Chronicles of one girl's journey to London - from conception to eventual migration.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN 5 YEARS

I turn 26 today. 2-6. It is an average age to be. It is neither too old nor too young. I am firmly engrained into my 20s, and my 20s version of adulthood (which, in my case, means having a boyfriend, a flat, a job and a lovely wardrobe but no kids, mortgage or walk-in closet yet). So, I look back and wonder: Where did my 20s go?!


Warning: introspective ramblings follow

And that's when I realize they didn't GO anywhere. They've been right here, accompanying me as I threw myself into my own life. I was almost exactly 21 and a half when I was single again for the first time in almost 5 years and, with no disrespect to the quite nice ex-boyfriend, I consider that the moment when my life kicked into the gear I wanted it to.

I partied my way through the rest of 21, into 22 and on to 23. In that time, though, I made some amazing connections with people I cannot forget. I don't feel any of my time was wasted; even the time spent just sitting on Badr's couch, slightly out of it, was time I enjoyed. I made several mistakes but I regret almost none. I did what I wanted when I wanted and how I wanted. It was good! It's how you should live your 20s if you can. These are your years to use up in whichever way you want.

And then, of course, at 24 I made the decision to move out of the comfort of my mother's (Miss Clara's word again) house and all the way across the Atlantic to London. I made my life way harder than it has ever been, but I like it more than I ever have. I've met even more great people and I've travelled to lots of places. I've lived my DREAM and I can't help but feel smug about it. So, smug I shall be for now.

For those who have followed the blog (or know me) you already know about the ups and downs of my move to London and you know I would change nothing about the last 18 months.

From 21 to today, at 26, I can definitely say I have come a long way. More than just my location, my outlook on life has changed and I really do feel more "grown up". It's a short amount of time for that to happen considering you spend the first 13 years of your life gradually earning your stripes to make it through teenhood.

In our 20s, a year can mean the difference between single and married - willingly so. It can mean the difference between intern and manager (yes, really) and it even means a few months means the difference in willingly becoming a parent.

So, 5 years down the road, I can look back and feel like the time may have whizzed by but it was in a flurry of accomplishments and great memories.

The moral of the story: if you do what you want, and you do it with passion and confidence, your 20s actually are some of the best years of your life. Although I'll let you know how I really feel about that when I'm 36 (good heavens)!

TL;DR: I'm getting older. I don't mind cause I've done stuff.



Friday, December 16, 2011

MABUHAY!

2 days ago I returned from one of the best holidays I have ever had. We were in the Philippines for our friends Melanie and Anthony's wedding. Good friends, in fact, as Qas was asked to be Best Man!

I was really excited to go, and feel very lucky that I was able to. Because this year, the trip to the Philippines was my birthday/Christmas present from Qas. I know . . . and sorry, no, he has no similar-minded brothers, friends or cousins - he is one of a kind and I am a very lucky girl!

Anyway, we were there from December 6th and got home on the 14th. With that long a trip, there is so much to tell you about that I don't even know where to start. So here it is presented in an A-Z list! Hopefully I can get everything in . . .

A
Anthony - The groom. He is awesome and very sweet and very obviously madly in love with his wife. He is really caring and kind. I am a big fan.

B
Boracay - The actual island we went to in the Philippines. It is located about 315 km south of Manila and is so tiny it doesn't even register on my little spinny-globe-lamp on my desk.

Beach Wedding - The entire purpose of our trip! Mel and Anthony got married on Saturday December 10th on the gorgeous white beach of Boracay. I cried all the way through. One of the most beautiful weddings I have ever witnessed!



C
Caticlan - Where we landed on the afternoon of Wednesday December 7th. The island houses the main airport for the region, and is closest to Boracay. From here, our resort picked us up and took us to the neighbouring island of Boracay on an air-conditioned mini yacht! It takes only 8 minutes to get to Boracay's pier.

Crocodile Island - One of the spots where we snorkelled. There are no crocodiles though. I was a bit disappointed at that to be honest.


Christina - Mel's godsister and her other bridesmaid. She is really sweet, a bit quiet but with some really good quips. She caught Mel's bouquet.

D
Discovery Shores - we stayed here for our holiday and it is hands down the best resort or hotel I have ever stayed in. We were given foot massages as a welcome . . .! I recommend it to anyone.

Divinia - Another of Mel's friends. She lives in Hong Kong now, is super friendly and quite funny!


E
Evelyn - Mel's friend from school and one of the bridesmaids. She is lovely, and loves photography - she has 4 lenses for her camera.


F
Freaking long journey home - It took us 36 hours. 36 hours from Boracay to London in boats, buses, planes. There were major delays on our Manila-Doha flight so we sat in the airport for hours. The upside was getting home late enough in the evening that we just went straight to bed, which has really helped with the jetlag.

G
Green Mangoes - These are absolutely the best things I have ever tasted. They are so sweet and make amazing fresh smoothies. I had several of them. Sometimes in a day.

H
High Tide - Every single night, the tide from the sea would come so far up it would literally be IN some of the bars and retaurants. While it wasn't too bad on our end of the beach, it was still enough to have to move furniture into the resort.

I
Island Hopping - We did this on Sunday. We went all the way around the perimeter of Boracay on a boat, and stopped at a couple of the islands to snorkel.

Ice Cream Boats - O, the ever-enterprising people of the island! We have ice cream vans and sometimes ice cream bikes, they have ice cream boats. They paddle up to the boats of tourists out for a snorkel to sell ice cream.

J
Jane - Mel's cousin from Alberta and her maid of honour. We had a good chat about Canadian winters.

James - Lots of fun, had a great time on the dance floor.

Jon - One of Anthony's groomsmen, and a very sweet guy.

Jellyfish - We saw one, then several and then all got out of the water in fear when we snorkelled.

Jeepneys - The Philippines' version of a local bus. They are metal buses that you can hop on or off where you like along the route . . . people from Pakistan or India might recognize something similar there too.

K
Killer food - I don't mean sharks. I mean the food here is so amazing, I could die! Everything is made so well, and with very fresh ingredients that even their fries tasted great.

L
Like Heaven - This island is actually my version of heaven. Even when it rained, it was gorgeous and made me smile.

Left a book on a plane - I left A Brief History of Time on the plane from Doha to Manila and only noticed on the last day. It wasn't even my book, I borrowed it from Qas who hasn't even had a chance to read it yet. Oops. 

M
Melanie - The bride and an all-around awesome person. She, too, is obviously very much in love with her new husband. Also, as anyone will tell you, she has the best laugh.

Manila - We stopped here for one night on our way to the wedding. Unfortunately, I was quite ill from the flight so we didn't see much but the road to the hotel!

Massages - I got 4 while I was there. One was the welcome foot one, then 3 full body ones. I love this life.

N
Nightlife - The bars and clubs on the beach are always open, with loud music pouding out of them and lots of great offers on drinks.  

O
O Lord - The church wedding was the morning of the 10th and I got to do a reading and the first responsorial psalm. It was a big deal for me as I haven't known the couple that long so I feel very blessed that they asked me to do this.


