29 May 2007

The Buckingham Experience

It is a rainy day. You cannot possibly lay on the couch and watch episodes of My Name Is Earl any longer. You decide that today is the day you visit Buckingham Palace.

You take the Tube to Green Park and trudge through it, trying not to curse the weather as the light rain blows in every direction including up your nose. You try to think of happier days spent in Green Park sitting in the sunshine on its thick, springy grass, eating custard-filled donuts from Patisserie Valerie.

You arrive at the Palace Gates and assume that the crowd there is doing the usual thing of trying to photograph the Beefeaters guards. Except that today there are an awful lot of police guards, even the kind on horseback. You try not to curse the weather, and go about getting the usual touristy photo of a guard or two.

All of a sudden, the gates burst open! Marching music fills the air! (The Grand Old Duke of York or something like that). There are not just two guards, there are hundreds!

Hundreds of marching guards playing music!

You manage to forget about the weather for at least three seconds as the guards march off into the distance, followed by a trail of tourists not dissimilar to the children following the Pied Piper.

Then your hands turn red and your lips get numb and you hustle onward to the next tourist location on the list.

27 May 2007

Postcard from West London

Dear Mum, Dad, Little Brother and Everyone,

This is a picture of West London on a sunny day.... do not be decieved! This is actually not what West London looks like today. Today it is raining, raining, raining.

It is a perfect day for sleeping in, sleeping in some more, drinking tea and eating crumpets with honey.

It is just the right occasion to go walking to the bookshop thorough the bright green grassy park underneath umbrellas to buy travel guides to Italy and Estonia. To call places to stay in Italy and say in Very Rusty Italian "Do you speak English? I'd like to make a booking?"

Today is just the perfect day for doing nothing and writing a postcard to say I miss you all and when are you coming to visit? I'll take you to this awesome Thai restaurant down the road. They have sticky rice! And if you're extra keen we could get some curried goat from the Jamaican place.

24 May 2007

Art Now

The Tate Britain is having this really cool photography exhibition that everyone is invited to participate in via Flickr!

Last weekend we saw this building that is covered in grass. Apparently, this is why. When we were going past it I looked closely and noticed some people with hoses on top of the building watering the lawn.

And can you see the statue people on top of the buildings? There are heaps of them, they're amazing. This and this is what they're doing there. The statues are really powerful, they catch your eye and draw your gaze back into the distance looking for more and more statues. There's something special about having these lifesized little human shapes standing on top of such big important buildings.

20 May 2007

Open Studio!

Angel is a cute town of old-style pubs, bustling antique markets and the most fantastic three-storey art shop I've ever seen.

I went there to look at some studios. As part of an arts program, heaps of studios in London are having days where you can go visit, talk to the artists, look at and purchase their work.

I went to gather some inspiration. To find out a little about the reality of being an artist.

The artists from Hertford Road Studios are having an art auction. The picture above is of Mark Wainwright.

It's difficult to capture in photographs the thing I love most about artists' studios. It's the smell of paint, the freedom to make a mess, the buzz of creativity that surrounds you. It's being unconventional, allowing your furniture to be covered in paint. Having conversations that go deeper than the weather.

I talked to every artist I came across - about 20 people out of the forty studios I went to - asking about the meaning behind their work and how they support themselves as artists financially. Basically, I found out that yes, being an artist can be very difficult financially. But I also found out that it is incredibly satisfying to be doing what you love to do.

I came home inspired and with a new cute mini box of watercolours and some special paper from the amazing art shop. I am even more determined to find a way to make my own career path a more artistic one.

18 May 2007


Minibeast with moving legs - a gift from a Reception student

Today I was teaching in Reception - the 4 and 5 year olds. We spent the day drawing pictures of mini-beasts, in between doing fun stuff like playing in the home corner and singing songs.

Four children and I were sitting at a hexagonal table drawing worms and butterflies. Suddenly, without warning, one of the children who I was drawing with, vomited across the table.
"Woah!" I cried.

Luckily, in my short career working with really little kids, I have seen a lot of this type of thing. Within seconds I had whisked a garbage bin next to him, swiped some paper towels through the mess and sent for some of that stuff that soaks up nasty messes on the carpet.

The part that was funny for me was when I sprinkled the magic stuff, which happens to look like a pile of gravel, on the mess and the kids kept on pointing to the floor and wanting to clean up the mess.
"Oh no, Miss Lexonline! Look what happened there! Shall I sweep up that gravel?"

I had to clarify.

"Children, it is time to tidy up. But in this spot HERE (pointing) there is a mess we CANNOT clean up because somebody has been ill and we must LEAVE IT RIGHT THERE until later."

How much sense must it make to children, that a mess must be left just exactly where it is?

More than likely they have already worked out that adults are mysterious creatures.

13 May 2007

Patches of Ordinary

The thing I like about living somewhere and travelling, is that in between the travelling you have time to relax and have a little bit of mundane time. I've spent the past week having a patch of ordinary.

It rained most days. Rained so much that when I walked to the bus stop sheets of water sprayed up at me from the wheels of cars. I haven't been cold though, snuggled up in layers of woolly jumpers, coat and umbrella.

