Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Katie has arrived!

After a big night out on Christmas night, and then recovery, and then a biggish night out last night, I managed to get myself on the bus out to the airport to pick up Katrina - flying in from Australia to hang out with me for three weeks. Woo hoo!!

Very brave little Katie, after flying on her own for the first time, and her first time out of the country since we were little, she emerged from the Arrivals door sparky and ready to go.

We have walked around Uppsala today, on a little tour of the town for Katie, so she could see the buildings and parks covered in snow. (More photos)

Now it's dark already, and it's only only 3.30pm...but the town and the bicycles are still covered with a layer of snow!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Magic of a White Christmas

After a late breakfast today, and a chance to chat to home, we headed outside to see Uppsala. And right on clue, the snow started to fall.

At first it was just wispy little bits, but then it got heavier and thicker, and settled whilst we were looking inside the Cathedral. Coating the small town with a white layer - we got our White Christmas!

Crunchy and slippery under foot, we wandered through in awe, soaking in the magic, and the perfect timing of it all. Was so gorgeous!

We walked around the big castle in town, and the university buildings, and then along the river and main streets - all while the snow was falling, and settling.

It's still falling now, adding to the blanket from this afternoon, and looks like settling in for the night.

God Yul! God Yul to all!!

(More photos)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Eve

Upon finishing work early, and running around to do all my Christmas shopping (had to wait till payday), I received a Festivus miracle, and found everything on my list! Weird! Then home to pack, and to bed early.

The next morning Jes and I were up at 3.30am, and on a train out to the airport by 4.30am. After having my Christmas crackers convisgated at the x-ray machine, we boarded our flight to Sweden. We arrived to a white coated world, and the frosty cold - but managed to follow our instructions and find the buses to Uppsala.

Jenny and Nata were at the apartment to meet us, and Charles arrived a little later. Once all gathered, the spirits were poured, and the girls started up the cooking frenzy.

The big Christmas meal is traditionally celebrated on Christmas eve in Sweden, and so we laid out our spread of turkey, Swedish meatballs, vegies, and the berry sauce! After an entree of rice pudding, and some frightening turkey carving, we filled up as is Christmas tradition everywhere!!

Many more drinks, and present exchange, and our respective calls home - we all went to sleep hoping that the piles of old snow would be added to overnight...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Carols by Scandlelight

Last night Heather invited Charlotte and I along to Carols by Scandlelight, outside of Zimbabwe House on The Stand. The idea was to sing carols (after a session at the pub, I had thought!!), and shake the tin for The Just Children Foundation.

Of course, I went for the politics, although it seems the group organising it went for the singing. Once they had pointed out the presumed section of the choir I should join, I knew I was in trouble!!

Charlotte and I ditched, I'm afraid, to head to the pub for a pint. It was too cold for carols - even for people who liked carols!! Great idea, but they were a little serious for me!

Now for the all important question - am I going to get a White Christmas????

Happy Festivus to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Looks like I have finally completed that pesky little Masters I have been chipping away at since 2002. I have been invited to attend a graduation ceremony, and it says "completed" on the result page on the web...although one of the individual units says not finalised. Half holding my breath!!

But surely all good, though, and now I get to add "MICD" to the letters after my name! Cool!

So, that's a Master of International and Community Development, if you don't mind! I may never get to use it, although I'll have the HECS/PELS/HELP debt forever!!! Lucky me.

Of course, I certainly didn't manage this all on my own. Big thanks to Michelle, for those years were she completed my research for me (librarians can be useful!!). And a big hats off to Jen for her contribution this year. Hee hee.

Now, for the big challenge - I need some people to take it upon themselves to sabotage ANY attempts of mine to ever study again. Active sabotage, seriously! Unless I can show enough saving to cover the lifestyle I am accustomed to for the full duration of any proposed study plans, without the need to work for that period, with cricket trip allowances (!!), destroy all applications, information about, and all paperwrok for any crazy further study ideas. PLEASE!!!!! I can't imagine this popping up again, cos this one was painful - but just in case insanity calls!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Warming the House

Even though we have now lived in our house for about six months, we never got around to having a house warming. But now that the weather has turned, the house was in much need! So, last night we had a Warming the House party.

People called upon to assist us put a bit of heat into our little home starting arriving...well at four, actually. And things got silly quite early. Hee hee.

There was mulled wine, and mistletoe (which was successful, from what I hear!), a bit of dancing, and general messing about.

The top floor managed to get quite warm, despite our perspecs roof and distinct lack of insulation!! Misson accomplished. Now we will just have to try and trap that heat in for the reminder of winter - what's that, like the next 5 months??!! Brrrrr!

I think we had quite a good turn out, considering how close to Xmas we are now. The girls from work trekked across the city to be here, and the top floor was packed!!

I had a ball...and maybe too much to drink. (More photos)

The lack of daylight hours over here in London is making the old hangover rule about trying to get up while it's still light very difficult indeed!! I fail in this one today!! Opps!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Black Eyed

No no, I haven't hit my head again. I'm talking Peas!

Jenny won tickets to the Black Eyed Peas, in Birmingham, for last night. We've had dramas since she got notification about them, cos how were we going to get there!!?? But then work came up with the goods with a new referral up that way for me, so we were sorted!!

I finished my assessment and a train finally came my way after sitting in the tiny shelter called a "Train Station" out in some little English village, and met Jenny at the station. We walked through the Xmas lights of Birmingham shopping district, and found the Carling Acadamy, to be met with a giant queue.

