Ficklish Blog

Thursday, November 30, 2006

30 Days Hath November

... and I've felt every last one of them.

Hoorah, we made it! I wasn't sure it was possible, but with one technical exception, I have posted something every day this month.

Here is what I have learned:

- My friends are very kind.

- I thought I had very little to say before, then I found out just how right I was.

I'm glad I did this, although I must confess that I am somewhat appalled at the overall dilution of the content - my random thoughts stretched so thin they crackled. Thanks for reading them, I'm glad I had some decent stories in reserve so that it wasn't all "and today I ate bad risotto for lunch". If I have made you chuckle then I am very glad.

There's a balance to be struck here, obviously - the feeble every day effort is a bit painful to watch, but I do need to post more often than I did before. I'm on the case.

I'm weary. I believe I may just take a day or two off. See you in December!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

English People Are Rather Amusing Indeed, Episode 3

Or, My Wallet Waterloo – A Story

Idly wandering in the sun on my lunchbreak, I finished my cigarette and contemplated acquiring a sandwich. As I entered the sandwich shop and looked for my wallet I discovered to my dismay that it wasn’t in my bag. I went back into the office, traipsed up to my third-floor desk, hoping hoping hoping that it would be there, but alas, ‘twas not to be.

There was a wee moment of panic, as I thought longingly of all the useful things in my wallet - like my keycard, and my travelcard, and all those very important pieces of paper that I haven’t got around to throwing out yet. And the pennies! Annoying as they are, right then I wanted those three metric tons of copper at the bottom of my purse so badly it hurt.

Relax, I thought. I mentally retraced my steps, and remembered that I had purchased coffee this morning on my way to work, so the most recent sighting of my wallet was at one of the many coffee shops at Waterloo station. I’m tempted to take a leaf out of the book of our good friend Samuel and describe my coffee here, but I think I’ll resist for now. I would like to investigate Samuel’s opinion as to the merit of the extra shot one day though, someone remind me.

I pushed my way through the lunchtime crowds at Waterloo and back to the coffee shop where I had purchased my morning caffeine hit. I waited in the lengthy queue, as is the custom in these parts, and gazed at the gorgeous baristas, all of whom, thanks to some happy accident of EU immigration laws, have sharp Slavic cheekbones and spectacularly husky Eastern European accents.

I waited until I could speak with the barista who had attended me that morning. Thankfully, she remembered me and explained in her lusciously broken English that they had handed my wallet in to the station reception and then gave me some vague directions.

After taking a few wrong turns, I eventually found my way to station reception, whereupon I met Ms Cranky.

Ms Cranky was very busy and important. I stood there for some time while she attended to matters far more critical than mine.

I explained my situation and she affirmed that they did indeed receive my wallet this morning. She consulted the lost property sheet, and her face darkened as she saw something that made her even crankier. Apparently, the Lost Property Office (LPO) attendant had failed to sign the transfer sheet to prove that he took receipt of my wallet.

Mindful of the time, and reassuring her that I’m just glad they had it and that it was not wandering around in someone else’s pocket right now, I asked if she could just direct me to the LPO, so I could collect the wallet anyway. She glared at me.

“You just wait there.”

I subsided obediently, stood and waited.

First she attended to her walkie talkie, trying to get hold of Paul, the hapless non-signing LPO dude. Someone reported that Paul was on lunch and she screeched at that person to get him BACK, NOW, because she had to talk to him.

Minutes ticked by, I gazed at the ceiling and hummed to myself while Ms Cranky fumed. The phone rang. She picked it up angrily and started to bawl Paul out for failing to sign the register. I stand there, wondering what on earth this has to do with me. Eventually, her wrath spent, she slammed down the phone, read me the contents of my wallet as per the inventory they took that morning, and finally, FINALLY, gave me directions to the LPO.

Again, it took me some time to find it. Waterloo is a bit of a maze, and if you take the wrong exit you’re not only heading in the wrong direction, it is so difficult to find your way back that it is as if you have stepped into another dimension of space and time (the fourth dimension, perhaps?). The LPO was right at the end of a long, dusty, smelly tunnel.

Paul, the hapless LPO attendant, was the kind of guy for whom the word ‘gormless’ was invented. Drab and grey, with a round face and huge glasses, he looked EXACTLY like the kind of guy who would get very, very attached to his stapler.

He, too, had both a walkie-talkie and a portable phone. As I joined the queue, he was in the midst of a lengthy conversation that seemed to displease him greatly. He would listen intently, then pull the phone away from his ear, gaze out at the assembled queue of people, shake his head in disbelief, and then listen again. Possibly he was receiving another bollocking from Ms Cranky, it was hard to tell.

I could SEE my wallet by this stage, it was on the desk behind the glass window.

I have another lengthy wait in this particular queue, listening, my tummy grumbling, as the woman in front of me had a detailed conversation with Mr Gormless. She painstakingly explained each phase of her morning commute, and offered various hypotheses as to where and when it could have been that she misplaced her plastic wallet filled with paper (activity sheets for her primary school class, apparently). She and Mr Gormless discussed the degree of likelihood of each possibility at some length, but alas, she went away empty handed. I thought sadly of those kiddies whose afternoon would be tragically activity-free.

At last it was my turn. I pointed at my wallet and asked for it politely. Mr Gormless picked it up and held it tantalisingly close to the hole in the window. I reached out to take it, whereupon he told me that there was a £2 recovery fee.

I laughed. Ha! Who would have thought, Mr Gormless had a sense of humour!

Only, not so much. He looked at me impassively, and my giggles subsided.





I laughed again, only this time in disbelief. “£2?” “Yes.”

“Okay then. Well, if you’ll just pass me my wallet… “

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”


“I can’t give you the item until you pay the fee.”

“But…whuh…how can I…” I spluttered. Surely he couldn’t be serious.

But he definitely was.

There was a tense pause.

“Well, sir. It appears we are at an impasse.” (I couldn’t resist).

“Yes, it does.” His face was expressionless, he gave away nothing.

Eventually, after some scintillating back and forth discussion, he was persuaded to push it part way through the window so that I could extract the fee. Once I had it in my hands, I don’t think I need to describe the overwhelming strength of the urge to turn and flee that washed over me.

However, despite my frustration, I thought of Ms Cranky upstairs and how this guy was obviously having a bad day already. I wouldn’t take my protest out on this hapless minion, I would pursue it with the proper authorities. I did, however, laugh loudly as I gingerly extracted £2 and pushed it through, shaking my head in disbelief.

English people are hilarious.

The End.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shaken or stirred?

Do I look like the kind of girl who gives a damn?

So, we went to see Bond tonight, and it was tres fun. We decided to dress up, and in the process of doing so I made a tragic discovery: my spy dream will never be realised. I can't do disguises. I couldn't handle the heels, I couldn't handle the nails ...

and I set my gloves on fire while lighting a cigarette. Twice.

Monday, November 27, 2006

One foot in the grave

Here is a post about getting old, for The Editor on his birthday: Happy birthday, Ed!

The scene: at the pub (where else?) with my friends Ms Pistol and jPet, having a conversation about our respective ages.

MsP: “Wait, jLo. How old are you now?”

jLo: “28”.

MsP (shocked beyond belief). “Oh, GOD!” (A pause). “Sorry, jLo.”

jPet and jLo: collapse in laughter. Ms P is very embarrassed.

Later in the evening, we decide it is time to soak up some of the wine with greasy pub food.

jLo: “Cheesy wedges with chorizo. Could there BE a more perfect meal?”

jPet: “I cannot see any possible downside.”

jLo: “Other than the fact that I will die of a heart attack at age 30.”

