Saturday, September 30, 2006

feeling a little silly

It poured rain last night for hours.

I didn't expect that I would hear the sound of rain on the roof while living in a basement flat, but our bedroom happens to jut out from the other part of the building so we do get treated to that sound. One of the pipes ahead is broken though, so when it rains really hard it overflows and sounds like somebody having a giant shower in our outdoor space - pretty loud. We're trying to think of a good way to block the sound, since towels don't absorb it (water eventually saturates the towel and the noise starts again), leaves, umbrellas, and a piece of wood just make it louder. I'm thinking maybe a screen or something that will catch the water just before it hits the ground - that might work...

But we still get to hear the rain and the thunder - both of which lasted till early morning.


After reading my post from last night, I noticed

a) that i've obviously been reading too many MM archives since both my title and ending are imitations of how his posts generally go (completely unintentionally)
b) when I'm in an emotional state like yesterday, writing something that will be read by anybody probably isn't the best thing to do
c) I'm perfectly capable of pulling a Bridget Jones-style freak-out (if you haven't read the book - it's excellent)
d) a combination of bad news (again) and lack of sleep will likely lead to the aforementioned freak-out
e) things always feel better in the morning

"Hi honey - what's going on?! I've been worrying about you all day"

That's all I needed to hear from my mom before breaking down and telling her everything that has been going on, including my bad news and the fact that J might not be able to stay in England with me after all. The poor lady had to sit there and listen to my sniffling self for a half hour as I dumped it all out. Thank God for mothers.

Especially mine, who is always quick to help and give comfort. We strategized about the situation and agreed that a phone call to the landlord today would be a good idea - so they know I'm not going to renege on my rent. Since this type of thing surely must have happened to others before (particularly foreigners who couldn't know that checks take this long to process) they'll likely be familiar with the story.

So I guess I'll be able to eat / live here after all. I feel a bit silly about the emotional outburst, but that's how I was feeling and writing it all into my blog did help.

Part of me feels like I should apologize for making such a big fuss about this, when there are people dealing with cancer, the deaths of loved ones, their children's illnesses, and other things that I know nothing about. I hope that Next Time this happens (and it will) that I can be more mature about it and see the problem for that it is: something I can work through.


Why this quick turnaround? I woke up this morning and as usual, boiled water for tea to drink as I read about what's happening in the world.

Amazon Mystery: story of a Bralizian jet carry 155 passengers that either crashed or collided with another plane. Nobody knows what happened.

Suicide bomber kills 10, injures 54 in Afganistan
: more people dying over there - it's horrible

Principal at small Wisconsin school shot & killed by young student

For obvious reasons, anything about school violence gets my attention. As an educator, one of the most important responsibilities I have is to keep those kids safe. All of them. From not running the hallways to behaving properly in the bathrooms to making sure that there is no sign of aggression between students. Watching the ones who don't seem to have that oh-so-important network of friends to depend on when things seem to be at their worst. I'm not a parent, but being responsible to 30 kids who ARE somebody's babies is the most important thing I've ever had to do. I take this very seriously and hope none of those trusted to me ever have to go through what these poor kids in Colorado and Wisconsin have been through this past week.

It's humbling to think about real tragedies after writing a post like last night's - it makes my problems seem a lot smaller in the whole scheme of things.


Then I noticed that J had sent this to me last night. It's impossible stay in a bad mood when you're watching somebody do something so stupid / hilarious / cool. If you haven't clicked on the link - all I will say is home-made redneck fireworks display.

Today is sunny and fresh and I'm going to walk in the park with J and enjoy this amazing city. I will try not to stress about things out of my control (now I sound like self-help book!).

And I'll post about something much more upbeat and interesting, since I've got a few good stories to tell from this week...

Friday, September 29, 2006

in which the "worst that can happen" now seems like a possibility

I hate that I'm sitting in a cozy one bedroom flat in one of the nicest areas of London, England with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart. Even as I type this, I wipe a hand across my cheek.

This should be a happy time. An exciting adventure. I should be damn proud that my dream of being a teacher isn't just happening - it's going wonderfully. Several members of the staff at the school I'm working in want me to stay, the children write me letters saying "I love you, you're my favourite teacher", draw me pictures, and give me hugs and look to me for approval when we're sitting in assemblies. Our class is working faster than the other year 3 class. I'm learning to manage all of the craziness and multi-tasking that being a teacher requires. The fact that it's all happened within my first two weeks of teaching is pretty wonderful - I really lucked out with this placement.

My life has been blessed in so many ways.

Now things are happening that are completely out of my control (and yes, I do hate that) and I have to sit back and wait to see what will come next.

I've had to go to my parents yet again, hat in hand, asking for their help. Swallow my pride and again revert to being the little immature kid again who didn't follow up with her end of the bargain. I know that's being dramatic but it's how I feel. I'm a very proud person and the thought of my parents feeling disappointed in me is something that has driven me to try my best at everything I've done in life. To their credit they've never let me feel that way - even when I probably deserved a swift kick in the ass (or two).

