs, and simultaneously enjoy watching Australia come out of its biggest ever losing streak against Ireland, while England got beaten by the Kiwis (revenge from last week!). Then it was on for more drinks, and a mini-housewarming for Kate and the other Aussie girls who have moved into a gorgeous flat just around the corner from us in Putters. The fact that they are all now broke because they had to pay three months rent in advance, plus deposit, didn't put a dampener on the cheese and wine event :)
Then it was on to the Boathouse for more frivolity, which all culminated in a slighty ill Prudence come Sunday morning. But the thought of shopping in Covent Garden kept me going and after my staple Sunday morning bacon and eggs in Putney, Paul and I were off to brave the Xmas crowds (and near-freezing temps) for some shopping which we can't really afford. I LOVE Covent Garden - the shopping is brilliant and it looks gorgeous now that Christmas decorations are out in force and you can stand around all rugged up drinking mulled wine in the plaza (which I am actually yet to try - perhaps when I am not hungover one Sunday?). We then headed to Chinatown and Leicester Square, then back to Putney to see the new Harry Potter! I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed every second of good old Harry.
Am on my lunch break and have to get back to work now...Hope everyone back home is enjoying the sunshine, as I'm currently about to burn a hole in my stockings (sorry, pantyhose) because I am shoving my legs too close to the heater trying to get warm. This morning on the tube the Metro actually predicted 'Arctic Blizzards' for Wednesday. God help me....!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
OK, so maybe London doesn't get QUITE as cold as this, but this week I have sometimes been feeling like one of these poor little (cold) penguins. Yes, I am the first to admit I am a wussy Aussie and I do know that the thermometer only goes down from here - but I was still a little shocked by the frosted grass when I went to work yesterday morning! The things keeping me going though are images of a beautiful white Christmas, and drinking mulled wine and having a hot turkey dinner, ice skating outdoors and frosty evenings wrapped up warm by the fire. I am missing the thought of hot Aussie summer days by the beach but a little bit of change never hurt anyone - and the beaches will always be there when I get home!
It's actually sunny out today, so I think I'll get out of bed and go and do something! The Wallabies are playing Ireland so I might set up camp in a pub, hopefully they have some better luck this week. Congrats to the Aussie soccer boys - Germany here I come!
Don't forget you can sign up to get regular updates from my blog straight to your inbox by writing you email in the box on the right (or at the bottom) of this screen. Then you'll always be up tp date with what's going on with me and London! :)
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I had a very swish Londonesque evening tonight, and thought I'd just write a bit before I head off to bed (still a little lagged after the weekend!). I met up with Karen for dinner and we headed out for Asian in South Kensington and then went to a book signing in Chelsea. Nevermind that we stumbled on the book signing by accident, or that we didn't know who the author was, or that we only really stayed for the free chocolate cake and wine, but we still felt like very posh intellectual Londoners (if only we could find a poetry reading too!) Now I'm back to my traveller roots though - sitting in a dingy Internet cafe with Ferris Bueller playing in the background. Although in a couple of weeks I'm going to a Hen's night for one of the girls at work, and we're going to the Dorchester for an afternoon tea (for all those of you not in the know - the Dorchester is a VERY swish hotel in London where Michael Jackson stays when he comes here, and I'm sure heaps of other much better celebrities :) Then that night I'll be off to a club for my friend Greg's birthday - some cool fancy place I should probably know about it but have never heard of (maybe I'm not such a cool Londoner after all?!). Anyways, that's still a couple of weeks away so I'm sure there'll be many more exciting things happening before then.... Night peoples!
Monday, November 14, 2005
As usual the Aussies were a hit, and everyone was suitably sympathetic about the Wallabies (unlike the 15 or so big English guys in the pub where we watched the game, who continuously berated us and made jokes about the Ashes and Ramsay Street!)
