Sunday, November 28, 2004

Renee and Shane’s Dance Mat party

We started yesterday with a visit to the Borough Markets, where they sell absolutely everything, including fresh game like Rabbits and bits of Venison hanging by their feet, imported Italian wines, all sorts of fresh meats and vegetables, seafood, imported beers, fresh pastas, mushrooms and truffles, the list is never ending but simply amazing to stroll through!

After that, we headed back towards Putney, where I met Dan and we headed out to Twickenham to watch the England vs Australia Rugby match in a small pub, which was full of poms with the exception of us – we got drunk, Australia won, and we left the pub before we were beaten up! We then made our way back into the City from Twickenham to Renee Workman and Shane Wilke’s apartment at Clerkenwell in Central London (as I explained to gav on the phone at the time – we had to go from Caboolture into the Valley!!).

They were hosting the party for us to all have a go on their new Playstation 2 Dance Mat game.. As with all of these events since we’ve been here in London, the night degenerated into dancing, loud music, and terrible loud singing..

Willow and Daniel trying different techniques on the Dance Mat game

Willow and Carly

Nobody is sure what these three women were thinking

and, nobody is sure what Willow was doing

We left Renee and Shane in peace at about 3am, and while everyone else took the smart option and got a minicab home, Carly and I thought we’d try our luck with buses – didn’t I say we left their place at 3am, well we got home at 5pm, and it was freezing!!

Perhaps a taxi next time!!


Currently listening to: Dexy’s Midnight Runners - Come on Eileen (the song of the night for those of us on the beginners level of the Playstation Dance Mat game!!)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Making an Airport Scene

After a great few weeks of catching up, it was time for Mum to get back to her life in Brisbane and shane and I trooped out to Heathrow to see her off. It was a very teary farewell for both Mum and I, with shane being there to mop up the tears.

After seeing her off through the customs gates it was a teary trip home for me on the tube, with Mum on the other side of the gate being offered tissues from strangers. Time now to start planning for the next big event, Christmas.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My London Black Winter Coat purchase

After a week of hunting, I finally made that all-important addition to my London wardrobe: a long black wool overcoat! A retail assistant in a great suit store on Oxford Street convinced me that this beautiful Pierre Cardin coat was ‘perfect for me’, and a Switch card swipe later I was walking down the street feeling just like a local Suit on my way home from work on a cool London night..


Sunday, November 21, 2004

London Apple Retail Store opening

Sporting a wicked hangover from the Brick Lane curry night the night before, I headed into the West End early this morning for a unique event in the world of Apple Computing, it was the official store opening of the first Apple-owned Retail Store outside of the U.S. and Japan (see I know, I am crazy..

With the store opening its doors at 10am, I arrived at the store on Regent Street at 8:30am to join a queue of about 1500 other fans at that stage, with the line growing rapidly – some hardcore fans of the brand had flown in from San Francisco for this, and slept on the street so they could be one of the first in the door.. the attraction wasn’t just the store and what was inside it, but the offer of a free Apple London store opening T-Shirt which is limited to the first 2500 people into the door.. so I stood there, on the back streets behind the store, on the coldest morning in London thus far, waiting for the line to slowly make its way around the corner and into the store – after making friends in the queue with a whole bunch of other Apple enthusiasts, we finally snaked our way the corner and into the store to receive our free shirts! I am proudly wearing it as I type, and of course, it's black in typical Steve Jobs fashion..

Finally, I make it to the front of the queue and the front door on Regent Street!

Inside the store (and several demonstration Powerbooks just like ours!)

The infamous T-Shirt - yes, it was worth lining up for!

While I stood freezing my arse off in the queue, waiting for my free limited edition store opening T-Shirt, carly and her mum were across town shopping in Harrods in Knightsbridge – I later met them, and it was apparent that they weren’t as impressed with my t-shirt as I was..


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Our first Brick Lane experience

After hearing many stories about how good (and inexpensive) the curries were on Brick Lane in East London, we had decided to check it out for ourselves. We started off at our local, The Eight Bells for some beers to show it off to mum, and then hopped on the tube for our trip to town. Due to the beer shane had to disembark for a comfort stop along the way while the girls stayed on board, and so a race to the restaurant was started.

Unfortunately, due to a critical route planning error on my behalf, the girls ended up with the wrong journey plan, leading to the transport planning expert beating us by a considerable amount. But, being shane of course, he didn’t brag about this. Much.

After a very enjoyable dinner we made the last tube home from Aldgate East on what had been a very cold night out in London, with plans to repeat dinner here many more times in the future.


Monday, November 15, 2004

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Road Trip to Birmingham

After a night spent catching up, we were up for an early start and our first road trip out of London, to Birmingham, where Mum was born. Mum's family had celebrated the 40th anniversary of their arrival in Australia just before shane and I had left to come over here and although Mum had been to England since then, she had never been back to Birmingham; the town that she had lived in all those years ago.