Jen flashed her notification of her winnings, and we were ushered in as guests. Nice!! A few drinks to thaw out and get us through the support act, and the Peas were up!

Fergie sure has a big voice for such a little person, and such great assets, they wrote a song about them!! Hee hee.

Hey Mama, Shut Up, Let's Get It Started, Don't Lie, Don't Phunk With My Heart, and of course, Where Is The Love? The crowd was really into it, and the Peas commanded crowd participation. They were great!

My Humps, how funny is that song! Hee hee. Fergie was full of energy all night, and the lads were dancing it up. (More photos)

Was a great night, although the train back to London, and figuring out how to get home from Euston wasn't quite as fun. But all good for free tickets!!

People got me questioning
Where is the love?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Different Story

A yummy lunch in Brighton with Dom on Sunday, and then a train ride back to dark, gloomy and cold London. I went out for a Xmas dinner with the gang (Nat, Kimberley, Cam, Caitlin and Jack, Mark and Mendle) on Sunday night, before some of them run away to far away places for Christmas. We went to Nyonya in Notting Hill for dinner, and the Beef Rendang was all that I had imagined all week!! Hee hee. Mmmmm.

Had rather a large night, cos I was hungover all day yesterday - opps!

Despite the dodgy head and tum, I met Jenny at the Prince Charles Cinema after work for a little George Michael treat. We got to enjoy a candid peek into his life through his documentary A Different Story.

Hearing insights into his childhood, the early Wham! days, and the break into his solo career. A rare listen into the pain of the loss of his lover to AIDS, and then the loss of his mother more recently. And of course, THAT bathroom incident in LA. Quite revealing, although he's very uncomfortable talking about himself. This piece is really for his fans, a little window into his life, and the stories behind his work.

Footage of live performances of the beautiful Jesus To A Child, and then the goosebump inspiring Find Me Somebody To Love for the Freddy Mercury tribute are always amazing. And of course revisiting FastLove and Outside - so love his work!

I have always been such a big Georgie boy fan, so not much he revealed here was news to me. It really is either a 'sorry guys, I am not ever going to tour again, and this is all I can give', or it's a 'stay tuned for dates'. I would give me left arm to see the man live!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005


After work on Friday night I hopped on a train down south to Brighton. In less than an hour, and thus, less time than it would have taken to trek home from work, I arrived in the seaside town to meet Dom.

A few pints at the pub, and then Chinese for dinner, Dom and I, and her friend Zoe, got to catch up and chat for the evening.

Yesterday we walked along the shore from Hove, where Dom's lovely apartment is, all the way along past the shell of the old pier, and then up to the amusement rides at the Brighton Pier. Very much like walking along in St Kilda, being near the sea was gorgeous. The cheesy carnival style music delivered 'Last Christmas' by Wham! as we checked out the flashing lights and the rides, which is always the indictator for me that Christmas is near, and there is no more denying it! Oh dear!

We then walked inland a little to see the beautiful Royal Pavilion, and too a tour inside to see the amazing rooms and stunning pieces throughout. We then stopped in Queen Adelaide's Tea Rooms for some cream tea - how very British!! (More photos.)

We walked around town to wander through the South Lanes and the North Lanes, where Christmas shopping and the tourist crowd was bustling. So very cute and funky are little stores tucked away in the cobbled lanes here. Would be great if I had lots of money for shopping!

This afternoon when Dom finishes work, we will meet for lunch before I return to London. It's so good to see Dom, and now I understand why she has settled down here instead of the big smoke!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Chelsea match

Getting up feeling a little hungover and getting transport to the footy for a Saturday afternoon game - was all very nostalgic for the real footy today...although with so many differences!

I met Charles, and his mates Travis and Adam at Stamford Bridge in Fulham for the Chelsea v Middlesbrough match. Now this is part of the English Premier League. This photo here is Chelsea warming up.

Getting through the gates, I had to surrender the lid to my bottle of water. It took awhile for me to understand what the steward wanted - apparently worried about potential missiles. Hmmm.

Of the 41 666 people there this afternoon, I think there was a handful of opposition supporters, but they were all sitting in the one place. Can you see the Middlebrough fans in the corner of the stand in this photo? Surrounded with shoulder to shoulder police! Scary! Apparently when you order your tickets for a game there is a warning that is opposition supporters sit in the general area, they will be thrown out!
And yes, those are heaters all the way along the top of our stand!!

The atmosphere during the match was electric - even when nothing was really going on on the pitch. The Chelsea crowd sang, and chanted and clapped almost all the way through the afternoon. The noise was electric, and very impressive. About 10 000 men singing and carrying on. Love that stuff!!

The stadium erupted when a goal was scored by Chelsea, in the 62nd minute. It was like they had got into the Grand Final or something!! Hugs all round, and even the Manager, Jose Mourinho (one of the hottest older men alive!!) gave Terry a hug after he scored. All very funny, to me!

One reason soccer will never hit the big time for me though, is the circus surrounding injuries. Today one of the Chelsea players went down, and writhed in what looked like agony. Considering how the player was carrying on, and the instant stopping of play, I thought he must have broken his leg. Perhaps there was even bone sticking out, given the reaction. So they run out the lifeboat size stretcher, and by the time it gets out to him, he is standing, and miraculously he hobbles and hops off to the sidelines. The game continues, and what do you know? The player ends up running back on seconds later, physically unhindered! It's just silly!! What a bunch of sooks.

