Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Ear Chronicles

Mid-November, Lee had the hole in his eardrum fixed, care of the NHS.  The Australian and UK governments have fixed a sweet deal where they look after each others' citizens, which meant free assessment and surgery for Lee after first visiting a Doctor with an ear infection in August.  
After waiting most of the day for his 'morning' surgery, he got changed and switched off phone at 3pm.  The surgeon sliced behind the ear and used the fascia from muscle behind the ear to fashion him a new eardrum.
Lee returned to the ward from recovery at 6pm, charming the nurses and was soon scoffing some food, napping and scoffing more food.
The next day, the outer bandage removed, drugs dispensed and minimum instructions given, I could take him home (3pm).

Below are shots I took of his recovery.  As you can see, the ear is quite swollen to begin with, but goes down with time.  The day of the surgery is Day 0.

Day 0

Day 1

Day 2

Day 5

Day 7

Day 9

Day 11

Day 13

Friday, 3 December 2010

A walk in the park

There's something special about a park covered in fresh, powdery snow. The white expanse is like an invitation to run across it, scooping up handfuls, tying to bunch them together and throwing it, trailing white, towards the target, so much that its impact is barely felt.

The large flat expanse is far more inviting than its previous shade of green. Walking through the park in autumn, I did not see the appeal of leaving the path to head in a random direction. Covered in white though, I could not contain myself to the path, following the example of other tracks traced in the snow. The sensation of walking across the fresh snow is like walking across squeaky beach sand, as it gives way a bit at a time with a slight crunching sound. As you step forward, small pieces fly forward and on top of your boots, just like beach sand. And as you look back, you can trace your footsteps imprinted there.

There is often a high-pitched squealing as children run from each other, and the same actions are repeated in small groups all over the park, regardless of age: scoop, threaten, grin, chase, aim poorly, repeat. There is a child-like mischievousness that is revealed in people of all ages in a fresh fall of snow. And what's not to love?

Thursday, 2 December 2010


It snowed pretty much all day yesterday. It is the first time I have ever looked out my bedroom window and seen snow. For someone who has seen snow 3 times in life, it was a surreal experience to see it falling from the sky. Every hour or so I would look out the window and give Lee a snow update:
"It's snowing"
"It's snowing!"
"See that? It's snowing"
"Oo, big snow flakes"
"It's a bit swirly"
"It looks deeper than this morning"
"There's someone walking past with an umbrella - they're walking in the SNOW"
"It's snowing, and I'm here"
"It's cold out there and I took some photos"
"It's snowing"
I think I got a bit predictable.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Beer tasting notes

Inspired by Phil's Beer Diary blog, I decided I should take notes and photograph the beers I tasted in Brussels. Not only will this post make my brother Wayne drool in jealousy, who knows, perhaps this could be my next income. Special note should go to Lee, who drank what I couldn't finish.

: On tap, The Corbeau, 13/11/10. My random pick on our random tour of the city.
A strange tasting beer a sweet , round taste and a dark coloured beer. Smells like apple cider. Wheat beer smell. One glass is enough. Light sourness.

On a Friday and Saturday night, the place becomes packed to the point of dancing on tables. Good thing they are sturdy tables.

Bush beer: 250ml, 12%, 13/11/10. Bottle, with dinner of moules (mussels) for me and steak and chips for Lee, plus a double serve of deep-fried soft cheese (the first one was so good, we ordered a second).
Honey, smooth for 12% syrupy over tongue, finishes with subtle beer kick.
Lee comment, "Beer is good" (this after finishing the 250ml bottle).

Grimbergen (not sure which one?): On tap, a final beer before catching the train home, 14/11/10.
Very wheaty. Starts sweet, long wheatiness and short, subtle tang to finish.

There you go - not the same style, length or detail as Phil's posts, but that's what I thought. Once again, I have added a whole new style of post to this blog - just like a box of chocolates really. I'm really looking forward to tasting the 10 that Lee brought home from Beer Planet.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Waffles, chocolate and beer - a weekend in Belgium

I love Brussels. It has been my favourite European city so far, although our trip to Estonia came close. Saturday morning we set out early on the Eurostar for Brussels. On arrival, we went straight to our 4 star hotel (which was only 15 pounds with the train tickets). From there we headed back into town to explore. Lunch was a delicious fresh baguette with tomato and mozzarella.

The highlight of our trip was found Saturday afternoon, which we chanced upon down one of the numerous disorienting lanes.
Use-it was a free space for young visitors. It had 4 computers and free wi-fi plus a bunch of maps annotated by locals. It was completely free and sponsored by the Flemish government. The best part though, was a free tour by a local. The length of the tour was entirely negotiable, depending on the guide's mood and the group itself. Ours lasted about 3 hours including a beer stop on the way. We saw the back end of places, we saw a little known artist market (reminded me of Fitzroy), we were tested on our local knowledge, given tips on where to eat and where not to eat (tourist prices) and were told local advice such as, don't bother going to the Atomium or little Europe (common attractions). The view from the first is no better than the one he showed us, except you have to stand in multiple queues, and it's probably better to get out and see the Real Europe, rather than a fake play size version. Both these places are expensive to enter. We were guided through the streets in the rain (it rained all Saturday), stopping for tidbits of information. The stop at the pub was great as not only did we each taste a different beer, in a mini-..., it was an opportunity for the whole group to discuss politics and history mostly of Belgium. On the tour was a guy from Sweden, Malaysia(?), 3 Aussies, 2 Latvian ladies and a Croatian lady - a real mix. One of the Latvian ladies loved snow, and could not appreciate this wet stuff.

