Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas everyone!

Turkey, eggnog, Scattegories, mulled wine, Celebrity Heads, presents, 3am phone call from Sydney, bad carols and paper hats... what more could you ask for?

Merry Christmas everyone!! Hope you had a wonderful day like we did. All the best for Boxing day and New Years. Might drop a line in the next few days if I can but I'm off to France so au revoir!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Maximum: 2 degrees Celsius

Now I don't want to scare those of you who are planning your UK jaunt off - but lordy it's freezing today! If everywhere didn't look so beautiful and Christmassy, I would be complaining much more! (this explains why everyone hates January so much). There's frost about and everyone's rugged up - except people like me who have been in denial about the cold and have yet to buy gloves (it honestly hasn't been this cold yet!). It's definitely been much warmer this year than it was last year in December. Although, I think I am just climatising. This time last year I wouldn't be caught dead wearing a skirt and tights in winter (are you crazy? I would have said), and yet this year I've found myself thinking that, in the name or fashion, a dress/skirt worn with tights and heels is perfectly acceptable. Oh, how we do adapt.

Tonight I'm off to my ex-work unofficial Christmas party in Covent Garden. Yes, being made redundant doesn't mean you are not still invited to all the 'unofficial' company do's! I might try and fit in a bit of Xmas shopping before hand, but Covent Garden in all it's Chrismassy glory (complete with giant bejewelled tree) is sure to be hectic. Might just grab an eggnog or mulled wine and join the party!

ooohh, Paul just got home with our Christmas turkey. It's a £40 monster! how on earth are we going to fit that in our freezer?!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dreaming of a white Christmas

Only five days 'till Christmas and I'm learning how to cook a turkey, make mulled wine and cook for nine people with the least hassle (and least cost!). Oh the woes of a working traveller :) How on earth does my Mum do this all the time? I haven't finished my Christmas shopping yet either - I've been scared away from all the shops in London - there's a lot to be said for online shopping, especially if you live here.

The other fun thing that happened this week was that after our fabulous dinner at Fish! in Borough Market on Saturday night, four of us (including me) seem to have come down with food poisononing. Don't get me wrong - this restaurant is fantastic and the food (even the suspect oysters which I think were the culprit) was delicious. But it can be no coincidence that the four of us (out of 12 people) were the only ones who ate the oysters and have now been very ill. I haven't eaten anything for two days - oh well, I'm just looking at it as my pre-Christmas purge (I've probably lost a couple of kilos!).

The weather has gone all icy this week too - so maybe we'll get a white Christmas! (hhmm, we can only hope :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An orphan Christmas...

Sometimes I think that I did the whole 'moving to London' thing in a bit of a daze. I moved here a year-and-a-half ago and while it wasn't exactly a spur of the moment decision, it was something that I just woke up one day and thought 'yeh, I'll do that'. The fact that I moved straight out of home across the other side of the world, barely knowing anyone, with not a lot of money and have made a completely new life in another country kinda lost its significance after a while and I don't even really think about it anymore.

But then you have those moments - moments when you do something that's so completely weird/exciting/different that it hits you. I've had many of those, but one of the weirdest was yesterday when I took myself off to buy our Christmas tree. It doesn't sound like much, buying a Christmas tree for your house. But, every year back home for as long as I can remember my Dad has gone off (most often to the fruit shop up the road) and brought back a huge beautiful pine tree which we stuck in the same room, in the same orange bucket with bricks (trying to cover them up with wrapping paper) and decorated with the same Christmas decorations which had been collecting dust all year in a tatty green suitcase in the garage. Some years Mum would buy some new decorations from Grace Bros but you could still find some hideous creations one of the four of us kids made in kindergarten lying at the bottom (and of course we would vehemently protest if Mum tried to throw them out). The year we got lights AS WELL as tinsel for our tree was a highlight of my childhood Xmases. And I will always recognise the smell of the pine which permeates every room of the house.

So this year I did have any of that. But I got the beginning of my 2nd Christmas in London with the new experience of buying my own Christmas tree - it smells different to Aussie Xmas trees, it looks different and is nowhere near as big as our family tree. And instead of sweating in the heat while we used to try and help Dad carry it up the stairs, I froze my ass off while I tried to drag it inside while a gale was blowing outside in the dark (it was 4pm). BUT, I brought it back to out little flat family with some new lights and new decorations from WHS Smith, and the four of us decorated it together and then turned off the lights to admire our handiwork and our gorgeous little tree (already with presents under it courtesy of a care package from Mum) which makes it really feel like Christmas. Maybe our Orphan Christmas won't be so sad after all :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas is coming...

Well it's officially winter and Christmas is coming! The days are getting dark by 4.30pm but it's ok because the frosty streets are looking beautiful with Christmas decorations and twinkling lights. Despite the tacky cartoon theme, the famous Christmas lights in Regent St are gorgeous and Hamley's (famous toy store in Regent Street) especially has become a tourist attraction in itself (there are about a thousand little lights draped over the facade of the building). Every five seconds you trip over a tourist stopping to take a photo, not the best idea when the inner city streets are absolutely packed with Christmas shoppers. I have always said that us antipodeans have no idea what a crowd actually is until we come here - and it is especially true if you are brave enough to venture down Oxford Street at 6pm at this time of year. I have found myself horribly thinking mean thoughts about a) old slow people b) tourist wielding cameras c) small children d) mothers with prams; until I take a deep breath and remind myself 'it's Christmas!!!'. Good will and all that :)

Us orphans are all getting underway with our Christmas plans. I'm off to buy a tree tomorrow and now we just have to figure out how to cook a turkey for our Christmas feast at home in Putney. Some of the others have got the right idea and are heading off to warmer shores in Tunisia, while others are going to Lapland - the home of Santa (yes it does exist) You have to be creative when you know Mum won't be organising a huge family do!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just don't mention the Ashes

A couple of weeks after I arrived in the UK last year, Australia lost the Ashes to England. I was consequently forced to endure jibes from my English boyfriend, the lavish victory parade and screaming anti-Aussie headlines on all the trashy tabloids - not the best welcome to a place I was to call my home for the next couple of years. However, I have been lying in wait to get my own back and I feel revenge is near. This weekend my darling boyfriend went from arrogant and swaggering to a quivering and almost tearful heap this morning, upon hearing the news that the score stands at 2-0 and the little chalice is edging closer to it's rightful Australian home :) Unlike Paul I'm not going to get too cocky though - and am simply going to wait and see how history plays out this year. C'mon Aussie.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Spaetzle, Maultaschen and Radler (and shisha?)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNot content with my holiday to Morocco, last weekend Shannon and I headed off to the continent for four days in Germany, in the lovely university town of Tuebingen (where my little sister lives and studies). Now, Germany is always best known for it's beer and pretzels, ja?, but my three favourite things when I go to Germany undoubtedly deserve some kind of recognition: spaeztle, maultaschen and radler. Spaetzle and maultaschen (which literally translates to 'mouthbags'!) are delicious Schwabian German delicacies. Spaeztle are thick doughy noodles kind of like a cross between dumplings and noodles; and maultaschen are kind of like ravioli - little spiced parcels of meat wrapped in pastry. Both are delish. Radler is of course the superior German version of the dreaded 'shandy' but somehow when you drink it in Germany (and everyone does) you do not feel any of the grandma-wussy connotations you would if you shamelessly ordered a shandy at an Australian bar.
The other thing people don't expect about Germany is that the high turkish population means there are heaps of turkish bars where you can smoke the shisha with flavoured tobacco. So along with the things Ilove about Germany - indulging in castle tours (see above, a castle we visited called Hohenzollern), fabulous beer, catching up with friends, practizing my German with the friendly locals - there was a fair amount of spaetzle, maultaschen and shisha! The perfect weekend.
(For anyone interested in jetting over from London, Germanwings fly cheaply into Stuttgart from Stansted - along with the usual suspects Ryanair and Easyjet)

Shannon, Pru and the shisha pipe:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Under the starry skies of Morocco

I have just got back from one of the most amazing. crazy and wonderful cities in the world - our five days in Morocco were absolutely stunning. At first it was a bit of a culture shock as it was so different to anywhere I've ever been before but after you get over the initial bewilderment, you appreciate that the belly dancers, snake charmers, souks, hagglers, beggars, story tellers, water sellers, hennaed women, monkey trainers and local boys pestering you for money are a completely fascinating and unforgettable part of a wonderful city. I don't have much time to write about it all tonight - and the whole experience is just too much to write about in one post but I have included some piccies here (and down the right hand side of this page) for you to have a look at. I did get my camel ride (see below), courtesy of our camel man Mustafa in the beautiful coastal down of Essaouria (see the beach pic above of some local boys playing soccer on the sand - the Orlando Bloom film Kingdom of Heaven was filmed here). The other beautiful thing about Marrakech was watching the starry skies from the rooftop garden of our Riad, eating tagine and drinking Moroccan wine - you don't get to do that in London a lot!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Morocco here we come

It's my last day of work before I head to Morocco tomorrow for five days and am so excited I can barely contain myself! Even better is that I checked the weather and it's going to be about 23 tomorrow (then gets a bit lower) but the beach town we are planning to go to on Friday, Essaouira, is going to be 28 - can't wait for those crisp blue skies and to feel the sun on my skin again. Not that it has been that bad here, mind you. I think I'm acclimatising to English weather which is a little bit scary.

