A love letter to the Tube

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How, you may ask, do I plan on spending an entire blog post talking about the tube and prevent you from falling asleep? Well, I personally think the Tube is a pretty entertaining topic of discussion, so lets see if I can do it justice.

I should start with walking you through a typical day in my relationship with the tube. I leave the house 25 mins before I need to be in the door at work. I don’t even live in central London, so that is a pretty short amount of time, but I have my route down to a fine art which allows for more precious minutes sleeping. I walk out of the front of my house (currently a gorgeous little flat – refurbished Victorian building – in Swiss Cottage – yes, Swiss Cottage is a suburb in London even though it sounds like it’s in the Alps!), and wander down the leafy street. The tube station is two streets away so it’s only a couple of minutes walk. If I happen to be running early (not very often) there is a gorgeous little market that sets up just outside my tube stop. There is a flower stall, a bakery stall, coffee stand, Portuguese food shop, Vintage jewellery stall – so many lovely little offerings!  If I haven’t eaten brekkie yet (quite common) I might grab myself a croissant or something to eat at work. Yes, I will be coming back from London 10kgs heavier! They have a term for that here, they call it “The Heathrow Injection” which practically means once you arrive in London you get fat.

I wander down the steps to the underground station, and look up at the big sign that indicates how long until the next train – usually it’s 1 minute! A 4 minute wait is considered long! When I jump on the carriage in the morning I can usually get a seat – this probably because I miss peak hour traffic since I don’t have to start work until 10am (AMAZING I know!). In 5 mins time I change lines and 10 mins later I jump out at Oxford circus. The trains are so fast! Quick, simple, easy – bam! At work. Brilliant!

Interestingly, the Tube seems to be a bane of many a Londoners existence, but I actually think the Tube is pretty darn awesome – but perhaps this is because I come from a city that has a dismal public transport system! If London was a person, the Tube would be like one of its biggest personality traits. You just can’t experience London without experiencing the Tube, and it becomes such a big part of your daily life. Someone is even designing a computer game about it! Check it out here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/theres-a-london-underground-themed-computer-game-on-the-way It was also heavily featured in the first episode of the new season of Sherlock on BBC (L O V E this show – if you haven’t seen it, get on it!)

The Tube has been around for a long time, since the 1900’s so it has a lot of cool history. There are many closed stations hidden around London, and during the War various stations were used as bomb shelters – although not without a bit of drama surrounding this. Back in the day rich people had private bomb shelters, or could get access to bomb shelters in the ritzy hotels of London, but the poor didn’t have access to this kind of safe hold. The lower classes wanted to use the Tube stations as bomb shelters, but the government didn’t want to let them – because they were concerned the lower classes would go down there and never come up again! They thought the poor people would neglect their civic duty to join the war effort and simply live in the tunnels! Obviously this was not popular with the poor, as they were in a lot of danger with no proper shelter, so they devised a cunning plan! They gathered around one of the fancy hotels, and decided to storm the place – they put a pregnant lady at the helm, as they thought no one could say no to helping her! The attempt was successful, and they managed to get into the bomb shelter. But of course, all the rich hotel guests sheltering there were unhappy about mixing with the common people (such was the class divide!) that they complained to the government! They complained so much that the government relented and allowed the masses to shelter in the tube stations. *Note: This story is recounted from one I’ve heard verbally from a number of people, so the exact details may not be 100% accurate but you get the gist!

Now that we have had our little taste of history, I want to talk a little bit about the map of the London underground – most of you would have seen it, it’s a pretty famous image really!

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Many travellers buy copies and proudly display it on their walls at home. Another interesting little story here – there was an article in the news last week about “the map that saved the london underground!”. In 1914 they released a map of the Underground which depicted London as a medieval city and included lots of jokes and cartoons – it was so popular that people would miss their train because they were too busy enjoying the map!

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Full article here if you are interested: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25551751

I also heard that the London Underground Map was one of the first maps where the designer decided it doesn’t actually need to be completely geographically accurate because it’s underground, so people can’t actually see/know where they are going anywhere. Hence how neat the final map is!

I have to admit, I myself was tempted to fall into the tourist trap of buying a London Underground map – but simply for the fact as it’s a lot easier to plan your journey when you have a poster of it on your wall! On a visit to the National Art Gallery, I saw that they were selling posters of it in the gallery shop, and decided I might buy one to make my life easier since I had limited internet at the time. There were two versions of the map (neither the medieval style version referred to above!). One was white and shiny, and the other was on a nice cream coloured textured paper with a more delicate colour scheme and pretty patterns. Being the aesthetic person I am, I went for the attractive version and pinned it up above my head in my bedroom. I pored over it many a morning when planning my days adventures, until one day I realised there was actually a whole tube line missing form the map! I’d accidentally bought the tube map from 50 years ago!

The great thing about the tube is your barely need a map anyway – everything is so well signed even the extremely navigationally challenged (a.k.a me) can find their way around. I actually really enjoy going on different tube routes, all of the stations all look different and have their own personality which often reflects the suburb in which they reside. One of my favourites is Baker St, which of course has excerpts from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books complete with beautiful sketches. 

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The tube line names and the station names are also a source of entertainment for me (I seem to be able to find joy in anything in London…)

Here are some of my favourite line names:

Jubilee – Okay, so you have to admit this just sounds regal doesn’t it! Brings to mind images of some kind of royal parade with everyone cheering and smiling. Jubilee is just such a jolly word!

Bakerloo – This one is just funny because it ends in the word “loo”, call me immature but it just brings a little grin to my face. Especially when it gets called out over the loud speakers in a posh English accent!

Waterloo – Every time I see or hear the name of this station, ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’ starts playing in my head. …

“Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war. Waterloo – Promise to love you for ever more. Waterloo – Couldn’t escape if I wanted to. Waterloo – Knowing my fate is to be with you. Waterloo – Finally facing my Waterloo!”

And now for some of my favourite stations:

Angel – There is actually a place called Angel, and it’s pretty much perfect – just like a place called Angel should be!

Barbican – Every time I see this I just read “Barbarian”. Can’t get over it.

Barkingside – To me this just sounds like there a lot of dogs barking on this side of the city.

Oxford, Bond Street, Marylebone and Leicester Square – Monopoly anyone?!

Cockfosters and Shepherd’s Bush– They are funny. You know they are!

Kentish Town – Okay, so this one is a bit of a personal joke, but it does amuse me. If you are from Adelaide you are probably familiar with Kent Town, and I used to work there. I was dealing with a company who does 35mm film prints in Thailand, and the language barrier was somewhat strong. I often used to get a smile out of emails they would send, but even more so the labelling on the packages they would send. Once they sent a package addressed to my boss whose name was Kate, but they had called her “Kok” instead! They often used to put our address down as “Kentish Town” as well, which at the time I thought was ridiculous, but now I see where they may have got it from!

Knightsbridge – I don’t know the history behind this name, but I like to think that Knights used to stand on it. That’s a pretty cool image.

Manor House and Mansion House – I wonder which is fancier, Manor or Mansion? I wonder if there is actually a Mansion House and a Manor house near those stops that they were named after? Might have to go have a wander.

Tooting Bec – I don’t know why this name just makes me want to giggle.

White City – This just sounds like something out of Lord of the rings.

I’ve developed a bit of an interesting complex since using the tube. I’m sure you are all familiar with mobile phone paranoia? That’s what I call that desire to check your handbag, pat your pocket, glance over at your desk to check that you have your phone. And if you don’t find it within a few seconds that feeling of dread that perhaps you’ve left it at home which would pretty much be the end of the world. Well I’ve got this new version of that and I call it “Oyster Card paranoia”. An oyster card is a card which you put funds on to act as a tube ticket, sort of like the systems they have in most Australian cities now. The card itself cost £5 and then you put money on it to cover your trips. You need to have your Oyster Card in a very accessible spot at all times, because if you arrive at the gate and stop to search your wallet for it, Oyster Card rage will ensue (i.e people behind you get really annoyed!). And if you leave your Oyster card at home, you have to queue up at the machine to get a new one which can take aaaages in peak hour. This also invokes Oyster Card Tourist rage, where Londoners get really annoyed at tourists who take ages at the machine because they don’t understand how it works. So generally I keep my Oyster card in the pocket of my jacket, and on route to the tube station check that its still there on an average about 5 times! I’ve also been wondering if they named the oyster card because of the whole “the world is your oyster” saying… London sure is my Oyster!

One of the cool things about the Tube, is that most stations have free news papers which are distributed morning and evening. At the smaller stations they have racks from which you can just grab one, but right in the city at peak hour they have people handing them out to you as you enter the tube, yellow “Standard” (for The Evening Standard) in their rough British accents as they wave the paper in your face. Now these free newspapers are perhaps not the most newsworthy source of information, but they are free and they do provide entertainment on the tube ride home which is always appreciated. Their readership must be huge just for the pure fact that it’s free and distributed on the tube. I do wonder if this is the most common source of news for the population of London. These papers have their share of celebrity gossip mixed in with some hard news articles both local and international. I remember in my first week in London I got one and opened it up as I sat down on the carriage to be greeted by a huge headline about an incestuous family discovered in rural Australia, and the story sounded like something out of that horror film ‘The Hills Have Eyes’– I decided to try to mute my Australian accent as much as possible that day!