We had dinner at one of the recommended local pubs where we tried more beer and the unofficial local dish of mussels.

It was very different ordering food in Brussels compared to Paris. In Paris there was an English menu/translation, whereas Brussels, where there was already 3 official languages (French, Dutch and German), they were not going to print a third. We got by with some half-remembered guessing and some helpful staff.

On the way home we stopped by

1) Beer Planet and lee made a selection to take home for tasting

2) the supermarket shut at 8, so we ventured into a specialist shop for chocolate (oh, what a shame!)
3) we bought a Tourist Waffle (with cream, strawberries and hot liquid chocolate) to finish the day's trifecta.

Sunday dawned with a little less rain, thankfully. Not willing to spend the €27 each for breakfast at the hotel, we ventured out and were treated to delicious waffles (gaufre sucre) and a toasted ham, tomato and mozzarella toasted herb panini at a little shop opposite the St. Goedele-St. Michiels Cathedral.

Wanting to make the most of our day, we jumped on a train to visit the Talking Tree. The Talking Tree is hooked up to a bunch of sensors (light meter, weather station, air quality - CO2, ozone and soot, it also captures video, sound and pictures of the sky) using this information to post on Twitter and Facebook (selecting from ~1000 possible posts). After 4 days of continuous rain, its message for the day was: "Definitely no shortage of water". Unfortunately, the people we asked had never heard of it, so we spent an enjoyable 2 hours wandering through an autumn-colored park and not seeing any sign of it. We did see big mobs of scouts playing games and building teepees, people walking dogs and children, and joggers.

Our late breakfast meant late lunch and another waffle (of course). We checked out the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis, picked up another waffle from the breakfast place, visited a supermarket for more chocolate and a tasty tapas-style dinner items, the chocolate shop again - as it's impossible to have too much, made our way to the train station and finished off with one last beer.

What a weekend - with food like that, you can't go wrong. Brussels had a friendly and easy-going feel and I plan to return - definitely and soon.

(Photos coming soon)

Friday, 12 November 2010

Some goals and exploring Yorkshire Dales

In order to create some order in our lives, we've had a little look at our aims and goals. One of mine while I was over here, was to learn to ice skate backwards. I'm now on my way, as I enrolled at a local ice rink for lessons. My first lesson was Tuesday night and I can already say I've learned how to stop. Looking around at the people there learning jumps and spins and arabesques, I may need to reassess my goal - it's quite inspirational. An hour of ice skating a week, plus the ride up the hill to get home - I am going to have quads of steel.

Another of our goals was to see more of the UK. After a failed attempt at setting off our own fireworks on Bonfire Night (there was constant drizzle .. and we didn't have a lighter), we set off Saturday morning to visit Nick and Cat in Darlington. On arrival we met Steve, an Aussie mate of Nick's, and following a quick tour of the town on the lookout for Chavs (nearest equivalent = Bogans) we set off to explore some of t' Yorkshire Dales. We set out from Kettlewell with water, camera, lunch and tape ("Tape fixes everything"-Nick, physio).
One of the highlights of the trip, was actually getting to Kettlewell - we took a 'short-cut', which took us down country lanes that don't fit two cars, around blind corners and crests and down 25% gradients, that also happened to have hairpin bends - it was awesome and well driven by Nick.
.. but back to the walk. We made our way up t' hill between stone walls, with a good look at t' valley that seemed to be scooped out with a giant spade (or do I mean shovel?).

We walked across t' top of t' hill, past t' sheep, over little streams of water that were coloured red from being sifted through t' peat, then down into t' little village of Starbotton, where we paused at t' pub for a pint.

At that point it was 3.30pm and t' sun had gone down (!), which made it quite cold, so we made our way hastily back along t' river valley to t' car.

If you have a look at my photo album, you will be able to tell that I was very impressed with t' rock walls. And that t' rock walls were pretty good at growing moss..
That night, we were treated to a dinner hosted by friends of Nick and Cat's, Jane and Greg. We feasted on at least 6 types of curry (all spices made from scratch), papadums, samosas, chocolate/cherry cheesecake slice, what seemed to be Mars bar slice, and toffee apples all washed down with copious amounts of good wine. Did I mention that we also had front row seats for the Darlington fireworks?
We spent a quiet Sunday with brunch a walk through t' park away and some movies on the couch. We're quite pleased that we've managed to find ourselves more Good People to share our lives with.

Autumn leaves

I've noticed that the trees outside our house have not only dropped orange/red leaves, but some are one-sided and the other side is white. It's quite odd. I wonder what the evolutionary advantage is, to have one side of the leaf white..

Having never had to contend with this number of deciduous trees before, I had not known the pleasure of walking through piles of leaves - and by piles of leaves, I mean piles I don't have to rake up first. When leaves from a decent-sized tree are freshly fallen, I could easily be up to my ankle in them. It's a sensation a bit like walking through thick, long grass, with the same uneasiness of not being able to see exactly where the ground is and the obstacle not being of much substance. I'm not tired of it yet, but then I don't have to clean them up either.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Winter is coming..