P
Parents - Anthony's dad is an OG! Both sets of parents, really, were just great. There were, of course, some words as there always is at weddings but they just seemed really happy for their kids and it was so nice to see.

Pete - Evelyn's fiance and one of the most awesome people I have met. You know that guy who knows a guy for everything? Pete's that guy.

Q
Qas - Well, those who read already know who he is. And how awesome he is for taking me on this holiday of a lifetime! And how grateful I am to him.

R
Ryan -Mel's cousin and also Jane's brother. He was also an avid photographer, but did not enjoy it when we dragged him onto the dance floor at the reception. He also caught the garter!

Rooster -All day and all night, we heard them crowing. All day. All night.

Rain - It rained for the first couple of days, and quite a lot on one of those days. Luckily, it cleared up just in time for the wedding on Saturday and it was perfect weather from then on.

S
Service - The service at our resort is unmatched to any other I have ever seen or received. The service on the island in general is outstanding. The people are kind, willing to help and always smiling.

Snorkelling
- We went for a day. It was so much fun and I always love seeing fishies!

Shanty towns - The reality of the Philippines is that much of the country lives in what we would consider squalor. In fact, there was a house with no roof, one room for sleeping and another for bathing on the other side of the wall of our resort. Tin roofs are common to see, and there are no working toilets in many of the homes from the looks of it.

T
Tricycles - The most common mode of transport on the island and the ONLY mode of public transport. It is basically a motorcycle with a side cart attached to it. It comfortably fits 4 with 2 in front and 2 in the back. It uncomfortably fits 6 with 2 in front and 4 in the back.

U
Underwater -  This trip was only the 3rd or 4th time I have been snorkelling and it never gets old. Being able to see all the life under the surface is awe-inspiring. I even saw Nemo (which inspired me so much I had to watch Finding Nemo on the plane back)!

V
Very bad taxi driver - On our way home from Heathrow, our taxi driver hit a guy on a motorbike (he's fine, just angry and rode away of his own accord), swerved so fast on a right turn that I went flying across the back seat and almost rear-ended everyone he was behind. We yelled at him, then reported him to Tooting Bec Mini Cabs. They did not seem to care. Do not get in a car with Driver 23.


W
White Sand Beaches -  Officially the best beach in Asia, Boracay's white sands are soft and feel like walking on plush carpet.

X
Really . . .? Why did I think I could do something with X?!

Y
Yellow dresses - The bridesmaids wore a lovely shade of buttery yellow for the beach ceremony with a corsage shoulder.

Z
Zaira - who had the time of her life!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

36 HOURS IN COPENHAGEN

. . . or KĂžbenhavn if you are a native.

First, a little backtrack. Jessica arrived in London on Saturday November 19th. Qas, Sara and I picked her up at Gatwick. Our first order of business was to attend Mel's hen-do - the bride of the wedding I will attend in a couple of weeks. Basically, we had a great week with Jessica, and it culminated in a trip to Copenhagen with Julainne.

Saturday, November 26th
We left VERY early, took a taxi to Gatwick in the dark and, with no luggage to check in, made straight for our Easyjet departure gate and were off by 8am!

The flight to Copenhagen is only an hour and a half and they are an hour ahead so we were on the ground by 10.30am their time. Once again, straight through passport control. We headed to the station and made it into the city centre by about 11.30. Copenhagen has one of the easiest train systems I have seen yet, and it's all very modern and clean!

We took a little stroll around to find somewhere to eat and (as you do when you are in Denmark) we went to McDonald's for a quick, cheap bite. Denmark still uses the kroner or DKK instead of the Euro and their currency is slightly inflated. So you will pay 68 DKK for a meal in McDonald's but that translates into £8.50. Have I mentioned Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world?

Anyway, we ate our overpriced burgers and fries and then headed to our hotel to drop off our bags. It was right next to the famou Tivoli Gardens. While we didn't go IN to Tivoli Gardens, we did stare in wistfully and take pictures from the other side of the gates. We had budgeted very little for our two days there and Tivoli Garden's 95 DKK entry fee was too high. They had a lovely Christmas festival going on inside too.

Tivoli Gardens entrance
Next, we went Christianshaven. This is what the Danes call an "alternative lifestyle neighbourhood" and is meant to be bohemian and very hippie. When we went there, though, it wasn't much at all. It was very quiet for a Saturday afternoon though it is still a very pretty part of Copenhagen.

In Christianshaven, there is a spiral-topped church called Church of our Saviour. Those who choose can climb to the top (current cost: 30 DKK) via 400 steps. 150 of these steps are outside at the very top. While Jessica and Sara opted out, Julainne and I decided we wanted to up our previous record of 366 from Bruges. So up we went! And up, and up, and up. The climb is steep but the view is worth it!


After, we walked through the old palace that is no longer in use, and then headed to the hotel to check in and freshen up. We had now all been awake 12 hours but it was only 4pm!

We had 2 rooms in the Cabinn City Hotel and they were so cute. We had bunk beds! And the shower was just a tap stuck to the ceiling in the middle of the tiny bathroom.

I love bunk beds!

We had a few bottles of wine and then went out for dinner and a night out. It rained sideways on us the whole time, though, and the wind was so bad it broke both mine and Julainne's umbrella. We ended up at Nyhavn, the famous canal of colourful buildings and ducked into a bar there. After a drink each, we headed back to the hotel for much needed sleep!

Sunday, November 27th
Checked out at 11am and headed to find some breakfast. We were after the elusive Danish pastry. It's not as commonly found as we thought . . . well, we didn't know where to look yet. Anyway, we eventually found Lagkagehuset and it is basically wall to wall pastries and bread. And they are delicious!

After, we went to see Nyhavn in the day and it is rather pretty! Despite the endless spitty rain. The canal that runs down the middle also has the clearest water I have seen. Apparently you can swim in it. I have vowed to return and do just that one day.


After that, we headed over to see The Little Mermaid. She is quite a trek from the main area of the city but definitely worth it! She was the final stop on our tour and the prettiest. For those who need a brief history lesson, she was created by sculptor Edward Eriksen at the request of Carl Jacobsen to commemorate the Hans Christian Andersen story. Most of us know the Disney version, and it is similar to the original.


Then, we were off to find a meal where we were repeatedly told that near Christmas, Danes do not serve hot food in restaurants. Instead, they have a Christmas menu that comprises of a lot of herring and pork with bread, cheese and other cold salads. I really wanted to try this but Sara and Julainne are not fish eaters so we moved onto a place where we managed to get some chicken, rice and salad.

By this time we were absolutely exhausted from two solid days of walking in the rain and wind. We had a long time before our flight so we just sat in the hotel's lobby to rest. The wind really kicked up around this time (it even ripped a door off its hinges in the lobby) and our take-off was very shaky.

All in all, a great trip though! I would like to go back in the summer as it looks like it would be a beautiful place to be when it's hot.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CULLING THE CYNIC

London makes you distrust people. It's true. Londoners watch others warily, belongings and children hugged protectively to themselves.  Cynicism is everywhere.

On the tube, people sigh in exasperation at the gall of other commuters - ones who take up too much room with a bag at rush hour, ones who over-extend their use of the arm rest, ones who don't know to move further down the carriage and, worst of all, ones who try to get on the train before everyone has gotten off.

