Friday, 26 December 2008

Xmas & New Years 08/09

Heres an interesting xmas fact for you. Wallace and Gromit was THE most watched show over the christmas period, with 14million viewers. Also the BBC had 9 out of 10 of the top rated/most watched shows on tv over this period. WOW i bet you've been dying to know that.

So anyway this is what's been happening over the xmas/new years period.

I went along to a ceroc lesson a few weeks ago, with a couple of friends - it was a great night. We did a beginners class where you start off learning the moves step by step then putting them together into a sequence. There were probably 30-40 women and 20-30 guys there so a very sizable class, and we had to keep rotating all the girls so everyone got to practice. Then the intermediate class came in for their lesson so we went to another room to practice our newly learned moves, then came back into the dance hall were it was time for the 'freestyle' session. The dj starts up, the disco lights come out, and all the dancers from all classes join in and we spend the next couple of hours enjoying dancing with everyone. Its fun, very social and its good practice because you get to dance with intermediate level dancers who take you through dance moves that you dont know.

I finished work on the 19th Dec.. Myself and a few of my colleagues got our work done by 3pm and a large group of us headed to a pub down the road from work called the Morpeth Arms for drinks. It was a nice wind down and good chance to chat to everyone for a few hours till we all started heading home.

Spent the next few days relaxing at home, we had friends popping around and 3/7 of our flatmates all packing and leaving for their xmas hols so lots of christmas goodbyes and catchups. And of course the pre christmas decorations and shopping.

Tuesday I went to the Tate Modern (Museum) on south bank. It's a converted power plant/electricity station(?) It hosts very modern art exhibitions. There was one room that had a pile of fabrics and materials sewn together - apparantly representing south africa. There was rubber, silk thread, suede, etc all sewn together in a heap and spread around the floor. Was partly fascinating but mostly weirded me out. The museum has lots of fascinating paintings too - my favorite was Jackson Pollock. He pours/dribbles/splashes paint onto his canvas and frames it. Thats more my style!
I left there and walked across the Millenium Bridge and up to st pauls cathedral. Theres something about standing on a bridge over the middle of the river, admiring 360 views of London City by night and all the lights shining on the water.

The next two days my flatmates and I just did xmas stuff- we had a couple of friends round to our house for xmas day, we had a nice big lunch then watched movies all afternoon. (Isnt that what everyone else in the country did?)

Saturday I went to the National Gallery which is a huge and very popular art gallery right on Trafalgar Square. Spent a few hours admiring thousands of paintings. There's paintings by all the famous artists, random pictures of people, landscapes of villages and towns, many made up! There were also many religious paintings with scenes out of the bible - which are interesting when you know even a little bit of the stories behind them.

Monday I went to the London Museum. This is a smaller museum which is solely about the history of London city - right from when it was a small roman village, then a town, then how the saxons came, then about the plague, the great fire, and development of the present city of London. Fairly interesting but the museum focused more on kids so the information was written for children to read and think about, so didnt take much more than an hour to get around. Bought a tube map poster which I've wanted since I got here.
Then I headed over to 'Dali Universe' the Salvador Dali gallery which is on the south bank by the London eye. It is fascinating, interesting and really different. The walls are all painted black and posted with photos of dali and quotes he said. Theres an area with his sculptures and his paintings arranged by theme/subject. It's a real gallery experience -it will gross you out, expand your mind, capture your interest, and expand your imagination.

Tuesday I went to the V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum) which is decribed by the lonely planet guide as 'the nations attic'. It is indeed. It is a huge rambling museum that 'observes no curatorial limits whatsoever' and is just crammed to the ceiling full of things. I saw the whole museum in a few hours, and only stopped to read the information on prominent and interesting things. A chatty museum attendant held my attention for a while and chatted away about some exhibit, and I told him some things about NZ & Australia. Having been thoroughly overwhelmed with crammed display cases, and rooms crammed with statues, sculptures, and objects, I headed home. A great museum if you like objects rather than art.

New Years we had drinks at our house from 4pm, then a group of us headed out to Bar Soho (located in Soho- no surprise.) The streets around Leicester Square were all closed and swarming crowds filled the streets around the whole Soho area.. it was a buzz. Apparantly Trafalgar square gets really packed. The bar itself was really nice and we had a great night chatting and dancing. At midnight we watched the london eye fireworks on TV and the whole bar yelled the count down. Heading home about 3am, we joined thousands of other revellers on the streets all making there way home, jumped on the tube (which was running free all night) and headed home.

The day after new years was a write off as it was for everyone, I'm sure. now its the count down till I start work again on Monday.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

OK here it is... Chapter 1 of my book - 'Sarahwah'

If you read this, please comment. Its a work in progress and I'd love to know what you think.

Sarahwah woke abruptly to screams and shouts piercing the early morning air. Clashes of steel were ringing through the fog and men with strange accents were shouting at each other across the village. She sat upright and looked quickly around her hut – so early in the morning and no one was here. Where was her family? Something is horribly wrong. She peeks through the reed walls of her hut and sees what is going on outside. Who are those strange men? Are they the pirates her father often talks of? Dressed shabbily and wielding swords, the infamous pirates that lurk on islands Murudu Bay and Banggi islands are widely known and feared. They often sail around Malaysia and Papa New Guinea in search of villages to raid and princes to swindle out their wealth.
Her father told her tales of pirating when they spend quiet evenings sitting around the fire. He has also heard word that it is also bad in other parts of the world, and particularly bad in the Caribbean. She has heard the village elders speak of the many villages across Malaysia and Singapore that have been, and are still being, raided by pirates and how the villagers live every day more carefully in the jungles of northern Borneo, to avoid the infamous pirates.
Sarahwah feels her cheeks wet with tears and she is shuddering with shock. But what can she do. Sarahwah, at 5 years old is watching her peaceful village being pillaged and burnt before her eyes. and her family is missing and she is alone. She wants her father. She wants her mother. Just then she can smell something strong and putrid drifting over to her. It comes with thick smoke and she coughs, and covers her nose and mouth with her hand. What is that smoke? Rubber. oh no, they're burning the rubber crop. Will these men stop at nothing? Collecting rubber from the trees is one of the main sources of trade and wealth for her village - it takes months to collect it bit by bit and her village values their rubber trees. She is so angry these pirates are burning their entire stocks so heartlessly. They don’t care about a thing. They are cold menacing men with the sole pursuit of material wealth and goods they can trade for more valuable items.
She backs away from the wall and looks around her families hut; their few modest possessions placed against the back wall; their reed bed matt’s on the floor, empty and cold. Her hut is still untouched as its near the back of the village and the pirates hadn’t gotten this far yet. But it would not be safe for long. She can see that the havoc is slowly coming closer. The chaos outside continues to play out – she watches again through the whole in the wall, too stricken to look away. Some huts at the far end of the village are already razed to the ground. A pirate is dragging some of the village woman by their hair and pushing them roughly into a pile under the village shade tree and tying their hands behind them with rope. The men of her village who are still free are trying to fight back and defend their families - they are brandishing their weapons bravely but unfortunately bamboo pistols and poison sticks are not effective against steel pirate swords. Many villagers fall this day as they have done and will continue to do as a result of pirating in these areas.
Everyone can tell who that is because he struts around his victims arrogantly touching his sword to their necks while spitting on them and cursing and ordering the others around. He is tall and brown with wiry muscles that come from living the life on the run as a pirate and carrying heavy jewels and manning his ship. She hears some of the pirates shout ‘Iranum’ at the captain and he responds - this is his name. He orders back to some of the men - ‘Obian - Suluk!’ and they both knock the people they are holding by the hair unconscious. There is one pirate, a young man with supple skin and newly formed muscles of a teen entering adult hood and a life of physical activity - he has long brown hair tied with leather and is the one running from hut to hut torching them under the watchful eye of Iranum. Sarahwah hear some woman’s screams pierce the air already full of shouts, steel clanging and crackling fire. Then a baby’s scream. Another pirate has the baby upside down by the legs and the mother, tied and being watched with the other captives by Iranum is wailing and crying and yelling for her baby. The pirate walks over and places the baby the right way up in the woman’s lap. Her hands are tied though like everyone else’s and cannot quieten her child, which is screaming in fear. The mother is trying to hush it with her sobbing tear streaked words. The other captives are pleading with Iranum and also crying for their families.
Sarahwah lets out a gasp as she notices one of the soldiers is dragging someone along the ground by the hair – she recognizes them. Oh no, her cousin Illanun! Illanun is the first son of her uncle who is the village medicine man - Illanun was a young man coming of age who was set to take over as ruling medicine man and chief of ceremony in the coming year as his father was getting too old now.
The pirates often kidnap young men and woman to be of service to the pirates, the young men trained and forced into being pirates who then have to follow captains orders to torch others villages just as there’s were. The young woman, well pirates are not always sailing and pillaging villages and need some female company. Older men in the villages are killed as they defend their families and some women are raped and stabbed on the spot while others lucky enough to be pregnant or protecting offspring are lucky enough to survive to watch their village being burned to the ground and their men being killed and their children taken. One of the saddest and unavoidable parts of pirating is that in all the chaos families get separated and the amount of orphaned children is great. Families often believe one another to be dead until reunited by news spread at a Tamu, the weekly market where goods and gossip are traded. Some are not so lucky - the children just left by the pirates to fend for themselves, the parents taken never to be seen again.
Sarahwah is trying to spot anyone else she knows through the smoke of the fires and the early morning fog. She cannot see any of them now- the fires are too great. Her only thought now is she must escape. It is pure instinct. It is not easy for a 5year old to pluck up the courage to leave her home and possessions and run away from her village and her family who are currently being pillaged raped and stabbed by these horrid men - but to survive is her primal thought. She starts looking furtively around to assess a way out. She is small and flexible and can make the most of having a stealthy escape. Most people of Borneo and Asia are small, fit people. She can sneak quietly out the door of her hut without being seen, but then to get across the rice paddy flats to the jungle trees 100metres away; she will have to be careful. Their vision will be hampered by the fire and smoke so she must stay low and run fast and quiet. Tears are still streaming down her face and the terror is rippling through her small body no like no feeling she has ever felt before. Flashes of her family fly through her mind. Where are they? Where are they! How could they leave without me? Why did the pirates take them and not me? Why did they save me? Was it because I was sleeping in the back of the hut they could not see me? Still they have searched everyone else’s hut and pulled out everyone alive… why me? I will pray to Buddha when I reach the jungle and thank him for sparing me and ask him to save my family. They could already be dead or tied up, being spat on by a pirate.