Jeremy has had no luck at all finding work and is now thinking he may have to stay in Canada and work while I stay here. Just reading this sentence blurs my vision again. Maybe something will finally fall into place for us, but we're faced with the realization that unless something happens soon our Great Big Adventure is going to turn into a Great Big Mess.

Got my first paycheck yesterday. The official validation of my status as a professional educator. No longer am I a self-employed little piano teacher, a student teacher, or school volunteer. I am now the authority in the classroom - the one parents seek out when students struggle in or out of the classroom, the one children want approval from and obey when I give commands to stop talking or sit quietly while they do their work. It's amazing being the One In Charge. The Responsible Person who looks after 30 little people each day hoping to help them to learn something new while keeping them safe and hopefully happy.

But I digress as usual...

A little note with my paycheck ruined it all.

To avoid having to wait 5-10 days for your check to be processed, please consider signing up for direct deposit so your funds will be available to you from 9am each payday.

It's the 29th of September. Rent is due in two days...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I say Tomato, you say tomaaaato

Okay, that title isn't nearly as funny as it sounds. Just hum the song to yourself and you'll get the idea...

Tomaaato = "soft A" sou
Tomato = "hard A" sound

Alternate Title: "Why It Suddenly Seems like Everything in Britain is Different"


"It's Amazing How We Don't Understand Each Other Even Though We're all Speaking ENGLISH"

the other title I could have used was

"The Old Nasty Man and His Wet Undies"

The problem with that last one is that the mere thought of him in his undies is so upsetting that I didn't think I'd be able to write about it...

I've been reading the Magazine Man archives, which cover a very wide range of topics (all of which brilliantly, written, including those guest-written by BB - freaking priceless). As I was trying not to spit out my drink from laughing so hard, I realized that the Old Nasty Man was a good story after all (even though I will never be the writer that MM is)...

so here goes!

A teacher friend of mine, K, texted me while I was on the miserably hot bus home the other day to see if I wanted to take a walk in the park. My answer was an enthusiastic HELL YES and so we met up for a long walk around the Serpentine River and then a pint at my local. Not surprisingly, our conversation rotated around our experiences in the classroom and what we thought of teaching British kids (she's an Aussie) and learning the ropes of the British school system. After several funny stories and a fair amount of walking, we found ourselves near the "beach".

Have to add a side-note here. The "beach" is a term used VERY loosely. It's in the river, this small little space that's been roped off so people don't get run over by rowboats and paddleboats, with no sand or anything - just pavement. Now I'm a bit of a water snob, having grown up here:

But, I love to swim and ordinarily would jump at the chance to jump in some nice, refreshing water...

Unfortunately my water-snobbiness reared it's ugly head when I realized that these guys (see below) were going to be the swimming companions (and had in fact been in the water all day) as had their ancestors for probably the last 100 years.

Ever swum in goose poop? How about swan droppings? Duckie dump? Ya didn't think so.

Kate and I both agreed that anybody who would be crazy enough to swim there should be quickly locked up or put under examination. I don't want to think about how gross that water looked...

THEN we see him.

The old man is standing nonchalantly on a set of stairs near the "beach" chatting with a lady. I actually stopped dead in my tracks in shock - then poked Kate hard, causing her to snort out a laugh as we rushed past trying not to look, but knowing that this would be the FUNNIEST PICTURE EVER. Or maybe the grossest one... I dunno. Immediately I told her that I was going to blog about this, and that if I had the guts, I'd take a pic of Old Nasty Man in the Grey Undies as he stood dripping with all of him there for you to see.

I chickened out and took this one from a safe distance

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you'll see Old Nasty Man in the left corner of the stairs.
Not sure why you'd want a better look, but... whatever floats your boat.

You can't even see him really - consider yourselves lucky. I guess the kind of people who swim in dodgy green water with dozens of water foul all around will also stand dripping wet in public in their unmentionables.

Okay, enough about Old Nasty Man.

The Tomaaato Tomato Thing

Okay, accents and a few slang terms aside, I really didn't think it would be that difficult to communicate with the natives here...

In Canada // In England

you say "pants" // it's "underpants"

hockey // ice 'ockey

sidewalk // pavement

gym class // PE (physEd - they don't know what gym is)

speechless // gob-smacked

sweater // jumper

recess // breaktime / playtime

lunch // dinner

dinner // tea

Okay, I could on with this little Brit-speak lesson, but you get the point.

Today, during the morning assembly, the Deputy Head (vice principal equivalent) was talking to the kids about bringing healthy packed lunches for "dinner". My poor Canadian brain started to pound as they talked about things like "puddings" and "fresh veg". Sure, I can understand what these things are - it's not hard - but then a child suggests Tomaaaatos to use as sandwich filler. Oh fuck, I'm thinking - please don't laugh. It got worse when the Deputy Head praised the student and shouts "TOMAAATOS! excellent choice!"

I look down at my lap, thinking how immature I'd appear if I started giggling during an assembly since I'm a TEACHER and nobody else would find what I'm laughing at even remotely amusing.

Immediately the Harrick Connick Jr, version of "Let's call the whole thing off" starts running through my head, when a voice penetrates through the music:

"Miss, is it okay is we have POTAAAATOS?"

Oh bloody hell.