Shane and I had decided to organise a trip back there for her to see all the sights and for us to experience some of what the UK has to offer outside of the capital. So with an EasyCar booked over the web and overnight bags packed we were off. We drove straight to Birmingham in the morning, and arrived by lunchtime. We were none too impressed with the town itself, very industrial and dirty but as we were not there for touristy sites that didn’t matter. Not having a road directory we managed to get very lost attempting to find the old house in the suburbs, but with the help of a friendly service station attendant we managed to get our bearings.

A quick phone call was made to Nana in Melbourne to confirm the street name, and the house was then located without too much trouble. While there we were also able to see the old school and church amongst other remembered places. Obviously things had changed over the last 4 decades but everything was still recognizable and we had a lovely time with mum reliving a lot of memories. After lots of tears, stories and photos we had had our fill of Birmingham and decided to continue on with our trip.

We had a mammoth effort getting out of Birmingham through its traffic jams but were soon back on the open road and heading to Stratford-upon-Avon, otherwise known as Shakespeare territory. First of all we found a nice B&B in which to stay and then set about organising our night out. Our plan of seeing a Shakespearean play in Shakespeare’s town quickly fizzled out, with our host informing us that the only play on in town that night was Oklahoma, or as it came to be known, thanks to our great disappointment during the night, ‘Okla-fuckin-homa’.

As we had lost our chance of culture for the night, we decided to do the next best thing - yes that’s right we started off on a pub-crawl. I mean, what else would you do on a trip to an English village with your mum? This culminated with dinner and drinks at The Dirty Duck, a fabulous cosy pub overlooking the Avon where the town's thespians hang out after performances. And, as you do when enjoying yourself on a night out on the drink, we decided to call home to make sure we gave as many people as possible the chance to have some fun. Dad, my sister Kate and some rellies in Melbourne the Alexander’s all ‘enjoyed’ a few drunken phone calls that I’m sure will be brought up often in the future for their pure entertainment value. Poor Kate was woken up numerous times in the early hours of the morning following a decision to have a mini-musicals quiz (in honour of the Okla-fuckin-homa theatre season) to conclude a bet shane and I had between us, the prize of which was an all-important High Tea at the Ritz Hotel. When shane did not know one of the answers he had to sneak off to the toilet to cheat and call in his reserves, i.e. Kate’s knowledge, and this seemed like such a good idea at the time that we continued to do it again and again for the next couple of hours. Anyone who knows Kate will know how much she likes having her sleep interrupted in the morning, but the 3 of us had a blast and luckily Kate was good enough to limit her swearing!

Mum and I outside of Shakespears birthplace in Stratford

The next morning, after a delicious cooked breakfast to help with our hangovers we were off again, a much quieter trio this time. The highlight of the last day's driving was a side trip to the Rollright Stones, a ‘fabulous’(?) ancient monument well worth the money we had to pay to get in, 50 pence, as the photo below shows. As readers can probably tell for themselves this would not really be a place to recommend for others’ travel plans but it gave us a laugh and shane thoroughly enjoyed his first ancient stones experience.

Shane at Rollright Stones - perhaps one to miss!

The day continued with a tour of Oxford, as we all wanted a nosy around this famous university town. Beer and chip butties for lunch in a pub helped to make the day, and after a long walk around it was time to hop back in the car for the return to London.

Chip Butties at a pub in Oxford


Saturday, November 13, 2004

A Visitor from Home

After much anticipation, we are delighted to have our first guest from home arrive to stay with us for the next fortnight; yes my mum has come to visit. This is very exciting for us both, as being close to our families, we have been really starting to miss everyone on this our first extended move away from home.

Mum arrived this morning and was collected from the airport by family friend Kay who lives near Heathrow. They spent a relaxing day together, and then arrived at Hurlingham Court in the evening after shane and I had finished work. We have now spent a lovely night together catching up on all the news, with lots of hugs in between of course.

Mum is nicely settled into our spare room and suitably impressed with her view of the Thames! She has very favourably compared our accommodation to that of the flats that she lived in around Earls Court during her time doing her ‘London trip’ in the early 70’s. Apparently heating the flat was a luxury often done without in her time here, and a lot of time was spent in pubs, 'just trying to keep warm' she tells us!


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Carly’s MS Conference

Apparently this was so little fun and unmemorable, that carly has decided in protest that she will not be adding a post to acknowledge the event – enough said..

I stayed in London and prepared myself for my first week of work..


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Shane starts work at the London Borough of Ealing

Today was my first day in my first UK job.. the team in the Transport Strategy section is exactly as promised, full of aussies and kiwis who seem to have a good sense of priority for making the most of their time in the UK – in the first day I have already been invited to the Christmas party, and have already been warned that I should not expect my phone and computer to be organized within my first month of my 5 month contract – good old efficient England at its best!

-shane the senior transport planner

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Guy Fawkes night 2004!!

With the decision on the job at Ealing made, it was time to celebrate finally getting settled in London with our first Guy Fawkes Night party in London last night..