Sarahwah has been hunting with her father and she knows how to pick the right moment to move - when the pirate’s backs are turned, and engaged with threatening their prisoners. She must escape now or suffer the same fate. All right - a short dash through the reed grass toward the thick jungle. Can she take anything with her? She grabs a knife favored by her father off the table and tucks it in her leather waist wrap. She is already dressed in their villages typical dress - cotton under wrap with frayed, dirty work skirt over the top and a long sleeved work shirt and leather moon bear vest with fur, over which she ties her leather waist wrap that carries her usual work tools she uses to harvest rubber and bananas and cut reed with her mother. The knife now joins her tools and she crouches ready to run. Out the door she bends silently like a cat and then she runs for her life, in the quick light way only a child can. A furtive glance back shows that the pirates are more interested in claiming some more of the village women and she reaches the safety of the dark muggy jungle without being seen. She runs a bit further in the jungle to be sure she is far away as possible. She runs till she can run no further. With chest heaving and cheeks salty with dried tears she slows to the quick light walk favored by tribes people all over the land that ensures they cover a lot of ground in one day. She is fairly fit – all of her people are, as they work outdoors every day they are naturally wiry and tough people. But the fear and shock is causing her to breathe heavily in and out of her searing lungs… she did not entirely escape the smoke that was now sending a huge signal up into the sky.
Her first thought now was water. She follows a worn hunting path used by the hunters of her village – one she knows well for some miles. This is the track her and her father have trodden many times with the hunters and she knows where the creeks are and the berry bushes. She walks to the villages favored waterfall, which has a constant supply of clear spring water trickling down over a rock face. She cups her hands against the rock and forms a pool of water to drink. The thought hits her - she should have brought a gourd! Now how will she store water for later? How will she eat, with only a 4inch knife to hand? Having drunk as much as she can, Sarahwah slumps down on the path by the waterfall with a belly full of water and cries… for the mysterious loss of her family, the cry of a homeless, orphaned, scared, soon to be lost 5year old. So many unanswered questions and such a feeling of despair that washes over her like waves and grips her belly like cramps at the realization that her family might actually be gone forever.

A while later she gets up with steely determination and child like faith. She realises that she has not gone far and if anyone was to come this way they would catch her in a short time. Better keep moving. Keep moving. Where to go, where am I to go? She knows the path runs out eventually - when she has accompanied her father hunting she remembers the track runs out soon and they relied on the village hunters navigate them through the jungle. Being a child of a village means you get to play and stay close to home guarding the stores and cutting reed grass so Sarahwah has no idea where she is going, nor where to go. It is still only the middle of the day now, but come nightfall the jungle will be a cold and dangerous place and she knows she will have to find shelter, but no idea how or where. She has never stayed out over night in the jungle before and is starting to feel quite apprehensive. Sarahwah keeps walking in the direction she knows is taking her away from her village - getting as much space as she can between her and those horrible people. She cant bare to think of her fellow villages left behind it is too awful for her. It is like a terribly awful nightmare in which you woke up to find everyone dead and you hope to wake up soon - but you are already awake.
She knew to stay on the ridge tops when walking through the jungle, because its clearer to walk, you often get a view through the trees to get your bearings and the animals liked to stay in the thick undergrowth or up in the trees. You also can’t get swept down a river. After what feels like hours of walking, Sarahwah is so tired and is moving fairly slowly. She’d found a stick for support to lean on and help her get up the steeper hills. The ground was slippery and wet in places, and sometimes areas of long thick vines grew everywhere like a huge web and it was tricky to clamber through, under and over them. Her energy was getting sapped more every mile. As she was coming up the next rise, a huge rock overhang came into view. With what looked like a cave entrance. It seemed quiet and uninhabited but you can never be sure. Didn’t her father tell her a story about being wary of caves? One night a storm came over and the hunters had luckily stumbled upon a cave that had old bones in it but was dry and quiet and they took shelter but unfortunatly for them it was still inhabited by ferocious animals and their bones soon joined the existing pile of bones and they never returned from that hunting trip. Shuddering at the thought, she approached the cave very cautiously, She beat on the rock face at the entrance with her stick. No noises or snuffles emerged so after a pause she ventured inside. It was rather large, with a high ceiling. There were a few red and orange chalk paintings on the walls, which she could just see in the dim light. I wonder who has sheltered here before me? It certainly was abandoned but had signs of previous use. There were charred rocks from a fire and small bones, probably remnants of a hunting parties dinner as they waited out the night to return home the next day. Going deeper into the cave it got a bit smaller and appeared to be dry. There was nothing comfortable about it - crudely shaped rock formed walls and a ceiling. It was a dry flat clay floor with dust and sticks and rocks that had blown in over the years. She had no idea how to hunt or make a fire to cook food. At her age, children only assist in cooking like preparing the food, they are not allowed to make or tend the fires - she could only hope to find a berry bush or edible herbs or wild potatoes for sustenance.
She ventured outside checking the coast was clear and started to comb the area for anything edible. She passed a bamboo thicket - there are lots of things she could do with bamboo given better tools and some daylight. Realising she was never going to be able to cut any bamboo herself she tried to pull off some of the small offshoots with leaves. Then she started looking around to find other things she could use as a bed - there is that plant with big leaves the monkeys shelter under in monsoon season, oh what is it called she cant think, her thoughts are scattered and she’s too scared being alone and lost in the jungle. She comes across a berry bush and plucks as many as she can off the plant. With nothing to carry them in she holds up the bottom of her skirt and scoops them all in, then walks as quickly as she can back to the cave. The light is starting to fade. Its getting late in the day and it gets dark in the depths of the jungle earlier than it does in the open. Back in the cave, it is cold and she huddles in a ball against the back wall nibbling on her berries. She eats them all- she’s hungrier than she realises. After being rudely awoken at dawn this morning and being on the run all day, she has had no food and is ravenously hungry, overwhelmingly tired and shaken after the adrenaline and terror of the day. Pictures of her fellow villagers screaming and their huts being burnt to the ground flash through her mind before she sinks into the fetal position, shivering, scared and lonely and into a slumber no 5year old should have to endure. One where your family is gone, your village is gone, your alone, hungry scared and cold and unable to fend for yourself.

Monday, 8 December 2008

It's december already!!

Wow December. I arrived in London at the beginning of May and already its December. I swear every year just gets faster and faster. I'm happy that I really do a lot and making the most of my time here because time goes so fast you just have to make the most of every day.

Work is still ticking along pretty busy as always (i get the impression a head office comms department doesnt ever quieten down) but it means i've always got projects on the go. Just in the middle of a couple of campaigns for the two committees i'm on at work, the sponsorship commitee and the envirionment committee. Enjoying being on those, learning things and it adds another element and some depth to working here when youre involved in behind the scenes projects :)

We have been advised to take compulsory 2 week holiday so i'm going to use the time off to write, and maybe head up to scotland for Hogmany.

Fri 5th Dec

Got my hair done at a local hairdresser that all the girls in my flat go too. they're really good.

Sat 6th Dec

Got all my christmas cards and presents away in the mail which is good, and very organised of me :D

This afternoon I headed out to the Westfield London mall out in Shepherds Bush (White City tube stop) and spent a few hours wandering around. Its huge - fair few thousand square feet, 3 stories, 280 shops. The inside most closely resembles the Albany Westfield with the glass walled shops and shiny tile floors and modern food hall. It has a really neat undulating roof with clear glass in honeycomb steel and just a really nice inside and very spacious.

