Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Franny etcetera!

So, Franny came to visit us last week, which was lovely. She arrived earlier than planned, on Monday, due to dirty thieving Lisbon scum (I am sure everyone else there is lovely though), and we went to meet her in town. Eurostar is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more convenient than flights in terms of pickup and dropoff but also waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more expensive for that particular trip (Belgium-UK; the real killer is anything crossing the Channel).

Subsequently we got to take her to our local cheapy Thai where I think she got her first vegetable intake in some weeks. On Tuesday I took a day off work and we spent all day hiking around the more charming bits and pieces of the local area - Kensington Palace Gardens, Holland Park, etc. It's always great to do this with someone new, as otherwise I tend to forget that it is all INCREDIBLY SPECTACULAR. The chavs were misbehaving in the quad outside that night, but Franny was too tired and Grant too knocked out on Night Nurse for his awful cold to notice, so that was a plus.

On Wednesday we headed out west on an adventure. First stop was Kew Gardens, aka The Most Expensive Botanical Gardens Ever. Lovely though. Because, our return home being quite imminent at this point, I am getting increasingly homesick, I liked the eucalypt grove best. There are actually gum trees all over the place here, but usually singly and therefore not in sufficient numbers to make that lovely homey smell. They also had a very fancy chilli display in the lily house, which in turn had some very fancy lilies on display, including an amazonica. We spent about 4 hours there all up.

Afterwards we headed further west out to Richmond to have a wander around, climb Richmond Hill (not as hilly as the name would suggest, but nice view over the Thames Valley and a particularly nice part of the Thames, too - too bad there was a Heinz commercial being filmed in front of the best part of the view), and have a stroll in Richmond Park. Richmond Park is where the deer hang out, but it was quite a hot day, and unlike us I think the deer had the good sense to go somewhere quiet and shady! I was glad we went, though, as I've only ever been driven through it before and it isn't really the same - you don't get quite the same sense of how BIG the joint is.

Then we had a very lovely dinner with Jen in Richmond. And then I got a really awful headache/buggered neck thing which put me flat on my back for two days thereafter, thus making me a pretty shit host all things considered. Franny being a trooper managed to get around quite a bit of the city on her own though, so the only thing that really suffered was study. AND WHO CARES ABOUT THAT?

Oh, and on Friday it stormed and rained so hard that the drains started backing up inside. Including the toilet. Awesome. However, gravity prevailed over crap British drainage design and it was all sorted within an hour or so, here. Up north the floods were much much worse, as you may have seen on the news. Supposedly the Thames was supposed to flood this week, but I have my doubts as the rain has slowed up - in any case, might be one of the few advantages of Ladbroke Grove being a good long way away from the water!

Franny left on Saturday morning, and after that Grant and I made the bold decision NOT to go to dim sum for the first time ever. Instead we went to my lecturer's party in one of the private gardens of Notting Hill. It was amazing to see what lies behind the hedges and the locked gates but unfortunately we didn't get to see it for very long, as it bucketed down! Instead we got to see lecturer's lovely flat with view over said lovely garden. It was a very pleasant afternoon, rain notwithstanding; also we were outed as expectant parents by a fellow student who knew to those who didn't (she thought they did, and kindly proposed a toast). The fact that otherwise bright and shiny students didn't apparently notice that I now have a giant bump in front of me is either flattering or raises some concern as to their powers of observation. Anyway, it was nice to get so many good wishes in one hit, upping Plan B's karmic points dramatically no doubt, and also very nice to be spared the effort of telling everyone individually, as my "does not like to make a fuss" phobia is still in full swing.

Saturday night's dinner was the spoils of the Saturday market - fetta, olives, hummus, salad, weird but tasty multigrain bread from Paul's - yum. I kind of love how one can still do the dodgy lawyer-home-at-8.30pm style dinner as a mostly full-time student and get away with it. More time to avoid writing blog entries and bugger around on the Internet! Yay!