It was quite fun, and such an experience going to a real soccer match. I still don't really know the intricaces of the game, nor why they do most things, but seeing it live, and being able to see all the movement all over the pitch was better than on telly, for me. Also got to see the giant Viduka in action too - see you in Germany in June, Mark! Hee hee!

Oh yeah, and Chelsea won 1-0. (More photos)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Work Xmas Party

Yesterday everyone in the office was counting down the hours till we could rush out of there. When our designated "get ready" time finally arrived, I dashed out and schlepped (Jenny uses that Swedish word so often, I no longer know the proper English equivalent - what would it be, dragged my arse?!?) across town to change. The dress I had worn to Katie's 21st had arrived in the mail just in time (Thanks a million, Mum!!), and so I was ready for the big HCML Xmas party.

A tube ride back across to the Hilton London Kensington in time for drinks, the evening began. The tables were decked out with bonbons, and the wine was flowing! Dinner was very nice, all three courses, and then the dancing began.

(More photos)

Awards went around for Best Dressed, Sexist Male, Sexist Female, and Best Bum after considerable and careful voting by all, and thus the silliness kicked off. It was such a fun night, all dressed up and a chance to have fun with the full gang from work.

Heather, myself, Anna, Chantal and Charlotte
Posted by Picasa

For the first time since...well, when would it be...back in 2002....around March, I actually liked the job I am in. I have survived my second performance review, and am starting to get to a point where I can get things moving on cases. Life is good!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It's OK! I'm a Professional!!

I came home from work today to find a letter letting me know that I have been accepted as a member of the British Psychological Society.

I am a Graduate Member, based on my university years.

Wow! And oh, so very scary!!

I can work as a Professional here in the UK. Although, of course not as a Clinical Psychologist, or anything like that. Still, more than I can do back home in Australia so far.

So I have a real job, where I have a business card for the first time, and I get to flaunt all those letters after my name in all forms of correspondence! And now I have a professional membership. Perhaps I had better starting taking myself seriously. Admit that maybe I have a grown up job, and that I could be on the path to growing up.

As if! Hee hee.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Monopoly Pub Crawl: Part 2

Yesterday the second half of the Monopoly Pub Crawl that I started in October was attempted, and conquered! Albeit over two days, a month apart!

Jenny, Nat, Kimberley, Craig and I gathered at The Blue Posts, which is the Piccadilly stop from last time. It was closed for the first attempt, and we had to wait till 12noon for it to be open for this half of the crawl. No worries, and a half pint later, we followed the route past the Pall Mall pub (which we managed last time) back to The Lord Moon of the Mall for Whitehall.

The Sherlock Holmes for Northumberland Avenue, while terrorising some French tourists ("what is this crawl??"), before meeting up with Cam and Caitlin at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for the Fleet Street half pint (after a wee and pint stop at the Walkabout! It's the unreliable District Line to be blamed for that!!).

Heather joined us here at The Strand, at The Wellington, before we walked on in the cold and now dark to find The Marquess of Anglesey for the Bow Street half pint. I must admit, it was a lot easier walking from pub to pub a month ago - nowhere near as cold as it was yesterday! Brrr! Perfect day to be inside pubs, though!

Charles, Jenny and Liz joined (or re-joined) the group at The Chandos, which was the Trafalgar Square half pint location - and lucky for us that we had Heather along for that change, or we would still be looking for it!! A stop for food was finally needed for those of us who had been crawling since daylight, and of course, Leicester Square had plenty of fast options for us.

Walking through the busy theatre crowd, we were pointed in the right direction for the next pub, The Comedy for Coventry, by Charles before he left the group. I believe Jenny and Liz disappeared at this point too - shame, cos Jenny could have been a Hall of Famer, if she had have stuck yesterday out! Tsk tsk! Piker!

A quick stop between pubs for samosas didn't do us any favours, and the Regent Street stop saw Kimberley, Nat and Craig bow out to some heavy drunkeness.

The last two standing, Cam and I managed to find and finish half pints (I think Cam had downed full pints since joining us way back in the day) at the Marlborough Street, and Bond Street pub, after discovering that the Vine Street stop was covered in scaffolding. Last stop was a little pub off Oxford Street called The Woodstock, with some friendly chats with the not-so-local locals. (More photos.)

We made it to the tube in time for our ride home on the Bakerloo line after completing the Crawl! So over two days, and with a month between, I have had a half pint in all Monopoly pub stops (oooh, except for the Vine Street one - but not for a lack of trying!!) all over London. Surely we can perfect this crawl - I put up the challenge to anyone to do better!!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like....

And to feel a lot like a Northern Hemisphere Christmas!!

The weather turned last Thursday, to be noticibly freezing. Frost covered morning, icy wind chilling your face as you walk anywhere. And you hands turning bright red with the cold.

On Sunday night getting home from the airport, I saw the Christmas lights all lit up in Regent's Street, and Oxford Street. It all seems a bit early for me, but that never seems to occur to the big shopping strips!

Regent's Street is strung up with the big street-width blue panels, with cartoon characters. Apparently the same as last year, but impressive and magical nonetheless.

Oxford Street is done up with white chandeliers all the way down the length of the street - very pretty!

(More photos)

The trees are everywhere, the sales, the lights, and even those horrible Christmas carols can be heard now - it must be getting to be that time. A month away, anyway!