I was feeling very hungover and sorry for myself on Sunday morning, but being the trooper that I am,I endeavoured to back up for a 'Novemberfest' day, and I'm very glad I did! It was a fantastic day at a converted Oktoberfest pub in Fulham, complete with bad German accents and crazy dances, and I even got to play a trombone! (see pic - I've found a new talent!). The Oompa band was basically English guys in lederhosen, and they only had a repertoire of about five songs, but by the end of the day after a few steins no-one really noticed. Most of the people there were Aussie TNTers anyway, and weren't really too fussed!
Although i only managed two steins (apparently a disappointing effort, no doubt hindered by my shots of whisky from the night before), I think I made up for the count with my singing efforts and talent for dancing on tables. And when the truly traditional German 'Summer of 69' by Bryan Adams came on, my karaoke days from the Castle Hill Tav really came in to play.
It was a top day, however I'm still feeling slightly off on Monday morning. Oh well, on with the eventful escapades of the little blonde aussie in London! This week we begin our quest for the best Quiz night around (we were going to start last week but lost our English contingent when Paul left us for Texas) - so we shall see how we go. My brother Ben is currently out of a job so perhaps we can earn him some cash and turn him in to a professional Trivia-er.
Christmas is just around the corner and it is really getting colder in London. Hearing how warm and sunny it is at home is not helping, but freezing one;s little bumpkin off is a small price to pay I think for being in a great city such as this.
PS: I've had a request to put some information about Tax for travellers and how to get your tax back from the Pommy Tax Man when you go home, so stay tuned for my wisdoms..... Auf Wiedersehen Freunde! Brost!
Friday, November 11, 2005
I haven't added any pictures for a while so thought I'd treat you all to some more pictures of my house! (how exciting I hear you all say). Both of these were actually taken from my window - I especially like the one of the Mary Poppins style chim-chiminy-chimchimcheroo rooftops. Here's another one I took last night while I was walking home by the river, after drinks in Kensington...
Yesterday I went to get my National insurance Number, which was a lot easier than I expected. Only annoying thing was having to take half a day off work. All you need to do is collect a few forms of ID, proof of address etc, and it only takes about 15 minutes. Since I had the morning off work, I went exploring in Wimbledon afterwards which I heard has good shopping (and the chance of spotting celebrity tennis players - unfortunately I didn't see any of those though :( Almost got mobbed in H&M though, by hysterical teenage girls trying to grab clothes from the new 'Stella Macartney range' - "designer fashion at high street prices" - WOW. The morning turned sour when I was accosted by a crazy guy on the tube - who after I helped him get the first aid he said he needed, ran off and left the station master to tell me that he tries to pick up unsuspecting girls like me and try and take them home with him. Hmmmm, gotta love the London loons!
Last night I went for dinner at Karen's new pub home - one of my Aussie friends has taken up residence in a pub in South Kensington, where she pays no rent, but has to work three bar shifts a week. Very handy when you can just go downstairs for a drink. She's living with 16 other Aussies though - we just can't get enough of London, it seems.
The theme of this weekend will be footy and beer. Hopefully the Wallabies will be better tomorrow, then we have 'Novemberfest' on Sunday - the beer fesrtival at a new Octoberfest pub in Fulham which apparently is adaptable to different months...
OH - almost forgot - exciting update!! If you sign up on the little box to the right of your screen, you can get emails direct to your inbox whenever I update my blog. So you can be EXTRA up to date with my adventures! What more could you ask for?
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I had dinner with a friend last night who came to London on a working visa, and couldn't get a job in Publishing despite applying to quite a few places. It makes me think how lucky I have been to land such a great Editorial job in London. It does help that I had a couple of years experience in my field from home though. We were talking about the ways you can stay in the country, and one of the girls said she knows a guy who is on the Skilled Migrant Visa and he's worrking in a bar! From everything I've heard it really seems that for those who want to stay here- you'll find a way if you look hard enough!
