Monday, 31 October 2005

Who's A Pretty Boy Then?

30 October - Squawk!!! I am! Now give me a f**king cracker!
Shaved today for the first time since 25 July 2005. In anticipation of the interview tomorrow, even though it's just for a shitty temping job I thought it would be best to shave. Decided to do it the night before because if anything went wrong (and lets face it, it's a possibility) I wanted my skin to have a night to recover. Had to be very careful because despite clippering sporadically for the past few months it's been a long time since blade has come into such close contact with my skin. Bought some overpriced shaving cream and razor blades to avoid any nicks and cuts and showered first, ensuring that my skin was very hot and the beard had had sufficient time to soften (one decent thing about the hostel is some decent hot water pressure). I then squeezed out a generous amount of cream, not too much, as it just gets in the way if you cake it on too thick. I then allowed a minute for it to soak in, further softening the bristles but not giving it time to dry out on my face. I then applied the blade in even, direct strokes down my face, always ensuring that I shaved IN the direction the hair grows. You will get an immediately closer shave if you shave against the hair but you will also raise the follicle to high and you'll end up taking off too much skin (a good shave should take off some skin, it's the best way for a man to exfoliate, which is why most men's facial skin products are not as heavy as women's) and if you consistently shave in the direction of the growth you'll ensure many good shaves to come. I had to be careful as there could have been little bumps and pimples that have grown up and not been worn away by constant shaving but due to my generally good practice of washing and moisturising this wasn't the case and I was luckily free of any nicks or cuts. Once I had finished I ran my hand over the slippery skin, ensuring I hadn't missed anything as there is nothing worse than finding a patchof rough beard an hour after shaving. I then rinsed off the remainder of the cream and applied a moisturiser of sesame and cocoa oil, one that has proved very suitable to me in the past. I then took time to preen and admire myself in the mirror and I applied 'Blue Steel' visages as I was reminded of how pretty I can be. It is very important to do this, I mean, what's the point of shaving? For your health? I don't think so.

F**kin' Bed Bugs!!!

30 September - Came to the conclusion the other day that my room happens to be infested by f**king little bed bugs; at first I thought I had some ingrown hairs caused to my infrequent waxing regime but those little bastards have been biting me - and they're vicious little things - my elegant right leg has been defaced in several places by their bites - I won't go into the pussy (that's adjective of pus, not a cat) details but suffice to say my room is has now been blasted with something to send them to the afterlife. Glad i'm only here for a few more days - the sooner i'm out of here the better.
Spent the afternoon riding all over town trying to find something to wear to tomorrow's interview and had some success - a nice pair of trouser that will have a life beyond their (hopefully brief) working life - didn't bother with shoeses - the bike ones i've got are dark enough for me to get through the door I hope ... I can always explain to the girl that I rode in hence their casual nature.
My room still has an evil smell to it so i'm going to go have to kill some time somewhere in town - it's been raining consistently all day, am getting an idea of what Vancouver is really like now. Still getting very annoyed by the post tax - i'm sure i'll get used to multiplying everything I buy by 1.07 or 1.14 (i never know which) but it's very frustrating. Also it gets dark at about 5 o'clock now that daylight savings is over (the joy of getting that one extra's hour sleep was not as fabulous as I remember it was when I was working).

Doom! Doom! Chainsaw ... Motherboard ...

29 September - Saw Doom last night - bit disappointing, an obvious Aliens ripoff but nearly as good an 'elite soldiers battling super powerful beasts' film as Dog Soldiers, a copy that, to me, was even superior to Aliens. Dialogue was atrocious, the plot was no better than a computer game (one expects a bit more when it reaches the cinema) but the money scene with the first-person shooter massacre that was lifted straight out of the game was very entertaining, but one scene does not a movie make.
Came back to the hostel after negotiating Granville Street's Hallowed up ghouls and ghosts to find the students living it up on cheap wine (they'd found a saviour who was a bit less responsible than me it seems) and cheaper cigarettes - very noisy and they were breaking things in the room. Said my goodbyes, it's been very interesting meeting all of them and I will miss them (they are still some of the only people I know in this country) despite some of them being rather (very) irritating at times.

Pride Salvo

30 October - Managed to salvage a bit of my wounded pride this morning. I entered myself into one of the local runs, the 5.9m Seawall Run - most of which I did yesterday on my first run since the marathon yesterday. Woke up pretty early, made a little bit easier by the fact that daylight saving ended and headed out to Stanley Park again. It was raining pretty solidly but it wasn't too cold. Apparently it's one of the oldest runs in Vancouver and it follows a very picturesque trail around on a wall around the sea (hence it's imaginative name). It was pretty flat and quite fast, which isn't really the best for me because it means keeping a high pace throughout but there were about 1400 people particpating (some walking) and I was mostly in the front section - had a few aches and pains from yesterday's long run but still managed to keep a good pace throughout. My nemesis turned out to be a woman who was riding my tail for the last five k's and in the last kilometre I found myself gagging a bit, trying to keep the bile from coming up, I pulled away from the girl (i met her afterwards but can't remember her name - she had an australian husband though) and got a time of about 38m, which I was very happy with. As soon as I crossed the line I went down on one knee and puked (as is my custom, it appears to be). Excellent supply of foodstuffs and comestibles at the end, blueberry bagels, cinnamom rolls, crappy coffee (but this is Canada, so what do you expect), yoghurt and fruit - I think I made up by $22 registration fee in food (i also took hid away a fair amount in my bag bfore I left - i'm unemployed so i'm entitled). The rain pretty much soaked me and the walk home was very cold but upon arrival the students were leaving so I said another goodbye to them. Not sure what my final position was but I think it was pretty good - I presume it'll be posted on the net at some stage. In any event, it wasn't a marathon but it was still a pretty good run so i'm pretty happy about it.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Round The Seawall

28 September - Tiny hangover this morning but didn't stop me doing what i've been putting off for a few weeks now - finally went for a proper run this morning (i knew it was the first time because I had to relace my shoes which hadn't been done since I undid them on the Marathon at beginning of the month). Went around the Seawall, a beautiful path that goes along the bay around Stanley Park (whose depths may or may not be a cruising zone ...) - I think I did about 18 or so k's, and whilst it wasn't comfortable, I at least know I haven't completely atrophied over the past few weeks.
Afterwards I headed back over the bridge to sort out some shopping which was made impossible due to my lack of wallet the previous day. I got myself a very nice layer-system winter jacket that can be used for skiing as well as around town - it's sectional so I can take out the inner jacket and wear it on its own for warmth or leave it in for when its cold and raining (or even snowing). Best part of it was that it was half price ($130 compard to over $300 for the new stuff). Also purchased some inexpensive sunglasses from the Mountain Equipment Coop. Had a bit less luck on the thrift stores for something to wear to the interview on Monday - went to 4th Avenue, which is supposed to be big on consignment (second hand) stores but it's a bad time of year to be going there because the places are all being raided by people getting their Halloween costumes in check - also found it next to impossible to find anything that fit properly anyway - really hoping I don't have to buy anything new but it looks like that maybe the case. On the way home in the evening the streets were packed full of people dressed up for Halloween - some pretty impressive outfits as well, unfortunately as i'm a billy no-mates at the moment I had no place to go and nothing to war anyway - but as the old Arab king's ring once said, 'This Too Will Pass'.

And the heavens open up ...

27 September - Very cold day today but I suspect it's just a hint of what's to come - went out again to Stanley Park and over the Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver. Got completely spattered in mud - I didn't realise how badly until I got back to the hostel - it looked like I had grey freckles all over my face. Soon after I got back it started to rain - not terribly hard but consistently - I suspect this is what i'm going to have to get used to if i'm going to live here. Was planning on holding back on shopping for proper gear until after I move into the house - i've already accumulated a few more things, which are going to make it just that much harder to move, but, it's started to rain. It's not that blat blat blat blattering that is so hard that it makes no difference whether you have your windscreen wipers on or off and that is annoying even if you're a rain god but it was miserable nonetheless. So, after lunch on Davie St (an okay lunch special from a Singapore restaurant) I decided to head over to Broadway to check out the rain jackets. Saw a few nice ones, some on special - some not on special, all of them pretty expensive though. One of the shops was the Mountain Equipment Coop where I found some sunglasses which I am in badly of need of, my other ones have been broken for a few months now and i'm constantly needing to use sticky tape to hold them together. However, when I went to pay for them I found that my wallet was missing. I searched my pockets and my bag and couldn't find it anywhere - I tried not to panic and went straight back to the previous store I was in - we searched through the pockets of the jackets i'd tried on to no avail.
The last place i'd definitely remembered using it was a cheap Singaporean restaurant where i'd eaten lunch all the way on the other side of town in Davie St. I only had a couple of bucks left and realising that this could well be the sum total of my funds for the next few days I decided to walk, run, back there. On the way thoughts were spinningthrough my head of what my options were - I still didn't really know anybody in town and I had absolutely no way to get any money (Friday afternoon is probably the worst time to lose one's wallet because the banks close on the weekend and there'd be no chance of organising anything until Monday). I thought I might be able to squeeze the hostel for my key deposit back, and there was the slim chance I could perhaps borrow a couple of bucks from Steve, the Australian I met the other day, although he really didn't know me very well and I'd hate to have to push a friendship that early in the piece; I didn't even have anything I could pawn (there was no way I could leave my PDA or bicycle, the only real things of value I have right here). On the way I found myself praying to a God I didn't believe in (i don't think I made any promises of changing faith should it turn up) but the one thing I did promise myself if the wallet turned up was to buy myself some strong drink to calm my nerves. And lo and behold, when I arrived at the restauarant and explained my situation the grim manager asked, 'What's your name?' and 'Where are you from?' and I knew I was saved.
Went straight next door to a pub whose name I can't remember and bought myself a whiskey, my heart still beating quite fast. I knew if it had gone missing it would have been a pain in the arse but not a disaster - but an avoided pain in the arse of that scale was something to celebrate.
While I was sipping away two women on the table next to me vocally admired my Pocket PC and we started chatting. Brenda and Abi their names were and they invited me to join them - I enthralled them with my tale of panic and my other adventures of the past few months and soon the rest of their friends joined them. Being Davie St the bar was one of the flamboyant variety and the others all fitted that description to a T, almost too well. Some of them belonged to a dog group and purebreeds seemed to be their passion but they were very nice and very interesting nonetheless (one of them was an ex-Olympic gymnast who missed out on his chance because of the 1980 American boycott, he didn't seem too bitter about it now). It was a very welcome night compard to what it could have been had I not found my wallet. We ate some dinner there before heading back to Brenda's place for some more drinks (very nice flat and very nice, very EXPENSIVE Canadian wine). Some of the others went to fetch their dogs prior (a very cute little pinscher, chihuahua mix and another little benjy-ish type dog whose breed I couldn't ID) and although dogs were large part of the conversation I still had a great time. Brenda passed out at some stage and the rest of us left rather quietly. Looks like i've made a few new friends.

