Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Fox

I was delighted the first time I saw a fox in London. It was last November in London Fields around 3am and I was walking with a friend. Suddenly a fox appeared from under a pile of dead leaves and trotted off into the darkness. I was so overwhelmingly surprised and charmed by the unexpected appearance of a fox in the middle of the city that I squealed like a little girl and tried to chase him off into the darkness. My friend, evidently more used to the appearance of foxes in London Fields at 3am than I was, held me back whilst stifling a yawn and said not to be ridiculous, I wasn’t some modern-day Alice in Wonderland, this fox was just a fox and where exactly was I going to follow it to? Which kind of put a dampner on the whole fox incident.

I may be embellishing a little bit, but to be fair this was a while ago and I’d been at a party and my memory of the incident may be a little hazy (there was definitely a fox, I definitely squealed, my friend was definitely unimpressed and/or embarrassed and/or discouraging and/or didn’t let me chase after the fox).

The thing is, I think there is something about a fox that is slightly magical. Maybe its all the children’s stories I read that included a friendly and/or crafty and/or nasty fox. Fantastic Mr. Fox, of course. I think there was a fox or two in Narnia. There was a Paul Jennings story about an old fox fur wrap that (I think) a child fed lemons too and it came back to life (which I think did more to put me off wearing fur, or even touching fur, than any future convictions regarding animal rights and vegetarianism and all the rest of it). I feel like Enid Blyton had foxes in some of her stories (possibly who wore waistcoats) and certainly that woman with the rabbits… what was her name? Potter. Beatrix Potter. That’s the one.

So, to suddenly come across a real live fox in the middle of the city was slightly… magical. It seemed like a little bit of quaint, innocent 1950s rural England had somehow slunk unnoticed into the modern, multicultural metropolis that is London.

A few weeks ago, I was coming home around midnight and as I power-walked down the street, I noticed a big, furry tail disappearing down a side street ahead of me. It was another fox. There was a fox living somewhere around my apartment block. Once again, I was delighted.

A few nights went by when I didn’t see the fox. And then, again, coming home at midnight again, there was the fox, standing at the end of the road, watching me. A few nights went past when I got home at 9pm or 10pm and I didn’t see the fox. Then, another night returning at midnight, there’s the fox, standing on the road, watching me. I began to wonder if instead of a normal fox, scavenging for its dinner in the bins around Sainsbury’s, the fox was actually a familiar ( out doing the bidding of some local witch (another treasured part of my childhood was a highly informative and useful book on witches, which I cannot find a picture of for you, because if you type ‘witches’ into google all you get is bloody Dahl and Lewis and Rowling and as much as I love those people, I feel like a little bit of my childhood has been lost).

After a few nights of seeing the fox at the end of the road, I was walking home one evening at 12:30am and found the fox in the middle of the street, only a metre away from the footpath I had to walk down to get past to get home. Up close, he was less the charming, fluffy (possibly waist-coasted) character from a children’s book and more a slightly mangy, slightly underfed unpredictable undomesticated animal with sharp teeth that contained all sorts of unknown diseases. I stopped dead on the footpath and stared at him. He stared back. I took a step towards him. He didn’t move. We were in some kind of Mexican fox stand-off. Because, of course, in my mind, the minute that I walked within biting distance of that fox, he was going to bite me. That was just the truth of the matter. He was going to bite me. Because that’s what mangy-looking, disease-ridden foxes do to people. They bite them. INEVITABLY.

Where's his waistcoat??? Found at:

Where’s his waistcoat??? Found at:

Not entirely certain how to proceed, I spied an empty Peroni bottle on the ground. Feeling a little guilty that I was now preparing to attempt violence towards my once-magical (possibly waistcoated, maybe even talking) friend, I continued down the footpath slowly, my eyes locked on the fox. He stared back at me, not moving. A few metres in front of him, I pushed myself flat against the wall and proceeded to shuffle down the street, my face constantly turned towards the fox, as if he was like a nesting magpie who would only swoop the moment it no longer saw any eyes. The fox didn’t move, except for its head, so it could continue to watch my odd procession down the street, empty Peroni in hand, back against the brick wall. After putting a few metres between myself and the fox, I felt safe enough to peel myself off the wall and walk the regular way down the road, if occasionally (ok, constantly) looking over my shoulder to ensure that the fox wasn’t running after me, making ready to pounce.

So, it’s all a little sad that the fox and my relationship has soured this way, just because he got a little too close and I realised that even in England foxes don’t talk, wear waistcoats or take you on exciting adventures in magical places.