Sunday, November 06, 2005
No trip to London will be complete without a visit to She Bu Walkie (read "Shay boo") otherwise known as the Shepherds Bush Walkabout, second (and sometimes first) home to drunk and jolly Aussie backpackers from all over and bad cover bands from Bondi. This is where I found myself last night to watch the Wallabies lose dismally to the French, then to drink and dance the night away (well as much as you can before the 12pm closing time - still to get used to that one!). It tends to be a bit of a meat market - but will be a good night (as long as you have someone to someone to protect you against any dodgy guys who can get a little fresh - thank you Greg and Paul).
Now it's been a rainy recovery Sunday - I think every greasy spoon cafe around Putney is getting to know us as we stumble in on weekend mornings for bacon and eggs and a giant latte. I have a lovely view of the Thames though from my living room, so it's been lovely sitting around relaxing before I have to go back to work tomorrow. I was supposed to start Xmas shopping this weekend, but a trip to Oxford and Regent Sts on Saturday left me so flustered and irritable at the millions of other people who apparently had the same idea, that I have decided to do the sensible thing and postpone and procrastinate.. May try Camden market next week, which I've heard is brilliant.
I have an "identity interview" on Thursday so I can get my National Insurance Number. I have to take the morning off work which is a pain (so if you can get it done before you start work, it'd be a plus). We don't even get our contributions back when we leave the country, so I'm altogether unimpressed by the whole situation. BUT at least it means that I have a job and have a cash flow now!!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
This week has been all about pumpkins and fireworks with Halloween and Guy Fawkes night all rolled in to one exciting costume and cracker filled week - people are going mad with fireworks, I can't believe they are still legal here! I've seen a few close calls - and the Metro on the tube every day (the tabloid everyone reads) is full of people complaining about how they were kept up all night by 'firecracker bandits'. All the little kiddies were dressed up for Halloween looking cute - made me think maybe we missed out a teensy bit in Australia.
My new job is going really well - had induction today and will be putting out my first publication soon. Remember when you're saving to go on a working holiday, don't do like I do, and assume that you will probably get paid as soon as you start working. I started in a bad part of the pay cycle and consequently will not be getting paid until the end of November - argh! Have spoken to HR, I think they can organise my an employee loan or something which is lucky though, but it's something everyone should keep in mind.
While I remember, I wanted to make a note for working travellers coming from Australia who haven't left home yet. As I've said before, you MUST get a bank acocunt before you leave (it will save a HEAP of hassle) - but you can no longer do it through HSBC/Travelex like I did, they have stopped the partnership for some reason. Try out 1st contact - you pay about $60 and they set one up for you before you leave and you get an orientation when you get here, and some other free things too. I'm banking with HSBC and they have generally been pretty good (I got all my money back when my credit cards and debit cards were stolen on the tube - so they can't be all bad!). I've heard bad things about Natwest, OK things about Lloyds TSB - but you're always going to hear bad things about banks aren't you? At least they have no fees like they do back home!
In other news, we've been trawling all our local pubs in search of a Trivia nightworthy of our incredibly brainy team. Being made up primarily of Aussies, I think we may be a little disadvantaged when it comes to those Eastenders questions though...
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Today I visited the famous Portobello Rd Markets - definitely one of my London highlights so far. It is just fantastic and I felt suitably cool browsing through antiques and strolling through Notting Hill. It completely lived up to my expectations, not one of those world famous sites you get to and think 'is that all?!'. As is everything else in London on a Saturday, it was completely crammed, but I'm getting used to navigating the crowds(and now post-tubewalletsnatchingincident, am used to obsessively clutching and checking my bag every five seconds).
I caught myself on several occasions humming the 'Portobello Rd, Portobello Rd' tune from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (had similar slightly embarassing experience when visiting the steps of St Paul's cathedral and got caught singing 'Feed the Birds' from Mary Poppins - damn musicals!)
As I'm writing this, fireworks are going off everywhere because people are gearing up for Guy Fawkes night next week. Last night some overzealous Aussies almost set the plants outside our flats alight. You can tell we're not used to it :)
Monday, October 24, 2005
- the tube map starts to make sense
- you order a pint without even thinking about how much beer it actually is
- you get interested in soccer (??)
