28 May 2008

Cupcake Royalty

I had last week off because it was half term holidays. If you are not a teacher, you might think we are the laziest people on earth with ridiculous numbers of holidays. If you are a teacher, well, I just know you understand.

Cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery Holland Park
Holland Park Holland Park

I didn't go outside of England this holiday because I'm saving money for um, another holiday. So it was hard to know what to do with myself in order to conserve funds but not go insane because of course it rained the whole week and I was indoors watching the washing dry.

To escape the quietly steaming washing, I went to Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road just to get a cupcake. It was cookies & cream flavour icing, with chocolate cake underneath. It was decadently, ridiculously sweet with enough icing for like, three cupcakes on it. Maybe there was more icing than cupcake.

Holland Park is not far from Portobello Road. It is the second poshest park I've ever been to. It has a Japanese garden, the ruins of a very fancy house and lots of Keep Off The Grass signs, and we all know what fancy grass means. Oh, and also it has a statue of Lord Holland sitting in his favourite chair. Says a lot about the guy. "I'm so comfortable with myself that I'll put a statue of myself up, sitting in my favourite arm chair." Me, I'd choose something more glamourous. Maybe commission Dali to do a statue of me, crossed with a giraffe. Or a cupcake.

27 May 2008


National Gallery Roof, Trafalgar Square National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
I like the roof tiles on the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

25 May 2008

Lauchlin found this on YouTube and I think it's cute.


I've been in London for more than a year now. I came here expecting to fall in love with the city the way I fell for Bangkok - dramatically, in a swirl of bright colours and monsoon rain.

It didn't happen that way. It has been more like a gradual coming into focus, like shaking a polaroid that takes too long to develop. Here are some photos of places I have grown to love in London.

Flower Tea, Ping Pong Restaurant, London Flower Tea, Ping Pong Restaurant, London
Flower tea at Ping Pong Restaurant

It is noisy at Ping Pong. A roaring and clattering of many people eating dumplings inside a low-ceilinged, darkly wooden space. There are giant photos of steam rising on the walls. You can have flower tea there. The waiter pours boiling water over the tea balls and you watch the flowers open as steam rises and swirls and as your dumplings arrive.

John Nash, Architect, All Souls Church Entrance to Chinatown, London
Statue on Great Portland Street; Chinatown

That is John Nash's statue at All Souls Church. He was rich and then went bankrupt, so he did a few architecture jobs to earn some cash. Jobs like redesigning Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Marble Arch and other Extremely Famous Places. Next to John Nash is the entrance to Chinatown, where the best Asian grocery can be found. You can buy Pocky, Hello Kitty sweets and almost any Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food. Today Lauchlin and I got: tom yum soup paste, red bean buns, gyoza dumplings, a bamboo steamer and miso soup.

Lauch Eating Vegetable Bun, Chinatown The Flash and Other Super Dudes
Chinatown; Charing Cross Road

We ate fresh steamed buns that were like white clouds. With red bean in the middle. Then we wandered down to Charing Cross Road - where all the best book shops are (and a whole lot of sex shops too). While I was buying postcards (normal postcards!), the old man in the shop told me that Spiderman was climbing the building outside. This I had to see. But truthfully Spiderman was at the pub across the road with his mates, singing and posing for photos.

Hogarth, Leicester Square Trafalgar Square Fountain, London
Leicester Square; Trafalgar Square

I paid a visit to Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, watched the pigeons and tourists and felt strangely at home.

23 May 2008

Frog Skin

West London, 7am
West London, 7am

In the end, they did hire me to stay at the kindergarten. I'll be there until July. So lately, life has been full of early mornings - the school is a long way from home. Life has been about Sharing, Looking with Our Eyes, Listening with Our Ears and examining bugs.

We are learning about minibeasts this week. Yesterday we took twenty children down to the long grass at the end of the field and hunted for minibeasts to poke and capture. We found various assorted slugs, spiders, worms, caterpillars, woodlice and a frog. Have to admit that my enthusiasm for bug hunting was completely pretend. I come from a country where most spiders are poisonous if not DEADLY, and know in my heart of hearts that worms are slimy and should never be touched.

About that frog. My co-teacher caught it, but it didn't go down without a fight. She gave me the frog box to hold while she hunted for more. That frog was a survivor. It pushed its bumpy green nose out of the box we caught it in.

I have never touched a frog in my life.

I tried to pursuade the children to push it back in. They were not easily pursuaded.
I would have to push it in myself.

Frog skin, in case you are also a girl who does not like touching frogs, is strangely electric. It seems to flicker, perhaps because all those froggy vital organs are so close to the surface. Maybe there is something to be learned from this minibeast business after all.