Hmm at least I've got the curse words working nicely.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

In which I learn not to be such a pushover

Somebody joked to me at work that my name should be Miss Congeniality. I really didn't think much of it at the time - sure I try to be nice to everybody and usually go the way of the peacemaker if I have the choice. But could this mean that I let people take advantage of my (usual) good nature?

Remember this post?

I was reading old posts by Magazine Man and found a story about his bad experience with a "Really Big Home Improvement Store". They had done him wrong and went out of their way to avoid trying to make things right. His response to this is nothing short of genius and it has inspired me to at least try and do something about my horrible experience with the Really Big Moving Truck Rental Company (sorry MM - couldn't resist copying you a little here).

Another factor in my decision to try and kick up a fuss (and hopefully at least get an apology out of them) was that two other people within our circle of friends had the exact same experience last month!!!

"Um, hello sir! I wanted to tell you that we don't have any trucks available for today! Just wondering what time tomorrow would be convenience for you?!" (said with a chirpy, happy tone much like the answering maching message from our helpful customer service rep)

"Hello, I'm leaving a message to let you know that we do not have any trucks ready for the time you reserved them tomorrow. Perhaps you could pick up a truck in Guelph (person is living in London - 2 hour round trip) - although I should let you know that we only have them in a size smaller than what you originally reserved."

It brings to mind that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry rents a car and the rental company tells him it's "not available".

"So you have no trouble TAKING reservations - it's just that you can't hold onto them!"

Is Uhaul getting away with this because they are pretty much the only 1-way mover in Canada? W-5 even did a special about the shoddiness of this company and their terrible customer service. Why are they even still running?

Chinese Food

If I close my eyes, I can still see the warm yellow walls and comfortable couches in the living room. The big kitchen with lots of natural light and a clutter of stuff on top of the microwave (that was always the place where we dropped mail, keys, and other assorted items), and plants all over the place. I loved the backyard. It was my own green space where I was free to create gardens and hang lights in the trees and spend hours on days off reading in one of our lounge chairs.

It's funny how much of it I remember. The feeling of being content in your own space and knowing that friends were nearby and that we truly enjoyed living there. Spending hours watering my herbs and flowers (and often myself if it was a hot day - I'm still like a little kid that way) and the satisfaction of watching them grow.

That was our last place in London, Ontario.

Last night was a quiet night - we were invited out to this posh club called Camoflauge but had to pass because the cover charge would have cost about $40 after the exchange (apparently the club owners feel justified in charging this because celebs like JayZ and Usher party there). So instead we took a really long walk around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, ending up exploring the area around the Serpentine River. The area is gorgeous and I always look forward to being around the water.

After a debate over what to do about dinner, we got some Chinese food from Tesco and made our way home. Chow mein and black pepper steak stir fry with rice... mmm...

As we sat there, eating our dinner and watching Monty Python's Meaning of Life, I looked at Jeremy and realized we were drinking and eating Chinese food. Might not sound like a major epiphany to anybody else, but when I mentioned it to him, his eyes looked sad too.

We used to do that with a very good friend back home two or three times a month. It was a common theme for Friday nights with one of my best friends too and reminded me of how far away everybody is now. Feeling homesick is like getting over a breakup - little things keep on reminding you about it, but there's nothing you can do about it, nothing will change, and you simply have to get over it and move on.

When we moved a lot of people said "you never know - you might just stay there forever..." I have this certainty that this will not happen - little reminders like last night that tell me I can make my way anywhere in the world, but Canada is home. Where I can drink Tim Horton's coffee, complain about the snowy weather, watch hockey every weekend, and - even if it's a 4 hour drive - eat Chinese food with my friends on a Friday night.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I heart your comments

I accidentally put my blog on a setting where apparently nobody was able to make comments on it... not sure how I managed to do that, but after a few days of no comments, I was starting to wonder:

a) if I had suddenly lost the interest of anybody who reads this
b) if my last few posts were so dull that nobody had anything to add to them
c) if I had done something when playing with my blog settings

It looks like the last thing is the answer... (i hope anyway!)

I never realized how validating it is when somebody comments on my blog until I went a week without any comments. Don't get me wrong - I definitely write for myself here and this blog is both therapeutic and fun to write in, so even if I didn't get comments I'd still be writing...

With that being said, it's a lot more fun when I get the little message that says somebody took time out of their busy day to say something about what I've written.

So to the people who make me feel special (awww) for clicking on that little link below my posts - thanks for taking the time!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wet Play

Got your attention didn't I?!

This is what they call indoor recess at the school I'm currently working in. Wet Play. And you thought this post was gonna be about something more interesting didn't you...

2:30am: I'm at the computer on yet another quiet Friday night.

Got home from school - my first week as a "professional teacher" with some yummy goodies from the hot food counter at this little market near our flat, had dinner with Jeremy and then we fell asleep. At 7pm...

Woke up at 11:23 (I always seem to see this time of day on clocks - have since early high school) and decided to get up for at least a little while since it is Friday after all.

I've never been as tired as I've been this week.