This same cynicism exists when people stop you in the street for directions. Do you know that most Londoners think that people stop you so that their accomplice can quietly steal the belongings you may not be guarding now that you're in a conversation? That's probably not the case at all. London is a confusing place, even natives sometimes need a moment to figure out where to go!

This morning on the tube, I noticed a woman doing that sigh, eyebrows furrowed in a frown, mouth turned down. Why? Because she was being jostled a little as someone else tried to get on the carriage after her. My thought was how I would love to tell her to just get off the damn train and not travel during rush hour because that's how this works at this time of the day lady!

And then I realized . . . London, you are making me cynical. What I would have normally thought was that this little lady was just having a bad morning. Or maybe she'd been jostled around for so many weeks and months on this same tube that she just didn't feel like it today. I know I feel like that a lot on the tube!

You'll see cynicism everywhere in London but the little angry lady on my tube today made me realize that I am falling into their trap. I do not want to. I'm Canadian in nature: trusting, polite and maybe even a little naive. But I will take that over jaded and bitter any day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BIRTHDAYS IN CAMDEN

Today is my intern's 21st birthday (the fact that I have my own intern still thrills me and will one day probably get its own entry).

After work, we decided to celebrate in Camden, starting at The Cuban in the Stables Market.
To start, if you haven't yet been to the Stables, it is well worth checking out! These were genuine stables once upon a time and now house several bars, restaurants and fetish shops (Cyberdog being a very famous one).

So, The Cuban is usually a pretty sexy place to spend an evening. On a Tuesday, however, not so much...
It was quietish and then only got worse when they turned today's friendly England v Sweden match on FULL BLAST.

We shuffled out quickly and then headed to Proud - I've blogged about Proud before and it's still up there as one of my favorite bars in London. We found out we had to pay to get in though so abandoned that idea and headed to a random pub for £2.50 Jaegerbombs! By now, we'd all decided we were starving but this pub's kitchen was closed so we headed across the Camden Lock to Ice Wharf. It's a bar operated under the famous Wetherspoon's brand, and so had cheap food till late enough.

Camden is a great place to spend a night, and there is something for everyone. Definitely a place worth checking out!

Monday, November 14, 2011

TAXI!

There are two types of cabs in London. One is a black cab, the other is a minicab. Both are regulated by the Public Carriage Office.
 
A black cab is also known as a hackney cab, and can be taken simply by flagging one down on the street. They are run on a meter and so can be more expensive to use than other types of transport. They are usually black, hence the name but are increasingly being seen in different colours or splashed with advertisements. However, all will have the little "Taxi" sign on them and are usually the same size or shape, unless you are taking a van. For those not used to it, it's also quite a treat to travel in them because they have seats that face both ways so you can take your journey backwards (my favourite way!)

A typical London black cab

Then, there is the minicab. As metnioned, these are regulated as well but these are essentially private cars for hire on a pre-booked basis. So, each driver owns that particular car, or there is a fleet owned by a minicab company. You will see a lot of minicab offices on high streets. They're popular because they don't use a meter to gauge cost. Instead, you are told the cost based on their discretion. You can negotiate this, by the way. Something that is very important to note with minicabs is that must always be booked. This is for your safety!

For those already in London, you might have seen those minicab adverts on the tube from CabWise. They are dark and dramatic but deadly accurate.


An intern at my office has a chilling story to tell. She got into a minicab outside a bar. She thought that the person at the door worked for the bar, and that he was helping patrons book minicabs home. Usually, if a bar is doing this, they have a clipboard where they record your name, the name of the driver of the cab you'll take and the licence plate and registration number of the cab. That way, if something were to happen, they would know who to go after.
This was not the case with the intern. She got into the cab and then woke up some time later - still in the cab - with no wallet and no recollection of what had happened or how much time had passed. She was lucky that she hadn't been assaulted in any way but the police also have no idea who her driver was or what car he was in. It's an unfortunate event, but serves as a good lesson. Book the minicab in advance and perhaps try not to travel alone. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

FIREWORKS + RUM

Today was the Lord Mayor's Show and Fireworks. Sara and I watched the parade bit of the show on TV from the comfort of our couch (followed by several episodes of Big Bang Theory) and then went down to Victoria Embankment to watch fireworks live. They lasted 10 minutes, which really, is enough when it's the middle of November and you're standing on the edge of a dirty river (Yes, I'm looking at you Thames)!

After fireworks Sara and I walked through Somerset House as well, which is very grand!

I had plans to see The Rum Diary with Qas this evening so Sara and I parted ways at Clapham South and off I went to see Johnny Depp take on another Hunter S Thompson novel. It was awesome! Go see it. A nice comeback from pseudo-gay pirate and MJ-based chocolatier that we've gotten so used to lately.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BLOGGER'S BLOCK + A VISIT

Oh dear, bad blogger. No updates, no interesting information, no tidbits, nothing shared. And so much has happened. I think . . . I can barely remember!

So, I have now decided to make it a goal to blog once a day until the end of 2011 (a pre-resolution resolution?) Shorter posts and a little more love. I have no excuse. I sit at a computer all day during the week, even eating my lunch in front of it as it's a great time to catch up with friends in different time zones. I have a smartphone with the Blogger app installed on it and I have constant access to the internet. But I've noticed that everyime I actually open the app, or click through to this New Post screen, my mind goes blank. Blogger's block is a thing right?

So, what do I have to say today? Nothing too special really. It's been a great month, though. After Frankfurt (still in love with the city), it was a quietish couple of weeks until my mother arrived.

[I always pause before typing the word mother. I call her mama, mommers, mum, mom, mummy or mommy - big difference between those two spellings. So when I type mother it feels cold and distant. Like we are in some uptight Bronte novel and I am Miss Clara with tendrilly curls, pouty mouth and rolling eyes and she is insufferable and stuck up, desperate for me to marry the Baron Von Boringstein for his fortune and excellent reputation.]

Anyway, she arrived in London on a Thursday morning. We didn't really have anything major planned except for a dinner on the Saturday for friends at the house. Beyond that, it was just about spending as much time as possible together as we hadn't seen each other in exactly a year, and it would be another 6 months before I was back in Toronto. She also cooked several weeks worth of meals and froze them for me. I'm spoilt. She left about 10 days later and I miss her. A lot!

That was the end of October, and now here we are in mid-November. There are a lot of exciting things coming up. They are:

1. Jessica visits
2. Denmark for 36 hours
3. Philippines
4. My birthday!
5. Christmas
6. New Year

And then, my word, it is 2012 and the reality of going home hits very, very hard.


Friday, October 14, 2011

ODE TO A GINGER (BEARD)

Good friend, and owner of marvelous beard, Danny Champion took to his Twitter to state that no one had written a blog about him. So, I tweeted that I would. I like to keep my word. So, I have written a short poem for Danny and his beard (it really is quite magnificent).

O beard of copper hairs,
Your sheen, your shine,

Glints in the sun so.

Awesome Danny
O beard of fabulous orange,
Your magnificence causes envy,
In all men Danny knows.