I haven't really written much about our plans here. We are staying in a Riad (which is like a traditional Moroccan house) which will hopefully be nice and we really just plan to spend a lazy four days meandering around the souks (haggling for tat!), drinking mint tea, eating tagines and wandering the alleyways of the Medina. If I convince Paul to get on one, I'm dying to go for a camel ride on the beach in Essaouira or a trip out into the desert, but I suppose I'll have to wait and see exactly what Morocco has in store for us. I doubt I will be writing on here again until I get back, so I guess you'll all have to wait and see as well! Masalaama!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Jet hits London (not a plane, the band, you idiot!)

Yes, OK, I did it again - I saw another Aussie band live. It's just seems like it's better to see them over here where you don't have to compete with as many people for tickets, and of course the atmosphere of homesick Aussies is always roof-lifting! Considering I saw the Scissor Sisters last week, I think it's ok to indulge my love of Aussie bands yet again for this week. Anyway, the Jet gig at the Brixton Carling Academy (ie my new favourite venue) was fantastic and was improved by the fact that for the first time in my life, I actually had a (fairly) unobstructed view of the stage, thanks to the wonderfully sloped floors down the front at the Academy. (Since I am only a midget worthy 5 foot 4, I normally spend most gigs with a nice view of the neck hairs of someone in front of me, straining to catch a glimpse of something and end up transfixed to the lighting show or the base players left foot, or something equally unimportant, since it is the only thing I can actually see). Anyway, the show was great - a very true review here . I had to see something this week, since Shell and Ray went off this weekend to see The Killers in jealous!

When I checked the SMH this morning, found out some sad news that Belinda Emmett died on the weekend from cancer (she is a very well-known and loved Australian actress I grew up watching on Home and Away and is now married to Rove McManus). She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 24, which is I guess a very poignant reminder that it can happen to young people and that you should get checked out if you notice anything amiss. Such a sad thing. In happier news, Kylie is on a comeback tour of Oz at the moment from her own battle with breast cancer (a concert I had tickets to before I left home). Two very strong Australian women...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Being a freelancer is expensive...

When I stopped working in an office, my first thought was 'think of all the money I'll save on transport!'. At first you think, yes, there's an extra £22.40 in my pocket every week (the cost of a Zone 1 and 2 weekly travelcard) - woohoo! Not to mention all the money I will save on eating out lunches! How sadly I was mistaken...

First case in point: due to immense boredom of constantly being at home, I frequently patron cafe's to use their wireless internet. Average price of a tea: £1.40/coffee: £1.90 (unless you go to Starbucks in which case they rob you blind); average amount of tea/coffees consumed over 3-4 hour period: four; grand total per week £15.

Second case in point: when you are in the cafe's, you feel guilty for using their free internet all day so you feel bad and buy some food as well - grand total £10 per week. (unless you are in Starbucks where they again rob you blind by making you pay for the privilege of using their internet connection, even though they are making MILLIONS off charging you exorbitant prices for coffee and their internet connection probably costs them two cents a year).

Third case in point: I live just off the high street, just around the corner from lovely, beautiful shops, filled with lovely, beautiful things... and suddenly you have a lot more time to go shopping! During my self-imposed lunch break yesterday i managed to spend £50 on books - Books, I tell you! Where I used to work was in a really gross part of Aldgate and the nearest decent shop was at least a 20 minute walk away - now I have all these retail temptations right under my nose. Average grand total per week: £50

Fourth case in point: Since I no longer have to travel across London every day, it seems silly to buy a weekly travel card (which gives you unlimited travel on tubes and buses for one week). Obviously I still have a life in the nighttimes though but the difference is now I can't just stroll through the gates and swipe my Oyster card (with my unlimited travel card on it) - I have to (gasp!) buy tickets with the rest of the non-Oyster plebs. Consequently, although I do not use tubes enough to warrant buying a weekly £22 ticket, I end up racking up about £20 in trips I have had to buy tickets for (trips which are much more expensive if you actually buy tickets - the tricksters...)

Anyways, I realise I am going on quite a bit, but I would just like to reiterate to all those people who think I am now rich due to all the money i am saving that in fact, it is COSTING me money to work from home and the freelancers life is not always an idyllic one... :)

On other news - SHOCK changes to the HSMP programme gave me heart palpitations this week but it turns out my application is safe and will be assessed under old criteria. I just do not want to read the new criteria in case I would have a better chance of applying under that. Alas, I have already kissed my £350 goodbye, so there is no chance of that.

Countdown to Marrakech: 5 days...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remember, remember, the 5th November...

I forgot to mention that yesterday was Guy Fawkles Night! I had vague knowledge of this otherwise known 'Fireworks Night' before I came to the UK but didn't quite understand the extent to which people run around lighting crackers, having public bonfires and burning effigies.. (i learnt all this last year). I was the jumpiest person ever last night as there were fireworks going off everywhere out on the street - it's so dangerous! It did bring back fond childhood memories though of running around our cul-de-sac waving sparklers, letting off bangers and lighting those parachute men fireworks (when they were legal in Oz of course!). Short history lesson for all internationals - Guy Fawkes night is the anniversary of the night an Englishman - Guido Fawkes - in popular legend, tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder. He was caught, imprisoned, tortured on the rack, and finally executed (what a logical thing to celebrate! :) Anyways, it bizarrely provides much joviality for young and old today!

Time for homesickness - it's Melbourne Cup day tomorrow! Check out the good old aussie cup sweep - if only i still worked in an office! I like the sound of Maybe Better - crap, the betting shop is probably going to close soon! gotta dash!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Am already looking forward to tomorrow's next episode of Tripping Over - the new Aussie show (dubbed as the nest Secret Life of Us) which I fell in love with last week, sitting on my couch in my London sharehouse getting homesick and nostalgic for my first few wide-eyed months as a working traveller. Set in Bangkok, London and Sydney, this new series celebrates leaving all your baggage and life behind, following dreams and reinventing yourself on the other side of the planet. It's enough to make your eyes well up... Read a Guardian review here.

It follows the individual adventures of some Brits and Aussies who make the move overseas, for whatever their personal reasons are (and there are some goodies!). It's surely going to increase the substantial amount of Aussies trekking over to London each day (someone told me the other day that an average of 60 Aussies bumpkins arrive at Heathrow every day to make this great giant city their new home.....a perfect market for Tripping Over then). I'm just upset because this fabulous new show has just completely stolen my idea for a book - that's my intellectual capital on screen dammit! how did they know?! ah well - i'm too lazy to write a novel anyway, and I'm sure this show is going to be much, much better....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A devilish night for dancing

I'm a day late but Happy Halloween! It's such a novelty for us how everyone over here really gets into Halloween - there are pumpkins everywhere and shops are filled with fancy dress outfits and trick or treat goodies. The kids love it (so do the big kids - this is me in my devil outfit) and I do think we are a little bit deprived back in Oz. Any excuse to dress up, i say.

