Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I'm a little angry. I'm a little upset. I'm a little disillusioned.

Actually, I'm a lot of all of those. Theoretically, I was supposed to "start" work tomorrow (1st Nov), but I had not yet received an employment contract.

What then transpired was a brief email exchange between myself and the prospective boss, "can I see the contract", "doesn't look like we have work for you", "does that mean I'm NOT employed as of 1st Nov", "correct".

So suffice to say, I am looking for work again. On the plus side, I got a call from a recruiter 5 minutes after applying for a job this morning, so will hopefully hear something back on that one in a day or two. Also, the recruiter that had lined up the permanent job rang me this afternoon sounding very apologetic and very keen to find me alternate work.

The search goes on...


Monday, October 30, 2006

Cranberries. Of course.

Hiya folks.

I've had a busy week ignoring Uni work. I made the mistake of actually attempting to get ahold of the materials I am supposed to read for the trade marks course. One week's reading is in the order of 700 A4 pages. This is for one course out of the three examinable courses, and for the patents course, which I am only auditing, there is always at least one reading per week which I dare not fail to do if I want to show up in class. And then, of course, there's the small matter of the reading for a 15,000 word dissertation. In other words: I am potentially in a spot of bother, and without a single research paralegal or dedicated librarian to do it all for me.


On Friday night (limited LozFest 2006 - concluding remarks) as prefigured in previous entries, we went to see a stand-up comic's show on the French Revolution and it was absolutely awesome. If Mark Steel ever makes his way to your local, see the man. His rendition of the German word for "purr" made Grant almost spill his beer, and that is high praise indeed.

On Saturday we had big, big plans but accomplished absolutely none of them, because we could not be bothered, and also because those nice people at Amazon had sent me new DVDs for my birthday. This was terribly generous of them, but perhaps not really very helpful in terms of actually getting me to do the uni reading. Totally worth it though!

Therefore, on Sunday we decided to get our skates on. We hit Kew Gardens in the morning, photos here. This is basically London's botanical gardens and the place is HUGE. It has a number of different outside habitats - redwoods, conifers, a holly walk, and a few giant ponds, one of which was for some strange reason being used to grow cranberries. Together with the proliferation of jack o' lanterns all over the place and the gardens train driver who shouted "grr" at me as he drove past, scaring the living daylights out of me, seemed to be a concession to the American tourists as well as an excellent opportunity for a cross-promotion with the good people at Ocean Spray. The Ocean Spray organisation should by the way be given due credit for not concealing the origin of cranberries from the public - "Straight from the bog," indeed. The free craisins they gave us were appreciated though.

The holly walk was something of an eye opener. I had been of the view that holly was a shrub. Even when I saw an example of the species taller than the outside rank of battlements at Windsor Castle, I assumed it was a freak example, much like my parsley tree that grew beside the compost heap in Underwood Road. As it turns out, there are hundreds of different kinds of holly, and the shrub kind appears to be in the minority when compared to the 20 foot monster trees. My education as to the genus Ilex alone was almost worth the (extortionate even before conversion to AUD) price of admission. For once thing, I now know that this kind is really, really sharp.

Rather more famously, the gardens include several internal habitats to cover temperate, desert and tropical zones. These tend to be huge Victorian glasshouses which are very fabulous but also even hotter than the Pixieflat when it has been shut up for a few hours. The Palm House houses allegedly the world's oldest potplant, a cycad brought to Kew in about 1770. It also houses humidity of about 120%, making photography and, for Grant, vision basically impossible as everything fogged up the second we walked in the door.

"Wildlife" in the gardens included nice black sheep, a whole bunch of peacocks, peahens, and peababies or whatever they are called, the usual hordes of squirrels, seagulls, Canada Geese and pigeons, and even fake badgers in a fake badger set, which I regard as false advertising. We tried to get through the whole place in 3 hours, and had to skip a few chunks of the gardens to do so. Thinking of an even more extortionate season ticket so we can go back and do it properly!

In the rather late afternoon we headed out to Jen's near Richmond for what turned out to be an extremely late lunch at a Shepparton pub - my fault entirely. Nice lunch/extremely early dinner though! The Shepparton section of the Thames has a lock and we got to see it in operation, which was pretty cool. Very, very nice boat going through, crewed by a father and son team. The father seemed a little paranoid about tar getting on the decking, but we won't judge him.

Many birthdays this week - lots of electronic happy returns and virtual cake products to Jen, Ro, Vron, and most especially to our wonderful nephew K and the lovely Miss Hol, both 5 already!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Man's inhumanity to man

Apparently we are still in daylight savings time. Apparently it ends tonight. It's unnatural *ending* daylight savings in October.

So, as of tomorrow morning, we will be 10hrs behind AEST. (Or, more accurately, we will be returning to GMT, making you Eastern Australia folk our time +10)
(Edit: almost correct! I didn't realise Australia was starting daylight savings this weekend! So, while we are indeed 10hrs behind AEST, Sydney is currently is EST, so make it GMT+11...)

