Friday, October 13, 2006

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!


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