Monday, November 21, 2005

When Irish Pints Are Smiling

Charles and I meet out at Gatwick Airport for a cheeky couple of pints before boarding our delayed flight across to Dublin on Friday, for a boozy weekend with the lads. Hungover and struggling after the night before, the only thing to do was to get back on it, and another on the short plane ride over was in order.

Consulting Cathal about how long it will take to get to their part of the world told us that in half an hour he would meet our bus from Dublin airport. This turned out to be in Irish time! An hour and a half later, and a tour through Dublin, we got out to the other side of the city, and finally caught up with Cathal in Greystones.

Another beer or two and Liz was home from work and ready to go out! We headed out in Bray Friday night, and braved the cold - although it actually wasn't as freezing as London had been for the last two days.

Saturday we headed into town (that's Dublin for the non-locals!) for a bit of an Irish pub crawl, and a quick check on the match scores (Australia happened to be playing Ireland in the rugby - what do ya know!). The Porter House, The Globe, and then Hogans (scene of St Paddy's day for us back in March).

As it started getting dark, we decided to head out to Enniskerry to meet up with the rest of Liz's mates, out at a pub in the little village. When Liz first said we could go to "Anna-Scary" for Anna's birthday, I did think it was a bit mean to be calling her "scary" on her birthday - but it was just the pronounciation of the village's name! Opps!

Catching up with the lads once we had servived the cab trip of through little village roads, things eventually go a bit out of hand and crazy. Anna was delighted that we had come out, and it was cool catching up with Claire and Paddy, Ruth and Eugene, Niamh, Alva and the rest of the lads.

The rowdy group ended up back at Anna's for a way out of control house party, before we all eventually crashed there. The ride back in the taxi to Greystones the next morning was very dodgy indeed!

After some much needed sleep we headed out to The Beach House in Greystones for recovery pints and dinner, before Charles and I needed to head back out to the airport for our late flight back to London. It was so good catching up with Liz and Cathal again, and the rest of the lads. Ireland and the Irish are just gorgeous, if a little nuts!!

Looking forward to a week in detox, with a focus on catching up on sleep!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Keep A Light On

Last night I was treated to Tim Freedman in London, at The Bush Hall. Looking very yummy as usual, he also had the hot drummer from The Whitlams with him, and the bass player was nice to look at too! A treat!

It was an intimate venue (would have been great for photos, but my digi is cactus - bugger), and the crowd actually knew some of the words this time (unlike in June), so it was a classic Whitlams atmosphere. Bit of banter from Tim, and digs at life, love and politics, we also got a taste of the new album. One of the new songs, "Leave A Light On" will surely become a bit of a "London Still" (The Waifs) homesick reminder. Oh dear.

"Hamburgers", "Thank You", "Charlie No 3", "Blow Up The Pokies", "Melbourne", "Love This City" - all the goodies.

Finishing with a couple of my anthems, "Laugh in Their Faces" and Duffy's song "I Will Not Go Quietly", the night was awesome. Helped along by copeous amounts of red wine - very good!

Not so good this morning though! I was fine when I woke up, flying infact. But my hangover hit me when I was stuck in the crush of the tube - just in time for the delays (nothing too serious, just feeling dodgy!). I think that was the only thing on time so far today!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cullum and Wales

Monday night, after sending off my final essay for that pesky Masters (fingers crossed it's a pass, and I have no more to do!!), I went along to the Royal Albert Hall with a bunch from work to see Jamie Cullum.

The Royal Albert Hall is just gorgeous, and to be truthful, not knowing young Cullum's music, I went mainly to see the Hall. And was not disappointed - it's so grand and lovely - colosseum-like with it's tiers and red velvet curtains everwhere. Was beautiful.

The performance was amazing too - was quite a good night. Little Jamie Cullum packed that huge venue out, and had the crowd eating out of his palm with his mix of jazz piano, and a bit of pop thrown in. I am sure he has ADHD! His music was very cool and funky.

Yesterday I was off on a train to the North Western tip (top left of that map) of Wales for an assessment for work - far, far away from London! 5 hours up and 5 hours back, it was a long day. I am getting to see a bit of the country side wizz past the train window for this job. Have managed to visit Liverpool and Bristol, and a couple of little country villages as well when I have been out and about for work. I will need to get better with my appointment bookings, though, and start making these big trips fall around a weekend so I can go and visit these places properly!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

No Excuses in London

Last night a group of us donned Medieval garb for a Medieval Banquet for the first London chapter of No Excuses. This is a party tradition of Jess and Nat's for years, starting in Sydney, and a philosophy I can certainly agree with - when you have no reason for a party, call it No Excuses and nobody has an excuse not to come!!

All dressed up, the venue was down on Katherine's Dock, which meant we had to walk past the spooky looking Tower of London on the way - all very in theme!

Our group gathered at the long banquet table, ready for food and beverage fare. Nat and Kimberley, Glenys and Caitlin, Jenny and I, Cam, Mark and Mendel all dug into the old style cooking and the carafes wine and jug of beer, for a large evening!!

Jenny slaved away on our costumes all week, and did such a great job (what will we do when she's employed again!!).
Thanks Jen!