(A beat).

“Which, you know, for me is REALLY FREAKING SOON.”

MsP: “I SAID I was sorry. GOD!”

jLo: “It’s okay, Ms P. These wedges complete me.” (Looks down at plate, makes ‘you complete me’ signs).

“That I am so close to my grave means nothing. I can die happy, knowing that I have tasted the sublime.”

jPet: “Me too. I will come here every day and fill the hole in my heart with cheesy wedges.”

jLo: “Deal”.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Stay tuned

...normal broadcasting to resume on the morrow. I hope.

In the meantime, I have for you some haiku:

New flat on Old Street:
Unlimited potential
Once the filth is gone.

What sort of person
Leaves horrific stains, dust and
a mountain of trash?

We looked through her old papers
Former beauty queen!

Decor ideas
Float endlessly through our minds
Very exciting.

Great pub across road
Made from an old sailboat, serves
Excellent beer.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And again...

Sorry, folks, we are in a (very boring to read about) holding pattern here in London town. The flat move is ongoing, and so internet access is sporadic at best and if the truth be known, mostly stolen. I will update properly when I can.

The previous tenant in our flat apparently saw fit to leave a vast quantity of her shit behind for us to deal with. How pleasant! And, not content with merely bequeathing her belongings, she seems to think it appropriate to leave us with a really quite remarkable amount of her own personal dirt. Oh yes! The flat is filthy. We are in the process of cleaning it to a state fit for our habitation, and then on Monday the real estate agency will be instructed to send in the cavalry to scrub the walls and floors and collect the trash.

Ugh! This is a freaking pain in my arse. It will all be over soon, but in the meantime I am much displeased.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Moving Day!

Hooray, the day has finally arrived, when Rip van Winkle and I move into our NEW FLAT! I have been waiting eagerly for this day for quite some time.

Only, you know, not so much. Real estate agents, it seems, are freaking irritating the world over. Today, when I turned up at the agency to pay them ten million trillion dollars and collect the keys, I was informed that the current tenant hasn't actually left yet. She'll be gone by 2pm tomorrow. The real estate agency doesn't open again until Monday. No condition report, no professional cleaning, take it or leave it.

The worst part is, we have no choice. We can't have it now (although I have a key! I could totally go round there and help the tenant pack!), and I need somewhere to live tomorrow. GRRR.

Deep breaths. What do we do in annoying situations such as this? We go to the pub to watch some soothing cricket. Oh yes, that's what we do. Soon it'll all be sorted.... Hope you're having a great weekend.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hooray for Cricket and Hot Priest Action

Good gracious, I’m weary. It’s been quite a week. After a crazily busy week at work and a series of accidentally large (but very enjoyable) evenings, sitting up to watch the cricket last night has tipped me over the edge of ordinary, everyday weariness into a pathetic whimpering zombified mess.

But it was ever so fun! There’s only a handful of pubs staying open late here to show the matches, but thankfully there was one within walking distance from Dr Evil’s lair so RVW and I toddled along there at about 11pm. I was very excited, as you can probably imagine, although I confess the wide establishing shots of the Gabba and the blue Queensland sky made me a wee bit homesick. You know you’re in trouble when you’re getting misty at the dulcet tones of Ian Healy. It didn’t help that I knew my brothers were right there, and I scanned each crowd shot carefully to see if they were making a proper spectacle of themselves – although to be honest, I didn’t need globally televised evidence to know they would be doing just that.

I had a lovely time and am very glad I sat up for it. A quiet pint or two, some friendly banter with the assembled Englishers, hilarious text conversations with folks at home, an excellent evening all round. I’m paying for it now.

In other news, my addled, sleep-deprived brain is currently distracted by a wonderful new addition to my cubicle décor here in the office. The lovely Lady K, who has spent the last few months jet-setting all over the world, stopped in today to have lunch with me and to present me with an excellent gift: a Men of the Vatican 2007 calendar. Picture it: 12 months of strapping young priesty eye-candy, all gazing soulfully at me as I sit at my computer and lust quietly after their dog collars and fancy hats. It’s exceptional. Especially Mr July.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Howdy kids, a slightly strange post today. My esteemed brothers have set up a website to document their adventures at the Gabba during the First Test. If you fancy a read, you can find it here.

They asked me to write a guest post for the blog, which I have done. I am posting it here firstly to serve as proof that I wrote it in time (long shot, given that last night was an accidental write-off). Secondly, I strongly suspect that Captain Kloss will be unable to resist the temptation to edit what I have written, and so I am posting the original here in all its glory, as insurance against his evil ways.

I apologise in advance, you guys don't know these people. Hopefully it's mildly amusing anyway. Hope you have fun watching the game, wherever you may be.

Tell ‘Em They’re Dreaming

A guest post from jLo, of ficklish.

I can only assume that I was asked to write this because, as a veteran of many First Day Stacks myself, I have a unique appreciation of the specific challenges involved. Of course, I always regarded The Stack as an art form – an homage, if you will – to be approached with humility and reverence rather than as a shameless, desperate vehicle for short lived, empty glory.

(Sigh). I don’t know. Kids today – they’ve got no respect.

Having said this, I have studied the analysis on these pages carefully and will be following the progress of these brave fellows with interest. I haven’t been there for the so-called ‘warm-up’ events, however I don’t regard this as a problem in terms of offering thoughts on their prospects. The Gabba Stack-A-Thon is a bit like the Melbourne Cup, in my opinion, in that past form means little in an event of this calibre. Many are called, few are chosen, and the darkest horse might just be worth a shot.

I do know the competitors. Some of them I’ve known their whole lives, others since the days they were throwing West Coast Wine Coolers down their teenage throats in a dodgy Ormiston car park. I’ve seen all of these gentlemen in action, and it’s safe to say I’m never been particularly impressed.

What I propose to do is to offer you a thought or two on each of the combatants, giving you a unique insight into their potential weaknesses and judging them according to their worth, rather than their ability.

Team LoveTrain

Captain Kloss
I find it very intriguing that glossary of this website specifically refers to a particularly significant event in both Gabba history and Lovell family lore: the day Dean Jones scored 145 on the hallowed turf. It may interest readers to know that we were all there on that memorable occasion, and Kloss slept right through it. It is his secret shame. Deep down inside, Kloss is still trying to atone for his sins against the Gabba. Guilt can be a powerful motivator, but in this case I suspect the stain will be too hard to scrub away.

Like the Captain, young Billatron has a lot at stake in this competition. The significance of this being his official Last Hurrah before he departs for foreign lands cannot be underestimated. I fear that, despite his form, he will try too damn hard to make this the performance of his life, rather than just letting his natural ability and excellent conditioning do the work. The choke is a real risk here. It might just be too much for him.

The ‘A’ Team

Loses points right off the bat for the name. Seriously, you guys. Glassed.

Dav Ross
Or, “Sir Pelican”, as he is known to some, namely me. His primary weakness, as far as I have been able to observe, is an apparently insurmountable vulnerability to high-quality sass. I once observed this fatal flaw during a particularly cut-throat Trivial Pursuit tournament: it was pitiful and not a little tragic to watch him disintegrate into meltdown as the mockery and piss-taking reached critical levels. I can only hope that he has worked on this aspect of his game, otherwise god help him.

Sir Rhyso
Here’s the thing about Rhys: He is a steady and reliable performer who gets the job done. He may be a FUC, but he rarely pikes and gets karma points from me because he is the only one of the whole stinking bunch who bothered to visit me when I lived in Our Nation’s Capital. Good on you, Sir Rhyso. The force will be with you, always. The only weakness I can identify is that the Gabba sun may wreak havoc upon his sensitive alabaster skin.