It just feels so wrong.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Swimming to the Barbican

Firstly, happy birthday to me! It has been a lovely day so far, including lots of nice calls to friends and family - I miss you all, but I doubt I could have survived a repeat of the 2005 week-long LozFest celebrations so it is probably just as well to be having a quiet one.

Despite the fact that it is my birthday, a certain person has been nagging me, so following is an account of our exciting cycling adventure last weekend. Said cycling adventure being to Charterhouse Square, which is near the Barbican and which is where all my classes take place, with a view to assessing suitability of cycleway to said Square for commuter use.

To set the scene: bucketing rain. Imagine a tropical storm, but freezing. Perfect weather for a ride!

In theory, the ride in goes something like:

Pixieflat > Ladbroke Grove (the road not the "suburb", note that Ladbroke Grove actually goes up a slight incline of all things, hence "Notting Hill," which is a hill in about the same way as Cooks Hill) > Notting Hill Gate > Kensington Palace Gardens > Hyde Park (via "Rotten Row," a cute corruption of "Route du Roi", which goes beside the horseriding track) > Green Park > Buckingham Palace > the Mall > Trafalgar Square > whole mess of incredibly complicated backstreets around Covent Garden > Charterhouse Square. Following this map.

In actuality, a strange series of events and misturns resulted in our first attempt going along the lines of: Pixieflat > Ladbroke Grove (the road not the "suburb", note that Ladbroke Grove actually goes up a slight incline of all things, hence "Notting Hill," which is a hill in about the same way as Cooks Hill) > Notting Hill Gate > Kensington Palace Gardens > Notting Hill Gate > Kensington Palace Gardens. It is doubtful that this could be repeated under lab conditions. Suffice to say, if you find yourself on Bayswater Road you are NOT heading towards the CBD.

Our second attempt with much consulting of maps and minor screaming matches over directions (all of which in bucketing rain, with the map getting increasingly worse for wear) and an endless number of wrong-way streets which we blithely disregarded to the apparent confusion of some cab drivers went rather better and we did eventually end up in Charterhouse Square. Which looks like this:

(only without the snow, and with some medical students and squirrels hanging about, and noting that the dodgy seventies blocks in which my classes take place are sadly of of frame). Picturesque, isn't it?

However, on the way, we happened to ride past a rather interesting cadet/band function of some kind complete with marching and saluting and so on in the road between the Mall and Buckingham Palace, which is closed to traffic on Sundays. Pictures here. If we hadn't gotten incredibly lost on the first attempt we wouldn't have seen it, so I'm calling it serendipity.

We managed to get back home rather more quickly, but did cheat by using The Strand instead of the warren of backstreets. Much faster and far more exciting - harks back to fond memories of Sydney CBD lane-changing. Also rather more consistent with those annoying road rules about one way streets. I am absolutely going to take The Strand option in future, not least because it is nice to feel like one is on a monopoly board.

The whole trip was about 25km including detours, so I think the commute will be about 10km each way. I am not telling anyone how long it took, because we were lost, and it was raining, and it does not reflect our usual mad speeding skillz. It is an awesome commute though - quite the sightseeing trip. And pretty much dead flat in Sydney terms.

By the end we were both absolutely sodden and muddy, and our shoes took 5 days to dry IN AN AIRING CUPBOARD, and we were both so cold that the Pixieflat's soaring temperatures thanks to the Little Water Heater That Could were actually really welcome when we got home. But I think it will be doable for a little while yet, especially if I take a proper raincoat or implement some such equally practical stratagems.

Uni has been pretty fun this week, and I have been learning all sorts of crazy things I didn't know before, like the US law of misappropriation, which is fairly incomprehensible. Things are also hotting up, as I was downloading my readings for the trade marks course last night, and if I try to read it all I am going to run out of eyeballs. I will have to dust off my speedreading as well as my speedcycling, I think.

Historical fact: we have never been in Hyde Park without being rained on.


Loz turns 30

Happy 30th birthday Loz! And look, she's still smiling:

A quiet birthday today for Loz - afterall, the big part was a couple of months ago! A very relaxed, tasty breakfast (if I do say so myself), then a walk up to the post office to pick up presents that have travelled thousands of miles! We happened upon some kind of Italian food festival type thing on Portobello road on the way, so some tasty treats were purchased. (damn it, should have bought more of their delicious looking breads and sweets!)

Loz still had to go to uni and slave away for 2 whole hours! But we are about to head out for an early dinner and then to see a stand up comedian - portraying the French revolution!


Monday, October 23, 2006

The bike

By popular demand, here is my new bike:

Fairly old, but something of a classic. It's an Orange Clockwork - British made, steel (is-real) frame. Currently 21 speed, and I am trying to decide if I go single speed or not. It would be an easy decision if I was riding *only* road or *only* dirt (the roads here are particularly suited for singlespeeding), but as it will be used for everything, I don't think it would work. Maybe if I tried running 2 chainrings, 40-ish for road and 32 for dirt, and keep a common rear cog... but I don't think the chainline would be ideal.

