Saturday, July 30, 2005

Beautiful Hanoi

After the usual procrastinating for the day before flying out, and then farewells at the airport - how many times do we need to do that!!?? - I flew to Hanoi on Tuesday.

I was met at the airport by the heat, and by Narelle! She is working in the city for a year on the AYAD Program (yes, the same one I was in Cambodia with), and has been here for almost 4 months now. Was so good, and so exciting to see her!

Arriving at Narelle's AYA mansion (it's a hard life, isn't it!!??), which was gorgeous, we got caught up on gossip, what we've been up to, etc. It seems the problems I had with AYAD have not really gone away - shame, really.

Narelle had taken a couple of days off to hang out with me, which actually coincided with a bump to the head and some stitches, so she was well due for some R and R! We brunched at one of her favourite hangouts, which was very yum, and then wandered around the Old Quarter for the rest of the afternoon.

Being in Vietnam, and finding myself on the back of a moto once more, wizzing through streets and weaving through traffic, brought all that I love about SEA back to me. The edge of getting around like that, with the very real reality of risk, not knowing where you are, knowing that you don't know the language nor the city - always such a rush. Just being back in Asia for a bit just brought home for me the silliness of all the worries we get ourselves into in the "developed world".

The next day saw more hanging out, yummy Vietnamese lunch, and coffee. I then went off to see the beautiful Temple of Literature, which I hadn't seen on my previous visit to the city. Inside the walls of the temple is a little pocket of tranquility, amid the madness, noise and bustle of Hanoi. Was so magical to be in there while the city carried on around it. (More photos.)

As a treat, Narelle and I then headed off to a little place called Bellisimo, around the corner from her house. Here we subitted to a 'Body Polish with Aromatic Salt' - which was absolutely divine!! I don't think I have managed to be that relaxed in my life! Two hours hours of massage with all this different stuff. Was gorgeous! My skin felt amazing!

The stress of rushing out to the airport, and the organised chaos that is any airport in Vietnam, may have erased some of all that relaxation! My flight was a late one, and now, after travelling all night inflight, I am back in London.

So that's it. My rush around the world for Katie's 21st all over! I am feeling a little dilerious, and out of it, but hopefully if I can manage to stay awake till a decent time tonight, I should be back to normal in no time.

Now the question remains - what the hell am I going to do with all that Dong!!?? I'm such an idiot, I didn't change it at the airport as I was leaving. And noone is that excited to change it here. Bugger!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Katie's 21st

Last night was Katrina's 21st, the reason for my dash across the globe. A gathering of Katie's family and friends to celebrate the youngest Reid girl's big birthday.

All guests were instructed to dress in black and white semi-formal, and arrive at the Regent Function room for the big night. The birthday girl looked stunning in emerald green, and thus, stood out on her special night.

Speeches and funny stories, Katie's life so far recalled. A toast or two, and many beers and champers...and shots - where did they come from!!??

I got to catch up with more people during the night, with lots of family and family friends in attendance.

Mum, as usual, did so well getting all the details of the evening organised. The food, the decorations, the cake. Everything went smoothly, which is such a tribute to her. That's her final 21st to organise - what will be the next big family function??

The night was so much fun, with our usual silliness and carry on! I was so glad to be there, and be part of it, and to drink with the birthday girl. (More photos.)

Congratulations Katie! And don't worry - it doesn't really mean you have to be all grown up now!!

The birthday girl and me
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The 'G

Yesterday Melissa and Clinton took me to the footy, for my second game for the 10 days I am home. Timed that nicely, didn't I! I love the MCG, and I love seeing the Hawks have a win - and that's so rare this year, I was very lucky!

Ash and Dave joined us for the game, and we sat in the new Ponsford Stand. The new redevelopments seem to be coming along nicely, and now there is only one big gaping hole in the ground.

The game itself was nothing to get excited about. A match between the two bottom sides, both Hawthorn and Carlton playing embarrassingly bad. A comedy of errors at each end for both teams. Much cause for yelling and shouting, and the occasional laugh. It's all about those priority picks now.

A few beers down at The Bullring in the MCC Members area made the second half a little more bareable, and attempts by the umpires to even up the free kicks found us winning when the siren sounded.

Was almost hard to recall the words for the team song at the end, being so out of practice, but we did manage a stilted rendition.

Walking out of the ground, in a hurry to get back to Ballarat for the big night, the view of Melbourne from the footbridge at the 'G was gorgeous. I do love Melbs. Although by the looks of all those cranes, and all those new buildings, next time I am in town, I may not recognise it!

(More photos.)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hanging out and catching up in the 'Rat

All week I have been hanging out in Ballarat, mucking about with the girls, and catching up with friends. At times it has felt like the last 6 months has just vanished, and that I have never left. But then there is news and stories to catch up on. Has been fun.