Team NotmuchofaChance

The Ayatollah
I don’t know about you lot, but I have always been under the impression that Ayatollahs don’t drink. It certainly looks like he’s having some sort of crisis of faith in his official team photograph, in which case let me caution the punters on the basis that such emotional and spiritual instability may be a serious liability. Further, I have observed that Mr Tunn cannot resist wading into arguments he has no chance of winning, and the other teams will be well advised to employ this tool to throw the Ayatollah off his game. A risky bet, in my opinion.

The Substitutes
They’re in Team NotmuchofaChance. Enough said.

That’s all I’ve got for now, kids. I’ll offer comments on the progress reports as they roll in. The only prediction I can make with complete confidence is that cricket (and beer) will be the winner on the day. And that’s just as it should be.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stuff I Love Not So Much

Following on from yesterday’s entry about chemists and nursery rhymes and Welsh people, today I will offer my list of things that drive me crazy-go-nuts about living here.

Once again, the obvious is almost too easy: the weather, the fact that English people moan all the time, the fact that London is so freaking expensive. I’ll take all that as read, although I don’t find the weather to be THAT bad, you know, and some English people are refreshingly unmoany, and London is okay once you’re earning pounds, but none of that is news to any of you.

Here is what’s left:

1. Dirt and Filth

I am unsure why, if I’m trying to avoid London clichés here, I’m choosing to include a mention of the dirt and not the weather. I suspect it is because rain bothers me less than black snot.

Apologies for being so (uncharacteristically) unladylike, but it freaks me out every time I blow my nose. Never in my young life have I had even the slightest hint of germaphobia: seriously, you don’t want to know where my hands have been. In London, neither do I.

Every time I hold a rail on the Tube I wonder at the filth of a million sweaty palms that is oozing onto my skin.

In some ways, I’m being unfair. There are few rubbish bins here, thanks to the both historical and current frolics of those pesky terrorist types. Most councils employ street sweepers – once I even saw a guy trying in vain to sandblast decades-old chewing gum from the footpaths. Try as they might, this remains a pretty dirty place.

2. Bad coffee

As I have complained elsewhere, it is far too difficult to get a decent coffee in this town.

There are approximately one million different coffee chains operating in the city, and their homogenous facades litter every street corner. They smell good, as coffee shops tend to do, but are hideously overpriced and the quality is almost universally disappointing.

I’m not after anything fancy: no flavourings or toppings, no fancy Christmas promotional drinks. All I want is a strong, hot latte* that tastes as good as the shop smells. I cannot see that this is too much to ask.

I know that I should abandon my morning fix in protest, however so far I have been unable to do so. I have taken to paying an extra 35p to have an additional shot of espresso, just so that it tastes of something. Grr.

* What I actually want is a flat white, but alas, they are not to be found in these parts.


I hesitate to write about this, because there’s no way of expressing it without sounding like an arrogant snob. It’s inescapable, however, and so here I go: one of the worst things about living in London is other Australians.

I’m not ashamed of my country. Quite the opposite, in fact. However, there is a certain type of Strine in London that makes me want to flee in terror every time I hear their strident twang on the Tube. You know, those for whom Steve Irwin is a patron saint.

I’m sure they’re nice people. RVW and I have christened them WHOWTAHs, on the basis that we wouldn’t hang out with them at home, so why should we here?

I’m a terrible person, I know. However, I cannot help but shudder every time I stroll past a Walkabout pub. The fact that I’m probably going to have to attend one to watch the Test this weekend is an indication of the magnitude of my commitment to cricket. I’m bracing myself.

4. 1p and 2p pieces.

If I had to pick a single indicator of how the UK is not, in fact, superior to we colonial types (despite what they might think), it is currency. As much as I love the pound, I hate the penny with a fierce and unbridled passion.

There is no need for copper coins.

No good or service needs to be priced any more precisely than in multiples of 5. I have a tendency to overfill the straining, cracking leather of my wallet anyway, the last thing I need is 362kg of useless copper to carry around as well.
Drives me crazy.

5. Plugged-In Buskers

I quite like buskers, normally, enjoying the cheerful soundtrack as I saunter down a busy street. Covent Garden, in particular, is a delightfully buzz-inducing maelstrom of street entertainment that I love to wander about and soak up whenever I get the chance.

Of course, it would seem that the buskers provide an ideal opportunity to rid myself of those copper coins I profess to hate so much. However. There are a specific group of buskers in this city that have become the bane of my existence.

The Tube, you see, is made up of a series of tunnels. Hence the name, you see. There are tunnels for the trains and tunnels for the people to flood through in surly clumps on a weekday morning. The tunnels are made of concrete, a highly amplifying acoustic material.

Buskers in the Tube tunnels are allowed to have amplifiers. They are plugged in. They are LOUD. As the sound bounces off the concrete walls it makes my ears bleed. It makes me MAD.

The musical merit is not even an issue: I care not if this is the greatest version of the Four Seasons on kazoo I will ever hear, or if this boy’s novel interpretation of Deep Purple is of enduring artistic significance. I don’t care. There is no need for it to be so loud.

The busking spots are sponsored by a local beer, which I refuse to drink on principle.

And that's about enough ranting for today.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stuff I Love

As discussed, I am going to use this week to discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of Our Glorious Motherland, as observed in my time here thus far.

Today, it’s all about the stuff I love. Hence the title, as you understand.

Some of these will be insultingly obvious, hopefully others will be less so. I am going to discuss food (specifically, cheese) separately later in the week. Here is my (incomplete, but will do for now) list of Things That Are Good About Living In England:

1. Close proximity to Europe

As discussed previously, this one needs little explanation. Weekends in Valencia, Christmas in Prague, this suits me very well indeed. I have found an excellent website that offers comparative information on insanely cheap airfares, and the continent, she is mine.

2. The Pound

I’m sure I would have a view about England switching to the Euro if I bothered to think about it, but for right now it is utterly delicious to know that I am accumulating a (very) wee pile of the world’s strongest currency. The fact that the wee pile is soon to be swallowed by rent is probably a subject for tomorrow’s entry.

3. Boots

Not the winter footwear (although I love those too), I refer to the greatest chemist the world has ever known. As I’m sure McBec would understand, I didn’t realise how much I had missed Boots until my return to England. Everything I could ever want is right there in the clean fluoro-lit aisles. So much more than merely cough medicines and prescriptions, Boots is the one-stop-shop for any and all products required for one’s toilette, at incredibly reasonable prices. There are Bootses here that are several stories high. It’s remarkable. And they sell sandwiches, and snacks, and fruit, and magazines, and home entertainment systems, and cameras, and phones, and accessories, and you name it, it will be there. I like to go there on my lunch hour and just wander about, soaking up the wonder.

4. Accents

I love that you can drive for half an hour here and people speak a different language.

Something that pleases me about my second stint in England is that I am starting to be able to pick the differences between different regional accents. I’m not terribly good with my North of England yet, having embarrassingly mistaken someone from Middlesbrough for someone from Liverpool the other day, but I can now reliably identify east London, Somerset and (of all places) Birmingham without too much difficulty.

Oh, and this is for Eleri: last time I was here I could not for the life of me hear anything different about a Welsh accent – I honestly thought people were messing with me. However! Thanks to extensive coaching from my new Welsh friend, I can hear it now without a problem. There’s a delightful sing-songy lilt there that I had just assumed was the way my friend’s voice sounded, but is apparently common to all of his countrymen. It was quite a moment the other day when I was speaking to a client in Swansea and had to refrain from informing him that he was Welsh. I assume this would not have been news to him.