Where Australian parents are teaching their kids to not touch snakes and apply sunscreen, English kids are being taught about how to avoid frostbite.

Some of the obvious signs that Winter is on its way are:
i) The sign going down at 4.30pm and it being dark by 5pm.
It's a bit of an adjustment - reminding yourself it's not late night shopping, the hairdresser is working normal hours.

ii) The dropping temperature.
Lee and I stocked up on winter clothes at Decathlon in preparation to our trip to Darlington on the weekend (to visit Nick and Cat). My concern realised over the weekend was that I was wearing all of my winter clothes, and it's only autumn..

iii) The leaves.
Monday last week the trees outside our apartment block were a picture of autumn colours. By Wednesday, there was a thick carpet of leaves (great fun!) and the trees were bare. With such a quick transition, I raced to photograph the fading opportunities at Clapham Common. I've posted our favourites on my Picasa web album.
From 20101104 Autumn in London

iv) Skirts are getting shorter.
Hang on... No, can't explain that one.

Note to self: To avoid frostbite, do not pour hot water on freezing cold hands.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Product review - iCarry and Run Keeper app

Two products that I am now using as part of my daily life, I thought you might like to hear about.

The first of these is the iCarry made by Ozaki. Generously bought for me by my mum-in-law, this product is a mount for my iPhone to be attached to my bicycle's handlebars. It's brilliant and very useful. The phone fits snugly in the holder and as long as you secure the ball-joint that allows 360 degree rotation of the phone, it will sit firmly in place in front of you.
One of the best parts is being able to access maps while on the move. This is particularly useful when navigating around London. Without it, I often end up streets away from where I intended. (I was going to claim this was due to a faulty internal magnet having been born downunder, but after speaking to a local - he gets lost too, so it must be the streets themselves which have developed organically over the last several centuries.)
Other advantages include being able to see what the time is, who just messaged and that someone is calling. There are 'amplifying' and 'sound-gathering' cones at the base - but I haven't ever used the phone for a call while it's in the case - so can cast no light on their effectiveness. I have also used it to track my route, speed and time spent cycling through the application 'Run Keeper', which I'll review next.
The disadvantages are not immediately obvious - but they don't take long. Maps will automatically go to sleep after 1 minute which leaves you completely in the dark (literally - black screen) as to where you are. I also had the trouble at one point of 'compass interference'. For regular iPhone users, you'll know that means you need to wave the phone in a figure 8 motion - a bit hard to do while it's attached to your bike handles (although not impossible, and I've lived to tell the tale). The other trouble when the phone goes to sleep is re-entering the PIN - I've relaxed how long the security sleep setting is, but if I'm not in constant contact with the phone, then I often have to re-enter the PIN.
Another disadvantage in this climate is that you can't work a touch screen while wearing gloves. For me, gloves are a must. As the current weather is much like a Melbourne winter, I look forward to the next few months with a degree of trepidation.
I now look constantly to my handlebars for information feedback - something I really notice when it's not there. I'm going to have to be careful not to leave my iPhone in the iCarry while I head into the shops, that's for sure.

The second item that actually overcomes some of these issues is the iPhone application RunKeeper. It tracks time, location (via GPS) and calculates speed based on these. It overcomes the sleep obstacle by the application being always live, unless you actively send the phone to sleep. It also has a map (although it shows the route you've followed, not where you need to go). As it is always utilising the GPS, it can run down your battery.
RunKeeper is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
One of the main benefits is that it allows you keep a history of your exercise: what type (cycling, running), for how long, minute-by-minute intensity, total distance travelled (according to the GPS), average speed, calories burned, and a map of your route. It also allows you to upload this information for each of your activities to their website and do a whole bunch more exciting things.
The RunKeeper website allows you to
store and analyse your activities, share your activities via Twitter and Facebook (don't hold your breath waiting for me to post), record your weight and body fat ratio, and encourage friends that are also using the application. Having not used the website much yet - my favourite part so far is matching my speeds (line graph) to where I am on the road. It shows that the reduction in speed is at that major cross-roads, not because I automatically run/ride intervals. All this is free.
There is a RunKeeper Pro application that is available for $12.99. The only additional benefit I can see is coaching coming through your headphones. This is an audio cue to help you match a target pace or to follow an interval of time/distance.
I do need a couple of additions to take full advantage of this application while running. (i) To upload music, so that I can listen to music at the same time; (ii) To buy/make an iPhone holder, as occasionally clutching at my mis-shapen breast to keep it from falling out of my bra is not becoming and I don't think sweat is very good for my phone.
I have used this application while both cycling and running, however, I think the best part will be the accumulated information over time that I will be able to analyse on the website.

It's times like these I'm glad I have an early adopter husband (and family), who can introduce me to useful technology like this.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The National Gallery

Monday last week I checked out the National Gallery. The paintings inspired me to get outside and start taking photos again. The lighting and composition of some of the pictures really drew the eye. One that springs to mind is a tutor demonstrating vacuum to a family by candlelight. The light on the faces of the family and the surrounding gloom really draws the eye to consider each of their faces.