After convincing Jessie to wag whatever she had to do on Monday, her and Noodles come back to Ballarat with us after the footy. They took me out for coffee at Bibo on Monday afternoon. Katie took me out for brunch at Europa on Tuesday. Jane came down from Melbs on Wednesday night, and we got to catch up over dinner at Chat For Tea. And Andrea and Dean took me out to the Phoenix Brewery last night. Have been able to catch up with people, and go to my favourite places too!

On Tuesday night Michelle, Megan, Andrew and Amanda came up to Ballarat to have a mini-BookCrossing Meet Up. How exciting. Was so great to catch up with the gang. Have missed my monthly Meets. We went to Gee Cee's for dinner, some book swapping, and lots of chat!!

Have got to have all the foods I have been missing, and craving for, too. Real fish and chips (I don't know what the British are thinking!!??), a proper McChicken (!!), KFC chips (hello!! Chicken salt!!). Oh! And a reintroduction with my old friend, James Boags!

Today is Katie's actual 21st birthday. We cracked the bottle of champers just before 12 noon, and then proceeded to meet Auntie Annette, Uncle Basil, Helen, and little Dean for lunch at Oscar's. (More photos.)

The baby of the family is 21 now! How scary, and strange. We are all old now!

Happy Birthday Katie Baby!! Hope you had a great day today, and will have an awesome night tomorrow night!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Footy. Love it!

I can't explain how much I love the footy. We went along today to the 'Phone Box to watch our beloved Hawks - and I felt so at home.

So, we lost. 41 points. But I expected that, so wasn't too shattered. It's kind of the year for it. We weren't meant to be good this year - rebuilding, and all that. That's what I am telling myself anyway!

God, I have missed being there, though. The passion, the ability to yell and release to noone in particular - and the lads are still hot! Helps!! Hee, hee - I mean, it's all about the footy, of course!!

It's such a family affair, and once the four of us get started on the day, it's all a bit fun...and a bit silly, really. Love it. Cracking each other up, making funnies, bagging idiot play and idiot people around us! Oh dear.

Oh! And for this game, cos we played the Kangaroos, I got to check out Thommo too - he's looking good, and having a brilliant year. Good for him. Still yum.

But there is no going past the good, hot boys of the brown and gold. Trent - gold! And Ang - back to his best - very good. But Jacobs is still as shit as ever - why, why did we pick him up!!?? (More photos.)

I watched Fever Pitch on the plane on the way home, and it was uncomfortably close to home - maybe that movie can explain the addiction.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Surprise! I'm home!!

Another long haul flight, and I touched down in Melbourne this morning! Andrea was there to pick me up at the airport, and drive me home to the 'Rat, to arrive on the family doorstep - SURPRISE!! Hee, hee! Mum was so stunned and shocked she barely let me in! Reckons she didn't know who it was, and I was the last person she expected ringing the doorbell!!

I have come home to be here for Katie's 21st next weekend - with my presence being her present!! Most expensive gift I'll be giving anyone in a while!!

Has been funny seeing and hearing each sister's reaction. Quite a surprise - I managed to keep this secret completely!! Is going to be so cool hanging out with them for the week and a bit that I am back for.

So back in gorgeous California (although not actually as hot as London had been the day before - bit of a oddity), after catching up on my sleep, Nicole and I hung out in the city on Thursday. Nicole being such a great hostess on previous visits, I have seen most of the sights of the city, so we revisited a couple of favs, and soaked up the sun for the day.

Went to take the obligatory snap of the Golden Gate Bridge - and had to time it between thick gusts of fog and the tiny windows of time where you could actually see the bridge. It's so bizarre. All around the bridge was heavy, thick fog, and it was windy and freezing - and yet the day everywhere else was gorgeous and warm and sunny. So strange!

Golden Gate Bridge, in the fog, from the headlands on the Marin side of the Bay
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We then headed into the city to wander around Pier 39, and along past Fisherman's Wharf. Enjoying the tastes of the city, we stopped and had the yummy Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl at Boudin Bakery, and then a to-die-for Hot Fudge Sundae at Ghirardelli's at Ghirardelli Square. Mmmmmmmm!

This photo is Lombard Street, where the cars are traveling down in single zigzag file at the top.

(More photos.)

So from sunny, and yet foggy San Fran where I got a little sunburnt, to rainy and bitterly freezing Ballarat! Brrrr!!

I am jetlagged like a bastard!!

Friday, July 15, 2005

The longest Wednesday ever!