The floor show went on around us, and as there were about 350 people in the banquet hall last night, it was a loud and jolly occasion. We even got to witness a fight, Gladiator style, although unfortunately no blood was shed. I don't know about the others in the group, but I don't really know what was going on in the show!! All I know it that the free flow of liquid sustinance ended all together too soon, and with the silly 11pm last drinks in London, that was it for us!
(We were dressed up, I don't think anywhere else would have taken us in anyway!!)
(More photos.)

No Excuses is fun!!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Comes and goes

The music one listens to when you are feeling a bit down, or when you are not quite right after smacking your head on a hard surface, doesn't do you any favours when homesickness is lurcking! I guess the passing birthday hasn't helped in that department, either.

All this talk of getting older
Is getting me down my love

I am not majorly homesick, but always when I am feeling a bit off, I want my mum. 'Course, she would just laugh at my black eye too, which is totally warrented and deserved. But still.

I wonder what I'm missing
Think of songs I've never heard...

It would be fun to hang out with the girls for a bit.

But then I have no job at home, no job prospects, nowhere to live (I know I can bum at Mum's, but you know what I mean...), and I have a great social circle here. People actually jump to join you in things here!! Minimal nagging needed to get a group together. Awesome! Plus, I have found a great job with so many opportunities. Oh, and I still haven't managed to fix my credit rating at home, so am not in a position to return to Australia under my own name yet!!
Will you still love me
When you can't see me anymore

The shiner is getting better, although still quite visable. Getting a bit over trying to explain what happened - how embarrassment!! It is quite funny seeing people's reactions on the train and in shops, though. I must be assumed to be some battered wife. I even had someone give up their seat for my on a train! How funny!
'Cause we're reeling in every sight and sin...
every home sick girl along the way

Hmmm, I guess I just need some new music!! Or change the tracks on the MP3!! Hee hee. Need to have a break from The Waifs, KT and Lloydy, perhaps!! Although it's doesn't hurt to wallow every now and then. I don't let it happen very often!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Shiner, elephant man style

All week I have been hanging for the weekend, and the possibility of sleeping for two days solid to catch up.

So last night after drinks at work for our monthy staff meeting, I decided that red wine was the way to dissolve Friday night, and be sure sleep would last on through Saturday morning.

Seems like I had a little too much...although I really didn't feel that bad...

Putting myself to bed, I had a small mishap with my face and the windowsill. Needless to say I have woken up this morning looking like the elephant man, with a very pink, purple and blue puffy eye...and a very sore head.

Clearly I need supervision and assistance with putting myself to bed from now on, and I will need to increase my efforts for finding someone for that role, pronto! I mean, I could lose an eye!!

Luckily for me I have a stockpile of Aussie goodies from my birthday parcels that I have been craving for months. Looks like staying in bed, reading and eating Tim Tams, Twisties and Milo (yes, eating Milo!) will be the order for the weekend. Or as long as it takes to be able to show my face in public again....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Belguim, Beer and Chocolate!

Friday night I took off from work to meet Jenny and the Eurostar to Brussels. Two and a half hours later, we were in another country, with signs in a different language - just like that! Cool!

After checking into our hotel, and hearing the yummy accent of a local police officer (long story!!), we headed into the breath-taking Grand Place for dinner and a beer. Walking into the grand square, all lit up in it's beauty, was amazing. So gorgeous! What a welcome into my first proper European city!

After tasting the wares and oggling at the buildings and the chocolatier in the square, we wandered through the little streets from the Place to see Manneken Pis.

This little tourist attraction is so funny - a little bronze boy having a never-ending wee!! Hee hee.

After breakfast of fresh croissants slathered in chocolate, we headed for the train to Bruges. One hour northwest of Brussels, we found accommodation once we had got there, after discovering that it was a very popular place this weekend!! Our B&B was a little way out of the town itself, and the girl at Tourist Information told us to tell the bus driver that we "needed to Carpe Diem"! Indeed!!

Back into town after a yummy seafood lunch, we walked through the busy shopping streets, stopping at chocolatiers along the way. We arrived at the gorgeous Markt - another amazing square with breathtaking buildings at every turn. Another chocolate and coffee stop to soak in the view, before wandering to the Burg for more gothic architecture.

The canels around Brugges were lovely, and a boat ride along in a couple of directions allowed us to get a bit of a look at much of the pretty town.

A wander through more of the streets and a closer look at the Church of Our Lady, we stumbled upon a little place called Loreto - and given that my 10 year reunion was happening on the other side of th world, a few beers were had to commemorate! Trust a place called Loreto to serve beer in a big wine glass!

The next day we got the train back to Brussels for a proper look at the city. We saw the Royal Palace, and the gorgeous Cathedral. We then went out to see the building housing all that's important of the EU, the European Commission, and then wen out on a trek to talk the the security guard at NATO. Apparently they don't let random tourists wander the grounds out there - who would have thought!

The weekend was rounded off with flavoured beer and lunch back in the Grand Place. And then more beer. And then more beer. And then a Belgian waffle to fill us up before jumping on the train back to (raining) London.

(More photos.)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday started for me really at 3pm the day before, when midnight ticked over back home - it was my birthday there!! When midnight ticked over here in London I was chatting on MSN to the girls, and then got prezzies as well!! How exciting!

Waking up on in my new jarmies (thanks Jen!!), the sunrise was gorgeous!! The commute to work the usual nightmare, although improved muchly by my new MP3 Player - thanks Charlie!!), but upon arriving at the office our doorman wished me a happy birthday!!