Not only were the paintings great to see, the National Gallery building itself was gorgeously decorated inside. Large domes of frosted glass top the galleries, letting in the maximum of natural light to view the paintings.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

European Ultimate Frisbee Championships

Spent some more time on the right side of the road this weekend. In Loret de Mar for the European Ultimate Frisbee Championships, followed by Barcelona for a look around. I have written a post for a travel-writing competition and so can't put it up here until I know I've lost. I will post it then. Briefly, I had a good time and my team, Iceni, won bronze.
And again - photos coming soon.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Estonia visit and families

This weekend we visited Lee's Estonian relatives. We had an excellent time meeting, exploring, playing and staying with them. Mostly, we spent time with Mari-Ann's cousin Riina, and her family. They are a very close family and it set me to wondering what elements create a close family.
Was it the fact that in the 400 years of Estonia's history, only in the last 19 years have they had independence? (With a false start in 1920) So they appreciate freedom and the important things in life?
Was it a strong (vocal?) matriarch? Riina is a strong woman.
Was it living in close proximity? All four of Riina's children live in Tartu, or within 10km.
Is it having young kids in the family? Riina has grandchildren between 3 (I think) and 18 (over the weekend).

If I step back from my own family, who I believe are fairly close, it starts with values. Family values that family is important and spending time with family is important. Feeling loved and close meant spending quality time with each other.

It just so happens that I come from a family with a strong matriarch, so I can't be sure whether this is a necessary part or not. I wonder how much you have to actually like each other. Raised by the same parents does guarantee some of the same beliefs and values, but as we grow up, different experiences are bound to shape the people we become. Perhaps a strong matriarch can remind us of those initial values and bring us together. (I imagine a strong patriarch could be similar.)

Australia is a long way from 400 years of oppression. But I hope it will not trivialize it too much to relate this to hardship. For us, hardship was mostly borne by our parents. In my opinion, financial insecurity had the greatest impact. We never lacked the essentials, and we weren't distracted by an endless supply of toys.

As for geography, I don't think our family can really claim proximity - mostly because of me. I'm in London, my sister in Perth, brothers in Geraldton and parents in Mingenew. Closeness in geography doesn't always guarantee frequent contact. It does make it easier though. Perhaps I should revise proximity to frequent contact then. I feel close to my family through fairly frequent Skype calls - although now I have a job (Yay!) that may change (oh).

Young kids have brought our family together. My brothers both have kids and there's a joy in spending time with them and watching them learn and grow. There's a newness to it - each new development is a discovery, an achievement, a delight, and these new developments are so quick and frequent - I don't want to miss a thing. They just grow up so fast!

Whatever it is that guarantees a close and loving family, I hope that we can do that with our own family.

Riina's family:
  • Eero, and girlfriend Edi. Eero also has 2 older kids.
  • Urmo, wife Merje, twins Emma and Ekke.
  • Kaari, husband Egert, son Eik Martin, and daughter Mia Laura. (Lots of games of Sabateur)
  • Karina (~16 years old)
  • and German exchange student Freya.
Photos coming soon.

Some Estonian words we learnt
Please - Palun (p/balloon)
Thankyou - Tänan (danun)
Thanks - Aitah (aeta)
Hello - Tere (t/der-re)
Goodbye - Nagamiste (Nah-ga-meast)

Monday, 6 September 2010

My new bike

Two weeks ago, I bought a bike. I can now add my helmet to the ring of Londoners who get around on two, self-powered wheels. For me, it represents a freedom of movement. Even though public transport is close by and can get me to most places, travelling by bike is cheaper (in the long run), healthier, not restrained by timetables and takes me exactly where I want to go. In addition, it helps me connect the below-ground world with the above-ground streets, helping build my mental network of London streets.

I have already learnt some simple things about riding in London. In specifying a route, find a cycle superhighway. These are bike lane, coloured blue on the main road. These are a recent addition and offer a multitude of benefits:
  1. It’s limited to bicycles, and is part of a shared lane with buses. The buses are very aware of cyclists and to quote Manni from LESS, “They’re cool. They’re just like your big bruva.” Cars are more aware of the existence of cyclists too – a bright blue strip of road and constant cyclist traffic helps.
  2. They’re made from a courser mix of asphalt than the main road, which means it’s grippier for bike tyres, particularly in the wet, preventing aqua-planing.
  3. They’re smooth. I’ve travelled on other roads in the middle of town that are just patches on patches on patches. Makes it hard to accelerate, let alone sit down. Any service plates are well positioned and fairly level with the street you’re riding on. Where there are two plates, they’ve often left a gap big enough for a bike tyre to roll through, without needing to go over the ‘bump’.
A definite compliment to London planners is the rate of rain run off. Five minutes after a shower, you would hardly be able to tell from the roads, it’s all run out of sight.

Yesterday’s Sky Ride through the car-blocked streets of London was a safe (re-) introduction for some riders. However, some veterans are concerned that the newbies will not be able to handle themselves safely once they are in real London traffic – today for example, when Tube workers are striking. While it may be true that the rust-buckets (the bikes I mean) will make an appearance, I doubt it will take them too long to adapt - following the sound of horns and gusts of too-close-trucks sweeping them along. As for me, I’m still learning: the A3, with it’s 40mph speed limit, and no bike lane, is not somewhere I will voluntarily be riding again..