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Hot and Cold

You’d think that after last winter I would know how to dress in the cold. You’d think that after living in Norway for a year, I might have an idea of what was involved. But, every day for the past few weeks I’ve been constantly going outside dressed in inappropriate clothing and been shocked by the various parts of me that are capable of becoming cold. My ears. My knees. My eyebrows (ok, ok, the skin underneath my eyebrows then). It’s almost as if you have to cover up absolutely everything in thick woollen things or just be resigned to the fact that it is probably going to fall off with frostbite at the end of the day (yes, alright, its probably not going to fall off with frostbite at the end of the day).

The thing is that last winter, I didn’t actually spend a lot of time outdoors. For the first part of the season, I was looking after little munchkins, who tend to turn into little icicles if you leave them outside too long (particularly the little ones who can’t really motor themselves about on their own two legs and sit in a pram turning into a pram-icicle), or at least you’re terrified that’s what’s going to happen and then you’ll have to explain to their parents why they now have to look after two ice-children instead of their regular, normal human children. So, I spent a lot of time indoors, wearing cheap tights that you could see my leg hairs through and slippers and big jumpers and thinking that was all that was needed to get through the winter. Later on, when I had my little cottage, I spent most of my time dressed in my PJ’s, sitting on the sofa next to a pot-bellied stove, wrapped in my doona, eating chocolate and drinking tea and thinking THAT was all I needed to get through the winter.

But, this year, I’m actually trying to do things outside, or at least, I’m doing things that require me to get dressed into actual clothes and take a bus or tube and then walk around for a bit before locating the place that I am doing the things at. Yes?

The first thing I have learnt is that cheap clothes are generally not warm clothes. Just because something from Primark looks furry and is in the shape of a jumper doesn’t mean that it will protect you from gale-force winds, or even, you know a slight breeze. Cheap things also tend to look terrible after even the slightest amount of activity/usage. The first day you wear the cheap thing, it looks bright and shapely. The second and third days you wear it, it looks slightly less shapely and slightly less bright. Then it gets rained on, you put it in the wash and you don’t have a jumper anymore, you just have a ball of slightly grey looking fluff. This rule is especially important in regards to shoes. There is no point in buying cheap shoes, especially in winter, because, inevitably, on the first day you wear them, it will piss down and the cheap glue will be destroyed and instead of keeping the water out, the shoes will now keep the water in and you will end up with trenchfoot (you may not end up with trenchfoot immediately, but it will happen). This rule, luckily, does not apply to second hand clothing stores, where you can get excellent quality, heavy-duty, if slightly old and mothball smelling woollen things for a ridiculously small amount of money.

The second rule is that ‘just because it is long, doesn’t mean it is warm.’ Minds out of the gutter, people, I’m talking about clothing. And the rule can apply to many objects of clothing: skirts, pants, shirts. Back home, when the coldest it would get in a day would be 16 degrees, you could look at a long-sleeved shirt and say, ‘oh, well, yes, that will certainly keep me nice and toasty. In fact, I may not even need such large amounts of material wrapped around my body. That may make me over-heat and sweat. I might just opt for the short-sleeve and long pants.’ Not in England, where the temperatures dip into the single digits. Long-sleeve shirts do nothing except cover up pasty white arms (which is useful in itself, really). Long skirts, even with stockings underneath are not useful unless they are wool or tartan. Long things are not warm things.

The third rule is, just because it is warm inside and sunny outside doesn’t mean you can leave the house without a jacket. Because I don’t have a smartphone (I don’t need one! I’m smart enough!) I don’t have those app things that tell you everything that you never knew you needed to know. I also don’t have an easy way of checking the temperature. I guess I could buy a thermostat, which is what people in the olden days (10 years ago) used to use or check the news, but by the time I’m getting dressed in the morning I’m usually already late, so my brain is in panic mode and isn’t able to think rationally about these things, so just goes, ‘Open the window and stick your bare arm out in the air for a little bit! Yeah, just wave it around in the air and see what it feels like!’ The fourth rule is, even if your arm doesn’t feel cold when you stick outside in the air for approximately 30 seconds, it is likely that when your whole body is all outside at the same time for several hours, the temperature will feel different than it did when you thought, ‘oh, I really only need a light wrap or something.’ YOU WILL ALWAYS NEED MORE THAN A LIGHT WRAP (this is as true for lunch as it is for clothes. Ba-da boom).

The fifth rule is that even thought it’s itchy, it’s really warm: always wear wool. Back home, I could choose not to wear my woollen jumpers on the basis that it was what old people wore and was therefore not cool. And, occasionally, I could wear a woollen jumper on the basis that it was what old people wore (and was therefore cool in an ironic way). Over here, wool has become my friend, my constant companion, my one true love. Even though whenever I get home after a day in a woollen jumper and look in the mirror, I have a whole lot of scary-looking red marks all over my skin and I freak out thinking I have a weird skin disease and then I realise its just because I’ve been violently scratching myself every two minutes all day long. What can I say? Love hurts.

