Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This is the story of Pru and Jude....

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

Talking tax
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

Since moving here I've picked up an entirely new vocabulary - some great English words and phrases, and some downright annoying ones. Sometimes I just can't help myself and they slip out. So here is my guide to speaking like a Londoner... (if you don't have one, now is the time to come out with a fake English accent).

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

The weekly weekend wrap-up

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

London nights...

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

Well, I did say this last weekend was going to be about footy and beer - I just didn't think it would involve crazy Germans, shots of whisky and schnapps, mulitple steins, trombone playing, pork knuckles, not to mention the poor losing Wallabies! A party I went to on Saturday night was an unexpected awesome night, one of those parties where you end up dancing around a room with a bunch of people you don't even know, but who have become your best friends for the night. Here's a photo of me with Kate (one of my actual friends who I went with).

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'm at work at the moment - taking a lunch break (yes it's a bit sad that I'm not outdoors socialising, but it's just too damn cold out there!) I have resisted the urge to go shopping (Spitalfields markets is nearby and I've heard they're really good) - because I've realised that Xmas is just around the corner and I should be investing in some presents for people! I also want to fit a weekend away to Edinburgh sometime in the next few weeks, so will need some cash for that too. I'm getting used to the English pound, although I still find myself sometimes with a silly idea of how much everything costs. For instance, today I went to buy a small can of drink for 50p and thought 'hey, that's really cheap!' - but no Pru, it's just the same as it would be at home, if not more - $1.20. Damn exchange rate!

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...