22 January 2012

a winter night in London town

Last night's planned events had me reminiscing of my year in the USA. Once my friend, Stephanie, (met her in my year of study in Bendigo in 2006) got to my house and I got myself organised, we caught the tube into the city. We were planning on going to a korean restaurant but with it's 50% off deal the line outside was massive. We found another though and after roaming the streets for a while waiting for the restaurant to open for dinner, we excitedly sat down and scoured the menu. It was a nostalgic meal for both of us. I haven't eaten korean since my year in the USA in 2007 where I ate it lots due to hanging out with mostly koreans. Ah, the memories the smell of this meal, the look, the chopsticks, the spice and the cooking on the table brought back. For Stephanie, her memories aren't so old. She spent a term just last year at a university in South Korea and revisited there on her way to London.

Stephanie ordered our meal in korean--coz she could. A formal 'hello' is still all I know in korean. We ate korean bbq and it was super delicious. I haven't used chopsticks in a while though so the table was garnished by the end of the meal. We finished with a cup of tea. I tried korean root tea which reminded me of a warmed wheat-filled heat bag and Stephanie had Oolong. Mine had more taste but I wasn't that fond of either flavour. It was a great meal but from my American-Korean experience it wasn't Korean sized. Stephanie agreed with that. It didn't fill us all the way up. Satisfied for now though and being on a schedule, we walked down to Somerset House for the main event of the evening.
Outdoor iceskating! What a novelty! Though this is still a set up and not as natural as skating on a frozen lake. Though it was cool it certainly wasn't freezing weather. It had got to about 12 degrees that day. We stored our bags and collected our skates. I was happy to find that these skates didn't dig into my legs or squish my feet like most I've used. I tied them as tight as I could and eagerly waited for our session to begin. Neither of us had been skating for years. Stephanie asked me when I last skated and it took me a while to remember. It was in the USA with my aupair friends. Almost five years ago. We stepped onto the ice with extra care aware that it was going to be very slippery and that it would take us a while to get our ice-legs. We took it easy doing smooth casual loops around the rink as the congo line around the fence inched along. There's something nice about gliding on the ice. To sway slightly and cause yourself to chicane smoothly along the ice. It was also fun to be there with a friend and chat away while doing so. We kept our cool and avoided getting overly confident and managed to stay on our feet the whole time. We watched others fall, daringly let go of the edge, switch between going forwards and going backwards, and one guy in particular seemed completely at home on the ice moving without any hesitation and doing those cool slide stops I can't do. Once we recalled the feel of the ice beneath our feet we were snaking between people avoiding collisions and flailing arms and the cut up bumpy ice towards the end of our session. The highlight of the ice time was when Stephanie pointed out a couple in the middle of the rink. Soon everybody had noticed them and when the guy got up off his knee the whole rink stopped and cheered. That added an unexpected delight to our experience.

When the session ended we wet our socks on the shaven ice speckled floor of the boot hire room while we waited in line to get our shoes back. Then we collected our bags and roamed the town since it was only 9pm.
We walked over one of the bridges crossing the Thames and I saw Big Ben and the "Big Wheel" (so called by the boy I care for) dressed in their night lights. After wandering along the river for a while we decided we both needed some more food. In our search for some open shops we stopped by a phonebooth for a classic memory shot. We ended up going to McDonalds and ate another small meal each before riding the tube home.

It was a fun night and another tick on the mental list of things I want to do while here.

17 January 2012

aunty x 8

Me to 3yo: Do you know what happened in Australia today? My little niece was born. Do you know what a neice is?
3yo: No
Me: It means my brother has a baby girl. She's my niece.
3yo tips his face slowly to the roof and in a breathy voice says: I don't believe you.

Well, it's the truth!
Little Elizabeth Faith was born today weighing 9lb 6oz. Fifth child of my older brother. Second daughter. She has a lot of older siblings to watch over her. How delightful! And being on the other side of the world means I'm blogging about my newest niece hours after I found out she's arrived and I STILL haven't got to her birth time here. He he.

Congratulations! I hope you all have a wonderful and smooth time adjusting to this precious change and that little Elizabeth is a delight to you all.

12 January 2012

work with a plan

I found a letter for me on the table when I went downstairs after everyone had gone this morning. A lengthy letter from my boss. Worry instantly kicked in--even as it started with "Firstly, we want to write to you and say how well we think things are working out" followed by specifics. I need to stop being so harsh on myself and always expecting it to be bad news. With a new little one due to arrive in May, this year is going to be different and so this letter explained how they thought it will work best.

So the plan is five or so weeks after the baby is born (when the extra newborn-help leaves), my hours (and pay) would increase to help get the boy ready for nursery in the mornings. When the mum goes back to work in September, they hope to get full time help. This they assumed would not suit me so unless I indicate otherwise they would hire someone new. It also laid out when I will have some time off to travel which includes three separate weeks with a couple weeks of being on an island holiday with them (that one working). I love how clearly my boss lays it all out. There's no surprises or unmet hidden expectations.

When we spoke tonight she asked me what I thought about all that was in the letter. I said it all sounds really good to me. I also "indicated otherwise". Some more experience with under-ones will be good. Full time will be long days but they will be the last five months of my visa after which I will be able to afford to take the scenic route home. It also means I don't have to look for other work for just a few months as I was intending to stay at least until 2013 so I could holiday further north and get a white Christmas. When I told her I was interested, she said that that was the best news ever. Yay! So lovely to know I'm so appreciated not just because I'm helpful but they really like me as their nanny. I'm all happy!