One of the papers also has this hilarious segment called “Rush Hour Crush” where people can send in a message to someone they have seen on the tube. Here are some for your amusement:

 

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 Another form of entertainment on the tube is the advertising. I honestly wonder how much it costs to advertise on the tube because it gets SO much exposure. When you are going down the escalators, or sitting waiting for the train there are huge posters and nothing else to look at so pretty much everyone sees them. I actually don’t mind it as a large portion of the advertisements are for shows (plays, musicals, ballet, gigs), so it’s a great way for me to see what is on – although it’s not so good for my budget because my list of things to go to is never ending! That’s one of the greatest things about London is the constant stream of good theatre, music and dance in the West End and beyond. There are always posters for films as well, so my list of movies to see is never ending!

Here are a few highlights of my tube experiences so far.

#35 – You can take dogs on the tube! AMAZING. Always brightens my day when I see a dog on the tube, especially when they are going up the escalators because the owner has to carry the dog – so if you are standing behind them you can pat the dog.

#76 – Random people singing. At Christmas time a bunch of merry (drunken) people with really good voices sang carols to the whole carriage! And sometime you get the odd kooky person who just belts out 80’s tunes at the top of there lungs the whole trip – when this happens I cannot keep the smile from creeping up on my face.

#4 – Buskers in the tunnels. In the bigger stations you often get buskers in the hallways and they are often really good! When I’m not in a hurry I like to stop and listen and throw them all of my spare change. It really brightens my mood when I get to hear a bit of live music on my journey, and the smile you get back when you throw them a few pounds just tops it off!

#102 – Train drivers with a sense of humour: The train drivers can speak to the carriages over the loud speakers, which they usually only have to do in peak hour. Sometimes you get drivers who are cheeky and make funny announcements or tell you that they are going on holiday the next day, which is always cool.

Finally, my last reason for loving the tube so much is that it does (like many things in London) make me feel like I’m in a movie. Sometimes on particular lines the fluro lights will flicker on and off that really causes me to expect something really dramatic to happen – like a massive action sequence where someone gets chased through the carriages, or for someone to get murdered while the lights are out and everyone to not know who did it once the lights come back on. Yes, I do have a fairly vivid imagination! I am also constantly seeing scenes so reminiscent of Sliding Doors every morning where people run for the doors just before they close. I’m always amazed at how people throw themselves in when the doors are already closing, as they close pretty darn fast with a lot of force if you ask me! I’m always worried someone is actually going to get injured when the doors slam on their head, but that never seems to happen! I also find this kind of action particularly amusing since usually the next train is only 1 minute away, but Londoners are in a constant rush so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised!

Well, I think you have been bombarded with enough anecdotes about the Tube for now, so I hope you enjoyed it and I promise to write again soon on something other than an underground train system!

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This is me at Tottenham Court Road Station

All my love,

 

A.

 

 

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First Impressions

Some observations:

1. Grass

The grass is amazing. Actually the nicest grass I’ve ever seen. So green and lovely!

 2. Washing

Washing machines are often in the kitchen! Laundries don’t seem to exist as often, and they don’t put them in the bathroom either. Odd.

 3. Carpet

Speaking of bathrooms…. some of the bathrooms are carpeted! I don’t know how they manage to keep the carpet from getting wet – maybe British people are less messy in the bathroom. And probably don’t wander in dripping wet from the pool or with sand all over their feet from the beach. It’s a bit strange, bt I have to say when it’s freezing cold it actually isn’t half bad…

 4. Central Heating

Every house I have been into so far has central heating, which makes sense considering how cold it is – but they even have central heating in the bathrooms! The funny thing is many people are really cautious about turning the heating on because they get massive electricity bills – which isn’t surprising considering when you turn the central heating on it heats every single room in the house including the bathroom at the same time! When you are only using one room it is a bit of a waste really. 

 5. Queuing

Okay, the queuing stereotype is true! I always thought it was an exaggeration, but the British are very good at lining up. There is a lot of etiquette around this as well, which I will explain in more detail when I talk about the tube in a separate blog post (yes, the tube deserves its own post)

 6. Red Double Decker Buses, Red Telephone Booths and Black Mini Cabs

So these are the stereotypical images that come to mind when thinking of London. And I have to say for some reason I didn’t really expect these things to be everywhere! I kind of thought the buses might be like the old Adelaide tram – a historical symbol, but you don’t actually see that many of them around. But no! There are red double decker buses, red telephone booths and black mini cabs EVERYWHERE. And this makes me immensely happy.

