Monday, April 30, 2007

Plans, plans and more plans

With the Summer getting closer and the weather getting warmer, it has come time to start planning my summer holidays, my favourite part of living in London! With a lot to top from last year's travels (Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Germany - three times, France - three times, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Morocco) I've got to start planning! The whole month back in Australia obviously took the toll on my finances but I've been (kind of) good and can start planning more ways of spending my money! Next weekend we are off to Newcastle again for a friend's birthday and the weekend after that I am FINALLY going to Edinburgh for a weekend. I'm quite excited about this as I have been wanting to go to Scotland for ages. Flights were pretty cheap (£80 each return)and at convenient times, and I've found what looks like and hopefully is.. a cute B&B in the centre of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Accommodation also quite cheap: £68 per night for double room with ensuite in a "mid-range" centrally located B&B. Excepting Australia, this will be my first trip out of England since skiing Switzerland in January so I'm itching to go somewhere new.

Other trips so far planned is the annual trip back to Erlangen, Germany for the Bergkirchweih - sure to be a huge three days AND, the most exciting, two weeks in the US in August! Not sure if the US is quite ready for me, but nevertheless we are heading to San Francisco, LA, Vegas and Austin, Texas for two weeks and I can't wait. The Californian wineries are not going to know what has hit them! And Shell is clueing me up on the celebrity mansions I have to stake out in LA. Hopefully I make it back in one piece - I'll probably get arrested trying to tail Jennifer Aniston. More updates about our itinerary to come as they are actually planned (all we have done so far is book flights!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Happy ANZAC Day

Today it's ANZAC day, and if ever there's a day I'm going to be homesick, it's today. And then I see images like this one - which get me all choked up and wishing I was standing in front of the Town Hall with the rest of my family waiting for my Nan to march past (and laugh with surprise when she sees us all waving frantically even though she knew we were there all along). My mum will without fail be holding back the tears and afterwards we would all go to a packed pub (usually packed with a bunch of young sailors, ahem) and have a beer or play some 2-up. So I guess that not only is it an extremely important day for all Australians and New Zealanders, but for my family too. I wonder what happened this year - as I have read that it was pouring. So I hope my Nan was ok! She probably just brought out her trademark brolly and red shoes :)

i didn't make it to Gallipoli this year. I intend to go there one day - but maybe not actually on ANZAC Day itself.A lot of travellers did make it over there today though. I hope they don't get all the news stories back home about how they desecrated the place - some idiots unfortunately just use it as an excuse to go somewhere, be loud and obnoxious and get drunk.

The Aussie pubs in London will be packed tonight. Our compensation for not getting the day off.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More London BBQs and the post-weekend detox

All this sunshine in London must have gone to my head, as I'm still feeling a little dizzy from the weekend. My quiet, 'i'll-be-home-by-nine' drink on Friday night with Shannon in Clapham turned into a bar-hopping mojito-fest which saw the pair of us (plus Shannon's cousin) stumbling into a Brixton Club at about 2am on Saturday morning and emerging some time after they turned all the ugly-lights on.

I was then forced to endure the embarrassment of being the only ill housemate on Saturday morning (well, I didn't really surface until about 1pm, even then it was very reluctantly). BUT, full credit to them, Paul and my housemates didn't let the fact that I was looking about as charming and healthy as a toad detract them from their mission, which was to bring me along to the picnic they were having in the park. More food and booze followed (and boules!) which was actually lovely and distracted me from the little gnome pounding my head with a hammer. I thought Aussies had really got the whole picnic in the the park thing down pat, but I have to say the English would definitely give us a run for our money. In the UK they don't have the luxury of built-in BBQs in parks like we do back home, so they just bring their Webber along with them to the park, whip off their shirts, set up the inflatable pool/cricket pitch/boules pitch and voila - a perfect picnic!

A few glasses of sparkling wine (topped up with juice for me - i did make some concessions to my hangover) and we all headed back home for another BBQ. I could definitely get used to the endless BBQs! (especially since the boys do it all - woohoo!).