On Sunday we went out for breakfast to our local overpriced but relatively tasty joint. It was overpriced but relatively tasty, and also they are of the view that I can eat a kilo of spinach in one hit. We used to go out for breakkie all the time especially in Sydney, but Grant has been doing the honours most weekends for most of our time here. I am a bit cross about the going out for breakfast experience these days given that my favourite breakfast dish of all time - eggs royale, ie. smoked salmon, soft poached eggs and partially-cooked egg sauce (hollandaise) - is off the menu for the time being courtesy of the FOOD NAZIS. If I can't have that, it's kind of hard to muster up enthusiasm for something I could make just as easily myself. Dammit, now I've made myself hanker for eggs royale. Argh.

Then, because we are lazy, we headed the pitifully few train stops out to Hammersmith for a spot of shopping. I am now the proud owner of underpants that fit. Lifechanging. We had a very pleasant stroll beside the river on the Thames River Path (passes just behind Hammersmith, then kinks back down to protect Ladbroke Grove from flooding), then went home for luverly chicken and chips for lunch, English-style. Well, technically if it had been proper English it would of course have been cod but never mind. Regan came over in the evening for pizza and a bracing game of Starbase Jeff, at which I suck and have always sucked and will never ever be anything other than sucky. Regan was victorious in his starbase construction and insists that the trick is to play against two people locked in matrimonial battle. I will see if I can arrange that. Regan has now left us for Switzerland of all places, but we will be over there to visit in about a month, aka THE OTHER SIDE OF EXAMS.

And now back to the study, and the growing of the huge, weirdly itchy/tickly belly. Mum is here in under two weeks - YAY! My first exam is the day before she arrives - boo! And Grant is off for an alpine mountain biking adventure a few days before that - yay or boo, depending on perspective!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Roman amphitheatre, St Albans (aka Verulamium)

The public (well OK Robert) demands an update and we shall provide.

First I must note that we are actually having a decent thunderstorm here. Just like home!

Last weekend we spent Saturday (a) at Bayswater dim sum (per usual ritual) and then (b) at Hyde Park at the start of the Tour de France.

It was pretty cool in the sense of being sweltering hot. I managed to see the top of some helmets as they whizzed past and quite a lot of police escorts and assorted support vehicles. The organisers had chosen to couple a particularly disorganised cabling arrangement with this attractive liability-limiting sign:

Which was itself a trip hazard as people were staring at it in puzzlement while staggering over the cables.

On Sunday we decided to get our moderately lazy tourist asses into gear and went to St Albans. In its current incarnation, it's a moderately pretty satellite/commuter town for London. Two thousand years ago, it had a rather grander life as Verulamium, the third largest city in Roman Britain and the one place in the UK you can still see a ruined Roman amphitheatre (above, in all its glory). There are also some ruins of the original city walls, which were built after Boudicca smashed and burned the joint (and Londinium) in the first century AD or thereabouts. After the Romans pulled out, the locals deconstructed the joint for use in their own buildings, hence the fact that most of the older St Albans places are made of flint. It's quite a look actually.

It's polite to refer to this as recycling rather than sacking, and it's nice to know that our ancestors were as environmentally conscious and/or lazy at getting their own damned building materials as this outfit.

The Roman overlords of the town in its heyday clearly had a bit of cash to spend. See rather spiffy mosaic with underfloor heating:

St Albans also has a very classy street market and a belfry constructed around the fifteenth century. Clearly people were both shorter and skinnier then; the stairway up is so narrow that even I had to twist to pass and Grant was basically going up backwards. Possibly a preview of what Plan B is going to be experiencing come January.

St Albans' belfry; observe (a) short doorway and (b) yokel buck-tooth grin and (c) t-shirt, which has now completely given up all hope of covering bump.

Anyway, the belfry managed to combine my fear of heights with my mild claustrophobia very satisfactorily indeed. Good view from the top, too. It used to be a part of a sort of proto-telegraph with signals transferred from the roof to other towers miles away.

