Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It speaks!

It has been a long time between posts, I know. Over the past few weeks when stuff has happened, I've caught myself thinking inane things like Oh, I really must blog about that. Yeah you know the drill - obviously nothing ever came of it. Totally my bad.

After the football game a few weeks back, S&C disappeared for the next stage of their European adventure and my life chugged on as normal for a few days. I had changed house again by this stage, so I was enjoying being back with Gus the Wonderdog and taking our morning constitutionals around his local gardens. I still gag when I have to pick up his deposits - each one more warm and squishy than the last - but in the world of dog ownership (even temporarily), you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

On the Tuesday I took a half-day at work and that evening I flew to Adelaide for A&A's wedding. As you do. I was feeling really poorly, owing to a nasty cold that had been brewing for about a week. It hit me full-force a day or so before I flew, making the flight a rather nasty experience for everyone. I slept a fair amount, which was good, but I suspect I probably snored my head off - which was probably not so good for my fellow passengers. Plus I flew with our nation's flagship airline and I am not entirely sure I'll do that again. It was right at the time when the airline's fleet was having those nasty engine disasters and lengthy delays etc and so I was all gung-ho about showing my support for them. Still, I didn't find the flight attendants all that attentive, and in comparison with some of the other airlines I've flown over the years, they were pretty average. Then again, I'm not sure I'd do great work at 37,000 feet with a bunch of snoring, snotty-nosed Australians on board either. Perhaps I'll just cut them some slack and move on.

The wedding was beautiful. Jammin' Jems bought me a belted summer dress for my birthday but hadn't mailed it over to me, so she just gave it to me somewhat (ie very) belatedly when I got home. The dress fit like a glove and with a little bolero cardigan that I had bought at the shopping centre the day before, I felt very comfortably dressed for the sunny weather that appropriately blessed the happy couple for their big day.

The rest of the week passed by way too quickly, as all good holidays seem to do. I was still feeling pretty average throughout the week which was a real shame. I had been to see my Aussie doctor and she had given me some pretty good antibiotics, but they nixed my plans for cocktails with friends - lousy timing. The pills were effective but I still needed a second prescription to feel like I was really kicking the lurgie. Even as I type this my throat is still a bit sore, which is just really annoying.

A couple of meals with friends and family, followed by some shopping with Jammin' Jems in the lead up to her own wedding next year, and before I knew it the week was over. On Friday afternoon I said goodbye to my family and it was off to Adelaide Airport for the journey back to London. Our nation's flagship airline was not quite ready to let me leave incident-free however, and what followed was a horrible 29+ hour journey "home", with delay after delay preventing me from just crawling into bed and sleeping for a month. When I finally did get back to the northern hemisphere, I collapsed into the hotel room and didn't move very far at all until the early hours of the following morning.

Back at work on Monday, I discovered that my intray wasn't as full as I thought it would be (wahoo!), but there is still enough for me to work on that will keep me busy until Christmas (not so wahoo!). I've also moved into some new - temporary - digs, subletting a room from an Australian girl until 3 January. It has been great to unpack my luggage and hang clothes up again - such simple pleasures these days. Not sure what the future holds in terms of my accommodation, but perhaps the search just continues.

For now at least, I'm looking forward to some good sleeps ahead, and a chance to enjoy this burst of snowy London weather. Stay tuned for more (frequent?) updates...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

It isn't often that you get offered a chance to do something really fun for someone, knowing that they will get such a kick out of it. When life presents you with an opportunity like that, I think you owe it to yourself just to grab it. And so it was with the tickets I managed to find for my cousin Sco for last night's English Premier League Game, West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion.

It was the first time I'd seen S&C since they returned to London as a stopover on what I'd definitely call their 'European Odyssey'. With their new friend L in tow, the guys came to meet me at The Walkabout - chosen by yours truly because it was the closest pub I could find to the Tube station, and far enough away from the destructive/passionate student protesters that had taken over the City Centre late yesterday afternoon.

We had a bit of a catch up over a cold drink and I got to hear about some of their favourite places - and foods - along the way (who knew that Poland made great kebabs - or kebabs at all, come to think of it?!). I loved the stories of S&C's overnight visit to the winery that S's ancestors started - such lovely hospitality from relatives he'd never met before. Oh and apparently the wine was pretty good too.

Dashing next door to Temple tube station, we jumped on the eastbound District (green) line bound for Upton Park. I have no idea where Upton Park is, other than on the Tube map, so I'm so glad that the 45-minute Tube ride was uneventful and we got to the station safely. As we collected more and more passengers, we started to see supporters sporting the West Ham colours (blue and claret). I was wearing pale blue socks, and I remember feeling quite disappointed - and possibly a bit surprised - that they were the only pale blue items in my three suitcases! I pretty much knew I didn't have anything claret-coloured, since I don't think anyone other than West Ham supporters really knows what colour claret is anyway.

Alighting the Tube at Upton Park station we allowed ourselves to get swept along in the crowd in the general direction of the Boelyn Ground, West Ham United's home stadium. The air last night was pretty cold, and getting colder by the minute, so we paused en route and picked up some hot chips & burgers to munch along the way.

