Monday, July 24, 2006

The Lewis's visit London

We've been having the best couple of days while we have Brisbane friends Carmen & Matt here from Brisbane, at the end of a long tour of Europe they have been doing. It's been fantastic to have some people from home staying with us in our current flat, and its also given us a great excuse to get around town and do a few of the tourist sights we still haven't seen.. It's amazing that when living in a city like this one (and also Brisbane) that you tend to take things for granted and don't get around to seeing some of the bigger attractions while living your normal life.

They arrived at West Kensington on Saturday morning with very loaded suitcases after their long 6 week European tour, and the previous week around London visiting other friends living here - so after a brief catchup we headed across to North London on the Tube and went for a walk through Hamstead Heath and up to Parliament Hill to see the amazing view of the City and West End skyline from up there. On the way from the tube to the Heath, I stopped Matt and we grabbed a couple of cans of 'Stella' from an off-licence (offie) for the walk, and he was somewhat shocked that we could hapilly walk along the streets and through the park drinking our beers in public.. it seems no-one else had told this liberal UK attitude to licence and public liquor consumption, so he was very impressed and kept laughing at the strangeness and common sense of it! I could tell he was a little jealous of the more liberal laws over here..

After getting to the top of the hill a rain storm broke what had been a hot and humid summers day so we then walked through the trees in the drizzle to visit the nearby 'Ye Old White Bear' pub for a pint. That night we went up to Angel for dinner with some of their friends (one of which was celebrating a birthday) at one of the three great Gallipoli restuarants on Upper Street, giving us a chance to relive some of the amazing food we'd had in Turkey a few months back. Carmen was not impressed when we got caught up in a Tube sugnal failure on the way home and we were forced to walk from the next station to home - all part of living in London I told her.. at the time I don't think she wasn't satisfied with my excuse....

Yesterday, their visit gave us the perfect excuse to finally visit the world heritage listed Tower of London. Everyone who goes there says the same thing - it is an amazing fortress, steaming back 900+ years of Royal history and still houses the Royal Family Crown Jewels, which includes the bioggest cut diamond in the world.. We took the obligatory 'Beefeater' Yoeman Warden introductory tour around the Tower which as everyone had told us was very interesting and amusing - our Warden told us that to get the job they had to serve 22 years in the British armed forces, acheive the rank of Warrant Officer 1st Class, and all the while receiving some commendation medal for a perfect record over 18 years of that service. Our Beefeater was fairly young and had only joined the ranks in 2005, and while serving for the Army had the (dis)pleasure of guarding Nazi Rudolph Hess in a German prison in the 1980's (he mentioned it because Hess had been imprisoned at the Tower for a few days during the 2nd World War).

We spent most of the day walking around the site touring all of the individual buildings, rooms, and towers that make up the impressive complex - the amrouries in the original 'White Tower' were fantastic, with all of the old suits of armour and weaponry on display where it was once stored for use and some of it made at one stage. The display of the Crown jewels was the most spectacular thing to see there, and the size of the jewels making up the royal crowns, septors, and other ornaments involved in the coronation of the Queen/King were mind boggling. No photos allowed of course. Despite streams of tourists filing past I found myself a spot behind them and gazed at the cabinets until Carly made me move on with a phone call from outside.

We finally left the Tower satisfied that we'd seen the lot, and hopped on a restored Routemaster bus to find a pub near Covent Garden to get a late lunch/early dinner pub meal as requested by Matt - but it had to sell pies! We stopped at a pub on The Strand and had a great meal (Matt got his pie), before we headed up to a favourite of mine at the top of Drury Lane: The Lowlander, to show Matt what a quality Belgian Beer Café should be like, as opposed to the poor version we used to visit in Brisbane. Matt loved his glass of Brugse Zot, carefully selected from the long list of Draught and bottle beers on the menu, most of which he'd never seen or heard of before, while Carmen followed Carly's lead and got a Strawberry Frulli beer.

Beers finished, we headed home and had a bottle of red up on the roof, having a good laugh while the sun set over the rooftops and the rows and rows of old chimneys.

Tonight, Matt is in for a special treat - he is going with my mate Pete and I to the British International Motor Show out in the East London Docklands for several hours of oogling very shiny, polished, and very expensive automobiles.. Since greeting them at out front door on Saturday, Matt has been pretty excited to know that we'd be going to the Motor Show, and he hasn't stopped raving about how everyone in London seems to drive Lotus Esprits, Mercs, BMW's, and Maserati's - I only hope that it doesn't make him disapointed to visit the Brisbane 'International' Motor Show in the future..

They're heading off for Ireland tomorrow morning and then home not long after that so it'll be sad to see them go - but like we all said last night on the roof, 2007 is going to be a fantastic year for all of us to be living in Brisbane with so much going on - can't wait!

