Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hi all,

You may remember a few months back on this very blog a photo of a grinning Aussie decked out in green and gold and proudly holding up a Socceroos poster. Well, that was me! I’m Michelle, Pru’s friend from Sydney, and I’ve come to London for the wonderful experiences this city has to offer… and to hang out with Pru of course!

Today is actually my two-month anniversary in London. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed, it seems like only yesterday my boyfriend and I were dossing at Pru’s - which brings me to my first point, finding a place to live! I didn’t think finding a flat would be the difficult task it was. After seeing studios the size of my bedroom at home, share houses in various states of disrepair and a flat where we weren’t allowed to watch the television, we finally found our pad. Those of you who have run the flat hunting gauntlet will understand the feeling you get when you know the place is right for you. Not having to step over scaffolding as we did at one place was a good sign, but as soon as I saw the bright open living room (which is also the kitchen, I never said it was big!) and courtyard outside our room I knew this was a place I wanted to live. The only mistake we made was not meeting our flatmates before we moved in. It’s not a major problem, but let’s just say they’re not ‘our kind of people’, i.e. tidy and friendly. But, if you’re going to flat share I guess you have to prepare yourself for fights over the remote and complaining about other people’s mess.

The next major task has been finding a job, which unfortunately is still a work in progress! I’ve been applying for just about every job that looks vaguely like what I want to do and am still waiting for a phone call or an interview. I can’t wait to start work, mainly so I can start earning pounds! At the moment I’m technically still spending Aussie dollars and checking my bank statements is possibly the most unpleasant thing in the world.

But I’m here for the full experience, and if that means unemployment, fights with flat mates and living on a budget, then so be it. Besides, Pru and a whole bunch of us are off to Venice on Friday for a weekend of friends, food and wine. What do I possibly have to complain about??

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday and I'm hungover....always the same!

My brain has the consistency of mashed peas today, and I'm feeling somewhat intellectually challenged, but I haven't written in awhile and thought i should update. This weekend has been nothing special, but we've had a good couple of nights out in Putney and I'm slightly hungover today (but not too hungover to go up to the French Market and get a chocolate crepe, nice). Saw a movie Friday night, Goodnight and Good Luck, which was really good, but to everyone's disgust I kind of fell asleep. I maintain though that this was because I have been a little bit sick and needed to catch up on some napping (the movie s really good, honest!)

We've been interviewing potential new housemates all week too, as our lovely Jemma is leaving us to move to New York with the family she nannies for (very sad for us, but what a great opportunity for her!). So we're losing the lively South African element of our house, and have been looking for something good enough to replace! The fact that Glen (I think somewhat creatively) described our flat in the ad as a luxury riverside mansion flat, has meant we've had a steady stream of people coming to look, and I'm currently torn between a few girls I really like. Flat hunting is so like a job interview with people sizing eachother up - and I always feel under pressure to act really cool so the people will like me and want to move in! Pretty sad hey :) But it's also funny when you can tell within a couple of seconds that the person really won't fit in, but you still have to go through the whole spiel and tour of the flat! There's a couple of girls who have been really nice, but I feel bad that we're going to have to reject a few... (yes I remember the rejection when I was flat hunting in London, it's not nice!)

Most exciting aspect of the beginning of the next working week is that we're going to Venice on Friday! I'll be cruising a canal on a gondola and gorging on Italian food before I know it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On the trail of JACK THE RIPPER

"Twilight creeps through the narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards of the old, old city. It's gnarled fingers unlock secrets of dark deeds that lie entombed behind crumbling walls. It whispers into the shadowy recesses of a forgotten part of London, disturbing the sleep of the long-departed, and the City of Dead stirs once more into ghostly, ethereal life....."

Yikes! I'm scared already! I'm gong on a Jack the Ripper tour tonight with a few people from work. I work in Aldgate East which is just near Whitechapel where Jack the Ripper murdered (and disembowelled!) five prostitues in the 1800s. It's one of the best ghost tours in London (apparently) and should be pretty cool. It's freezing in London at the moment, so it will be interesting to see how we all cope walking through the ghostly lanes of Whitechapel in the wind and chill! Have a look at the spooky website. Probably not the best thing for a budding cold but I can't resist.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

hello everyone.

tonight is Kate's birthday and we're going out on the town! We're currently warming up in Putters, but the night will soon be kicking on. Kate would like to say a few words as a celebration of her birthday.......