St Albans' other jewel is the cathedral, largely made of flint as you might expect. I don't think I've ever seen a bigger church.

The inside was clearly decorated over several different historical periods with a whole lot of available cash and was just beautiful. Very worth a look, especially given that it's a mere hour by train from our flat. Once again, the esteemed guide 25 Best Day Trips from London proves itself to be made of solid gold!

Last week was the usual work/pretend to study deal. Grant made a couple of really nice dinners on the nights I was working, with organic chicken and sustainable organic cod no less.

This weekend we have been hanging around at home mostly. On Friday, Grant's old mountain biking buddy Tyler was in town, and we went out for dinner and to the pub - Prince of Wales, aka Prince of Pubs, natch. This was wonderful actually, as we hadn't been to either the Mexican restaurant or the PoW since the smoking ban came in. The Mexican now not only provides tasty food but also 99% less worries that every breath one takes is damaging one's on-board embryo, and somewhat ironically the beer garden of the PoW has become a smoke-ridden crowded hellhole while the formerly smoky indoors is now a mostly-empty smoke free paradise.

Saturday being yesterday we went into town for TROLLEY DIM SUM!!! (a concept poorly understood in this country but obviously the standard means of offering yum cha in Oz) in Chinatown. It was OK, and nice to see the trolleys like home, but nowhere near as good as Marigold or the other Sydney joints and nowhere near as good as the ordered dim sum at Bayswater, so I guess we should stick with what we know. Then we went a hunting digital TV tuner cards in Tottenham Court Road, then shopping in Oxford Street, unfortunately in the middle of Summer sales. WHOOPS. Grant picked up some jogging shorts (he has started walking/jogging the days he doesn't ride to work) and I gave into necessity and dropped 47 quid on lycra everything. I'm now much more comfortable and have two whole pairs of pants I can wear, and possibly as many as four shirts that don't show overhanging gut! The humorous thing is that when I wear "normal" clothes it isn't obvious that I'm pregnant (just look chunky); when I wear skin tight maternity lycra people offer me fruit juice instead of alcohol and ask solicitous questions about my health. Answer: fine, can I have a beer?

While I am on the subject, boo to Mothercare for selling me jeans previously that appear to lack a basic appreciation for the shape of a pregnant body, specifically it being wider in the middle than at the top and bottom, and of gravity, specifically that clothing will aim for the smallest point and stick there. ONE CANNOT DESIGN JEANS THAT GO AROUND THE BIGGEST POINT OF THE BELLY AND EXPECT A SKINNY ELASTIC TO HOLD THEM UP, MOTHERCARE! Result: elastic cutting person in half through uterus AND pants falling down; quite a double act for a company that specialises in maternity wear. Advice to purveyors of clothing for bumps: one must either go under or over the bump if all one is relying on is a piece of hat elastic. Advice to everyone else: H&M sells decent cheapass lycra for your bump, provided you don't mind a little exploitation of Eastern European/South-East Asian labour.

Last night Bin and Claire were in our neck of the woods visiting a friend, so we all met up in the evening and headed to the Moroccan restaurant in Goldborne Rd, highly recommended as always and damn cheap really. You can stuff yourself with two courses of really decent food for 10 quid; not always true of the W11 postcode.

Aunt Franny is visiting next week, and then Mum is coming in early August. After that we have Grant's parents in early Sept for almost a whole month. Busy. Times. Ahead. It will be so great to see everyone, and show them around our temporary home, though.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Week that was

This week we have...ahm, I think there was some £-earning in there, and in my case a half-hearted effort at faking an interest in study. It's easy to get blase, as when I go back through my notes it seems apparent that I have actually done some work this year. of course, the fact that I have forgotten not only having done the work but also any of the content of same is probably not a fantastic sign.

