Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let it Snow!

In the few milliseconds between the alarm going off and me hitting the snooze button, we heard the news report say something along the lines of "south-east England ... snow". Hang on a second! We're in the south-east of England!

And lo, this is what we saw out the window of the Pixieflat:

It had been snowing, and how!

We then got all excited, I got ready for work and we ventured outside into the virgin white snow. The t-shirt slogan "I'm a virgin, I'm just not very good at it" comes to mind about now.

Anyway, it was still exciting, and the first time Lauren had seen snow, like, in the city.

Reportedly, it was more snow than London has had in the last 3 years.

By the time I saw daylight again at lunch, all but a few specks of snow had gone. We are hoping for more tonight, so we can build a snowman like this.

I took a few more photos on the way to work, you can see them here.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'd write something, but my fingers are blue

OK, so I would be the first to admit that we had really a dream run of weather in this country. The weather than had Europeans hysterically screaming "GLOBAL WARMING!" had us musing "Isn't this pleasant?"

But it's now two degrees. And apparently falling. The pixieflat doesn't feel like a furnace when we come home anymore; it's cosy. We have had to TURN ON A HEATER (a little one, but still). More damning still, WE HAVE HAD TO CLOSE THE WINDOW. I AM WEARING THERMALS INSIDE THE FLAT.

The dining table, which is also the desk, is against the window and as I write, cold air drifts slowly down over my hands. I *could* close the curtains to warm up, but then I'd lose the few hours of daylight we get before night hits at 4pm.

Still, someone down the road has potted palms on the balcony and they're not dead, so it can't be that bad. AND we got a nice package of Aussie goodies in preparation for Australia/Invasion Day (thanks Jan and Paul!) so I am keeping warm with litres of Bushells tea. Made with teabags with tags! Hallelujah!

Monday, January 22, 2007

See, I actually *am* working over here!

It's something of an adjustment going from a rather speed-oriented job juggling billions of deadlines with everyone wanting everything done RIGHT NOW (in fact, a boss once gave me two things to do - being already busy, I asked her which one she wanted done first and she wanted them BOTH DONE AT THE SAME TIME) and every minute involving an influx of files, mail, faxes, calls and emails to my new life as a sane person. I mean as a student/housewife who spends two fulls days a week at home studying/cleaning things and 3 days per week at uni for 3.5 seconds total. Basically, I've gone from being the very model of a modern Sydney career gal and queen of efficiency (tip: cut out the dead wood, including anything in your life you may find pleasant, also consider eating your cereal WHILE walking the dog around the block in the morning) to being a giant lump with whole days rushing past and no self-discipline. This has not exactly lead to rapid progress on my thesis.

However, I've been trying to get a little more organised about my scads of time. Instead of sleeping in I now go for a walk to the station with Grant in the morning which sort of wakes me up. It's important however that I not wear comfy tracksuit pants for this as otherwise the whole day will be a write-off, don't ask me why. I try to get out to do the veg shopping while it's actually still daylight, even. In fact, the last two weeks have been 100,000 steps + which I think is not too bad. Oh yeah, and I now have free timekeeping software which I use to attempt to hammer myself into productivity, even if Grant thinks it is desperately pathetic (hey, timekeeping is a valuable SKILL in my profession; I have to stay in practice).

HOWEVER, my new-found self-discipline actually wasn't really translating very well to uni work. Yes, I've been to the library weekly for a couple of weeks. But then you actually have to read the stuff. Unfortunately photocopying doesn't itself provide for osmotic assimilation of the text. And what I was managing to write on the thesis was terribly discouraging as I changed the planned structure after I got a chunk done which meant I was going to have to rewrite it. So of course I just left it alone for a few weeks :)

But there is hope. I have discovered the 40/20 rule much beloved of PhD students (40 mins work, 20 mins break). It works really well if like me you are obsessive, bully yourself into sitting down to do 40 mins, and get up 3 hours later. Therefore not really a 40/20 rule so much as a 180-with-toilet-breaks rule but anyway, it seems to work. I've done 1800 words today that I think are actually useable. Total so far 6700, but about 2000 of those need to have quite a bit added to them to work with the new structure.