Because of all these rules, the way that I am dressing is gradually changing. I’m looking much more intense, getting about in a lot of black and ex-army clothes (they’re REALLY warm) and Doc Martens (no water gets into Doc Martens!) Back home, my clothes always verged on the romantic, whimsical side of boho-hippy chic, wrapping myself in layers of floaty colourful cottons and rayon and other useless materials whose only point, it now seems to me, is to cover up your rude and wobbly bits. Hippies in England must be constantly old. Or dying of hypothermia. Maybe that’s why most of them tend to congregate in warmer climes like California and Byron Bay.

The flipside of this is the English people seem to be so aware of the cold and how to prevent themselves feeling cold that they actually seem to be actively fearful of what might happen if they leave themselves open to feeling even a little bit chilly for a few minutes in a day. They also seem to think that if you are indoors, it is your God-given right to feel warm and toasty, perhaps even boiling hot even if the only thing you’re wearing is your underwear. Which means that often at work you’ll find the heaters have been turned up to 28 degrees, which is just plain silly. I mean, apart from the fact that I’m running around at work all day and 28 degrees is a temperature at which I will become uncomfortably sweaty even when sitting down in the cool shade with a nice iced drink or an icy-pole, I just feel like saying to everyone, ‘Look, ok, you live in England. I know that may not have been a choice on your behalf, but I think you’re going to have to learn to accept it, or move somewhere else. I mean, I don’t sit around in Australia with the air-conditioning on, trying to make my household 10 degrees just so that I can get more use out of the scarf, beanie and gloves I own; so I think you should just accept that your country is always going to be a little on the cold side and its not an infringement of your human rights to have to wear a jumper indoors.’ I don’t, of course, because that’s not good customer service, but oh how I want to. I guess the upside is that if the English continue to ridiculously overheat their houses and buildings so that it’s actually warmer indoors in England in winter than it is outdoors in England in summer, they may manage to so irrevocably wreck the climate that it will eventually be like the tropics here without the use of the heaters. And then all my hard-learnt lessons will be useless.




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Ireland: The Return

Two posts in one day! I think this actually gets me up to 6 posts for November and its not even the end of the month, which must be some kind of record for the London blog. Poor ol’ London blog, suffering from a general blog-tiredness on my behalf. Its not because I love you less than the Ireland blog, I swear.

Ironically, however, this is a post about returning to Ireland and not actually about London. But, don’t read too much into that fact, London blog. I love both places equally. Really. Truly. In fact, I unthinkingly called London ‘home’ when I was in Ireland, insulting my very good Irish friend who was insisting that I was actually in the process of ‘returning home’ to Ireland and not taking a holiday from my home, as I had suggested.

Anywho, back to Ireland. I had two days off in a row last week from work and I thought I would take the opportunity to flit back over the Irish Sea to visit some friends and also pick up a few last bags that various friends had been storing for me. It has actually been 4 – 5 months that I have been abusing their kindness in this way, so I thought it was fair enough that I come back for my things.

I left fairly early on Thursday morning from Stansted Airport. It was fairly foggy on the ground, but we were soon up above the clouds and despite my usual moments of complete and utter panic when the plane would lurch or seemingly free-fall for a few seconds, or when I convinced myself the engines of my particular plane actually sounded like a lawnmower (I mean, that’s not good, is it? Surely you need an engine bigger than the ones you find on a lawnmower to keep you up in the air? Yes?) I thought I would be landing at 10:20am as scheduled.

But, Cork Airport had other plans.

See, the airport is actually built in a bit of a valley, which, according to my first Irish host father, is kind of like a fly-trap but for fog. If there is fog anywhere in Cork, its going to be hundred times worse where the airport is. And, even if its sunny everywhere else in Cork, the airport may still be cloaked in the thickest of pea soups, as if it was actually generating the fog itself. A week or so after I arrived in Bandon last year, an airplane crashed at Cork airport because of fog. And the very first time I even went to the airport, it was so surrounded by fog that I couldn’t even see the building until we actually pulled up next to it.

So, though it was lovely and sunny up in the sky where the plane was last Thursday morning, Cork Airport was completely hidden by the thickest and greyest of fogs. We ended up circling the airport for an hour and twenty minutes, during which time we weren’t allowed to use the toilet or any electronic goods in case the fog suddenly cleared and we had to make an immediate landing (that didn’t stop the woman next to me texting people on her mobile, however. She seemed to think that if she kept the phone up her sleeve, no-one would know what she was doing. She was also praying under her breath and I couldn’t help wanting to point out that if she was so worried about dying in a horrible, fiery crash, she should possibly take all recommended precautions and SWITCH OFF THE BLOODY PHONE). Of course, I was in a complicated twist of emotions, going out of my mind with boredom and frustration whilst we circled above the clouds, and then every time we dived down into the fog and I saw how thick it was, I’d panic and attempt to psychically contact the drivers with messages of caution and questions of whether or not they were absolutely certain they could really land the plane in such conditions and to please think of all the people in the plane who would really like to live just a little bit longer, thanks ever so much. We finally got down, just as I was thinking that they might end up diverting the flight to another airport, effectively turning my flying visit to Ireland into two days of constant travel and no friends.

