Friday, January 7, 2011

Some things that happened in london

Thanks, no doubt, to the wicked machinations of Europe's evil winter queen and her ploy to ruin Christmas, Til's flight to London from Australia was delayed so that she arrived on Christmas Day. As a result, our London stay was significantly shortened, and I'm going to have to wring and squeeze it just to evince a few measly drops for your ravenous, quavering mouths. Here they are in dot-points form, as is befitting of their moietic length and significance:
  • I met a squirrel. 
  • I spent at least an hour when I checked in being lectured by a particularly loquacious Burmese man with whom I was supposed to cohabitate for the night. Seriously, I slipped my keycard into the door the wrong way, and in the time it took me to remove it and turn it around the right way, he must've leapt from wherever in the room he was languishing, just waiting for someone to enter so he could sermonise at them, pulled open the door and started talking, and did. Not. Stop. I can't for the life of me remember what he was babbling about. At one point, perhaps forty-five minutes in, I found myself wishing I could commit his ramblings to memory so that I could use them for a character in a story. It then occurred to me that I could record him on my iPod, and then transcribe a portion here for everyone's enjoyment, but unfortunately I didn't press the button right. He mentioned Thatcher, Obama, 'the soldiers', coming through the back door, the Chinese women in the room who didn't speak good English, and so, so much more. I later met some people in the common room and mentioned that I was afraid to go back to my room because there was a crazy Burmese guy in there and they all exploded with laughter, saying some among them had encountered him. After their horror stories, I made sure Til and I got different room.
  • We saw all the touristy things.
  • Christmas night, Til and I went to this crappy little diner that was the only place open and I paid 4 pounds for a gross slice of pizza.
  • The same night there was a car accident right outside our hostel.

  • We had dinner with Iris and Brenton at this Indian joint with two-storey booths, and got sick and threw up from the chicken tikka masala. 
  • Our Russian or possibly Brazilian roomates gave us a suspiciously transparent (vodka-like) bottle of white wine.
  • We went to the Boxing Day sales, which were MADNESS. You couldn't move in Topshop. 
  • We bought a DSLR, for photos that're automatically cool, so no more of the crap  that you see in this blog post! Although it came at great cost, health-wise, not fiscally - the reason we got it was that it was, bafflingly, about three hundred dollars cheaper here than in Australia. The dodgy Indian had done some serious damage to my stomach and, surprise surprise, wandering the frosty streets of London in search of a Jessops with my 25 kilo bag on my back wasn't the most salubrious of enterprises!

Impressions of the emerald isle

The ubiquitous and omniscient Lonely Planet has seen fit, in a series of annual lists which has also featured Australia's Newcastle, to name Cork, Ireland, one of the top ten cities to visit in the world. That's a pretty big call, and I'm not sure how I feel about it, having just spent about nine days there. It's probably a case of expectations being different to reality, mostly. 

Australia is usually a pretty humble country, if not in its anthems and policies and slogans, then at least in the attitudes of its individual people. And I think we're inculcated somehow with this idea that we're the ass-end of the world, that Australia's a good place to live, but that's it's culturally, architecturally, technologically, culinarily deficient and isolated and that, by contrast, all the countries in western Europe, including Ireland, are 'better' than us in those areas. The thing is that Ireland isn't, really.

Before Ireland I was in England, and I mistakenly believed that Ireland was going to be very similar - a tiny but densely populated country. It's not. Its population is only about 4 million, which puts things in perspective. Here I was expecting culture and technology and a golden promised land from Ireland, and you could kind of say that they're backwards compared to us. In fact, some locals do say that. They don't have hot running water like we do - they have to switch on a boost or something which provides a certain amount of it. They have about four public TV stations which are absolute crap, and they have to pay for even those with 'TV licenses' (and they still have ads, as well). In fact, you have to pay for everything in Ireland: TV, garbage collection, public toilets, and outrageously priced public transport. It suggests to me some extreme right wing politics, maybe? Because it's like it's been over-privatised; the anti-welfare state, so to speak. Or it could just be the recession. I tried to talk politics a couple of times, but not very fruitfully.

But by no means was it all doom and gloom. I had a fantastic time, really. All of the above just added to the beautiful and at times hilarious experience. On the plane in I thought the air hostess was speaking Gaelic and was about to translate into English, but it turned out it was just the accent. The weather was also a great novelty for me - so much snow!

At Charlene's theatre group's Christmas party, I tricked an entire room of Irish into believeing my uncle was a 'poker', meaning his job was to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge every morning at 4am using a forty-foot pole to 'poke' the koalas off it into giant nets; then I laughed and thought the jig was up, only to find that they were still captivated by my tale; and so I continued, elaborating that I'd done work experience with him in year ten. I also took part in two of Charlene's friends' tradition of taking 'beating' (pronounced 'bating') photos:

Other high points included teaching all Charlene's friends to play 'Mafia', having someone say 'You're so tanned!'; seeing a spontaneous street performance of A Christmas Carol, and this sign: