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.