Now I'm scared to stop writing as it may be my only productive day of the academic year, but I've sort of run out of content so probably should give it a break and read some more grist for the mill. 15,000 words by July was never really in doubt, but it was in doubt that it would be any good!

Thesis today: 1800
Steps: 5700 dammit time for a walk.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

OK, so now and then I have to be allowed a title that shows off a "classical" Novocastrian-style education, right?

We in the British Isles have been enjoying some 90mph+ winds lately. It's really quite extraordinary - diagonal walking is a new skill for me. Lots of trees down in Holland Park, but no damage in our immediate vicinity. It isn't cold but it's damn hard to maintain a natty hairstyle or to get from A to B via public transport without spending protracted periods stuck inside tube tunnels. I would say "typical England" but anyone who has depended on the Northern or North Shore train lines in Sydney knows just how reliable they are once heavy winds start dropping widowmaker gumtrees across the lines.

It's been warmer but apparently we are staring down the barrel of 3 and below next week, so time to break out the thermals perhaps.

Our Saturday morning looked like this:
This is a huge benefit of living with Grant by the way - delicious cooked breakfast at the weekend! The coffeepot was a present from Susan and Robert, and very well used it has been. See how nicely it goes with the dodgy red cookware? Also note wee cute Union Jack coffee cup!

The massive breakfast was required for our weekly walking adventure, this time SOUTH OF THE RIVER to Battersea Power Station (decommissioned) via Holland Park, Kensington, Earl's Court, Chelsea, and Wandsworth (including the runner-up to coolest graffiti ever after Newcastle's famous THIS IS NOT ART, namely this, and Battersea Park, which is very very pretty and has tasty soup. It took an hour and a half or so to get there, and way way longer to get to the power station, because they have cunningly surrounded it with building sites and dead ends. By the time we got a decent view on an obscure backstreet near the Vauxhall Bridge, we had gone way further east than originally intended. So, instead of heading back the way we came, we went home via Victoria (ooh, Little Ben! cute!), Hyde Park, Kensington Palace Gardens and Notting Hill. By that point we had walked a billion trillion miles, the breakfast and the soup had both worn off, and for once Grant was the one having the sugar crash instead of me. Picture a cranky pants Loz hungry hissyfit with twice the brute strength and much longer eyelashes!

My feet are killing me, but it was a lovely walk - sunshine, fancy architecture, and plenty of time beside the mighty Thames. However, I doubt we can force any visitors to undertake the journey on foot.

Many more pictures of the power station (for Robert) and a rather cool round building (for Mum) here.

Thesis words written for the week: 600. That is my head hanging in shame. 2000 last week. Happily, most of the 2600 has to be butchered/deleted/revised to fit in with my new structure. HURRAY!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Festive Photos

Ok, a bit of catching up to do. I haven't taken a lot of photos recently, but we might as well run through a few of them...

We went to the Tate Modern with Robert, Harry, and Gus - primarily for the 5 storey slide. Unfortunately, there were no tickets left for the top slide, and the 4th floor slide didn't have any free slots for several hours (Robert et. al. went back later in the week and got on the slide). The Tate was quite interesting - some exceptional pieces in there, including one video piece that I really liked. The best bit was the minimalist section - not necessarily the works themselves, more watching other people walk in there looking around dumbfounded "oh, so, like, that's the artwork?"

From there Loz and Gus headed home, while Harry, Robert and I stopped off at The Old Swan for a couple of beers. Next stop was the Prince Of Wales hotel at Holland Park. We timed it pretty well on both occasions as it was pissing down outside (Loz and Gus got the worst of it!)