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

My Love Lee

One of my favourite sounds in the world is to hear Lee laugh. It cheers me through. Whether he's breaking out the Goofy "Hyuk"s, or he's pounding out some loud "Ha Ha"s, or he's projecting staccato "Heh heh heh", or when he's overcome with mirth to the point of high-pitched giggling. It warms my heart. (I have been hearing plenty of it since Aussies Daz and Allira came to visit.)

It is easy to forget and take things for granted about your partner. Recently, I have been reminded that my husband is incredibly intelligent. You may be excused for believing I am a slow learner.
- When I first arrived in London, Lee demonstrated his comprehension, summing up all the raised points from a 30min meeting with no notes. This I admire.
- While I was in Boston, Lee attended a Microsoft coding workshop. The Friday was to learn the technique, and Saturday to implement it in teams with ideas pitched on the day. Lee and his team created the winning site. I am very proud of him.
- Lee has been passionately promoting opposition for the Rudd government's proposed web filtering, and now on-line tracking. After reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (download here free), I'm on that passionate train too, as well as becoming a Cory Doctorow fan (someone Lee has been recommending for a while).
- Lee believes in efficiency. Daz and Lee rediscovered a shared motto Thursday night, "Code re-use and optimal lane choice". For those confused: why recreate the wheel (code) when someone else has already done it and when driving, use all your faculties to choose
the best lane to get there first. Lee is very passionate about developing automated cars, so that the optimum number of cars can get through lights without being limited by human reaction times.
- Lee reads constantly. My inbox is filled with a steady stream of interesting and thought-provoking articles that have passed the Lee Filter. I struggle to keep up with him, but am taking up the challenge to read, digest, think, argue and think some more. To really engage
with the world around me. Growing up, Dad used to start stories with, "I heard an interesting thing on the radio the other day..". I may have married a version of my father as Lee's stories start with "I read an interesting thing on the Internet..".

Research suggests (as pointed out in an article forwarded by Lee) that people are often happiest and stay in long term relationships with people that are similar to themselves, have the same core values, extroversion and sense of humour. People in long term relationships start to resmble one another, after years of mimicking facial expressions. I hope that Lee doesn't pick up my confused/concentrating frown, but I'll be happy to pick up his laugh.

Airport staff

I feel sorry for airport staff. So often they must be asked the most basic of questions fifty times a day.

"Where is gate 12?"
"Follow that gigantic sign over there that indicates all gates between 1 and 20."
"Is this the way to gate 12?"
"Yes. Keep following those big signs."
"Is this gate 12?"
"Yes. Do I need it stamped on my forehead?"

On my return flight from Boston, I checked on to my international flight myself. Both my passport and my luggage was confirmed/tagged by a floating staff member. This approach was much faster and staff efficient compared to the current Australian setup for domestic flights. Perhaps it is just a matter of time.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Iceni and Boston

Quite out of the blue and a welcome surprise was an invitation to join the London-based team, Iceni, for worlds in Prague and a tournament in Boston the following weekend. After my initial surprise I jumped at the chance to join a local team heading to worlds. We pulled out the
stops and although we won't have the TV we wanted for a while, I went to Boston for 4 days.
This was an amazing experience and my first US tournament with UPA rules.

I found Boston very clean, open and safe. I spent most of Friday wandering along the Freedom Trail, a tourist route of historic sites, and nowhere along the line did I feel at risk, even when I left the trail. It may be the city, it may be just where I went, but my impression is that Americans (or at least Bostonians) are very patriotic. Everywhere there are American flags and one guy, after asking where I was from said, "We showed those Brits". Admittedly, he was one of the costumed tour guides along the Freedom Trail and the comment was probably in character.

Photos of Freedom Trail coming soon.

On top of that, the Americans I came across were also very friendly and courteous. I chatted to one couple at the airport gate, as well as a 16 year old heading to be a leader at a summer camp. On the plane I sat next to a friendly Bostonian who liked to be out on the water - a keen fisherman who had just been on a European cruise. He described how the GFC had resulted in a massive reduction in his work as a painter/ wallpaperer and meant he had to sell his house. There were also moments I witnessed such as, a guy scanned a train ticket for an elderly woman. It was just nice and people were comfortable talking to strangers.

The tournament was on Saturday and Sunday. Iceni did not win a game. However, our purpose was to gel as a team and practise our plays against multiple, tough oppostion in preparation for worlds, which we achieved.
My personal perspective for the team is:
- we need to work to set our own intensity and standard of play independent of the opposition
- we are struggling to find the balance between structure and organic play
- the idea of each player taking responsibility on the field is used, but I'm not sure that people understand what that means
- our initiation of pull play can and should be much faster and could use the opportunity to make ground
Although I was disappointed with how I personally finished the tournament, with unforced throwing errors, I believe I played well overall. I'm really excited to be joining a really fun group of players and look forward to getting to know them more both on and off the pitch.

Observations and Commentary

Rush Rush
I have commented previously about the prevalence of "sorry" comments. The balance of f
rustrations and impatience do seem to manifest in public arenas, where it is semi-anonymous. Do not expect a Londoner to wait half a second at the supermarket to let you through. The same goes on the roads: for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. One is more important at that time than any other One.

Bike helmets
It is quite weird that there is no compulsory helmets for bike riders here - so i think 50% of Londoners don't wear one. Lee has noticed that probably 80% of commuters do wear one (which is good, especially in this traffic) and ride faster than Melbournians so he's picked up his pace to work.