 7. London is awesome

So generally, as an overall comment, just wanted to add that London is awesome. There are so many amazing places, which are all so vastly different, such a wide range of people, and a huge list of amazing things to do. London, I love you.

 

Language Barriers:

–       “To be fair”

Brits say this ALL THE TIME. Seriously. Almost every sentence starts with “To be fair” or “In fairness”. It’s like their version of “To be honest” but used much more frequently.

–       “Have you not?”

This is used instead of “Haven’t you”. I find it hilarious. There are quite a few phrases quite similar to this where they use this type of structure. For some reason it sounds a bit more posh to me!

–       “Fancied”

You hear this a lot when people are talking about someone they find attractive or when referring to a food they would like. i.e “Oh I fancied her!” and “Oh I fancy some of that pudding”. It’s very cute.

–       “Brilliant”

Ron in Harry Potter is an excellent example of British people making positive exclamations. I always thought it was just a “Ron-ism”, but no, British people in general say “Brilliant!” all the time. I love it.

–       “Well good”

So I’m told this is more of a “Notherner” expression, but I’ve heard it quite a bit and I find it really funny. They say things like “That’s well good!” which translates to “That’s good” but maybe a bit more than good because it has “well” in front of it?

–       Pants

Okay, so here is one thing I need to warn you of. Pants does not mean Pants over here! And by that, I mean pants are called trousers, and what the English call pants are actually underwear. Yeah, that’s a good one to get straight to avoid awkward conversations. A friend of mine who is a teacher was telling one of her students he would need to pull pants on while on stage for a performance of Oliver – resulting in a look of horror on the kids face! She then had to clarify very quickly she meant trousers so he didn’t think he was putting his boxers on in front of an audience!

–       Sweets

Lollies do not exist, they are called sweets. It’s kind of adorable really. A lolly is a lolly-pop.

–       Pudding

Pudding is not just a pudding in the traditional sense (i.e a Christmas Pudding). Pudding can be any kind of dessert really. So when someone asks if you would like some Pudding the correct answer is pretty much always yes!

–       Wellies

Also, there is no such thing as gumboots – they shall henceforth be known as “Wellingtons”. And if you are going to be in England for a British winter you will probably need them!

Now that we are on the topic of words and expressions, I should mention that there are of course several Australian expressions that I did not realise were specifically Australian until saying them over here – and getting very interesting responses from the British! One prime example occurred on Christmas Eve when I was at the pub. I was chatting to two lovely gentlemen by the names of George and Matthew (I did promise them they were going to get a special mention in my blog). Both had been drinking enthusiastically throughout the evening (they may disagree with this statement, but it’s definitely true), and since Christmas Day was the next morning, I thought it would be polite to enquire about their anticipated wellbeing for the big day. So I asked (in the common Australian way) –  “How are you going to pull up in the morning”. I was met with two blank faces and a pause. Then one of them said “Do you mean as in how am I going to arrive in the morning – like will I pull up in  a car?” and the other said “I thought it was some kind of sexual question”!

So obviously that expression is not common over here. After a bit of explaining, they enquired to what the usual response to “How are you going to pull up in the morning” would be? I jokingly said, in your state probably “Struggletown” which they had never heard of either! After the initial confusion in thinking it was an actual place, they then took quite a liking to the phrase. So when the whole conversational exchange of “How are you going to pull up in the morning?” “Struggletown” becomes a huge hit UK wide I would like to take the credit!

That’s all from me for now, thought I’d keep it short and sweet for a change (well, as short as someone like me can get!)

All my love,

A.

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Getting to Know You

So now that I’ve been here two weeks, I figured I should finally write at least something about my first few days in London. If my memory goes back that far! I find it hard when travelling to make the time to write, even though everywhere I go things to talk about are consuming my thoughts. It is much better to get it down sooner rather than later though, this way I find the details are much better.

I’ve been thinking, I really need someone to invent something for me. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this, and if someone could create this device it would really help me! So essentially the main problem I have, is being unable to record my thoughts as I have them. Some writers carry around recording devices that they speak notes into, but honestly I think people might think I’d gone a bit cuckoo in the head if I started talking into my phone about how fascinating I find the tube system within the hearing distance of everyone on the carriage. And I certainly couldn’t talk about the funny characters I meet when they are standing there!

The next best thing available to me is to simply take notes – short dot points about what I want to remember to write about later. This is okay, but honestly I often think of the best way to word things or explain them on the spot – and there is no time to type this out on a phone at the time, and it’s extremely difficult to remember later. As an aside, this is actually the reason I learned to touch type so long ago – because I needed to be able to type really fast to get down what I wanted to say as close to my speed of thinking as possible, haha.