Taking charge of 30 children would be tiring to any person, but adding in school schedules, endless trips to the loo, assemblies, and of course LESSONS - it gets pretty hectic at times. Today was the first rainy day we've had since the first day of school. Yep, we expected to be rained on constantly here, but Britain is having unseasonably gorgeous weather (like sunny and 25 degrees in mid September) so we're all getting pretty spoiled.

My confidence level has grown a lot this week. Jumping into a class for even a two week period requires a lot more work and effort than covering a class for just a day. I'm responsible for reporting grades and behaviours and dealing with parents (had my first one today) and even a little long term planning. I never expected to be able to manage all of the little things that make up a teacher's day and still feel refreshed enough to laugh along with my class and enjoy the cute and smart things the kids say. It's a relief to know that I won't burn out from this job after all and that I can handle much more than I expected...

Like the parent thing.

Since the class was a little nutty at the end of the day (no surprise there) I had to resort to getting them to put their heads down on their tables until I called them to get ready for home. I don't usually do this, but sometimes it's the only way to get the kids to think about their behaviour and to avoid being tempted to talk.

While I was getting one group of kids ready for home, I noticed that three children from one of the tables were sitting up and talking. After having lectured the class (hate doing that) about their poor behaviour a few moments ago, I raised my voice and demanded that they put their heads back down with a sharper tone than normal. One of them had already been spoken to several times, so I signed him up for their version of detention and told him that I hoped he would behave better on Monday.

During dismissal time, I was watching my kids get picked up by their "grown-ups" when a parent approached me, asking if I was her son's teacher. The little boy mentioned above had decided that I was being unfair and picking on him all day and now wanted to go to a different school because I'm "mean" to him. This was said in a calm voice with the look of somebody who thinks their child is above getting in trouble and probably doesn't deserve punishment. Unfortunately I had to share his misadventures in school with her and was careful to say that I really didn't think it was representative of his personality or usual behaviour. Which is true actually - he's a good kid. Just had a couple of bad days... not a big deal, but still something that he needs to think about changing.

I'm proud of myself - I didn't waver or get nervous or back down. The mom didn't appear to be too happy that I held my ground and was able to justify my decision, but after talking to the deputy head (equivalent of a VP in North America), I felt even better about how I handled it, since apparently this parent had used the same line with another one of her children's teacher last year!

I understand why parents get concerned about their children being in trouble at school, but I wish they'd take it for what it is: 1 mistake made (usually a small, harmless one) that requires the child to take responsibility and think about how not to make the mistake in the future. It certainly doesn't affect my opinion of this student - he's one of the more vibrant characters in the class and generally works well.

Monday, (as I reminded my class at the end of the day today) starts a whole new week. Even if I have to play referee and remind them not to talk all the time, I really do think it'll be a good one.


Totally unrelated: I noticed the original sign for the school I'm at today (high up on the roof at the front of the school) - it's a large piece of concrete with the school logo and the year 1929. Apparently this isn't even considered old for London schools.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eve's Lighter

Gotta love the British sense of humour :)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Miss, May I please go to the bathroom?


Any teacher will tell you that it's incredibly annoying being constantly approached to use the bathroom while they are trying to teach. It's distracting and means that the student will potentially be missing something important - but, if you gotta go, you gotta go. Especially with the younger ones - who literally do the "pee pee dance".

I avoided writing about my first day last night because it was BAD. Very bad. Like losing-my-mind and oh-my-GOD-these-kids-are-terrible-i-need-a-drink kinda of bad.

No sleep the night before. This is typical of me every night before I start school - I've been unable to get proper sleep on that night since I was a child. So after tossing and turning for hours (and getting about an hour and a half of straight sleep) I woke up, had a quick shower and started my hour and 20 minute commute to the school. Got there a little early and was in the classroom setting up for less than 5 minutes before a teacher came in, introduced herself and said if I have any trouble to find her. She left and another teacher comes in, basically repeats the message and adds "Oh and R and D have pretty severe behaviour problems so you might want to watch out for them". Lovely. A third teacher arrives, jokes about the day I'll have with that sympathetic "I know what you're in for but don't want to admit it" look on her face.

A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I realize that this class will be very challenging and start to get really worried and a lot scared...

The regular classroom teacher was a godsend - she came in before leaving for her course and provided me with her laptop that hooked up to an interactive white board, complete with a powerpoint presentation covering the entire day's lessons and activities. Very sweet and a lot of fun to use - you can even write on these things with your fingers.

By the time morning break started, I had already:
- kicked a student out of class (throwing paper airplanes, yelling at other students, shouting out while I was talking, throwing water bottles, and finally telling me "will you just SHUT UP" in the hallway. ya nice kid)
- put three others on time-outs (these kids are 10-11 YEARS OLD)
- used techniques that worked on kindergarten children that worked on them for about 5 minutes at a time
- seperated a group of boys who wouldn't stop talking or get any work done while together
- had a student throw a tantrum because his name got added to the "naughty" board

The day literally went downhill from there.

I took away their gym class partly because they didn't deserve it, but mostly because I told them they needed to sit quietly and work without talking for 5 minutes. Didn't happen once all day long - and finally I just told them that I would be writing a letter for their regular teacher to let her know why they missed PE and why they didn't get their afternoon work completed.

Believe it or not - none of them seemed to care at all.