Yesterday I had a mini-study group with a Uni friend who scared the living daylights out of me with pregnancy-related stories. Fortunately, today we had a midwife appointment. Midwife did nothing more than ask a billion questions, could not be persuaded to poke at or listen to anything, but did manage to make me at least feel like extraordinary testing is unnecessary. By extraordinary, we mean the triple or quad screen maternal alphaprotein test done as relatively standard in Australia.

Midwife: There would be no point given your nuchal measurements are so low.
Grant: nods, Loz: has quiet freakout.

Actually I am not so ticked off about it, because in my experience that test frightens more people without cause than it reliably diagnoses, but it is very hard to distinguish between the NHS being wise and sage and sensibly avoiding unnecessary testing and the NHS being a giant cheapskate. That said, while being against unnecessary testing, of course they still want to test for thallassaemia and sickle cell anaemia which is funny because WE ARE THE WRONG COLOUR HUMANS for that.

Midwife's calm attitude did rather help me believe that in all probability, there is still a baby in there which is doing fine. Well, I hope so, as otherwise I am going to have serious problems explaining the bump. Today bought dodgy second-hand copy of a Kitzinger book, where she explains that at 15 weeks one's clothes are likely to be too tight. Clearly, either clothes were looser and more accommodating of bumps in 1997 (I seem to remember pants were higher, which might have helped?) than my tight-jeans wardrobe, or the bump is a high achiever since the jeans were not buttoning by 12 weeks.

The hospital was also funny because the ante-natal clinic and ante-natal ultrasound departments are immediately next to each other but apparently are locked in a battle to the death. Ultrasound insists Plan B is due on 1 January 2008; clinic insists 4 January 2008; I insist they are both wrong, but why would I know, it's not like it was MY OVARY that started the clock ticking on this or anything.

Kudos however to the midwife whose phlebotomy rocks. Cf my last Australian GP who went through the vein and out the other side; I then let said GP do a pap smear, because apparently I cannot be taught. Public service Announcement: do not be letting doctors take blood EVAH; only nurses, pathologists and phlebotomists can be trusted. NHS announcement: swabbing before taking blood makes the needle hurt more and doesn't reduce the risk of infection, ditto swabbing after (NHS: £0.0000002 saved in antiseptic! woohoo! Loz: ummmmmmmmmmmm).

Grant has worked 2x 12 hour day shifts and is currently doing a night shift, proving that he is Well Ard. Tour de France in town tomorrow with time trials through Hyde Park, so we will head there as soon as he wakes up. You may deduce from this that tomorrow I do not intend to be arsed studying, either.

Last night I fed Grant and Regan roast chook dinner and apple crumble in my true housewifely fashion and it was quite tasty if I do say so myself, except that I cannot time a chicken dinner for love or money and only got it on the table at 9pm (which makes no sense - bird, free range and organic, natch, weighed 1.5 kg and went in the oven at 6.30pm; should have been ready at 8; really wasn't). We were up until almost 1am, which is starting to look a bit too much like our regular bedtime.

Therefore today, post-midwife £5 veg thali extravaganza at Hammersmith Sagar, aka We Will Kill You With The Too Much Food (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED OH MY GOD SO GOOD, although a little overwhelming when the courses just keep coming), Grant and I had a nice long nap and now I am sort of swaying snoozily around the flat while trying to do laundry and get my dinner organised. Then I think I might head back to bed with a book. It feels much like the weekends of my former life, where the 6.5 hour sleeps of weekdays would be topped up with binge sleeping at the weekend, only this time I have a much better excuse for being tired. Kitzinger firmly believes that as it is after week 14 I should be feeling more energetic but that may be her second strike WRONG. Of course, I was this tired before Plan B when I didn't get enough damned sleep, so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on poor Kitzinger.