Anyway – so back to my wish. What I want, future inventors, is a device that is somehow connected to my brain (but not in a freaky, dangerous way), that I can control (preferably via thought control, that would be cool), that captures my thoughts. So I say “Go, Go Gadget RECORD!” (like Inspector Gadget would do, but in my head voice) and it records my exact thoughts on what I want to say in my blog. That would be cool wouldn’t it….

Now that we have explored that little daydream of mine, let’s get back to my first few days. I decided to start my experience of London with a free walking tour – I’d heard good things about them, and I figured it was a good way to get my bearings. The awesome thing is you don’t have to book, you just rock up any day at 11am or 1pm and look for someone with a red t-shirt or red umbrella (you can’t really see their red t-shirts in winter they are so rugged up with jackets…)

The tour did not disappoint! The guide was an Aussie (which I was a liiiiiiitle disappointed with, but recovered quickly) and he had studied British history, so he knew lots of quirky stories and interesting facts about the places we were seeing.

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We wandered through many of the most well known London attractions such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminister Abbey. But to spare you a long story (this is already a bit lengthy isn’t it!) there is just one particularly interesting thing I want to share with you. This is a true story about a break in at Buckingham Palace. It is sometimes referred to as “The Michael Fagan Incident”. When our guide told us this story it was so good I thought it couldn’t be true, but when I researched it the general gist of it was perfectly true! So here is an abridged version of what was told to me:

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A drunk (or idiotic?) man was wandering around Buckingham Palace. His name is Michael Fagan, and he’s 30 ish and doesn’t have a job. He scales a drainpipe, and one of the maids sees him, freaks out and calls the gaurds – but when they arrive he can’t be seen, so they think she’s imagined it (as you do). He then found one of the windows was open (how on earth is one of the palace windows left open?!) – so opens it and goes inside. Wanders around a bit, goes down to the cellar, and drinks a bottle of wine. Apparently the alarms were faulty, and didn’t go off?!!!!

Then he gets tired, decides to call it a night, and heads home. The next day, he scours the paper headlines to see if there is mention of a break in at Buckingham Palace – nothing. He checks the next day – nothing. The fact that he has been in the palace has not been discovered. So, he thinks he’ll do it again!

Next time, he has to break a window to get in – which sets off an alarm! But – the guard thinks it’s faulty, and switches it off. Michael Fagan wanders around, through the different chambers, and actually sits on the throne! He sets off another alarm, and the guard – instead of going and investigating, assumes this alarm must be faulty as well – and switches of all the alarms in the palace!

So eventually Michael Fagan makes his way into THE QUEENS BEDROOM. This is actually true!!! So hard to believe, I know. So… The Queen wakes up to this strange man in her room! But don’t worry, she has been trained for these kinds of situations, and knows not to panic. She has been taught it’s imperative to keep the intruder calm, so she engages in “small talk” with him! She discovers they both have children the same age, and  continues this conversation with him while pressing the panic button in her room – but the guard has turned all the alarms off, so it doesn’t work!

the queen and michael fagan

So The Queen has to think on her feet – still not wanting to agitate her intruder she offers him a cigarette! (she has smelt smoke on him, and determined he must be a smoker – smart cookie isn’t she!) Michael Fagan is delighted by this idea and takes up the offer gladly, so she reaches for her phone and calls her Maid. She says “I would like a cigarette for the MAN in my bedroom” hoping this will alert the maid to the fact there is an intruder, who will use her common sense and call security. No such luck, the Maid just thinks The Queen has lost her marbles! So she strolls into the bedroom (sans cigarette I might add), sees Michael Fagan and screams at the top of her lungs! Obviously she has not had the Queens emergency training, tut tut.

This alerts the Butler who runs in, and finally the Guards are called. They ring the police since it is a break in, but in another stellar moment – the Police think it’s a prank call and refuse to come down to The Palace to investigate! Three phone calls later and 40 mins have passed and the police finally arrive to arrest Michael Fagan. 40 mina may not seem like long until you realise the police station is literally a 5 minute walk from the Palace! Although in the end, they can’t actually charge him with breaking and entering because at the time The Palace was classified as public property! So they charge him with minor theft for drinking the bottle of wine in the cellar on his first visit. Oh what a hilarious series of events!

Now I had almost forgotten I was telling you about the tour – well that was certainly one of the highlights, but there were many more exciting things to see as we continued on around London. Ooohing and Aaaaahing at the changing of the guard, and all of the beautiful parks. There is so much to see and do in this town!