- you've discovered the heavenly McVitties chocolate flapjacks, and Ben and Jerry ice-cream
- you compulsively stand to the right, at all times, for fear of getting trampled
- you start calling the bus tour-guide groups ‘tourists’ in a smugly superior tone
- you get your first English paycheck and stop compulsively converting when you buy lunch
- you've accepted the English media is trash and yes, there is and will always be, a major national newspaper featuring a semi-naked ‘page three girl’
- you start enjoying 'Wife Swap'
- you look outside and see a miniscule ray of sunshine and think 'what a lovely day!'
Here's to my eight week anniversary!!!!!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
(check out this crazy guy - pity I wasn't in Worchester!! http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200510/s1488154.htm )
Friday, October 21, 2005
I've been off the planet for a few days, and so much has happened in the life of your favourite Aussie-turned-Londoner....where to begin?
Most importantly of all, I started my new job this week and it has just been fantastic! I've joined a young, vibrant company as an Editor, and I have a feeling I'm going to really enjoy myself there. There are four other Aussie girls in the company and they took me out for lunch, or 'Sheila Snack-time' as it was dubbed by everyone else in the company. Having all been in London for a different amount of time, it was interesting hearing everyone's stories, plans and experiences of being a working traveller in London and how they feel about eventually going home. Having only been here for seven weeks, I felt like a bit of a novice! Also excited about the year I have ahead of me though, and all the great things I have yet to experience. Not one traveller I've met has said anything other than that they are having the time of their lives.
Bit of bad news this week as I had my first run in with thieves on the tube. Those who know me will no doubt be surprised that I have managed this long without having something lost/stolen, and until this week, I was in similar disbelief. BUT, my credit card, debit card and 60 pounds cash were stolen from me on the Tube this week (on my first day of my new job - great timing!). At first I was ecstatic at the time, cause they had actually PUT BACK my purse after they rifled through it (don't ask me how I didn't notice) but at least I still had my Aussie cards, license etc. Here was I thinking how nice it was of them to put it back, but (and most of you will probably cotton on here), of course it is so the little buggers have more time to use your card before you report it stolen. In the time it took me to report the cards missing, I lost over 400 pounds (about AU$1000 to save you the math). Today was spent going back and forth from the police station and the bank - still don't know if I'm going to get the stuff off my credit card back - ARGH!! (it is SO easy to use other peoples cards here, even without the PIN, sometimes English authorities are so stupid).
On to happier news - by chance I've run in to four people from home in completely random places on different occasions. If you want to get away from friends from home, don't come to London!! Probably because the Aussies have basically taken over the West and South West of this city. It's a small world after all....
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Everyone is coming over this afternoon to check out the new flat so I have to go to the 'offie' (short for off-licence - you get bagged so much here if you say 'bottle-o'), to stock up on beer for a blissful afternoon on the balcony.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Friends, my six week sojourn of sleeping, shopping and boozing is about to come to an end; at least between the hours of 9 and 5, Monday to Friday; since I have finally gained steady, long term, respectable (and well-paid) employment in London! (Cue champagne corks and celebratory shopping spree...!!) After tentatively leaving my job as an Editor in Sydney, my next career step will be as an Editor for an educational publisher in East London, on a 12 month contract (the maximum amount of work allowed by my stingy visa). Finding permanent work with the new Visa 12 month rule is hard, but obviously do-able (it's much easier for Aussies if you can dig up a British ancestor). The main concern my new employer had about hiring a working traveller, was that they didn't want someone who was going to leave after only a short time, so basically I had to prove my worth and let them know exactly why they should hire me over anyone else and that I'm in it for the long run - so everyone back in Oz, doesn't look like I'll be home for a while!! The fun starts on Tuesday, so I'll keep you posted.