My Wednesday this week really started late Tuesday night, when I set out to Heathrow on the tube. After dinner with Jen and Jes, and finalising my packing (I think my smallest haul of all time!!), I had decided to go out on the train that night before the last tube, and wait for my 4.30am check-in time - instead of paying 25 quid for a minicab and getting up at 3am in the morning. Sleeping in the lounge in the airport was a much better option!! Hee, hee! Madness, but there were lots doing it, and it was only for 4 hours!

So, with maybe 20 minutes shut eye, if that, 4.30am come around soon enough, and I was checked into my flight to Frankfurt and San Francisco. A one hour flight to Germany, and the ridiculous security checks later, I was on the big jumbo to the other side of the globe.

Again, not much sleep there, for the 10 and a half hour flight - I just can never get comfortable enough to sustain getting off to sleep!! - but arriving in SFO at 12 noon on the ever going Wednesday! Would this day ever end!

A tad delirious, I am so proud that I know the way to go from the airport to Nicole's area. Nicole came to pick me up from the bus - how exciting!! We had been working it out, and the last time we saw each other was her last trip to Aus, back in 2002! It's so good to see her and catch up. Especially considering the next time I see her she will have transformed into an Aussie, and will be living the good life in Melbourne!

Catching up, and trading news, while I was shaking off the tiredness, I managed to get through the afternoon, and a yummy Mexican dinner - becoming a tradition when I visit - noone seems to do Mexican like the Americans! I made it to 8pm! Not bad! Finally put that day to bed!

Now we are ready to hang out in the sunny, and yet foggy, city, before I have to face my next 12 hour flight.....but where am I going??!! Shhhhh, it's a surprise!!!

(Written and saved as draft at correct time, but will be published when my secret is out on Saturday!!!! How exciting!! Hee, hee!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Banana chairs out on the concrete...

Had a little bit to drink.... I hope some of you get my reference! Although we don't have banana chairs, and it turns out the terrace is not concrete, as we were melting into it in the London heat!!

Yesterday we enjoyed our rooftop terrace and our BBQ, and the sunshine, for a session. We have been in our place for 2 weekends, and this has been a pattern so far! Got to enjoy summer on the few days it's here!!

Pimm's and sunscreen, snags and potato salad, competing music preferences, and a gathering of friends. Perfect summer Sunday! (More photos.)

After the events of last week, I didn't get to talk about my work week. My client last week is a artistic director of a dance company, having sustained her injury whilst being a professional dancer herself. The dance company intergrates dancers with a range of disabilities, with their non-disabled contemporaries - really quite remarkable, and inspiring. Dancers with physical disabilities, and in wheelchairs, dancers with learning disabilities (ID to us Aussies), hearing and visual impairment - gaining the skills and opportunities that dance has to offer. The week of work saw me tag along and watch in admiration, a rehearsal of a piece a group of dancers are preparing for tour. The next day I was at a graduation ceremony for a group of first years to the company, who had the chance to work with first years from a "mainsteam" London dance company, and performed a piece for us. They were brilliant. Then the final day of work was spent in a photo studio where the dance group got professional shots taken for upcoming promotion. All very glamorous, and lots of "darlings!". I will certainly be on the look out for shows from this group - they are truely amazing.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

London blasts

Unless you have been under a rock somewhere, you'll know that London suffered 4 bomb blasts on the public transport system on Thursday morning. What a surreal and horrific day.

I was safe and sound at my client's home when it all went down, well out of London central. We didn't even know about it until the phone started ringing with people checking in to see if all was ok.

A scramble for information, and being glued to the TV for the rest of the morning ensued - like the rest of the world, I am sure. I don't think I will ever get that imagine of the bus ripped apart like that, out of my head, ever.

I cannot believe how bad the TV coverage was for those first hours, when noone knew anything, and yet several stations over here continued to broadcast random thoughts and theories from anyone and everyone, people off the streets, people nowhere near it, random musings of "experts". Jounalistic integrity at it's most oxymoronic! If you don't know anything - stick to the facts!! When desperate to know what happened, and what was happening, hearing from some random American tourist who was streets away was infuriating.

Throughout the morning, I managed to contact and hear from each of my close friends over here, and all was ok. Jes was probably the closest, missing being at Edgware Rd at the dreadful moment by mere minutes, and then walking past that bus on her way to work.

That day as part of work, my client and I had to ensure that the dancers from her company could figure out a way to get home. The following day we went into town, just a block away from the bus, for her work also. Being in the streets just next to cordened off areas, in a near empty area of London, was eerie and surreal. The horror of it all is still too hard to believe.

But things are getting back to normal. I have caught the tube today after finishing that assignment, and all was fine, and there were plenty of people on it. I avoided the stations that were hit, and the trains ran as usual.