As soon as I was on the ground, things picked up. My good friend was there to meet me at the airport, which I hadn’t expected, as I’d missed her message before I’d gotten on the plane. We headed into Cork had a much needed sandwich (egg mayo and cheese at O’Briens – so many Irish memories) before heading to the FAS building, where my friend was running art workshops with some of the Creative Connections crew for the afternoon. I tagged along and ended up helping with the workshops, which was so lovely and so weird all at once. It was so strangely familiar and comfortable and I felt like I slotted right back in to the group and the work, even though I’d been away for four months and had been in a completely different country only that morning. I helped to make many giant ’80’s themed props (giant Rubix Cube, giant Pacmen, giant cassette tape), which looked unbelievably cool at the end of the afternoon and was such a pleasant (and random) thing to spend a few hours doing. When practical, crafty things like that work well, I don’t think there’s anything more therapeutic or calming. Certainly beats the TV.

It was a full ‘Creative Connections’ day with workshops in the afternoon, a meeting in the evening, dinner and then drinks that night with some (or all) of the crew. I’m not the only one who has moved on. We’ve lost one of the women back to her home of South Africa a few weeks after I left and one of the other women is now in France on her next project. Still, some of the women are still trying to keep things going in Cork (in whatever form that takes) and I’m hoping to stay involved as much as I can (in whatever form that takes). Its really sad and also odd to think that in all likelihood I’ll never be able to go back and settle there again, despite feeling so comfortable and at home there. It did also make me realise that whilst things have been easier in London, I’m still not established here in the way that I was by the time I left Ireland. Its not surprising, of course, feeling at home in a place takes time and I’ve only been in London 4 months so far. But, it was interesting contrasting the feelings I have in the two places. I’m hoping to head back again soon and some of the women might come and visit me in London. The most exciting thing that we’ve decided, however, is that we’re all going to go to Amsterdam in April (look at those lovely capital A’s, you can tell its meant to be), which is probably going to be the best thing ever ever ever. Because I love Amsterdam and I love these women and it is going to be SO MUCH FUN. We are going to hire bicycles and buy materials at the awesome Amsterdam material market and eat amazing cakes and shop in the incredible vintage stores and I cannot cannot wait.

Friday was another busy day of appointments with various friends, until I left on the bus for Dublin that afternoon. That evening was a lovely (and boozy) dinner with my old housemate and her friend, during which we planned many road trips to Cornwall and maybe even the USA (where I am I going to get the money or the time off work for all these amazing sounding trips??? A fair question that I choose not to answer at this particular time). The next morning it was another early (but not as early start) in order to get back to London for work that afternoon. After many stresses involving fitting bags into each other and some last minute throwing out of clothes and junk (how did I get so much STUFF??) a taxi ride to the airport that I wasn’t sure I had enough euros for and a grumpy Dublin Airport lady who made me wait many a minute to check-in even though it was almost at the point when they were going to close check-in for my flight, I made it home with enough time to even have some lunch and TV time before heading off to work.

All in all, it was quite the lovely, delightful and easy jaunt, so I’m hopeful there will be more visits in the new year when work allows.


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So Many People

I’ve written a few posts in which I detail my delight at being back in a big city. And, on the whole, I really love London. I love the amount of things that are going on in the city, which can, as a major simplification, be accounted for by the amount of people living in the near vicinity. I love watching all the houses go by on the train, I love the apartment blocks that people disappear into, I love all the hidden stories these people have that I will never, ever get to know no matter how long I spent talking to them all. Its exciting and strangely comforting to be one tiny, tiny part of such a large bustling whole. There’s nothing I like more than taking my lunch break at Tonic, walking down to the Royal Festival Hall and eat my food facing the Thames, watching the crowds go by.


There is a large difference between sitting in the relative comfort of the indoors, a cup of calming tea or delicious soup in your hand, lazily watching the crowds go by; and being caught outside, in the middle of a peak hour crowd, swept in directions you have no desire to go, smashed into by other pedestrians, pushed into the path of oncoming traffic or caught behind people who clearly have no wish to get anywhere at all, at least, that’s all you can conclude from the RIDICULOUSLY and ALMOST UNBELIEVABLY SLOW pace they are setting.