Sat night 6th Dec

There was a farewell party for a friend of friends so again all our gang went out. Was at a nice pub (King William the 4th or 6th or something, its gay pub with a crepe stand outside) Nice night of drinking and chatting. We all left and we were on our way to someones house I think and we went to the tube station and got into the lift but 1 of our group couldnt find their oyster card so we were holding the lift doors open and all shouting at her like she's heading for a finish line, but the station attendant came over and said 'do you lot know how your behaving'? and basically settle down and be quiet. then the lift alarm went off, think we were holding the doors to long so the attendant came back over and turned the alarm off and kicked us all out of the lift. Some guy was being a bit rude to her so she and the other guy on duty were basically herded us out of the station saying 'we'll call the police' and then there was some discussion about us having a bomb because there was smoke coming out of the lift and the police were coming and they're closing the station right now. Whoah, over reaction!? So we went down to the bus stop and waited for the N5 (N=night bus, 5=route 5) then we see a fire engine and ambulence pull up to the tube station - what! geez we must have inadvertantly set off our rather large and dangerous antipodean bomb. There were some police milling around the street not far from us so we all kept quiet. We waited for a bus for 40mins. In that time some of my flatmates happened to be on the N5 heading home from another party, but the bus was too full we couldnt get on, so we waved as they went on without us. Eventually got home, got some Dixy Chicken and went to bed. Fun night!!

Sunday 7th

Lovely crisp clear day, flatmates and I decided to go for a walk. We went up the road to Golders Green park that has lots of green grass and park benches and an animal enclosure (emu looking birds and rabbit/kangaroo type animals)then into Hamstead Heath and chatted while we walked through areas of bush with thick layer of fallen leaves on the ground - came across a frozen lake that looked to be 5mm-1cm thick layer of ice (a bit was broken off) and the things we threw on it just skimmed across. There is another set of lakes we walked past -1 was in the sun with ducks swimming on it and kids and dogs playing and the other lake was surrounded by trees and completely frozen over and devoid of life. What a contrast.

Despite the freezing air temperature, the sun was out and lots of people were out and about. We walked right through hamstead and came out in Hendon then went through Hamstead somewhere and ended up at Golders Green again. It was a lovely day despite the fact that grass was crunchy with ice and the pavements were slippery and still white in places. and this was at 3pm in the afternoon.

This morning around Golders Green the footpaths and rail way tracks were white with ice... :0


A fine example of the UK customer service has just conveniently landed in my hands so I thought i'd share it with you.

I am after comedy tickets off a newspapers website and the booking form isnt showing correctly so I ring the paper to see what the isue is.

I rang up and the guy didnt even answer the phone! He just picked it up and sat there. I said hello, is this the london paper? he said 'yeah who are you looking for'. I said well, no- one in particular, its regarding... and before I could say 'regarding buying tickets off your website' he diverted me in the middle of my sentance and im on hold again!!

Then a lady answers 'hello international switchboard' or something and I think 'where am I now'? so i say again hello, is this the london paper? she says yes who are you after?
'Well, no- one in particular actually, i'm trying to buy tickets for the comedy on your website'. she says OK ill just put you to the website team.

On hold again. At least I'm getting closer.

I get a guy who is better - he listens, but just says 'hangon' without any further explanation. I hear him clicking and moving his mouse in the back ground, so I guess he's looking at the site to see the what the problem is. He says he will email me the link then hangs up at the end of his sentance without saying goodbye, leaving me to say 'thanks, goodbye' to a click.

Major Update

Had a few weeks off, but I'm back to provide you with you my updates you are longing to read. Hope you have a long lunch break today cos its a bit of a long post :P

Nanowrimo came and went pretty fast. My effort died in the last couple of weeks as I had full on weekends and lots of social things happening and got so far behind that the end goal was unfortunatly too far away. So i've said im going to just be glad I got to 38, 700 words and continue writing at my own pace and still get it out there just with slightly more quality and not writing awful dialogue when half asleep at 11:30 at night. I have also gone and found a writing group which is based near clapham (SW1/ south london) and went along to a meeting on the 3rd Dec to meet the group and see what they're about. It was their xmas party and the last meeting of the year so it was fairly casual and had wine and mince pies. A few people had bought a book along and some had a story or poem off the internet and they all just read their favorite passages out. It was interesting just to hear a range of different writing styles and something different you wouldnt normally read. Some of the people there have written a few novels, short stories, poems and all sorts so Im excited to be among like minded experienced people who I can learn from. Ill be joining in the new year.

The next exciting thing that happened was going to Cambridge University on the 24th November for an event at Queens College. The university is broken up into colleges (like departments or schools) and which houses the metal/engineering/sciences disciplines. Since we are a steel company, and it was a steel event thats why we held it there. It was for the endowment of a metallurgy professor by our company, and we also used it for a recruitment event. We had drinks/buffet dinner and the CEO and top executives came along, made a speech, and just drinking and talking. We had the help of a professional events agency who are really good. We went up at 3pm and set up. I was on registration all night but we were allowed a dinner break then pack up and leave about 10:30.

The old hall, that we were in, was a gorgeous highly decorated room with wood panel floor, big open fire about 6foot high,with latin(?) writing all around the top of the walls like a freize. Every inch of the walls and ceiling were decorated and you didnt know where to look. The college itself is really old and elegant with wooden beams appearing through ceilings and little court yards and worn stone steps. lovely town.

The next thing on my calendar was going xmas shopping on the 28th Nov with a friend from work down the busy oxford st... it was not that busy yet so we could actually move down the street, but it was still chaos. Went to a few stores and got nearly all my xmas shopping done (not that i had that much to do) then we went to yo sushi Its the place where you sit down, grab bowls of food off the conveyer belt as it goes past, then just pay for what you eat at the end. its great.

The next day on the 29th I did the rest of my xmas shopping and spent the afternoon wandering around central london.. went to charing cross station and crossed the road to trafalgar square and took some photos with all the other tourists taking photos. It was a neat moment to be standing there and see the london eye and big ben behind nelsons column while standing in trafalgar square. Its moments like that you relish cos you really realise your in London and how fantastic it is.

Then I walked to covent garden which was really busy. watched a street busker whos act was getting a 6 year old to throw knives up to him while he was standing on a high stool. then he balanced on a roller on a skateboard on the stool and caught the knives again from the kid. then he jumped off and got two guys to wrap him in 30metres of chain and padlock it then he declared he would dislocate his shoulder to get out in under 60seconds. While the crowd looked away and cringed, he did it! Was a good entertainer aswell.

That night it was a friends birthday so our group all headed up to 'The Black Lion' pub in Kilburn where we talked and drank away till the pub closed.. we didnt arrive till 10 but we had a good few hours there. Last ones to leave and only realised it was time to go when the pub manager walked around shouting for everyone to get out..

We walked across the road to a club called 'The good ship' where we danced till 4am! havn't stayed out that late in a few years im sure :P time goes fast when your having fun with friends.

My dept went out for lunch on the 4th dec for a colleagues birthday. It was at Sarenas, a real italian restaurant hidden in the basement of an office building but just a nice quick walk away on the other side of the river from us. The restaurant was dressed in italian tablecloths, photos of italy, big italian waitors speaking italian who were all continually yelling across the restaurant in italian! It was a buzzing, noisy, fantastic atmosphere with really good food aswell.

So that was November. My 7th month in the UK. wow. I'm really enjoying it now im over the 6 month hurdle and have got into the groove of life and starting to really appreciate the city for all it is and has. The winter with ice and snow (hopefully) just makes it a bit more exciting.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Thoughts on Eeenglund

The start of Spamalot opens with the song 'Finland, Finland, Finland, thats the country for me'! with very colofully dressed people, cute little house, fur pines, etc. The narrator cuts the song to a quick close when he yells 'I said ENGLAND, not FINLAND'. The set dissapears into a depressing foggy gloom with faint lighting and rain clouds hovering. A few characters walk solemnly by in manky robes with depressing music. As far as reality goes its pretty accurate.

I realise I write more about what I do and whats happening, and maybe people like to know more about the daily life and what living here is actually like. So I thought id share my thoughts.

Coming into winter its funny to see that londoners almost have a dress code. Fair enough theres only so many coat styles on the market but still. Lace up high heel leather shoes are in fashion. Flat equestrian style boots are the staple foot diet. Tights are selling in the hundreds of thousands. All sorts of patterns. I havnt worn woolen tights since boarding school and here I am now expected to wear them daily as part of a funky (and warm) work wardrobe. so far I have resisted. The other thing i notice is most people here wear wooly hats. Baggy, knitted, wooly hats. Men all carry man bags or laptop bags, umbrella, sometimes hat, nice leather shoes.
You step down a peg into the casual wear domain and this is what you see - boys in english geezer shiny adidas tracksuits, white pull on sneakers and a ciggarette. Or Jeans, white sneakers and denim jacket and a ciggarette. Girls - jeans, puffer jacket or fitted short jacket with hard square handbag, trowled on makeup, blonde hair in pony tail, big hoop earrings, and a ciggarette. Or a kid.

One thing I've noticed, is that in such a busy densely populated city where we are queing and squeezing like sardines at every possible opportunity, is that everyone reserves a mininum of 1-2cm of personal space around them. Yes, this is even on the tube when there is no space to leave space. Your elbow to elbow, nose to nose and everyone must have there little perimeter of space. Do we go out of our way to have this by way of saving our sanity? Do we put extra effort into ignoring everyone because we are face to face with hundreds of people every day? Its the law of town vs country foke personified. The country foke are so far away from each other they grab every chance to be friendly and chat. The towny may ignore his neighbour, or may say hi once a week at the letterbox. Living in the city, woah ignoring and not touching is the top priority! (Disclaimer - this does not apply on oxford street. here, your aim is to bang into, and barge past, as many civilions as possible. go!)