Saturday, 29 October 2005

Dull Movies and Even Duller Books

27 September - Saw a crap documentary called Grizzly Man about an extremely annoying American who spent thirteen years living amonst the grizzly bears in Alaska before they finally ate him. Interesting story but the guy was annoying as hell (and the filmmaker was also pretty dull as well). Also spent the evening chatting with the students who are still very nice but very 17. They're all reading a book called 'The God Of Small Things' (which I think was recommended to me by Kate); I told them i'd just read it and they jumped on me - hoping I think that I could impart wisdom onto them so that they wouldn't have to read it (I wasn't particularly impressed with the book myself, well written but just kind of dull - in terms of plot, it's pretty much the same as Stephen King's the Green Mile).
Also, one of the guys at the hostel invited me to go down to Seattle with him today (he's not coming back) and I had to refuse unfortunately because I'll be moving Tuesday and also doing the interview on Monday. He was going to be driving but I'm sure I'll get there within the next few months or so.

Friday, 28 October 2005

Stanley Park

26 September - Slept in without wanting to again today but eventually pulled myself away and headed over to the driver's licence place - the cow at the other end of the hotline had given me an idea - it only takes 1 week to get a driver's licence printed so I thought i'd go and get my Learner's permit, thereby circumventing the need for the BC ID. Unfortunately the learner's permit doesn't have a photo on it and, in order to get something with a photo on it i'd need to pass a practical exam (not something i'm too keen on doing right now) - also, by gettinga learner's permit i'd be screwing my ability to drive later on with my Australian licence so basically i'm screwed and i've got to wait.
However, did get a phone call from an agency for temporary work and they want me to come in for an interview on Monday - this could give me something to tide over until I sort out my licence but i'm hoping the job will still be available when it finally comes through. I also suspect that I will have to shave for said interview on Monday and I haven't done that properly for three months - my skin will probably explode. I'll also have to get some 'business attire' for it - I think the thrift shop is calling. No point in investing in anything i'm only going to use for a few weeks.
However, did head out to Stanley Park, a National Park that's quite close to downtown - it had lots of trail rides and a quite large bike track that went along the water's edge. Very beautiful but we're coming up to Fall and the paths were getting very littered with leaves - I suspect it will be quite spectacular in a month or so when everything is red. Saw my first raccoon when I stopped for a coffee and was warned not to give it any food (didn't need the warning, no way was I sharing my mars bar with it) and also lots of black squirrels in the forest and along the paths. There was also a great lookout over the bay and the Lions Gate bridge, finally, Sax is a tourist in Vancouver.

Thursday, 27 October 2005


A guy walked up to a beautiful young woman in a bar. "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" he said to her."I don't know," replied the beautiful young woman. "It depends how personal it is." "OK,' the guy said. 'How many men have you slept with?""I'm not going to tell you that!" the woman exclaimed. "That's my business!""Sorry," said the guy, "I didn't realize you're making a living out of it."

One step closer ... but still far away

26 September - Went to do my courier licence exam at City Hall today - I was feeling very uncofmrotable about doing it for some reason but I'd read the study guide. Mostly just common sense but there was stuff about the specifics of the fucking by-law and some other information about studies conducted into bike crashes. THe test was multiple choice and some sections were very confusing but I passed with flying colours - now I just have to wait for my ID card before I can start. Hurrah. In regards to the ID went to the issuing place to see if it could be fastracked received no help whatsoever and called the helpline and the woman also gave me absolutely no help. For some reason it takes at least three weeks to "process" the application - it's very labour intensive it seems. I thought the Australian civil service was incompetent but compard to the Canadians they're like an ant colony. What needs to be done to process an ID card? All of the information and proof they needed they had on the spot - it just needs to be printed. Back at home they just print one out at the office itself. Very pissed off right now.
Also headed back out to Novex to get a letter from them so that I could fasttrack the SIN application and then spent about an hour waiting in the Human Resources office (i presume it's like an unemployment office) so that a sour old woman could enter my name into a computer. Before I knew it the day was gone again - i know it takes a lot of paperwork to set one's self up in a new country but Canadia is starting to lose its lustre because of all this constant waiting around - in a few weeks it should all be sorted but I can't fathom why it should take that long.

Antipodean Fellows

26 September - Met more weirdos in the hostel - I think that the hostel is also a permanent home for illegal immigrants (one korean guy said he'd been there for 3 years and another said he was a dishwasher - two and two in my mind make ... illegals). Also met a dodgy russian guy who'se been living in Australia - every second word is fuck this and fuck that, a bit creepy. The kitchen is the place where they all congregate so if I want to cook something i've got to do it as quickly as possible so I can get out without being engaged by these bizarros, although it is the best place to meet people in the place so it's a Catch-22.
Met up with Steve, the Australian I first saw at the airport when I arrived - he brought along his housemates, Hayley and Tess, a couple of kiwis who've been here for a month. He had scared me a bit when we first met but he turns out to be a very sound man indeed - butcher by trade, he's been moving around for the past five years and he had some great stories including having done the running of the bulls - will definitely be staying in touch with him whilst i'm here I hope. While we sucked down a few beers (Monsieur Robbie has such a way with words) we ended up chatting with a really creepy FInnish guy who was completely drunk. He had evil beady eyes and it looked like his face was covered with powder; in actual fact, he looked like a very ugly, pudgy Count Dracula -eerughhh .... Also were engaged by a really annoying Torontonian geological professor who wouldn't stop talking about investments - I was as sarcastic as I could be in showing interest (that is so fascinating ...) but he was oblivious to it. Wanker.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

F**king By-Laws

25 September - I have to presume that my mother is part of the Vancouver city council legislature due to the difficulties i've experienced today in regard to getting my courier licence. I think she's somehow engineered the law in this city to make it very difficult for me to get a job because she's concerned for my safety. Well, bless her for her concern but despite having a passport, oz driver's licence, numerous other forms of australian ID, Canadian bankcard, proof of application of my BC ID and proof of residence in the form of a rental agreement I can't get a bike courier licence until I actually have Canadian ID with photo, address and DOB. Why? Because it's in the by-law. Does it matter that I have a job offer that will probably expire by the time my ID arrives? No. Was the woman who explained this to me a stupid f**king bureaucrat who will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes? Yes.

The Village

25 September - Went and did a little bit of proper grocery shopping for the first time - couldn’t get too much as I had to bike it all back but did manage to acquire some decent breakfast cereal (Weetabix) and an overpriced sampling of my favourite condiment (Vegemite - a Quebecer whom I met in the kitchen asked what it was and I offered it to him - I don't think I improved Australian-Quebec relations with that though). Whilst in the supermarket I noticed two women shopping, one of whom was horribly burned - i've never seen a person with such horrific injuries, she had no ears and a stump where her right hand used to be and her face was just a mass of scar tissue (i think she still had her eyes though) - it's not a big thing but it's certainly something I don't think i'll forget.
Afterwards when I returned to the hostel I was invited out to dinner with the international students, which was very nice of them. It's quite amusing spending time with such young people (it turns out that one of them is 16 as well). One of them (the Vegan (who is surprisingly overweight for someone with such an apparently healthy diet), who also happens to be a very self-proclaimed lesbian, was desperate to go to the Village, Vancouver's flaming gay district, when we finally arrived after some poor navigation she almost leapt for joy at the sight of the rainbow flags lining the street. As with most gay districts there was nobody dancing shirtless in the streets and minimal places where 17 year olds could go so I think they were a little disappointed. We had a rather good Thai dinner (being an expert on Thailand, having spent about a month in the country and many years in restaurants I explained to them the intricacies of Thai dining, never put your fork in your mouth and always leave some rice on your plate - they just didn't get it though). I ordered a beer and when they realised that a restaurant wouldn't likely ask for ID they all jumped on the bandwagon as well, it was extremely obvious that they were underage but the waitress didn't seem to care. For all their apparent intelligence and maturity they are still just teenagers though and a couple of them have a woeful appreciation of tact, manners and basic social skills. Geraldo couldn't stop rubbenecking and the volume of his voice and the shit that came out of that boy's mouth, I ain't never heard. I did have a very good talk with the Spaniard whose name I can't spell and he gave me a bit of a rundown of how the school works - they're all on scholarships but necessarily academic ones - although they're all quite bright I think. It's a very long winded selection process which considers academic, extra curricular, psych testing and a bunch of other things. I certainly don't feel like an underachiever around them though. After we got back to the hostel, sans booze unfortunately for them (we couldn't find a bottle shop on the way back), I gave them a bit of my cherished duty free Jamesons. To my disgust Geraldo mixed his with Snapple and gulped it down (afterwards he complained that he shouldn't have eaten that day because the booze had no effect on him - I made an internal note not to give him any more of my whiskey). We chatted for quite a while but I decided to crash at midnight (i woke up at three and they were still going), am sure i'll see them again today though ...

Being F**ked By The Man

25 September - I never received the email from the courier company telling me where to go and I found it impossible to negotiate the IVR on the company phone number to actually get to speak to someone (despite using all of my insider knowledge about how a PABX works) so I checked the address of the company on the website and decided to head over there anyway. It was on the complete other side of town, about an hours ride from where I was staying and I was a little late. However, when I got there BJ (short for Bjarni - it's Icelandic) was waiting for me - we had a bit of a chat and he pretty much said I could start as soon as I got my licence plate. The pay is not great and there are few benefits but i'll get a pretty cool uniform as far as any uniform can be considered cool (and the blue colour (sorry, color, i'm in america now) goes with my bike) - unfortunately it will be a waiting game until I can get my ID card and then licence - so, I could potentially have started work today but the man is keeping me down. It'll give me a chance to do some tourist stuff (still haven't down any yet) and also try to learn the intricacies of the downtown core, which is where i'll be working. So, now, it's just a matter of time - hope I don't go broke whilst waiting for the stuff to sort itself out though.
Also had a very nice bagel and coffee afterwards - and also found that there's a half marathon coming up in November, which I think I should do - that does mean I have to reall start running again though ...

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

You Can't Fight City Hall

24 October - This morning I decided to buy breakfast - i'd bought some cereal as soon as I got here and whilst iit was okay it was loaded with sugar - i've got nothing against that but it was just too sweet for me and i'd not got around to buying any decent alternative. There was a cheap diner up the road that was reasonably nice although the eggs, like all the eggs i've had in this country this far were a very pale yellow - they tasted okay, a bit watery maybe, but not the deep orange that I normallyhave a hankering for. Upon my return to the hostel I was confronted by David, the fat weird guy who works here who started telling me about the 32 dollars he made from an online trade and then gave me a long winded rundown of everything he knew about the forks and the spikes and the trends, every sentence ended with an 'aye'. Talk about your stereotypes (Later Note: can't remember how I got away from him but I think i'd better learn a strategy because he did the same thing again when I returned to the hostel in the afternoon). Also, got a phone call this morning from a guy from Novex, one of the courier companies in Vancouver, we had a little bit of a chat and he asked me to come in for an interview tomorrow. With the prospects of potential employment I thought i'd better start getting some of the paperwork sorted out. After a few phone calls and some internet searching I found that in order to get an courier licence I needed to go for an exam (which I was aware of) but I also needed photo ID with my Vancouver address on it. Considering I’d just found a Vancouver address the day before that wasn't going to be easy but I went down to the driver's licence place address that I was given over the phone only to find it didn't exist - eventually found it a couple of blocks away. 40m wait to see someone but it went pretty smoothly (for $35 you'd expect it to) but I was told it would be about 3 weeks before it was delivered to my new address (nobody asked me for proof of address funnily enough) - I needed the ID for Wednesday when I do the exam ... I'm hoping I can work around this with my Oz licence and passport and a copy of the BC ID confirmation slip but after speaking to the girl earlier in the day I don't think it's likely (hoping the courier company chooses to be a bit more lenient - but knowing what paragons of virtue those couriers ar with their legendary respect of the road rules and the law it's not looking promising). Also went for my SIN (social ID number I think), which was surprisingly quick although I was told it would take 5 weeks before it was delivered unless I could get a letter from an employer stating they needed it urgently - what's wrong with me standing there SAYING I need it urgently??? Whilst at the Human Resources Centre I met a couple of Australians from Orange - a bit ocker but very nice - they're about to head up to whistler to serve as menial labour for the tourist industry - we said we'd stay in touch ...
The three Aussies also sent me in the right direction for setting up a bank account with Royal Bank of Canada - had to make an appointment and come back but when I did the girl was very nice and very talkative but we got through it pretty quickly. They don't seem to charge as much as Australian banks ... But then again, I don't think any country does.
I forgot how much crap one needs to go through to set one's self up in a new country. I think i've gone through most of the bureaucracy i've had to go through although this licence thing could be a bit of a bugbear (and not one of the cute ones from D&D either).

Students International

24 October - After finding my residence yesterday (and feeling quite pleased with myself about it) I did a few errands and then reluctantly went back to the hostel to tell them I’d be staying another week. It really isn't so bad but the room is quite tiny and due to the positioning of the power point and the fridge it means that I can't open it when it's plugged in or if I have anything else plugged in. The powerpoint is also falling apart from people have taking the plug in and out every time they want to open it up. I should be moving to a new room anyway - which will probably be worse than this one.
Whilst I was making myself some toast in the kitchen I met a young Bahaman (not Bohemian but someone from the Bahamas) who was very friendly ... almost TOO friendly. Later on I met him with a couple of his friends and they were also all very friendly too. We had a bit of a chat and it turned out they were all from a college down in Victoria and were up here doing a project on interfaith studies, I immediately thought, OF COURSE, they want to convert me to whatever it is they're doing! This never happened but I said that we'd go for a drink sometime. They invited me up to their room later on and there were six of them - all very young and all very international, there was Geraldo the Bahamian, (the other names I can't remember) a Spaniard, a Guatemalan (from Central America, because South America doesn't exist according to him), a Swiss, and two Canadian girls (one was a Vegan from Ontario and from Saskcatchawan) - we were chattingaway and they were very nice but there was something strange I couldn't put my finger on. They were all a bit political and very earnest - they asked how old I was and seemed surprised (i think they were flattering me) and then I asked how old they were and the answers ... 17, 17, 17, 17, 17 and 17 (which kind of explained everything to me). They were all at an international school and I think they must have been pretty gifted (although they weren't all acting like it last night) because they were alluding that they'd all be doing pretty special things afterwards although none of them semed to be takingtheir interfaith project too seriously. Very interestingmeeting though - and they're here for the next week along with me. One of them wants to buy me them some booze though, my ethics are not really strained by the action but I can just see myself doing it and then seeing him rushed to hospital with alcoholic poisoning after drinking a can of light beer and me beingsent to jail for 9 months .... Dilemmas, dilemmas ...

Monday, 24 October 2005

Homeless No More

23 October - Went out last night but did not really enjoy myself very much - had a drink at a sports bar and then went to the Cambie, which is like a traveller's drinking hole. The bouncer kept me at the door even though there was noone else there before letting me in - full of drunken yahoos (both foreign and domestic) - perhaps if i'd started drinking when they did them I wouldn't feel the contempt that I did or maybe i'm just getting old. In any event, got a bit tired a bit quickly and opted out. On my return I was cornered by the guy who works at the hostel who wanted advice on how to use his Pocket PC, he's kind of strange but friendly enough (he's not a handsome man with his shirt off though - that thought alone kept me from sleeping). Made a skype call or two before crashing out and sleeping in (until 8am, hurrah!) - and had my cereal (the weirdo guy who grunts at me wasn't in the kitchen when I ate - thank God) and checked some online ads for shar accommodation.
Went out for a coffee before I left and had a bit of a chat with Drew, an older hippie who's been staying at the hostel for a few days - very nice, he's a writer of some kind and is working on projects to keep retirees from retiring by reskilling them - very noble effort and an incredibly interesting person, I think he was a bit of an activist when he was younger - pity he's leaving today.
Went for my first proper ride on the bicycle today out to East 54th avenue for an open house inspection (which means 53 blocks south of 1st avenue) which was mostly uphill, it was also quite far East from where I was so it took quite some time - I was in the general vicinity when I realised I was getting a bit lost in a bunch of golf coures and horse riding camps - I looked at my note and realised that I was supposed to be at 29th avenue instead! In any event, I was approaching an appointment with another place so I high-tailed it back there. The next place was kind of dingy but had pretty much all facilities and the landlord was a very nice Russian guy (we had a chat about where Russia was going today - he thinks Russia is not very safe now and he's ashamed of it (???)) - he also said he might be able to give me a job (he's in telcos) if the bike thing doesn't work out, could be interesting. In any event went down to another appointment for a share house on East First Avenue (so easy to navigate in this city, it's fantastic - bit hilly though) and found the place where i'm going to move into. Big room in a beautiful old house with a large backyard, all facilities including wifi and house computer, TV and stuff, even a cleaner and it seems like a pretty good area - and the price was less than some of the awful places. There will be six people living there - but I think that could be a good thing at first (helps to expand my very small network at this stage of my trip). The landlord seemed nice enough - I was the first to see the flat (he put the ad in that morning) so I gave him the deposit and I move in next week. It does mean I have to stay at the hostel another week but it's not so bad and I can relax a bit and see what Vancouver has to offer now that i'm not traipsing all over looking for a place to live (although the job search will have to start now unfortunately).
For anyone who wants to send me a postcard (i don't know why anyone would because they're not going to get a reply from me) or some Vegemite, the address for the house is:
1949 East First Avenue
Vancouver BC V5N 1B3

Sunday, 23 October 2005

On ya bike!