O Danny, 
the Champion of all,
With this beard,
you have us enthralled.

O Danny, 
the Champion of all,
With this beard,
you have us enthralled.


On a serious note, I met Danny over a year ago now and it's been pretty great to be his friend!

Monday, October 10, 2011

ICH LIEBE FRANKFURT!

Qas and I spent the past weekend in Frankfurt and it is a lovely, lovely place! So clean, so open, so modern. It reminded me of Toronto - where, even in the main heart of the city, the roads are wide, clean and with tram tracks (except they're called streetcars where I'm from) running along them as well.


Frankfurt Skyline


Our original plan was a 5-day weekend with a roadtrip. However, because we need more time in December for our friends' wedding in the Philippines, we had to cut this trip down to 3 days only. So, in light of that, we flew from Stansted to Hahn, which is about 130 km outside of Frankfurt, and rented a car there so we would have a way to get around easily all weekend.

The ECB
We got there at early-ish on Friday morning and went straight to Steinbach. It's a suburb - village, really - just outside Frankfurt where Qas was born and lived until he was 13. We drove around, checking out Qas' old schools, his old house and neighbourhood and his favourite pizzeria (Pizzeria Pisa) where we had lunch.

Then, we went to the Welcome Hotel in Frankfurt where we had a quick nap and then into the main city bit to sightsee and for dinner.

On Saturday, we met with Jorg, an old school friend of Qas'. He invited us to his parents' house in Steinbach for lunch and it was delicious! We had noodles made from egg that is a German specialty . . . I can't remember the name of them! But they were delicious, and we ate these with a turkey and mushroom sauce, green beans, salad and delicious red wine.

After lunch, we went out to meet more of Qas' old friends: Tuncay, Wojtek and his girlfriend Zulia (that is pronunciation, I don't really know how it's spelt). We went back to the old schools as well as a little village called Kronberg, which is gorgeous! Some of the houses are 600 years old! We then went to see the SchlossHotel - an old castle that is now a 5 star hotel where the Queen has stayed.

Wojtek and Zulia had to leave after that so Tuncay, Jorg, Qas and I went back into the city. We went to the top of Main Tower - to the 54th floor observation deck - and saw a full 360 of Frankfurt at dusk. After, we all had dinner at Bastos Bar where I tried my first ever Apfelweien. This one was a little watered down (according to Jorg) so it was easy to drink. It is, apparently, a very bitter drink usually but mine tasted like slightly alcoholic apple juice.

Sunday was our last day there and it was a very beautiful, sunny day! We checked out of the hotel and went straight into the city again for some last minute sightseeing. Mehmet, another friend of Qas' who couldn't make it the night before, met us in Zeil (the main shopping area) and we had a meander around down to the river Main.
Romer

And that was it . . . back off to the airport at 2.30 pm and then on to the plane and London-bound!

I really love Frankfurt, and would like to make a trip there again, many times over.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

TO TAVIRA WE GO!

Well, we went and are back now. "We" is Emma (flatmate and good friend) and myself and we had a very relaxing time. It was also Country 13, yay!

Etch has a timeshare in a flat in Tavira - located in Portugal for geographically challenged readers - and let us use some . . . share of his time. We flew from Stansted to Faro, the nearest airport, on Thursday night after work. This was to ensure maximum time in the sun from Friday on!

The weather was fantastic and the reason this post is going to be so short is because this is all we did:

Thursday
Arrive at flat by midnight. Sleep.

Friday
Wake up early, get some breakfast and lunch supplies from on-site supermarket. Eat. Get into bikini. Lie down by pool. Snooze. Dip in pool. Lunch. Lie in sun. Snooze. Make lasagne in flat. Eat. Chat. Sleep.


Saturday
Wake up early. Eat. Get into bikini. Lie down by pool. Snooze. Dip in pool. Lunch. Lie in sun. Snooze. Walk 20 mins into town at about 4pm. Walk around. Drink sangria. Go to cosy restaurant for dinner. Drink sangria. Walk back to resort. Chat. Watch TV. Sleep.


Sunday
Wake up early. Eat. Head to beach with packed lunch. Back to resort's on-site restaurant for very delicious dinner. Drink sangria. Back to flat. TV. Sleep.

Monday
Wake up early. Eat. Lie down by pool. Snooze. Dip in pool. Pack up. Taxi to airport. Leave!

It was a great break but we were both also looking forward to coming back to move into our new house! We have a lovely place in Tooting Bec (only 2 miles from old place) with Sara and Etch!

Friday, September 16, 2011

UNLIMITED MOVIES? OK!

After living in London for over a year, I've learnt about a few of the perks and savings tips that can be taken advantage of to make a social life easier.

There is, of course, the very popular Happy Hour - a concept practices around a lot of the world - where you can get drinks for 50% cheaper and so on. I'm not really a big drinker anymore but I do enjoy taking advantage of this.

Then, there are the usual Groupon, KGB Deals (a personal favourite actually), GoGroopie, Red Letter Days and so on that most people will also have heard of in some way (note: a really great one if you live in the Isle of Man is Isle of Deals and all proceeds go to a good cause!).

The one I like the best is the Unlimited Card at Cineworld. For those who enjoy a weekly trip to the movies, this is definitely worth it! As of September 2011, it costs £17.99 per month for access to all Cineworld cinemas in London to as many movies as you want. Seeing as a movie at Cineworld costs £9.20 a ticket for a 2D movie, you can make this back by watching just 2 movies in a month.

We used to go once a week and spend up to £40 on tickets and food. Now, it's half that if we want the popcorn (always). There is a £1.50 charge for 3D movies but I am OK with that as I don't really enjoy 3D movies and so tend to forgo those when possible.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

THE WEST END

New York has Broadway, Toronto has King Street (OK, so it's not world famous) and London has the West End. That's right, we're talking musicals! Stage plays! Sequins! Glamour! Drama! Showtunes! Vaseline smiles! Jazz hands!
In the last 2 months, I have been to 3 different productions, all very different and different levels of awesome.

1. Wicked, Apollo Victoria
Qas and I went to see this in July as part of our anniversary weekend. It was, in a word, spectacular. While it is very corny in some ways, you expect that from theatre so it's digestable. What makes it so great is the talent of the cast. The Wicked Witch's voice is just brilliant and Good Witch Glinda is the perfect mix of well-intentioned and selfish. The stage effects and costumes make this a brilliant watch. Fans of The Wizard of Oz will not be disappointed.


2. Batman Live, O2 Arena
Qas and I went to this over the August Bank Holiday. And while not technically in the West End it's still a pretty cool stage show. It is definitely meant for kids, though, and you can expect the same level of corny dialogue and "gee-whiz Batman"s that you would get from the cartoon or reading the comic book. What made this really fun to watch was the circus performers. Because the show is based on how Dick Grayson becomes Robin, a lot of it is based in the circus. There were 3 very cool moments in the show: the Batmobile on stage, the scene in the asylum and a spectacular entrace by the Joker! It's on a limited run in London but will be around the country all year.