5. Most Excellent Pubs

Last but not least, no list of what is great about this country is complete without a mention of its pubs. Sure, they’re not open late enough, and many of them are now owned by giant homogenous chains. But goodness me, the ones that are good are very good indeed.

I get a particular kick out of the history: drinking where Dickens did, hanging out where Sweeney Todd’s barbershop used to be. One of my favourites is on City Road, conveniently located very close to my new flat. We go there many Sunday afternoons for a roast, and have enjoyed many hours drinking excellent German lagers in the spacious beer garden. The pub is called the Eagle, and it is the very pub featured in that classic earworm of a nursery rhyme, Pop Goes the Weasel:

Up and down the City Road,
In and out The Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Something else I love about the pubs here is the value for money. You might pay a few quid for a drink, but it will be worth it. In fact, that reminds me of a conversation I had the other night with a newly arrived Australian in London:

Newly Arrived Australian In London, commenting on the size of the standard drinks here: "How about these pints then? You have a couple and all of a sudden you've had several litres of beer. And the wine! You order a large glass and get half a bottle. I keep reading in the paper how they've got a drinking problem here."

jLo: "Yes, I see those articles too."

NAAIL: "Well. I've got an idea for them. STOP DRINKING OUT OF BUCKETS ALREADY."

My kind of place.

Them English

Firstly: AARRGH! My unblemished November record, dashed and thwarted by a power blackout. Very, very annoying - but I couldn't get the modem thingy to work last night. I had written something, I just couldn't post it. I'll do two entries today to make up for it - not the same, but what else can I do?


The nation from which I come is about to commence an epic battle against the nation in which I currently reside. I thought it apt, therefore, that I spend this week sharing my observations of the various strengths and weaknesses of our traditional foe.

There are many things I love about living here, the people in particular as some of the recent stories demonstrate. There are also many aspects of English life and culture that annoy the daylights out of me. I’ve been keeping a bit of a rolling list of the best and worst aspects of Britland and will discuss some of them with you over the next few days.

To stick with the sporting theme for the moment (at least to start with, I absolutely guarantee it won’t continue), something that intrigues me about English people and this Ashes series is that the public seem reasonably convinced that their team is rubbish and doomed to fail.

That in itself is no real surprise (they’re used to it by now) – but what I find interesting is how that contrasts with their general attitude about themselves as a people.

I have been conducting a wee survey, and I believe this tells everyone as much as they ever need to know about the layer of smugly nationalistic pride that runs just below the surface of many English folk. Nice as they may be – and let me assure you, plenty of them are very nice indeed, and modest, and self-deprecating, and so on – we’re still within a generation of Empire and I find it amusing and a little endearing that so many Brits still seem to believe deep down inside that the sun probably shouldn’t have set. Sometimes I feel like giving them a little hug.

When asked who would emerge victorious in a fist fight between Indiana Jones and James Bond – no gadgets, no tricks, just hand-to-hand combat – nine out of ten English people picked James Bond.

The tenth person said it would depend on the Bond.

Which I thought was a very good answer. Wrong, but quite good nonetheless.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm dreaming..

…of a white Christmas! And for the first time in my life, it looks like it might just happen.

In a feat of spectacular financial timing - as in, just before I received the aforementioned tax bill - RVW and I booked fabulous last-minute travel deals to go here for Christmas. Check out the link, seriously. How good does that look? So, on 23 December, my littlest brother (who will need a proper pseudonym here before long) and I will join RVW and his lovely girlfriend in glorious, frosty Bohemia for a few days. I cannot wait.

I'll be thinking of you all as I stomp through the Old Town, soaking up the architecture and the atmosphere and warming my hands with a mug of mulled wine.

Littlest Brother, upon hearing that we will be spending Christmas Day and part of Boxing Day in one of the world's most beautiful cities, asked only one question:

"I assume there will be somewhere we can watch the Boxing Day Test?"

You would never be able to tell that we were related.

Friday, November 17, 2006


There is an Episode 3, but I think I need to save it in case next week is anything like this one and I need a post in reserve. I always welcome Friday with the very openest of arms, but today this is particularly true. I'm not even too bothered at the prospect of the charity concert that is about to commence, because as soon as it is done I can sleep.

It's been something of a crazy week.

I hinted in a previous post that the Home Office recently announced some intriguing changes to one of their visa programs. For the first time, I caught a wee sniff of a chance that I might be able to extend my stay here beyond next May (when my permission to work would expire). As much as I love you all (and you know that I do), I've become increasingly convinced of late that my business here will not be done by then. In fact, even though it's several months away, I was already becoming a tad bereft at the prospect of having to leave.

Anyway, long story short, I have been busily taking advice from people who know about these type of things (and who will happily charge me significantly large amounts of money in order to handle my application), doing some frantic calculations, and making swift decisions about my current pay setup and the best way to maximise my chances of being able to hit the required earnings targets in order to qualify for one of these magical visas. The way it stands now is that if a number of variables all resolve themselves in my favour AND if I manage to work every single possible day that I can between now and next May, then I might just make it. If I lose my job, I'm done for. I'm speaking cryptically, I know, and I know it's not exactly classified information. I just feel like I might be tempting fate too much to discuss it in too much detail. At any rate, all this coupled with an being insanely busy at work, planning a Christmas trip, making financial arrangements for our flat move next weekend, and trying to work out how in hell I'm going to pay the horrifically large Australian tax bill I've just received (damn you, HECS debt!) - it's been quite a week.

I wish you all the very best of weekends. I'm off to sing Waltzing Matilda in the name of needy children, then to bed. I'm going to tell you all about my Christmas trip tomorrow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

English People Are Hilarious, Episode 2

(A wee story written in summer but only posted now).

My flatmate was building a shed, as I understand it boys do sometimes. The base was done, he was cutting sheets of prefab flooring with his brand new power saw when I got home that evening. It was still light, but deceptively late (as happens in these parts) and soon the screech of the power tool raised the similarly screechy ire of a nearby neighbour trying to get her kids to sleep.

Considerate neighbour that he is, he abandoned the flooring mission and started work putting the shed frame together. I watched for a while – I did consider offering to help, but figured it would take twice as long if I did – and then wandered back inside to sit on my arse for a while.

Dinner eaten, most of a novel devoured, I realised I hadn’t seen Mr Juicy in a while. I ventured back outside and was amazed to find a skeleton shed frame standing in our backyard. Mr Juicy was busily searching through a pile of metal sheets and a bucket of screws. Night has fallen properly by now, and he was perusing the shed assembly instructions by the light of the little blue screen of his mobile phone.

I decide to take the polite approach.

“Dude, you’re still at it?”

“Oh yeah, I’m on a roll.”

“But it’s dark!”

“Yeah, sure, but I’m managing.”

“Shall I bring my bedside lamp out here and plug it into the extension lead?”

“Oh, no, no, it’s fine.”

A pause. ‘He can’t be serious!’ I thought. ‘It’s pitch dark, he can’t possibly see what he is doing.’

“Would you like me to go and fetch the Maglite for you?”

“Oh no, this is fine. Spirit of the British Army and all that.”
He launched into a mumbled monologue, lost in his own world: “Come on lads, here’s the farmhouse for the taking. We’re cold and hungry, our boots are rotten, our equipment’s shit, we’ve no light except this wad of cotton on a stick dipped in petrol, but by jove, we’ll get the job done.”

All the while, he was pacing around the backyard, looking for a missing piece by the light of his mobile phone. He looked up from monologue to see his Australian flatmate curled up on the ground, paralysed with choked laughter.