22 October - Dropped off about 930pm last night - presume it's the jetlag - one minute I was reading a book, next thing I woke up at 3 in the morning. It seems this time travel doesn't really agree with me.
Went for a very long walk in order to find a coffee in the morning - had to pass three Starbucks before I found a place that didn't serve filtered tar. However, when I did find one it was very agreeable and the man who served it to me was very nice (shopkeepers can be very friendly in this town). Made a few phone calls for some ads for share houses and this time I bought a day pass so that I wouldn't kill myself traversing the town looking at them. Saw about four in the day - one quite nice and the rest not so nice - one was miles away over the river and was also unfurnished so that was out. The last one I looked at was quite funny - I knocked on the door and asked to speak to Graeme, he wasn't home - I told the guy who answered the door why I was there and he said with great urgency, 'Don't move in here! It's a hole! That's why i'm moving out!' - unfortunately he was right ... Will check out a couple more tomorrow and in the week but if I don't find anything I might go with one I saw today (if still available).
My feet are still quite painful from yesterday - despite not walking around too much today, once I get some more permanent lodgings I want to start running again - haven't done any since the failed marathon but have to get back on the bike (or not get on the bike as the case may be).
On the subject of bikes though, I went to one last bike store today, Simon's Bike Store - i'd already decided on on the Trek MTB that I saw the previous day - but after going to SBS I changed my mind and bought a very cool Specialised mountain bike and got it a little bit customised. Very happy with the purchase as it came in below my budget and they even had a sale on shoeses and I bought a $220 pair of Shimano boots for only $50. It's a very nice looking bike so i'm probably going to have to put some scratches on it to make it a little bit less stealable (knowing the way I ride, shouldn't be a problem). The guy who sold me the bike, Simon, was extremely exciteable ... "Fifty bucks! That's nothing man!"; "You're gonna go so fast! Those wheels are so thin man!", Everything he said seemed to need an exclamation mark on the end.
All in all, Vancouver seems quite nice - I really don't like some of the people in the hostel though, thank God I have a private room ... Hopefully I won't pass out too early today - it's a Saturday and I want to see if I can cope with what nightlife this place has to offer ...

Saturday, 22 October 2005

Always Read The Map Scale

21 October - Am back in my flat and my footses and legses are in horrible shape. I walked all over Vancouver today and I retraced my steps quite a few times too. I'd made a few appointments to check out some share houses today and I though it would be relatively easy to walk it. I'd already been told that trips I'd already taken were 'bus distances' but I found them to be easily walkable. The jetlag woke me up pretty early (5ish) but the first appointment was at 11 so I did some preliminary job searching. Walked a very long way to the first appointment and was early and there was nobody home. Toddled off and had an awful coffee from a very nice man who had a stuffed lion in his café (he gave me the history, the lion died of old age in the zoo) and returned to the house to find nobody home. And this was the one flat that I didn’t have a phone number for. What was worse was that I had another appointment at a house across the road from this one at 5pm (thought i'd kill two birds but nobody was home at that one). Went to about a dozen bike shops to try to find the best one - there were some very nice ones that were way too expensive and some awful ones that were also way too expensive but on the whole the guys who run bike shops in Vancouver are infinitely more helpful and friendly than the ones in Sydney or London. Think i've decided on where i'm going to get it from now - a nice Trek MTB with disc brakes that slides in just under my budget.
Wandering from shop to shop brutalised my feet - eventually I took advantage of public transport (which is quite good f you know where you're going, which I don't) to get me to one of the share houses. Both of the places I saw today were quite similar - house with four or five travellers or students or escaped convicts (in both of them I would be replacing a Korean student [probably from South Korea]) and they all had shared washroom (they don't like to say toilet or even bathroom over here it seems), kitchen, some storage, cable TV and, quite conveniently, wi-fi internet. The one that was further away (still close to the SkyTrain) was in a crappy basement flat underneath a very, very nice house (the landlady shooed me away from the front door when I arrived, I think she didn't want the neighbour to see me) and the other was in a niceish house but isn't available until the 15th unless I want to take a room slightly bigger than a small single bed.
In any event, i've just got to learn that when something two things are a couple of centimetres away from each other in the map this can translate to 10km in the real world, next time i'm going to read the scale.
One slightly nice thing was that I found a place called 'Cob Bakery' (which must be part of the bakers delight chain) which sells cheesymite scrolls, haven't had one for three months and it was ... pretty good for a Canadian bakery. Also had an opportunity to show off my prodigious strength by helping some Japanese students take their relatively light bags up the stairs in the hostel.
One thing that i've noticed here which is absolutely infuriating and will be eradicated in the Utopia I eventually create is the GST and PST (i don't know what PST stands for yet). All prices are advertised without and usuallyend with .99 and when you pay you it goes up 7 or 14% and i'm getting heaps of crappy pennies filling up my pockets. Very annoying. Nobody could ever convince me that pushingthe cost onto the consumer was the right way to go - when you see a price, that is the price you should pay - no arguments. If the government wants to put a tax on something it should be invisible to the consumer - i'll be here for another 9 months and I don't think i'm ever going to get used to that one.

It's cold out there

21 October - Settled into the Grand Trunk Hostel, my hopefully short term accommodation in Vancouver. It's okay - although the people i've met in the hostel thus far are either Asian students who don't seem to speak any English or rather strange locals or Australians - not the most friendly bunch of people unfortunately. I'm sure there are lots of nice people out there - my first impression of Canadians was excellent but you always get a fair percentage of whack-jobs in hostels in my experience. I wish I was still staying with James, that would mean that the whack-job was a friend of mine. There's free internet here but only one computer which is in high demand (only available during day time as well) but there's also free wi-fi in the hostel so my PDA can do some limited substitution. Went for a wander last night and had a very expensive beer before coming back to the waterfront near where I lived where I saw a bunch of people being forcibly removed from one pub then accidentally found myself in a very dodgy area (all of the drug dealers hang around a couple of streets away) so I returned home. There are heaps of homeless people around the hostel, which isn't so bad but the begging is reminescent of SE Asia, there are so many of them approaching me. Also, at night time and in the morning it has proved itself to be freezing cold - will probably go look for some proper clothes today. Main plan today is to go visit some share houses for more permanent digs and then ... job hunting.

Friday, 21 October 2005

Canadia At Last

20 September - Arrived at the airport and got through customs and immigration without too much trouble (have to say that the immigration officials were complete arseholes - not to me, but they were incredibly rude to some Asian and Arab families - not quite sure what to make of that). Got a bus into downton and met an Australian on the way - from Perth, very Australian but quite nice - good to make any contacts I can at this point in the trip. He got off before I did but I found the hostel quite directly. So far my experience of Canadians (apart from immigration) has been superb - they're all super friendly and very helpful, i'm sure there are a fair amount of arseholes amongst them but thus far i've been lucky. Also, despite warnings the weather today has been great and the streets are really easy to navigate. It's not very exotic but it's very clean and very pretty - we'll see if it deserves The Economist's accolade of most liveable city in the world. Turns out i'd booked the hostel for tomorrow night (i made the booking at midnight last and got the dates confused) but there was no issue. Pretty crappy room but it has electricity, a bed, a fridge and even a TV (and an awful painting on the wall and an unidentifiable smell but they should both fade into the background reasonably quickly I hope).
Lots of homeless around here unfortunately, all have got bizarre accents - iafter reading 'Call Of The Wild' (which everybody should do) I have made the presumption that they are Newfoundland accents - will seek confirmation in the coming days.
Ran out to the shops to organise a few things - got a SIM card for my phone (the majority of the phones in North America are CDMA but there is a GSM network as well), unfortunately prices are rather exhorbitant AND you have to pay to receive calls as well as make them so i'll have to watch myself on that one (looks like Skype will become even more valuable over here). In any event the number is 7782394827 but if anyone is pining to hear my voice they better keep it quick.
Also whilst out I tried a Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut - the virtues of this brew were extolled to me by Patrick Collins (not the one we know and love unless you also know and love his Canadian cousin as well) but I have to agree with Matthew Gray's assessment, which is, almost as good as McDonalds coffee (the doughnut wasn't great either) - but, it's an institution over here so who am I to judge (did read a bizarre article about the decline of tea in Britain in the Wall Street Journal on the plane where the journalist seemed to think that decent coffee was invented in America by Starbucks ... how deprived these great nations are).
But, looks like i've scored a few goals since i've got here - tomorrow i'll start the search for a more permanent residence and then ... I really don't want to think about it, but ... I'll start looking for a job.

Chasing The Sun

20 September - Despite delays due to foggy German weather (what are the German's up to this time?) I made it to Frankfurt and my connecting flight (which was, of course, also delayed). Luckily for Lufthansa I got my window seat although i've got a really crappy view of the television (to paraphrase John Leguizamo's immortal quip, 'I hope there's NOT a good movie on this flight!') and I've got a rather enormous European lady sitting next to me - doesn't Lufthansa have rules about people like this? I thought they were supposed to buy two tickets! (apologies to any morbidly obese people reading this missive). Whilst i've been sitting here waiting to take off (another delay caused by one of the passengers not turning up and they have to remove his luggage) my big hearted (well, big bodied anyway) neighbour has relocated to another seat leaving me enough air to breath and another vantage point for the TV ... Hurrah. Oh, and another 20 fucking minute delay caused by those pesky Germans with their evil bad weather creating machines. I find it quite amusing when i'm on a plane and the takeoff has been delayed - I don't really know why anyone would get stressed. There's no discernible difference between being on a plane that's airborne or on the ground, it's almost preferable because it's quieter - the total time doesn't really change either as they just go faster when they're in the air in order to make the original arrival time. I suppose one thing is that if you're in 'conomy you don't get any booze until you're airborne. Have also just looked up the inflight magazine and have discovered that the fillums we will be watching are 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' and 'Bewitched' ... Damn those Germans, damn them all to hell!!!
Finally got underway and we are chasing the sun as we go backwards in time - I can see the wrinkles fading and my grey hair is turning brown again - it's amazing ... saw some icebergs whilst we were up in the air (a Canadian guy told me it was near Hudsons Bay - when we looked at a map it showed it was somewhere in between Canadia and Greenland) - I think we were flying at 10km altitude and they were so big I felt I could reach out and grab one. I tried to mentally work out how big they were - 10k up, about 20-30cm wide at the window ... then I realised that it was far too much trouble and went to sleep. Also crossed over some mountains on the east coast that were poking above a sea of clouds - very, very beautiful but it also looked very, very ... cold. Great flight over the land - it became quite clear and I had a great view of the Rockies and other mountain ranges and vast tracts of land. A local guy in the seat in front of me gave me a great running commentary on what was what, spectacular scenery - cannot wait to get up close.
Oh, and I'm here.

