Monday, May 28, 2007

Another long weekend

I can't believe how many long weekends they have in this country. Not that I'm complaining - it's brilliant - and now I have only three days of work before we head off to Germany for the Bergkirchweih (three days of beer, beer and more beer...and then some giant pretzels). Only disadvantage of this is that because I am now a freelancer, I only actually get paid for the work that I do (and no paid holidays) so only working for three days means I only get paid for three days. But that's what budgeting is for I suppose. Thankfully the beer in Germany is cheap.

Have started playing netball again and we have our second game tomorrow night. Unfortunately at the end of last week I wrecked my ankle so don't know if I will actually be able to play anymore. We will see. I haven't been to the gym in about two weeks so better do some kind of exercise!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nae bother, just go to Edinburgh

Well the sun has come out in London again, but my new favourite place is Edinburgh. We had such a nice weekend there - it is beautiful, the people are unbelievably helpful and friendly (compared to London anyway), and there are plenty of places to visit, alleys to explore and great bars, restaurants and cafe's (obviously one of the most important attributes!). See my updated photostream-thingy down the right hand side for some pics of the castle and various other sites in the Georgian new town (which is really not so new) and the Old Town - the side of town where the castle and the Royal Mile is. We didn't really do much except walk, eat and drink, but it's exactly the sort of city where you can happily do nothing but. And if you get lost, there are plenty of people to help you out or point you in the right direction, along with a friendly "Nae bother!" (in London if you asked a bus driver for help he would just pretend he didn't hear you). Due to a mix-up with our booking, we were effectively upgraded to stay at the Canon Court Apartments which gave us a one bedroom apartment with huge bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room for a reduced rate (we deserved this due to the near heart-attack I suffered when I was told on Thursday afternoon that our booking at another nearby guest house hadn't been confirmed for the right dates - their fault - and that we didn't have a room at all. A few deep breaths and some frantic phone calls later it was thankfully solved).

On Sunday we took a short bus ride to Leith which is by the water and had a huge pot of mussels and a glass of wine at a beautiful restaurant by a lock. Absolute bliss - I must have put on about a hundred kilos though. Oh well! More on Edinburgh later - am going outside to enjoy the London sun!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

There's a mouse in the house..

We have a small hairy problem in our house. Apparently this is par for the course while living in London (and incidentally, next to a Chinese restaurant) and I guess I should be happy that this is the first time we have had this problem. Sim was terrorised my a small furry friend all last year - to the extent that she would come home and find the little mouse sitting on her pillow and munching on her clothes. And now we have a little rodent of our own - how nice. Shell's screams yesterday alerted us to the fact! Now apparently we must get mouse traps etc which I really want absolutely nothing to do with (I don't think I could handle if it I was the one to discover the corpse!). Perhaps we need a cat...

I am currently on a contract working for a government department which has actually been quite good and suprisingly well-paid. However I am suffering as it's now 4.30pm (yes I am working, shhhh) and normally about this time I would be contentedly sipping some tea. Yet this place (shock/horror/gasp!) does not supply tea and/or coffee and I am suffering severe withdrawals. You even have to bring in your own milk - I severely object.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Up in the UK Newie

We went up to Newcastle on the weekend - probably a good idea since the rain has come back with a vengeance (we knew this April summer madness couldn't last). Newcastle is waayyy up north and is actually not too bad a place. It sits on the River Tyne and has some nice coastal spots and even a mini Sydney Harbour Bridge (apparently it was built around the same time by the same architect as kind of a prototype - but I could be misinformed..) It is also (somewhat unfortunately) the stag and hen night capital of the UK so wherever you go, you can spot groups of sexed-up men or sad looking ladies in pink sashes and tiaras. The nightlife is pretty good though - we sampled it when I ventured up there in my first few months in the UK. This time it was a BBQ at Nicola's house for her birthday which was just as good, and involved around the same measures of alcohol. We stayed in Jesmond, which is a pretty, convenient area for anyone looking to visit Newcastle - there are a ton of reasonably priced hotels (but if you don't want to share it with a bunch of stags and students, maybe head elsewhere).

We also visited some nice coastline - like the beach at Tynemouth which if you close your eyes and squint, could pass for a beach down the south coast of New South Wales somewhere. Nearby is also the famous Hadrian's Wall which I didn't get the chance to see (ok, so it's only a wall but it's around 2000 years old and was built by a Roman emperor which I think is pretty cool). I really want to get around and see more of the UK this year - as there are some quality places to go which are so cheap as compared to London. I'm heading to Edinburgh this weekend which I'm very excited about. Got to make the death-haul to Gatwick but oh well - at least it is not Stansted! (I'm reserving that for my trip to Germany in a few weeks..).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pru and Kylie...

After all my huge ideas about how I was going to maximise my long weekend by going to some gorgeous, exotic destination - I ended up doing nothing but relaxing (and eating) for three long days. Which, I have to say, was actually quite enjoyable. I have made the resolution that I want to visit more museums in London, since there are so many good ones (all of them free) and since I first arrived here and went to a million in my first few months, I haven't really been to another. So the long weekend (and some quite dreary weather) was the perfect opportunity. I took a suprisingly compliant Paul along to the Victoria and Albert Museum (known as V & A for the cool locals) and saw the Kylie exhibition. I thought it might be a bit naff, but it was actually really entertaining. Paul got annoyed with me though as I kept incessantly repeating how I couldn't believe how tiny Kylie Minogue actually is (all her costumes are displayed on pint-sized Kylie mannequins). Now I'm the kind of size which people would class as slim and I am also a midget, and there is no way I could have fitted in some of those sequinned creations! The rest of the V & A is also fascinating (it's like a design/textiles/fashion museum) but we just didn't have enough time to see everything and so will have to go back. We also spent a good hour or so relaxing by the gorgeous lemon tree grove and fountain in the centre courtyard of the museum having a coffee in the sun, which took up quite a bit of time of our 'museuming'. The whole day was free, so you can't complain really!
Come on, i know you want to - here you can Dress up your own Kylie cut-out doll (I really hope this is aimed at children, otherwise it is just plain bizarre)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

London on the cheap

There's no shame to wanting to save a few pounds here or there while still wanting to enjoy the finer things in life. When you live in London and every £10 you spend could have gone on a flight to Paris/Berlin/Budapest you have to save the dosh where you can. A couple of weeks ago I had possible the cheapest evening I have ever had out in London while actually attending an interesting event (ie not just going to a bar and scabbing free drinks of everyone else). This may sound incredibly dorky, but I actually went to a book reading at my local Waterstones (a high street bookstore chain) and was pleasantly surprised. It was packed for starters, and the author was considerably famous - Marina Lewycka - who wrote the funny and sweet A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and has a new novel out called Two Caravans. She read excerpts from her latest novel, spoke about it and answered questions, and was thoroughly interesting. Before you think I've completely lost it, the other redeeming quality of the night was that there were free snacks and wine! I had dragged Shell along (she only came for the wine I suspect :) and tickets were only £3, which was subtracted from the cost of the book if you bought a signed copy. Not bad for a weeknight out I reckon.

While on the subject of wine and saving money, is it wrong that I have taken to buying wine online? This may sound like I am sinking into alcoholic depths, however it is incredibly economical if you get the frequent cheap deals from the major supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury's. And when you exist in a wine-drinking household such as hours, it is normal to expect that you are probably going to go through six bottles a month anyway..(right?), so why not just save the money by buying in bulk? Plus it saves you lugging the bottles back from the supermarket - a nice man delivers it to you! This is my money-saving tip for winos living in London anyway.