28 June 2007

Happy Birthday, Handsome Boyfriend!

Lauch on Isle of the Dogs, with the Maritime Museum in Greenwich in the background. I took this photo and Lauch made the colours beautiful.

Lauch turns 29 today. Hooray! And we are off to Italia this weekend to celebrate.

26 June 2007

Museums like Castles

I had always thought of museums as boring old musty places full of dinosaur bones. They make your feet sore from standing up reading all the boring labels. Museums don't fool anybody. We all know they're full of stuffed animals whose fur is falling off.

Not these museums.

These museums look like castles on the outside. And they have a zillion fascinating treasures on the inside. Well... the Museum of Natural History has a zillion small children and their parents inside it. The British Museum has all the treasures.

This is the Museum of Natural History.

I love, love, love the building. It has columns that have birds and monkeys carved into them. It has an intricately tiled mosaic on the floor. You can see the archways in the photo below. This is the entrance hall - the other parts of the museum has more modern walkways and dinosaur bones hanging from the ceilings.

This is the British Museum. The outside is old-style with columns etc. I love the ceiling here.

I've been to the British Museum three times and will happily go there three more times.
There are REAL mummies in there. Ones outside of their sarcophagi! You can see the bodies neatly packaged ready to be posted off to the afterlife. There are xrays so you can see the bones lying neatly inside.

Here are some mummified ibis. Yes. Ibis. There are also mummified cats and bulls with no legs. I wonder where the legs went.

I just put this last photo in for fun. I forget which era it comes from. It reminds me of the look that is probably on my face when the children in my class are being naughty.

"Stop being silly children! There are NO ghosts in the girls' toilets. And there are NO witches either."

24 June 2007

Blah Blah Blah

Something a little bit amazing happened this weekend. Three of Lauch's oldest Aussie friends just happened to be conveniently near London. Frank and Andrew travelled several hours by train and Rob had flown from Shanghai to Dusseldorf to London. And of course I was there and our fantastic flatmates too. Everyone congregated in West London at the local pub to celebrate Lauch's impending 29th birthday.

Frank and Olly

Everyone at the pub

The birthday boy himself

We had dinner at vegetarian restaurant called Blah Blah Blah and a few pints at the pub. It was fantastic to see everyone in London.

17 June 2007

Is this your pigeon?

I saw a greeting card in a bookshop the other day. It said:
LOST: pigeon, grey with black and white patches, average size, a bit scraggly looking. Does not have a name. If found, call this number …

Obviously, it's a joke. What pigeon isn't a slightly scraggly, patchy-looking creature? There's a sign in Hyde Park that warns you not to feed the pigeons, referring to them as "sky rats" and "vermin." Quite a few buildings and statues here have long pointy needles attached to stop pigeons from landing on them. Poor old pigeons. I can't help but feel sorry for them. However, a nice fat healthy pigeon is about the size of an Aussie football... and they to like to land right near your feet. Sometimes it is hard to resist sliding my foot out to have a nice game of football.

It's a hard life when you're a pigeon.

16 June 2007

Conversation on the Bus

It is four o’clock and I’ve survived another Friday. I’m slumped upstairs on the double decker bus feeling sorry for myself because I have the most awful cold.

A man sits next to me. He has a kind face with brown skin and deep-set eyes. After a few minutes he says, in a heavily accented voice, “You are tired?”
“I’m not well,” I croak, smiling at him pathetically.
He says he is on his way home from school. He is learning English, has been learning English since he got here six months ago. He says that he is from Afghanistan, pausing to look at my reaction. Maybe he is worried that I’ll think he’s a terrorist.

The man says matter-of-factly that his whole life, Afghanistan has been fighting, fighting. His girlfriend is dead. He holds out his hand. “My mother, father, sister, dead,” he says, counting them off on his fingers. Only his brother remains alive, living in Pakistan.

“Do you know drug dealers?” he asks, unsure of his English. He tells me the catalyst for his move to England was when some drug dealers took over his home in Afghanistan. He pulls up his sleeve briefly to show me the white gash of a scar on his wrist.

The man says he likes England. The people are friendly. He can sit next to a woman on the bus and have a conversation and not be killed. It is stupid, he says, that a man cannot just talk to a woman in his country. He will make his life here.

It is his stop. He smiles and says genuinely “You have a nice life.” He climbs down the stairs without looking back.

I think of my own family, silently hope that they are all safe and well. Attempt for a moment to imagine living in a place like Afghanistan.