In other spheres of life in Putney, I have discovered something dark, dire and altogether horrifying about London. I've noticed it over the past few weeks, but didn't think it could be true until I experienced it firsthand this morning thinking (and this is always dangerous) "well, everyone else seems to be doing it, it can't be that bad". Oh it is. In the UK, they make ORANGE SMOOTHIES and seem to think this is ok. Not just some kind of orange flavouring, but juicy, citrusy oranges mixed right in with yoghurt and milk and whatever else you want to add to this disgusting combination. I ended up with one this morning when I went in to a juice/smoothie bar and asked for a banana smoothie (I should have run out the door when the pimply skinny guy behind the counter looked blankly at me and said "ah..well, we don't really do those - i can't imagine that would be very nice") Um, sorry, WHAT? Isn't the Banana Smoothie where it all started? Doesn't EVERYONE know what a banana smoothie is and how good they taste? Slightly disturbed and a little confused, I just kind of pointed at something on the menu and ended up with this foul orange combination, that I can still feel curdling in my stomach.
You've all been warned.....
but yay! I got a job !!!
(and Happy Birthday to my beautiful friend Amy back home - have some champagne for me gorgeous!)
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Finally - introducing Le Palais Putney (or Putters as it has come to be known)
We have finally moved somewhere permanent, as you can see from the lovely photos! (That's Paul on our balcony). Ours is the apartment second from the top on the right - and we're sharing with an Aussie guy, a Brazilian girl and a South African girl, who all seem really nice. The place is called 'Ruvigny Mansions' - suitably posh for me I would say :) We've managed to score wireless Internet and Sky TV as well which is a plus (although I am developing a dangerous addiction to Sky, since at any time of day you can find either Friends or Will and Grace, or some other popcorn American comedy on). Anyway, it is sweet to finally call somewhere home and I just love it, love it, love it!
Having sustained a battle injury during the Swans Grand Final (don't laugh, but when we won I jumped up and seem to have done some kind of semi-permanent damage to my back)..anyways, I have yet to be introduced to the Health System here and am about to take myself off to my local 'Walk In Centre' because I am guzzling Nurofen like there is no tomorrow and it can' t be good. When you arrive in the UK you need to register with a doctor in your local area (I didn't do this, oops) so you can make an appointment if anything comes up (like grand-final-induced back injuries). If you haven't registered but you need to see a health professional for a minor ailment, you can go to the NHS Walk In Centre near you, and just wait to be seen (which could take ages). Go to www.nhs.uk to find your nearest local doctor or centre.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Keeping in tune with my record as being the laziest traveller ever when it comes to living it rough, (and being homeless until tomorrow!) Paul and I checked in to a very nice hotel just off High Street Kensington for a couple of days last week (got a great, VERY cheap deal on my new darling www.lastminute.com, almost cheaper than some hostels I looked at actually). Anyways, quickly discovered that there is no quicker way to make yourself feel short, fat and altogther frumpy, than walking down High Street Kensington beside the Kate Moss lookalikes and celebrity wannabes that appear to be everywhere. Although I was on the lookout for Sienna and Jude, it just wasn't to be...but I live in hope. Am finding it very difficult to not blow all my cash shopping, especially since I am still jobless, but there's only so much a girl can take.
We also discovered great chain pub in Lambeth (en route to funky little Cuban bar) - the Camel, which was made even better by the obviously new waitress who forgot to charge us for our last round of drinks - always a plus. Although my mate Greg was very seedy having just returned from his 'Top Deck' tour of Europe (he said it was awesome and heaps better than Contiki - have a look www.topdecktours.co.uk), we had a gorgeous meal and of course, plenty of pints and lovely red wine.
Raining again today - don't want to know what the temp is back home...
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
This is what kept me entranced on Saturday night - the glowing, colour changing bridge in Newcastle (the amazement was no doubt enhanced by several delicious mojitos). We went up to Newcastle for the weekend to visit friends, and I was pleasantly surprised. There's a decent beach nearby (well, decent for England anyway) and even a mini replica Sydney Harbour Bridge, although they reckon they built it before we did. I tried to refute this but couldn't come up with exact dates? shame on me.