The ‘Free Walking Tour’ was so good in fact that I decided to go on a paid tour of the “Old City” which talked more about the history behind London.  This one started at 4.30pm, which in a London winter is practically night time, so it was very atmospheric. I found out the Australian Consulate building in London is actually featured in Harry Potter – it’s Gringotts! They used to let Tourists go in, but the got really swamped with fans so they had to stop that practice and now you can only go in on “official Australian Business”. I’m sure I could think up something that meets that criteria…

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Apparently there is also a “Grim Reaper” walking tour which I am also keen to go on, as they tell you all the dark history of London, all the Jack the Ripper Tales etc – sounds delightful J

I shall leave you on that note, and I promise to write again soon as there is much more to tell!

All my love,

A.

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A Full English Breakfast

So we pick up with me arriving at my hotel in the lovely suburb of West Ealing. I’d booked a place called The Drayton Court hotel because it looked adorable and very British – and it didn’t disappoint! There were fairy lights and Christmas decorations EVERYWHERE, and it had cute wall paper and patterned carpets galore. My room was gorgeous! They have actually themed all the rooms around famous British comedy films, although not in a tacky way at all (trust me). I’m ashamed to say I didn’t actually know what my room was meant to be, but it had some black and white photos of a bunch of men looking at a suitcase of money if anyone can guess what that film is!

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I had best of intentions to wander around a bit in the evening but jet lag got the better of me and I curled up in the comfiest bed and went to bed ridiculously early. I woke up in the morning feeling like a bit of a princess in my big luxurious bed, but jumped up to make the most of my free breakkie.

When I got to the dining room I was not disappointed. Roaring fire, dark wooden tables, leather chairs, patterned wall paper, rugs, book cases, Christmas tree, Christmas lights AND they were playing some BBC radio station that only plays hits from the 60’s. That’s my kinda music! I actually felt like I was in that old TV show “Heartbeat”.

I looked at the Breakfast menu, and the decision easy easy – I could not go past the “Full English Breakfast” Option. By pure coincidence I had also been messaging Maxx and Dave (my “Welcome to Iron Knob” teammates) at the same time, and Maxx had literally just sent me a message saying have a full English breakfast – so I took that as a sign as well. This lovely middle aged British lady took my order, she was hilarious – she kept making mistakes and then saying something along the lines of “I blame the meds!”. I asked her how big the Full English Breakfast was, as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to eat it all, and she said “Put it this way, if you don’t eat it all I’m not going to sit here and make you eat it” haha.

So the much anticipated Full English finally arrived – I had opted to go without the baked beans (sorry!) as I have never been a fan, but I got everything else. One of the items was “black pudding” which I had never heard of.  I thought maybe it was chocolate pudding, or fig pudding or something like that – even though I wasn’t sure why that would be on a breakfast plate… so I had a big bite and had to struggle not to screw up my face…. what on earth was this?!! After a quick google search I discovered it is “blood pudding” which made me feel a little queasy! So the rest of the blood pudding got left on the plate.

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After breakfast it was off to my new home for the next month! I’d been really lucky to have my friend Sophie set me up with an Australian girl Lisa who has been living in the UK for the past few years. Lisa was going home for Christmas for a month at exactly the same time I was heading over (we literally almost crossed paths at the airport), so I was able to sublet her room. It feels a bit like a life swap since she is going back to Adelaide, so we have been exchanging messages on the weather etc and life in both places which has been fun.  We are even now friends with each others friends so it’s like that Wife Swap TV show almost, haha.

Anyway, I hopped into a black cab (the novelty of these has still not worn off) and within a few minutues was outside the house. It was a gorgeous street, with exactly the type of houses you expect to see in Britian – two story, gorgeous bay windows, little turret type rooves, hedges, cobbled pathways! The area is a little further out from Central London, but very leafy and “well to do” (i.e lots of Mercs in driveways). As I struggled down the path with my massive suitcase a really kind neighbour offered to help me, and invite me to pop in for a drink with him and his wife and his new born if I ever wanted some company. Well obviously the new born won’t be drinking… but you know what I mean! So lovely of him. I’ve just been astounded at how friendly people here are, and always willing to lend a hand.

So I’ve made it to the front door – excuse my slow storytelling but I don’t like scrimping on details! I have three keys with me and the lovely Lisa sent me a very detailed email giving me instructions on how to get into the house. Most British houses have 2 front doors, the first leads to a tiny corridor where you wipe your feet and the mail lands when popped through the mail hole, then the second door leads into the actual house. I imagine that this helps in keeping the cold out, and maybe adds extra security but I’m not really sure. Most of the houses in Britian are quite old (which I love!) so this means that there are often two sets of locks on each door: an old lock, which has a gorgeous golden key, and a new lock which has your standard every day key.