We took the bikes out beside one of the local canals last week for a short ride - about 30km, but remember, it's all flat! Stopped for a pint and a bite to eat at a very convenient pub, then came home. One of the strangest things I've seen is a canal that goes *over* a motorway... weird. The second strangest thing is that the banks of the canal are lined with houses (obviously) - but the rooves of the houses are lower than the bank of the canal! Considering how much trouble we had with seepage in Pillapai St, I have no idea how they are not permanently flooded...

Only a couple of photos, and they can be seen here.


More about panorama type photos

I took a *couple* of photos today...
This one consists of 17 photos, and this one has 14.

I haven't bothered cropping the jagged outline to show the raw output from the cropping programme.

Oh, there's a couple of other photos (not panorama) in the gallery here.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Of Spanish food, majestic buildings and rainbows...

Sarah was down from Birmingham on Friday night, so we met up with her in the city for some well deserved beers and dinner. We ended up going to a Spanish restaurant for tapas which was fantastic! Is there anything better than about a thousand little dishes of food accompanied by sangria? YES: A retro bar! We stayed there until they closed. Unfortunately that was only 11pm due water failure (apparently the third time!) We agreed to meet up again in the morning for some trekking about London.

We were a little late on Saturday (we blame the trackwork...) but then proceeded to walk around London under Sarah's expert guidance. Um, I probably couldn't tell you exactly where we went (Russell Square, Bloomsbury, Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column, the Mall, the Horse Guards thingummy, Whitehall, St Margaret's Church aka Westmister Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, No. 10 Downing Street, St James' Park and Buckingham Palace - Loz) but Sarah might add some comments to the photos if we are very nice!

So, after walking around for about 4 hours, it was time for Sarah to head back north so she went of to the train station while Lauren and I decided to walk home (what, with the track work and everything). It took something like 50 minutes to walk from the middle of the city back to our place - allowing for short diversions of high tea at the Orangery and some grocery shopping. Not bad really...

(...that reminds me, must take some photos of Kensington Palace Gardens...)

Here are the photos I took through the day. Nothing particularly special this time, but it had started raining when we were walking back and there was a huge rainbow in Hyde Park over the Serpentine. I found some new software that seems to do a really good job of merging panorama photos, and produced this. Not too bad, but now that I know what the software is capable of, I'll experiment a bit more.

Oh, we did see some weird/interesting architecture out there, like this, and this.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ye Gods, they're actually making me work at this

New tip for blog productivity: save bunches of drafts, then upload all at once. Try it at home!

OK, so I am now in week 3 of Uni. I was finding the first couple of weeks slightly rough going in that I was playing the role of Grandma in the egg-sucking education campaign. This was entirely the result of my own crazed expectations. For some reason I was quite sure that I would be studying with a bunch of people who had also worked in the field for 5+ years. As it happens, there are one or two in this category, and a few more at the 2+ end of the scale, and a few more who have at least studied IP at an undergrad level. However, there are also a boatload of kiddies - about half the class as a rough estimate - who don't know a copyright from a related right and haven't already memorised the numerous (and dodgy) justifications for the patent system. As a result, the lecturers are sensibly taking their time with the introductory sections of the various courses. Basically, it is my own fault for not having done this LLM in say 2002 when I first wanted to!

I should just shut up about it, of course, because I do seem to have something of an advantage which is nice and not something to whinge over. However, 5.5 years of legal practice have given me rather an addiction to superhuman challenges, and in the absence of same I have been feeling a little bit lost.

This week has been much better, though. Firstly, they cracked out the economic theory reading in not one but two of my courses. Market failure! Hurray! Secondly, I've been doing a little more thought on the dissertation subject, albeit not actually writing the outline, which is due within the week (self-imposed deadline) and might be a better use of my time than endless games of solitaire. And finally, it does appear that the courses are in the process of hotting up a bit. I've had to pay attention this week which is a nice change.

I did however have to stop answering questions in patent law this morning, as nobody else was bothering to, and I was in serious danger of appearing the teacher's pet. It may have been a loooooooooong while since I was in formal education, but I do remember trying too hard = bad idea. Or was that just for high school? I forget. The real problem here is that I am only taking the patents course as a backup in case of dissertation explosion and am unlikely to do the exam, but I seem to be the only one doing the reading for the course anyway.

Anyway, week 3 and 2 lecturers out of 4 currently know my name. Maybe I haven't lost my touch yet? Here's hoping. It must be said that 8 hours of lectures a week, none before 10am and all ending before 4pm, and never having to get out of bed before 8.30am is a very nice way to spend a few months.

Maybe Grant will show you all a picture of his bike at some point, and tell the exciting tale of the Exploding Power Shower, but in the meantime love to all relevant persons.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Introducing the pixieflat

Hiya folks

For those waiting with baited breath, behold the PIXIEFLAT in all its majesty.

This is the outside of our block of flats as seen from the side lane. There's quite a nice jungly garden thing between the two blocks.