Hello everyone, cocktails at my house in Putney are going off thanks to Bec. We're going to Crazy Larry's, a club in Fulham, and I'm very glad my dear friend Pru can be with us!! Hi to everyone at home - i miss you all and wish you were here for my birthday..... rock on, love Kate xxxx

Well she's having a lovely time and now i have to go and meet my drunk brother Benno at Putney station.

To all in Oz and all over the world: bless you all and have a great Saturday night.
Cheers big ears,
Prudence Louise xxxx

Friday, February 17, 2006

Fabulous Friday

Well, yesterday was a pretty eventful day. Not only did I visit an Immigration Consultant who thinks I will be able to stay in the country (yay!), but had a lovely morning off work cause I had to go to the doctor (free doctors and prescriptions, yay again!) then came to work where we had a charity event last night where I spent £170 in the auction (not so great for my wallet, but yay for the Kenyan people we are helping!)

So, I forked out a consultation fee to see an immigration consultant (£75), but I really think it was worth it. I'm an intelligent person (I'd like to think!) and I did my research (thinking I knew everything there was to know about work permits etc), but it really helps to speak to someone who processes applications all the time and can tell you the information you won't find on any official website. Apart from a few niggling factors, a work permit or a HSMP visa are now looking to be much more likely (and achievable) possibilities for me since I am not technically able to work after October. It's all quite expensive, but I suppose it's a cost you have to bear if you really want to stay, If i apply for a work permit I will have to return to Australia while the application is put through (which could be a problem with work), but it could only have to be for two weeks (instead of the month that I originally thought). So I'm going to try and get a HSMP visa, but we'll see. The consultant was very helpful though and said he's processed applicants for people in heaps of fields (even a chef from a takeaway store). So the bottom line is, if your company is willing to sponsor you and will let you leave for a few weeks (and you get a good agent), it's quite easy. Anyways, I'll keep you updated...if all else fails, the golden shores of Oz would definitely not be a bad place to return to...! :)

So with the consultant and my surge of generousity at the charity auction, yesterday turned out to be quite expensive! But I bought some DVDs and a day off work at the auction (as I have already booked up most of my holidays), and seeing as I am horribly inactive in any sort of charity work, I decided it was worth it. Check out the charity all my money is going to: Plan International - we raised just under £5,000.

Going to see the Strokes tonight at the Hammersmith Apollo - gotta love Fridays...!

Just a quick one - I was reading TNT magazine this week, and they had a bunch of Aussies and other travellers lamenting how difficult they found it to get their National Insurance Number. It's really not that hard guys! Yes, if you call the number you will be on hold for AGES so make sure you have some time to spare (I think I waited, in true UK-customer-service style, about 30/40 minutes). But there was another thing mentioned in the letters that is a good point - it's a lot quicker if you just email the NI people and set an appointment up that way. SO, to save you all some stress - this is the e-mail address you will need london.ninocallcentre@jobcentreplus.gsi.gov.uk And spend the time you save at the pub instead...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

St Valentine's Day
In the UK you just can't ignore the fact that it's Valentines Day today - it's even harder than in Australia where there are gross cutesy cards in every store and really tacky white teddy bears holding red 'I love you' hearts. I'm definitely not one of those girls that gets excited by pointless gifts someone has just given you because Hallmark says they should. Although I will accept the heart-shaped marshmallow our MD presented us with this morning.
Even if we were to go out for dinner (which is a compromise I'm willing to make), all the restaurants around us have absurdly increased their prices, are having set menus and making you buy horrible pink champagne to drink as you gaze lovingly into eachothers eyes - talk about cornfest! Am I sounding really nasty? I'm not really - I just thing the whole thing is pretty ridiculous! I think I just might make Paul cook me a nice dinner :) or maybe I should do one for him...or not! (I'm also willing to accept the tradtion of boys doing nice things for the girls!)
Yesterday they had a thing in the Metro where you could text the Metro Cupid if you fancied someone you catch the Tube with everyday - then today they published the messages. Talk about embarrassing! If you're too shy to actually go and talk someone, why would you want every single person on the tube reading your declaration of love? Unless you made it so obscure that the 'guy in the blue shirt I see on the station every morning' wouldn't have any idea it was actually directed at him! Please.....