These photos were taken on Saturday night, where we sampled some of the great bars and clubs the city up north has to offer. One with a piranha tank was particularly cool. This is in the Pitcher and the Piano, one of the 'chain' bars that seem to be all over London and England. Anyways, the night wore on and much fun was had by all. If you can bothered to take the two hour train ride, you'll have a fun night (just look at the pretty colours!)
In other news, the interview process is still wearing on and I'm giving myself another little non-income earning holiday :) and the move-in date looms nearer!
Friday, September 30, 2005
As all the Aussies (or just Sydney?) settle in for the long weekend, you'll all no doubt feel a smug sense of satisfaction out of the fact that the rain has come! Today is my first grey miserable day in London, and I can't say I'm loving it! (When my taxi driver tried to convince me yesterday that 15 degrees is actually pretty warm, I almost cried). It's going to be a loooooonng winter (wait, I think I see a patch of blue....)
Not to worry though - I cheered myself up by looking up some flights to Paris and Prague, where I plan to venture quite soon. Skiing in Austria would be quite nice...The thought of getting on a plane and being in Europe within a couple of hours makes it all worth it really. Paul and I are going to Newcastle this weekend to visit some friends, just for something different - not quite Prague, but it'll do for the moment.
In the past four weeks I've lived in three different places - am SO looking forward to moving in to our place in Putney; being homeless is not fun (and wreaks havoc with your wardrobe!). My stint as a receptionist also comes to an end today, so I will be unemployed again next week (homeless and unemployed? ahh the perils of a newie in London!) I had a job interview yesterday to be a Project Editor of Publishing for a museum here in London which went well (I think). So permanent employment may be on the cards soon..and my bank account is gagging for it. As a traveller on a two year visa, it's really hard getting permanent work through a recruitment agent. All the interviews I've got for permanent positions, have come from applications directly to a company (this may be different for other industries, not sure).
Anyways, less stress and more wine I say. Have a good weekend all, and hope the sun is shining for you all back in Oz.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Some Wednesday wisdoms from your resident UK traveller....
I'm temping as a receptionist this week in Westminster to pick up some extra cash (easy work, lovely view of Big Ben and the Thames, sitting here with a coffee, sure beats waiting on tables!), and had a spare moment for some quick ideas that may come in handy for working travellers:
If you are applying for a lot of jobs at once, try and print out and keep the job descriptions and contact names for the positions you've applied for, so you can jog your memory if you are called back for an interview. I applied for so many jobs at once, that when people called me on my mobile, I had to stall for time while I remembered exactly what job they were talking about (not very professional!). Often by the time you are called for an interview, the job descriptions have been taken off the Net, which can leave you in a bit of a fix if you want to appear knowledgeable in an interview (I've got one tomorrow, interview panel of three, yikes!) Your best bet for the cheapest Internet access in London are local libraries, which are usually nice and quiet and perfect for job application marathons.
You will also need a permanent mailing address before you start applying for jobs (yes, some people still communicate by snail mail, quite a few here actually). If you are living out of hostels, and don't have a friend in London who can receive your mail for you - you can collect mail free of charge from your local post office. This is also handy if you want to send things ahead of you to be picked up in the UK. The person sending you mail just has to include the following on their envelope: your full name, 'POSTE RESTANTE' or 'TO BE CALLED FOR', followed by 'POST OFFICE' and the full address of the branch. If it's only addressed to a town name, for example 'POST RESTANTE, LONDON', then it will go to the closest main Post Office branch. Go to http://www.postoffice.co.uk (Receiving Mail) for all the information. They'll hold mail sent from the UK for two weeks, and for one month if sent from abroad.
Ciao for now,
Pru (world's best receptionist)
Monday, September 26, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
I thought I would dedicate a small section of my blog to working holidaymakers in London who want to make quick (or extended) getaways to Europe. There are some great deals around at the moment, so if you're longing for mediterranean skies or craving a cafe au lait, you might find these links helpful:
www.ryanair.com - great for cheap as chips flights, but they only fly to and from regional destinations (ie usually about an hour out of the nearest major city), so do some research in to where you're flying if you only have a limited amount of time (there are always shuttles to the nearest major city available). They also have a site for cheap deals on hotels at www.ryanairhotels.com
Another helpful site is http://www.skyscanner.net which is a flight search engine where you can compare available flights from different carriers.