This is the entrance to the pixieflat, aka the Flat With The Blue Door (Notting Hill fans anywhere?). While the area appears quite safe so far at least, the pixieflat's front door has a three point locking system that could be described as a trifle excessive.

This is what I am going to grandly title the Entry Foyer, ie. the space behind the front door. You will see it has been converted into a Buddhist cultural misappropriation site with the very nice Buddha mum gave me and Jen's pretty bromeliad. I am quite pleased with myself actually as I haven't killed the bromeliad yet (2 weeks and counting). Hopefully the Buddha will help the bromeliad's karma.

This is the quite large kitchen with no mod cons but some quite nice old cons including a gas stove. SWEET. We've now clocked up about 7 years of rental of gas-only stoves, which is about the only principle by which we select rental properties, as anyone who ventured into Mackenzie Street can attest. Note also the pixiefridge. So cute!

This is the view from the kitchen window to aforementioned quite nice jungly garden thing. Also good for watching the world go by, as everyone from our block has to walk past our window to get to the street.

This is the laundry, and this is the study. I think bananas in a study are a feature. By the way, not only do we get to live in a rather cool city, but bananas here are 40p/lb, or about $2/kg. READ IT AND WEEP, AUSSIES!

This area is immediately past the Entry Foyer and opposite the kitchen door. We'll call this the Imelda Marcos shrine. Also features billions of hooks. Despite contents of hooks it hasn't been raining very much. The Imelda Marcos shrine has recently been relocated 30cm closer to the door to make way for Grant's new bike, but that is a subject for a different post.

Now we have the bathroom, which is also coincidentally larger than the one in Mackenzie Street. You can see the Power Shower, a kind of a pump, to the right of the sink - due to extreme lack of water pressure in this fair city, this is pretty much the only way you can enjoy a good, water-wasting shower experience here. It makes a Godawful racket but we love it anyway. Or did love it, until it exploded - as to which see the postscript.

Next we have airing cupboard shelf 1 aka the Birdy Nest, and shelf 2 aka Misc/Drying. Jen gets points for working out the Birdy would fit in there. Suffice to say I will never have to worry about rust, as the Birdy will be toasty warm at all times. Airing cupboards are weird - it doesn't feel appreciably warmer in there, but it will dry your clothes to a crisp in a jiffy.

This is the hot water heater. Included only because:

(a) it has a cute little jacket; and
(b) it renders the central heating units you may have seen in the other shots (white ridged panels against the walls) completely redundant. Theoretically these work by channelling hot water from the heater through the panels, which you can turn on or off at whim. What actually happens is the hot water heater puts out so much heat that you never even need to turn them on in the first place. Basically, the flat is always at Oz early summer temperatures which results in amusement every day when we leave the flat in shorts and freeze solid within a few steps of the door.

This is the view from the Imelda Marcos Shrine down the hall to the lounge/bedroom.

This is the lounge/guest bed/traditional Grant and Lauren pile of crap zone (but we'll clean it before you come visit, honest).

This is the dining room, this is the second study, and this is the lounge room. With built in robe, of course.

This is the far side of the room with bookshelves (and auxiliary Grant and Lauren pile of crap zone) and the drawers.

And this is the bedroom, which at least has a new bed for us thanks to nice landlord. Under the bed is communication central. Communication central is only half working, as British Telecom happily informed us they had connected a phone line without actually mentioning the fact that it does not, you know, WORK. But trust me, one day it will, and then we have the world's coolest phone number for your dialling pleasure. In the meantime, the Internet is surrounding and bathing us with its light. So why haven't you got Skype yet? Huh?

Out the back window, we have this. Cool eh? I'm going to tinsel that puppy up come Christmas, yessir.

That be the pixieflat in all its 3 room, excessive storage space glory. Now taking bookings for the new year.

The full gallery can be found here.


p.s. this is what the Power Shower looks like when it is broken...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Thousands of words

Almost forgot - I have started uploading pictures, so if you wish to have a browse, check them out here.


Instant Blog, just add Lauren...

That just about brings us up to date - about the only thing I haven't talked about is my job!

Last Thursday night (05/10/06) I was browsing the usual haunt for work, and I saw an ad that looked like a resume fishing exercise, with a job title of something like "Juniper Engineer"...

I submitted my resume that night, and got my first call from the recruitment agent (Damian) early the next morning. After several further phonecalls over the Friday and Monday (with comments along the lines of "4-5 months in Milan"...), I was told I would be contacted by one of their technical staff - who was currently in Dubai. I swear they tell you a time, and then call at least 30 minutes late just to make you sweat a little. Anyway, that seemed to go well - he was asking some fairly specific questions though, so I wasn't sure how I went. Got a call back from Damian shortly afterwards saying it sounded like it went well, and that the UK Director (Dave) would be calling me a little later that afternoon. Dave didn't keep me waiting quite so long, and we had a good chat about the company, what it does, and where I, assuming I was hired, would fit into the scheme of things. I did mention that 4-5 months in Milan while my wife was studying in London probably would not work so well, but he assured me that Milan was not an issue, and he was keen to get me on board.

