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.