Thanks to all who have texted, called, emailed or commented here to check how me and my friends are. It's so good to hear from home, and friends all over at a time like this.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Not quite all roses...

I am in quite good spirits, and things have been going really well, and I am having fun, and am happy. I am liking being in London, and the new house is going to be so great. But actually, there are a few dramas at the moment! I am just lucky everything else feels good - and I would much rather laugh than cry!!

The house we moved into is finally clean, after a team of 4 cleaners come in for 6 hours (!!) on Saturday to get things right. Yuck. Jen and I had to sleep there, cos we actually had nowhere else - but the bathroom and kitchen were not at all ready for habitation those first couple of nights we stayed!

On top of the flith, and clearly as a by-product of it, the house also has a rodent problem. Hmmmm. 'Welcome to London' was what the pest guy said about it - great!!! So now we have those little boxes with poison all over the house, and are petrified about the possibility of running into one of our furry housemates.

All this I can live with, cos now that the house is sparkling, and has our things in it, it looks great, and is going to be so much fun. And apparently the pest guy has done all he can do. The 3 of us that are there are having a good time, and it looks like we are going to be needing a seperate recycling container for red wine empties!! Cool!

That said, the 4th person that was to move in had been stalling, and causing headaches with signing the lease. And now she has pulled out for sure. Shit. So now we need to find another, desperately before our next rent is due. So we are now seeking someone to take that room. Let's see - the ad will read "looking for 4th in a sharehouse of 3 Aussie girls. Must like drinking red wine, have a DVD player, and have good looking single male friends!!" Hee, hee, hee. We may not get to be that fussy.

The Backstreet Boys have been difficult, then we have, then they have, and now we are problematic again. Not a good start.

Meanwhile Jen, Jes and myself don't have three pence to rub together between us after handing over all the cash we had for rent and our deposit. But you have to laugh, don't you!!??

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


The weekend has been about settling into the new place, music, getting more things sorted for the new place, bit of sport, and more music!

After getting all my luggage and bits and pieces unpacked and set up, I now have my own room! I have my shit together!! Hee, hee! Well, all my things, anyway! It is so good to have my own bed, and my own space - at last!!

Saturday, despite settling an alarm on the day to text in for the ticket ballot, I watched Live 8 on the telly. Shame, cos I would have given my left arm to have been there - but not to be. How fabulous was Madonna!! And to see George Michael - ohhhhh! Jen and I stayed up to the early hours watching the concerts from around the world. Awesome.

I did miss a few acts when I ran down to the pub to watch the last hour of the cricket - one of the most stressful ODI games I have watched in a long time. And being the only Aussie in an English pub was a bit interesting - why do drunks find a girl sitting on her own with a beer watching the cricket irresistable to annoy!!??

Watched Roger get his third cup at Wimbledon - he's just too good, isn't he!!

Sunday, feeling a little worse for wear, Jen and I headed across town for the B Live festival, at Clapham Common. Caitlin joined us, as we got our position for Jamiroquai - who were brilliant!! Jay K did not stop dancing and jumping around the stage for the full 2 and a quarter hours they played. Every song they played was another reminder of all their great songs, like Alright, Canned Heat, and of course, Cosmic Girl. Plus their new album sounds awesome too. Was such a cool night!

(More photos.)

Am back at work now, in northern London, for a week. Just when I get my own bed, and am looking forward to spending time in a place I can call my own...but alas, I will have to pay the bills sometime!!

Jay K
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Friday, July 01, 2005

Homelessness solution, at last!

Five months after packing my bags and leaving Melbourne, I have finally sorted out a place to live over here in London town. Today we handed over the cash, signed our lives away, and were given the keys to our new rental.

Finishing work yesterday, after one of the slowest weeks ever, I got the train back to the city, and headed straight for the pub for a much craved beer, or three. Dom came down and meet me during her break, and it was so great to catch up.

Today was the day for our place to be sorted, and all the paperwork chasing was due. I cannot believe the lengths we have had to go to - it's all been a big hassle really. The hardest things for me was getting a reference from the bank, because technically I don't have a real account as yet, until I get a real address. And thus, not having a real account was looking like a barrier to getting a real address!

So, finally, after much drama, much stress, much panic, and a lot of fluffing about by the Backstreet Boys that are our estate agents, we have the keys, and it's ours. It's filthy, and needs a bloody good clean - but will be great in the end. Gorgeous really, can't wait!

Here is Jes and Jen at our front door. We are actually one of the two top floor apartments, which is double story, with a terrace on the roof.

I am just about to pack all my bits and pieces from Nat's, and will lug as much as my tired body can carry across town. After hauling a 6 foot man around for work for the last week, I am not looking forward to it - but really should try and do it in one go - like a bandaid!
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