15 May 2008

Letter From A Sunny Week

Manor House, Near Trowbridge, Wiltshire Road Leading From Manor House
Manor House near Trowbridge - just wanted to show you some English sun.

Dear Mum, Dad, little Brother and everybody,

I'm starting to feel like I'm that kid sitting in class, daydreaming and staring out the window. About this blogging thing I mean. This week there has been summer. I remember in winter aching to go outside whenever it was light, just to soak up the outside air and try to remember what sun was like. Now there's sun and I just want to do like the English do and go lie in a park trying to soak up every particle. I am in fact going to run away and be outside in a minute. I'm writing this just for you, mum.

I've been wanting to tell you that this week I've been on trial for a new job - I'm trying on the title "Nursery Teacher" (the Australian equivalent of a kindergarten teacher) and thinking that I kind of like it. I get to be outside for half the day, wander around and talk to the kids, sing and paint and read the odd story. There is far less trying to control children and NO MARKING! This could work. I have to wait and see what they say tomorrow about whether the school want me to stay or not.

It would be a shame if they didn't though - I've just got the cute little portugese girl to start talking to me in English. Her favourite word is "guana" (iguana).

Hope there are some iguanas in your day.

7 May 2008

Towards the Edge of the World

Ate fish and chips with vinegar by the beach.

That is the first thing Lauch and I did, after getting off the train from London and checking in to our cute little B & B in Plymouth. It was run by a friendly English lady and a man with what might have been an Italian accent. He laughed when we asked if he knew of a good fish and chip shop and so did we when we realised that there are, oh, only a zillion fish and chip shops in Plymouth.

Plymouth, Devon Lauch, Plymouth Harbour, Devon
Lighthouse, Plymouth, Devon Pub, Plymouth, Devon

Plymouth is a port town that was important a long time ago. The Germans also thought it was important and bombed the crap out of it during the war - resulting in Plymouth becoming a very '50s looking seaside town with a tiny teeny special historical part left, known as the Barbican. Within the one (I kid you not) street that has been restored to its fabulous Tudorish style, there is a little alleyway that leads to a Victorian garden, complete with neat English hedges and a fountain. Just so you know.

One other thing about Plymouth is that you can visit the spot at the harbour where the pilgrims boarded the ship known as the Mayflower, bound for America in 1620.

Cliffs, Polzeath, Cornwall Atlantic House Hotel, New Polzeath, Cornwall

A short drive from Plymouth is Polzeath and the Atlantic House Hotel. This is where my parents met. According to my mum's friend, Cathy, she met my mum while they were both washing their clothes in the sea in Teneriffe. They got to talking and Cathy invited my mum to come and stay in Cornwall, England. So my mum turns up in Cornwall a few months later and meets dad while they are both working at the Atlantic House Hotel and the rest is history.

The other thing is that Cathy's daughter, Charlotte, and I have been penpals (in the handwritten, REAL LETTERS IN THE MAIL sense) since we were nine years old. And at the Atlantic House Hotel, last Saturday, we met in real for the very first time. As Charlotte said, there was a feeling of knowing each other quite well, which was strange, having never met before.

St Ives, Cornwall Lauch & Lex, St Ives, Cornwall
Lauch, St Ives, Cornwall St Ives, Cornwall

The photos above are from St Ives, which I now rate as the most beautiful place in England. St Ives is an old fishing village and it is filled with galleries and tourists and fudge, icecream and Cornish pasty shops. I ate a vegie Cornish pasty (not bad) and some Alpine chocolate icecream that was made in Cornwall. In St Ives, there is a branch of the Tate Gallery and what does that say about how fabulous a place it is.

Abandoned Tin Mine? Land's End, Cornwall
Little Cross, Land's End, Cornwall Lauch, Land's End, Cornwall

Lauch and I decided that it would be a bit lame if we went to Cornwall but didn't go to Land's End - the western most part of England. At Land's End, there are some very beautiful cliffs and a view of the Atlantic.

And. There is. A SHOPPING CENTRE! Which also contains an exhibition of Dr Who memorabilia and stuff. Mm hmm. Something for everyone at Land's End.

After ignoring the shopping centre, Lauch and I stopped at Penzance to check for pirates. At the Admiral Benbow Inn we found where the pirates had been - there is a secret tunnel under the pub where a famous band of pirates used to smuggle in their treasures from the port. They supposedly kept watch for Revenue men from the roof of the stables out the back.

Late Monday afternoon we ate our last icecreams and said our goodbyes to the hovering seagulls of Plymouth. Lauchlin and I reluctantly dragged our sun-drenched and relaxed selves on the train back to London. Only to find that it is indeed sunny in London too. Bring on summer!