Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Working hard to make a living!

Short history lesson: The start of civilised England was when the Romans settled it (missed the East End and certain parts of the Midlands though) and named their new prize - Britannia - which in Roman meant bad teeth. These industrial little Italians were hard working and were building an Empire - complete with white concrete lion statues everywhere, shit loads of concrete roads and extravagant gardens (some things never change - take a look at a few front yards in the Western suburbs when you have a chance).

The Romans had a mighty work ethic (guess somethings do change) and when they left, so did their work ethic. The Brits didn't exactly jump right into the spot left by the Romans, but did go about their little island for some time before deciding to up and start their own empire. My question is, how did they manage to build an empire when they are the laziest race on the planet (I'm sure taking over India had something to do with it - but I can't seem to insert a call centre joke in here anywhere, so I'll just leave it).

It's said waiting in a queue is a national past time. It's not because there are a lot of people waiting for the same thing, but the person serving is just so slow. My bank card took two weeks to arrive, you pack your own groceries at the supermarket (a fact I only learnt after I abused the lady for asking me to do it - 'you want me to f*$ng do what??), and the only reason most scotch is aged 12 years is because no one got off their ass to bottle it when it was ready - Scotch aged eight years is when they have an Aussie working there on his gap year.
London is only go go go, as there are so many foreigners here.

Not Europeans, but people from all over the world. Europe is kind of like that old aunty. Quite old, not really in much of a hurry to doanything, occasionally loses bowl control which starts a war around the international dinner table till they blame it on the dog (insert dictator name). But the rest of the world are like the young nieces and nephews - bouncing around full of energy, and love going over to aunty Europe's house every couple of months because she gives them money and cool toys (well aunty Europe doesn't include Germany - that's more like angry, annoyed Uncle who thinks aunty Europe spoils her little nieces and nephews).

My work times are 9.30 - 5.30, with an hour spent having lunch in the staff cafeteria - not exactly a long haul. And when I say staff cafeteria, I'm not talking three plastic tables and lady named Coleen asking you if you want 'sauce with ya pie love'. The plastic tables are now wood with table clothes and large, high backed chairs. Coleen is replaced by waiters and the pie with sauce was replaced with a tunac steak on a truffle mash today. Yesterday was a chinese dumpling stir fry, the day before was lamb - well you get the picture - all for the princely subsidised sum of £3. Can't buy the parts for that! Do you think the ladies will get suspicious if I invite them out on a date during the week…for lunch…at my work?

Back on to the work. Today I had to deal with with IT (lack of) Support.

Conversation with help desk:
Bart: So what you're telling me is that I've called the wrong department to get my email set up and working?
Git: Nah, you've called the right department, but I can't do it Guv.
Bart: Why?
Git: It's not my job.
Bart: Whose is it?
Git: Not mine.
Bart: But this is the right department.
Git: Yea, just not me.

Ahh, buck passing, up there with Mary Poppins, weekly baths and that manly sport of fox hunting (as foxes are so dangerous they need to be chased down on horse back) as being truly English. That's why the English won the rugby world cup. What other sport do you have where someone gets thrown the ball and in about 0.27 of a second and then they throw it to someone else and say 'no no, you take care of it'.

In fact, I think that's why the English didn't go straight in to empire building when the Romans left. It took several thousand years to find out whose job it was to do something! The entire Dark Ages were simply three guys called Colin, Basil and Angus arguing about who should do something first - then saying sod it and going to have a pint.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Great Britain - the only country that needs an adjective before its name

Ah the motherland, the UK, Great Britain, Britannia, England - what a special place. After my fifth day of consecutive rain, I feel that maybe 200 years ago the decison makers in the UK should have made the smarter decision by saying to the convicts back north: “All right, we’re packing up and leaving, and heading down south for awhile for some sun. The hot water bottles are in the top draw and we’ll be back in 200 years to kick your arses in cricket!”

But been here a month now, and one might be saying I’m living the dream. Or with the weather as it is, living the wet dream. It’s days like the past ones that I remember the saying: The sun never sets on the British Empire. Now that I’m here I realise the sun never actually rises on the British Empire.

Another little thing I’ve picked up is that the English don’t really speak the language, more like chew on the words and regurgitate them in speech. One of my room mates Dean said to me yesterday: “You speak alright English for an Aus, in’t?” I replied: “Well you seem to be learning it alright yourself – by the way, it’s ‘isn’t it’ not 'in’t' dipshit (not really, I made that last bit up to sound tough)”.