The entire school was full of kids like this - they pushed each other down in the hallways while others ran past, mocked the teachers (even the younger children did this) and basically acted like hooligans (love that word). Totally ridiculous to see that happen.

I left the school after spending an hour and a half marking stuff and writing a looong note to the classroom teacher ( who showed up as I was leaving and kept apologizing her for class).

It's funny that my first real day of teaching (professionally) was such a disaster. I did manage to get through the morning lessons, but the afternoon ones were a complete waste. Ah well, I did learn to handle a lot of noise (heehee) and to not take it personally when a student acts badly.

Went to bed after hanging out with Jeremy for a bit and opted to completely ignore my computer - and blog - until the next day.

Today I had a very very long commute from my area (central) all the way to northest London, on the end of the Victoria Line. Then I had to take a bus. Yep. A long ass train ride then a bus ride, which brought me somewhat close to the school so I did walk a bit too.

My class is a year 3 class (grade 2 in North America) whose teacher got pretty sick and may not return back at all. While I never want somebody to get sick, I do hope that he doesn't come back because it means I'd get to stay. As it is, I'll be there until at least next Friday... For the last month, the head teacher (principal equivalent) and deputy (cross between VP and secretary) had been teaching the class. Due to this, they didn't have time to get their own work done and were very happy to have me there before they even met me.

There are 30 students and they all love to talk - they'd probably talk all day if somebody let them get away with it. I certainly don't, and had to remind them probably 20 times to be quiet. Each time they actually did listen though, and they work very well as a class. I had a very good day with them aside from the talking, and am sure that if I was there for the rest of the term, that I'd be able to curb the talking habit.

As it is, I followed the school's rules and several children will be missing their morning break tomorrow because they couldn't control themselves enough to stop talking. It's as though they can't handle a silent classroom - everytime it got quiet in there, somebody would start whispering to their neighbour and then little groups would start talking. I stopped them each time and will continue to (and include consequences for their misbehaviour) until they learn to keep quiet.

--- Warning! Funny Kid Moment Story (i'm such a teacher) -----

Today while I was asking the students for the what felt like the hundredth time to cut down the noise in the room, I realized that some of the children were starting to look a little upset. These were the "good" kids who don't make a peep, stop talking immediately if they're caught and don't talk for hours afterwards, and are the first to notice when I call for the class's attention by holding a hand in the air.

"Okay, I know some of the children in this class are behaving perfectly well - believe me, I know who you are, and I think that your the students who are not behaving as they should apologize to you for being disrespectful and disruptive."

Silence in the room (as expected - I'm thinking - really who's going to actually apologize?)

Suddenly a small voice peeps "I'm sorry"

Everybody turns around to look at one of the boys who is having the most trouble keeping himself under control. He had tapped the girl beside him on the shoulder and apologized for getting her in trouble. He looks embarassed at first to be the center of attention, then repeats to the girl he was talking to "I'm sorry".

I congratulate him for his attitude and suddenly the room erupts with "I'm SORRY! SORRY! SORRY! SORRY!" Sigh. They really were sincere about it, which made it all funnier.

Until I had to ask them to quiet down and stop apologizing for being noisy.


To be honest, I never mind a little bit of talking - if they are working on something together it's very valuable to have students work problems out for themselves. It's just when they decide to chat with a neighbour rather than do math or something.

To be even more honest, I would much rather chat with a friend than do school work anyway. Who wouldn't?!

So in the end they are a very nice group of kids, most of them high achievers that participate in class discussions and try their best to get work done. The staff is very friendly and the head teacher takes time for anybody (including supply teachers) who needs him. He even came in to my room at the end of the day to make sure everything worked out and to see how they behaved themselves. We talked about class management (I asked him if he had any good tips) and pretty much everything he suggested was what I was already doing, so I'm feeling good that things will settle down once the children start missing out on things.

I really hope I get to stay.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Crazy Man and the Worst.Service.Ever.

Hmmm where to start.

This weekend has been very interesting and it's not even over yet.

Last night we hung out with Eve, drank Sangria (very good) and hung out on her balcony listening to music. Nothing too exciting, but one of those kinds of evenings that just relaxing and fun in a low-key way (our favourite kind of night actually). We said goodnight around 11:30 and headed back down to our flat so I could fight with my blog banner (and eventually give up and let me friend lend a hand).

12:04am: phone rings

"Hi Melinda? Um, I was just wonder if .. um.. can you hear that?"

sound of banging noise in the background, getting increasingly louder.

"That crazy man from next door
is having another tantrum. He's been banging on the wall and yelling at me to shut up and he won't stop. He's hitting it so hard that stuff is falling off of my shelves!"

To give a bit of history before I continue:
This "crazy man" is her next door neighbour, who actually is the reason that she and I started talking in the first place. He has been in the building for about 4 years and apparently has asthma and a severe dislike of anybody making any noise at all. Like talking on the phone.

She had her best friend were having a cigarette on her balcony about a month ago and he got so angry with them for smoking where it could seep through his closed window that he sprayed them with air freshener. In the face. While yelling that they were drug addicts - which he changed to nicotene addicts when they yelled back that they were just cigarettes.