3. Thriller Live, Lyric Theatre
Don't go to this. Seriously. If you love Michael Jackson and do not want to see his wonderful career made into a sad, unintentional parody that looks like a high school show then stay far, far away. Qas and I got tickets from BritBound for only £20 each for the Upper Circle, which is a definite bargain no matter what show you see. But I felt cheated when I saw this. It was not worth any amount of money. They took songs like Bad and made them into happy, skippy songs with amateur choreography and poorly executed, lazy dancing. Not everything was terrible. The show's two saving graces were the kid who played young MJ (pretty good!) and the fact that no one attempted to sing Billie Jean. Instead, a guy danced while lip-syncing. His dancing was pretty good, so that part was alright. But, my God, this was like Glee and High School Musical put their reject cast members on a stage and said, "Do some Michael Jackson".



I'm hoping to catch Lion King soon, as well as We Will Rock You and maybe Shrek.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THAT'S RUBBISH!

Literally.
I've realized that I've recently deviated from making this a blog about how to survive London as a foreigner so here is a fascinating post about garbage aka detritus, dreck, dross, offal, rubbish, rubble, scrap, scrapings, slop, sweepings, swill, trash, waste.

In Toronto, as is anywhere in Canada, there is a garbage collection day depending on the area you live in. The men come in their big, smelly truck and pick up the garbage that must (MUST) be placed on the curb (read: pavement) for them. The garbage goes in black bags and the recycling usually goes into 2 different boxes depending on the type of material it is. You are allowed a maximum of 3 bags if I remember correctly but it might even be just 2. If you have more and have kind neighbours who tend to be thriftier and, perhaps, hoardier than you they will let you add your extra bag to their pile. Otherwise, too bad for you.

Anyway, in London, there is a garbage collection day depending on the area you live in. The men come in their big, smelly truck and pick up the rubbish that must (MUST) be in your front garden, not the pavement (read: curb) as that is public property. The garbage goes in black bags and the recycling usually goes into transparent orange bags. We put all of it in the same bin, though I think you're meant to separate them. Recycling trucks come before the garbage ones. There is no limit to the amount of bags either, it would seem, though I would assume that's within reason!

If you are looking for more exciting information about rubbish collection and when yours is, the Directgov website has lots of great information.

I hope this post has allayed any fears about your waste collection.

Friday, August 19, 2011

INSPIRATION

It's been a tough week for me. I've been very upset about various things that I feel are going wrong in my life. But, every so often, someone finally says the right thing - something that you've needed to hear even if you didn't realize it. Today, from Arpen, I got all the words of encouragement I needed after this pretty hard week:

You are a very strong person having done what you have this past 15 months. Leaving your home, family and friends to come to a new place, with no work nor established ties. You've found a job in this climate, you've seen more of london, and frankly england, than I have and you settled into what I'm sure is a very strong relationship, that like most, has a few speed bumps now and then. You've made a massive achievement. An achievement that some wish they had the courage to do.

He made me remember that I have actually done what I always wanted to do, something I had forgotten in the last couple of weeks.

I have some really exciting holidays ahead, as well as the arrival of Sara, my mommy visiting in October and Jessica visiting in November! 

I also have some exciting weekend plans coming up, including  Batman Live on Saturday!

And, finally, Arpen helped me realize that I have some really good friends here and I am a lucky, lucky girl.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BURNING LONDON

It is day 4. Already, 3 days of riots and looting have engulfed London. Reports have all stated that this stemmed from a peaceful protest for Mark Duggan and that turned into a raging war between police and . . . who exactly?

News reports have shown people of all ages - some as young as 8! - from all races, both genders and varied communities coming together for one purpose: STUFF. They want stuff! They must have the stuff!

There are no political motives behind this, and this is no social uprising. This is sheer greed, stemming from the want of a thousand ego-centric children with a mislaid sense of entitlement. And nowhere is this better shown than in Mark Stone's video from Clapham Junction. He asks a woman why she is looting and her reply is, 'I'm getting my taxes back!' I bet she thought this was a really clever answer. It's not. It's laughable.

Lady, if you want your taxes back, leave the TVs and cheap laptops and go and demand better childcare, better health service and affordable homes. Put your efforts into larger causes that may eventually help you and your family in the long run, and not just make your DVD quality sharper.

These people have lost their sense of purpose - and they have done exactly the opposite of what I bet the original protesters wanted. Where, in the beginning, Mark Duggan's supporters hoped to uncover some criminality within the police department, the people affected by the looting are now hailing the police as heroes.

You have failed your own cause, rioters.

PS For ways to help your community, see Riot Clean Up and Catch A Looter.

PPS Family and friends, I am safe.

Monday, August 8, 2011

THE COCHRANE IS COMING!

In exciting news of the month, Sara has booked her ticket to London! She will move here on September 13th as a teacher and will be here for a year to start. Who knows what will happen in that year, right?

I'm really looking forward to having a good friend around, and I believe she won't live too far away from me either! We're going to have a big party to welcome her to London (checking with flatmates first, OF COURSE!) and hopefully she will enjoy London and settle in well!

WEEEEE!

Monday, July 25, 2011

AS I LAY DYING

The world has experienced a horrific weekend of violence leading to death.

The ongoing famine in Somalia has taken second place (once again, as it did last week to the phone hacking scandal) to Amy Winehouse losing her battle with her drug addiction to die in her Camden flat at just 27. Everyone's reaction: "How sad, but that's hardly a surprise, is it?" Well, no, death is never a surprise. It is inevitable. From the moment you are created, you are counting down to the moment you will no longer exist. But death by addiction is sad in it's futility. There is never a need for someone to die from addiction, and at this point, I will direct you to Russell Brand who put it best in his piece for the Guardian.

Finally, we come to Norway's terrorist gunman Anders Breivik. Over this weekend, he has caused heartache and unnecessary pain in much of Norway, with a death toll of 94 under his belt. Between a bomb blast on Friday and his machine gun rampage on Utoya island on Sunday, this man has shown us that terror knows no colour, no race, no religion. 

Just as Timothy McVeigh did in Oklahoma, and Germaine Lindsay did on 7/7 to name just a few, Breivik has only proved what he set out to destroy: it is not only Muslims who cause terror.

Side note: I realise Germaine Lindsay converted to Islam, but he was not born into a Muslim family. He picked up his knowledge from extremists who taught him what they believed was right.

Uneducated, angry, ego-centric people with no love for humans or for their faith cause terror. There is no faith in murder, no matter if you commit it in the name of Jesus, Allah or the Ayatollah. I will say this always: we point the finger at Islam and its followers because we have been brainwashed into thinking this. We have taken 2 events in the last decade that, while catastrophic and just as painful, are small moments in the history of time. We have been fed headlines, news bites, interviews and testimonials about the evils of Islam, their poor treatment of women, and their lack of education within the larger world. We are wrong. Terror is caused by culture not by religion. Islam, historically, is the most forward-thinking, liberal religion and actually urges for their women to be educated and treated well. It is the uneducated or misinformed who believe differently. The only reason we think Christians are more liberal is because we see North America and Europe, predominantly Christian areas, portray this. Women work with a smaller salary gap, they choose to have children, who to marry and how to dress. But this is not religion. This is culture. This is American and European culture taking over faith. It is not religion that gave them this lifestyle, it is their abandonment of it. In the same way, it is not Islam that is creating oppressed women, jihads and terrorists. It is their abandonment of its true tenancies.