-shane

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Elliott Rose Sternberg arrives

This morning I woke to find this email from Conan & Sharleen letting us know that Sharleen had given birth to a baby girl (which we'd already been told it would be) in Ipswich earlier this morning our time. She's the first baby among our group of school friends, so it's very exciting!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sharleen Rogers; --
Date: Jul 20, 2006 12:02 AM
Subject: The baby
To: --

Elliott Rose Sternberg

Born: 12:14 20/07/06
Weight: 3420g

I'm having difficulty with email at the moment. If this gets to you could
you pass the news on to others please. I will try to phone you all when
Sharleen is feeling a bit better. (I few problems with this one)

--------------------------------------------

Congratulations guys. If I get a picture through from them I'll put it up. Dan and I now have to get together and smoke an obligatory cigar.

-shane


P.S. Job done. Dan come over on Friday and the above-mentioned cigar was had and savoured up on the roof after work:

Britain Bakes

England had apparently been in a heatwave, but with temperatures only scraping 30 degrees most Aussies I know had been making fun of the poms as they complained about 'melting' in the heat. Today, it was serious. At 2pm it got hot enought to break the all-time hottest temperature record for July in the UK - 36.3C, measured near Gatwick Airport. It was bad enough that, in honour of Gav & Buse back in Brisbane, I donned my double-pluggers and wore them to work instead of the usual business attire - so now an additional 30 or so English know the critical difference between having that extra plug in their 'flip-flops'.

London was absolutely boiling, and on the tube on the way home even an empty carriage didn't help as the trains ran painfully slow with speed restrictions on all lines and it took me over an hour to make my usual journey. Here is what my London weather widget was telling me at 10pm tonight..


It got so hot, that our office was treated to a couple of stunning topless sunbathers who had set up their towels on the bank of the Thames with the tide out just out front of our office bulding, for a few hours of afternoon sun - much to the amusement of every guy in the five storey building who seemed to be more interested in the river view than normal. More was to come though when they failed to notice that the tide had turned and had began coming in, (which it does at a very rapid rate on the Thames) trapping their exit. We all watched and laughed as they quickly donned their clothes and climbed up a ladder into our courtyard to make their way through our building to get to the street.

the view from my desk yesterday - I suddenly had an office full of new friends who wanted to visit me

It's meant to begin cooling down tomorrow (still a max of 30 degrees), although the heat is holding well into the night and the terrible humidity that we'd been getting over the past few weeks is set to return. As anyone who's spent any time in both Central and north Queensland will know, it's much better to have it 36+ and no humidity, than 26 degrees and high humidity. London is no different.

-shane

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Latest photography now online

Hi there everyone,

This is just a temporary post to let you all know that I have sorted and uploaded photos of some of the big things we have been doing over the last 2-3 months while the english summer has been cracking on - see the May (05), June (06) and July (07) folders at www.spargoweb.com/photography for shots from our trips to Amsterdam and Turkey, and some of the various things we've been doing around London and south-east England.

Cheers,

-shane

Monday, July 10, 2006

Italy win World Cup final

One month of dealing with a football-mad City is sadly over - earlier tonight the World Cup football final saw Italy defeat France in a tension-filled match which finished in a penalty shoot-out. After yesterday's big picnic and Dawes Rd pub crawl, we stayed in and watched it at home without any beers and only a cup of tea - a bit sad really.

It was sad to see the French go down, all the more after Italy had previously knocked out Australia in dubious circumstances, but they played a better game and deserved to win this match. Their corners were magnificent (their only goal came from a perfect cross and Materazzi header), and despite being down 1-0 after just 7 minutes thanks to a Zidane penalty spot-kick, they held their nerve and seemed more determined to win it.

Despite starting extra time strongly, the French seemed to lose their way as the second half of extra time began. Key players such as Vieira and my favourite Thierry Henry had gone off, and then the big talking point of the match occurred when French captain Zinedine Zidane, possibly after being verbally baited by the italian player Materazzi, unleashed a headbut into the chest of the italian sending him to the ground. The red card came out and France had lost their captain and key penalty-spot kicker right before the end of extra time and the shoot-out.

The headbutt incident

The Italians weren't going to lose in another shoot out following previous World Cup final failures and consequently nailed their goals straight through or past Barthez. Italy had won 5-3 on penalties, after a 1-1 scoreline at the end of extra time.

Our neighbourhood erupted with car horns blasting and people cheering out of their windows following the win and when they raised gold ball the trophy. Apparently the Italian bars and restuarants in Soho went mad with the win!

I've probably written it before but it has been fantastic to be living here during the tournament, so close to where the games have been played (meaning TV coverage at perfect times of the day), and in a city with such a diverse population following the nations playing every single match. Almost as good as being in Germany.

And after our successes earlier on in the tournament it will be good to see Australia make their way into the tournament in 4 years time, this time in South Africa.