So, to cut a short story long, I met with Dave on Tuesday and we agreed on a start date - 1st November. He did say there was not specifically anything lined up for me at the moment, and I might be spending a little time studying and getting certifications. Oh well, free training is always good!

What this basically means is that I am now officially on holidays!

(there was a side story involving a 3 month contract, but that fell through so we won't go into it... too expensive indeed!)


Where are Lauren and Grant?

(Originally posted 12/10/06)

ok, for those of you wondering where in the world Lauren and Grant
are, have a look at this map.

Now, if you look up in the top left hand corner, there is a little
green arrow. That arrow is pretty much pointing to the building we
live in. If you look down and to the right a little, you will see a
ring-shaped arangement of streets - that is Notting Hill proper. You
can see quite a bit of greenery on Notting Hill, but don't be deceived
- it's all private gardens!

If you now look at the bottom of the screen, in about the middle, that
is Kensington palace (where Princess Diana lived) and Kensington
Palace Gardens. Follow that to the right and you will see The
Serpentine (man made lake type thing) and on to Hyde Park.

if you drag the map up a bit you will see the Prince Albert memorial,
and the Albert Hall.

For reference, Kensington Palace Gardens is about 15 minutes walk from
our place.

So, that is our neighbourhood!

p.s. I got a job!

GOOD HEAVENS, CANALS! and other wonders of the Pixieflat Locale

Dearest all

It has finally become cold in London, and by cold I mean freezing, wet, miserable and worst of all ONLY OCTOBER. This is to say, our astonishing weather luck of having London nice and dry when compared to Sydney and Hong Kong appears to have run out at last. Also, it is going to get way way worse before it gets better.

Fortunately, this coincided with the pickup of our send-ahead luggage, and we now have adequate woollies to keep us going for potentially as much as another month. After that we may have to resort to huddling in space blankets or making fires at tube stops or similar.

I've also now got my bike at long last (my precious Birdy!) and am very much looking forward to ditching the really expensive (GBP4 return) if rather decent public transport commute to uni. I believe from preliminary research that I'll be able to ride in through Kensington Park Gardens, Hyde Park and Green Park with only a few blocks of traffic to deal with at the Barbican end. It will be a 5 mile trip or thereabouts, whih the UK transit authority estimates will take 35 minutes, because they apparently think that cycling is not appreciably faster than a pleasant Sunday stroll. In any cases, given that I used to manage 15km in 45 minutes on either side of a 10 hour work day, and given that my crippling courseload of 8 hours a week is only 3 days a week and never before 10am or after 4pm, I think this should be manageable even in the nastier parts of winter. I must try at least because otherwise Rohan will beat me in the 2006 odo challenge (I'm 1900, Ro, so you are certainly too close for comfort).

Forgot to mention in my last update that on Sunday I went to the British Museum - fabulous, but rather overwhelming. And of course rather a lot of the things in there are not actually THEIRS in the sense of being bought and paid for rather than say stolen. However, they haven't stolen any of my stuff so I'm happy to look. I managed to get through Egypt, Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia but haven't touched the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa or the Pacific yet - next time. Grant went to Greenwich to the Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory and while he got drenched and had to deal with many schoolchildren he seemed to have a nice time.

On Tuesday we went with Nat from work to Windsor Castle. It is absolutely incredible. Also absolutely huge. We spent a good three hours just walking through the place. There's also quite a lot in Windsor Castle that is NOT THEIRS (in fact, whole displays of seized weaponry from colonies) but you can get past that, such is the awesome bling of the place. There was a giant fire through the castle 5 years ago and only one or two of the many many works of art were lost - one of which Prince Andrew apparently proposed to dive into a burning room to save but was discouraged. Wonders of the castle include a solid silver table (practical, yet charming!), a 15th century cathedral of surpassing gorgeousness, 500 or so dedicated monuments left by Queen Victoria to her beloved husband, beloved aunt, beloved Uncle, beloved dog (pictured by her side in one of the state statues), etc, and Henry VIII's last suit of armour, which appears to indicate an ancestral relationship between the Tudors and the Donnellys, although as Grant pointed our, Henry VIII's calves are deficient.

This week I've been in classes at Uni at long last. I think they are warming us up slowly because my trade mark course had no reading, my patents course has 2 articles to read over two weeks, and OK, my copyright course has loaded us up but as the lecturer is interesting I don't mind so much. I had imagined that trade marks would be the more interesting course given that I have done little else for the last 5.5 YEARS, but as it happens copyright and patents are far more fun so far. It helps that I have done enough of all of this stuff, usually for profit, that I don't feel a complete idiot in class. Also helped that today's copyright case study (HAPPY BIRTHDAY sound recording) has been used at work many times in the past, making me able to demonstrate my smartypants credentials. Tomorrow is Global Policy and Economics of IP Law though, and frankly I don't think that any amount of legal practice could prepare one for such a beast as in legal practice one generally tries as hard as one can not to consider the economic ramifications of one's actions in serving one's clients. We'll see.