We've noticed that it is not just an accent with words, but also inflections and emphasis in whole sentences that is different to Australia. To take questions as an example. Where I would ask, "Did you go to the beach?" with rising pitch, a local will start with high pitch and end on low pitch. Another example is, "Did you find what you were looking for?" Here the high pitch lasts to "look". I am used to the reverse, with the start of the sentence being "Didjya". Lee and I feel like we are picking up the speech already.
I am definitely pronouncing my T's, otherwise I'd go thirsty - they don't know what "war-dar" means. Coming across Aussies is a bit weird to hear them talk already.

The water is dehydrating. I don't know how it manages to do it, but everytime I wash, I need moisturiser. Perhaps it has something to do with the calcium build up we're seeing on all the taps, sink and shower. When I first arrived, I noticed that it felt slimy in my mouth, but I don't notice that now.

There is so much pre-prepared food in the supermarket. Less so, now that we're living further out of town, but pre-prepared meals and sandwiches make up a large section of the fridge aisles.
There is also a large selection of curries, but a relatively limited section for noodles, stir-fry sauce and other Asian dishes. I guess it's a reflection of proximity and population immigration?
(Don't bother buying sushi here, it's expensive and poor quality.)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A bunch at once

Please excuse our limited posting for the last little while. We moved into our new place in Clapham on the 1st, and have not have internet access at home all that time, despite our best efforts with a telecommunications company here. Although the post office can deliver the equipment, it seems the company can not find where we live and cancel the order to connect us - despite being the same company supplying the previous tenant.

To follow, will be a mish-mash of posts that I have written on my phone over the last few weeks - so not necessarily in order.

Much like when I first arrived in Melbourne I am intrigued with every suburb that I first knew existed through football. There it was Carlton, Fitzroy, St Kilda, Collingwood. Here it is Arsenal, ... and that's the only team I recognise on the Tube map, but I am sure to be enlightened by other people (including Lee) soon.

After visiting the London museum today, I wonder whether archaeology in 500 years time will be Internet recovery. Whether they will pick up a feel for our daily lives through
- Our blogs, leading to a misrepresentation of the number of people who travel
- Facebook statuses, which are fast becoming advertisements to the cause of the day
- Ads that are featured, giving the impression that everyone has too much stomach fat and wants to work from home
- Browser histories

At this stage of technological revolution, will it be a complete misrepresentation as there are fewer elder people who are literate with social networking and not all people blog? In time, will abbreviations like ppl and lol be new words/spellings?

I was one of those people who didn't see the value of spending my time blogging. I have since been surprised by the people reading this - although their ongoing readership is not guaranteed. I believe the most interesting parts to read would be social commentary. While I do promise that will continue, you will know when our integration is complete when that stops. What we see developing for this blog is more of a diary of events and places we go...

With that said, I am going to show you some more of where I have been, what I have seen and what interests me there.

End of May..

Today I visited both the Fashion and Textile museum and the London Museum.

Fashion and Textile Museum
The Fashion and Textile museum were featuring an exhibit called 'Very Sanderson, 150 Years of English Decoration'. It was clear that it was put together by an arts-type person rather than a science-type person as events were not exactly recorded chronologically. Once I grew accustomed to the style, I found it really interesting.

Sanderson is a design and print company which brings quality designs and print to the everyday person as well as commissioned works for the elite. They are well known for their floral-print wallpaper which became the epitomy of English countryside.

The company was first started by Arthur Sanderson who took advantage of (lack of) tax laws to import French wallpapers. He grew the business to be known as the biggest importer of foreign goods, before opening his own factory to produce wallpaper block printed by hand. In time, 3 sons came on board and double the firm's trade from 1882 to 1890. The Sanderson brand still exists today and its continued success can be attributed to:
- innovation in production efficiency (roller printers) and quality (up to 20 colours),
- continuing to acquire competitors (increasing both their production and the number of blocks/designs in their catalogue)
- making quality products available to the masses in range of designs - a commercially sensible pitch
- having a showroom and matching groups of 3 designs together to help designers and the Average Joe style their home.
- printing designs on wallpaper and fabric and offering paint too - so the entire home can match. Some of the ads and style guides available from the 70s where the same giant floral is on walls, curtains, chairs and cushions - it's just a bit much!

While browsing through the museum, I was reminded again of Libby's designs - her version of crochus for example (unfortunately, no photos allowed, so I can't compare here). It's all just so clever - and how then the designs are separated into colour components and printed separately onto the material. It's interesting too how our tastes have both changed and stayed the same. Sanderson offers reprints of old designs in contemporary colours and it's new again! The only problem with this is that if no new designs are required, then excellent designers like Libby find it really hard to find work.

British museum
I went at the end of May and this will be a story told in pictures, once we have internet access at home - so I can upload photos. Primarily, I went to see the Egyption mummies and other plunder, which I saw, but once again I was drawn to the earliest records and writing from Mesopotamia.

I have since visited the London Museum, and for those who plan to visit I have the following advice:

If you want genuine artefacts, go to the British Museum. If you want a feel for what living in London was like from 4000BC, go to the London Museum. At first I felt like the London Museum was the poor little brother of the British Museum, as everywhere there were reproductions of artefacts rather than the real thing. As I progressed further in, I found that more and more I was getting an understanding of daily life - something that is often hard to replicate in a museum and often hard to prove/gauge as an archaeologist.