I acknowledge that I’m a pretty intolerant person when it comes to crowds at the best of times. If there are extra  frustrating circumstances, for example, if I’m hungry and shopping at Sainsbury’s, pretty much everyone in the shop is liable to have mental death threats hurled their way. Last Monday, I silently screamed at a man that he was the worst human being ever in the history of the world, simply because he was walking faster than me and passed me near the cheeses just a little closer than I would have liked. That’s right, the worst human being ever in the history of the world.  I’m not even sure why the UN haven’t yet established an international criminal tribunal to deal with his heinous crimes.

Tiredness can also make things worse. A friend from Cambridge and I went out for dinner and a show a few weeks ago and on the way home, we were forced to use a lift to get to our underground station. Usually I avoid the lifts, because the combination of slight claustrophobia and my hatred of crowds make the use of a packed lift one of my least favourite activities, only slightly more appealing than having my bikini line waxed or awkward, drunken sex. But, my friend had broken herself through too much yoga and dancing, so the stairs were out of the question. My subsequent death stares and angry, under-the-breath mutterings directed at the other passengers, particularly those who ‘accidentally’ (definitely on purpose) knocked into my bag, led my friend to compare me to Agent Smith in ‘The Matrix’:

Which I feel is a little unfair (I personally believe I’m still a bit nicer than Agent Smith – I am yet to attach wires to any of these random crowd people, torture them and then wipe the sweat off their heads in some sick intimidation trick), but I see where she was going.

Stress is obviously another danger factor. I made a flying visit to Ireland last week (new blog post on that to follow this) and, in an attempt to save some money, I thought I would take the Piccadilly Line back from Heathrow instead of using the Heathrow Express. I was working that afternoon, but still figured I had enough time to get back home and dump my bags and get to work on schedule. Of course, that was until the signal failure just before Hammersmith. After a well-meaning tube driver advised us all to get off the Piccadilly line and onto the District line, only for us to be told the same problem was affecting the District line, I lost my seat and so defiantly sat on my bag in the middle of the tube carriage, surrounded by sitting people, all of whom I hated. The person I hated the most, however, was the English girl who had recently emigrated to Toronto and who started chatting to another Canadian couple and decided it was her job to translate all the messages coming through from the tube driver for the Canadian couple, just in case the couldn’t follow the tube driver’s accent, or, I don’t know, because they don’t have speaker systems in Canada and wouldn’t understand where the disembodied voice was coming from or something.
Exhibit A:

TUBE DRIVER: I am very sorry for this delay in your journey, ladies and gentlemen, but we’ve been held up because of a signal failure at Hammersmith.

ENGLISH GIRL (to couple): Ah, yes, see we’ve been delayed because of a signal failure at Hammersmith.

TUBE DRIVER: We’re going to have to wait here until its sorted out and then we’ll have to wait for the trains ahead of us to go through.

ENGLISH GIRL: We’re going to wait here until the signal’s fixed, but, of course, there are trains ahead of us that need to go first.

TUBE DRIVER: There may be a delay of 30 minutes or so.

ENGLISH GIRL: It might be 30 minutes before we get going!

YES. WE KNOW. THEY KNOW. IF YOU DON’T SHUT UP I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH. She then proceeded to make very unfunny jokes about queues, which the Canadian couple obviously didn’t find amusing (let alone the rest of us), but apparently, despite having emigrated to Canada, this English girl was still having trouble working out the native Canadian’s signal for ‘Please be quiet and leave us alone. We wish you had never moved to our country. Please stay in England and never come back.’ In the end, when we finally got through Hammersmith and were told that the train on the opposite platform would be the first to move, I stayed where I was as the English girl rushed across to the other train, in order to avoid hearing her chatter on anymore. Of course, I’m sure if I hadn’t been sitting on my bag in the middle of a crowd of people, worrying about whether or not I was going to get to work on time, this woman’s mindless chatter wouldn’t have offended me nearly so much, but all I could think was: ‘I must get out of here. I must get free.’


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Autumn Happiness

Well. I was composing a post in my head on the way here (where’s here, you may ask? I refer you to previous posts and ask whether or not you can’t guess where I am. Different suburb, different drink and snack, but still a Cafe Nero. I swear I’m keeping this chain in business). The post was about how deliciously happy I was feeling. And, I mean, deliciously, delightfully, deliriously happy. The kind of happy that makes you grin at complete strangers in the street and that you can feel bubbling up in your belly and that is enhanced by the silliest things, like, coming to a Cafe Nero and deciding that you really, really want to buy a fruit salad and you want to eat with your fingers like you used to do on family picnics as a child and you do it even though the nice barista gives you cutlery and its awesome.

That’s how happy I was feeling, and then I tried to get the free internet open at the Cafe Nero and the stupid thing wasn’t working and it almost spoiled my good mood.

But, I’m in such a good, good mood that even the free internet screwing up can’t bring me down. That is how happy I am feeling.

There’s really no big reason to point to that would explain this unexpected (and yet seemingly all-encompassing) happiness. There are a few little things. I’m doing the morning shifts at work this weekend, meaning I have the evenings free to see theatre with friends tonight and tomorrow and see Lucinda Williams at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday. Lucinda also happens to be supported by my new favourite artist, a singer-songwriter by the name of Bhi Bhiman (look him up, he’s awesome), so it’s a double-whammy of live music goodness and its all because I’m starting work at 8am and finishing at 5pm. Joy! (Incidentally, that is the name of a Lucinda Williams song)

Another reason I am delightfully pleased with myself is that I had a mystery guest in the restaurant the other night and she scored me 97%. I’ve been getting congratulations all day long from my managers. I must say that whilst I am almost allergic to KPI’s, I am strangely approving of mystery guests. Maybe its because I get a little score at the end that reminds me of school. Except KPI’s are like that too… Maybe its because KPI’s have no wiggle room often. You make the sale or you don’t, whereas Mystery Guests and Shoppers is all about giving them the impression that you are friendly and confident and making them feel comfortable. These are things I am very good at (apparently) and that makes me happy.

I’ve quit my second job, so I’m feeling a little less pressured time-wise and I also don’t have to arrange cosmetics anymore which also makes me (and the teenage girls of Dulwich who liked to destroy my displays) much, much happier.

I’ve had a couple of little things happen theatre-wise in the past two weeks, a short play of mine, originally written for the Valdez Fringe 24 Hour challenge, was performed in a London pub theatre; I’m making plans for the Brighton Fringe; I made friends with a London director who I’m talking to about one of my newest scripts and I’m back at Tonic, all of which makes me feel better about creative possibilities here in the UK.

I’m also going to say I’m pretty darn happy about the American election result and I don’t care who knows it or that I’m not a US citizen or that Obama’s first term was by no means a resounding success or that he’s going to have a hard time uniting the country or getting anything done with the Senate and the House of Reps the way they are. I’m just really, really happy that he’s president again. And despite the fact that I would feel completely different if the Republicans had won and I was the devastated one, I am enjoying laughing at some of the crazier responses to the re-election. I drew the line at this one though. I tried to laugh, but most of them looked so sad that in the end I would up feeling sorry for them. In a patronising way, of course, ‘cause I consider them to be poor, misguided Republicans, that just need to be ‘re-educated’* so I’m sure they’d hate me for feeling sorry for them, but I just can’t help it.

(* Just in case any Republicans are reading this blog, the use of the phrase ‘re-educated’ was deliberate in an amusing, ironic way in light of what you and yours think of the politics of Obama and his. I’m not ACTUALLY advocating that you all be sent off to work camps and to till the soil until you promise you have changed your collective minds and now believe in everything that Obama stands for. Awesome times. Glad we sorted that out before things got scary.)

But, I think what keeps making me really, really happy is just how beautiful London is in autumn. I wrote a very long list in praise of the cold last year (you can read it here) and then, after I got sick of the cold, I wrote a few posts at the beginning of the year in praise of the Spring (which you can read here). I’m beginning to think I’m just a person with a short-attention span, easily bored and who is really just happiest when things are in the process of changing. There’s something about being on the cusp of something, or just at the start, that is so exciting and refreshing. I love walking in the common at the moment, because every day the trees look different and every day they seem more beautiful than the day before. The late autumn sunlight is so bright and clear and it makes everything look… nostalgic. Maybe its because on autumn afternoons it always seems like the sun is already setting, even if its only 2pm. I’m sure by next January this will be annoying me, but right now it seems sweetly sad in the way of a Passenger song (who is, incidentally, playing on the sound system at my Cafe Nero at the moment).

That’s pretty much all I have to say at the moment. Things are good. Life is good. I’m pretty darn happy for a lot of little reasons. And I hope this post makes up for the appalling effort I made yesterday (you can read it here. But, please don’t. It’s pretty crap. You’ll waste 15 minutes of your life when you could be doing something valuable, like, cutting your toe-nails or organising your recycling).

And, just to top it all off, the free internet at Café Nero just started working again. I repeat: Life is good.

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The Sunday Roast

Another day off work, another wasted afternoon. Well, not entirely wasted, I did get my tax done (in spite of the kitten’s best efforts to tear my tax forms to shreds – I understand the feeling, kitty, I understand the feeling). But, after a swim, a few hours on Skype and my tax, I was once again at a loss as to what to do, completing forgetting that I had been composing this blog post (this MASTERPIECE) for the past few days on the underground. And I had wasted all that extra writing time by watching ‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs’! Which is, lets admit it, a very nice film, but not really worth watching the amount of times I have watched in my lifetime. Anyways, so here I am, attempting another summing up of this ‘foreign’ British culture through an intriguing and quirky tradition. Which is not going well, because I couldn’t bear to switch off ‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs’ and its more than a little distracting. Uma Thurman was just dressed as a milk maid. I mean, I like guys, but that’s still a distracting site.