Skip forward to New Years Eve. Loz and I headed out to Claire and Belinda's place at Ealing (a couple of stops past my work) to join Vron and Sarah for some quiet celebrations. We enjoyed some great company, home made pizzas, wine, beers, and flaming pudding! Vron and Loz ran out of steam, and Loz and I were home by about 4am. Fortunately they had free trains running all night, so getting home wasn't a drama.

Vron joined us in the Pixieflat on New Years day, and we took her on the first of many epic walks she would be forced to do while here :) This one was to Holland Park.

Last weekend Loz and I went out and about (via Holland Park once again), did a bit more of exploration of our surrounding suburbs - past the Victoria and Albert museum (shell blasts from WWII) and a few other interesting things (this was in Knightsbridge... think Footballers Wives). We dropped in to Harrods - along with a ton of other people. We bought a carbon steel, pre-seasoned wok (*only* 15 pounds!), and I found a coffee cup.

That *mostly* brings us up to date... and we promise to keep this thing a bit more up to date!

A few additional photos in the usual place.

We done had a holiday season

Hi all

A long silence. Sorry about that. We are all still here, but busy for a change.

Last week was my first back at uni, or to put it another way the end of my "holiday." I was sad about this for a couple of hours before I realised:

(a) I had actually done more uni work over the break than the rest of the first term, and had done it while having tons of visitors;

(b) I used to work a ten hour day minimum and now have eight hours per week of uni. THIS IS A HOLIDAY, in other words.

It was actually great to be back and see all the generally fun and nice people with whom I study. Sure, some of them are basically five and a half, but they're very precocious. And there are a few thirty-somethings who sit around and angst glumly about careers, which makes me feel right at home.

Also last week I had a very welcome taste of corporate hospitality with one of the UK lawyers with whom I occasionally collaborated at work. She was very nice indeed but I had forgotten that one of the main traits of generous corporate hospitality is that it refuses to accept no for an answer. Hence I was plyed with enough New Zealand white (not too bad actually - well done to our trans-Tasman cousins!) that I was rather the worse for wear the next day. When of course I had to go to uni.

Other than that we have had a really busy holiday season with family visiting and visits to and of local friends and most importantly a 2 week stay from Vron, whom we have missed terribly. It was great to have her around to just generally hang out, but between us we also did the obligatory tourist hike of 90% of the Greater London area, as well as surgical strikes on its largest museums. There's a great metalwork exhibit at the V&A should anyone be interested.

Of course, three people in the pixieflat was also rather an adventure. When your main bedroom is also the loungeroom, your guest bedroom is - drumroll - your KITCHEN (hygiene dictated that the bathroom not be used for this purpose). Vron has now become one of a select group of humans, namely those who have banged their head on a fridge in their sleep. Vron flew out on Saturday, and we are trying to be brave about it but maybe our chins are a little bit wobbly.

In other news, yesterday involved a mammoth hike through the wilds of Kensingtons north and south as we conducted a tour of department stores of the West End, or at least Marks and Spencer and Harrods. Harrods is very very very DJs-ish although bigger, and I am trying to work out which was the chicken and which was the egg in that particular scenario without checking the Internet, because that would be cheating. Harrods is grossly overpriced on most fronts but does have a room decorated with sphinxes which few other stores could boast. Furthermore, they sold us a union jack demitasse coffee cup for Grant (matches his new red coffeepot, thanks Susan & Robert!) and a CARBON STEEL WOK AT LONG LAST. The fact that the latter cost the same number in pounds on sale as the last one I bought at Flemington markets in Sydney cost in dollars is kind of par for the course, but since they are the only establishment in the entire country so far that has been willing to pony up a carbon steel wok and since I am sick of scooping veg all over the place from the frypan while attempting to stir fry, I am praising Harrods.

But I'm never going back there because it was really busy and scary and really really hard to get out of, and they were cheating by using the perfume and cosmetics rooms to scare me away from the exits.

Not a great deal of proper travel lately due to aforementioned visitors. We are in the early stages of working out another euro trip, but in the meantime are planning more extensive use of the "25 Day Trips from London" book!

Can you tell I am avoiding a copyright assignment as we speak?