08 January 2012

from end to beginning

As 2011 was drawing to a close and all my friends in other countries I had to organise some fun on my own. I started in the middle of my day with seeing in the new year with Mum and Dad in Australia via Skype. But the main event for me was in the early evening when I dressed up and headed into London's centre with my ticket to be entertained.
I've been hoping to see Billy Elliot the Musical for a long time and decided I'd treat myself to it during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Thanks to a wonderful present from my boss I was able to book a ticket without using any money of my own. I got a good seat at the front of the balcony and settled down while admiring the detail of Victoria Theatre.

The show was great! I really like the story anyway but there's something special about watching people perform right in front of you. There was obviously kids in this one too--even a young boy who looked about 5 years old. (He was so cute and did an awesome job.) The boys who played Billy and Michael did an awesome job too but I did see them on occasion glancing at the crowd or break a smile during an applause. As always I am fascinated with the sets and how they change to create different scenes and I was with this one too. There was a glitch when Billy was suppose to soar up in the air in a dream-like dance number and they had to close the curtains and apologise for the short delay as they worked it out. But I found that entertaining too. By the time it was all over and I stepped outside it was about 10:30pm. It was raining so I was thinking about just heading home. As I started to walk in the direction of home the rain stopped. It wasn't very cold and I thought that maybe I would just walk around a while and then see the fireworks since I was here in the middle of London. By the time I figured out where I was, where I wanted to go and walked there it was almost midnight. I thought it might be packed but there wasn't as many people there as I'd anticipated. The bridge was but the street I was in wasn't. I couldn't get as close as I wanted as the street had been blocked off. So through the trees I saw the fireworks shoot off from the London Eye. After about 10mins I decided to head off early in hopes to avoid most the crowd. But they finished as I was still walking off.

Unfortunately my SD card was being rebellious and I only found out once home that it had stopped recording my photos. There were masses of people heading for the tube, which I by-passed in favour of the bus. But when I found the bus stop I needed there was a crowd there too. I decided to just keep walking. So there's none of the actual fireworks.Distances on my London map always seem shorter than they actually are. It took me just over an hour to walk home and my feet were indeed ready for a rest. I cosied up in my pjs and watched the end of a show I'd run out of time to finish viewing and then talked to some people online before I finally turned my light out too close to dawn. That being the case, I had a most lovely relaxing pyjama day for the first of the year. Sleeping, reading, tv and other such indoor things.

Now one week into 2012 and I'm back at work. Holidays have finished and the regular routine is kicking back in. I have to try and eradicate this lingering chest cold I have. Grr. This year is bound to have it's own set of adventures. I already know I'm about to be an aunty again any day now which also means another quilt to make for next Christmas. There's the planned Iceland holiday to see the northern lights and visit Blue Lagoon with a friend who's finally arrived in London. There's also a new baby due in this household where I work. I'll also be amongst the buzz of the London 2012 Olympics. Who knows what else this year will hold?

01 January 2012

oxford daytrip

Back from the lovely country Christmas I had, followed by a bit more relaxing, I decided to take a daytrip on Friday 30th and Oxford ended up being the destination.

The buildings there made an instant impression when stepping off the bus. I made my way to the tourist information centre and decided how to spend my day there. Then I walked back to near where I got off the bus and went in to the Botanic Gardens. The one is Oxford is apparently the oldest recorded botanic gardens in the UK.

I was a little disappointed when I first walked in but I suppose it's not really the best time of year to visit a garden. Lots of the plots were pretty bare.
I did like this bush with bright red branches. And I found some rocks that made me smile. He he. They also had some nice vegie gardens there that provided vegetables for charity meals which I thought was a cool idea. On the other side of the wall I found a bunch of green houses and after walking around a bit I realised you could go inside them. Inside was a whole range of amazing plants from all over the world. Oh the foliage! I was happily impressed.

There was actually a glasshouse called "Insectivorous". I assume all the plants in there have a taste for insects. Fascinating. There were such striking flowers as well. Bright and bold and some odd shapped ones as well as the interesting leaves. Plenty I'd never seen before. Some massive palms and I saw some cotton growing too which never seen on the plant before.

I headed back to the tourist in time to take a walking tour. I now have an insight into the crazy complicated system of the University of Oxford. It's tricky to get your head around. Under the University of Oxford canopy is 38--yes, thirty eight!--individually run and self funded colleges in Oxford. So Oxford is full of huge buildings housing students and naturally they are really old. The picture below on the top left is the University church of St Mary's. It's the building they first held university lectures and ceremonies in when they started it up in Oxford. It's also a church that John Wesley and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Caroll author of Alice in Wonderland) preached at. There also were a group of young people there who appeared to be rehearsing for a wedding. Then clockwise is a picture of me (it spat rain most of the afternoon) at the Bridge of Sighs which is apparently like one in Venice.

The other two photos have to do with the Bodleian Library which is huge! Inside, and underground for three levels, are books and books and miles more of books. The Bodleian Library has over 10 million books!! Centuries ago, Sir Thomas Bodley set up a law so that every book published in the UK one copy has to be given to this library. There's more he did too but that's all I remember. That's a heck of a lot of books. Bet he had no idea how many would end up being published here.

The above interesting building is the only college in Oxford with no students. It's All Souls and they have 'Fellows'. It's an elite thing to be a part of the fellowship of All Souls. Below is Christchurch College which is the largest one in Oxford. It also has the dining room used as the Hogwarts one in the Harry Potter films I believe.

I decided not to pay the entry fee and went back to roam the shops before finding the bus stop I needed to get back to London. It was nice to get out for a day and explore a little spot of England, even if it meant walking around in the rain.