The highlight of this year's Halloween was that we went to a fantastic Scissor Sisters 'fancy dress extravaganza' at the Brixton Carling Academy. Fancy dress was compulsory (hence our devil outfits) and there were some fantastic costumes. Lots of devils and witches of course (yes, we were a little unoriginal, but we are only beginners after all) but some people had put in tons of effort - there was Uma from Kill Bill, a few bandaged mummies, brides, man-eating pumpkins and a guy who came as the 'Scream' painting (with a huge piece of cardboard with room for his head cut out). I was very impressed and was a little disappointed with out paltry attempt! But for my first dress-up Halloween I can't complain. The gig was fantastic - these guys really know how to put on a show (King Kong even made an appearance at the end). Apart from the demented security staff at the Academy who tried to make people sit down during the gig (at a concert for god's sake!!!??), it was a fabulous hallowed eve.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Curse the damn exchange rate! The poor little Aussie dollar

If the international foreign exchange market was a playground, the Great British pounds would be the big bully cool kids, the Euros would be the slightly less-cool kids that hang around with the pounds for street cred, and the Aussie dollars would be the wimpy little kids getting picked on in the corner (probably holding on to the Kiwi dollars for support). I am a little bitter since I did an international money transfer today (through my most favourite discovery ever Tranzfers) and I was feeling all rich with my $4,000 AUD... until I turned it into GBP 1,592.80. How depressing. But, it could be worse I suppose. I'll never forget when, en route to London from Sydney for this trip, I stopped over in Bahrain for three hours. My dad had given me $10AUD so I could get something to eat when I stopped over (bless him :) but upon my arrival in Bahrain I found that 10 aussie dollars could not even get me a cup of coffee! How very embarrassing.. :) It's a good thing this trip (or lifetime interlude) has given me experiences money can't buy...else I'd be demanding a big refund! (I do have to admit, it's entirely doable to live here comfortably when you're actually earning pounds - or if you have saved up more dollars than I had when I first arrived!!).

In other news - have found a couple of geeky sites people moving over here might find useful. So you don't have to eternally ask "what time is it over there" when your parents/friends call, here is a very handy Time Zone converter (I need this all the time) and on a completely unrelated topic, I found this good blog which tells you how much your take-home pay in the UK will be after tax - Net Salary Calculator

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Another day, another internet cafe (and how to find the perfect media job)

Another Saturday and another internet cafe - i've never appreciated having an internet connection at home as much as i do now. It is scary how much my life relies on having access on demand to the web - I previously have derided people who haven't cottoned on yet to the joys of internet banking, online payments, e-mail etc. Well, they're probably laughing at me now as they stand in their bank queues. At least their life isn't thrown into turmoil when their neighbour decides to cut off their Net connection.

ANYWAY, the reason I am writing today is that someone posted me a message and asked me to put online some of the agencies/resources I used when I originally came to London in search of the 'perfect media/publishing job'. I actually first got my job through the Guardian media supplement, which has hundreds of media/editorial/publishing jobs every Monday. The corresponding site is here. If you are after subbing/editorial work on lifestyle magazines and newspapers, a good (small) agency who placed a friend of mine is Folio Recruitment. Another good couple of websites are the Media/Creative section of Reed, if you want to work for a giant magazine publishing house EMAP then go to Find a Media Job or if you want to work in new media try NMA. For other industries (and all the info you need when you are moving to the UK, WORKgateways is a recruitment/info site which can definitely help you).

For everyone back home (and in other parts of the world) I would also like to make the point that the UK is unseasonably warm and pleasant for October and everyone is enjoying the elongated summer. Probably not the best indication for the world in terms of global warming, but at least I can still wear my thongs (ie flip flops, not the other sort) outside. Have a nice weekend all!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One stressful week later

What a week - I think this is the longest time I've gone in the UK without posting some drivel or another! The reasons are good though. The first being, that my Highly Skilled Migrant Visa application is now GONE, in the post, out of my hands, towards some little old immigration worker in Sheffield somewhere. I will wait to see if I am successful before I start spouting advice about how you should, or shouldn't make this application (as I did it myself to avoid the £800 agency fees - a smart move? we will see). But suffice to say, if you do this application yourself, and it doesn't take you hours of hard work sweating over meticulous detail and stressing about getting every little piece of evidence you can, then you haven't worked hard enough! Mine had header pages, an appendix, blood samples, everything! (ok, maybe not blood samples, but it wouldn't surprise me if they'd asked). This past week I've been between banks, past employers, a notary lawyer, the library, the post office etc more times than i care to remember. All I can say is, lucky I am unemployed and don't have to find time out of an office job to get all this done! (relax Pru, breathe in). Anyways, it is now gone, and my fate now lies with the gods....cross everything for me!

The second reason why my posts have been sporadic of late, is that, being big bad poor working travellers in Putney,. we have for three happy months been, well, shall we say 'borrowing', our neighbours unsecured wireless internet connection. And you wouldn't believe the inconsideration, but they've gone and slapped a password on the damn thing! (the boys are adamant that no-one has been surfing porn, but we can't think of any other explanation as to how we were busted). Anyways, any person who has lived in England for any amount of time will know that getting any kind of service man to connect you to anything can take a stupid amount of time, so I have taken to frequenting the 'wireless internet' scene in Putney. This means prostituting myself around all the various cafe's which offer wireless internet and seeing just how long I can make one pot of tea last so as not to appear i am sponging off their services (even though it is completely clear that I am doing so - the other day I sat on one cappuccino for five hours).

I always used to fantastise about living like this when i had an office job.. ie sip cappuccinos in cafe's all day...but let me tell you it is not all it is cracked up to be. For one thing, I've never noticed just how many young mums and therefore, screaming children, there are in Putney. Millions! And they all seem to sit right beside me. Always. One little toddler spent a good five minutes poking my bum yesterday. And you have to smile and say 'oh isn't he cute' and give that knowing smile to the mum who looks kinda embarrassed even though you really just want them to leave you the hell alone. Actually, when I looked at the mother of the bum-poker, she looked shocked and in a high-pitch squeak said "it wasn't me"! well, duh! Am i sounding really awful? Blame it on the stress of a visa application!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Miracles can happen...
62 minutes...i made it

I can't believe it - I'm still in shock. I somehow managed, through no training whatsoever and a steady diet of red wine and curries, to run 10km yesterday in 62 minutes, 19 seconds. Not the best time when you consider how fast other people can do it in, but considering that I was certain my attempt at this run would end in...
a) me being carted off in an ambulance - either sucking lifelessly on my Ventolin or completely passed out
b) me figuring out the best mode of escape off the running route so as to avoid the embarrassment of coming dead last, three hours behind everyone else....
I'm pretty damn proud of myself and, i'm even a little hesitant to admit this, I actually had a bit of fun (shhhh, don't tell anyone).

ok, so maybe out of 22,ooo people I came in the bottom half (16, 992nd to be exact!) but I'm sure at least 10,000 of those people are those crazy runners I see doing laps of the Thames at 6am every morning.. You can watch my glorious finish here but instead of typing in my name, you have to type in 'Paul Seddon' cause Paul and I got our electronic tags mixed up (my ingenious plan to get a better time - he ran it in 52 mins, 59 secs). I'm the one you will see looking very rough and putting her hands on her hips in disbelief she didn't cark it along the way (in a green T-short - unfortunately due to lack of spaces we had to disloyally defect and run for the North team).

For everyone back home who know these people - our honour board runs as follows:

Me (last of our group but not complaining): 62 mins 19 seconds
Shell (a big time for those little legs and killer calves!): 61 mins, 39 seconds
Ben (unfortunately losing a £50 bet with Paul - much to all our dismay): 55 mins, 19 seconds - special mention for coming in the top 50% of runners
Paul (with no training, even though we'll never hear the end of it and Ben will never live it down): 52 mins, 59 seconds
and the well-deserved winner was
Ray (personal trainer extraordinaire) with a hugely impressive 42 minutes. Way to make the rest of us feel sludgy!

Here are Shell and Paul getting tough before the big race - go Team!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Pirates go down in a blaze of glory - well kind of...

I guess we were asking for it, calling ourselves possibly the lamest name ever (the Putney Pirates!!) but our glorious netball season ended very unceremoniously on Tuesday night in the rain, two players down, in a crushing defeat. We didn't do so badly this season really - made it into the top 4 even - but when it came to the crunch every game, we always seemed to choke. You know those Mighty Ducks-style teams from American movies that always seem to triumph against all odds, perform outstandingly when the pressure is on and ultimately the hard work, sweat and tears pay off with triumph? Not us. I've never been part of one of those teams! It was a great season though - I loved it - although I think a lot of the times everyone was silently sending me death wishes that I had dragged them all out on another Tuesday night! Deep down they all thank me for it, I'm sure :) The social aspect is great and the fact it makes you get out and do something when you might ordinarily just sit at home watching MTV is the best. It's definitely the only exercise I've done all year! The fact you can join as a team or individually is also a plus, which means for anyone just arrived in London, it's a really good way to get to know people (lovely people like us!). Highly recommended.
Now I'm on to improving my golf swing!

Countdown to Run London: 3 days - oh no.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Swannies - how we love you, our dear old Swannies....the AFL grand final hits London, again

What on earth would the motorists who happened to swing by any Walkabout or antipodoean watering hole at 5am on Saturday morning have thought? Everywhere was packed with sleepy-eyed Aussies drinking VB and eating meat pies in celebration of the good old Aussie footy (AFL) grand final. How else could you ever get an Aussie backpacker out of bed that early? The Sydney Swans put in a sterling effort and made us very proud, but since they are so generous, they decided to give West Coast a go, and let them win (by one damn point!). It was a consolation that we beat them last year - everyone deserves a fair go after all, hey? It's all about sharing and caring :) Brisbane Broncos took out the NRL grand final this morning - but no way was I getting up again to watch that one.

Some of you may have remembered I'm supposed to be running 10km next Sunday- i have done a total of zero training. "Run London"? More like "keel over and die while trying to Run London"' I'm in big trouble.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

£0.99 to Marrakech and a new hobby

So when you're at home all day, everyday, you tend to do things that you probably wouldn't have ever thought, or had the time, to do otherwise. So much like one chops off all their hair or has a major makeover when they break up with their boyfriend/girlfriend, I got made redundant and now I'm going to Morocco!! Mind you, the fact that we got flights for 99 pence to Marrakech (with taxes it's about 15 quid - thank you RyanAir) made the impulse a whole lot easier but I'm very excited about crossing off another of the cities I have to visit before I die (it's a long list). I carefully checked average temps in November when we are going, and am delighted to report that while it will probably be rainy and grey in London, I'm heading off to blue skies and mid 20s in north Africa! To make you all jealous, I found this fab site Photos by Martin which has beautiful photos this guy took on a three week holiday in Morocco (there's also photos from Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia and more). I love the ones taken in the night in the Medina which is the shopping district (see above).

Watch out Tiger - I've also got a new hobby. I decided if I am to be a true lady of leisure, there was one thing I had to learn. Golf. Yep, I'm taking lessons (my dad will be so proud!) Cath and I trundled off to the driving range on Monday night for our first of eight golfing hours. It was great fun doing something new and the instructor (happens to be a hot Aussie - what more could two aspiring ladies of leisure hope for?) says I'm a natural! OK maybe he was getting a bit ahead of himself as my flashes of brilliance were, well, just very brief flashes, but I'm definitely prepared to get into this and get better! One of the beauties of London is that there are also lessons in something or other you can take, and not too expensive either. Now all I need is a funny hat and some tartan pants...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A bonzer little gem

Another must-do for Aussies in London (and other interested parties of course) is to go and see The Vegemite Tales, which we saw on Friday night. It's a play about a share house of Aussies (and one token European, Gio the bi-sexual Italian) living in London and it is hilarious and very, very accurate. Although somewhat cringeable in parts (due to the typical portrayal of Aussie boganisms like the hapless crude surfer dude who wears socks with thongs, drinks Fosters and is generally embarrassing) it was surprisingly insightful and actually made me cry in parts! It's best summed up by the author of the play, Melanie Tait, who wrote the play when she was just 20 and living in a London sharehouse. Here's what she says:

'It's a pretty frightening thing to pack up your home, say "See you in two years" to your family, hop on a plane and find yourself at Heathrow Airport. I was lucky enough during my four and a half years in London to find the most fantastic makeshift family of friends to travel, write, put on plays, fight, love and grow up with.

The Vegemite Tales is about the family we make for ourselves when contact with our real family is limited to emails, phone calls and home-made videos. This second family let you be whoever you want to be, because they don't know any different and they are there for it all: the good times, the bad times - and like the old song goes they'll "be on your side forever more".

The play is also a salute to London - the most magnificent, exciting, diverse and alive city that i've ever had the luck to live in. In London, every opportunity is before you and while you're stil there, whatever it is you want to do, go for it 100% while enjoying it!'

So here's to London and my fab housemates! I didn't need to see a play to know I'm very lucky to have both, but it's definitely a great night out and will remind you what you love not only about London, but about your dear sweet home, Australia.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Giving Australians in London a bad name

Everyone likes Aussies right? Well, on the whole, you would say most people in the UK look favourably upon us, their antipodean cousins. Australians in London are known for being likeable, sociable, hardworking and, of course, always willing to head to the pub for Friday night drinks after work. So I was quite put out when I read a column in one of the new London metro newspapers bagging Australians out, written by (gasp) an Aussie himself!

'Most Aussies who come to London appear to have a chronic fear of being separated from other Aussies for more than a few minutes per day. This means that they live together, generating mountains of empty Fosters cans, go out on the piss together to hideous Australian bars such as the ubiquitous Walkabouts and moan endlessly about the weather/cost of living/everthing else. So much for the whingeing Poms. If it's so bad, why stay?

more drivel etc etc.... I have to admit, I was kind of thinking he had a TINY bit of a point, as snobbish and elitist as it was... until he said this...

,....'As a result, I find myself being coy about where I grew up. Luckily, I did not bring with me the broad Aussie accent that makes even bright people sound stupid. This means at least I am not automatically assumed to be Australian. It might be sacreligious to say it, but it's people like Steve Irwin who give Australians a bad name. Most of us do not want to wrestle a croc, have a barbie or go for a surf.'

Chris Johnston - shame, shame, shame! You are talking about people like me and my friends - and sure, I've been to Walkabout, maybe drank a Fosters or too, and I probably have the 'broad Aussie accent' you so abhor, but that does not give you the right to stand on your soap box and make out like you're better than us. I have (had!) a well-paying job, I travel widely (not just to Paris and Barcelona as you mock - ever been to Bulgaria, Chris?), have utilised many of the fine theatres, museums and restaurants London has to offer, and god forbid, I even have an English boyfriend. If you're so quick to deny you are Australian and therefore be lumped in the same horrid category as my wonderful group of adventurous, wordly, sophisticated and wholly likeable Australian friends; we don't want you anyway. And what kind of Australian doesn't like to have a barbeque or go for a swim in the surf - that's the sacreligious bit right there. Are you sure you are in fact Australian at all? I hope I never have the misfortune of bumping into you in London!

PS Don't even get me started on the Steve Irwin comment... shame, shame, shame on you!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Over exercise, wine will always triumph

For all those who regularly read these fascinating pages, you may have noticed that I mentioned a while back that I will be running in a half marathon sometime in the future. You may have also noticed that it was the first and last time anything of the exercise/marathon nature has been mentioned. I realised this week (since i now have a lot of extra time on my hands!) that the marathon is in a matter of weeks (ie about three) and I have done a total of ZERO training. I think I may have got out of bed early a couple of times a few months back to half-heartedly run around the block, but that's as far as I have got. I am in BIG trouble.

Perhaps one of the reasons I am so lazy, is that I enjoy sitting around eating and drinking too much! Hence last weekend, we ventured to the wine-lovers Mecca - Vinopolis, an epicurian oasis in London by the Thames (I definitely would have mentioned this gem earlier if it wasn't for the events that transpired earlier this week). The name conjures up images of giant pillars of champage, copius olive branches and gargantuan mountains of wine, and as you can see from the photos below - I was not disappointed! It was a fitting birthday celebration for my best friend, and queen wino, Michelle, and is a great group day out. For £20, we went on a wine tour (which included various tastings, premium wines, as well as beer, whisky, absinth tastings and a Bombay Sapphire cocktail), had a wine tasting session with a cute Italian sommelier and even got a (somewhat cheesy) T-Shirt and corkscrew at the end! With special sections of the tour dedicated to wines from all over the world (from Thailand to Israel, South Africa to Oz) as well as unique delights such as chocolate beer and ice wine from Canada, there's something for everyone and this place should definitely be added to the list of 'must-sees' in London.
The glowing tower of wine
The girls could die happy after their Tattinger champagne

My brother Mike (who was in London for a week) enjoying a cocktail with me
Everyone with their gin! Happy Birthday Shell!

This weekend, Paul's sister is getting married so we are off for a country weekend i9n the Cotwolds. The reception is in a castle - I'm so going to be a shameless Aussie gawping tourist! Even though I am now without a London job, I still scraped together the cash to get a spray tan and my hair done. A girl has to have priorities....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Unessential? Unwanted? Me??!! :)
This is where the 'Trials' part of my UK working holiday comes into it...