But for all that, it still gives me a little buzz everytime i say to myself 'I'm in London'. And everytime you see the words Christchurch. Or Auckland. Or Albany, or Birkenhead. All these New Zealand places are english names. you just dont realise how much of an english colony we are until you realise this fact. Of course I know we are part of the commonwealth and all our english citizens came from england, ra ra ra, I'm saying its neat when your away from home to see the address 'Birkenhead, Albany, London, SW4 6PY. You think 'thats a place in Auckland! yay!' Yeah me and my little thrills. Gotta get em where you can.

The other day, I spoke to a kiwi guy on the phone. I answer the phone for my department and speak to a lot of english and welsh people. But this was the first maori sounding kiwi I've spoken too. He said something like 'orright, yeah, cheers eh, cheers, by' I smiled and felt a bit patriotic at hearing my homeland slang. see, 'cheers bro' never goes out of fashion.

The other thing about living in London is that after a few months of exploring the town and going out and seeing all the attractions, you soon turn to the reality of having a job, eating sleeping and doing housework. (If you do housework). All my friends here I speak to when you ask 'what have you been up too? just say 'working'. You think, woah, your in London! Life must be more exciting than that surely. No. Maybe for some people with good jobs yes. But for most of us its about working to pay your rent and your oyster card bill. And then eating, sleeping and drinking. Then, if a cheap deal comes in the TNT ( then you grab it and go on a sloshy weekend away with friends or some random place in Russia or Latvia or wherever and then you save for flights home.

The last thing that strikes me and actually strikes all the english people here too, is SAD and the darkness of winter. It starts getting dark at 4pm. By 4:30 its well dark and as good as night time. I left work early last friday, (4:30) and it was dark and the street lights were on. I thought, whats this, Im leaving work early, going out, and it feels like night time. Every day at work we all look out our grey blinds at the grey sky and watch it turning dark just after we have our afternoon coffee. We all get a bit more depressed. Which is the other major issue, is that everyone gets SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) over here. Everyone looks and acts gloomy and depressed. Everyone really looks forward to those sunny holidays with a ferocity never felt by kiwis. It puts new emphasis on 'going to work in the dark, and going home in the dark.' well, now it really is.
On the plus side, at least I can accesorise with at least 6 layers of cute knits, coats, scarves, gloves, hats, boots, tights, skirts......
Wow my english friends are really going to like me after this post. Cheers Bro? :)

Nanowrimo week 2/3

Hey folks :) thought i'd drop in and tell you about my snails pace progress for nanowrimo in the last couple of weeks.

After the first weekend of reaching 8000 words in the first weekend and increasing my word count by leaps all week, I got 6000 words in weekend two. At about 15, 000 words I noticed progress slow down. The main characters had been seperatly introduced. Backstories told. then you need to ramp it up a bit. you need to actually make your characters start coming of the page and doing something. You know, books usually have that exciting plot line where lots of things happen and at the end you cant remember everything that happened, but you know it was exciting? yeah. The writer has to write all that exciting stuff. And sometimes that involves late nights, coffee, sore butt, stiff back, RSS (the injury, not the content feed) and eyes popping out of your head. Isnt this fun!? *you tell yourself smiling*

anyway over the course of these 2 weeks I have managed to sprint, rest and sprint my way to 32, 100 words as of day 18. Not bad. I was two days ahead of schedule as determined by the head coach/leader of the whole thing. So Im pretty pleased.

But after racing from 17,000-31,000 words I am now stalling and the rabbit within has emerged. I need to dream up some dramatic scenes, plot twists, character revelations, lions tigers and bears, oh my!! But im only getting the tin man.

They call the 30-50,000 words there home stretch. Ill be saying that when Im at 40,000+. For now i am plodding on, keeping the competition going with my fellow wrimo's on twitter ( and submitting myself to 'Write or die'!!!! which is a website that pits you against a certain number of words in a certain time- if you fail it plays awful music or eats your words!! NOO!

Lots of procrastination and diversion tactics are employed at this stage of the game. People are starting to look for a way out. housework? love to! party? yeah! twitter updates (what novel?) you get the idea.

But to tell you the truth im really enjoying this, I like my plot (maybe more the idea of it rather than the actual quality of the content) but its a competition and getting to the end is far more satisfying than faking a sprain and quitting half way.

Now ive just written a blog post about 800 words long. How much further ahead would that have gotten me in my novel. Instead im submitting thesis to my blog. What'd I say about diversion tactics?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

NaNoWriMo Week #1

Well for some reason (maybe the bad weather) I have chosen to compete in a competition of friendly writing sport called National Novel Writing Month. It was started by a guy in america a few years ago with some friends and has now grown into a world wide event with 150,000 odd participants. Through their website, and following peoples twittering about their progress the whole way through, it feels like a close worldwide community of writers all churning out words albeit just for 1 month of the year.

The aim is to write like a mad man with frenzied fingers and get 50, 000 words of fiction down before the month end. It is meant to be a novel but some entrants are non fiction works or documentarys etc.

It has been a great first week so far. The first 10,000 words have been the easiest... then when I got to 12-20k the going was slightly more involved but still manageable. As everyone has been saying it gets harder when you've got to actually make your characters do something in the land called 'plot'. And reading everyones posts on the competition website everyone is slowing down at about the same point.

Day one i sat bum on couch from 12-12 and got 8700 words down. By Monday evening, day 3, I had 11,something k. Tuesday night got up to 14 and a half k. Weds night got to 15, k. Note sleep cut back by 2-3hours each night so I can fit this typing in. Starting to feel the drag of a half awake person and a heavy head. But must. keep. typing. By Friday night im at 15,700K. Sat I spent another 8 hours writing and half of sunday, total 6000 something words. So now at the end of week one I have got to 22,750 words. I was aiming for 25K... but ohwell I'm really pleased with what writing I have done so I'm giving myself sunday evening off (to write more and update my blog of course).

To write this many words in 30 days, you need to do a mininum/average of 1700 words a day. So I need to retain my word count lead and carry on the word count one upmanship because I will need some time in week 4 to relax and edit my unmasterpiece.

So here's to week 2. Cheers to all my fellow NanoWrimo participants :D

Monday, 13 October 2008

London is an autumn city

I like London in Autumn much better. The skies are clear, there next to no rain, the temperature is more comfortable (ie not too cold or hot at work or on the tube) and there's leaves falling everywhere and because London is a really green city it looks beautiful. Theres more blue skies than there was in summer which means a) you have a sense of 'yay look blue skie' and b) ooo golly why is it so cold its a nice day. apparantly the clouds return in winter.

What ive done this month... hmmm
9th Oct, I went to a lolcats meetup which was great fun at the 02 centre in greenwich. LOLCATS is a website upon which the owners and mere folk such as ourselves place photos of cats, dogs and politicians and everyone proceeds to plaster them with funny comments. YES its actually really funny. And YES I went to a meetup to meet the other people that enjoy these photos as much as I do. There was a crowd of about 100-150 and it was free drinks all night. Everyone ordered cheezburgers (it was an american steak bar) and the waiters had no idea why everyone was ordering cheezburgers! we had a laugh at their expense. It was great fun to meet new people and talk about geeky stuff and jokes like 'its ok, we're from the internet!'. I felt like I was at a star wars convention or an iPhone launch party, such were the numbers of iphones popping out taking photos (or in my case updating our twitter status and watching diggnation as the night went on. yeah, someone did point out to me that updating my twitter, on my iphone, while at a geeky website meetup, was pretty nerdy) Anyway we all swapped facebook/twitter/blog details and parted as happier geeks with a few more friends than before.

On the 11th/12th I went to a friends party then the next day a bunch of us went to the church. 'The Church' is the home of getting boozed in 4hours flat on a sunday with other kiwis and aussies and saffas. Most of the people going to the church get dressed up in all manner of obsurd ways and run yelling up the street to get in line. 12pm, doors open, let the drunken revellry begin. For £7 you get a drink token which gets you 3 beer cans in a plastic bag. The boys down 9/10 cans each in the 4hours and there is a big pile of crushed cans at our feet and ripped plastic bags everywhere. I will not tell you, dear reader, what else goes on at the church it will hurt your eyes. Anyway we all leave in a calm and orderly fashion and proceed quietly to the nearest tube station *ahhhhh NO* everyone spills out onto the street and hoards of us head to the underground in as noisy manner as possible and go to the walkabout (chain of aussie/kiwi/saffa pubs in london) to continue our drinking. The whole tube platform was full of us all yelling that chant people start up at rugby games and when the tube came we all piled on - the carriage behind us were actually making the train carriage bounce up and down, such was their enthusiastic singing and jumping!
Might I point out I had a cold this week and only had two beers. Hence i observed this whole charade in such a bemused fashion.