On hair

Black people have really cool haircuts
... One thing that's really stuck out that i've noticed whilst living in London generally, but especially Camberwell, is the incredible range of very impressive haircuts that the local black population sport. Lots of girls and boys with corn rows, mini-dreds, tight braids, dead straight hair and every colour of the rainbow. I have to say I feel very inadequate and whilst I believe it is a very rare thing for a white man to look good with dredlocks I think I may have to experiment with sporting a new look (not dredlocks but maybe something else that will offend my parents).

Fare Thee Well London Town

20 September - Slept in on my last day (again, won't be able to do that when i'm gainfully employed unfortunately) and did a few errands around the house before going for a local wander. Couldn't really think of anything to do - didn't want to do any touristy things and everyone I knew in town was either away or working - did go and say a final farewell to James in the early evening at the salubrious Trading House - he showed me the new drinks menu which was very impressive although I wasn't very happy about the use of a the way too Bondi and seriffy Times New Roman font (i suggested the more manly Verdana), I also found a wee mistake which will have to wait until the next print run to fix. Does look like an impressive drinks menu though. Headed back to the flat and head dinner with Stefan and Walber ending it with Amaretto and expensive chocolatets (i really don't like Amaretto, it reminded me of the one unpleasant thing about staying with Irina in Slovakia - she has a penchant for rather awful apeterifs). It was very nice staying at Red Square, although it was a bit edgy i'm quite sure it will be a little bit nicer than the budget hotel i've booked in Vancouver for my arrival.
I booked a taxi for 615 and set my alarm for 545 so I wasn't in the st mood after waking up. The taxi came early and I had to run out of the house to get it but had said goodbye to my gracious hosts the previous nights. The tube was direct and it was working this time (unlike the Amsterdam's epic journey) but I did end up meeting a young Indian man going home. We had a bit of a chat and he sat next to me on the tube, which was great, company is good, but he did invade my personal space quite a bit (the arm rest is supposed to represent the limit of how far you're allowed to encroach, sir!) - computer problems and weather problems plagued my eventual arrival in my seat but i'm now sitting on my flight somewhere between London and Frankfurt so i'm certainly on the way.
Did a bit of celebrity spotting as well - Jamie Oliver, the pucker TV chef and social revolutionary is on my plane (travelling economy in solidarity with the rest of us plebs) - despite the revulsion that many of the English i've met have expressed for his annoying TV style I have to say that I think he is amazing. Successful TV chef's abound but none of the others perform the social activism to the extent that he does - the setting up of the restaurant to assist disadvantaged children was a minor step but he's started a revolution in England with trying to fix the nutrition problems that are endemic in England, especially amongst children. Now, hopefully he'll be sufficiently horrified by the micro sammiches being served by Lufthansa to fix the nutrition problems on the planes (actually, i'm only kidding, I love airplane food) ...

Thursday, 20 October 2005

Rockin' Night

19 September - Tis my last day on the small island and I ended up wasting a fair portion of it by oversleeping. After we ate an authentic London curry (which, if you ask me, was that that much better than one you'd get in Australia - even the Chopes had to concede this) me and Ade headed out to a local pub to suck down a few beers and then went off to see Nick's band, Ugly, rehearse at a local recording/practice studio (i think that's what it was). Excellent atmosphere - a tiny room full of cigarette and marijuana smoke, cans of Stella littering floor and blokes belting out incredibly loud hard music. it did make me feel a bit wistful for never having learned how to play an instrument or sing a song but it was a lot of fun. They will be playing their first gig in a few weeks and were just ironing out the bugs but if you ask me it was an excellent sound. They're probably not going to be heard on a radio in Australia for quite some time but that's Australia's loss.
It was raining pretty heavily when we left so Nick gave me a lift back to Red Square where I regaled my hosts with a vivid description of all I had seen and then I had a play with my PDA to see if I could fix the email thing (might have been fixed, not sure yet).
Have a few errands to do today but planning on keeping it quiet to ensure nothing gets missed (especially my flight tomorrow morning) - Canadia here I come, aye.

Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Grand Surroundings

18 September - Took us ages to get back to London this afternoon - the weather had delayed our trip somewhat and there were substantial queues at Heathrow once we arrived but after a severe grilling by the immigration official (very concerned about my ability to support myself ... as am I, I suppose) we were back on English soil. We got back to Primrose Hill as quickly as possible where James got his shit together for work and we had a wee sample of an extra souvenir that had somehow made it through the web of security that is London customs (note to James, just because you take a spliff from Amsterdam to London doesn't make you a suave international drug smuggler) before heading out to Clerkenwell so James could get to work. I wandered around a bit before heading back to PH to move my stuff out to Islington, where I would be staying with Walber (Brazilian from Chang Mai).
An absolutely beautiful apartment in a secured block in Islington - full of expensive furniture and objects d'art and it was very, very tidy. Walber was quite relaxed but I always get concerned when staying in places that are more like design showrooms than places of residence, I feel that I have to make sure that when I drop my bag down it is symetrically aligned with the rug, clothes can't be just dumped on the floor and I can't do my usual habit of setting up a campfire in the bedroom for warmth ... but when in Rome ... His partner, Stefan, whose existence I was seriously beginning to doubt (i'd visited the place three times and he was never there), arrived at about 11 and we had a nice dinner - he's French but has lived in London for the past 10 years, they're both very nice, and this would have to be the most elegant surroundings i've stayed in since I started travelling (maybe not as homely as Chez Cucvarova in Slovakia but i'm not going to complain). Good way to finish off England before I move back into the horrors of travel accommodation when I head off to Canadia later in the week. I was still feeling quite wrecked from the weekend's exertions so I crashed out a little bit earlier than usual and then slept in - was woken up by workman painting the ceiling of the main room (??) but I didn’t have any serious plans for the day. Did another sesh of Bikram Yoga and sweated out most of the toxins that my body had accumulatetd from the Dam and then did a bit more exploring of the area (I'd read that Highbury-Islington had a free muni-wi-fi experiment across the whol area - found it but it didn't work unfortunately) then headed over to Turnpike Lane (just one stop further than my travelpass allowed) where Ade's sister, helen, lives. The plan, at this moment, is to eat a 'proper' English curry then head off to the pub few beers before we go see Nick's (Helen's husband) band rehearse ... Sounds like a plan to me.
Having issues with the email on my PDA, which is giving me no end of bother ... I can send them but I can't receive them so i'm trying to juggle responses to emails that I read online and hope that I align the subjects otherwise they get muddled up and one of the principle benefits of using gmail (the conversation) is lost ... Am sure i'll sort it out sooner or later though.

Tuesday, 18 October 2005

The Smoky Fun House

17 october - Got woken up by the sunlight and felt rather good despite the previous night because we'd had a mostly full nights sleep. Checked out of the hostel and proceeded to try to get in touch with Marcel - it took us until the afternoon because he wasn't answering his phone and we were stuck to calling in Internet cafes because we didn't have a number we could be contacted on.
We weren't going to meet with him until late afternoon so we decided to go for a bit more of an exploration of Amsterdam. First stop was the print media museum near the Dam - enormous blown up photographs taken from newspapers and magazines around the world as well as a fair collection of arty gritty portraits of wasted musicians (even Cliff Richards to our profound shock). Next we headed down to the Heineken brewery for the self-guided tour - on the way we were interrupted by the Amsterdam Marathon, which was being run that day - the runners we were passing for the most part looked like they'd been going for quite some time and I had a bit of sympathy for them but it was too depressing to hang around watching and the brewery was calling us.
It was pretty tacky, with a glamorised history of the shadowy corporation hidden behind the supposed passion of one man's desire to spread the joy of drinking his beer and a how-it-works display. There was a lot of space devoted to the commercials and some very unimpressive video rides where we learned what it was like to be a bottle on the assembly line (we had to BE the bottle) and a simulation of riding on a horse cart. At the end we were given a few free beers which could have turned out to be quite a few free beers (in the fifteen minutes we were at the bar we were offered several more but we had a schedule to keep).
We did do a bit of sampling throughout the day but we were taking it in our stride this time - and we didn't spend nearly as much time wanderingin circles, our map and the city seemed to correspond this time.
It took us quite a while to get back to Centrum to pick up our bags and then take the tram down to Marcel's small but functional flat.
Sander and Marcel and a couple of other people where there and there was much rejoicing. We had a few drinks and then ate a traditional Dutch meal of sausage and smashed vegetable and potato dish that was very, very filling.
Marcel, Sander, James and I then headed back in to town for a tour of the Sunday nightlife - quite a bit more booze and we were a little liberal on the other delights of Dutch intoxication - we'd wandered around the red light district the night before but even thoughit was a sunday the whole city seemed to be alive (and off its face). We did have a few drinks at a karaoke bar but we hadn't emboldened ourselves enough at that point so we had to be content with laughing at the combination of failed jazz singers, drunken businessmen and deluded-in-love duet-singing couples who were all very amusing.
Due to some of the medicinal qualities of the products we were ingesting we found ourselves constantly stopping off to buy food - and most of it was incredibly unhealthy - at the end of the night my stomach felt scarily stretched I was at a loss to think how it could all be digested. Considering our earlyish flight time and the Dutch's workingthe next day it was a very late night.
After we got up the next day and were steeled by some palatable coffee (on the whole the coffee in this country is, to me, pretty awful - quite strange considering that coffee shops are what it is famous far) before we headed down Marcel's very steep stairs and made our way to the aiport. I was quite impressed with how directly we made our way through to the aiport although there were some pretty woeful queues and no shortage of checks and rechecks (we were electronically screened twice and I was given one of the most intimate gropes i've ever received from a man in an airport). We finally made it to our plane and boarded just at the scheduled departure time only to be told that due to bad weather in London we're going to be delayed at over an hour (1020 tp 1130) - not very good to be waitinng around on the plane for so long but at least we know we're not going to miss it. Just been told until 1200 ... 1215 now ... Grrrrr. ...
Certainly was a very different city to anything else i've seen on the trip - very enjoyable but I don't think an excessive stay would be a very healthy option.