But, yes, here goes, the Sunday Roast.

So, the Sunday Roast is certainly something that I had heard of previously. It’s a phrase that’s bandied about back home, in particular by people such as my grandmother. But, as a ‘thing’, I thought that the Sunday Roast had gone the way of Sunday School and white picket fences and 1950s and hat boxes.

But, no, in the UK, the Sunday Roast lives on. It is a ‘Thing’. Or even a ‘THING’, really (honestly, it deserves all capitals, its so big a THING).  And I did not know this until I started working at the pub.


So, I had to have a break for dinner and wine and I am trying this post again. The thing is, I did spend many days composing the opening of this post in my head, but after I had composed the ‘thing’ line, I didn’t really have any ideas as to where I was going next. And, to be honest, the ‘thing’ line wasn’t even that could to begin with.

But, the Sunday Roast is a ‘THING’. Every Sunday, families descend on The Windmill on the Common in their many many numbers to choose between a Roast Chicken, Roast Lamb, Roast Pork or Roast Beef (there is also the Veg Wellington, which I can HIGHLY recommend, but not many people go for it. It is not very ‘traditional’. Sorry, that should be ‘TRADITIONAL’). You get beautiful roast veggies and gravy and excellent service (even if I do say so myself) on top of it all.

The Sunday Roast is an odd thing to have to deal with as a vegetarian. On my first Sunday, I was confronted with a variety of sauces, the likes of which I (thought) had not seen before. I knew each sauce must have a corresponding meat, but I didn’t know which went with which. There seemed to some kind of poppyseed sauce, a creamy sauce and an apple sauce. Plus, there are many mustards. And your standard tartare, ketchup and mayo. (The Brits are big on the sauces. Does this deserve another blog post?) I also couldn’t tell which meat was which, unless I repeated, for example, ‘Roast Beef right, Roast Lamb left’, over and over under my breath like a crazy person as I walked away from the kitchen and tried to find the table where the Roast Beef and Roast Lamb was heading. I eventually worked out that Roast Pork had crackling on top, making it easy to spot, but the Roast Beef and Roast Lamb still cause me confusion. About halfway through my first day I realised the sauce I had identified as ‘poppyseed’ was in fact ‘mint’, meaning it went with the lamb (my gran was a big fan of Roast Lamb. Well, I think, actually, she was a big fan of mint, and mint went with Roast Lamb, so she was a big fan of Lamb. Seriously, everything about my wonderful gran was mint. Minties, Mint Slice, Mint Sauce, XXXX breath mints, after dinner mints…. The only exception she made was for the occasional Werther’s Original).

Bah. I don’t know what I’m doing with this post. I’m a bit tipsy and a bit bored and I think my main point was made a few paragraphs ago, really. The Sunday Roast, something that I though was dead and gone, lives on in Britain. Just like the class system and… I don’t know… royalty.

Stay tuned for more ground-breaking reportage from Britain tomorrow.

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Working Life

I’m not at a Caffe Nero? Am I still allowed to blog?

Oddly enough, I actually have two posts that I want to write. They’re probably not that exciting. But, hey ho, I started this blogging project to capture all those amazing overseas moments I was having and I am not one to give up on a challenge half-way through (unless, of course, that challenge includes cold-calling pensioners and asking that they donate their pennies to the poor, disabled dogs and cats of Mexico. Because THAT is a challenge I will give up on in, oh, let’s call it, 16 hours?)

So, I’ve gotten these two jobs, at least one of which I am enjoying a great deal. But, of course, after months of unemployment/underemployment, the sudden flip to 40 – 50 hour weeks was a little much for my slightly unfit, slightly overweight, vegetarian body to stand. Whenever I got time off from work, I would crawl up on the couch, my bed, or occasionally my housemate’s bed (its not weird, she wasn’t there and she said I could do it) and watch endless hours of TV. I rediscovered such classic movies as ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Castaway’. I watched not-so-classic movies such as ‘Swinging with the Finkels’ (yes, the title should have been a giveaway). I was disturbed by Tilda Swinton and that freaky boy in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. I watched endless, endless episodes of ‘Friends’. In fact, I watched so many episodes of ‘Friends’ that I’m beginning to think that I don’t like the show anymore. Or, it could be that I’ve just reached the crap episodes (ie, the ones that they were making because they knew they were going to have to cancel it, but wanted to squeeze as much money out of the show as possible before they did).

I would get home from work, physically broken from work, but still buzzing and not tired enough to go to sleep and would watch whatever we had recorded over the week whilst eating a bag of chips for my dinner and considering whether I would end up like one of those male university students down in Melbourne who ended up with scurvy (urban legend? Perhaps. However, I’ve gone on a Vitamin C binge today, just in case).