Next week, went out with a friend for dinner monday 13th, then went out with workmates on weds 15th to dinner and a comedy where this guy called Mitch Benn and his two band mates sing parody songs that are his jokes.. very clever actually.
Then the next night I go round to a friends for dinner and spend the whole night laughing cos her friends a comedian.
The following weds 23rd I go see Spamalot (monty python musical) for the second time with a friend and we have dinner and a drink and a good laugh.
Then this sat 25th we all went to our friends halloween party - they'd decorated the house and everyone dressed up and we had a really good night. I went as a spider queen - got some costume acessories from Camden and worked with what I had.

Other than these few things, Ive not been up too much... cooked dinner for my flatmates last week, cajun chicken with vegies (excellent) and berry pie (needs some work) and made two batches of cookies both of which didnt end up as perfect as id hoped cos I forgot they are meant to be soft and crumbly when they come out of the oven - so i rather overcooked them a little.
At home, weve got the heaters on nearly every night and we all huddle under duvets and watch a movie a night... we have a dvd player that has a little usb stick so we can take files straight from pc and play them on tv. weve seen a fair few movies now!!
Work is still really good, im now also a PA for the new head of branding and communications aswell as being administrator and helping other comms managers with events and other campaigns. The company stays open over xmas so I might just do a short 3-5 days in scotland over xmas and work the other days that I can.
anyways remember you can comment on my blog posts and i always enjoy getting emails from everyone.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Updating you

Last weekend I went for a weekend course at Arthur Findlay college in Stanstead. Gorgeous weekend enjoying the sun and nature and watching the horses in the paddock next door. The sun was out so caught a few beams which was lovely. Relaxing break out of the city to save my sanity and came back refreshed.

Working hard at the moment, its really good being busy and learning more. Really enjoy job variety so its great. Im never sitting still for long (unless im creating posters in photoshop or editing a swedish website that ive been working on for weeks, then it takes me all day to spell out words like ventigulingsing hogprofil z-och c-balk. But i like web editing and photoshop work so i dont mind :)

Tip to myself - get to work by 8:30 so I dont have to endure being squashed in the tube with peoples arms and breifcases pushing into me on all sides and peoples arms going right infront of your face. If you get on the tube around 7:45, you have room to read the paper or maybe even sit down :0 bonus.

The free papers in london are great, and thankfully we've moved on from amy winehouses adventures and are now focussing on the credit crunch and hearing blow by blow reports on the state of the economy around the world.

This weekend, well yesterday I did a one day course in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) at the City Lit Uni (its a uni devoted to adult learning and has an amazing range of courses) it was really interesting. It was good to recap some of the material that I have done with previous life coach and personal development courses. Plan to go on and do the NLP practitioner and life coaching courses.
Today the weather is miserable and so me and my flatmates are all cooped up inside listening to music, the guys are getting their DIY on and building some shelves while us girls stand by and critique their work :P

What i'm most excited about though is the fact that Russell Peters (comedian) and Russell Brand are both doing shows in London next Feb! I am soooo going. Just have to find someone else to go with. (Anyone?)

Friday, 12 September 2008

things I miss and things I like

Things I miss!!

- the sun in general

- beaches

- pies

- scenery

- the sea

- actual weather (not just perpetual cloud)

- people that understand what vowels your pronouncing

- shops and banks that actually upgrade their counters every year. my bank has 50 year old marks in their wooden counters and tartan carpet.

- customer serivce! (instead of constantly improving customer service techniques these guys are in an effort to be the grumpiest and most uncaring)

- eftpos

- fresh fruit and vegatables

- farmbake cookies

- decent nz meat

- decent tv shows

- big modern supermarkets- here they are all like little 4 squares with archaic range of products and store layout

- westfield malls

- glassons and max

- not hearing anything about any other country except britain

- modern anything - buildings, carpet, concrete, any operating process.

OK now things I like about the UK:

- the tubes and trains and buses - the range and frequency of these services means that means 8million people can go anywhere at anytime, every minute and that is cool

- the way the city is built around advising you what tube or bus to take to an event, to work, to see your friends, to that restaurant - and no information about driving or parking.

- the proximity to europe and more countries in general

- theatres

- more shops, and way more funky and exciting range

- 24/7 'off licences' that sell anything you could need from your breakfast to your alchahol.

- how cheap everything is.

- a cosy pub and a stodgy feed on a freezing cold day

- countless pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, etc

- multiple happening areas of town that buzz with activity every night of the week

- the way theres books and magazines devoted to listings of whats happening in town every night - and there's a lot.

- more of everything- more niche industry magazines, more options, more stores, more companys than you can poke a big phone book at..

Things I find interesting:

- the feeling that everything is so old that processes and mind sets and buildings progress is generally slower than the fast changing, cutting edge, modern, NZ way of being.

- guys go shopping. by themselves, and willingly. and their clothes are as funky as the girls. and they're not gay.

- its still very much a cash society. every day people can be seen stopping at a 'hole in the wall'. many shops do not even have a card terminal. no-one pays by card here. feels like your constantly handing over cash left right and centre.

- tv adverts. british use cosy, pretty, warm feeling ads with cartoon characters or kids. no funky bravia adds for these guys.

- the labelling on packaging. our dishcloth is more than just a sponge - its an aerated lineament surface buffer scrub. really.

whuss bin happenin bro

well what a busy couple of weeks... im waiting for the weekend to come around so i can go to bed :0
Last week I was helping organise a company event for this week so working 8:30-6:30 every day madly organising things...

on the weekend i had to go to the laundromat again cos our washing machine has been broken for a couple of weeks. (Ed - its fixed now).
We had a big party on sat night for a friends birthday, they'd decked out their house with a strobe light, flashing disco lights, smoke machine, plastic gladiator fighting sticks, and a shisha tent out the back. their flatmate is a dj so he was providing us with awsome tunes all night. it was a great night! see my photos on facebook.

so its monday again, that came around too fast. Get into work with the rest of the organising team at 7:30 and setup. It was held on the 29th floor of our office building in a venue with views out over London in 3 directions...
Monday night I go with a friend to see Spamalot, the Monty Python theatre show at the Palace theatre in Leicester Square. Its a gorgeous old theartre with wood panelling walls, mirrors with curly gold borders, every surface of the theartre is covered in decorative design.
The show itself is absolutely fantastic!! We laughed through virtually the whole show, the actors were full of enthusiasm and very professional.. the costumes and set design and set changes were really well done. I would have paid £20 - the ticket was only £10. well worth it.

Tuesday night i went round to dinner with some family freinds .. was a really nice evening and had a sumptuous chicken risotto- the best food ive had since i left home :D

weds night i actually got home at a reasonable hour for the first time this week.

thursday night me and our posse of friends went to see the feelers at a kiwi/aussie pub in the antipodean quarter of london (shepherds bush eouw) where the whole pub is full of kiwi and aussie accents and they sell pies!!! (yay for the pies!) oh yeah the band was pretty good too. :P

and finally, its friday. :D

ps the title is spelt wrong purpously to represent the accent on letters that british people hear when we kiwis speak. yes becomes yiss. desk becomes disk. you get my drift.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Nike 10km Run 31st Aug

Wow, I did it- my first 10km run!!
Last night my flatmates and myself all did the Nike Human Race ('London against the world') from Wembly stadium.
We have been running regularly for a while but really only trained seriously in the last week, (not ideal) but we'd got up to running 7-8kms OK so we were fairly sure we could acheieve the last 2km's on the day.

We file into the stadium with a fellow army of people all wearing the red event tshirts. Pendulum and Moby put on a concert while everything got setup and people got ready. Then wave 1 set off.. then wave 2.. then wave 3 (thats us!) head onto the stadium to warm up then we're off! We follow a curvy course around the carpark and the neighbouring streets and then back into the stadium grounds. There were stewards and supporters encouraging us all along the way which was neat.

We did, infact, all do really well :D my fit-as flatmates got there 51-52min mark, my roommate got 1:02 and I got 1:12. I jogged along comfortably the whole way then sprinted to the finish yelling with my arm up waving at the spectators who were all yelling at us 'go! every second counts! come on london!'.

We got another free tshirt at the end which everyone put on for warmth (yee-ah two free tshirts! awesome) and there was a white army of tshirts on the return tube journey instead of the army of red that was arriving just a couple of hours ago. It was quite funny.. and some strangers on the tube came up to us and said 'what is happening? why is the whole city wearing the same tshirt?' you had to laugh.

Apparantly about 40,000 people took part in this awesome event - and a real mix of people took part, from the olymics Paula Radcliffe (she zoomed past in a flash and people in her wake were left gasping 'was that paula radcliffe? yeah it was!) and there were some army boys in their army gear and packs. Only a few people walked but mostly everyone pushed themselves the whole way.
Overall it was an exciting, fun, well organised event and mass run for charity.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Egypt 2-10 Aug 08

I'm back! In case you didn't know, Ive just spent one amazing week in Egypt - I've only waited 20years to do it - and now I've done it.

The trip was with Travel Talk, they were great, had a good itinerary and great tour guide. The other people on the tour were all really neat too - makes the trip that much better when your hanging out with good people.

The trip started in Cairo, Sat 2nd Aug (40 degrees) where we stayed at the Cataract Resort. we saw a lot the first day - the Giza pyramids, sphinx, tombs and the step pyramid of Sakarra. They are all really amazing and actually it's almost too much to take in - here you are standing in front of these 4000yr old colossal monuments that you've waited all your life to see... quite surreal.