Once I could breathe again, I sat and watched him at it for a while. A few moments later, as he struggled to attach a cross beam, he muttered, half to himself, “my theory is, soon my night vision will kick in”. And I’m off again.

In the face of my hysterical laughter he did go and fetch a light source at one point - not a wussy lamp or torch, though – he chose an infrared bike light which he then held in his teeth – for a couple of moments. I then heard him cursing as he dropped a screw and asked what he’d done with the bike light. He replied, as he scrabbled in the grass for the screw, “I threw it away, disgusted with myself.”

He did it, you know. Stubborn, yes. Stupid, certainly – but still. Mr Juicy built a shed in the dark.

“And that’s how we won that old WWI”.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

(Posh) English People Crack Me Up, Episode 1

I went to the pub the other night with some folks from one of the law firms for which I did some stellar typing work earlier this year. It was great to see them, they drink like fish and thusly I fit in well. On this particular night we were graced by the presence of Lady Lawyer, one of the partners of the firm whom I greatly admired but had not yet encountered in a social environment. She is tall and thin and perfectly dressed, she tells stories about her childhood nanny and has a house in the country: the classic posh cliché. Imagine what follows in the snootiest accent you can think of and you'll know just what it was like.

At one point in the evening when we were all quite merry I rose to my feet and inquired as to the beverage preferences of my assembled comrades.

Lady Lawyer, pulling a £20 note from her purse: “No, jLo. Sit down. I’ll buy the drinks”.

jLo, winding the politeness factor up to 11: “Thank you, Lady Lawyer, you’re too kind. However, I must insist that this is my round. In my culture it is very important to be the type of person who stands one’s round. What would you like to drink?”

Lady Lawyer, harrumphing dismissively: “Now, jLo. To be perfectly frank, I don’t much care about your so-called culture. What you must understand is that I am MORE than willing to pay for everyone’s drinks all evening…”

Lawyer Colleague, in the background: “That’s true, she is.”

Lady Lawyer, continuing as if uninterrupted, still waving her £20 note in the air, carefully and loudly enunciating each word:

“…as long as I don’t have to go and stand at the bar like a common prostitute.”

The table exploded. Knowing my place, I took my cue and the £20 note and obediently fetched in the round.

For a line as good as that, Lady Lawyer, I will go to the bar on your behalf all night.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bah, humbug.

Given that the last post was such a long one, I'm going to just leave you with a couple of random thoughts today. I know I go on and on here about how awesome London is, and so in the interests of balance I thought I'd offer the following:

1. My colleagues and I went for a Team Lunch today at an Italian restaurant not far from where we work. We pre-ordered our meals so that our large group could be dealt with expeditiously. I went for a risotto with butternut squash (not pumpkin, please note, I speak British), pine nuts and spinach. What could go wrong?

Everything, apparently. It was truly the most execrable meal I've been served in my time here. How hard is it to screw up risotto? Apparently not hard enough. And, you know, given the proximity of London to Italy and the competitiveness of the London restaurant market generally it seems reasonable that there should be no excuse for bad Italian food. None!

2. Here's an interesting fact about this city: did you know that this disease is apparently rife here? How terrifying. I was initially smug about the fact that I was immunised against it as a small child, but the lovely B1, a medical professional, has gleefully informed me that said immunisation is now worth nowt and I'm as vulnerable as all others. And so, yanno, I had this random chest pain last week* and had managed to convince myself that I am about to die from tuberculosis. Cavities in my teeth, tuberculosis in my lungs, apparently I'm falling apart. Hoorah.

*Smoker jokes not actually necessary here.

Check out how moan-y this post is! I'm turning all English. Better stop drinking the water.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dance dance revolution.

So in a previous post, I made a cryptic reference to having joined a crazy mob one night a few weeks ago. Let me tell you that story…

I met my friend jPet after work for a drink. I asked where she wanted to go, and she suggested Liverpool Street Station. I thought that was a little odd – it’s out of our way, and, you know, a train station, so not exactly conducive to a festive atmosphere.

Being the agreeable type, I nevertheless agreed. We hopped an easterly Tube and were soon settled in the station pub.

“So, jPet,”
I said. “Why did you want to come here?”

she began, a little sheepishly, “I’m on this email list.”


“Yeah. It’s about stuff that’s going on in London. Apparently something’s going to happen here tonight.”

“Like what?”

She paused. “Um. A bunch of people are going to dance to their iPods in the middle of the station.”

“Really? Huh. You mean like a flash mob or some such?”

“Something like that. I think.”

I was uninspired, but indifferent. I figured it would be a handful of crazy types, running into the station, dancing for a moment and running away again.

“Well, we’re here, we may as well check it out.”


“When is it?”

“Around now.”

We walked out of the pub and turned into the main station concourse. I couldn’t see any crazies, and thought maybe we’d missed it. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it.

“Holy SHIT.”

She turned and followed my pointed finger. “Oh. My. God.”

It was huge. Hundreds and hundreds of people, entirely filling one end of the massive station floor. We wandered down to get a closer look.

Just as advertised, it was a crowd of people, all with headphones on, dancing like there was no tomorrow. So many people. Old and young and travellers and workers, a sweaty, jumping, seething, hollering mass, everyone in their own little bubble going absolutely mental.

“This is so freaking cool.”

“I know!”

A pause. “Are we just going to stand here?”

“I don’t think we can NOT join in.”

That was it. We strapped on our iPods and dove into the fray.

It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had.

It felt fantastic – total abandon in the unlikeliest place. The harsh fluorescent lights, the crowds of elderly tourist spectators lining the mezzanine, the police watching silently from the stairs. There was sheer joy on every face, everyone utterly exhilarated and grinning deliriously at the randomness of it all, revelling in the instant camaraderie of the crowd. It was like the best dance party you’ve ever been to: every song is your favourite. It was the straightest high of my life.

At one point I turned to jPet and said:

“I have no idea what we’re doing, but I know it’s fucking fun.”

Many people had obviously had more warning of the event than I – they turned up in crazy costumes and plentiful supplies of beer and snacks. Others had obviously stumbled across the spectacle by accident, and were dancing away in their business attire. One guy had his tie wrapped around his head. There were those with the show pony moves, others swaying gently in one spot.

At one point I took my earbuds out: the sound was amazing – stomping feet, raucous cheering and gleeful laughter – but no music. jPet said later that it occurred to her that this event was a perfect metaphor for our generation: there was a sense of community and shared experience but it was an essentially selfish, totally individual activity. We were so connected, but everyone was alone.

I learned that my iPod doesn’t have nearly enough excellent dance music. The Kaiser Chiefs worked well, so did the Go Team. I did some Curtis Mayfield, some Kool & the Gang, some Run DMC. Next time I'll make a playlist.

Everyone was moving to a different beat, hard as I tried to work out if anyone could possibly be dancing to the same song as I was, it was impossible to tell. At one stage, jPet and I couldn’t resist dancing to the same song at once. We cued it up, pressed play and then went off into our own little worlds, knowing that at least one other person was having exactly the same experience.

Cameras flashed left and right, my boogying arse is in a thousand photos (like this one here). In fact, both jPet and I featured in a Where’s Wally-type shot in the papers the following evening. I cut out a copy of the photo and have filed it away with a bundle of other souvenirs of this crazy, random place.

I have so often wanted to do exactly this so often – I’ll be walking to work in the mornings and can’t resist jauntifying my stride at a particularly catchy tune. I never actually stop and dance, though, and this made me wish I did it all the time. It was like living out a fantasy. There were plenty of people joining in without earphones – the mood of the crowd was irresistibly infectious.