Why am I going into so much details on the lock system? Because it’s bloody hard to get in and out of the house! Here is a summary of the steps I have to take every time I enter the house:

  1. Unlock old lock  [door 1]
  2. Unlock  new lock [door 1]
  3. Lock old lock behind me [door 1] – which involves swivelling this little gold plate that covers the lock (assuming to keep the cold air out)
  4. New lock locks itself [door 1] (thank goodness)
  5. Unlock old lock [door 2] – which again have to swivel the gold thingy which is tricky if you haven’t turned the light on
  6. Unlock the new lock [door 2]
  7. Lock old lock behind you [door 2]

Let’s just say when you have cold hands this is a full on procedure that involves lots of fiddling! I feel really bad for Grace, my housemate whose bedroom is right next to the front door. It actually took me about 4 days to figure out how to tell the difference between the two old/gold keys and which one goes in each door, so every time I came or left there was about 10 mins of fiddling with locks which can be quite noisy! I guess on the positive side, if you are the one that’s home you have at least a few minutes warning before anyone actually gets into the house with all the unlocking sounds, so if you were running around in your undies or anything you’d have plenty of time to hide!

So now we are inside the house, phew! It’s a lovely little three bedroom flat, and my/Lisa’s room is on the first floor. English houses have very tiny and steep staircases, so I began the attempt to take up my big suitcase. This was not as simple as I had anticipated. Due to the steepness of the stairs, it’s really hard to yank the suitcase up – and to make matters worse, the steps are so narrow that the Suitcase actually can’t rest on a step. So if you stop for a rest the suitcase actually falls all the way back down! So in a mammoth effort I dragged the whole thing up pretty much in one go and then sat at the top panting for about half an hour while I recovered. Yes, maybe my fitness levels need a little work! But in my defence, the suitcase ways 30kg which is more than half my own weight!

I make my way into the room, and was surprised to find a lovely bunch of flowers waiting for me on the window sill with a card marked with my name. It was a lovely Christmas card from Grace and Nicola (my housemates) welcoming me to my new London home! The flowers even matched the colour of the bedspread, these girls are my kind of girls! The window also boasts a beautiful view of your typical London street so when I look out of it I absolutely feel like I’m in a British film.

As I wandered around the room I also found lots of sticky notes from Lisa saying things like “Alex – use me!” on a stack of towels she had washed ready for me, and “Alex – this is cleared out for your use” on a cupboard. I definitely felt welcome, and everyone had gone to such a big effort to accommodate me – I’m a pretty lucky girl. Lisa is also in film, so I had a huge grin on my face when I saw the door to the ensuite had a gold star mirror on it that said “producer” – could not be more perfect!

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As I unpacked a few things, I found little tiny packages Mum had hidden in my suitcase for me to open at Christmas! She is so thoughtful with these things. As I put them in a pile, I noticed a few of them had little notes stuck to them, saying “pull here” which when opened said “to decorate your room”. Early Christmas presents! Yay! So I opened them up to find a reel of confetti on a string that you can hang around your room, so pretty! And some snowflake shaped cutouts that you can hang up. My very own Christmas decorations! My cousin and Auntie + Uncle had also given me a Frankie magazine for the plane (thanks guys, my fave!) which has pull out posters and calendars etc, so I used these to get crafty and put up in my room. I had no blu tac or anything, but my old Housemate Bec had given me  the cutest sticky notes, so I managed to use a bunch of these to act like sticky tape to hang everything up. I was amazed that this actually worked, but everything is still in place! With these little touches on the room it feels like my own J

Now that I’ve introduced you to my new London home I might leave you here for now. I’ll be back soon to start on my adventures in this gorgeous city!

 

Thanks again for reading.

 

All my love,

 

A.

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1013 miles

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10103 miles – that’s how far I travelled from Adelaide to London!

As an aside – my brother is called Myles, and when he was a kid Mum would read us stories that often includes lines like “and the car went for miles and miles”. This would result in a very confused little Myles who didn’t understand the difference between “miles” and “Myles” , which was very funny. Anyway, back to the story…..

So, the journey begins at Adelaide airport. I’m joined by my lovely family (Mum, Pete and Myles) all aglow with excitement. Well… maybe I was aglow with excitement, Mum was probably a little stressed and Myles probably quite bored.  I have to say – I hate goodbyes at airports. In fact, I hate goodbyes in general! They always make me cry. And I was determined not to this time! So perhaps all the stress that unfolded over the darn Emirates luggage allowance was a good thing, because it made me annoyed and angry rather than emotional and teary!

Long story short I booked through Qantas who have different baggge allowances to Emirates who the flight was actually run through, and there was one particular staff member on a bit of a power trip who took a strong dislike to me and wanted to ruin my life really! Even though all the other staff were so nice and completely willing to let me through! Anyway, it was all resolved in the end when the evil Emirates lady went away on a break the nice one let me through no dramas – but the whole kafuffle  (FYI had to google how you spell kafuffle, what an odd word!) took about an hour so the time for emotional farewells was significantly reduced!