Sunday we all went for a walk and discovered a great beer garden in Barnes at a gorgeous pub called The Red Lion. More lounging in the sun and Pimms followed.... you can see why I was a little bit shaky on Monday.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sunshine and shopping

The weather is gorgeous! BBQ round two will definitely be occurring this weekend - combined with a boules tournament in the park I think! I am temping this week which has been great. I got a short contract working on some different magazines so it has been a nice change of scenery for me. Only bad thing is I am working near Oxford Circus in dangerously close proximity to Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Warehouse and many other shopping havens (ie deathtraps for paupers like me.) I haven't reduced myself to heading to the gargantuan new Primark on Oxford Street yet - the riot scenes when it opened (I'm not kidding) were enough to put me off for at least a few weeks! It is the size of a shopping centre on it's own for god's sake. For the Aussies - Primark is kind of like Target but cheaper, and with better clothes. Even though they have a lot of crap - really cheap crap - you can find some bargains if you are willing to search - jostling and grabbing may or may not be required at some branches (and one must always deny that the items they are wearing are actually from Primark - even though you are guaranteed to get comments on how cute you look on a budget!) Although, a lot of times I have found myself in this conversation with girls from work
Girl: "wow, cute top!"
Me: "um, thanks"
Girl: (hesitation) "um, is it from Primark?"
Me: (after deciding whether I know this person well enough to admit i am wearing clothes from Primark, and whether they actually own the identical top in another colour): "yeh! it was a bargain!!"
Girl: "I know! i have the same top in blue. I love Primark!"

And the friendship is born...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The BBQ is finally baptised

Yes we may have bought it back in August last year, but our BBQ is getting it's virgin run tonight (see it modelled beautifully here by Shell). The weather this weekend has been amazing and it would be criminal not to take advantage with some old-fashioned outdoor cuisine. I think everyone has had the same idea - Shell and Ray went to Homebase to pick up the missing part for our BBQ so we could get it working and apparently the BBQ section was crawling with happy punters! Temps hit a gorgeous 26 today which has just been bliss. This morning I was sunning in the overgrown, weed-ridden jungle that was once our manicured back garden - but with the sunshine Paul became filled with energy and did some mowing and weeding to return it to it's pre-winter state. I was cleaning up our side patio and was fishing plastic cups and cigarette butts from our house party last year out of the bushes (a clear indication that we haven't really been out there very much at all lately!). But our new outdoor furniture should be arriving next week and we are looking forward to lots of parties, BBQs and lazy Sundays in the sun. I love summer in England!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Did someone say 24 degrees?

Bring out the sunscreen, slap on the shorts and roll out the ice cream vans - predicted weather for tomorrow in London is a gorgeous 24 degrees! Scoff not, all you Aussies who think that just sounds like a warm winter day in Sydney, over here 24 degrees may as well be a sweltering day at the beach! I aim not to be a moaning Aussie who complains about the UK weather (and to be honest, you really do get used to it) but the thermometer going above 20 really is something to be celebrated at every opportunity. And 24 in April really is quite impressive - rest assured, I have a table by the Thames drinking Pimms tomorrow with my name written all over it. Summer's on it's way! (First I have to recover from my rather large night out at a charming little pub in Holland park last night - The Prince of Wales ) Ben is off to Brighton this weekend I think - it is going to be pumping with pasty English sunbaking on the beach!

Last weekend was of course Easter and it was also gorgeous weather then. We all went to the Cotwalds to get a nice home-cooked Easter meal by Ma and Pa Seddon and ended up doing quite a lot of reclining and relaxing in the sun and eating quite a lot of chocolate and cheese - perfect really! As it was Shannon's first time in this beautiful part of the English countryside we took her on a tour to some of the must-see hyphenated villages in the Cotswalds such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water (didn't make it to Stratford-upon-Avon this time as I have been there three times already and am really getting over it!). Of course had to stop by the organic dairy Daylesford and ogle at all the nice food we can't afford (well, we did buy some cheese - i've always got pounds for Daylesford cheese!). All in all, a very successful Easter weekend.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Rise in costs of UK visas - what do you think?

I'm doing a mini survey for the WORKgateways newsletter I write for, about the recent hike in costs of UK visas. If you are not aware, the prices of all UK visas has been dramatically increased, as of today. Working holiday visas and Ancestry visas which used to cost £85, now cost £200. The price of Entry Clearance for work permits and the HSMP has also risen from £85 to £200. Settlement visas which used to be £240, now cost a whopping £500.

UKvisas justification for the rise in costs is that they are 'aiming to improve the UK's competitiveness as a destination for travel, trade, migration and investment through programmes which prevent immigration abuse, deliver value for money and earn public confidence'. Read the full article here. One of the groups hit hardest will be working travellers from countries where currencies are getting weaker and weaker against the pound. UK Working visas for Australians and Kiwis now cost a huge $520 AUD/ $620 NZD (in comparison, British people wanting to work for 12 months in Australia pay $185).

As many travellers as there are out there who are fuming at the increase in costs, I'm sure there are also those who think it's a good thing (a few less Aussie's in Earls Court would probably be not such a bad thing!). If you have a comment, please feel free to post it in response below. Again, thanks to recent posts by certain Anonymous individuals, I am now moderating comments - but I will certainly publish yours if you have something valid to say!