Two minutes later we were at the venue and I picked up our tickets. The ticket window dude assured me that our tickets were great - right in the thick of all the singing and chanting. Little did I truly realise how cool the tickets REALLY were. We were in row D (4 rows from the front), right behind the goals! Sco was delirious at how great our seats were, and for the first 10 minutes we could only marvel at our good fortune to secure such great tickets less than 48 hours before the start of the match. In what weird universe does THAT normally happen?!

The game started and for the 90 minutes that followed, I had no idea what was going on. Soccer/Football is not a game I've ever followed, owing in large part to an involuntary biological resistance to understanding the offside rule - though my boss maintains that this phenomenon is unique to females (!).

We were sitting with the home side fans, so we quickly learned the team's song - "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles". If you ask me, it's a bit of a girly song for such a ragtag bunch of East London blokes, but nobody asked me really. I loved the energy and enthusiasm of each team's supporters when their boys were doing well, and I loved the way that the supporters heckled each other when fortunes were reversed. One chant that was particularly easy to learn goes "Your support, your support, your support is s**t". Beautiful in its simplicity, no?

First West Brom scored (Boo!), then we scored (hurrah!); then we scored again (Hell yeah!); then West Brom scored again (Nooooo!). Scores were tied at the end of the game and everything kind of fizzed from there - lots of head shaking and downcast expressions, and we left the stadium to shiver out in the cold streets.

Getting home was a bit of an adventure, as return journeys so often are with me. In the interests of public safety, the transport geniuses in London had closed the Upton Park station during the game - so the stadium announcer suggested we should find alternate routes home. I didn't even understand the route we took to get there, so what hope did we have?!

It took the combined brain power of the four of us to make sense of the buses on the main street outside the stadium and we soon found ourselves aboard some bus or other en route to the remote northeast of the London Tube map (Zone 1,000,000 or something), but ultimately the bus announced the Tube station I'd been hoping to find - and we jumped off the bus. Somewhat serendipitously, it turned out that the Tube station was serviced by just the right Tube line that we needed to get us back to our respective lodgings so we relaxed into our seats and reflected on the great game experience we'd just shared.

Even though I came away from the game with about as much football knowledge as I'd always had, I still loved it. S&C reckon I need to get to a Chelsea game next and as they are currently on top of the football ladder, I think they will be quite an impressive team to watch. More songs and more chanting? I can deal with that.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Week in Review

This past week has been the usual rollercoaster of apartment searches; apartment viewings; and apartment rejections. I am so sick of the whole thing myself that it's not even worth talking about anymore. At the end of the ride, I just keep getting back in line to go around again. Fortunately I am buoyed in this process by the continued good wishes of friends and family, and the occasional therapy cupcake (bring those on, big time!).

Two fun-filled events punctuated my week, and these managed to cheer me immensely. Firstly I had a visit from KH and her hubby who were in town from Canada. I couldn't believe it when KH first said they were coming - we hadn't seen each other since our days in Chicago and though we'd kept up on email and Facebook, that is not really the same. We met up outside my office one night after work and retired to The Wellington, down the street. When KH used to work in London, she used to eat lunch at this pub quite often, but I had never been in there. I have made a note of it now though. After that, we farewelled Mr H (so he could cleverly get home early), and we headed to the newly re-opened Savoy hotel for cocktails at its famous American Bar. Again, this was another one of KH's old London haunts and it was great to see the place with her. I had been waiting for the Hotel to reopen since I got here - and we were not disappointed. I found the hotel interior to be very flashy and a bit overwhelming to be honest - lots of colour, lots of fabrics, textures etc but it just looks so opulent and beautiful you can't help but be impressed. We got seats right at the bar and were therefore treated to the great artistry of the resident bartenders. I can't remember the names of the cocktails I had (not because I had too many, but because they were specialties of the house rather than classic drinks). No matter though, because I really enjoyed them and I think KH and I solved all the problems of the world that night.

Fast forward a couple of days and London celebrated Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night. Traditionally celebrated on 5 November each year, the City of London's parks come alive on 6 November with fireworks displays and family-friendly celebrations. From our lofty location on the riverfront, we could clearly see the bright lights over Battersea Park and it was really great. My contribution to the night was a couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio and a plate of bacon-wrapped dates which the visiting Americans declared to be delicious, which pleased me (though they require no skill, save for not stabbing yourself with a toothpick or setting the sticks on fire under the grill). We over-catered of course, but there is something lovely about cold sausage rolls the morning after a big party. Tipping half-empty beers down the kitchen sink is not quite so glamorous though...

The coming week heralds the return to London of S&C, whose European adventures have been the source of great amusement on Facebook. I hope they're coming back to me with some great photos to match those stories. I also hope I can score soccer (oops, football) tickets for myself and Sco this week - it might take all the flirting and bossing down the phone that I can muster, but I feel totally up to the task.

No doubt there will be more to report next weekend, so stay tuned.