Then Myles got lost looking for the toilets and Mum went looking for him, and Pete and I were stuck at the gate with me freaking out that I would have to leave without saying goodbye to them! But they returned just in the nick of time for a quick hug, and for Mum to yell that she had snuck an envelope into my bag (I did hope that the security people weren’t listening, since I’d just answered the question “did you pack your bag yourself?”).

So I made it through the gate with no tears, feeling very proud of myself, and sat down to find and open Mum’s card. Mum is really good at writing  notes. When I was a teenager and we would have a fight instead of talking to each other about it, she would write me massive letters about how she was feeling and sneak them under my door which would pretty much always result in me feeling guilty and apologising for whatever I had supposedly done wrong! When I was in primary school she used to slip cute little notes in my lunch box telling me to have a good day, which went along with the sandwhiches she had cut shapes into with cookie cutters so I could have love heart or Christmas tree pieces of lunch! Such a good Mum. Anyway, in true Mum style she wrote me a massive card so filled with love and beautiful things that I immediately burst into tears! Maybe I wasn’t as brave as I thought after all.

It was at this point, mid teary, that a security officer came up to me and handed me my travel wallet which I had apparently dropped at some point on my way because I was so flustered – containing all my credit cards, cash,  itinerary, and most importantly… boarding pass! Whooops. The fact that I was crying did not deter them from giving me a lecture on looking after my stuff haha.

Finally making it on to the plane I took my seat and discovered I was sitting next to a couple. Not so bad, you might think. Mmmmm, yes it is! Not just any couple, but a couple pretty much exactly my age who didn’t talk to me at all, just canoodled pretty much the whole way… way to make a girl feel like a third wheel! Fortunately I had several excellent movies to choose from (this is why I LOVE being on planes! Uninterrupted movie and reading time) so this kept me from having a repeat of the bawling in the airport lounge.

A couple (or several) hours later, I was at Dubai airport for a 2 hour stopover that breezed by. Dubai airport to me just feels like it’s from the future – I felt quite sophisticated just hanging around there! Met a lovely lady in the line on the way back to the plane – she was essentially a british version of Whoopie Goldberg, both in looks and volume. We had a great chat until she realised right at the front of the line that she had forgotten a statue or something and ran back practically screaming just before the flight was about to close!

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Before you know it I was landing on British soil! I was actually astounded at how fast I was processed at Heathrow – it was an absolute breeze, especially compared to US and Australian customs! The customs officer who stamped my passport was so nice, and made jokes with me about the Australian and British film industry, and didn’t quiz me like I was accustomed to from US visits. Waltzed straight through customs which had – shock horror – no lines! And took a tunnel directly to the tube, didn’t even have to leave the airport or ask for directions it was easy peasy! (which is saying a lot for me as I am quite well known as being challenged in the navigation department)

Even finding my way around the tube was a breeze, the English are so good at clear signage and maps. I thought the staircases were going to be a bit challenge (with one giagantor suitcase and one carry on), and started attempting these by lifting one suitcase down two steps, then going back up and lifting the other suitcase. This proved to be a very very slow process. But low and behold some very polite and friendly English people came to my rescue! A really nice young girl offered to carry my small case, then a man came and offered to carry my big case so I was left strolling down the stairs with nothing to carry!

The excellent tube announcements made it very clear when my stop was, so I excited and got straight into a London cab…. yes it was black and little and adorable! I felt really fancy getting into one of those with all my suitcases actually. And I was on my way to my little English hotel….

But that shall have to wait for next time! Otherwise you might all get eyestrain from reading so much, and I shall certainly be getting finger cramp from all this typing.

Thank you for reading!

All my love,

A.

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The big move!

The big move!

So the time has come to move out of my lovely lovely house in Dulwich. It’s pretty much the nicest house ever (if you couldn’t tell by the use of 2 x lovelies), and I’ve been here for 3 years so I’m pretty sad to leave it! Packing up all my stuff to put in storage has been delightful (note: sarcasm!) – I think this experience will result in me reducing my hoarding tendencies in future, as I have discovered I have WAY too much stuff and packing is very dull. I’m just not capable of parting with my beautiful vintage furniture, million glass jars and trillion dresses!

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Farewells

Farewells

We had a Woodstock themed farewell party so I could say goodbye (for now) to all my lovely friends in good old Radelaide. It was filled with daisy chains, peace sign face painting, roasted marshmallows, hugs smiles and good company. I don’t like goodbyes in general but this one was pretty good!

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