Now that I think about it, 8 hours a week seems a long time to spend not faffing about. How will I have time to spend staring into space and exploring the far corners of the Internet? You can see that my former 50-60 hour work week stamina has worn off rather quickly.

While I've been at uni, Grant has had quite a busy week jobhunting. There have been some good leads, including exciting names such as BT (with an awfully keen recruiter), but nothing offered as yet. It's been good to have the time to spend exploring the new neighbourhood though and he has finished one industry certification (Juniper) and is working on the equivalent Cisco one as we speak. I should mention that he is also devoting quite a lot of time and effort to bikehunting on ebay, but the perfect dodgy commuter has eluded him thus far. Fingers crossed for the weekend.

Speaking of the 'hood, today we explored the NON Notting Hill end of Ladbroke (pronounced -BROOK, so you don't embarrass yourselves amongst the Britishers) Grove. This was a big step, as:

(a) there are all manner of exciting things in Notting Hill Gate, eg. there are no parts of Oz where you can just happen to walk past a palace 15 mins' walk from your pixieflat/abode, and we haven't finished exploring the nooks and crannies of it yet.

(b) the other end is a little bit dodgy.

However, as it turns out, if you go through the dodgy part there is a CANAL that way, a proper one with little flat boats on it and so on, and of course a SusTrans (sustainable transport) bike path running beside to who knows where. Pretty chuffed about this, because the one thing that can up the English quotient of an area more than a palace surrounded by a giant park, or slabs and slabs of Victorians, is a canal. So we are now at plus 20,000 Britishness, here, and have yet another cool thing about the neighbourhood to be chuffed over as well as a new place to explore in the event that it ever stops raining. Which is not particularly likely.

This canal-type area does however lose some points as it is also the location of the biggest supermarket in the entire Universe, GIGANTO-Sainsbury's. It's like a KMart ran into a Coles and they were permanently fused together. After 3 weeks of getting the essentials at high street shops, fruit and veg street markets and a truly tiny Tesco, this is pretty offputting stuff. I'm not sure I like having more than one product to choose from, although it is quite nice to actually be able to buy cocoa (fairtrade, to boot!). Also, while they are the only store in the entire UK to store white vinegar (our preferred cleaning product), they store it in the freezer section albeit on top of the freezers, and the only kind you can buy has pickling spices already added. Remains to be seen whether the pixieflat will end up clove-scented.

Somewhat humorously given the fairly constant precipitation, they say there is a drought here. I am not sure they know what the word means. By "drought", I think they mean "we forgot to build dams anytime in the last few centuries." In any case, one manifestation of said drought is a truly interesting ad campaign for water conservation. In Australia, this would go something like "hey, kids, take shorter showers!". However, here they appear to be presuming that noone is actually washing anyway, and therefore have taken the very interesting approach of a public interest campaign based on the principle of "if it is just pee, consider not flushing." There are posters at train stations to this effect. To my knowledge, no such solution to the drought crisis has ever been proposed in Australia. I have no idea what this says about the British national psyche, but I am going to continue recklessly flushing anyway. If it is really that bad even though it is raining virtually non-stop, I think they ought to build another dam or at the very least get with the 21st century and consider dual flush loos, like the rest of planet earth.

Things that are cripplingly expensive in the UK: rent, public transport, fuel (but we have no car, so hahaha fuel industry!), entry to fancy establishments (but Windsor castle so very worth it)

Things that are cheap in the UK: supermarket beer, mobile phone calls, organic/fairtrade foods, raw food/pasta/rice etc generally, Lyle's golden syrup (60p a can! now you know what you are getting for Christmas, Susan!)

Tip for travellers: do not let your brain trick you into thinking that GBP prices are AUD prices or everything will look phenomenally cheap and you will get into big, big trouble.

Tomorrow I have a whole 2 hours of Uni (gasp). On Saturday, my aunt Susan's lovely friend Jen, who put us up when we arrived, is visiting for lunch and a later further investigation of Kensington Palace Gardens and best of all its Orangery where you can get proper English tea, ie from India, with scones and jam and cream and sandwiches with no crusts. This country has much to recommend it, and most particularly this part of this country is wonderful. So you should all certainly come visit at the earliest opportunity. We have a spare bed (/lounge) ready and waiting for you.


Loz (and Grant likes you too)

Interim update...

(Originally posted 03/10/06)

Howdy all,

I have been spending a lot of my time searching for work, and last week I spent 4 days at home studying for a certification exam - which I passed on Friday (YAY!) This should make me a little more attractive, not to mention demand a higher rate of pay. I have had several responses from agencies, but nothing has come to fruition yet. I got a call about a British Telecom job this afternoon (while we were at Kensington Palace Garden) which could be interesting, and the agent seemed to think I was a good candidate.