Pining for Paris? If you've got a bit more to spend, the Eurostar is a quick, easy and comfortable way to whisk you directly to the heart of the city of lurve... www.eurostar.com At the moment they have 'City Break' deals from £77pp. I did it in January, and it was amazing!
In the past, I've picked up great deals from www.lastminute.com like cheap hotels, flights etc. It's worth a look if you're feeling spontaneous (or if someone forgot to book accommodation).
If a bus full of young antipodeans fuelled by excitement, hormones and alcohol is your thing, I've heard good things about Busabout from other travellers here (http://www.busabout.co.uk) You get to go at your own pace and prices for a two week pass start at £259.
Staying in London?
There's still plenty of excitement to be had. While checking out www.visitlondon.com I found it's a really good site for what's on around town, including a section dedicated to free stuff! I'm very excited about the Oxford Street 'Dress to Impress' festival next weekend, touted as being 'the high street fashion event of the year'. For the first time in history the street will be closed off to traffic, so if I get completely overwhelmed by the 'shopping celebration' and performance by Charlotte Church (joy), I can always park in the middle of a main street in London for a nap...
Thursday, September 22, 2005
OK, I may be the only one to get excited about this, but I met Brum! You know that cute little car that had his own TV show on the ABC a few years ago?! It was alongside other English greats (and personal favourites) such as Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Thomas. I met Brum in a Motor Museum in his home town, Bourton-on-the-Water (dubbed the 'Venice of the Cotswolds' by locals because of the picturesque river running through it). I had to include a photo for you all...
(I know you're probably wondering why I went in to a Motor Museum in the first place, but hey, I was getting in to the tourist spirit! This gorgeous town, about 2 hours out of London, was so pretty and quintessentially English, it just made you want to sit down and have tea and scones)
Back in London, I have started a temp job as a receptionist for a week or so to pick up some extra cash while I'm looking for a long term position. I had to take a test on my Word, Powerpoint, Excel and typing skills which was a bit scary - so a warning to everyone out there not to tell fibs on your CV!
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
It's my three week anniversary in London today, and I've marked it by securing my first paid employment - woohoo! I've decided to do some temping to bring in some extra cash while I'm searching around for a job in the area I really want to work in (publishing). I'll be doing easy temp stuff for around 10 pounds an hour for the next week or so. I have a job interview for an Editorial position tomorrow - but cash is getting short, and who knows how long it will take the publishing giants here to realise how brilliant I am and how much they really want to hire me?!
Some recruitment agencies are reluctant to take people for permanent positions who are only on the two-year working visa (of which you are only permitted to work 12 months), so that is a little difficult as well. Ancestry visas are fine, however. It can be disheartening, but just keep searching around, because I have met with a couple of agencies who were happy to take me on regardless - so I guess you just have to find the right ones. Check out the agencies which are suited to your industry at http://www.workgateways.com/agencies.php
You'll also need a National Insurance Number once you start working. You have to make time to go to an 'identity interview' at your local job centre. Read all about it at:
In other news, I'm still copping flak about the Ashes, but am in high spirits because my beloved Sydney Swans made it to the AFL grand final!! I'm just running off now to buy tickets to The Puzzle, a pub inHammersmith, where for 10 quid we get to watch the game live (at 5am) and get a six pack and a meat pie. Bless.....
Thursday, September 15, 2005
I just included this because I thought it was a nice photo of the Houses of Parliament in London, which I visited in my wanderings yesterday (don't yawn, it's an awesome building). I also went to the Tate Britain which is a great museum (and free too, which makes it so much more appealing! :) That's me enjoying the sunshine in the park, with Parliament in the background.