Lack of education leads to ignorance and ignorance is not bliss. It is deadly. It gives people like Breivik a motive, it gives them a defence.

The Muslims I know are ashamed of these people, murdering in the name of a twisted version of Islam. The Muslims I know cannot fathom violence and destruction on the level that they are blamed for. The Muslims I know are educated, funny, interesting people who bring love and peace to my life. One of them is my father, the other my boyfriend, the third one of my best friends; my Holy Trinity of Islam.

I find it alarming that we have still found a way to blame Islam for Breivik's acts of inhumanity. It just goes to show that we are all living in a bubble, shrouded by the fear of a religion we do not understand, the ignorance of a culture we do not know and the morals of a group we do not agree with.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BIFF! KAPOW! BLAM!

About 8 weeks ago, I started a boxing boot camp. A flyer landed in my kitchen (magic!) that advertised 12 sessions for £20 to start mid-May. I thought that was a brilliant way to get back into working out and at a great price. So I signed up for my very first month of Boxit Boot Camp.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a group of us gather on Clapham Common to run, push-up, sit-up and box our way to fitter selves.

On Day 1, I thought I would pass out. On Day 2, I felt better. On Day 3, I was Superwoman! I did the first month almost uninterrupted (I missed one Tuesday on account of "just not feeling like it") and so I signed up for month 2 with glee. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how busy this month was for me and so missed 2 weeks in a row (work stuff one week, Marjorie the next). Danni, Boxit's MD, let me make up these 2 weeks and I've now signed up for my third month.

I am definitely fitter than I was - my cardio has improved dramatically. I've never been a good runner - maybe it's a brown person thing - but I do have strength, even more so now. I have muscles, am more toned and have lost inches around my mid-section.

I'll be taking over Ste's gym membership soon, though, so won't be able to continue but this has been a great stepping stone to get fit again. The trainers are intense and motivational - they really keep an eye on you, and are aware of your levels if you're a regular (just this past Tuesday, I was called out for being in worse form than I should be) and really know their fitness! HIghly recommended if you're in the SW postcode - or Manchester, as there is now one there too.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

O CANADA!

It was a lovely Canada Day weekend in London! I did miss a lot of things about actually being in Canada this time around, as it's now been 14 months since I've last seen my hometown. And I thought I would share some of those things I miss with you here . . .

Tim Horton's
AKA Timmy's, it's the best place for coffee, tea, doughnuts, muffins, bagels, sandwiches and home of the infamous Timbits! 


There is literally nowhere in the world that I have ever been that has a better coffee shop. This is better than Starbucks, this is better than Costa and Caffe Nero. You know why? Because it's simple. You just ask for a small, medium or large coffee. You put cream, sugar or milk into it. You drink it. End of story. There are no barristas, no poncey coffee maker asks for your name to put it on your cup and there is no such thing as a Trenta sized coffee or tea.

And every year, we have a Roll up the Rim competition, which was naively named and sounds like a strange sex act, but there is nothing more exciting than finding a prize under the lip of the cup.

And, finally, the uniform is pretty sexy, don't you think?


Wasaga Beach
Now, Toronto isn't known for its beaches - and nor should it be. They're not exactly the white sand, turquoise blue pieces of paradise that people tend to go for. They are, however, within easy reach of the city and are a lot of fun because, well, it's a beach!



We would go at least twice each summer, mostly just for the day as they are only a couple of hours away. Lie on the sand, play in the water, and build human pyramids, something we are now quite good at:


We also found a more private beach than the actual main strip, as those are just full of what you would call chavs. And tourists. Damn tourists. Just a little further down from the main area is a lovely strip of sand called Allen Beach. If you bring your own food and drink, you can spend an entire day here, just tanning and swimming. I miss our days out here.

Badr
Now, I have a lot of really great friends in Canada but this one is special - and if you've met him, you know why. There is a certain charm and enigma that only Badr possesses. I have yet to meet someone who does not like him from the start. And if I do ever meet someone who doesn't like him right from the start, I'll know that person is a waste of space.


. . . and these are a few of my favourite things :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

JUNE ROUND-UP

It's been a good month. I keep thinking that it was a quiet one, but it wasn't! We started the month going to Zoo Lates - which is when the London Zoo in Camden is open late every Friday in June and July. The silent disco is pretty fun, and there are bars set up all over the zoo for (admittedly over-priced) cocktails and other such drinks.

Silent disco with a ladybug, apparently

The next weekend was, of course, the epic flying lesson and Ripley's (see below) and then, very exciting, I got to see Tez in the final of the BBC2 New Comedy Award! He was 6 of 600 chosen to battle it out for the winning title (and pretty glass trophy). The title went to Angela Barnes after a country-wide vote but we are all super proud of Tez for all his accomplishments in the last 12 months, of which there are many! The next big thing for him is Edinburgh Fringe as part of 3-person act Gags, Songs and Bombs :)

Yes, everyone gets an award! It's one of those races.

Then, Marjorie arrived from Toronto. Marjorie has visited Liverpool almost every year since she was a child because her father is from there and so all his family is there. However, she has only been to London once before - 10 years ago for a few short hours. She was keen to see all the sights, and while I was at work in the mornings, she did the usual touristy stuff (Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Big Ben) and in the evenings I introduced her to my friends. It was fun and I believe she left with the intention to return to live in September. Sara plans to come then too, on a teaching contract. What can I say, I am quite the trendsetter ;)

It is now July 1st - Canada Day! I love Canada Day in Canada cause we're usually in a cottage on the beach. This year, as last, I will be in Trafalgar Square with my London friends pretending I am in Toronto!

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

Friday, June 17, 2011

FLY ME TO THE MOON . . . OR STEVENAGE, WHICHEVER

For Qas' 27th birthday in March, I bought him a flying lesson! I know, I know, what a wonderful girlfriend, what a gift, what a thoughtful idea as he's always wanted to try it.

I managed to get him a package at the North London Flying School where he could also have 2 passengers with him. I would be one and Rich the other. Rich, unforunately, was unable to make the lesson due to a wedding (not his own) and so it was just me, Qas and our instructor Jitesh - who was 25 minutes late due to another lesson!

We had tea and a muffin while we waited, an idea I would later regret.
We flew in a Piper something or other - not sure of the model but you will know the kind. Propellor nose, little wings, sways side to side in a light breeze. In other words, nauseating!

At the controls, Captain Qas Pilot Man!
As a pilot, Qas was excellent. He was given the task of taking off, controlling in air and landing. I was initially really nervous about him making the landing. Take-off seems easy, you know. Point the plane up and accelerate. Landing brings thoughts of pointing the nose too low and crashing, or landing too late and not stopping in time once on the ground. Useless worry . . . as it always is with us mere mortals. Qas did great. Except for a couple of too-fast drops in the air, he was fantastic and could probably continue to get his licence with few problems!

The view was fantastic as well. The airfield was in Cole Green, Hertfordshire, very close to St. Alban's and we could see nothing but big, gorgeous houses and large acres of land for miles around. We headed north towards Stevenage and then back around again for an awesome 30 minutes of air time.