Yesterday I headed in to Greenwich to check out the Maritime Museum. I have been extremely keen to check out the Longitude section. There are clocks there built between 1720-1750 to solve the Longitude problem that ARE STILL RUNNING TODAY! Very

Now that we have internet at home, I will be able to upload the photos we have taken (plus wedding photos), so will send out another update once that is done.

The only bad news is I still don't have a bike...


THE PIXIEFLAT HAS INTERNET! and other UK adventures of Loz and Grant

(Originally posted 03/10/06)

Dear all beloved peoples

I am filled with goodwill because we NOW HAVE ADSL! Yes, after more than a month without wireless Internet, we are back to happily irradiating our tender parts and are now longer obligated to visit very seedy 1 pound an hour Internet cafes for our daily fix. This means we will be able to upload such pix as we got before the camera's battery ran out (charger packed in send-ahead luggage, clever us) shortly.

The delicious irradiating Internet access will either result in more frequent (and boring) updates for you all, or potentially complete radio silence as we throw ourselves into the Internet and more specifically endless dowloads of US TV. We don't actually have a real TV yet, so we have to waste our time somehow, right?

I am now feeling 90% more English, because:

(a) we have Marks and Spencer sheets now. oo er! but I was thrifty and bought the cotton rich (75% cotton) rather than the swanky hotel-grade all cotton type that certain amongst us could justify in their former lives as corporate lawyers (sob); and

(b) foreigners keep asking me for directions, including for directions as to where to buy tupperware (not the crappy kind, the nice kind); and of course

(c) I can actually speak the language, unlike a fair whack of the current population. This is no slight on the various migrant communities or the cockneys or the crazy Northerners, all of whom are generally understandable esp. as they have been acclimated to us as a result of years of Neighbours and Home and Away. Weirdly, entry to the EU has brought over a truly staggering number of lily-white service industry employees who actually do not speak English. You can expect a person to speak English in the colonies or Hong Kong or indeed continental Europe, but do not walk into a pharmacy with that expectation here.

I have just finished 3 days of residental program induction for Uni in Windsor Great Park with the other non-EU international students. It is difficult to encapsulate the awesomeness of this particular part of the world. So we'll stick with VERY AWESOME INDEED. It looks just how the UK looks in all the various commercials, and it features many picturesque ponds, avenues, rhododendron walks and so on, and also a giant bronze statue of King George III on a huge horse dressed as a Roman emperor for no apparent reason. Also, people feed you three times a day. It's an unbeatable combination, frankly.

It was a great opportunity to meet up with fellow students who like me speak English with a whacky accent. It's hard to peg the non-EU population, but I'm studying with some great people from India, Pakistan, Iran, Japan, Jordan, the US, China, Hong Kong and for some reason a really really large group of Thais. I also got to scmhooze the lecturers for my trade mark and copyright courses. The copyright lecturer happens to live around the corner from us (albeit in a flat with access to a communal private garden rather than a pixieflat like ours) and also originally came from Australia. With this much in common I am aiming for (i) a good grade and more importantly (ii) a look at the private garden to work out what all the fuss is about. Put anything behind an impenetrable hedge and I will feel desperately compelled to get in.

It was also a great opportunity to play hooky from lectures on legal English (ah, that would be what I was paid to speak for ALMOST SIX YEARS) and the English legal system (ah, that would be what I worked in for for ALMOST SIX YEARS) and go for strolls about the park instead. We got scolded once or twice for this which had the truly excellent effect of making me feel like a teenager instead. Said effect also being reinforced by the fact that we now have a houseful of student-grade kitchen equipment and linen. Our crockery is a Maxwell Williams knockoff though, and our cheap and nasty pots are RED, so we're happy.

Nat, who worked with a certain person in her former life as a corporate lawyer when said person could justify really nice kitchen equipment and linen (sob) is in UK right now (hi Nat!), and we have spent some time with her. This included a Saturday attack on the Portobello Road markets, which is not an experience for the faint-hearted since while the markets are a sedate fruit, veg and attractive socks affair on weekdays, the entire population of London seems to go on the weekend. However, Nat was very brave indeed even if I was freaking out. Clearly I should not have alloweed myself to become out of practice with Flemington Markets before leaving Oz.

Today we went to another VERY AWESOME INDEED place, Kensington Palace Gardens, which as it turns out are about 15 mins walk from our place. They are beyond fabulous even before you get to the statue of Peter Pan. The park is absolutely massive. It runs up to the Serpentine, and to Hyde Park on the other side. The Orangery serves proper afternoon tea, albeit not quite up to the Peninsula's standard. There are also the usual British crowds of Canada geese, really vicious swans, cute little squirrels and really really fat pigeons, all enjoying a manmade lake and a captive audience of punters to feed them - one old chap actually had squirrels jumping up on his lap to politely take nuts from his hand.

All up my fledgling knowledge of London's very cramped up geography puts us maybe 5 miles from the other side of the CBD by the Barbican where I attend lectures, so I am really looking forward to getting the bike here. I think that it wil be significantly faster to ride to uni than to public transport it (about 40 mins, but not actually a very great distance covered given how close the CBD stations are to each other).