Photos to be posted soon.


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Information for Visitors


I thought I would post this here so I wasn't sending the same email to everyone who is coming to visit.

Our Address: Flat 2, Crescent Court, Park Hill, London, SW4 8HR (Map)
Information for people not used to UK addressing: Crescent Court is the name of the building not the street. The street you enter our place off is Rodenhurst Road and its on the corner of Park Hill and Rodenhurst Rd

Travel in London
I have been here for a while now and have used the public transport system almost entirely to get around. The first thing to get to make travel on the tube and buses easy is to get an Oyster card (, you will be able to buy this at the airport, and it seems that you might be able to buy it online before you arrive.

On the tube you need to touch on and off and the fare is calculated based on where you have travelled. On the bus it is a flat 1.20 fare. There is also a National Rail, which goes all round England, but it also has to be used to get to some areas of London, the Oyster card works the same as on the tube on the National Rail.

Travel to our place from Heathrow

The closest tube station is Clapham Common and the bus that will get you the closest is the 137.

There are a bunch of different ways to get to my place from the airport. The easiest and cheapest way is to take the tube, here are the steps.

Tube Only

Heathrow - Take the Picadilly Line towards Cockfosters, change at Green Park
Green Park - Take the Victoria Line towards Brixton, change at Stockwell
Stockwell - Take the Northern Line towards Mordon, get off at Clapham Common

Walk from Clapham common to our place (Clapham Common to Our place Map) Bout 15 mins

National Rail, Tube and Bus

Heathrow - Take the National Rail Heathrow Express towards Paddington
Paddington - Walk from the Paddington National Rail Station to the Paddington Tube Station, take the Circle Line towards High Street Kensington, get off at Sloane Square
Sloane Square - Take the Bus 137 from stop C, get off at Clarence Avenue/Kins Avenue Stop

Walk from the bus stop to our place (Bus Stop to our Place Map) bout 3 minutes

Tube and Bus

Heathrow - Take the Picadilly Line towards Cockfosters, get off at Knightsbridge Station
Knightsbridge - Take the Bus 137 from stop KK, get off at Clarence Avenue/Kins Avenue Stop


Take a taxi to our place

That is all I am going to post for now, put in the comments any other information you want us to provide.


Thursday, 3 June 2010

We have a place to live

We just moved into our sweet new pad in Clapham

View Larger Map

Its close to the tube (0.6 miles: 1km), training (0.7 miles: 1.2km), league (0.7 miles) and work (a nice 5.5 mile ride: 8.8km)

Some pics of the place below.

Our House in London

We got a 2 bedroom place because we know that lots of you will be coming to visit, make sure you get your dates in early to reserve a bed.

Ill put up some info on how to get here from the airport soon.


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

More reasons I'm a foreigner

See previous post for reason 1-7

8) I don't greet people with "Hiya"

9) I don't apologise without any apparent reason
Eg 1: I'm sorry I reached the door first and opened it before you did

10) I swear occasionally. To become a local, never, ever, ever swear - not as an exclamation, not as an adjective in general conversation, never

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A weekend in Paris and more sweeping generalisations

We spent the weekend in Paris as my birthday present. A fact that many Aussies, especially my Mum, were very jealous about. Her suggestion (repeated multiple times) was for Lee to find a cafe in London called Paris, and take me to that.

Unfortunately for Mum, Lee had already bought tickets on the Eurostar to take us to the real deal. We stayed in a Parisien hotel (small, but clean), which had been freshly decorated in pink and silver throughout, right down to the paper placemats on the breakfast table.

Even though we were very tired by the time we reached our hotel, we went exploring the nearby streets. To our surprise, we came across the Moulin Rouge - and now claim to be the best accidental tourists ever! On the walk back to our hotel, I worked up my courage and ordered a crepe from a street vendor in French, it tasted even sweeter because of my success.

French breakfast was scrumptious! We stuffed ourselves with fresh croissant (with jam or nutella), baguette (with jam or ham and cheese), and coffee/juice. It was so good, I would list it as a highlight.

As a vehicle to compare my two Big City experiences, London and Paris, I'm going to compare the inner-city rail.

Le Metro
  • Cheap. 1.50 Euro per trip
  • Full. I don't know if it's the seat layout or just that everyone uses it, I think it's the second
  • Frequent
The Underground
  • Brightly lit, which makes it feel safer
  • Cleaner
  • Low curved ceiling, fits fewer Lee-sized people
  • Stations closer together, probably so that you don't have to walk in the rain
  • Below ground and warm
  • Also frequent

For the itemised weekend, please read on..
Saturday morning after a sleep in and some breakfast we walked all the way down to the Eiffel Tower. All the apartments we passed were decorated with lace iron-work and often window boxes of flowers, very pretty. We passed through the "Paris-end" of Paris, where all the expensive shops were: Chanel, Swatch.. We walked along the Seine river, hand in hand, a romantic couple in Paris... It was also the first time that I could kiss Lee in more than 7 weeks, because of our separation and a cold sore. (Happy sigh)

As we got closer and closer to the Eiffel Tower, it became obvious that it was just a giant black metal structure. It was quite ugly. There were at least 50 individuals hawking miniature Towers and a line of people from one 'foot' to the other, 3 across, lining up just to go up it. I decided I didn't need to wait to do that and instead we jumped on a ferry to Notre Dame Cathedral.