Last Orders

15 September - Went out for last drinks with the housemates on Thursday night. Very enjoyable evening and everyone made an appearance - some made more of an appearance than others though. Finishing off with rounds of tequilas was probably not the best idea after the previous nights adventures but it did inspire me to compulsorily acquire a dozen forks for the household. Experiments with absinthe when we returned to the house led to some rejoicing and some lamenting - tis a wicked woman that green fairy.
The next day was started with ibuprofen and followed later by a purging at the Bikram Yoga studio again - I seem to be getting a little bit better but that just makes it harder because i'm doing the poses properly now. AMusing moment when the teacher was adjusting a woman's pose and asked if she was pregnant only to be told an icy NO.
That night went out with Kimberley, Yvonne and Steve and another friend of theirs whose name I cannot recall to see A Few Good Men, staring pretty-boy Rob Lowe. I've always wanted to see the play and the direction and sets were excellent. There was also some signiciant scenes that had been omitted from the film version which were very interesting (the Keifer Sutherland character was far more detailed and was an absolute religious nut) although for the most part it was a line by line simulacrum. The performances however were slightly disappointing. There was lots of spittle flying across the stage and the scenes where Caffee and Jessup were shouting at each other didn't seem to sync up just right. Rob Lowe also made the most unbelievably implausible theatre punch to another character but then again, all he needed to do was just show up on stage. The intermission was marked by the loud slopping noise of wet panties slucking away from the vinyl chairs as the female contingent of the audience reminesced about St Elmos Fire and Class but probably not that dodgy Gulf War film that he did post-rehab. Hate to say it but Tom Cruise he ain't.
After saying my fare thee wells to Kimberley who is also off on her own international holiday I called James to see if he was still working as I planned on crashing over there that night prior to the flight to Amsterdam. He told me to meet him at his old workplace, The Penthouse. I arrived earlier but was greeted by one of James' replacements and whisked up to the top with all the beautiful people where I was provided with whatever my heart desired. James eventually turned up and introduced me to the myriad of associates and friends that he has accumulated in this little bar before steadily getting roaring drunk (and taking me along with him) before stealing the bar's pineapple at a very, very late hour. I suppose it's a sign of his extreme competence that he can get away with such outrageousness.
Tried to organimise things once we returned to the flat with various degrees of success - woke up jamess' flatmate twice, the second time whilst we were locked in unarmed physical combat with each other. Eventually my travelling companion finished his packing (i would later learn it to be in woeful despair of long trousers but very generous in underwear and shorts {I didn't think my friend required changing on such a regular basis}) but sleep was something that had to be sacrified for the ordeal. Had very little trouble getting to the airport although the major lines were down and we had to change three times to eventuallyget there and we were still pretty early. Before boarding, however, we bore witness to the rather unpleasant sight of a youngish man being physically dragged aay from the plane screaming 'i want an immigration officer! I want an immigration officer!'. Had no idea what his background story was. We had to play a bit of musical chairs in order to sit next to each other on the plane but luckily we ended up when we did because james was, in his obvious tension because of his irrational and unrealised fear of flying, probing the nooks and crannies of his seat and he found a small bag of hash in the glove compartnent. I came to the most obvious conclusion, that it had been placed there by the airline as a free sample of the country's most recognisable herb, but relucantly had to concede that an English or Dutchman had simply forgotten about then found it on his person whilst flying over to london and did the sensible thing of disposing of it forthwith.
When we arrived in Amsterdam we realisd that we had not organised any accommodation nor investigated how we would get into town. Asked around and found our way into Amsterdam Central and eventually found an okay hostel filled with French speaking but randomly nationalised students studying in Belgium in town for the weekend. All very yong but pleasant enough when they spoke English. Me and James decided that first things first were to head straight out into the coffee shop world and sample what the country had to offer. The coffee was quite awful, very few of the places sell anything that's any good on the coffee front but the other was quite spectacular. We headed out to a few sights on an impromptu walking tour that resulted in many wrong turns and a complete inability to read the spider web of a map. We were helped out by a beggar who we weren't too bothered about paying for his rescue of us but in our state of mind we didn't stay found for very long. The city or at least the central city would have to be one opf the most unique Western cities i've ever been in. The utter dominance of bicycles as the rulers of the road takes quite a while to get used to and the tall crooked buildings that ar all on the verge of falling down and ar not only left standing but ar left occupied. Me and James kept on seeing things that completely baffled us and could have only acknowledge to each other that 'That's Weird!'. There were many things that just didn't eem right, warm food vending machines, the most incredibly busy walk way i've ever been in, windshields in front of baby seats on bicycles, incredible tolerance of soft drugs, and, of course, the strangely inoffensive window displays of semi-naked prostitutes plying their wares. It all adds up to my conviction that this city is just weird.
Did find the Van Gogh museum which was one of the most spectacular galleries i've seen on the trip. Not an enormous building but thousands of paintings all of either Van Gogh himselg for his contemporaries. Not all of them were in the same style but there were very good English briefs which mnade it much easier to appreciate. More map misadventures resulted in an extremely protracted return to the hostel but we evntually found it and met up with and headed out for dinner wih our temporarily Belgiam temporary roommates before me and James did the obligatory tour of the red light district and drinking different sized beers at several of AC's finest public houses. Embarrassed myself by knocking over an old woman's beer and had her leap on my ordering that I repay it (she happened to be just about the only person iv emet in this city who didn't speeak English). Before we ended our night we went for a coffee and tried some chocolat spacecake, which, I presumed would combine with my lack of sleep for the past night to suitably knock me out. However, it hasn't seemed to happen and it's 1 in the morning and i'm still typing as james snores overhead me. It was very nice cake though.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

Baffling Japanese Anime

14 October - Took a while to stir this morning due to the hospitality of the previous night but eventually saw daylight and completed some errands before heading to Peckham Cinema with Michael, a probable rogue who is also staying in the house. The film we went to see was Howl's Moving Castle, a bizarro Japanese fantasy film that has been redubbed into English. I have to wonder if it lost anything in translation or, most probably, if the Japanese aren’t concerned with trifling things such as plot, continuity or whether a film makes a lick of sense at all. It was very beautiful to watch but I can't say it really did anything for me.

Don't Let Fear Kill Muni Wi-Fi

Don't Let Fear KillMuni Wi-FiBy Jennifer Granick02:00 AM Oct. 12, 2005 PT
Plans are afoot in Philadelphia andHuntsville, Alabama, as well as myhometown of San Francisco, toprovide residents with low-cost orfree wireless internet access. It's agreat idea whose time has come, likedrinking fountains, public toilets andpark benches. But last week, the SanFrancisco Chronicle reported that mycity's mayor expects a legal challengefrom internet service providers likeSBC and Comcast, who presumablyprefer every San Franciscan to pay amonthly access fee.Obviously, ISPs fear competition froma free service. But people pay forbottled water, music downloads,open-source operating systems andprinted versions of free blogs.Companies can still make money incities with public Wi-Fi by sellingeven faster service or bundlingconnectivity with subscriptions,software or support.Circuit CourtAnd a look a past lawsuits involvingopen wireless suggests that ISPs willneed new legislation if they want tostop community Wi-Fi.There have been only a few caseschallenging open wireless access, butnone against municipalities. SomeISPs have written cease-and-desistletters demanding that theircustomers stop sharing theirbroadband connections overwireless, though none of thesecomplaints has evolved into alawsuit. Many of these disputes arebased on contractual provisions inthe ISP terms of service, which oftenstipulate that customers won't sharetheir broadband connections withother people. Some ISPs, likeSpeakeasy, encourage customersharing, so this restriction is by nomeans universal. And whileindividuals may not have thebargaining power to change thiscontractual term when signing up forwhatever ISP is available in theirarea, San Francisco and othermunicipalities certainly do.In another case, Time Warner sued aNew York City company that installedrouters converting the cableprovider's broadband service intobuilding-wide wireless service. TimeWarner claimed that the companywas illegally capturing and resellingTime Warner’s signal. No courtruled on the validity of this argumentbecause the parties reached asettlement agreement in which thedefendant promised to stop what itwas doing. But whatever companyends up providing wireless in SanFrancisco will do so with its ownequipment and resources.Finally, a smattering of cases havebeen brought against individuals forusing someone else's wirelesswithout permission. But with freemunicipal Wi-Fi, everyone isauthorized to use it by definition.So without legislation, ISPs have nolegal basis for stopping communityWi-Fi. But legislation is a distinctpossibility. The city of Philadelphiaalmost had to scrap its Wi-Fi planwhen the state governor threatenedto sign a bill barring cities fromproviding internet service for a fee.To get legislatures to act, ISPs willargue that they can’t afford toinvest in technological improvementsif they have to compete with freeservices. But the loudest argumentwe'll hear won't be that the wirelessservice itself is illegal, but that peoplewill use it for illegal purposes.Internet crime, whether it be fraud ordeceptive spam, is nothing new, butopen Wi-Fi poses a genuine problemfor law enforcement by makingdigital perpetrators harder to track.Despite the popular view that theinternet is anonymous, manynet-enabled systems are set up torecord or log the internet protocol, orIP, address of computers that makeconnections to it. When investigatingdigital crimes, law enforcement cansimply look at these logs, and, if theyhaven’t been altered, obtain the IPaddress of the perpetrator. Usingpublic registration data, they can tellthat a particular address belongs to acertain ISP, and then go to thatcompany (with the appropriate legalauthority, usually a subpoena) andlearn which customer was assignedthat address during the relevant timeperiod. Voilà, they have a suspect.But when the connection routesthrough an open and unencryptedaccess point, then anyone can usethe service. Investigators can nolonger trace an IP address directly toa suspect, only to a physical location.This problem already exists becausepeople have unsecured wirelessnodes in their homes or smallbusinesses, and universitiesfrequently offer open Wi-Fi bydesign. Indeed, a handful ofprosecutions have already been filedagainst people who used unsecuredaccess points to cover their tracks.But while criminals can always wieldany useful technology to furtherillegal goals -- whether it be theinternet or a getaway car -- thequestion we'll have to answer iswhether the increased difficulty ofidentifying suspects means we shouldreject the technology for everyone.There are tradeoffs here. If we havezero tolerance for internet-enabledcrimes, then we have to lock downthe network in ways that will make itfar less useful. But there's alwayssome risk inherent in the deploymentof any beneficial technology, a riskwe should balance against the valueof bridging the digital divide, andgiving the vast majority of innocentpeople easy connectivity outside thehome.Law enforcement will still havecourt-authorized wiretaps, premisessurveillance and other investigativetools at their disposal. The real crimewould be to let fear stand in the wayof developing a valuable publicresource that makes the internet aseasy and cheap as turning on afaucet.
- - -Jennifer Granick is executive directorof the Stanford Law School Centerfor Internet and Society, and teachesthe Cyberlaw Clinic.