Monday, February 13, 2006

Our little house in the country

We're all back in London after a lovely weekend in the English countryside, staying in our very own little cottage! You can't get much more English than the little Cotswold houses and those little men in their grandad caps walking with their dogs and gumboots down the country roads on misty mornings (they seem to be everywhere!) Much beer, wine, and general country frivolity was had... we had a gorgeous meal at an ancient Cotswold pub (apparently Prince Will goes there, but I guess it wasn't his turn for a night out on the town), and we spent a day in Stratford-upon-Avon where we saw Shakespeare's Birthplace, and the highlight of the trip (wait for it)...the Butterfly Farm!
I may sound like the biggest nerd here, but it is actually better than it sounds! I made friends with a little chameleon (how cute is he?!) and ventured into ARACHNILAND and INSECT CITY (ok, so maybe they need to be a little more creative with the names!). It was great though, and would be even more brilliant when it is a bit warmer (although the chill is a great excuse to stop off for a coffee every five minutes). Stratford is obviously built on the River Avon, and it would be lovely to go on a boat ride like we did in Windsor (back in balmy September!)

Which brings me to our plans for our French canal trip in Summer. There's been some obstacles (mainly that every other person in France apparently wants to go the same time as us!) We will persist though - and my vineyard cruise dream will happen

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Belated birthday cake...
It may have taken awhile for me to give the credit, but just look at this brilliant birthday cake Bec and Kate made me back in January...(I kept meaning to put a photo up). It probably doesn't look that impressive in a photo, but if you can tell, it's a Cadbury box of chocolates with the lid open and real choccies coming out. I was pretty impressed, these ladies know the key to my heart :)

Monumental occassion today was that the sun didn't set until AFTER 5pm! Yes, Spring is on it's way! And I may be getting prematurely excited but when you're used to the Aussie sun but you've had two winters in a row (and your first in Europe) all the cold and darkness can get a little tough! Although it really hasn't been all that bad I suppose. I booked my holidays off from work today (must have been excited about all the daylight), and now we can start planning our canalboat trip through the South of France in June. French vineyards in summer...mmmmmm, heaven. We're also heading to Venice soon - am so excited about gondola rides, Italian food and fake Louis Viutton handbags I can hardly contain myself. Gotta love rip-off Italian merchandise..:) Ciao for now!

Just also wanted to say thanks to everyone who has left a comment on my blog ever or who has signed my guestbook! It's nice to hear from you all, and lovely to hear I may have even helped some of you out with my incessant ramblings about London etc! Remember you can subscribe (in the sidebar or at the bottom) and get updates emailed to you (but of course, then you would never be able to escape me, and I understand that is a little scary!). Thanks guys - until next time...!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Camden Markets, London

For once I actually got up early on Saturday morning, and we took ourselves off to Camden Markets, which were amazing. The markets are a brilliant eclectic mix of people, food and cultures - a definite must-see, it's a London institution! There is absolutely everything there you could possible imagine - everything from designer jewellery and art, to punk and goth wear, antique clothes and shoes, funky T-shirts, beanbags, unicycles, jongleur shops, furniture, clubbing-wear, candles, scarves... you could honestly be there all day and get lost in the mazes of stalls. And the food - we went to a little food market by Camden Lock for lunch and could choose from Indian, Cypriot, Venezuelan, East African, Japanese, Greek, British, Moroccan (talk about my heaven!). We had Japanese pancake, which I'll definitely be going back for (in the photo you can see it's pretty cold here at the moment though!)

So we finally left Camden Market, although I could have spent hours more there (the boys kept losing me cause I tend to wander off on tangents when I'm in markets - then we had to do the whole stupid 'where are you, I'm over here!' thing on your mobiles all the time..) It's really different from Portobello, but I loved it and can't wait to go back (and next time I'm taking more cash!)

Tonight we're off to Henry's in Covent Garden for Octavia's birthday..hopefully I won't be too damaged by alcohol tomorrow and will write more then (I heard a rumour we were having another of our infamous 'Poker in Putney' nights though...so we'll see!)