Things liked about England today: the healthcare continues to be free; the Indian food is amazing and cheap; the sun is still amply up until 9pm; the street urchins appear to have been called in for dinner as are temporarily not shrieking; the tube from Hammersmith to Latimer Road (other local station near us) continues to be on time and under-budget and truly the fastest distance between two points; Primark is so cheap I can't work out how they are managing it (presumably third world exploitation), TOUR DE FRANCE IS IN LONDON THIS WEEKEND. Oh, and best of all: Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council have, after two months of deliberations, finally admitted they were wrong to charge us council tax and are giving us £300 quid back. Never mind the fact that when we paid it, it was crippling, and now we're in the money so it's all earmarked for spending on hats, the point is: I FOUGHT THE BUREAUCRACY AND THE BUREAUCRACY LOST LIKE A BIG LOSER. VICTORY IS MINE. Good on Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council for being truly gracious in defeat.

Things I am happy about generally: I have a lovely husband + the vengeful gas of the first trimester appears to have "passed" + can now sleep through the night + pants with elastic are an excellent invention.

Things I ain't so happy about today:
  1. I'm on my third throat infection in a month. I know there is a point to a lowered immune system in pregnancy - and hell, I get the benefit in reduced allergies, all the more appreciated in plane tree season esp. when I can't take antihistamines - but it appears to be the same throat infection! I already beat this! Twice! Where are the antibodies? Why is my throat so determined to have me puffing ventolin prophylactically to avoid bronchial complications forever?
  2. I cannot seem to force my brain to study. It simply isn't scared enough. It keeps getting positive reinforcement when people ask it things it already knows, and seems to be keen on metaphorically inclining on a couch eating grapes waiting for people to tell it how clever it is. Someone ask me a stumper so I can get motivated, here.
  3. We're not at home, and it would be good to be. Soon, though.
All well on the Southern front?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Things wot I have accomplished this week

It has been quite a week.

Firstly, THESIS IS IN! I handed it in on Monday, amply assisted by my college, which gave the wrong address for the University of London central hand-in office (or rather, said it was on one street when it was on another street on the other side of the block). Kudos to Grant for judicious application of the format paint function in Word when he printed it out for me on the weekend. The footnotes ended up so perty, all 250 of them. All of this means: total thesis words for the week ZERO. Total thesis words ever likely to be written again unless I get a raging case of PhD fever: ZERO. I am well chuffed. I celebrated by working for ten hours on boring precedent documents.

This week I have also grown SOME MORE FOETUS! Viz:

13 weeks + a day or two. Note to self: next time get arm out of way.

I swear, my back is straight. This is a freaky business. One can comfort oneself with the fact that most of the bump is displaced intestine and related digestive apparatus, but one cannot deny the fact that all of this used to fit in without a bump. On the plus side, I now have an excuse for elasticated pants, or should I say trousers so as not to offend the English. This actually worked out pretty well, because of the 4 pairs of pants (/trousers) I brought over here in the first place, 3 have now died terrible deaths and were going to have to be replaced anyway. Note I still have the comfort of the ref flannel PJ pants (/trousers) Susan bought me ages ago - elasticated AND baggy AND drawstring - GENIUS. First midwife appointment is Friday. At 14 weeks. Who said prenatal care was necessary?

What else have I done this week? Worked some hours, learned some admin procedures for said work. I had to process bills. BILLS! Far be it from me to snob about any scraps thrown my way, but why on earth would you make paralegals process bills? And actually send post? Oh well, beggar/chooser, etc. The other paralegals have however been asking me questions about the finer points of law, and that is pretty cool, as occasionally I even know the answer.

Work-wise it's looking like old work will take me back in November/December, when the real money will roll, accompanied by the real backbreaking hours. Awesome. It's also looking like Grant will have something rather exciting lined up to go back to, in a field he has been interested in for a long while - also very cool.

Grant has been doing extra shifts this week for the slush fund, and is REALLY looking forward to a holiday. So am I, but there's the small matter of three exams between me and any such thing so I am not too eager for the passage of time.

So, check box: thesis.
Not checked boxes: three exams, holiday planning, flat pack-up and transport to Oz, relocation, more work and of course finish growing foetus. I will just be over in the corner here having a bit of a freakout.

How's everybody else?