There are vendors by the dozen at all the tourist sites. They wait in the shade then swarm to you with their souvenirs when you arrive, and get right in your face... some virtually drag you to their camel for a ride, others ask outright for 'baksheesh' (tip).

Tonight we catch the overnight train to Aswan. Its a huge tank of a train that goes fairly slow and steady pace.. seats pretty comfy, we are seated in cabins of 6, all our bags piled on the floor. we try and get some sleep during the 16hour trip. (tip - always take your own toilet tissue. and use the bathroom before 2am and after 10am.)

Next day we arrive safely in Aswan... (45degrees).. the city is right on the Nile and is cleaner and prettier and has a more laid back quieter feel to it. we are staying at Hotel Basma that has amazing views over the whole city and the Nile. we have 2 nights here and we make the most of the pool :)
The first day we visit the Aswan Dam and the High Dam, under which is a whole Nubian city and ancient temples. A few were saved by UNESCO (including Abu Simbel) Apparently all the crocodiles are behind the dam.. we'll believe you..
Then we visit the Philae temple, which is a really neat site on an island, 10min boat ride from shore. (quite a romantic story with this temple, about the goddess of magic who was waiting for her husband but he got killed. when she found out she turned herself into a bird and flew all over Egypt looking for him then gave him the magic kiss of life) Again this temple was moved from a smaller island not far away and they found a bigger island, extended it and rebuilt the temple on there.
This evening we go to a traditional Nubian dinner in a real Nubian village. we catch a motorboat up the river Nile and have a sumptuous dinner in a real Nubian house that has a straw roof and walls painted with pictures of camels. we get to meet their pet crocodiles and then get some traditional Nubian singing and music on the boat on the way home, we are all up singing and clapping on a little motorboat in the middle of the river Nile!

We now head south on the tour bus to Luxor, where we stayed at the Sheraton report. The temperature is around 48degrees. We praise the air conditioning every time we get on the bus.. The next day we wake up and are out the door by 4am to take a 3hour bus trip out to see Abu Simbel, the amazing temple with 4 huge statues at the front. It was moved up, and backwards, from the rising High Dam to save it. Its an impressive huge temple carved into a hill with lots of big offering rooms and huge columns. Its very hot here, we all shelter under the tree after an hour. I sleep all the way there and back on the bus. While the others all go off to their felucca cruise we have a half day to relax by the pool and take in a short felucca ride on the river. except it was too windy to sail so we got another motorboat ride! still really nice on the river though.

For our second day in Luxor we see the Karnak Temple and the Luxor Temple.
Karnak Temple is set on 64acres, and its has multiple temples and obelisks on it where Pharaoh's and leaders built over top of each other and pulled down each others stuff in order to be the most powerful & prominent.
Luxor temple has intact, huge statues at the front, and the road of sphinxes leading between this temple and Karnak temple. it also has roman painting of the last supper on one wall.

The next day when everyone has returned, we make an early start on the bus to see the Valley of the Kings and Hatchepsut Temple... we stop and have a donkey ride first (a few of us don't) then drive up to the ultra hot valley to explore some tombs!! we catch a golf cart train up the hill and have some time to explore 3 tombs - there are 64 tombs in this valley, some closed for maintenance, some still undiscovered. we go in king Ramses 2 and a couple of others. very impressive - the walls and ceilings are still covered with the original paint .. the sarcophagus lies in the chamber of each tomb. there are steep ramps/steps into each tomb and its stifling hot - its cooler outside, and its 48degrees! we head back down the hill with some vendors that are running and jumping onto our train, fleeing from armed gun men out to get them as selling is not allowed...
we then see Hatchepsut temple which is the queen (daughter of ....two VIP) and since a woman couldn't really rule the country she always depicted herself as a man. so Egypt thought she was a king.

we head back to Luxor to relax and say a sad farewell to all our new friends - some are off to Jordan, Dahab, and other places and a group of us are heading back to Cairo. we again catch the overnight train however the seats are comfier and its only an 8hour journey. In Cairo its noticeably cooler but humid.. we are back at the Cataract resort for the last day - we do a tour round the city to see the Coptic church and some original Egyptian markets... they are an experience. rubbish, stray cats.. dirt roads.. we got lost down little alleys with pita bread shops and the locals pointed to the way out for us :)

Tonight we get to see the pyramids again - this time for the sound and light show :) we are greeted by bag pipe playing men dressed as Egyptians (we don't know where they got this strange combination) then the pyramids lit up and powerful orchestra type music started and the sphinx told us the story of the pyramids and their kings....

A few moments on the tour that I will remember was going into the towns and talking to the friendly locals (who just wanted to practice their English).. going to the bustling, loud markets in each city where every one of us girls got at least one 'compliment' or 'marriage proposal' or even an offer to buy us. (how generous) The rides on the motorboats, and Nubian kids showing off in front of our cameras while swimming in the Nile. and eating some good food at local restaurants around town... and the feeling of staying in hotel resorts with huge pools and knowing an Egyptian would need to save a few months salary just to stay for one night. and not forgetting the plethora of donkeys everywhere towing carts of junk or grass or their owners..seeing the slums of thousands of mud brick houses and then the straw huts in the fields where the farmers live during harvest season.

Now back in London and feeling absolutely relaxed, tanned, happy, and reflecting on this amazing trip. The first thing I notice is the smell - gone is the shisha pipe smell that permeates everything. now is the damp brick and concrete smell.. ah at least everything is in English and no-one is accosting me on the street to come look at his shop!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Little Venice 19th July

Once again its the weekend and I'm keen to get out there and explore somewhere new. I head off to Maida Vale in west London to see 'Little Venice' with the London Walks company. Theres a group of at least 20 people gathered, and off we go our pack of sheep behind the tour guide. We stop at lots of spots along the 2hour walk where they explain the history of a house or a certain spot. We walked down the road where Kate Moss lives and where the guy out of Pink Floyd sold his house to Diana Spencers brother for 8mill and gave 4mill away to 'Shelter' the charity. We walked along the canal and got shown the spot where Richard Branson once lived in a long boat on the canal with a girlfriend and where he ran his Virgin Records business from. One night a drunken mate flooded his boat so that was the end of that! We walked up tow paths where people used to cover the horses hooves in sacking and try sneak past the toll-masters house without success. its really just a semi-rich leafy suburb with a canal running through the middle that has long boats on it with flower pots on them. Very cute though.

Saturday night, myself and my flatmates went round to a friends place for a 'quiet' BBQ, everyone was there and we ended up going home about 2am after a mixture of home-made snakebites and punch and a variety of other drinks were made and consumed..

Spent sunday on the couch with my roommate watching outrageous fortune... another NZ-tv show-omnibus.. eeeexcellennnnt. The show is so much cooler now I am not in new zealand - I think its the same patriotic instinct that make you miss pies as soon as you leave home. Crazy.

The thing I see every day and really dont get is people who run for a tube and then leap through the closing doors - sometimes getting jammed- getting on just before the train pulls away. omg, why do this!? In any one tube station there is always another train 1-3 minutes behind it - even if your late, 1min is not worth running for. I always wait and get a seat on the next train - which is usually much emptier, and full of the calm people who waited instead of crushing onto the first train full of busy people and no breathing space. *Thankyou, come hear my full rant at Speakers Corner on Sat morning!*

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Stonehenge & Bath 12th July

Yesterday was my first day out of London since I arrived! It's actually quite easy to spend all your time in the city having a ball doing so many different things all over the place and then you realise you havn't left town in months....

Anyway this day tour to Stonehenge and Bath was recommended to me by my flatmate. Its with Anderson Tours for less than £50. Jumped on a bus at 8am with spainish, russians, asians... think I was the minority. We head out of town and the tour guide tells us lots about the archeological finds and construction and history of stonehenge and the people that lived there - I eat every word but most people on the bus are sleeping cos they cant understand english. We go to stonehenge first and jon the crowds of colleges and schools and spend an hour having a good look at the rocks. It was what I was expecting, no bigger or smaller, and I did learn some interesting facts and history about it which I didnt know before.

We carry on out to Bath through the gorgeous english country side .. we catch glimpses of Bath through the trees before we drive down into the valley. The tour guide had lots of history and archeological info about the original roman town and how they were there for 300 odd years before the saxons came in - they didnt understand the roman way of life or what they're architecture meant and let their buildings crumble and built another town over top... Then how the king with leprosy came to the town to be healed in the waters and made Bath the capital. Then how queen anne was sick and came to the healing waters .. they say there were 3 people to follow her to the town - an events planner (PR guy who organised events and got all the rich people to come to bath and made it fashionable again) and 2 architects who built up the roman buildings again and kept the roman architecture of the town intact.