And, then, sometime during this week, all of a sudden, I stopped being so tired. I got used to it. The thought of putting on the TV made me desperately unhappy (whereas, a week previously, the thought of switching off the TV had made me desperately unhappy). It took me kind of by surprise. When I woke up with a free day today, I thought, ‘huh’. Well, then, what shall we do? I ended up spending two hours singing songs and imagining that I was auditioning for the X-Factor (needless to say, Gary Barlow thought I was excellent. The cat, however, disagreed and left the room in a sulk).

So, there you go. Not earth-shattering, or life-changing, but its good to know that I won’t be spending all my time in London either at work, or in front of the TV. I went on a sneaky day-trip to Brighton last Monday after 10 days of work in a row and it was revelation. Walking through London Bridge station, I was looking at all the people going, ‘Oh, that’s right! I live in London! London, England! That’s a really big place that doesn’t just consist of my apartment and Clapham Common. Excellent.’

I intend to make better use of my non-work time next week with the cunning use of lists…

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Things Overheard on the Bus

I’m spending a lot of time on public transport these days, particularly making the shuffle between Clapham Common and East Dulwich to rearrange the cosmetics at Sainsbury’s (note to you all: if you happen to go and buy beauty products at East Dulwich Sainsbury’s, DO NOT take things out of their neat, clean and lovingly arranged  display and put them ANYWHERE ELSE. Say you pick up a Boujois nail polish. If you replace it amongst the Maybelline Foundations I WILL STRIKE YOU DOWN WITH THE MIGHT OF MY FURY AND A DEATH STARE TO END ALL DEATH STARES. I’m not even joking. I stand behind customers and watch them replace products and if they put them in the wrong place, I very sweetly come up to them and say, ‘That doesn’t go there. I’ll put it back where it belongs.’ They never do it again.)

Anywho, point is, spending a lot of time on the bus. And, because you can get mobile phone reception on the bus (which is obviously not possible on the underground), you get to listen in to all sorts of interesting conversations. Here is a sampling of some from the past few weeks:

Teenage girl, giggling: ‘You can’t see my chest. No! You can’t see my chest. You’re crazy. You’re crazy! You can’t see my chest!’ (I can only presume she was referring to a large storage chest. You know, where she keeps all her private things. Like, love notes and…I don’t know, lipsticks her parents have said she can’t wear. There couldn’t possibly be any other reading of this conversation)

Teenage boy: ‘Well, my parents went to Manchester University, which is like, number 4 on the list. The list. You know, the one I was telling you about. The list of universities you’re most likely to have sex at.’

Middle-aged man, possibly a character from EastEnders (well, he sounded like he was a character from EastEnders): ‘Yeah, she just came at me! I’m telling you, I couldn’t do anything. And she’s a big girl, mate. She’s a big girl. And I said to her, I said… Look, I love you, but if you ever lift a finger against me again, I won’t hold back, I’ll hit you back. No, no, no, mate, I’d never hit a woman, but I’m not having that. I’m not having that. I’m not having someone using me as a punching bag for the rest of their life (pause). Oh, she read some text message, you know, got the wrong idea. I said, ‘Why would I go out for mince meat when I’ve got sirloin steak at home,’ you know what I mean?’

30-something African-American: ‘You don’t ditch your gym partner and go train with someone else. That’s sacrilege.’

Teenage girl: ‘So, the game is that you have to think of girls names that start with the last letter of the name before. So, I’ll start. Tanya. Now you have to think of one that starts with ‘A’. Great! Ok, ummm…. Andrea (pause). Anna. Oh, that ends with… (pause) Ah, Amelia! Oh, whoops! That ends with ‘A’ too! It looks like there’s a bit of a pattern here!’

Australian twenty-something, answers phone: ‘Hello? Are you… Gooooooood Booooooooyyyyy.’ Hangs up phone.

The following conversation was not strictly held on the phone, however it was so cute, I wanted to include it. And, it was in reference to a mobile phone, so it kind of counts.

Little Boy: What games does it have?

Father: It doesn’t haven any games.

Little Boy: No games? Can’t I play games on it?

Father: No, because its just a phone.

Little Boy: Just a phone?

Father: All it does is make phone calls. And text messages.

Little Boy: Why?

Father: Well, because… that was all I needed. You know, when I first got that phone, it was the best phone. It was the best phone there was. It was a super-duper fancy phone and it could do absolutely everything… but things are changing so quickly these days and now…. Well, I still love this phone.

Little Boy: But, there are no games on it?

Father: Maybe Mummy will let you play games on her phone.

(Mummy is at the back of the bus)

Little Boy: Mummy? MUMMY!


And there you have it. A slice of British life. As seen via their famous double-decker buses.

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