The usual crowd of friends gathered at our apartment, including Dan, Renee Wilson, Renee Workman and Shane Wilke and two of their mates, and the Willet’s John and Karen.. just to make sure we were in the true spirit of the night, John Willett brought with him £50 of rockets he had got from one of the fireworks stores in Putney (it is legal to buy them here and fire them yourself!!) – so before the drinking got too out of hand, and with what seemed like the whole of London firing of their gunpowder at the same time, we began our show by firing a few of our rockets off of our 8th floor verandah 100 feet up and out over the Thames.. They looked fantastic as they shot up into the clear cold sky!

Although it was only 8:30pm at this stage, it seems that this attracted a bit of attention from the other building residents, with a few of them paying us a visit with the threat of eviction from the building co-operative board!!! After an unpleasant and heated discussion with an elderly gentleman at our front door about the legalities of firing fireworks on private property, and with the prospect of our landlord etc finding out about this, we decided it was perhaps in the best interests of our future tenancy here at Hurlingham Court that the remaining fireworks be fired off directly over the river in Wandsworth Common park – so John and a few others headed off to let them loose far away from the sleeping retirees downstairs, while the rest of us stayed behind to watch the show from over the river…

Carly and Willow very early on in the piece

Dan's fall into the cupboard - you just had to be there..

A very drunk Carly and John share a special moment on the lounge

Carly and Renee in the hallway in the early hours of the morning

The night continued on and with just Dan, Renee, Carly, and I still here, and true to form we carried on dancing, drinking, drinking and dancing until 3am.. a great first Guy Fawkes in London, and what a fantastic place to be living for the fireworks show that went on for a week either side of the Guy Fawkes night across the surrounding suburbs!

More Guy Fawkes fireworks along the Thames that same week - some great shots from our verandah


Currently listening to: Outkast - Hey Ya! (the official Guy Fawkes night party song)

Shane’s interview at the London Borough of Ealing

As reported in the last post, I had an interview for a Senior Transport Planner position at the Ealing Council on Wednesday, which is a Council that covers an area to the West of Central London beyond Shepherds Bush etc. see

The interview went only just o.k. from my perspective, but I must have done something right because they had called my agent that afternoon and I had an offer on the table the next day – I slept on it and had to decide by Thursday close of business.. with my boring days driving me nuts and the transport planning role a very different type of planning and project management for me to head into, I signed up for my first ever Council role!

Apparently they are a young team of mostly Aussies and kiwis, and the work seems interesting enough – at the least it should be a good foot into the door and give me the UK experience that I need to head into The City where the big bucks and the big town panning roles are.. so here we go..


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The joy of having a househusband

Hi everyone

I know that it has been ages since we updated this but we have been busy settling into real London life. As you should already know, we have settled nicely into our new home of the next 4 months in Fulham. We are really enjoying life here, and are getting ready to host our first London party on Friday night. Guy Fawkes is on this weekend, and with views of the fireworks over the river from our balcony, what else could we do but invite some friends over to enjoy it with us!! John Willet has contributed a supply of firecrackers for the night (yes it is legal here to set off your own!), and we are planning a big night! The fireworks will be before the major drinking of course- no trips in an ambulance with burns thanks, already had that experience!

The job-hunting for Shane continues, but I have been lucky enough to land an easy job as a health consultant on a telephone help line... I know, I know, it doesn’t sound that exciting, but hey, anything not involving early mornings over winter is great with me! Also I have got the added bonus of being sent on my first work conference this weekend, something which Shane, the conference nut, is very jealous about! I am off to Harrowgate (near Birmingham, I'm told) for a couple of days of drinking and maybe a couple of lectures on MS- the disease I am now specialising in over the phone. Luckily thanks to many stories about drunken planners, I pretty much know what to expect....
Shane has an interview this week, and a couple of other projects in the pipeline, so he should be working soon. In the meantime, I can come home and put my feet up every night because I currently have a househusband to take care of things. Every woman should get one, they are a fabulous invention, and I will really miss mine when he starts back to work!

The London markets are great, we have gone to a few of them over the last few weekends, haven't brought much but really enjoyed wandering around. We've been to Brixton, Portobello road, and Camden Town - fresh food & veg, and plenty of great second hand clothes stores, and while we did catch the tube over to Camden, we didn't buy any funky records with that old motown sound... which was a bit of a disappointment for those who know the song, maybe next time.

We went to Richmond on Saturday, saw the white cross (where Kate worked/lived), and then had great nachos and beer at the pitcher and piano pub upriver, and walked up the hill for the famous view over the Thames valley and Twickenham, and then onto the Richmond Park and all of the deer. Took lots of photos of course, and Shane is considering buying a gun before our next trip. Kidding of course, he tells me anyway. The weather was amazing for this time of year, we only had T-shirts on all day... however back to the real London today, getting dark at 4:30 pm already.

Carly and the deer at Richmond Park - note the buildings not very far away in the background!

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Hope that you are all enjoying the heat; summer is there already from what I hear.

love to everyone