I can't complain really - I've had a very good run of my working holiday in London so far - no major hiccups and a brilliant year actually. And then, this week, I got made redundant. Brilliant! Now I am in London, without a job, no savings, holidays booked (but not paid for), and rent to pay, and, because I was on a contract, no redundancy pay! Now I am realising just how good I had it before (good job, great pay) - and even though I was pretty much worked to the bone this summer, everything looks so much rosier when you're on the other side doesn't it!! :)

Anyways, for all my dear friends out there, and for all the regular subscribers to my blog, know that I will pull through, the little trooper that I am. I've been at home by myself for two days so far (too scared to go out and spend money from my dwindling supplies) and have been getting reacquainted with daytime TV, eating cereal at 10am, wearing trackies until 2pm, ducking out out for chocolate at's just like my uni days - oh dear, something must be done soon!

Getting made redundant though, (such a nice way of saying 'you're sacked!') is not the worst thing in the world and at least I am in London having a blast with all my friends, with so many opportunities and adventures just around the corner. Your working holiday is definitely what you make of it, and I'm not planning on letting this little 'mishap' cause more trouble than it's worth. I may feel different after a couple of weeks of daytime Jerry Springer, but that's how I'm getting through at the moment.

Any comments of support and kindness will be muchly appreciated - see this little icon below this post? (Comments - 0??) Fill it up people! I need some love! :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crikey! Thanks for the memories, Steve

When I walked into my office this morning, one of the other Aussie girls cried out "Pru! Have you heard the news?!" And so I came to learn that the much loved Aussie icon, Steve Irwin, is dead. Killed by a stingray while filming a deep sea documentary no less.. what a way to go. As much as everyone used to pay this guy out, I think everyone had a genuine soft stop for his embarrassing, but oh so entertaining, ways. And he certainly has done a lot more for conservation and wildlife then many of us will ever do. I'm sure Steve will live on, even in the UK where repeats of Crocodile Hunter make good hangover TV on Sundays, and I'm sure all those who majorly overreacted when he dangled his baby in front of that croc are feeling a little guilty. May he long be wrestling with the big crocs in the sky...

I've found a couple of sites which people moving to the UK might be interested in:

Bound for England is the blog of a teacher from the US who moved to the UK in August this year after successfully applying for a work permit through a recruitment agency. Very helpful for info about making the big move.

Nicole in London: tales of a Los Angeles expat: the entertaining escapades of an American who moved to London for work, got married and became a fully-fledged expat.

Camden Kiwi: snippets from the life of a Kiwi living in Camden, London.

And one for the romantics (since apparently online dating is not as freaky/abnormal anymore!)

Antipodate - meeting Aussies, Kiwis and Saffas in the UK: the online/speed dating site for antipodeans in the UK (hhmmm, yes, move to another country and choose to just hang out with people from your own country? not that i can really talk....!!)

Monday, August 28, 2006

The long weekend and Notting Hill like you've never seen it before..

What a fab long weekend - it's Wednesday and I'm still recovering! Monday was the wild and fabulous Notting Hill Carnival - I never thought I'd be dancing in the streets in the middle of the day with a muscly black man, pushing a trolley full of alcohol, pouring rum straight down my throat, straight after sipping a luscious coconut - straight from the coconut! This is me (in the photo) hanging out with my coconut and a couple of London bobbies. The festival is an annual celebration of the Caribbean culture and they reckon there was about one million people who hit the streets - either in the Mardi Gras-style parade, or just walking around enjoying the music, foods and general craziness (check out this old dude we meet grooving along in the street). The festive spirit was amazing - people were outside their houses selling things, dressed up in crazy outfits and also, quite conveniently for us, charging people £1 to use their bathrooms. We got a little worried when Shell and I traipsed up the stairs of a random house to use this guys bathroom, and the entrepreneur tried to sell us some pink handcuffs, but it was all good after that and we made a friend (though the highlight of the day was definitely my coconut!)

The rest of the weekend was also brilliant - anyone coming to London MUST try Ping Pong. It's a Dim Sum restuarant in Soho and is the place to go for yummy little parcels of heaven and exotic cocktails (lychee mojito anyone?) We went on Friday night and I'm a new fan.

On Sunday I ventured to Greenwich markets (I'm describing my long weekend in a pretty unordered fashion here). I will devote a whole post to this gem another day, as a day out in Greenwich deserves anyone's full attention! The antique and jewellery markets are fab and the day is not complete without sipping a strawberry beer in the sun-dappled garden of The Gipsy Moth until dusk sets in and the resident magician has performed. More on that later...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

'Changeable' they call it – the temperamental British weather. Beautiful one day, rainy the next. I'm even wearing boots today (boots! in summer!) however I can still hear an ice-cream truck tinking away outside. The weather here is schizophrenic - doesn't know whether it's coming or going! It can get quite frustrating – especially when, like us, you bought a BBQ on the weekend and are waiting for another perfect summer's day to try it out! We almost cried though when we realised we were missing a part (what the hell is a gas regulator anyway?) and Ray went to the hardware shop only to be told that it would be difficult to get one because the 'BBQ season is over'. BBQ season? oh dear.... Anyways, we will not be deterred, and once we have our important-sounding gas regulator, the BBQ will happen. The sun will come back! I arrived in September last year and I have fond memories of being unemployed and spending days lying in parks in singlet tops drinking iced coffee from Starbucks in gorgeous sunshine so I know it will be back!

How funny is this pic of us in France (top right)? Sim sent all her photos around today which made me homesick for our lovely boat cruising around French rivers and canals. This was when we stopped off at a beautiful riverside town called Gray - the weather had been stunning so we took ourselves off to the supermarket to stock up on cheese varieties and cheap French wine and we got stuck smack bang in the middle of a thunderstorm that came out of nowhere! You can tell I don't look very impressed. It was so strange because this photo of me and Shell was taken about 20 minutes later . As you can see – beautiful French sunshine (and two soggy girls). Changeable...!

The August long weekend is upon us (only one day to go!) so stay tuned for exciting news about the Notting Hill Carnival and Get Loaded in the Park....

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The 12 month date looms nearer...

So I'm on a two year working holiday visa, which means that I am only allowed to work for 12 months - only for income to 'supplement' my working holiday. This is such an unfair and unrealistic restriction, considering that so many of the workingholidaymakers who come to the UK these days, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc are young, experienced professionals who should be entitled to continue the jobs they have gained for longer than a pitiful 12 months - especially considering that they have been selected for the job beating UK applicants since they were obviously better candidates.

Anyways, I've had my gripe - I'm in a mood because I realised this week, that while I can still apply for the HSMP visa, the application processing times are so extended that there is no way I can apply for it and be eligible before my contract at my current job is up. Which means I will have to leave that position, be unemployed (again!) and find somewhere new. Not the most exciting prospect since I have saved up absolutely NO dosh to help me get me through such an event - oops! While processing times for work permits are between 5 and 15 days, HSMP application can take UP TO THREE MONTHS! SO anyone thinking of applying should really get everything organised with plenty of time. The problem is however, that you need to have earnt the required amount of money at the time the application is received (kind of hard when you have only been in the country for 12 months which means you have to apply at the 9 month mark - making it even harder to hit the required earning mark!).

Things may not be so bad though - as my work is looking into possibly sponsoring me to stay and work for them - so fingers crossed. Although many working travellers are working over their 12 month limit and getting away with it, I am too chicken and (perhaps stupidly) am trying to do things by the book! So much for being well-behaved!

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's all about the snacks....

This is Sim and I getting more than a little overexcited with the Tiny Teddies Bec's Mum brought over for us from Australia (so much so that we had to have a photo). One of Sim's friends also arrived this week bearing cherry ripes (a non-optional luggage addition for anyone who comes to visit us in London). For all the South Africans, Kiwis and Aussies in London - favourite treats from home are available at shops such as The Australia Shop in Covent Garden (fancy Minties or Pavlova Magic anyone?) but they can be quite expensive so it's always nice to get supplies straight from home. Due to the huge amount of Aussies in London, you can actually buy staples such as Vegemite and Tim Tams at your local Tesco (supermarket) but they will be a tad dearer than from good old Franklins back home.