Its a gorgeous town, all the buildings are made from honey-coloured limestone out of a quarry not far away. The streets are cobbled with hanging flower baskets, there are cutest little antique shops and tea shops and beautiful little gift shops... I saw the royal circle (the architect John Adams snr. was fascinated by stonehenge and the entire design and placement of the roads and houses reflects the design and placement of everything at stonehenge!) The roman baths are the best preserved/most intact structure of its kind in northern europe and its the only hot springs in england. It was a sunny afternoon and town was buzzing with crowds of sightseers and locals alike and buskers performing to crowds in the town squares. Had 2-3 hours there, left at 3:30 and did a drive by some other points of interest on the way out and headed back to London. everyone slept on the way back and I was pretty tired at the end of the day!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Shihad and F.O.T.C - 5th & 6th July

On saturday my flatmate and I were intending to go on a 'London Walk' where guides take you to explore parts of the city you dont normally see. We took the bus, and that same day the Gay Parade was on and all the streets were closed so we were diverted and now half an hour late, we jump off and go shopping down oxford street. the streets are packed and everyone is wandering down the middle of the roads. I buy some more things I maybe didnt need and the Flight of the Concords DVD of season one which I've been hanging out to get for a while.

Sat night, Shihad is playing at the Temple in Shepards Bush (South West London where all the antipodeans flock) we all get ready and head out early evening, there's a group of 12 of us going. We have a 'meet at this place and time' drink while we wait for the bus. We catch the bus and have a mission ride (bout half hour) through suburbs just like Otara and Rewa and finally get there... we have a pre concert drink at the Walky next door to the Temple. I order a snakebite but didnt specify I only wanted 1 glass (isnt that assumed!?) so I got a whole jug of 6 pints!! It was only £5 mind so that was OK i shared it around and it was gone in no time.

Then we head next door to the concert and squash right up the front of the floor well near the front. Of course when shihad came on the mosh pit started, the head banging metal heads raged and we got pushed around like washing in a tumble dryer... It was fun for the first 1/2 hour while you really get into the excitement of it but it got old quick when my feet got stood on about 15 times, my flatmates got smaked in the face, ribs, arms, feet, well whatever body part you werent smacking somelse with at any given moment took a hit. So i stood just behind the mosh pit in the calm rows of people while everyone going mad at the front pushed and swayed and moved like wheat in the wind while crowd surfers had their moment of glory before being dropped unceremoniously onto the wooden floor.. Good Times :P Shihad was awsome though and we all had a good time.

Then we all migrated next door back into the walky for some more snakies and some 'real aussie pies' until they closed then we got taxi's to another bar closer to home called 3one7 which was 100% british paying pool and listening to garage. Stayed there for a drink or two then caught the bus home where our group and some more drunk people yelled and laughed all the way home much to the dismay of all the other bus passengers... then we took the party back to our house and drank some more till sometime between3-4am we all went to sleep.

Sunday I sleep in till bout 1pm with my snakebite hangover (i never get hangovers, and I'm not drinking snakies again!) and me and the flatties sit on the couch all day and do the 'Flight of the Concords omnibus' of the entire season one dvd. ahhh... fine end to an awsome weekend!!!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

This is London! 23-27 June

One farewell is enough for most people but not our Brooke :P
We have another farewell dinner for her on Monday night at the Shakespeare pub in the big beer garden... have great pub dinner but they serve my dessert and dinner at the same time - I humour the pub and eat both at once. (The dessert is hot chocolate self saucing so I gotta eat it before it goes cold) What do you know, chocolate sauce on chicken ceaser salad isnt bad at all!

we all head home through the dark hamstead heath forest and walk all the way home (20mins) then we stay up and chat to Brooke as she leaves tomorrow... :( we have a final night of having 5 chickies in our room and chatting late into the night despite having to work the next day...

tuesday evening Brooke is gone and we all stay at home and commiserate.

Wednesday I go out after work and catch up with some kiwi friends of mine at Leicester Square then go to dinner in china town at Wong Kei (wonky) restaurant as it was one of the guys birthday. The restaurant is apparantly known for its bad service however the funny old chinese waiter came over and sung happy birthday with us and brought us over a free plate of spring rolls! what a champ. by the time we'd eaten and talked and talked and eaten it was time to go home to bed :)

Thursday I met a friend and went shopping on oxford street and I bought a couple of things.. again...

Friday I went to Hyde Park after work with a couple of flatmates and friends to have a picnic and listen to the nelson mandela 90th birthday concert... we saw will smith - who sung the fresh prince of bell air theme with his 'hitch' song and the crowd all sang along, amy whine-about-the-house with a quieter low energy rendition of her songs (*cough emphysema*) and then mr mandela himself came out! The whole crowd sung happy birthday too him and he did a speech then he went again. we had a great picnic then left when about 9:30, it was cold and dark by then.

very exciting week and every day I felt totally buzzed to be here and excited by meeting so many new people and the amount of fun things to do all over the city... :)

Brookes Farewell 21/22nd June

after a week of working full time again and getting hot and squashed on the tube it was time to get ready for the party of the year!! :0 Brooke's Farewell girls spend Saturday cleaning up our flat and getting stuff ready. The boys are off swanning their stuff at Ascot and have left us to fend for ourselves which meant we had to try chop wood, sus out the BBQ and tie the tarpolin up in the trees... we got the tarp up - just- and left the rest to the boys to do when they got home. If you saw Brooke trying to chop the wood you'd understand why :P

Fantastic party was had by all - big turnout.. had 3 or 4 'official photographers' who got a bit snap happy and we ended up with just under 200 odd photos...most of them we don't remember taking or being in. You can see about 100 of the best ones which i uploaded to FaceBook.

The boys eventually did get home - too late, as aussies and a kiwi got hold of the bbq and wreaked braai blasphemy by piling on the coal and lavishly pouring on excellerant and seeing how high they could get the flames - they went as high as the tarp actually, and it looked great with the sparks rolling off it - (no it didnt burn but thanks for trying) as for actually cooking anything, well I'm glad mum told me charcoal is good for me cos I ate a lot of it that night. The boys did rescue the fire later and cooked a beauty steak on it :D

Apart from people catching tubes and some who went to bed early dreaming alcaholic dreams we partied to 2:30am.. we'd started about 5 so I call that a pretty decent effort!

The next day with hangover's quashed by a good dose of tea, us girls went out shopping in Covent Garden and did a big kathmandu shop - I got a fantastic 75ltr back pack that can be reduced down to a 50ltr and has all the bells and whistles and straps and zips that any self respecting back packer could dream of! only £120 pounds.

Home again go the weary shoppers - cant believe thats another weekend over ...

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Drinking trumps Queen

Saturday morning and I'm up at 6am to go drinking and watch the All Blacks with a couple of my flatmates and some friends. We had pancakes at a friends house then went down the road to the local rugby club where they had a projector screen set up and couches .. A fair amount of people turned up and we all have a few beers and cheer every time NZ scores a try... good game overall.
we were meant to all go home after that but somehow we ended up staying there drinking snakebites outside in the sun all day.. the boys got some meat and cooked a BBQ in the afternoon. I had a great day talking to everyone and meeting new people.. and we held up rather well considering we were drinking from 8am till 5pm... when we finally got kindly chucked out as there was a private party starting. Super day overall, and as my first foray into patriotic AB's watching and all day drinking, I'm quite pleased with myself and cant wait to do it again.

oh yeah the Queen - Trooping the Colour was on the same day and I had the best intentions of going but as you can see I ended up being entertained elsewhere..

Friday, 13 June 2008

This week

It's just blasphemy, that advertisers can taunt us with adds for enjoying the 'great british summer' all over the television when in reality its COLD and WINDY outside! the warmest place in the blimmin country is on the tube. pretty sad. C'mon Boris I'm hanging out for those air conditioned trains in 2009....

Its been a VERY long week for me, every day and night lasts for an eternity. I pass time on the tube reading all about Boris, Wino, and the Beckhams, then at work I've been updating the company intranet and website and playing around with photoshop teaching myself some more tricks..

Tomorrow I might be going with some friends to the all blacks game in a pub somewhere and have a few pints for breakfast, then head out to see 'Trooping the Colour' and see the queen and the guards strut their royal stuff..

Last night, to add to the 5 people already living in my flat, 3 more of my flatmates got back from cuba, and we had an extra dosser which made 9 people in house!! there were 5 of us kiwi girls all doing the slumber party thing in our big room..

Today, for the 3rd time since I've been in london I was dreaming away and got the wrong tube and ended up a few stops away from where i should have been. I could only laugh at myself really! The other two times I was dreaming aswell and went past my stop without noticing. lucky you can just get off and hop on the next train back again.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Exciting things happening

My biggest news is that I have booked a 9 day tour round egypt from 2-10th Aug. (50% deal with Travel Talk so i grabbed it) and ive got flights and return transfers organised. Really looking forward to this as I've always wanted to go there and was the main trip I wanted to do :D

My other big news is that I finally got a job after 4 weeks of searching and chasing 6 recruitment agencies who quite frankly didnt do so much as just keep me busy for a couple of hours while I went to visit them.

I have got a 1 month temp assignment working as New Media/Marketing Assistant for Corus on Millbank where i'm updating the website and intranet and other odd jobs. The building is right on rivers edge but only the top suits get the river views. Im a short stroll to Westminster and I can see the London Eye from outsite my building. Ive taught myself Lotus Notes and Vignette, their CMS and already holding the website fort as my manager is on holiday for a few weeks! Im happy to be learning new software packages and doing the work I want while gaining that foot into UK work so Im really happy.