Adding to the overall surreality was the fact that every time I looked up, I could see a giant TV news screen broadcasting the days’ headlines. I’d dance a little, look up and notice that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. More dancing, Madonna has adopted a baby. More dancing, some football scores. If I turned in the other direction my gaze would follow the huge train timetable screen: dance dance dance, there goes the train to Lowestuft.

Holy hell, it was fun. I’ve never been part of such an ecstatically delirious crowd before – everybody going wildly crazy and grinning at each other in sheer, unadulterated delight.

After about an hour, dripping with sweat, elated and exhilarated beyond belief, we withdrew and returned to the pub. Good gracious, it was awesome. I love this city.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sweet Dreams (are made of this)

So this whole posting-every-day thing is quite fun – although it has become clear that I need to do engage in some more interesting activities so as to have something to write about. I’ve got to the point where I’m not sure where each day’s topic will come from (and I’m sure that is reasonably obvious to you all).

Yesterday was no exception. I was discussing this dilemma of mine with RVW as we cruised around looking for frypans and crockery and teatowels (we didn’t find an example of the latter that we could agree on. Teatowels! I know! We did, however, find an excellent butter dish).

We had stumbled across some great markets in East London, and were having a fine time soaking up the atmosphere. Rip suggested that the markets would make a good topic. I agreed, but couldn’t think about how I could make them particularly interesting and/or funny. They were big, and sold lots of stuff. They smelled good, and bad. There was music, and lots of people. The end.

What I didn’t realise is that the most remarkable point of my day was yet to come. I introduced RVW to a good friend of mine, PT, over dinner at an excellent Moroccan restaurant. I was a bit apprehensive, as I often am when bringing different spheres of my world together. The thought of people I rate highly not getting along is an alarming one – mostly because I am lazy and selfish and the more I can have my friends all hang out together, the easier my life becomes.

I needn’t have worried. RVW and PT got on like a house on fire. So well, in fact, that after several bottles of red wine we had adjourned to PT’s nearby flat, whereupon the two of them stood up in her living room and performed the greatest hits of the Eurythmics (all of them. I’m serious) in a highly entertaining fashion.

I contributed some backing vocals now and again, but the show was theirs. It was a side of both of them I’d not seen before, but greatly enjoyed. A beautiful sight: two of my good friends, bonding in no uncertain terms as they shouted a very energetic rendition of Thorn in My Side. I knew I’d found the moment I wanted to record here. I’m still aching from the laughing.

And I really, really wish I could get the song out of my head.

Apparently it was exhausting work: Rip van Winkle did his signature trick not long afterwards, falling asleep on PT’s couch. I tried to wake him when I left, but to no avail. PT assured me he was more than welcome, so I left him snoozing and trundled home.

(I did send him a text message telling him where he was and how to get home, as a reference for when he woke up the next morning. It’s all part of the service I provide.)

When I reached my own home I discovered that the night was not over, in terms of karaoke performances of questionable quality. Mr Juicy and Madam Juicy had invested in a new toy: a SingStar game.

Tired and drunky, I was not permitted to retire for the evening until I had belted out a classic or two in our own living room. And so, bowing to the inevitability of my own humiliation, I began.

My results? Heaven is a Place on Earth? Nailed it (god help me). Perfect by Fairground Attraction? A confident attempt, mostly successful except for that insanely high note at the end. Eye of the Tiger? Really freaking hard. It’s a good thing I’m moving out of this flat soon, I’m not sure the neighbours will ever forgive me.

And I think that’s perhaps enough karaoke for the time being.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I have a way with cardboard.

I need to rush out the door to go and meet Rip van Winkle for a homewares-shopping expedition (life in the fast lane, kids). Before I do, however, Dr Evil has sent some pictures from last Sunday's Guy Fawkes party, and I wanted to share with you my greatest craft creation of the year (not really very many contenders for that title, to be sure):

The campest little Guy you ever did see. We decided his name was actually pronounced Ghee, darlings. Behold his happy grin.

While my friends were delighted with my paper-plate craft stylings, the English people at the party were somewhat confounded.

English people: "What is that hanging in the window?"

jLo: "That's Guy!"

English people: "....What?"

jLo: "You know, traditional, effigy-type thing, for burning purposes."

English people: "That's not a Guy."

jLo: "Sure it is!"

English people: "But it's not... that's not... it doesn't... ARR@#$%! (insert sounds of spluttery frustration here)."

jLo: "Why not? What do you mean? He's an effigy. We're going to burn him."

English people: (wander away, shaking heads in bewilderment).

jLo: Excellent.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Looking forward to my hoverbike

I am a child of my age: I conduct a significant proportion of my life online and have seventy billion passwords guarding all facets of my official existence. I have conversations with my friends across the other side of the world by talking into my computer, I carry all my music around in a little white box.

However, I am not a particularly savvy nor up-to-date consumer of technology and am hopelessly behind in many ways. Far from this being a source of concern, I tend to enjoy it - my cluelessness often allows me to be delightfully surprised now and again when I discover a new wonder of the modern world.

I had just such an experience last night, in the supermarket, when I decided on a whim to test drive one of the new-fangled self-serve checkouts.

It was ever so fun! It’s harder than it looks, you know - an unacknowledged art form. Finding the barcode, holding it at just the right angle – my progress through my basket was slow and laboured. I enjoyed myself, however, and found it very satisfying indeed. I packed my shopping bag carefully and deliberately for optimum carryability, then swiped my own debit card and took my own receipt. It was great.

The only human contact I had throughout the entire process was with the security guard who was openly laughing at the expression of delight on my face. Apparently I was having too much fun.

Another recent example of my hopelessly slow self being startled with technology happened at a party. I was having a conversation with a boy which had reached that happy point where you realise that you might like to communicate again at some future date. No scribbled number on a scrap of paper at this party – oh no. He whipped a shiny silver PDA-thingy out of his pocket (and he wasn’t some banker-wanker type, either – just a techie nerd with an appreciation for fine gadgetry). He tapped my name and number onto the screen with a wee plastic pencil, then said “hold still” as he raised the silver pod up to my face. I stepped back, startled, as he took my photograph, then blinked in amazement as he busily tapped away at the screen again to complete my profile.

It was weird, but strangely delightful. It’s not that I am unfamiliar with camera phones, or number swapping. It was the sheer efficiency of the transaction that surprised me as I realised that such things will be the norm sooner rather than later.

They're not earth-shattering, these examples, but they were news to me. There is much that is excellent and remarkable about the times in which we live - and I'm not sure that I ever want to stop finding it enchanting.

There is a downside, of course to the fact that the future has apparently arrived: the boy never called. I can only assume that he consulted the deer-in-headlights photograph the next day and recoiled in horror. In such circumstances perhaps a scrap of paper would have worked better for me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Straya Fair

We Strayans are offered visas on the basis that we sing for our supper when required. What's the point of having such a deeply entrenched international identity if one's hosts cannot demand a display of it every now and again?

The organisation I work for has recently employed a significantly large number of Australians (myself included) (obviously). We have been instructed to perform something 'authentically Australian' at a benefit concert for a children's charity to be hosted by our organisation in two weeks' time. While I realise that it does seem as though ‘unapologetic showpony’ is my default setting I am not, in fact, particularly enthusiastic about performing humiliatingly lame acts at work functions. However, because this is a charity concert, one must join in or one is accused of hating the children. And I don't hate the children.

The Australian staff contingent assembled at lunchtime today for a brainstorming session, and it became clear alarmingly quickly that next Friday evening I will be wearing my Australian flag socks, singing Waltzing Matilda and making various Dad-jokes about shrimp and barbies and flamin' galahs in front of a crowd of bemused English people. I'm not ashamed of my country. I AM frustrated and uninspired by the inevitability of the ideas that are thrown around in such circumstances, but given that I have no desire to take charge and actually commit myself to making this into something better I've none but myself to blame.