-shane

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Willow's birthday picnic

To celebrate her birthday, our friend Willow wanted to have a picnic in the sun. So she booked everyone in early (a must in busy London) and yesterday we all headed down to Eel Brook Common (which is the unnamed park behind Fulham Broadway) to sit around eating and drinking the afternoon away. We still find it amazing that as soon as the sun comes out in this country, everyone flocks to any peice of grass they can find to catch some rays and make the most of what little good weather there seems to be sometimes - you just don't appreciate it enough in Australia..

I’d hit my favourite street markets that morning so my picnic comprised of some pretty special stuff – Carly, who had worked all morning, didn’t seem to be all that impressed with my wares when I met her at the park.

A bunch of the guys there laid out some goals and we got stuck into a great game of World Cup inspired football, while all of the women seemed to sit there and drink all the wine.. A perfect English summers' afternoon.


the birthday girl

With all of this time spent laying around drinking had gotten everyone in the mood for carrying on, so we packed up and headed to the Mitre pub, just near Shorrolds Rd, where we spent a while on some of the outside tables. Around the time that we ventured inside the night, the night began to deteriorate – the girls took apart some of the floral arrangements on the tables in the bar area, and as you can see from the photos we all seemed to be enjoying ourselves.


leah & carly; leah, carly, & workman
(click here to see the rest of the photos)


ben & willow with what was left of the flowers


willow & carly

Ben & Leah then dragged us off to the Salisbury pub, which he’d been talking up all afternoon – so by the time we got there we were in fine form and carried on until closing time and yet another call for ‘last drinks’ which we’d become used to this week.

Soon after we all went back to Shorrolds to get out picnic gear, Willow had ducked off upstairs for a snooze, and without our host it was really time to go home, via yet another long walk down the North End Road.

Happy Birthday Willow.. we hope you enjoyed the week of festivities!

-shane

Friday, July 07, 2006

Farewell to Andy, for now...

A few weeks back we heard the exciting news that our friend Karen’s partner Andy had been offered and had accepted a temporary role with the UN Habitat organisation to work on post-Tsunami reconstruction projects in Sri Lanka – an amazing offer that I for one wouldn’t turn down. So with summer well and truly here in London, he chose to gather all the usual suspects at a favourite fair weather venue – the Queen Mary boat moored on the Thames at the Embankment – to say goodbye before he left on the first leg of the stint on Saturday night..


Me and Payne

I had offered to take some portrait shots of him and Kaz, and so after we’d managed to get a few Corona’s into him to get him smiling I shot off a few with the intention of getting some good ones for the two of them to have while he is away working. I ended up with a few that i'm pretty happy with.





Many of Andy’s mates were there, including all of the running team from the RunLondon last year, many of the Platinum Players from the Italian ski trip this year, plus all of our old Brisbane friends. With everyone so busy over here it rarely happens that we get everyone in the one spot like this so it was a fantastic few hours catching up.



As with every trip to the QM, it slowly spiralled out of control and not long after the sunset we were being herded off of the top deck as the bar and boat began to close up for the night. When they decided that they’d had enough of us it was ‘last drinks’ and we were ushered off the gangway and off home on the Tube.

Good luck and farewell for now Payne.. we’ll see you soon enough Buddy!! Eye of the Tiger!!

-shane

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Early morning Piccadilly

I've been wanting to get some good shots of the area around Piccadilly Circus, but strangely I wanted to get some while the place is empty. My plan is to try and get a series of special shots from our time in London, which I can print in black & white for mounting in our home down the track. Early morning was the key for this normally packed out tourist haunt, and the long daylight hours of summer, combined with summer time meant that I could get there at 6:30am, and have the place completely empty, but full of glorious light making it feel like a ghost town. Below is the result.

Piccadilly Circus, W1

I then went for a walk around some of my favourite parts of the area, such as the shirt makers of Jermyn Street where I brought some beautiful business shirts a few weeks back.

Jermyn Street, SW1

I then wandered up across Piccadilly to the famous home of traditional bespoke tailoring, Savile Row.. one day I'd love to be fitted up for and purchase a bespoke suit from here. Simply beautiful suits and shirts.

Savile Row, W1

And I then rounded off my early morning tour by looping around and onto Regent Street, whcih since we've been living here has been one of pour favourite shopping strips - since I first saw it on one of our first days I've been in love with the long continuous curved buildings that follow the street around from Piccadilly towards Oxford Circus.

Regent Street, Piccadily end

On the tube trip home, I got an interesting shot of the tracks eastbound out of Earls Court - showing the old arches in the embankment wall on the left, the hopelessly bent and warped tracks of the District Line, and the large amount of haze already in the air as the summers day begins to warm up fast.


I got home just after 8:30am. Carly had been on one of her recent night shifts and walked in the door just before me, in time for breakfast.

-shane