For Saffas, biltong is everywhere and I have noticed a special South African food shop on Putney High Street selling specialties (there is also an African restaurant in Putney: Chakalaka). There are a few around, such as the No 1 South African Shop in Dorset or the Savanna Shops of which there are few in London which stock South African wines, food, snacks etc (although South African wine is getting to be very popular in the UK and you can buy it everywhere).

For Kiwis, the Kiwifruits NZ shop in Haymarket sells lollies and snacks as well as NZ gifts, calenders, music and clothes. You can even subscribe to New Zealand magazines and buy stuff online. So there is no excuse to be missing things from home!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

***NEW*** International money transfers

Since starting my job in London I've had to learn a lot of things about online publishing which I had no idea about before (as you can tell from my extremely professional/enthralling/beautiful blog (?)). Since I've been diligently learning HTML codes I'm putting it to good use for my loyal viewers and fellow working travellers, and have given you a pretty, new, and useful tool down the right hand side of this page! If anyone is moving to the UK (or Canada, South Africa, New Zealand) and needs to do an international money transfer, you should definitely give Tranzfers a try (see my swanky new Tranzfers tile on the right hand side of this page which gives you the $AU - £GBP conversion rate and will take you to their site to register). I have used these guys and they are the cheapest option I have found (since both my Aussie and UK bank charge EXORBITANT prices for lifting a finger to transfer money internationally). They are also really simple and convenient to use, and now I can easily do a transfer within minutes when i am skiving off work and need to pay off my Aussie credit card. I'm sure there are a few other companies who provide this service, but I haven't found anyone who can beat £7 a transfer. Straight to the pool room!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Festival fever...

Just got sent these pics from one of my mates, who just went running with the bulls in Pamplona. It looks completely nuts. It's one of the many stops on the antipodean boozer trips around Europe - you go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day, go cheese rolling in England (a bizarre festival where people throw themselves down a hill after a big cheese wheel), then run with the bulls in Pamplona (similar pain-inducing/deathly but memorable venture), then go off to La Tomatina in Italy (lots of people covered in a hell of a lot of tomatoes), then Oktoberfest in Germany then back to London for an English christmas by the fire and then new year's skiiing in some suave alpine destination. Many travellers have followed this hallowed route- drinking plenty of beer/wine/sangria along the way of course and waving Aussie/Kiwi/Saffa flags (and they are probably on a Contiki bus too). At the end of the day they will all end up in one of the many Walkabouts in the UK. What a life :)

Friday, August 11, 2006

There's a funny feeling coming over me...

In a moment of insanity, I've done something which I'm sure I'm going to regret. Due to continuous encouragement (read: duress) from my big brother (who I'm sure just wants someone to share the torture with) I have signed up to...wait for in a bloody big marathon. Oh my lord, I feel a little ill just thinking about. It is a 10km run across London - the North Vs South Nike 10K Run - and I only have two short months to prepare for it.

Those people who know me well are probably feeling a little bit concerned right now - they know that I would usually rather stick a pen in my eye then do exercise (especially of the repetitive long-distance, asthma-inducing type). Now, in my early teen days (when I was a thin fit 12-year-old obviously with nothing better to do) I was known to be a partial to a bit of long distance running - even going so far as to represent my school and district at carnivals and such (complete with an especially-designed sock which I could fit my asthma inhaler into - it zipped up and everything!) and once I even succumbed myself to the arduous Sydney City to Surf – but those days are long gone and my lungs are now more accustomed to the oxygen one breathes in from a ruby-red fermented bottle of wine or from smoke-filled bars. You would think that living with a personal trainer and his equally fit girlfriend would rub off on me, but unfortunately I am as lazy as ever and suffering majorly from the Heathrow Injection.

But all that's going to change. Regardless of how many times I have made the resolution to get fit before, this time I'm going to have to do it in order to keep up with the boys (when you sign up for the race, they ask you what your predicted time will be - I looked down but there was no option over 120 minutes - are these people crazy??!!). So stay tuned to these pages for updates on my escalating and impeccable fitness regime. This should be interesting :)

It's quite scary really, how much of a running culture there is in London. Especially living by the river, you notice how many people go jogging FOR FUN. In the mornings in the middle of winter I would leave for work at about 7.45 am (in the pitch black mind you) and practically get bowled over by people out enjoying the crisp London winter mornings. A magazine my brother works on (the sole reason to blame for his new-found marathon tendencies) is called Runner's World (he is actually in the process of re-designing this website) and is apparently hugely popular. It really makes me wonder what I have been missing out on...! Running world here I come.

Training Regime Day One: am off to the pub tonight so can't possibly do anything! It's Friday too - who wants to go running on Friday?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Another brilliant London weekend...

The weekend started with a bang - the Cat Empire gig in Shepherd's Bush was AMAZING, and all the jumping, dancing and sweating to the hip-hop meets reggae/meets Jazz/meets funky Melburnians made me again homesick for late-night concerts at the Enmore and the Coogee Bay Hotel in Sydney. It's funny how since being in London, most of the live acts I've caught have been Aussies - I just picked up some tickets to a tiny Bernard Fanning gig (of my old-flame Powderfinger fame) next month and I can't wait. At my last Powderfinger gig at the Sydney Ent Cent, Darren Middleton jumped off the stage and came and talked to me so maybe Bernard will also be feeling chatty?

The summer is holding up like a trooper and today was another beautiful day. Although I was a little hungover after Ben's massive housewarming last night, we ventured out and Paul and I came across a cute little trendy London spot - the Pottery Cafe. I'm predicting this great little shop - where you go and select a piece of pottery, paint it, and then leave it with them to fire and glaze for you - is the next big thing. We spent a relaxing three hours pottering (ha!) around in the cafe, letting our creative juices flow and painted a couple of mugs as a present for Paul's sister's wedding (don't worry, we'll get her something else too!). We've now left our works of art to be glazed and fired and can pick them up on Sunday (you can also do plates, cups, bowls, pots etc). It's like a grown-up version of the Plaster Fun House - brilliant! An excellent cure for my hangover.

The others had a somewhat more energetic day at the Fruitstock festival in Regent's Park - yet another example why London is a funky, interesting place to live. There's always something free going on - this one was live music, food and drinks stalls, markets, all the ingredients for a fab time. Throw in the sunshine and you've got a perfect London summer day out :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I thought I should put up a nice photo to make up for my hideous drool-pic below! This is us on Saturday night - out for Bec's birthday. We went to a great pub called The Anchor on the Thames near London Bridge, sat outside and watched the sun go down, then up to the verandah until closing time - really nice! Bec's mum, bless her, had also made us all little 'party bags' filled with heaps of stuff she had brought from home – Caramello Koalas, Tiny Teddys, Violet Crumbles, Aussie tattoos. Needless to say we were all overwhelmingly happy – and I actually remember a twinge of homesickness when I bit into my first tiny teddy! It's always the little things hey! :)

In other news – apparently the godsend e-mail address that new arrivals to London have been using to e-mail for a National Insurance number appointment (to avoid waiting for hideous amounts of time on the phone) is NO LONGER IN OPERATION. My friend got this e-mail:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting the London National Insurance Number Call Centre.

As from Thursday 06th of July 2006 the London NINO call centre will no longer accept any further email NINO application forms. This is due to the London NINO booking service being centralised in a National NINO Call Centre in Grimsby.

Customers can only contact the Grimsby NINO Call Centre by telephone on 0845 6000 643 or textphone 0845 6000 644.

London NINO Call Centre

This is really disappointing, as that e-mail address was a little gem (as I have said here a milion times before - I sat hold for AGES). i guess now people will just have to make the time. Try and call this number as soon as you get a job in the UK, because otherwise you will be placed on emergency rate (for those without NI numbers) which can be up to 50% of your wage. A good thing to do is as soon as you get hired (even if you haven't started) ask for a letter of employment or confirmation from the person who hired you, so you can get the ball rolling.

Tonight am venturing to a corner of London I haven't really been to much before - Greenwich (well, been there once, and was very impressed, but haven't been back since!). It's where Sim's new abode is (near Cutty Sark) and she is cooking us a gourment meal tonight. Our housewarming will be soon too - got to find a day everyone can come - people are too busy with their summer plans, trips abroad, concerts, gigs etc - what a life!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Stansted Saturdays, Barbie Sundays and 'The Defender of the Universe'!!