The last thing the English need is for all their stereotypes to be reinforced, but by crikey, it's what they'll get. I am cringing on the inside, but I understand that this is the price I must pay for my tenure here: ‘ooh, look at the colonials do their funny little dance!’

(Screw you, English person.)

I'm actually not as grinch-like as I might seem. My chief contribution will be to hand out a plate of lamingtons. Also, one of my Australian workmates has offered to dress as Steve Irwin and dance a passionate, heart-wrenching pas de deux with a stingray, to the tune of a yet-to-be-determined-but-obviously-cheesy Ozrock ballad. Now THAT I’m looking forward to.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Typing just as fast as I can....

A close call, this evening - the problem I always knew I'd have with something like nablopomo is the fact that my schedule is all over the place and I haven't yet worked out how to update my blog directly from my brain.

It started so innocently, as always: 6pm, I'm finishing work and thinking, 'oh, I'll just stay a while and write something, no problem!'. Then someone says those fatal words. "Anyone fancy a quiet one?"

And I protest. Honestly I do. But these are good people, my work folk, and I haven't made enough of an effort to befriend them. So I think, 'oh, a quiet one. No problem, I'll be home soon and can write then.'

Long story short, I had a lovely evening with excellent ladies. But now I've got mere moments to spare to get an entry in. And this is the kind of quality you get. Sorry, folks. Wine is very tasty.

Here are the topics that sprang to mind just now, desperately trying to think of something I could write about: the wonders of SMASH, the problems of living with a newly-minted couple who alternate nights of schmooping all over each other with horrific arguments that make my skin prickle, and changes to the UK skilled migrants program announced today which make me nervous and will continue to do so until I have a chance to read about them further.

But! I cannot expand upon these subjects, because I have to hit that little post button below. Forgive me. Arbitrarily self-imposed time limits are stupid.

But tipsy posting is sometimes funny. I'll do better. I hope you all had an excellent day.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How's it going, China?

I learned to my delight today* that apparently this website cannot be accessed from China. I realise that it is entirely possible that all blogger sites are blocked universally - and, let's be honest, would that really be such a significant loss? Would you miss blogger if it disappeared tomorrow?

I choose to believe, however, that it is the tale of endless Western consumerist decadence chronicled on this specific page that has aroused the ire of Chinese censors. It was imperative that they block ficklish in order to protect the revolution. I mourn for the Chinese folk googling frantically about what life is like for an Australian woman in London who will never find the answers they seek.

I realise, of course, that I should make a very serious point about the evils of censorship here, and the importance of FREEDOM, so here it is: censorship is BAD and freedom to read pointless websites about people who drink too much and gallivant about contributing little to society is GOOD. The end.

*Special thanks to AZ who, for reasons I will never understand, is wasting precious moments of his adventure of a lifetime in China in order to try to access my blog. Step AWAY from the computer, dude - according to all available intelligence, the internet will still exist when you get home. But thanks for letting me know, you've made my day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remember, remember

Dr Evil gives good Guy Fawkes: 39 kilograms of Category 4 explosives. They were big, they were loud, and they were very, very pretty.

The night was clear and cold, and thunderclaps echoed around the neighbourhood as the sun set and everybody got in on the fireworksy action. The horizon was dotted with sparkly light and the air was heavy with gunpowder and ash. Terribly wasteful and very environmentally unfriendly ... but damn good fun.

We stood on the balcony with our beers and oohed appropriately as Dr Evil put on his show. He had everything – from rockets and roman candles and wee fountain-y type ones set off from the roof to giant sky-fillers that required a trip to the park next door. We watched from the landing as Dr Evil and Rip van Winkle scurried about in the darkness, mostly invisible until the spark of each wick was lit, whereupon we yelled ‘run, you bastards’ as they scampered to safety.

The evening was thankfully incident-free: so long as you don’t count my own very special brand of clumsy. While letting off only the second firework of my life from our homemade rocket launcher (a hollow broom handle), I very stupidly neglected to shut my eyes and my fool mouth. As the rocket shot off, I copped a face and throat full of fuel and fumes. It was undelicious, but apparently my spluttering was very entertaining to behold.

My homemade Guy was a delightful success: the campest little effigy you ever did see. Given that I had been charged with the mission of crafting our Guy at only 7pm the previous evening, the materials at my disposal were what we could find at the local grocery store: some paper plates, drinking straws, sticky tape and a witches hat left over from Halloween. My challenge was to make him flammable, but not toxically so. I’ll post photos when I can, but let me just say that he looked a treat hanging from a wee noose, then burned most excellently atop a fountain firework. When his head fell off, we mounted it upon a rocket and shot it off into the wilds of East London. Good times.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

To Do

My list of tasks for today:

- Shower

- Write something for blog*

- Construct a suitably amusing human figure out of everyday household items for the purposes of conducting a ritual burning at Dr Evil’s Guy Fawkes party tonight.

- Attend said party, drink a not-insignficant amount of alcohol and play with fireworks, as I understand is the custom in these parts on this particular day.

Good list, no?

I’m very much looking forward to the party. Dr Evil is has an endearing streak of pyromania, and has ordered vast quantities of fireworks for our entertainment this evening. I’m a little apprehensive about the combination of alcohol and explosives – but, you know, it’s a cultural experience. Or that's what I'll tell the hospital staff in the event of disaster.


* As Ed has shrewdly noticed in the comments to my last update, there has been a somewhat dramatic upswing in my posting regularity over recent days. I’m attempting this (mostly because I’m not yet woman enough for this).

Five days down, twenty-five to go. I was too gutless to actually officially sign up to the nablopomo site, because I fear commitment and remain convinced that I will fail. However! I feel it is a sufficiently noble goal at which to have a decent crack, so stay tuned for many rambly posts about very little.

(Business as usual, then, just more frequent).


And because I told her I was going to, I would like to share the following exchange from a conversation I had with J, The today:

J,The: So, I was mentioning to a friend tonight that I think it might be nice to have a love affair sometime soon.

jLo: Oh, nice one! I’ve been thinking along the same lines lately.

J,The: Yeah! And you know what my friend said? She said: “Man or woman?”

jLo: How polite!

J,The: Totally! And so I said, “Thanks for asking! A man, I think. (beat). It would have to be a pretty special woman.”

jLo: Yeah. One with a penis.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Paradise: Redux

Given that winter has now arrived, I am having trouble believing that just a couple of weekends ago I was here:

(Just quietly, I'm considering petitioning DFAT to see if this can become my passport photo).

Ahhh, Valencia. It was magnificent, as expected. I discovered that it is truly comforting to know that there are places in the world where you feel better just being there, that make you smile as soon as you arrive, where you know that your expectations will be met and exceeded every single time you visit.

I did everything I wanted: I walked my favourite streets for hours, gazed at buildings, bathed in sunshine. I visited the Holy Grail and the magic fountain, which was as spectacular as ever. I spent time with good mates, drank deliciously industrial-strength Spanish coffee (good god the cafes of London have a lot to answer for), ate paella, made myself sick at the world's greatest gelateria, shopped too much and drank too much and had a fabulous time.

There were new experiences, too - preparations for next year's America's Cup have come a long way since I was last in town and it was fun to explore the shiny new port and marina complex, which is beautiful and bustling with new life. I spent many hours drinking with boaty-type people asking them stupid questions about sails and keels and generally demonstrating an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the ridiculously well-heeled world of yacht racing.