He now pounds on the wall everytime she makes a sound in her flat after 11pm. Last night after we left, a friend called and she was in the middle of a conversation when he started pounding on the walls.

He's a very intimidating looking man who has called both the police and the landlord in hopes of getting her arrested / evicted.

Thing is - our building is not very sound-proof. You can hear through some of the walls and definitely hear people walking above you. Since they share a wall it would be difficult for him to not hear her once in awhile, which apparently is not tolerable.

Doesn't stop his threats. Or wall banging.

I promised we'd be up in second, filled Jeremy in (he'd already figured out what was happening) and grabbed a bottle of wine that we'd been saving for a picnic day. This turned out to be a very good plan because things were pretty intense.

As we got to the landing on the floor below hers, we could hear loud banging noises. It wasn't her music - it was obviously somebody banging on something. I couldn't hear her music at all. We got into the area where their doors were, and without giving any warning, Jeremy pounded on HIS door.

"What the FUCK!! Shut UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!! FUCK OFF!!"

whoa. seriously.

Jeremy (with a firm, calm tone): "Um sir, I live downstairs and I would like it a lot if you could please stop pounding on whatever it is that you're pounding on."

"TELL THAT STUPID CRAZY BITCH TO SHUT UP THEN!" Two more pounding noises. Then silence.

At that point, I was in Eve's flat, both of us standing in the doorway wide-eyed as Jeremy ushered us in, opened the wine, and poured the three of us a glass. She was shaking and clearly freaked out. So was I. I was honestly worried "crazy man" was going to open the door and hit Jeremy with a frying pan or something. Or pull out a gun. I've never heard a person yell like that before...

We spent an hour in her flat, calming her down, and joking about anything we could think of. She turned the music on to the level she'd had it b4 and asked if we could hear it outside. I said I could just hear it outside her door (it really wasn't loud). We suggested calling the landlord in the morning to discuss what had happened and to let them know that we were witnesses to what had happened.


He pounded again. Just those three times. It was like he wanted her to know that he was still going to try his best to intimidate her.

We made her promise to call whenever this stuff happens and either we'd come up, or she could stay in our flat as long as she needs to. With this we finally headed back downstairs.

She called me today from work to let me know that he HAD called the landlord's office and apparently shouted at one of the female employees for a half hour about the evil girl next door making excessive noise. I guess she didn't like being yelled at and passed the phone to the property manager (official owner / landlord) who told him that since she had not other complaints about her that he could either suck it up, move out, or call the cops (as he repeatedly threatened to do). She found all of this out when she called them to report her side of what had happened and they assured her that she would not be in any trouble for this, and to please call if he did this again. They are also going to check his flat to ensure that he hasn't damaged the walls (yes he really was banging that loudly - we heard it).

So for now, there's peace. Hopefully this guy moves away.


Tonight we met up with a Canadian couple we exchanged phone numbers with at the social last week - from London, Ontario actually. They're planning on moving back to Toronto when they go home, but both attended Western and are now teachers here.

M, the girl teacher, emailed me the invite this afternoon and then called to follow up and make sure we were going to come out to this fancy pizza place in Soho near Covent Garden Market. This place specialized in pizzas with a very strange mix of toppings, all of which sound weird until you try them. Food was delicious.

Service was TERRIBLE.

We sat waiting to make our drink orders for 45 minutes. Finally M got up and asked what was going on and was told that since it was so busy, they'd forgotten about us. Nice.

Waited 20 minutes for th
e drinks we'd ordered, and another girl waited an extra 5 minutes after that. We decided to place our orders along with the drinks, hoping that we'd get our food quicker that way... 20 more minutes passes and finally the appetizers come.

The reservation was for 8:45pm and we were eating our dinners at 10:15pm. Again, the same poor girl who had waited for her drink ALSO had to wait extra time for her food! She told us to go ahead and eat but we all felt bad eating in front of her.

The pizzas were incredible. In fact ALL of the food from appetizer to dessert was fantastic. Very different type of food but very tasty.

We had a great time despite the slow and often nonexistent service, which strangely didn't appear to be the fault of our waitress, who was running around like crazy and kept apologizing for the delay. While we were there a group of people started singing Happy Birthday loudly to an embarassed looking lady, who was presented with a nice looking dessert afterwards. M decided that since they were giving such bad service that we should pretend it was one of our birthdays so w
e'd get a free dessert.

After our table had placed the dessert requests, M pulls the waitress over and whispers to her, while we all sat laughing at the guy who'd been chosen to be the birthday boy.

15 minutes after that, a waiter walks over and starts putting the desserts on the table, finally placing a brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in front of the "birthday boy".

Birthday boy: um... thanks (having not ordered a dessert)

The waiter suddenly gets this light-bulb-turned-on-in-my-head look on his fac
e, reaches down and grabs the dessert and dashes off with it, leaving us all in hysterics. The poor guy had realized that it was this customer's "birthday" and that he'd ruined it because the waitress was supposed to start off the song before they presented the free dessert to him. Hilarious.

10 minutes passes and finally our waitress comes over with the surprise. She starts singing Happy Birthday and we all cheerfully join in. At least he got a free dessert - which he shared with those of us who hadn't ordered one.