However, once we were back on solid ground, my stomach let me know it was NOT happy with the bumpy ride I had just experienced! I was so nauseous. A combination of a very sensitive plane and an inexperienced pilot took its toll.

Yay for flying!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I AM FROM MISSISSAUGA

People ask me all the time where I'm from. Whether it's based on the colour of my skin (brown) or my accent (pseudo-Canadian) or other small details that give away my foreignness (clothes, culinary tastes, strange sense of humour). I, of course, always reply, "Canada" because that is where I consider my home. If they probe further, they will hear, "Toronto".

But this is not true! I'm not from Toronto. I'm from a little suburb outside Toronto called Mississauga. It's a town made up of rows of family homes, gardens, wide avenues and parkways, big schools with hockey teams and shopping malls.
This is my high school: John Fraser Secondary School



I miss it because there is space! There are lots of fields and big parks. There are wide roads and far fewer road signs than London.

Over the weekend, Qas and I visited St. Alban's for the day (he used to live there) and I was astounded by how teeny tiny everything was. It feels so cramped, like they tried to fit in as many houses and cars and people as possible into a tiny little space. However, when you go into town and into the park it's fine - the park is massive and beautiful. But those roads, where the house are, are unbearable. It's claustrophobic!

It made me miss the wide open spaces of my hometown so much, where houses are big and roads are wide and SUVs rule the roads!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

30 BEFORE 30 - NOT QUITE HALFWAY YET!

Julainne, who is currently enjoying her Northern Hemisphere Experience, met a man on her trip to Ireland who challenged himself to see 50 countries before he turned 50 (you can read about this here). As I read through, I thought to myself: I want to do 30 before 30! And, lo and behold, as I got to the end of Julainne's blog post, she had said the same to herself! So now we both have this common goal - and a very exciting one at that!

Eagle-eyed readers will notice I've added a little list to my blog on the right. I'm at 12 countries already - mostly due to my parents being nomads of some sort. I hope to be at 16 by the end of the year. I plan to be in Wales in July, Scotland in August, Germany in October and the Philippines in December.

And, yes, Wales and Scotland count as separate countries. Wikipedia said so here and here respectively and we know Wikipedia is never wrong . . . right?

Monday, May 23, 2011

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ME

. . . and Ben and Julainne :)

Last Saturday - May 14th - was my one year anniversary in London (Ben and Julainne's were on the 8th and 11th respectively)!

I can sit here and reflect on the things I've accomplished and all that has happened to me in the last year. But I don't want to - don't get me wrong, I am grateful and proud and happy and nostalgic in every possible way but I also want to look forward! Because this is where the excitement lies. As much as I know I want to stay in London, I am treating this year like it really is my last to live here. I would like to accomplish much more in terms of travel, as well as really enjoy my friends, my boyfriend, my job, my life!

We had a party to celebrate our anniversary this past weekend (May 21st) because we love any excuse to party and it went very well. It made me realize I have a lot to look forward to in 2011/2012 and when I return to Toronto in a year, whether it is temporarily or for good, I can then look back and reflect on what I did!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

GOEIENDAG BRUGGE!

Arpen, Julainne and I joined BritBound's "One Day in Brugge" tour on Sunday May 8th!
The trip was a great idea and one day is just long enough to see the sights in Brugge if you plan it right. However, because we were there on a Sunday, a few attractions closed early with a couple closed completely for the day. We missed out, unfortunately, on the Chocolate Museum and Old-Timey Museum. These were 2 things we were very excited to see but they were closed by the time we got there. So, instead, we got some Belgian chocolate, waffles, beer (they did anyway) and walked around the old town as well as went all the way to the edge of the central bit of Brugge to see some windmills (not that impressive in Brugge, sadly).

Brugge has a LOT of chocolate and candy shops. Julainne, Arpen and I bought some chocolate at The Chocolate Line which was absolutely the prettiest little shop. This one is a bit of a chain - they have another branch in Antwerp but is still strictly Belgian. It has the most interesting products on offer, right down to chocolate lipstick! The city's candy stores are also fun and most of them make their product on site which means most of Brugge smells like sugar and spice and all things nice.

Pink candy shop, smelled delicious!
Brugge is also called the 'Venice of the North', mainly because it is also famous for lace and canals. This is certainly true and the landscape of the city is quite beautiful because of it.


We did get to see where the Holy Blood is stored in Burg as well as climb the Belfry - 366 steps to the top of a bell tower (that we found out the hard way is still in use, my ears are still ringing) where we had a magnificent 360 view of the city.

View of Burg from top of Belfry
We returned to London by about 10.30 pm, tired but very pleased with our trip. Day trips are something I am going to look into more. They're certainly worth it for small cities and cost less than your average night out in London might!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CIAO VENEZIA!

So, Venice . . . I finally got to visit the city that is second on my list of "go here or else" places to visit (one was Barcelona and I got to do that last summer as some may know). It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in terms of architecture and general feel of the place. No cars, no traffic lights - just footpaths and canals.
Grande Canal at night
We went for 4.5 days (from April 28th - May 2nd) and so took our time to see the sights. We tried to get lost as much as we could to see as many random places as possible but the great thing about Venice is that you can never get lost!
We got there about noon on the Thursday and took a water taxi from the airport (7 kms away from Venice) to our hotel - Hotel Philosophy as it is known in Venice. The water taxi costs 100 euro for up to 5 people. There are water buses available for slightly cheaper but take longer or road taxis that take you to the main train station but you have to find your own way from there! After a nap at the hotel, we had dinner at what would become the only place Qas wanted to eat: Pizzeria La Cote in San Polo. It does have very delicious food and I highly recommend it! After, we walked around to see what Venice was like at night. We saw St. Mark's Basilica, which is the main tourist area in Venice.
The next day was Royal Wedding Day (or Sara's Birthday if you live in Canada). We watched their vows (very sweet and gorgeous dress, non?) and then left to explore Venice. We went to St. Mark's Square again for a daytime view and did some more walking around. One of my highlights was being taken on a gondola ride! They're very expensive (120 euros for 2 people) but I thought it was worth it. A gondola ride in Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as far as I'm concerned!
Best Boyfriend Ever
We took the Saturday off to just sleep and relax indoors, only venturing out for a meal followed by a pre-booked Ghosts & Legends Tour, something that is really interesting because they take you through all the hidden alleyways of the city you may not see as a tourist.
Then, on our last full day we went up the Campanile for a 360 view of Venice and parts of Italy and the Adriatic, then headed into Florian's. It's a world famous cafe, both for its good food and exorbitant prices! Beware, they will charge you an extra 6 euros each if their resident musicians are playing. We had our last dinner at (guess!) La Cote.
We left the next morning at about 11.30 and that was it . . .Ciao Venezia! It's definitely a place I recommend people go - very romantic and very relaxing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DADDY SHAAL

I mentioned before my father coming to visit me in London. He finally arrived Wednesday, 20th April. Qas and I picked him up at Gatwick and he stayed in a hotel across the street from my house.
I was a mixture of nervous and excited to see my dad - we haven't lived in the same house in over 10 years and I didn't spend more than an hour or two with him every week or so when I was in Toronto.
So, I was unsure how a week of constant contact with him would go. Upon his arrival, however, I realized I had no reason to worry. My dad and I get along very well, and always have. Seems I had forgotten that . . . I'm glad I got to spend that week with him because I think it's made my relationship with him much stronger.
We had a lot of fun together, especially visiting his old houses when he lived in England with his mother and sister as well as a very fun, very interesting family reunion with my English cousins in Burnham!