Classy Establishment

13 September - When I woke up this morning and came downstairs I noticed smething that I normally wouldn't have noticed. One of the housemates, the rascal and general ne'erdowell Bob (one of his most significant contributions to my travel knowledge was teaching me how to backroll a spliff), had apparently left his shoes, bag and phone in the kitchen. I didn't really pay it any mind until a little bit later when he called the household informing us that he was currently being detained at her majesty's pleasure. The rogue had been charged with trespassing - his crime, skateboarding in the park at night time. Unfortunately society is still in danger of his nefarious ways because he was let out that day.
The one day that I decided to go out without a rainjacket (also the day that I decided to put out some washing) was the day that a torrential downpour was inflicted on the city - I hid out from the worst of it by visiting the national gallery, which was nice but I was still a bit fatigued from all of the culture that i've been absorbing so I wasn't completely blown away.
I also went for another sesh of bikram yoga and felt completely at one with the universe for a while. Unfortunately, this was not to last as that night I went to grand opening (one of the grand openings anyway) of London's most salubrious and newest bar and kitchen, the Trading House, under the general management of Messeuirs James Templeman. There we were treated to Kasteel Cru, the champagne of beers! (according to James it doesn't even taste like beer ... Why anyone would to drink a beer that didn't taste of beer is anyone's guess but I thought it was very nice ... And it tasted like beer). Also present were the cream of Clerkenwell's underworld although there were no shootings at all, which was very disappointing. A highlight of the night was seeing a rather desperate couple begging to be allowed in when I arrived and I was whisked inside with a minimum of fuss. Had to stumble home in a bit of a state though, unhelped by the fact that the Northern tube line has been shut down for a few days - but a capital night nonetheless.

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Top Of The World

12 September - After the very nice reunion with the Chopes et al last night it took me a little while to get started the next day but I had a mission so I headed out to Camberwell in the morning to find the local Internet café where I did some quick research to find a flight to Amsterdam. I found some good deal online but then found that the online booking system wasn;t working so I called the number the suggested. The guy on the other end then quoted me a price far in excess of the one i'd just been given on the Internet - I told him that they'd just quoted me a lot less but he said that the phone booking fee was higher, it turned out that he couldn't accept my Australian credit card anyway so I went straight to the airline and got a deal that was close enough.
Headed back to the house and then after a few errands me and Kimberley headed into town to go on the London Eye. There was a two for one deal if you used a travel card to get there (apparently my oyster card didn't have that morning's trip registered on it but we still managed to get the deal). Apart from the ride being referred to as a flight (please enjoy your flight, sir) it was quite exciting to see the London view. The wheel is incredibly designed - it moves slowly and constantly onlystopping for disabled people to get on or off, and when at the top the view stretched for miles, only marred in the distance by the ubiquitous London smog. I couldn't see our house but many other things.
After this we headed into the west end for a sammich and then I finally made my return to the National Portrait Gallery - i'd dropped in briefly a few weeks previously but hadn't had a proper chance to see everything and I was worried that i'd keep on delaying my visit and eventually miss it altogether so it was very good to see it all properly. Noted the portraits of Degas and Sickert and a few others from the Tate Britain exhbiition i'd seen a few days prior, people who I had no idea of before my visit to the London - obviously i'm becoming more knowledgeable about the art world since my arrival in the city.
I then headed off to meet Walber (from Thailand) where he took me along to his Bikram yoga class - it was a very overpriced studio with tiny facilities but it was well organised. I'd only ever done yoga at the old Broadway Gym and that had been pretty basic so doing it in a room at 40 degrees was very different. I hadn't done much exercise since my the run so it was very good to sweat out the toxins that have been building up in my body this past week - hardest part was dealing with the salt swamping my contact lenses but it was very purifying. After this and something to eat me and walber headed to one of my old places of work, the Black Cap in Camden Town. Hadn't changed too much in eight years although the décor had been updated at some point and the chair were very uncomfortable. According to the barman the landlord was the same guy but he wasn't around (which was not such a bad thing since I didn't have a hell of a lot to say to him). DIdn't recognise any of the customers either but did spot Julian Clary sans makeup - I had been on name terms with him last time i'd been workingthere but there wasn't the flicker or recognition in his eyes when he saw me, eight years is a long time.

He bestrode this earth like a colossus ...

11 September - Was recently criticised for the overuse of the word, colossus, in this online missive. Cannot really see the issue with the overuse of the word colossus as colossus is such an underused word in normal everyday speech. And I like using the word colossus, and shall continue to use it as I see fit.
Rather uneventful day but it was broken up by a viewing of the timeless classic, Oliver Twist. Roman Polanski's version was very good although I kept on expecting all of the characters to break out into song. It's a very good story and the brutality of the times is certainly conveyed - and it is such an important piece of cultural history - i've read that Charles Dickens' stories were said to have done more to stop the exploitation of children in 19th century Englnd than any other political legislation. I still think John Steinbeck's Grapes Of Wrath is the best novel that conveys the injustice of the times but this is very good to.
That night I headed out to Holloway Road for a dinner with Ade and Ruth's friend, Stu (and his bird [his description], whose name may or may not be Clare - i'm very bad with names). Ruth and Ade arrived and there was much rejoicing although Dylan seemed very shy around me at first and Finley barely acknowledged my presence at all, the little brat. James also came and it felt like I was very much at home with all of my Australian friends around and Stu (who i'd only ever known in Australia before). The dinner was excellent although Stu's misreading of the serving sizes led to meals that were befitting of a colossus and there was still tonnes left over (i think they ran out of containers to put all the leftovers in - I hope they shipped the remainder over to a poor nation so they could feast mightily on it). Unfortunately it was a very healthy household and when it came time for coffee there was no real milk in the house (but i'm lactose intolerant! Yeah, well I'm no-milk-in-my-goddamn-coffee intolerant!!!). There was a source of milk in the household and I would have ventured to ask Ruth for a donation but that greedy little mite Finley wouldn't have shared.
When I got home I did a bit of organisimation and delayed my Canada flight a while so that I could squeeze in my trip to Amsterdam - it appears that I will have the very civilised James in my company to ensure that I don't get up to any mischief so Holland here we come, aye?

Monday, 10 October 2005

Market Towns

10 September - Recovery from the comic book party wasn't too bad, could have been far worse. Several of the people from the party stayed at the Halsmere house and there wasn't any movement before 10am, for some not until much later. Apparently the Absinthe that I had brought with me from Slovakia didn't agree with some who'd tried it (obviously it couldn't have been the beer, the wine, the vodka or the dope or the whatever that had disagreed with them) and there were several oaths never to try it again (it was much as I remembered, evil tasting but an enjoyable buzz that followed).
Later in the afternoon I finally had my reunion with Mariax, who i'd met in Australia about five years ago, it was great to see her again - have not seen nearly as many people as I would have liked to have seen so the ones that I have seen are all the more special. We went out to COlumbia Fields Markets and also went to Brick Lane and Spitalfields, more markets. It was like a very large, very trendy Glebe Market, it was also very reminescent of the Sunday market at Chang Mai in Thailand. There was an enormous number of people with enormous tattoos and ridiculous numbers of piercings (i read in a Canadian newspaper that the markets had hosted the annual world tattoo convention last friday so that may have accounted for the painted population). There were some great things for sale and an enormous amount of crap as well (unlike the CHang Mai market, though, even the absolute crap was super expensive). Another highlight was the corner on Brick Lane where all of the stolen bikes were stolen (according to Maria, most of the bikes were probably stolen from the Lane itself). Didn't buy any souveneirs as i've not much longer in the city and i've got no room in my luggage to put them anyway but did eat some very nice bagels.
Returned to the house as the last of the other guests were shuffling off, mostly recovered from their Green Fairy nightmare I hope and me and Kimberley went out to meet Yvonne and Steve, friends of hers and Kate Mills, who I'd met very briefly in Australia. Very nice night in a very reasonable bar in Peckham. From Steve I got some interesting strategies to simulate the secret service on a Stag Night, may have to try that next year when young Matthew Gray goes through the ritual.