After harassing the waitstaff for our bill we finally got out of the restaurant around 11:15pm.

I don't usually mind staying in a place that long, but we'd planned on going to this Canadian bar called the Maple Leaf (that actually serves poutine!!!) and it was getting so late that Jeremy and I had to leave or we'd miss the train back home. The Underground system stops running just after midnight, so unless you know where to catch a night bus heading towards home, you're stuck walking or paying ridiculous amounts of money for a cab.

We seriously need to get a bus map.

It's probably just as well because I start teaching Monday (finally!) and need to get a couple of earlier nights so I can try and work myself in the schedule of waking up early in the morning. 6am will come way too soon - it always does.


One last thing - Today was our official one month anniversary of living in London! It's hard to believe that we've already been here for that long. I remember the emotional wreck that I was a month ago and am happy that things are finally settling down. It's probably no coincidence that this is happening as we start to make friends and get more used to being Londoners.

If I think too much about my lake or our families or my friends, I still get sad and homesick, but I guess that this will probably always be with me. As I've said before, it's nice that I have so much to miss.


On a different note, I'd like to thank my friend Rob for helping out with the blog banner. I would never have made it though all of the tweaking and editing html codes without his help - not while still keeping sane anyway.

Thanks so much Rob!!

Friday, September 15, 2006


I'm playing with my header right now so expect to see some strange things for the next little while...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

2am update

Okay, I give up on photoshop... for now at least

Above you'll see what I've got so far - I like it but have no idea:
a) if it will be the right size for a header
b) how to make it my header
c) how to play with stuff in photoshop that may be necessary to make it my header

going to bed

headlines and headers

I'm fighting a losing battle with photoshop right now. Grabbed a Fosters and decided to catch up on some blogs and news, and found a couple of things that I just HAD to comment on.

Airports Banning Paper Now?
I'm confused.

Maybe somebody out there who knows about this can help me out.

I read this article on, you guessed it, msnbc about JK Rowling fighting with airport security so she could bring her still-in-progress transcipt of the last Harry Potter book.

She was very proud of the fact that she'd "won" the argument and been allowed to bring the pages bound with elastic onto the plane.

Okay... somebody needs so 'splain something to me - I know we're not allowed to bring bottles of water or makeup or anything else that's liquid, but what's the deal with PAPER? Since we're now allowed to bring lighters onto planes, what kind of damage can somebody (let along JK Rowling) do with a pile of papers?

right. paper cuts.

I love him... but I'm still going to try and change him
I seriously thought this was a joke. But no, somebody in msnbc has decided that this was legitimate news.

It definitely made for interesting reading and I'm sure that I'm not the only person using it as blog fodder.

Apparently the wives and girlfriends of Columbian gang members decided to publicly announce to the world that they will not have sex with their men until they give up their guns and criminal lifestyles.

First of all these women have decided to either MARRY or at least sleep with gang members, who likely spend most of their days carrying dangerous guns around as they sell drugs and do all sorts of illegal things. Did they not understand what a gang was??? Did they not hear anything about what a COLUMBIAN gang does???

Guns/drugs/crime or sex? I hope they do a follow-up on this story so we can find out what these guys chose...

Cork World?
Apparently scientists have discovered a giant planet about 450 light years away from Earth that is one-third the density of water and basically would weight less than a giant ball of cork.

Could this be the stopper for God's giant bottle of cabernet merlot?

Okay, so have a few things done for my new header but honestly want to forget that I even had the idea in the first place. Photoshop is incredibly confusing - I'm trying to follow a step-by-step process that I found online and it just isn't working. It's just not doing what the article says it's supposed to. Looking for other options and played with a few templates using a combination of Microsoft Word and Paint. (yes, I know mickey mouse stuff)

here are two of the things I came up with so far...

This one needs its dimensions changed so it's similar to the one above, but you get the idea.

Good? Not Good? I also had one with a flag theme, but I don't know if i like it... would probably be nice if I could have a background of ocean waves or something. I guess I can't ignore Photoshop forever...

Bah, I guess I better get back to it. Maybe I should just grab one more beer first...


I love my blog but am getting increasingly dissatisfied with boring header. During my research on how to change this (complete with thorough descriptions of photoshop activities and html coding) my brain suddenly told me off and is now huddled in the corner hoping for a martini.

Since I don't drink martinis and would really like to improve the look of my blog (and help my poor brain to feel better again) - i'm sending an SOS to anybody who might be able to give some advice on how to do this or at least suggest sites that will provide good tutorials.

I've already got an idea of how I want the banner to look but am willing to be flexible so I can break out of this cookie cutter.

Thanks :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

useless (and somewhat disturbing) information

I got an email today from a girl I knew in teacher's college:

Birthday Calendar

It tells you how many hours and how many seconds you have been alive on this earth and when you were probably conceived. How cool is that?

After you've finished reading the info, click again, and see what the moon looked like the nite you were born.

The last thing I want to think about is being conceived. That is NOT cool in fact. Even though we know we didn't drop from the sky after being carried by a freakishly strong stork, nobody wants to think about their parents doing... that.