Many things remind me that no matter how wordly travelled you are, there are many more things to see in a truly global city. For example, walking through Covent Garden the other day I saw a bum using a fancy little plastic cup to drink his water from. I commented to my English flat mate (not the previous one): “Well he’s a bit fancy”. Before Darryl pointed out those were the cups given out by the clinic to take methadone with.

By far the strangest thing I’ve encountered are the names of pubs. In no particular order, here are my top ten:

1. The Frog and forget me not
2. The Slug and Lettuce
3. The Lady and the Seal
4. The Fox and Fence
5. The Tiger and Tennis (I shit you not)
6. The Cricket and Wasp
7. The English Gentleman (I just thought the oxymoron was funny)
8. The British Bird of Prey (why didn’t they just call it the Margaret Thatcher)
9. The Tower and Dungeon (one story building mind you)
10. The Duck and Hill

Love you all, or as I should say in the 'Queen's English': "yours top the lot o ya, in't my son!"

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stop the foreplay and just give me the bang!!!!

Strange title of a posting I know, but it all makes sense when I have been in my second evacuation due to 'a suspicious parcel' in three days.

Firstly, what constitutes a suspicious parcel (according to staff at the museum we were kicked out due to "a bag left behind"). Where were these emergency response crews when I kept losing school bags all through high school - they could have saved my parents a mint on new bags.

Anyway, one Tuesday afternoon I decided to get
some culture and headed to the County Hall to
view a Dali and Picasso exhibition. What a place London is, both Dali and Picasso in one exhibition - for free (see right hand side - no photography in the gallery sorry).

Anyway, the gallery had speakers through it broadcasting such Arty statements: "people who don't like Art never leave the first page (how deep - get a job you drain on public funds!). So about an hour in, a broadcast comes across saying: "this is not a drill, please find an emergency exit and leave in an orderly fashion". This is where the fun began.

As people were not sure if this was part of the exhibit, everyone started moving towards the exits, but in a slow dawdle so as not to look like they believed the message, but were finished with looking at the art. You could see in their eyes that there was a mix of fear, firstly because this could be for real, but more importantly, a fear that if they moved quickly and it was actually just part of the exhibition, that they wouldn't look like they 'understood' the greater meaning behind the artistic effect of the announcement (I don't know about art but I know what I like - and I loved that).

Monday, May 01, 2006

I just can't wait for the weekend to begin...

So after a tumultuous first few days, in which I found myself a room in a house in Clapham, and managed several interviews, my first weekend didn't let me down.
After a large night in Putney, which I won't talk about (mainly because I can't remember much of it), it was off to Bree's birthday BBQ on Saturday in Queen's Park.
Now it does feel a little strange barbecuing in an overcoat
and scarf, but the sun did come out a few times.

Although stranger things were on the cards for the rest of the night when Bree's friend arrived with her husband in his stretch hummer.
So what's the first thing you have to do in this situation - get in a go for a ride of course...

Saturday night was spent catching up with Cam and Jess (for those of you who know them) and after a drunken conversation with a new group of friends, apparently now I'm going to Bermuda for the Cricket World Cup next year and plans are in place to start a sushi bar in the middle of London.

Eagle has landed

Five quick observations on London:

1. English are not the most attractive race in the world, but are better than Irish.
2. London streets are not a grid system, so when you are kind of lost, swallow your pride and stop to ask directions or you will end up walking for 3 hours when the trip should have only taken 10 minutes.
3. Walkabout pub – move on nothing to see here.
4. Yorkshire pudding, where have you been my whole life????
5. When Starbucks coffee is the best coffee on offer in the whole country, it’s no wonder everyone drinks tea.

So, I’ve finally got a chance to write to you all and say hi. The past few days have been a hectic mesh of house hunting, job interviews and sampling the London night and day life. I can’t wait to get out of the backpackers. Here I was thinking ‘backpackers – great – now I feel like I’m really travelling, only to be reminded of how much I have become accustomed to the good life with many thoughts about my current living situation, such as:
• Why are you talking to me and is that you creating that smell?
• Yes, I’m from Melbourne too, that doesn’t mean we need to be friends.
• A single bed – in a bunk – hurrah I’m 12 again, maybe we can build a cubby house.
• How can one be expected to exfoliate, wash their face and moisturise when the showers don’t heat up enough?
• Actually I might pass on that 15th beer, just a nice Shiraz thanks.

Already got an instant family. Met one person a bar on Tuesday night, and now have a great little network going on, my social calender is booked for the next 6 weeks. It’s quite funny how quickly your social network builds up when you’re in another country (3 hours to have nearly a dozen new friends) compared to when you move to Sydney (3 years and the guy at the milk bar starts to smile at you).