Flowers on my desk when I arrived made the idea of working all day managable. Phone calls during the day from home (always makes me homesick being away for my birthday day), and then, at least, it was beer o'clock!!

Sunset from the train back into town from work was also beautiful -I am taking these natural spectacles as a good sign for the coming year!! I headed into town and met Jenny and Jes for drinks outside in the mild night at Corney & Barrow in Exchange Square. Met up by Nat, and Mark and Mendle, we eventually headed to Brick Lane for dinner.

After wheeling and dealing for our dinner deal with the spruikers, we selected a curry house to eat. Yum. Charles joined us to help with all the free bottles of wine.

Seemed like the longest birthday ever! Had a great day! Thanks for all the birthday wishes. Better get to work now, I have a train to catch this evening, and I have to get out of here on time! How exciting!!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ewan and Dolls

Yesterday while I was battling the UK Social Services System (what do I need an NI number for, anyway!!??), Jenny popped down to try our luck with tickets for a show for that night. Sure enough, we scored tickets to see Guys and Dolls!

Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski (Elaine from Ally McBeal) put on a dancing singing show last night - which was really fun! Ewan sang like a normal person (not that over the top singing we were tortured with in Moulin Rouge!!), and was looking quite fine! Hee hee. We even got to hear his real accent at the end, when he talked to the audience - very good!

When I got home the clock ticked over, and I reached the Saturn Returns years - eww!! Surely I have done all this stuff already - and I actually like what I am doing now. Not ready for any changes!!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

10 Year Reunion

This weekend is my 10 year high school reunion. All the available girls from the class of 1995 from Loreto College in Ballarat are gathering on Saturday to find out what everyone is up to, talk about who has the most children, and to reminiscence about those carefree and easy days.

Can you believe that it is 10 years ago tomorrow that we all dressed up as white angels and ran around the streets and shops of Ballarat, terrorising people on our muck up day??! Tame in comparison to other year levels, sure, but fun and innocent nonetheless.

Of course, the idea of the reunion was a major motivating factor for me to be overseas. I am sure I am one of only a handful of our year level that don't have at least one of the three M's - Marriage, Morgage or Maternity. And let's face it, in the small town gossipy circles, those are really the things that are talked about.

So, I will be thinking of the crew meeting up on Saturday at Gee Cees - hope they have a great day1

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mourning my youth

The email invitation read...

I have a scary birthday coming up, and given that turning 28 kinda means that you are a "grown up", and you sort of need to take things more seriously, at least a little bit, I think I should see it in in style. A least mark such a coming of age with some immature binge drinking and subsequent oblivion.

So I am planning on doing something appropriately silly on the 22nd of October, which is a Saturday.

The mission will be, should you be game, 26 pints in 26 pubs all over London (I am sure we can squeeze in another 2 pints in there somewhere!), at the Monopoly board locations. You will need a Zone 1-2 railcard, and your strongest stomach!

So yesterday morning, a very hungover Jenny and I (full rested, and ready to go!!), set out for Elephant and Castle tube station bright and sparky for the start of our Monopoly Pub Crawl.

Following the instructions for the original route, we set off to The George in Old Kent Road where we joined about four other groups waiting for the pub to open at 11am.

Taking heed to the advice on the website, my consumption of half pints began here, before we caught a bus across Tower Bridge in search of Fenchurch Street Station. Thankfully several other groups knew where to go and we got to follow them to find the pub here.

After finding ourselves walking in urine smelling subways to cross the street, we finally found The Aldgate Exchange, which was the stop for Whitechapel Road. A tube ride away was Liverpool Street Station, where the destination was The Hamilton Hall. Gorgeous inside, this pub used to be a ballroom. After a quick detour at the golden arches for a much needed double cheesy, we were on a bus to the Angel Islington area.

Charlotte joined the crawl at this pub, who caught up on the count with a full pint. Brilliant!

The Castle on Pentonville Road, which was stop number six, was a very nice pub. A half pint of that yummy Belgian white beer, and some Monopoly game props for later (naughty!!), we walked up to King's Cross Station, where the assigned pub had had a name change. Very confusing there for a minute!!

Next was The Rocket on Euston Road, where Jes joined the crew. A half pint later we were on the tube to find Marylebone Station (I can pronounce that now, after being in London for 8 months! Hee hee!), and a very crusty pub there in the station.

Getting a little lost following the instructions for the next stop, we eventually found The Rose and Crown for the Park Lane half pint.

Finding the Mayfair pub among the little alleyways in the heart of London, Renee and Rachael joined us for the crawl at The Grapes.

The pub for Piccadilly was closed when we found it, it was obvious we were not engaging in the time stressing that was required for all the stops. As it was starting to get dark, we found The Red Lion for our next installment.

Here, at the Pall Mall square on the board, we managed to terrorise some poor unfortuante English lads who were doing a baby version of what we were doing, before we hit the streets again.

Spotting the The Lord Moon of the Mall for our Whitehall stop, the allure of the golden arches across the road was all too tempting. We made another cheesy stop, and I think being in that over lit environment was my downfall.

Crossing back to the pub, where Nata and her friend Tash were waiting to join us, I had reached the "no more beer for me" stage. Stumps were called here, at stop number 14 on the instructions. But that was only 6 full pints - can that be right!!?? (More photos)

There will have to be a Part 2, to reconvene at Whitehall, very soon.