Having a great weekend always comes back to bite you when you have to go back to work on Monday morning. Going to work this morning was horrible, but only cause I had a fab weekend! Friday night started out with a bang - we went to the Fest (a German bar) for our inaugural netball awards ceremony, which would have been a bit of a fizzer except that Paul hilariously bagged the player-vote for 'Defender of the Universe' and came home with a trophy! I've known this man for about three years and I have honestly never seen him so elated. Just look at that smile! Our last game is tomorrow - but the Putney Pirates will live on when we start our next comp next week (we just can't get enough of netty!).

Saturday was spent driving to and from Stansted which – although it was lovely as my friends from Germany, Katrin and Karl, were coming to visit – turned out to be the ultimate traffic nightmare. Everyone beware if you are booking flights to and from Stansted that it is NOT that close to London and since there are roadworks up until October, driving there is an absolute nightmare. It's annoying for us because although there is a perfectly good train going to Stansted from Liverpool St Station - that is the opposite side of London from where we live and often you are getting stupidly early flights! Anyways, that's enough of my rant - after we made it home (four hours later - no kidding!) we had a lovely arvo in Chelsea then went out in Southbank for Bec's birthday - more piccies to come later! Sunday was a lovely English sunny afternoon barbie in the park – I hope this summer never ends!

Also, to give you all a bit of a laugh - here is an incredibly unattractive pic of me sleep-drooling my way from Freiburg (Germany) to Basel (Switzerland) last week. This is what happens when my dad gets his hands on a digital camera (and when I have had a little too much radler the night before).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The new pad (what you've all been waiting for..)

So I won't lie - flat/house hunting in London can be a bit of a nightmare - but probably only if you're the fussiest person in the world like myself! But after the weeks of stress, and a week of crashing on friends couches (thanks Kate and Ben!) we are finally getting settled in to our new house - me, Paul, Shell and Ray. And it is gorgeous, and we love it! After a trip to Ikea we will have it suited and booted (the homewares shops in posh Putney are a little beyond our budget).

La nueva casa (the blurry living room):

Our bedroom - the view from outside:

The funky kitchen - complete with beautiful appliances:

isn't it lovely (you can't really see much I know!)

In other news, found this interesting/quirky (and award-winning!) blog on travelling on the London Underground. Something to while the hours away.... Going Underground

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The heatwave continues, but Germany and Switzerland were calling

hi all...sorry for the lack in communication over the past couple of days. I´m still reeling in shock from the LONDON HEATWAVE! Yes the rising thermometer struck again and this week I was even sent home early TWICE from work as temperatures were too hot for the Poms to handle (how great if that rule was implemented in Australia!)Ice cream trucks, warnings to carry water and bikins in the park were once again abounding...and there was talk that one day was one of the hottest ever recorded in Britain (crayz talk! but yes, it was quite hot). It was only once or twice I found myself opening my mouth to complain (probably as the sweat was pooling on my chair in my unairconditioned office ..nice!) but then I remembered my Aussie roots, and what the winter felt like, and I promptly shut up.

The other exciting thing from this week is that I am now in Germany again! I came to meet up with my parents, my sister and our friends who live in Germany, for the weekend so it has been a bit of a reunion. It has been one of the best weekends I´ve probably ever had in Germany, cause the weather is gorgeous and it is the first time I have really experiences the scorching German sun. I am in Freiburg and since I have only ever been here in the Winter before, it has been great taking all the walks through the forest, visitng the Titisee and swimming in the lake, drinking radler in beer gardens...ahh. This country should be like this all year round! Last night was the opening of the annual Kirchzarten beer festival, which although small, was heaps of fun and today we made the short train trip to Basel, Switzerland for a day in the gorgeous city by the Rhein river.

I had also only ever been to Basel in the winter before, so it was great to see all the people swimming in the river and out sunbaking. You could buy this waterproof, inflatable bag for 15 euro and put all your stuff in it, then hop in the river and float down it a couple of kilometres, with your bag keeping you afloat! There were dozens of people doing it ..we might go back tomorrow. It beats digging a hole on the beach for your valuables and cunningly placing a towel over it like I did back home, then hoping the whole time that noone would nick off with your wallet while you´re swimming. Anyways Basel is a beautiful town, with so much culture and history. Definitely also better in the summer!

I´m flying back to London tomorrow night (another late night arrival at a regional London airport miles out of town!) and I get to go home to my beautiful new house! which I just realised I haven´t written anything about here yet. After much drama we have a new home and it is gorgeous (two bedrooms, garden, SPA bath and WINE CELLAR all five mins off the high street). I was a little worried thouzgh as Paul messaged me yesterday and said they had cordoned off the street as apparently someone had found an unexploded World War 2 BOMB in our front yard!?? (what the??!!!). While I was sitting here imagining our wonderful new house blown to smithereens, Paul messaged to say that a police and bomb squad visit later, it was deduced that the object in question was in fact an old weight for blinds. Oh hilarious though! All the exciting stuff happens when i´m not of the new pad to come soon.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What could be wrong with a beach bar in a parking lot?

I've finally discovered the awesome beach bar in Brick Lane - a sand and beach-chair oasis perfectly situated in a parking lot in the middle of London. After weeks of hearing about it (surely there couldn't really be sand and palm trees?) we made the short walk down Brick Lane after work and stumbled across this funky little summer drinking spot. I got myself a Pims with mint and cucumber, grabbed a beach chair, reclined in the sun on the sand, and I could have been on Freshwater Beach...well, kind of! It was a nice change from a jam-packed smokey, dark bar and perfect for a gorgeous summer evening. When I slipped my thongs off (aka Flip Flops! urgh - what a horrible phrase) and I stepped on to the sand and it dribbled through my toes, I even felt a wave of homesickness. It's always the littlest things you miss! Anyways, i'm sure you've realised that the photo here is the same bar - not sure what the car-wreck inspired decorating is all about, but it's still wonderful :)

This next photo is not related to anything in particular but I just thought it was so beautiful. It's a photo one of mate's sent from his recent trip to Ireland. Absolutely breathtaking. And it wasn't just this one - all the photos he sent were amazing. I haven't been dying to go to Ireland, but it's definitely on my list. Hopefully I will get there one day! Heaps of Aussies always end up there when their working visas run out - perhaps it is my destiny :)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Britain's greatest mediaeval experience"

ok, it might have been a little cheesy but the folks are in town and on our country weekend we visited Warwick Castle in the Cotswolds - and I loved it! It is a huge historic castle (obviously) which was inhabited by the Earls of Warwick for centuries, and has seen more than a few royals passing it's gates. It is a breathtaking castle, with gorgeous grounds and quirky displays (such as a dungeon which still has the writings on the walls of people who were imprisoned there for years in the 16oos).

The best part is that the attraction is now owned by the Tussauds Group and the castle and it's displays are decorated by fabulous (if a little eerie) wax figures. The only problem is that there are also real people dressed up in the costumes of the time wandering around and at more than one occasion I would be peering at a 'statue' in a display only to have a slight heart attack when they smiled and winked at me. If you're down this way, I would definitely pay it a visit
(it's cheaper than Madame Tussauds, a great dose of good old tourist cheese!)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The 'heatwave' finally came.....and then went

I have been waiting and waiting for this thing they call the UK summer - and last week put on a fine show. Yes, it does actually go above 30 over here! While everyone else has been sweltering in the office and complaining about the heat - I am just so grateful to get a taste of home! When I moved here last year, I had effectively done three winters in a row (as I came to Europe for six weeks in the last Aussie summer) so I am just loving the heat and humidity so much I just can't stop smiling :)
How i have missed walking around barefoot in skirts and shorts and getting iceblocks (or 'iced lollies' as they are called here) for lunch cause it's too hot for anything else- now, if only I could find a Narrabeen-style beach somewhere....:)

Unfortunately, the temp has fallen today to a more normal 24 degrees, and will probably rain on the weekend (especially since my parents are arriving from Sydney to come and visit me then!). The ice-cream man has disappeared from outside our office building which I am more disappointed about. I live in hope that there is more of the summer to come! (it's so funny - every time it goes above 28, newspapers actually label it a 'heatwave' and warn everyone to carry bottles of water with wonder all the Poms roast when they visit Bondi - there's no-one there to tell them they should be putting suncream on because it's actually quite hot...) Ahhhh, bless them. I do love the English tradition of sunbaking in bikinis and bare chests in parks, even when there is no pool/beach/any kind of water feature nearby. And of course, what is better than sitting in a beergarden of a pub by the Thames, drinking chilled jugs of Pimms with mint, cucumber and strawberries marinated in it!