Also wanted to update you all on the job front. I have had two meetings with recruitment agents which have been positive (they say you should usually have about three people looking for work for you, but I haven't got that far yet). I'm trying to get a job in publishing over here, and found that Media Recruitment agencies are not usually listed on sites or resources aimed at working travellers (if anyone would like to know the agencies I've found, post a comment and I'll let you know). I've applied for a few jobs straight out of the media jobs section (out every Monday in the Guardian), but not too sure how successful that will be since they probably get thousands of applicants.
Right now there are more pressing issues to deal with however, as I am off to the pub to meet a friend for a drink. Ciao! :)
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Let's play 'pick the Aussie traveller who just returned from sunny Greece' in the above pic! My pasty complexion next to my beautifully tanned friend Jo has left me with a serious hankering for some European travels. This photo was taken last week at a bar in Fulham, as I caught up with friends from home (and my brother, also in the photo) over some snakebites (no, not a painful reptilian experience, but a delicious mix of beer, grenadine and cider).
Although the Autumn chill will be coming soon, heaps of people I've spoken to are heading off to take advantage of the European sun, and Oktoberfest. I wistfully watch them go, with the knowledge that once I get settled with a job, I'm going to become the queen of 'mini-breaks'.
The other photo above is the room I'm currently living in, in a share-house in Fulham. Although it's a great room in a fabulous location, living with seven other people is a bit much (and you can imagine the bathroom, very soggy!). The girl who's room we are dossing in, is coming back on Sunday, so we have to be out anyway. I currently have nothing organised yet, so stay tuned to hear more about my crazy (and hopefully, not homeless) adventures....
Monday, September 12, 2005
Just a quick one today to fill you in on finding a flat in London. Luckily for me, I had a beautiful pre-arranged room waiting for me when I got to London (was going to attach another photo here, but forgot to bring my USB cable to the Internet Cafe, oops, will do it in the near future). I have been dossing (UK term, translates to 'crashing') in this room for a couple of weeks, but have to vacate next week when the Aussie we're renting from returns. Basically all you need to find a room, whether you're pre-arranging, or finding your next flat, is the godsend website www.gumtree.com. This site is predominantly used by Aussie, Kiwi and South African travellers (but lots more as well), to advertise rooms in all areas of London on all budgets. At the moment for a double room in South West London we are paying 130 pounds a week, which is about average.
After I leave this share-house in Fulham, I'm very excited to announce that I will be living right on the Thames! We've found a great apartment in Putney, with a balcony overlooking the river, for 170 pounds a week (plus bills which are minimal once shared), and we are sharing with a Brazilian girl, an Aussie guy and a Kiwi girl. Flat hunting is not fun, and you will meet some weirdos for sure, but it's all worth it once you find the place which will witness your many coming adventures as a working traveller in this great city!
If anyone else has found a better (or just as good) website than gumtree.com, please do tell!
Thursday, September 08, 2005
One of the most surprisingly lovely things to happen since I have been here is the English sun! I was prepared for the worst, but the weather has been gorgeous. This is a pic of me enjoying the sunshine on a day trip to Windsor last week to visit Queen Lizzie....
The Londoners are all out in force, squeezing what they can out of the sun before the autumn chill hits. On Sunday the Regent Street festival was great - the street was closed off and thousands of people were enjoying market stalls, rides or parking themselves on the fake grass laid down the centre of the street (any opportunity for a sunbathe, and guys here just rip off their shirts and lie down for a nap - I guess you have to make the most of it while you can!)
The most handy thing this week has been my 'London A - Z'; any newie to London should definitely pick this up to avoid getting hopelessly lost as I have on a couple of occasions! You can pick them up from practically any newsagent in London - or if you're running short of cash and don't need one immediately, you can get a TNT Streetfinder for free from the website www.tntmagazine.com/streetfinder Soon you'll be trekking London like a pro.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
My adventures will be being brought to you by WORKgateways, who provide excellent recruitment advice for working travellers, as well as essential links and advice. Check out their site and the regular travellers newsletters (featuring contributions by yours truly) at www.workgateways.com
Let me know if you have any questions, ideas, or just want to say a general hello! Mi blog es su blog!
More to come....