A particular highlight of this trip was the cruise on a catamaran around Valencia's harbour and out into the Med (please note picture above). It was spectacular: a crazy crew who performed an impromptu flamenco in between hoisting mainsails and suchlike, sangria and sunshine and salty spray everywhere as I reclined blissfully at the back of the boat.

I loved being there - I feel so peaceful and happy in that town. I had a tinge of nostalgic sadness as well, though - it was familiar and beautiful but I missed last time. It was hard to go back to a place where I had such amazing fun with such excellent people who are no longer there. The new experiences are good in their own way, but for those of you who were there before? It just wasn't the same without you.

Oh, and I brought the Holy Grail back with me. Rip van Winkle was quite taken with it:

As was Dr Evil, who very conveniently happened to have just the right outfit handy:

How awesome is that halo?!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bon voyage

I note that England's Test squad is boarding a plane this evening bound for the Land of Oz.

Talented cricketers they may be, somehow I doubt that any individual member of the England squad is worthy of an attempt on Boonie's record for the flight over.

At any rate: it begins.

I am VERY excited.

Rip van Winkle and I have already held extensive discussions regarding the planning for our First Test party on 23 November 2006. Invitations have been extended only to a carefully chosen few. There will be beer, and singing, and RvW has indicated that he wants to get hold of a sun lamp of some sort so that I can obtain my customary First Day, First Test Sunburn (FDFTS). Apparently it just won't be the same having a beer with me in the lunch break unless I am already glowing pink.

Bon voyage, chaps. In the unlikely event that you manage to defy my expectations and there is actually some cause for celebration upon your return I hereby undertake to attend your victory parade clad only in the Union Jack and post photographic evidence on this public forum.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Falling Back

I have a question about daylight saving. As a loyal Queenslander, I am more than aware of its cow-confusing, curtain-fading and, as I have recently been informed, cancer-causing abilities. What I had not realised, however, is that daylight saving actually controls nature with its evil iron fist. It has the power, it seems, to change seasons.

We've had a very mild autumn here so far. The trees have held onto their still-green leaves, my summer-weight duvet has been doing its job more than adequately. People have remarked to each other as they stroll down the street what a lovely balmy October we are having. It's almost as if those doomsaying global warming folk have a point. I wore flip-flops (please note: not thongs) all day on Saturday.

Early Sunday morning, we fell back to ye olde GMT. I very much enjoyed my extra hour of Sunday loafing, but the prospect of actual winter was far from my mind.

Until yesterday, when it officially arrived.

I've never been able to pinpoint a season with such remarkable accuracy. Has this ever been investigated? An irrefutable link between human-imposed time contructs and the ravages of Mother Nature? I wouldn't have believed it, but the evidence seems too clear to ignore: we changed the clocks, a mere 72 hours later the season was different. Apparently winter has been lurking in the sidelines just waiting for the ritual to be over and done with so it could burst forth and catch us underwears.

Good gracious, but it got cold here this week. The skin on my hands is cracking after just one day, the pashmina has come out of its hidey hole and apparently I need to go shopping for new boots and a pair of gloves as a matter of some urgency. I went out for a cigarette at 4:30pm this afternoon and the planes were criss-crossing lovely thin pink lines of jet stream in the already-twilit sky.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Smile and Give Me All Your Money

So, today I actioned item number #4352 on the Great Long List of Things That Other Grown-Ups Do Without Having To Be Told, And If I Ever Want To Be One Of Their Number, I Should Really Get Onto It: I went to the dentist.

I shan’t be confessing here just how many years (that’s years in the significant plural) it has been since I last took a positive step to protect my oral health. Suffice it to say that it appals me enough, it would appal my mother even more. (And let me assure you, this blog appals her more than adequately already: “jLo, dear, why don’t you tell some nice stories instead of just writing post after post about how sick or hung over you are?” “Sure thing, Mum.” “And while you’re at it, get some decent jokes, why don’t you? And learn to write proper sentences.” “OKAY, Ma. Geez.”)

Where was I? Anyway, it’s been some time. Of all the places to break the dentist drought, I pick England, a nation renowned for the quality of its citizen’s teeth. I elected to eschew my reciprocal right as an Australian to treatment under the beleaguered National Health System (although aren’t you impressed that dental work is covered here?) and booked myself in as a privately paying patient for a check up and a long-overdue clean. I was hopeful that I still had teeth in there somewhere, lurking beneath the years of accumulated crap.

People had warned me about the dentists in the UK. In fact, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks (ever since the day my gums hurt and I got panicky about how long it’s been since my last appointment) revelling in the dentist horror stories of everyone I know in London. The overwhelming consensus from the anecdotes I have collected is that the NHS dentists won’t bother fixing anything and the private dentists will inevitably insist upon such a large bundle of essential (and coincidentally very expensive) treatments that you’ll wonder how you’ve been managing to chew your food and smile without scaring small children all this time.

Armed with my trusty stereotyped prejudices, therefore, I fronted the surgery this morning determined to resist the hard sell. My dentist was a very friendly lady who complimented me on my teeth.

“Nice teeth!”
“Uh, thanks”.

It was an underwhelming and somewhat uncomfortable experience, which I had expected. I did not expect, however, that the door to the examination room would be open, so that folks walking through the hallway could watch me flailing madly as strange, sharp implements were poked inquisitively into my gums.

They also got a fabulous view of the moment I nearly drowned: the dentist’s assistant seemed a tad preoccupied and was apparently unable to aim her little vacuum thingy anywhere near where it was required. I had to call a halt to proceedings at one point with a strangled yelp so that I could sit up to cough and splutter in a most dignified and graceful fashion.

I was also given a lesson in the proper way to brush my teeth – apparently I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. The dentist handed me a toothbrush and a model mouth and demonstrated a fun flicky motion that I was quite taken by. Glad to no longer have a mouthful of icky polishing paste and a fear of choking as the blissfully inattentive assistant failed in her suctioning responsibilities; I got quite into the practising and sat contentedly for some moments, flicking away at the fake teeth, lost in my own little world.

The dentist had to wrench them away from me, with a gentle but firm “that’ll do now”. I felt approximately two years old.

I have always been very proud of my record at the dentist: no fillings, no braces, no nasty procedures of any kind whatsoever. My secret fear, however, was that one day my clear run would end and I would know that I only have myself to blame, given the cavalier disregard I have demonstrated in recent years.

Today, those fears were realised. Apparently, for the first time in my life, I have cavities. Not big ones, not serious – a couple of wee little cavities that require filling for what I am told is primarily a precautionary purpose. I am disappointed.

To complicate matters, however, I’m also not sure whether to take it seriously or what to do next. The requirement for fillings was mentioned in almost the same breath as a necessity for several x-rays and a recommendation for an extremely expensive whitening treatment. My nostrils prickled at the smell of a sales pitch: the kind where they give you a long and exorbitant list in the in the safe knowledge that you will feel that you have to agree to at least the most basic item. It was slickly done, I was impressed. She looked in my mouth, counted my teeth, then sat down and wrote me a price list.

Since when did taking care of one’s health become an exercise in cynical consumerism? How much of my scepticism is based on the horror stories I had been told? Do I get a second opinion? Am I overthinking this? Will I get to play with the model mouth again? They’re only fillings, goddammit, just get them done already.

I suspect that the idea of losing my record is a disproportionately large factor here: it seems likely that I’m resisting necessary treatment out of stupid pride. And thus, I present another indication that adulthood eludes me yet: that I will consider not getting fillings just because I want to be able to continue to say that I don’t have any.

(Also, I am scared of the drilling).