There are lots of dogs around here and I do keep thinking of Queenie. The UK is a country run for dogs - shops apologise if they put a "no dogs" sign up and otherwise they are frequently in supermarkets, pubs, and offleash everywhere (on-leash areas are what is signposted). They were running around very happily through Kensington Gardens despite swanks, geese, squirrels etc and are very well socialised by and large. There have however been a few publicised dog attacks lately so probably they will end up a facist state for dogs like NSW sooner or later. It is the way of tabloid journalism.

Tomorrow we are heading to Windsor / Eton to see the castle with Nat. I circumnavigated it on the induction program, but I am very much looking forward to actually going in. Tomorrow night we are seeing Sarah, our friend from Sydney who now lives in Birmingham. I start uni classes on Wednesday for my crippling 6 hour a week subject load. Jen, who very kindly put us up when we arrived, is hopefully going to visit our pixieflat next weekend. So obviously we are very busy!


Notting Hill (our place, not the movie)

(originally posted 26/09/06)

Hiya peoples

Today went to Mile End campus of my uni to enroll. There I expereinces again the british fondeness for queues of all descriptions (snaking, 2 abreast, so many new kinds to try!). Typically I lost the handbook the minute I was given it so hoping I can get a new pack tomorrow. Tomorrow to the Barbican campus (Charterhouse Square) for course overview etc which is much closer to new pad which is in Ladbroke Grove / or if you ask Grant, Notting Hill (and he thinks I'm pretentious) postcode say it with me now W11 1QX.
pretty well settled in the new flat / cupboard. It has lots and lots of storage space actually for being a cupboard itself which is pretty weird.

Ladbroke Grove / Notting Hill is very like Glebe only more so. Very multicultural and active and fun. Vegie markets in portobello rd open every day here also street baker's etc. moroccan 'quarter' 2 blocks up has lovely delis, cafes, restaurants etc. Still scoping out for a decent local pub. the notting hill end pubs are all a bit too swank and characterless but there are some down the road in ladbroke grove (road not suburb) which look promising!
One of my favourite places so far is a dedicated spice shop round the corner from us which we just blew some cash at. Even bought Australian sultanas there, £1 for a tiny little pack. Such is the price of homesickness, or would be if I bought it for that reason and not just because I was suspicious of using currants in couscous.
Everywhere hearabouts and opposite our flats are old 'Victorians' which are immense connected 4 storey terraces with pillars and whatnot. Very classy and beautiful - Grant is aspiring to rent one of them next (they are all divided up into flats pretty much) but not sure how we'll go given the 1 year work restriction and the fact that we're stuck in curernt place for 7 months under the lease.

Everything is so close to everything else here. Even Jen's place at Twickenham where we stayed the first week is only about 10 miles from the CBD - our place more like 4/5, and pretty much every thing you can think of is in the neighbourhood high street of PORTOBELLO ROAD TOP THAT! (no shopping centres here thank god and indeed there are very few in London generally) 2 blocks from the flat. Well, everything except a decent kitchen / manchester shop. Are makign do with linen and knives from woolworths for time being which despite name has nothing to do with ours and is more like a kmart. A really crap kmart - we bought towels there yesterday and they only had one bath towel left and a towel which is either a huge hand towel or a bath towel torn in half. As you can imagine Grant won the proper one by dint of size so I am having fun drying my person with the itty one.

Most of London is FLAT so:
(1) most places have crap water pressure and showers are only possible really with a pump thing called a power shower. Unsurprisingly, ours isn't currently working so we are having baths. it's actually rather nice and like being 3 again. also very water efficient for their 'drought', which is where it still actually rains. Don't listen to anyone from the UK when they tell you (a) something is a long way away (oh, yeah? not if it's still in the country, chum) or (b) it's a drought. That said it has been awfully lovely and sunny lately and has really only rained overnight until today. which is what I call considerate weather.

(2) people ride their bikes in a very crap manner suggesting they've never had to learn pedalling efficiency ever ever ever. It's tempting to run at these down-down pedallers and scream CADENCE but I am waiting until the Birdy arrives and I will demonstrate by example then instead.

The thorn in our side is the British telecommunincations bureaucracy ie BT in all its glory. Everything mostly is ADSL so you need a landline, but British Telecom is erally the only landline provider and like Telstra in the good old days they don't ever answer the phone, or do and then put you on hold for hours, which is rather expensive when you are relying on a mobile to call! so we are spending quite a bit of cash in internet cafes and so on. Other side of UK telco (mobiles) is pretty awesome - T Mobile does 12p/minute calls to every phone you can find on their fair island which is cool.

with all the organisation etc and running around its hard to remember I have to start my course soon. Good Lord!

When's everyone going to come and visit?


The Blog christening...

To begin with, I'll have to back-fill the emails that have already gone out. Then I'll work on keeping this thing up to date...