The World Cup is coming to a close and I am declaring my allegiance to France (nothing to do with the fact that Thierry Henry is gorgeous of course). I just think that if Italy win, it would be too much of a slap in the Socceroos' face. When Grosso (the perpertrator of THAT last minute dive) scored for Italy against Germany the other night, I think every Aussie thought that we should have been there instead of them! Oh well - we will wait and see.

I've finally loaded some more photos from our trip to France (another reason why I am supporting them on Sunday - we had such a fab time on our holiday and I feel I owe it to them!). Check out my France photos here

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The dream is over but Oui Paree!
Three days later and still no-one is any closer to accepting that we got booted out of the World Cup because of a dodgy penalty! Oh well - we fought gallantly and I for one am very proud of our Aussie boys and I'm sure football has got it's healthiest dose ever of coverage back in Oz. It was still fantastic to watch them play and it gave all us expat Aussies a chance to proudly display our green and gold and drape flags over our living rooms. So thank you Socceroos! What a ride :)

I was in Paris for the weekend which was absolutely divine (and we managed to catch the game in Cafe Oz - an, obviously, Australian bar in the centre of Paris, just off Rue de Rivoli, complete with a crocodile eating a surfboard mounted on the wall - classy!). At first we didn't know how to find the Aussie bar, but while vaguely walking around we stumbled into an army dressed in green and gold, waving Australian flags and one guys wearing a Canberra Raiders jersey, probably having just stepped off a Contiki tour bus - and we were sorted.

But the weekend did not just revolve around the game. I went to Paris in the first place to catch up with my wonderful friend Kimberley (see pic from the game) and her boyfriend Stu who I have not seen since I left home. I caught them on the end of their whirlwind World Cup extravaganza through Germany - and they came complete with crazy stories and unforgettable memories from the land of beer and sausages (i wish I quit my job and went there for the entire month! - am going to be jealous about all these tales from all my friends who made the trip for months to come - at least I was there for a little while).

Anyways, it was lovely to see some faces from home and made me realise how much I truly do miss everyone. Good to see though that love from afar works just as well and no matter how far I am away, or for how long, there are people I will always love dearly and who will always return the friendship (regardless of how little I e-mail or how often I blab on about my UK/Europe adventures). Awwwwwww!

Here are a couple more of my favourite Paris pics...
In front of the Eiffel:

Getting an eyeful (haha!):

Paris by night:

And no visit to Paris is complete without a decadent visit to my heaven, Angelina's - the home of undeniably the best hot chocolate in the world and groan-inducing tarte aux fraises (below) and their famous mont-blanc cakes.

more pics later (and eventually when I load my photos from Burgundy and Germany - they're coming!)

Friday, June 23, 2006

And all came good in the end...

Well! What a day, what a fabulous day.... Not only did our 'Roos storm home to bag a place in the final 16 of the World Cup for the first time ever! (statistic check anyone?) BUT, we also found somewhere to live! But more on that later.

As my brother said to me last night, as we were crammed shoulder to shoulder in our pub of choice, watching our boys claim an exhilarating victory: "I have never felt so Australian than right now!" Like I've said in these pages before, sometime true patriotism is born when you are away from your homeland, and missing the sun and surf - chuck in a successful sporting match, and you'll be crying 'Waltzing Matilda!'. Having said that, from all the text messages I got, it sounded like Sydney was having it's fair share of patriotism! Although we had a fantastic night, I was jealous of the guys who were actually at the game, which sounded like the craziest thing ever (and even landed Simone on page four of The Times with her blow up kangaroo). A once in a lifetime experience without a doubt. But I have to say, it's a joy to be in London for the World Cup too - everyone is in festival mood (the photo is the moment we won). And the Aussies in our office have got all the Poms cheering along the Aussies which is an awesome effort (although I'm a little worried what might happen if by some freakish occurence we have to play England - I think my job, not to mention my relationship, would be on the line!)

Anyways, must dash as I am off to Paris for a three day weekend - yes the adventure never stops. 50 quid return! Is this not heaven I ask you?!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Finding our dream home - a (so far) elusive ambition

It's somewhat difficult finding an amazing 'dream' place to live when you already reside in a huge, friendly, riverside apartment. When we moved in, in October last year, we thought nothing of the fact that the owner 'might come back on the summer next year' - I didn't even know if I would still be in the country! But now the time has come, and with no view to be going home anytime soon, we have found ourselves being turfed out of our lovely flat (damn the relaxed nature of our non-existent lease agreement!) and consequently will be homeless next Saturday. Although it is only technically a period of two months which we need to be out of our flat for, the thought of moving all our belongings twice and finding somewhere to live in the meantime, gave us the heeby-jeebys and we decided that our riverside days, as beautiful and lovely as they have been, must come to an end. It's time to move on to new things!

Enter a month of agonising over flats/houses which were too small, miles away from anywhere, too old and too scabby, too expensive, too cheap (yes, there is such a thing), not available, downright ugly and just not right. We've also learnt that while an agent can be your best friend when they have an "amazing, just right for you" house they are also there to slam you with fees for everything under the sun which will set you back at least £300. They can also tend to be a little creative with "oh yes, it's just MINUTES away from the tube station" and you don't find until you get there that they actually meant TWENTY minutes. Finding houses off free websites like through people like us means you get no fees, but likely it happens that you don't get a formal lease agreement (which I might need later on for visa purposes) and things can happen like just happened to us - where you get turfed out because you technically have no legal contract! It worked fantastically for us for a year, but I think we need something a bit more concrete now.

Anyways, we are looking at three more places tonight and it's crunch time. I'm going to pick one of these if it kills me!

The agony of house hunting has somewhat overshadowed the fact that it is the bug AUSTRALIA VS CROATIA game today. I came to work decked out in green and gold, complete with Aussie lanyard and whistle so I'm all set. Not getting my hopes too high, but the Aussie spirit is all about daring to dream right?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Five countries in one day

The cute (crazy?) little French lady we befriended (or who befriended us) in Ray-sur-Saone, in Burgundy, France:

And the Bergkirchweih in Germany - the second largest beer festival in Germany after Oktoberfest, held in the friendly town or Erlangen outside Nuremberg. Very wild, and lots of fun (just hold on to your stein for dear life):

And me in sunny Brugge, Belgium (pigtail plaits inspired by drive through Holland a couple of hours earlier):

This was during our 'five countries in one day' drive - a mammoth journey from Cologne, Germany through Holland, then to Belgium, then to France, to get a ferry back to England. Phew! Surprisingly enjoyable though - the boys were especially impressed by the quality of the loos in Dutch service stations (although outraged that they cost 30 cents to use). Better than the roadside diners between Sydney and Wagga!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Every time I've thought about what to write about in the last week or so I get a bit overwhelmed cause there's too much to tell and I don't know where to start!

London and Europe in general are currently going mad for the World Cup, and the atmosphere everywhere is brilliant. Combine that with the gorgeous sunshine and long, hot days and everyone is in a great mood. Of course yesterday we has the Australia vs Brazil game. We were so proud of our boys, and it's only made it better for the Croatia showdown on Thursday night. Tomorrow night is England Vs Sweden so everyone is going slightly mental.

Had a fabulous summery weekend! Summertime brings heaps of music festivals to Hyde Park, and although you can pay for the privilege to hear the tunes, you can also do as we did, and take a picnic (and lots of beer) and sit outside the boundaries of the festival where you can still hear everything and see the big screen. We saw the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stoneage for free - no complaints there.

Also, as promised, here are some photos from our amazing trip. This is me driving our boat through sunny France:

We took a seven day cruise through Burgundy, on a four bedroom boat with two bathrooms and two toilets, 'saloon kitchen' and dining room table, deck and umbrella. This is one of the many picturesque villages we drove through:

And a little French lady we befriended in a gorgeous riverside village called Ray-sur-Saone. She invited us in to see her cats (there were 40, kinda gross) and for sandwiches and showed us her ancient barn where her grandparents first lived when they were married over 100 years ago. She invited us to walk through the tunnel that apparently went from her basement up to the castle and even though she was a cute little old lady, we got a creepy 'Hansel and Gretel' moment and made our hasty-but-not-too-obvious departures:

(something's wrong with my computer so i can't post it now, so stay tuned for pic of the cute little ancient French lady!)

Will post the link once I've loaded the rest of my piccies.