I miss him now but am looking forward to Venice tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

EXTREMELY GRATEFUL IN LONDON

We've all heard the story of Iman Al-Obeidi by now; running into the international press room in Libya, showing her bruises from a gang rape, being hauled out by military and carted to God knows where, forced to keep silent or risk her life. Stylist Magazine covers this briefly in their introduction to this week's article "Women of the Revolutions" and move on to tell the stories of three incredibly brave women risking their lives, their children's lives and everything they know to stand up to a regime they do not believe in. Marwa Sharfeldin in Egypt, Huda Ben Khalid in Tunisia and Tawakkol Karman in Yemen are an insight into what the women of the Middle East are experiencing at the moment. They have been beaten, they have been ostracized and they have been discriminated against in every way but each time these women have remained steadfast in their fight for their rights. As someone who used to live in the Middle East and have known women to be treated like this with no idea that they could have something more, this article literally made me cry.
Because I . . . I sit in London, at my computer at a job I can choose to let go of at any time, safe in the knowledge that I have a great support system, a loving boyfriend, an even more loving family and set of friends, a lovely house that won't be stormed by military anytime soon and my rights are secrurely in place. I can vote should I choose to, I can walk outdoors in anything I like, I can eat, drink, socialize, talk, laugh, scorn, support and opinionate any way I like. Other than my own conscience, I have no one to answer to.
So, in those moments when I cry for no reason, I want to remember that I have it really easy. I want to remember that I was given opportunities that I didn't have to fight for, that my life was never at stake in a very real way.

Read the full article at Stylist (starts at page 52).

Monday, April 11, 2011

GRAB YAH SUNNIES MATE!

It has been one of the nicest weekends in London I have ever experienced in my short time here. I am sunburnt! I spent my Saturday outdoors, sitting on the common, enjoying the sun, eating ice cream with Steve, Emma, Ben and Danny. I spent my Sunday at 'Blow Lounge' (Glow Lounge in the Yellow Pages) with Steve, Ben and sometimes Emma cause she works there and wasn't allowed to sit with us too long at a time. We drank Pimm's, ate chips and got tans. I don't even remember what we talked about for 5 hours but there we were . . .

I admit to very strong feelings of guilt this weekend, however. I missed Tez's birthday on Friday night. Qas has been ill all week and was in no state to go out. He needed some TLC and so I stayed with him, despite insisting to myself that I would go no matter what! I even put my make-up and dress on before I took it all of to play nurse to my ailing boyfriend (far more innocent than it sounds you filthy animals!) So, public apology to Tez. I hope you will forgive me (and ting).
I hope everyone in London really enjoyed their weekend!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BRING ON APRIL

April has started off great! On Saturday, I finally got to have my birthday laser tag event with all my friends. Unfortunately, my sisters could not be there to help kick some butt but Monika and Ste were willing to step in. Abs also had to cancel last minute but Jayne saved the day! So, off we go the 12 of us to a laser tag/paintball centre in North Greenwich. We've already divided into 2 teams with Qas captaining one and me the other. The aim was to kick Qas' butt at all costs . . . and we did! My Green team (Ste, Jayne, Steve, Ben, Julainne, me + 4 other randoms) played excellently against his Reds (Nousheen, Bilal, Etch, Monika, Neil, Qas + 4 randoms) and we won by miles :) OK, I have to admit here that my overall personal score was dismal compared to his so he can have that! But I even won with a sore back and some hungover crew! Yay!
Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and there are no pictures of us from the actual day.

I'm also very excited about April because Daddy Shaal will visit, and then it's off to Venice for Qas and me!
I'm looking forward to a lot of things this month . . . including closing in on my one year anniversary in London! I made it . . . by the skin of my teeth, the hole in my bank account and the love and support of all my friends, I've made it.

Actually, let me take a moment here to thank you all for making this the coolest experience ever!
However, there have been a few people in London without whom I would not have survived my first two days here let alone my first year! Those people are Zab, Tez and Jabir . . . you guys made my first weekend in London amazing! You made my first two weeks in London the most memorable of my life. I'm grateful for all the help, guidance, laughs and hugs. Always.

Then there's Jayne, Ste, Ceri and Mummy Sofia. Watford Wednesdays (and now Watford any day) makes me feel like part of a family when I need it most. I love the love you give me!

Sanam, Abu and Salehs, my Northern family, have always been very kind to me! I will always appreciate my England Mummy Sanam!

JB, Etch, Rich, Ellen, Emma, Steve, Ben, Glen and Owen . . . my new friends in London who've made it so much fun! Danny, you get your own special thanks cause you're my lunch/pub buddy and you're a bit gingy so you ought to feel special :D

And in Toronto . . . I MISS YOU ALL! COME VISIT ME.

Finally, there is the person who has made London an entirely different experience than I ever expected and that's Qas . . . and what I have to say to you now is so simple: I love you.

UPDATE: Someone kindly pointed that I missed someone very important on this! TWO people actually . . . thing is, I probably left off lots of you because I wrote this as my mind prepared to shut down before bed. So, I definitely do need to mention Monica and Dennis. Because Monica is the reason I chose to move to Clapham. She showed me around, answered all my questions and made sure I knew what I was getting into. Dennis, while you were here, you talked me through lots of tough times in the beginning (read: boy troubles) as well as just generally being very helpful before I even moved when it came to areas to live, how the buses and trains and people work . . . you were my foundation builder!

Again, I'm very sorry if you feel you've been left off this (the trouble with singling people out to thank them is that you often offend someone else) but this was a spur of the moment thing :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

HOUSE OF COMMONS?

Sat at work this afternoon, I got this forward. Now, I'm not usually one to believe in the things that come in forwarded messages as it feels like an electronic version of Chinese Whispers (or Telephone as kids now have to call it to be PC). However, this one caught my attention because it's something I want verified. Let me know what you know about this:

This is unbelievable, but can you  imagine working for a Company that has a little more than 600 Employees  and has the following employee statistics...

29 have been accused  of spouse abuse

7 have been arrested for fraud

9 have been  accused of writing bad cheques

17 have directly or indirectly  bankrupted at least 2 businesses

3 have done time for  assault

71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit

14  have been arrested on drug-related charges

8 have been arrested  for shoplifting

21 are currently defendants in lawsuits

84  have been arrested for drink driving in the last year and collectively, this year alone, they have cost the British tax payer
£92,993,748 in  expenses!!!

Which organization is this?

It's the 635  members of the House of Commons, the same group that cranks out hundreds  of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of the population of Britain in line.

I am looking some of this up myself but anyone with info, I'd love to know. More out of curiosity than anything else.