I had such a fun day! And it was such a great way to get around and see London, even if it was through beer goggles towards the end!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Not quite Bloom

Even now and again I get home in time to see the news, and occasionaly there is footage of a movie premier going on in London somewhere - all very glam and exciting. So when Charles got himself a job last week in Leicester Square, I had sent him on a mission on his first day to get the Premier goss. And he came up with the goods - reported back that Elizabethtown would be tonight.

After setting Jenny onto the all important Google research, we discovered that it would be Orlando Bloom! Ohhhhh! How exciting!!

So tonight, we shot out of work to get ourselves down there to the Square for some major perve action.

But, alas. Upon getting down there (which was a bit of an ordeal, cos the Northern line is still cactus), it's wasn't Orlando at all - it was Corpse Bride with Johnny Depp...hmmm, could have been good. JD is alright - right?!

Course, he didn't turn up. Did get very close to director, Tim Burton, pictured here, though. Lots of people were quite excited to see him - am I missing something!??

And the female star of the show, Helena Bonham Carter was there, with the big hair. Course, I didn't know who she was, so all that excitement and blue carpet treatment was a bit wasted on me for this night out. Maybe next time.

So without the satisfying Orlando perve that we had hoped for, Jenny, Nata and I headed for Chiquito for sangria and mexican food. Yum!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Angel with Dom and VJ

The lovely VJ has returned to civilisation after 2 years in PNG, and is currently on his way to live in Berlin. Last night Dom and I got to catch up with him while he is doing a stopover in London on his way over.

I haven't seen VJ since Nick's 30th, and it was ace to see him! We headed to the Bierodrome in Angel for several beers and a gossip. Nice white beer, with lemon in it? Interesting, and effective. Ending the night with a curry - very good!

I caught up with Dom on Thursday night too, and we ate at Giraffe, which was very yummy, although this is the second time I have been on an aborted mission to find the infamous Brick Lane...will I ever find it??? How does one get there!??

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Back to BookCrossing

Now that I am settling into work, the weekly routine, and living in London, I have finally attended my first London BookCrossing MeetUp last night, since moving over here.

I have missed the regular meets that I attended back in Melbourne, and not having been to a group since the core Melbourne gang came to me in Ballarat, and a catch up in Tokyo, I haven't had my act together till now.

The group in London usually meets at the Stamford Arms, which is also an OBCZ - very dangerous!!

Quite a large group meets up for this monthly gathering, with a core roup of regulars. There were quite a few people there for the first time, and also loads of expats in the group. Americans, Italians, and another Aussie, of course!

As usual, I ended up taking away the same number of books I took along, so no gains there for me, although I always seem to find books I have wanted to read for ages in the stacks piled up on the tabels!

Monday, October 10, 2005

AFL in London

Recovery day today, after spending the day at the footy yesterday. Jenny, Charles, Harminder, and I headed down to The Oval here in London for the annual AFL exhibition match. And I don't care what the critics say, I loved seeing a bit of real footy action in London!

Of course, as the critics have said, it is just an excuse for the Aussie expats in London to have a day of drinking - but what's wrong with that! Walking into the ground, late as usual (wouldn't want to break tradition just cos I am on the other side of the world!! Hee hee!), there was such an array of different team jumpers, all brought together. That can't be bad!

Shortened quarters, smaller ground, and without the big names in the sides, Freo and the West Coast played it out for the AFL Challenge Trophy with a bit of the traditional London game biff here and there. I spent the 3rd quarter in the line at the bar, making the game feel like it just wizzed past! Freo won in the end, and we were treated to hearing their theme song over and over. Oh dear! (More photos)

The traditional pitch invasion by the crowd was then on - I must admit, I was a little disappointed that noone took on the lax security before the final siren!

The pub was the next stop for us, naturally, and the remainder of the day is a little hazy to recall.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Food, music, Sunday, Monday

Sunday, after shopping away in Oxford Street, and all those department stores, with Jenny, we headed to a new find of mine for dinner. I had happened upon St Christopher's Place last week - it's one of those hidden little alleys off a big London street.

Eat-Thai was the destination, and the mussaman curry was all it was dreamed to be. Mmmmmmm!

Monday night, the homeless lad currently living at our house, Charles, took me out for a little live Aussie music. He convinced me to attend brandishing the headline as an Alex Lloyd-type. Maybe in size...but still, Darren Hanlon was light and entertaining. It was good to hear some Aussie lyrics, where you could actually follow what he was on about! Even if they were about bizarre things, like Squash!! A very short but uncanny replica of a young Russell Crowe, the boy from Gimpy, Qld, was quite funny.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Tate and Frida

Yesterday I took myself off to the Tate Modern to view the Frida Kahlo exhibition.

Before my entry into the exhibit, I wandered around the general collection. It's so cool that most of these galleries all over London are free, and so you can absorb all these pieces whenever you want. Picasso's Weeping Woman is on display here, and it's quite enchanting.

Having just read a book about Kahlo and her affair with Trotsky, and hearing different people's reports on her work, it sounded like something that would appeal to me. And certainly the grief, the look at disability, miscarriage, and self were all interesting. The Broken Column was the one that had me standing in front of it the longest. The experience of disability at such a young age is all right there, isn't it!

After the two weeks of training for work, I am now up and running, and ready to get on with it. Billable hours, overtime and bonuses will be my world of work from now on!

Shopping in Oxford Street awaits for today, to try and address that "I don't have anything to wear" routine every morning before work!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Evie in London!