My awful cold pales into insignificance.

13 June 2007

The View From Our Window

When I posted photos of our home here, Tiarne asked me "Is there much of a view from the window?" I got some watercolour paints and just happened to paint a picture of the lounge room window.

So, is there much of a view from the window? Let me take you on a tour.

On your right you can see the very lovely bricks of the house next to ours. You can see the fence with mad vines growing on it. We once saw a squirrel scurry along the top of the fence. You can see the window of the next door neighbours who really like to sing karaoke very loudly when they have a party. Which is not that often. What a shame. Above the house next door we can see the sky, which is the first place I look every morning to see if the sun's out. It's fabulous when the sun's out. I feel like doing a celebratory sun dance and saying "Good morning" to strangers.

Clearly, our view is quite amazing. It's not every house that gets to look out on a stunning brick panorama. LexOnline's Patented window tours will now move on to the view of the cute courtyard out the back...

12 June 2007

To Market, To Market

Camden Market. It's billed as the most popular market in London, according to the Lonely Planet. I decided to find out for myself whether it was really that great.

Clockwise: amazing donuts, goth outfits, retro tins and the most desirable kid's car ever.

The market itself is a fascinating warren filled with a zillion different things. When I first got off the tube it was into a street streaming with people, a street with a huge number of flamboyantly painted shops advertising all kinds of Goth-style clothes. The actual market stalls are hidden inside halls, alongside the canal and inside the old Horse Hospital.

Clockwise: Retro mirror I wanted to take home, Charlie Chaplin (and me if you look closely), an ad for a cafe and a shop selling hookahs.

My favourite part of the market was the part selling retro furniture and antiques. Above is a photo of a mirror I love and would have loved to buy. Reflected in the mirror you can see a stack of three tables, I loved those too. There was also some Danish wooden furniture from the '70s and some couches...

See the hookahs for sale in the photo above? These fascinate me. They're sold in a shop just down the road from us, and the men from the middle-east sit outside a local cafe smoking from them. Aussie Ben, who gives me a lift to school, says he has a hookah. Apparently the smoke tastes like spices, cinnamon and cloves.

I went to the part of the market near the canal and saw a nice selection of those tshirts. You know those tshirts. The ones that say 'My mother/brother/aunt/etc went to London and all they got me was this tshirt.' Oh. And there was also a guy with tattoos all over his body wearing leather undies, green fluffy flourescent leg-warmers and with rings ALL OVER HIS FACE. Gah! He called himself Prince Albert and was posing with tourists for a pound. Sadly I didn't have my photo taken so you will just have to imagine him.

As always, the Lonely Planet was right. Camden Market is huge and fascinating and totally deserves to be so popular. I'll be back one day for that furniture!

7 June 2007

What do you call it?

It was pouring with rain but I had cabin fever: I had to get out. I took the tube to Central London - High Holburn to be precise - to go shopping and take photos. Ended up home several hours later with my jeans soaked about 8 inches up the legs.

Notice the sign in this photo - no, not the Burger King one, look lower - Women's Lavatories! Lavatories is such an old-fashioned word, I love it.
There's something cute about the names of things here. For example today I was wandering around in the rain and I noticed two streets, side by side. One was called Shoe Lane and the other New Little Lane. Not kidding.
Pubs have cute names too. Many of them are named after the street they're in - The Angel is in Angel Lane. But there are of course a few rogue pubs called things like The Red Lion and Pineapple.
If I had a pub I would call it the Catfish and Pickle. Or maybe the Toad in the Hole. And it would have a sign for the lavatories too.

P.S. See here for mad photo of me that Lauch took.

3 June 2007

Where Time Begins

Super-green field full of
people in bikinis growing tans
Nobody wearing hats
A hill that has a worn path down it the grass - lush
I can imagine children rolling down that.
Check my knees for grass stains.

At the top of the hill,
The view is so impressive that a photo Just. Will. Not. show how amazing it is
(but I’ll show it to you anyway, maybe your imagination can make it right)
Everyone is here
Standing in the queue to have their photo taken
One foot on either side of the date line.
Anyway, who decided that
Here is where time begins?

Canary Wharf:
Superslick buildings all quiet and shiny glass
Window cleaners up there on the 7 millionth floor
Gives me vertigo just thinking about it.
Humans, we are dwarfed by
The tallest building
The quiet swoosh as the train goes by, again, again, the sound of human voices muted
This is what the future looks like.