Commute to work is really good, 40mins on the tube, 20mins on Northern line and about the same on the Victoria line and a 5min walk to work... only once have I had to deal with being squashed in- I wait for the next train if it is that full. no delays yet which is a bugger cos theres a website where you can claim refunds if the tubes hold you up. *But now the house wont be quite so CLEAN now I am not at home all the time* :P

House a bit quiet at the moment as 3 flatties are in Cuba so just 5 of us at the moment but we are hardly home anyway.. we are having some good Braii's in their absence tho! :D

Been to a house party and caught up with friends for drinks and have gone out fri and sat nights every week but not spending much where I can help it.. oh oops except for going shopping and spending... quite a bit... on replacing the parts of my wardrobe that I had to leave at home... so new shoes, new handbags, new jewellery and lots of new clothes.

I'm saving for travel now.. honest.. :0

What I've seen and done

WELL what has happened since last time I wrote when I had arrived a bedraggled traveller to my flat, met my flatmates, uppacked and straight away very at home.
The flat we live in is a big, homely house with 12' stud with decoration on the ceiling, spacious lounge and big garden. At the moment we have 8 flatmates 1 saffa, 1 aussie, the rest kiwi's. We all get along great.

I have spent most of my time learning what coins are what at my local internet cafe where
I have been tenaciously applying for jobs.. and jobs... and jobs... in the meantime I was making the most of my leisurley lifestyle and have been getting around the city, seen few museums and most of town.

Because I really could write a tome if I wanted too (but you would all fall asleep), I will outline the highlights of what I've done and seen so far.

Sir John Soane's museum in Lincoln Inns Fields- he has the largest private collection of historical things and antiques , including an actual sarcophogus. Theyve turned his house into a museum. he was an architect who designed famous buildings around London - he did the bank of england.

Britih Museum - its huge, amazing, modern, so much to take in by the end I was skimming over the exhibits which is a shame cos there was a huge room showing actual parts of greek historical buildings.

Natural History Museum - the 'hands-on fun museum' - it was full of kids! if you didnt trip over any one there was a lot of neat exhibits with real scale mammals... actual mummies... more to look at and less information to absorb.

Did a walk from Kensington palace gardens right through to Hyde Park and walked along the Serpentine and all the birds and people having lunch in the park..

Have done oxford street a couple of times, charing cross road, regent st, soho, leicester square, piccadilly circu, shakespeares globe, millenium bridge, walked past st pauls cathedral, got a red bus a few times now... gosh Ive been around quite a bit of town now - except the tower of london, the eye and westminter and buckingham palace and st james park cos I did that last time I came to London on holiday for a week in 2006.

Sometimes the busses are more convenient than tube but for me the timetables are hell to figure out.. rather than the colour coded tube map with names- that I can understand.! I've caught the dreaded 'night bus' once aswell... took two hours to get home on what would have been a 20min tube ride. I pretty much I take the tube everywhere and learning that pretty well. For generally finding my way around, I could have been in portsmouth by now if I didnt have my A-Z Map book. Even with that I get confused which way is the right way :D

I have been to the Ministry of Sound Club (a longstanding mission of mine!) to see Paul Oakenfold, been to a couple of other popular clubs with friends on various nights out. and been to a couple of nice pubs for a cider which everyone seems to drink.

I did the Borough Markets, (savour the sounds and smells of bustling market environmnt, fresh produce, flowers, seafood, chocolate and kebabs)
Portobello Road (vintage fashion and jewellery) and Camden (goth/punk)

I am also looking at a week sailing in Croatia with a friend and going to Germany either octoberfest or Berlin in October. On my top list is a weekend in amsterdam, paris, a week in scotland, austria and switzerland.

In june and july in england its festivals and concerts time... there are SO many on... my flatmates and I are busy prioritising which ones we want to go to.

2nd Update

I have been to an internet cafe every day so far, (actually, im in one now) cos its 2 blocks from my house at golders green- well I live 1 block from golders green main street and tube and 1 block from the supemarket so im close to everything, its great!!

Had 1 appointment with recruitment agency this morning, im just waiting for another one this afternoon. I have one tomorow at 1pm, next tuesday 11am, and thurs 5pm. Brooke had the day off yesterday so she showed me round town, i payed the rent and got my UK phone sorted, we bought some more grocerys - I bought vegies youll be pleased to know. You can get two bags of brocoli and cauli and stirfry for £1, 8 tubs of yogurt for £2, 2 packs of chicken breast for £3 an other awsome crazy prices!!!
Then we went home and had lunch, then we took a red double decker bus to brent cross, our nearest mall and shopped for a few hours... I bought a lovely jacket for £20!!!!

Ive had about 11 cups of tea in 3 days... big tea drinking people!!!

had my first flat Braii last night with the Tong Master Niel in charge.

Great spell of weather at arond 20-25deg. hot and sunny. yay. us girls went for a long walk (few hours) to Hamstead Heath, explred some cute old little brick laneways and explred the big park, people lying everywhere cos it was a sunny day!

1st Update

I am sitting in a little internet cafe under a tube line with trains rumbling over my head, and its raining and cold outside (surprise surprise).

Firstly I had a very long flight to Dubai with a transit stop in Melbourne. I had a headache for half the flight and didnt get much sleep. I arrived in Dubai about 6am and it was already 25deg. I was met by the airport transfer people and was put on a little bus with a group of other people and shuttled to our hotels.I had an 'apartment' room to my self with a little kitchen and a very welcome double bed! I put on the tv and watched a cartoon about arab women going shopping in their burkas and a face mask thing which ive never seen. Later that day I saw one lady at a mall actually wearing one. It's like a metal t-bar across the forehead, down the nose, covers the cheeks. weird. Anyway so i get ready at the hotel and prepare to go out and find my bus tour ive booked- turns out the bus stops one block from me so I walk. the streets are empty and a few men standing around look at me. I wonder if im allowed on the street and where are all the women?

While waiting for the bus I have a wander around my first mall of the day (Dubai has 37 malls) which is 4 floors (!!) of designer brands, marble floors and water fountains.I get on the bus and hop off at Wafi City (a Mall.) (Wafi means everything) and have a look around.. its shaped like a pyramid and hasegypt pillars everywhere. Its nearly 11am by this stage, and there is hardly anyone in the mall and the shops are all shut. Eventually people are opening their shops and people start filling up the mall - I think everyone was off praying, thats why I was the only person in town? By the way the temperature at 11am ish is now at 34-35deg..

What struck me first about the city is that the air is full of sand dust and its a light sandy grey colour - the sun is a white hot sunshines through the haze and melts you - and it is a haze, you cant see buildings across town very clearly yet the air around you looks clear.The people are very friendly and all speak english.we drive past the beach club which cost 20dirhams to drive into to access the beach- it has lots of facilities thats why you pay.although you can go down the road further and park up by the beach for free with no facilities.

I saw the burj al arab, the tallest tower ever (they build one new floor a week) i saw a few more malls and a traditional souk(market)that was really neat, (I have photos of everything I saw and theyre all on facebook)we drove past the citys new rail system which is being build entirely upon viaduct bridges and cost a few billion and will transport 1.2million people a day when its finished. there are construction workers everywhere. the city is planting so much flowers and grass and trees they go through couple of million gallons of desalinated water a day with constant drip feeding just to keep the plants alive. what they have to do is import dirt and fertilizer,let it sit and then plant the plants. everywhere you see grass abruptly end and then its just sand.

In the afternoon the temperature could have been around 37 and riding on the open air bus felt like walking through those vents that blast all the shops hot air out into the street. I felt my eyes drying out! i bought dinner from the supermarket 'Spinnys' only two doors from my hotel so that was handy, I slowly walked back and had another shower just after 5ish and fell asleep sitting up eating my food. I woke up with food still in my hand..

Next morning got up early (4am for 5am transfer )and got to airport. We are all aboard for 7:45am flight and the air system on the plane was stuck on 35deg. and the tvs werent working. we sat on the plane for nearly an hour flaking out from the heat (oh that was just me) eventually they unloaded us all, shuffled us into a restaurant for breakfast and put us back through control and into waiting room for a few hours!!! while they changed planes and found some more crew members. i fell asleep, and eventually about 12:30 we boarded and left. everyone cheered.

Got to london about 6pm ish, got a ticket for heathrow connect straight to paddington where a nice indian guy was going the same way as me so he helped me buy a ticket, navigate the stations and find where I was going (what an angel) After lugging 36kgs (yes thats what the airport weighed my luggage at) up and down stairs, up and down alivators and in and out of trains I got to my flat :D yayyyy

I met the flatties, they are really nice and we chat and watch tv. There are the 4 of us girls staying in our room (brooke leaving in two weeks then there will be 3) got up this morning and did my washing and set up my banking stuff and here I am. Feels surreal ... like that feeling you get when you move into a new flat or go somewhere different - you almost cant believe your there, and its just a matter of learning how everything works, where things are etc. fantastic

P.S My new UK NUMBER is 07776309585. but still txt me on 0212624757 aswell.
My address is Flat 1, 4 Woodstock Road, Golders Green, London, NW11 8ER
My flat phone number is 0044-02087316331 ( think you drop the first 0)

I'm off to sainsburys the supermarket just round the corner to buy food now cos i havnt eaten much at all in the 3 days since leaving home :0