These were the highlights of my week:

* Two year five girls sidling up to me at lunch time.
"Miss Lexonline, what will you be doing next year?"
"I'm not sure, why do you ask?"
"Well, I was just thinking that maybe you could be our teacher."
Wouldn't it be interesting if teachers were hired by invitations from the students?

* Trudging through the puddles to pick up a parcel from the post office. Opening the parcel to discover that four of my friends have got together to make me a birthday parcel. Thank you SO much for that!

* Going for a jog around the biggest park I've ever seen (maybe I'll take a photo for you when it stops raining) with my flatmates. Making it one lap around the park - I told you it's BIG - and being unable to keep up with my flatmates. When I'm 30 I want to be as fit as they are.

Spectators at the London Marathon - literally thousands of people

Runners - Can you see me here next year?

Actually, when I went to see the London Marathon last month I thought for about a day that I would go in it next year. My uncle went in it a few years ago. Yes, I was pretty sure I wanted to get really super fit and run something like 42km. Until I found out that a 21-year-old guy who had done it had died. Maybe being able to do two laps of the park will be enough for me!

8 May 2007

French, Art and Patisseries

We landed in Charles de Gaulle airport and the first thing I noticed was that everything was in French - all the writing, everywhere. We lined up to buy train tickets into Paris. I watched a man at another ticket office trying to get help from a French ticket seller.
French ticket seller: “Je ne parle Anglais! Non!”
Angry man: (loudly) “… just want to get some MONEY! F*** you!”
The man stormed off and I stood there, trembling in my boots. Don’t speak English! Gah! They’re all going to hate me because I’m a foreigner!
“Bonjour,” said my ticket seller solemnly.
“Bonjour,” I said.
I took a deep breath and in my best French said “Two tickets to Paris please.”
She smiled at me and handed me the tickets and my change. I pointed to the map she was holding and she said in English “For you I will explain!” She proceeded to give clear directions in English on how to get into the city.
She understood my French! She was friendly! I proceeded to spend the weekend using my pidgin French at every given opportunity, loving the fact that the people appreciated my effort to speak their language and that they didn’t seem to mind if I made a mistake or two.

Lauch and I turned up to the Louvre at 8.30am… only to join the queue of about 50 people. As we waited until it opened at 9am, we watched the queue snake around behind us and grow to a size of about 2500 people. Nothing like getting up early!

I loved the art, especially a couple of contemporary installations alongside the traditional French sculptures. There was a man (not a real one) with a microphone near some fighting marble statues. There was a group of mime statues holding clocks in front of their faces. There was also a strawberry patch surrounding some sculptures. Yes, with real live strawberries. We saw the Mona Lisa and I was most impressed not with the painting but the celebrity that the painting holds. See above the mad crowds coming to see Mona.

This weekend – seeing as it was my birthday and all – I ate exactly whatever I wanted. Which included, in no particular order: strawberry tart, chocolate éclair (with real chocolate, not cream in the middle!), risotto, baguette with gruyere cheese, chocolate coconut macaroons, crème brulee, chocolate tart, croissants, viennoise petite, tart aux fruits and pain au chocolat. Oh, and a few glasses of wine. Yes, the French definitely do have the best patisseries and boulangeries ever.

We spent the evening walking along the Seine. Wandered out of the Marais district away from a loud group of what looked like protesters. We heard lots of police sirens heading back to that area of the city and wondered what was going on. The next morning in the paper we saw that the French presidential elections had taken place - Sarkozy had beaten Royal by just 6% of the vote. We walked along one of the bridges, where an accordian player was busking just like in the movies. It was a perfect end to my most exotic birthday ever.

2 May 2007

How Did Your Hair Get Orange?

On my way home, West London

I've been working, doing relief teaching in a nice school that is some distance away. The good thing about being up so early at the moment is that the weather is gorgeous and the sun is always shining brightly when I leave. So far, the work's been great.

Each day I've been in a different class. Today I was in a reception class, which is like kindergarten. There was me and two teacher's aides and 26 cutie four and five year olds. I - I mean, the children and I - did construction with boxes and glue. Lots of glue. I was talking to the group of kids I was working with about names that can be for both girls and boys - like Alex and Jordan. I asked one of the girls of African descent whether her name could be for a boy or a girl. She solemnly informed me that her name could not be for boys, it was "Only for a girl, a brown-coloured girl."

Later a little boy with a round face came up to me and looked at me for a minute. "How did your hair get orange?" he asked me. Er.... I can't say I've ever considered that question before. I told him it just came that way. Sometimes kids ask the best questions.

On the topic of good things, today was the day our shopping came. After two gigantic shopping trips that involved carrying all our groceries for what felt like several kilometres (have you tried carrying a bag of potatoes for more than a block?!) we decided to do our shopping online and get it delivered. Well actually Lauch decided and I eventually agreed with him. The man came today to deliver all our groceries and it was so much fun opening all the bags. Bagels! Haagen-Dazs! Shopping bags of joy! I'm completely won over to the whole internet shopping thing. I'm going now to have pitta pizzas and icecream and a small bite of everything that is delicious and new inside our fridge.