Should Pluto Be A Planet?

Of course Pluto should be a planet - or if isn't, nothing should be called a planet. Earth is far more similar to Pluto in that they are both rocky than it is to the gaseous Jupiter and yet there is no call to change Jupiter's status as a planet.

I read an interesting article that mentioned a reclassifcation of all the planets to terrestrials (rocky planets like Earth) to Jovians (gas planets) and other classification for the ones similar to Pluto. That at least tries to address that their are different types of planetary objects but when it comes down to it that is all that they really can be collectively called.

Every one of the standard bodies (not including the ones we don't really understand like quasars and pulsars) in the galaxy is a collection of matter. It is all different types of matter (all the elements are represented in various proportions) and the matter is in different states (from solids to plasma) but that is all they are, a lot of matter that is joined together by its gravity or circumstance.

Bodies that are very very large and made of hydrogen become stars and it is just their size that creates the nuclear reactions that fuses the hydrogen into helium and fueling their energy output. If the collections of hydrogen are smaller (like Jupiter) then their is not the density to set off the fusion explosions to light it up like a star. If Jupiter had been much bigger then it would have been a small star itself and then we'd really have trouble defining what a planet is (although with the presence of another star in the system we probably wouldn't exist if it had). The rocky planets are bits of more solid matter that has coelesced into solid spherical balls. These smaller planets don't have nearly the density to drive any nuclear reactions so they are mostly dead except for in their slowly cooling cores where the density and friction some emit heat energy. Objects like asteroids or comets are just smaller pieces of matter that coelesced or were bigger objects that were just smashed up.

And all of these cellestial bodies interact in different ways but chiefly through gravity.

Gravity is a very weak force but it works over enormous distances and it affects every other thing. One object exerts a pull on another object which is defined by the relationship of the sum of the masses of the two bodies divided by the square of the distance between the two objects.

When one object is said to be orbiting another object they are really just orbiting each other it is only that bigger object has greater mass and therefore a greater iinertia to be overcome than the smaller. If the two objects are of the same size are in proximity then they will just spin around each other equally.

The Earth spins around the Sun but they are really just spinning around each other; the Moon spins around the Earth but they are just spinning around each other. Even Halleys Comet is orbiting the sun in it's own distinct non spherical way.

The very thing that gave Pluto's position up was that astronomers calcuated that it must be there because of the disruption to the orbits of Neptune and Uranus that could only be accounted for by the presence of a largish cellestial object.

Pluto and Mercury are a pretty similar size. The only thing that really seperatts them is distance from the sun. Mercury is much closer and therefore has a much stronger gravitational force working on it than Pluto. The two planets are still interacting gravitationally with same star and they are also interacting gravitationally with each other. The gravitational force working between them is extremely weak because of their small size and enormous distance but the force is still there. In terms of the other small planetoids such as Xena and the other Kuiper Belt objects the only difference is that they are slightly smaller (bigger than Pluto though) and further away. There is no qualitative difference between them, just quantitative. They still interact through gravity with the sun and with each other, just to a lesser degree.

There are millions of objects in the solar system. There is one very big thing which is the sun and there are few pretty big things like the gas giants and their are smaller things like the rocky planets and even smaller things like planetoids and smaller things like asteroids but they are all just things and it's just their size that differs. There is no absolute distinction we can make between any of them that will require an arbitrary decision from the astronomer's club so I think we shouldn't make that distinction.

Fatigue Fatigue

8 October - Went for some excessive wandering today in a search for a Batman mask. Wasn't feeling very well from the amount of fine champagne i'd consumed the night before. Unfortunatdely did not have too much luck finding said mask but it wasn't to be.
Had an interesting moment when I was chatting on the phone and wandering though Kennington Park I was in a bit of a daze when suddenly I found myself being confronted with a rather big guy with the roach of spliff hanging out of his lips. He mumbled something to me and came right into my personal space. Having a flashback from when I was mugged in Sydney a few years back when I was also distracted by a phone call I checked myself and hung up putting my mobile back in my pocket. I looked around and realised i'd wandered into a rather dodgy area. It might have been me over reacting but it felt like i'd walked into Grove St - it was a bit disconcerting (probably not helped by the fact that me and Bob, one of Halsmere Road's residents, had that morning has a Grand Theft Auto sesh), I didn't want to look like I was running away from it so I tried to get through it as quickly as possible. It took me ages to get to the main street - there was probably never any danger but it was still a little bit uncomfortable.
Did some investigations for flights as well for some more jaunting and received a very welcome phone call from young Adrian Chope, newly arrived in London. Made tentative plans to catch up in the coming week - am very much looking forward to seeing someone from home, so it should be very enjoyable.
At night time the household and others went to a comic book party. I'd not found my Batman mask but constructed a fairly unconvincing suit from thermal tights with underwear over the top and black socks simulating boots with black cardboard accessories. Others included a very recognisable Shoveller, a few non-trying Dick Traceys, an awkward Mr Strong, overbearing She-ra, a papier-mache headed Danger Mouse and an over-muscled Captain America. Several had opted for the body paint option includingthe Bob the skateboard enthusiast housemate who was a very blue Dr Manhattan and there was also a green Poison Ivy. There were quite a few people who didn't bother at all and there were some attempts that were so bad that they shouldn't have bothered at all but on the whole it was a very impressive roundup of super heroes and super villians although I don't most of the villians were too intoxicated with various substances to be committing any crimes against civilisation, which is a good thing because the superheroes didn't look cable of doing anything to thwart them.

Saturday, 8 October 2005

War Fatigue

8 September - Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Made my way downstairs and drank a cup. Looking up, I noticed I was late, made the bus in seconds flat. ...**?!??!! ... Went to the Imperial War Museum, which is something that has been on my list since I got here. Some very good displays but and some very educational snippets about the history of war (which is what you would expect) and some very good, factual briefs of all of the major world conflicts over the past hundred years - a lot I didn't know and some I did. There were a lot of school children there and there's only so much reading on such an unpleasant subject that one could do so a few hours was all I could manage. One of the most interestingexhibitions was one on crimes against humanity. It was a half hour documentary and a computer display that had very in depth examinations on the recognition of crimes against humanity and detailed essays on some of the most signficant (armenia, the holocaust, rwanda and cambodia). The movie was harrowing - there were interviews with children who had committed murders in Rwanda and a womn who had lost her entire familyto the Khmer Rouge (this was particularly interesting after having been there so recently).
Couldn't manage anything too cultural after that so went to the movies. I've been feeling movie withdrawala lot on this trip, i'd onlyseen three movies since leaving Australia over two months ago so I decided to see 'Goal'. I wasn't inspired but as it's a trilogy it might come to do it later.
Finally made my debut at London's most prestigious member's club, The Penthouse. Upon arrival we were greeted by the manager and rushed past the riff-raff queing outside and waved through the preliminaries that the normal member must endure. We were then taken to the cloakroom where we were relieved of our jackets. Then we were introduced to the security staff who was told in no unspecific terms that we were the guests of the manager and no harm must come to us during our stay. Taken through the well appointed but common regular club we were given a tour of the restaurant and then taken to the table in the private VIP room that was reserved for our use. We were presented with a bottle of finest champagne on ice and were later regaled with tales of London society by the manager. A capital night. Hangover the next y wasn't too great though ...

Culture Fatigue

7 October - Did a bit of street wandering and errand running in the morning and a bit of window shopping in Jermayne (??) St at all the lovely shirt makers before wandering over to Baker St, 221B that is to see the recreated SHerlock Holmes residence. Had a very late introduction to the AC Doyle detective, never havingseen any of the movies and my literatary exerience has been limited to his latest adventure (the superb Final Solution by Michael Chabon (i think my review of it is at the beginning of the blog)) and the first, A Study In Scarlett, a very racist but rollocking adventure where the world was introduced to him) - however, both of them were very good so I thought the museum would be an interestingdiversion. The address had never been a proper residence but someone recreated the entire apartment based on Watson's descriptions from the books and it was very authentic in parts. The awful animatronic inhabitants that lived upstairs and the awful actor pretendingto be him who greeted me in the drawingroom took away from the experience as well as the 6 pound entry fee.
After that and a very average sammich from Pret A Manger I went to an exhibition at the Tate Britain (free entry thanks to the generous Kimberley's membership) of post-impression European artists in London during the 19th century such as Toulouse le Trec, Degas and Sickert. There were some beautiful paintings including the scandalous 'L'Absinthe' and 'The Rape' - the critics explosive commentary was also very amusing as well as the descriptions of complete overreactions of the people and the artworld to some of the paintings ("Britain was shocked by his use of pastels to reveal the human nature of his subject"). I really enjoyed the exhibition but Kimberley was disappointed that Cezanne wasn't represented at all (how can you have XX and not Cezanne!!!) so my ignorance of the art world probably assisted my enjoyment of the whole event.
Also had a brief look at a bikeshop confirming to me that bike shop attendants over here are just as bad as they ar in Sydney - they do everything in their power to make me hate them. Sherlock Holmes museum, shite
That night Kimberley and James hosted a beautiful dinner party. Two friends whose name escapes me who I took a short while to warm to, he was very into wines and could tell me all about the similarity between the clay conditions in England and those of Champagne, but later on I found them to be very interesting. He was a journalist of some note and she was a food designer for McDonalds (Kimberley had told me that the McFlurry was one of hers) - th journalist had a keen interest in technology and a good knowledge of wifi and the games that one can play with it. It became a very interesting niht. Food was very delicious but very unhealthy (everything had double cream in it and the praline semifreddo dessert was culinary equivalent of a heart attack). Will have to start running again soon if I keep this up (and that just depresses me).