After a brief attempt to recover from Saturdays morning's silliness, and lack of sleep, I headed back into town to meet up with Evie and a collection of her mates who are in London.

I haven't seen Evie since my stopover in Phnom Penh on the way over to the UK, back in February. She has popped over to London for work for a week, and it is so cool to get to catch up with her.

I met her for drinks and dinner on Thursday night. We caught up on gossip and the last 6 months whilst wandering around Carnaby.

Saturday night I met her at The Langley for copious amounts of drinking, and the eventually got to Wagamama for some much needed food!

Ohhhh, Saturday was a very long day! And then the weekend was over before I knew it!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

AFL Grand Final, London style

Cheer, cheer
The red and the white...

I can't believe it's that time of year, already. But sure enough, after surviving my first week of "real" work, I managed to get up when the alarm went off at 3am this morning, to go down and view the big match.

I went along with Renee, and Rachael, and Claire, and a group of others, to the Slug and Lettuce in Fulham (affectionately known as the Slut and Legless), to enjoy the coverage and the Aussie fest!

Breakfast at 4.30am was a pie, and then the Snakebites followed. I hadn't been sure all week who to barrack for, but ended up wearing the red and the white, despite the hot appeal of the Eagles. (More photos.)

We had the old Bumps and Biffs footage to watch for our warm up, before the big screens crossed to the 'G for the first bounce. The Eagles verses the Swans was under way.

Half time at the pub saw the replay of Dame Edna's pre-match entertainment, consisting of a rendition of "I Still Call Australia Home", and I don't think there was a dry eye in the jammed bar!

And then it was game on for the second half. A very tense match, with every person in the pub concentrating on that Sherrin.

Was such a great match. The closest since 1977, they say, and the Swannies first Premiership since 1933. That last mark in the goal square by Leo Barry in the dying minutes was gold!

The Aussie fest continued into the morning, with the whole bar singing along to the likes of Holy Grail, To Her Door, and of course, Working Class Man, before we were turfed out into the bleary sunshine, looking and feeling a little worse for wear.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

There's a quarter to 7 in the morning??!!

This is the time I am getting up to get to work - can you believe it!!?? Two days down so far for the new job, and despite the early mornings, I have made it so far!

Sunday saw the usual "I don't want to go to work tomorrow", "I have nothing to wear to work tomorrow" funk. The dread of the beginning, and just knowing that the way work goes, you get started, and then suddenly before you realise months have flown by! Ewwww!

The office couldn't be further away from home, being on the other side of London. Which means a bit of a commute. I am leaving the house early, 7.15am this morning (the horror!!), for the 10-15 minute walk to the station. Then I am catching the ThamesLink all the way across town, with hopefully only one change along the way. I am crossing the river to the sunrise display behind Tower Bridge - all very pretty, although a little too early for all that! About an hour and a half after leaving the house, and lots of reading later, I get to the station near the office. It's a 5 minute walk to the office.

Looks like I will be getting loads of exercise! Goodness! And then there is always the stairs up to our apartment! Should be good for me, right??! Although the little growing morning addiction to an almond croissant from Cafe Nero should help to counteract some of that!

The job itself sounds like it's going to be great. Something to sink my teeth into, and actually work hard on. Lots of incentives with the company, and loads of opportunities. There will be lots of travel all over the UK, too, which will keep things interesting.

It's a very young company, full of vibrant, young people from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, mainly. The phrase "market leader" has been thrown around a lot, and learning about the UK Rehab situation, it sounds like there is much to do!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Talia in London!

On Wednesday morning, after my much needed recovery from the cricket hangover, I went to the station to meet Talia, who was visiting for a couple of days. I haven't seen Tali since....New Years Eve, 2001, in New York, so it was so exciting to see her and catch up on everything.

I took her over to the Queen Mary for lunch, and an introduction to the UK drink - Pimm's, before we wandered along the Thames.

We then approached the ticket counter to purchase our "flight" on the London Eye. It's actually the British Airways London Eye, and has many airline-type terminology - the corporate sector gone mad! Contrary to stories I had heard, there was no massive line, and the cost was less than I had heard, and so Tali and I got a bird's eye view of sprawling London.

The full circuit takes about 30 minutes, and the fact that you are over 125 meters above the ground is only apparent by the view. It's a very smooth ride, and it was quite cool picking out all the major landmark buildings surrounding us.

Big Ben and the House of Parliment from the Eye
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After this we wandered down to Covent Garden, and then met a friend of Talia's for a beer or three.

Yesterday we headed off out of town to visit Windsor, and see the Castle! After getting off the train we walked across the bridge into Eton first, for a little peek at the famous school. Lots of young lads walking and running about, and many boys walking around in suits with tails - we were hoping to accidently stumble upon a function for Prince Harry's 21st birthday, but we weren't that cheeky! We did have lunch in the little village, before crossing back and walking over to the foreboding Castle overseeing the village of Windsor. (More photos.)

Windsor Castle is quite amazing, and so big! We walked through and saw the beautiful St George's Chapel, saw Queen Mary's amazing Dolls House, and the Castle's State Apartments and all it's royalty. All very impressive! Maybe I too could have been Queen material if I had a doll's house like that when I was little!!

Last night our house finally managed a night out all together, while showing Garrath another English pub on his visit over here. When poor Talia caught up with us, I think we were rowdy and boozy, Aussie-girl style! I am sure it reminded her of our Medley days.
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