It was about lunch-time, so we head to the "Little Island" for some lunch. We ended up at a Crepiere and were very thankful for the use of their toilet by that stage. Walking along the touristy street we examined knick-knacks and stopped for a treat - mine was fruit with chocolate fondu. Absolutely delicious and a real highlight! I'll be going back for more.

The "Big Island" is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The outside is completely over-the-top with gargoyles and other stone features, in Gothic style. We spent about 2 hours inside examining the paintings, stained glass windows and stone carvings. We were led by an audio guide obviously compiled by the Catholic Church, which Lee didn't appreciate too much.

From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

Soon after we were done there, it began to rain, so we jumped back onto the ferry and made our way back to the Champs-Elysees, singing all the way thanks to Mme MacPherson (Year 8-12 French teacher - "Oh, Champs-Elysees La-la la-laa la"). We strolled along to the end, took a look at the Arc de Triumphe from the safe side of the street. The approx 8 lanes of traffic (and I say approximately, because even with lines, it's not really clear around that roundabout) is neck-risking.

From 20100508 Paris

We found a nice little place on the Champs-Elysees for dinner and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine together. We then headed to a cocktail bar to enjoy Monica's birthday present to me - I had a couple of "Ultimate Joan Collins" and Lee a couple of Mojitos.
From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

Sunday, the forecast was for poor visibility and poor weather, so we spent the day at the Louvre. After trying to read the museum tags in French, we decided a better investment was the audio guide. I had two favourite parts. One was looking at the rollers made from ivory or something else like stone, which were polished into cylinders and engraved with carvings. These were used to imprint spherical blocks of clay that were used to record the transport of goods. The detail and precision was amazing 1000s of years BC.
From 20100508 Paris

My second favourite part was looking at the emotion and movement that artists were able to capture on marble statues - just so lifelike.

From 20100508 Paris

From 20100508 Paris

My overall impression is that humans have been smart for a very long time and we're not unique in our intelligence or skill.

We made it through less than half of the museum, and decided that just like the rest of Paris, we had only just had a taste, and that we'd be back soon to sample more.

Friday, 7 May 2010

How to tell that I'm a foreigner

Let's skip past the easy clues (carrying a big camera, on all the tourist trails, slightly lost look, weird accent..)

1) Face up instead of face down while walking (more often neck craning up)

2) Fascinated with embellishments: cornices and other building beautification, guilding and fancy work on lamp posts (so much so, I've decided I'm going to dedicate an album to it - I dedicate it to grime)

3) Wearing 5 more clothing layers than anyone else and still looking cold

4) "Beautiful day" means more than 10 minutes of the sun shining and more than 15 degrees!

5) Assumes that vehicles will only drive in the left hand lane in two-way traffic

6) Plays Spotto with CCTV cameras along the street.

7) Teeny tiny milk (1 quart)
From 20100507 Exploring London

..I'm sure there'll be more to come

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Arriving in London

London Day 1
After an uneventful flight from Melbourne, via Dubai, I landed in London and was greeted by a joyous husband who vaulted the barrier to take me in his arms. It was so nice to have my arms around him again. On the 2 hour car ride home we passed a "No War" rally near Trafalgar Square, which is where rallies are often held and slowed us down. We also passed Big Ben and Buckingham Palace (which I'm informed should be referred to as Bucking-Huge Palace). My expectations are obviously very Disney-influenced as to me it appeared like a dour Parliament building rather than a Palace where the Queen lives.

My first expedition out of our flat was wet and hailing. We did a short loop over the Thames, past The Globe (Shakespearian Theatre), past the Tate Modern Art Gallery, back across the Millennium footbridge, a look at St Paul's Cathedral and home to get warm and dry. (Thank goodness for our new water-proof camera!)

My day was topped off with a home-cooked roast, made by my man.

Day 2
Sunday I went for my first ride on the Tube. The best part about it - it's warm!! We caught up for brunch with Aussie Ultimate players Alex and Helen - who Lee has been living up the single life with. On a stroll along Oxford St (the main shopping strip) I was astounded by the clothes on offer - summer dresses only - I was wearing a jumper, beanie, jacket and was missing my mittens! At lunch I learned that the English are constantly talking about the weather. I take this as evidence of optimism: 350 days of the year they are surprised at how crappy the weather is - if that isn't optimism, I don't know what is.

That night we went on a 2 hour walking tour of London - "Jack the Ripper's Slashing Ground". I was surprised to learn Jack the Ripper is accredited with 'only' 5 murders. Such a notorious serial killer, made me think there must have been more. Lee was surprised to learn that one pub he went to had probably been frequented by Jack the Ripper and victims.

Day 3
My birthday. Slept to midday, wrote a job application, checked out a neighbourhood where we could live (first time on DLR), went out for dinner. Romantic powerwalk (too cold to go slow) home.

Day 4
My first day as a kept woman. Searched for jobs, took Lee his lunch, over-tired sleep in the afternoon, made cottage pie for dinner, strawberries and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Day 5
Today. Bought myself a coat! Alterations will be done in time for me to pick it up and take it to Paris. About to head out for a walk with my camera - sun shining today and I was even outside without my jumper on for a couple of minutes.