I clicked on the link and found the following information (including aforementioned date that I didn't want to think about):

As of 9/13/2006 8:34:00 PM EDT
You are 27 years old.
You are 330 months old.
You are 1,435 weeks old.
You are 10,044 days old.
You are 241,076 hours old.
You are 14,464,594 minutes old.
You are 867,875,640 seconds old.

Celebrities who share your birthday:
Caitlin Wachs (1989)Sean Biggerstaff (1983)Joe Hahn (1977)
Eva Longoria (1975)Mark Hoppus (1972)Fabio (1961)
Sly Stone (1944)Phil Lesh (1940)Judd Hirsch (1935)
Harry James (1916)Macdonald Carey (1913)
Andrew Jackson (1767)

Top songs of 1979
My Sharona by The KnackBad Girls by Donna Summer
Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? by Rod StewartReunited by Peaches & Herb
Hot Stuff by Donna SummerI Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert HolmesRing My Bell by Anita Ward
Babe by StyxToo Much Heaven by Bee Gees

There are 183 days till your next birthday
on which your cake will have 28 candles.

Those 28 candles produce 28 BTUs
You can boil 3.20 US ounces of water with that many candles

As I tried to erase the above information from my mind (as well as the "date I was conceived") I started playing with the calculator and found out that if you're 91 years old, you've been alive for around 33,400 days and the candles on your cake could burn about 9 ounces of water.

Gotta love the pointless stuff you can find on the internet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

do these pants make me feel fat?

I hate having my picture taken.

For some reason I always seem twice as big in pictures or videos than when I look into a mirror. I never notice any sign of a double chin or that a certain shirt adds more bulk to my body until I see it in a picture. I've fought with my weight for years now - and try hard to accept the Marilyn Monroe (plus a few pounds I'm sure) figure that I've been "blessed" with: big boobs, prominent bum, wider-than-necessary hips. If you don't like curves, you wouldn't like me. I was measured a few times at the gym and told that I had a "perfect hourglass figure". Okay, fine - except the "perfect" hourglass figure in our society involves "35-26-34" measurements. I sure as hell ain't that.

I've watched my skinny friends eat the same foods as me (often eating MORE than I do) without gaining an ounce. I went shopping with a friend who announced in her changeroom that "I need a size 0 - this is too big!" with glee and wanted to throw something at her. I know it's all in the metabolism and genetics - but I still watch what I eat and whimper a little when I pass up the chocolate-caramel cheesecakes in restaurants. I complain to some of my closer friends that it's not fair that I have to always watch what I eat while other people can eat chips & fries & pasta and all sorts of yummy things without care. Don't get me wrong - I don't obsess over my weight, it's just one of those little things that bothers me from time to time.

Especially when I'm shopping.

I've always loved shopping in certain stores because miraculously I'm a "smaller" size in them. Then I go into Guess or Buffalo or other places and barely fit (if at all) into their largest sizes. It's very demoralizing to realize that the counter girls aren't paying attention to me because they already know I can't buy any of the clothes in their store.

A boyfriend once suggested that I look at the "plus size" stores. After dying of embarassment / realizing he was pretty insensitive to suggest that - I went into one and realized that the clothes were WAY too big for me. What to do now? How does a girl with DD cup size, a smallish waist, and curvy hips find something that will make her look sleek & sophisticated?

I don't fit into the clothes in some of the "normal" shops, and the plus-size ones are too big for me. So I shop in the ones that tell me I'm a size 8 or 10 - which makes me happy anyway, but greatly limits my wardrobe.

I get to the UK and realize something terrible - apparently it's WORSE here - like a size 4/5 would be a 9/10 here. I will not say what size this will probably make me - I'm not completely sure yet because I haven't been shopping, but I'm dreading to see what that little number is going to tell me.

The question is - why do I care? Why does that little tag have the power to make me want to crash diet / cry / run out of the store?

As a great lover of "What Not To Wear" on TLC, I listen carefully to Clinton & Stacy telling people that the size doesnt' matter - it's the FIT. The little number just helps you find what fits you properly.

As a psych major, I understand the psychology behind these little numbers. The higher they are, the worse you feel. Subsquently, the lower they are the more you feel like celebrating. It's like losing weight without actually doing anything.

There was an article in msnbc about this phenomenon. How some stores deliberately lower their dress sizes because women will be more likely to purchase clothing in lower sizes. I can definitely support this theory - hell it works on me all the time. My brain knows what's going on, but somehow when I'm standing in the little changeroom with a new pair of pants in my hands, the last thing I want to see is that a size 14 doesn't fit me. I forget that I'm not actually that size and that while I might have a few extra pounds on my body - i'm not what most people would call fat (except the people in the fashion houses maybe). Immediately I get embarassed and angry with myself for "letting myself go" and promise to exercise-daily-stop-eating-cookies-for-a-year and all sorts of unrealistic things.

Why does size matter so much when we KNOW that it's all relative?

Why do women care so much about those few extra pounds or a little budda belly? Do we really expect to look like the air-brushed girls on the cover of Cosmo or the models in Fashion week?

If you have overweight friends, do you tell them the truth: yes, you are a little on the heavy side, BUT YOU'RE STILL BEAUTIFUL? Or do you tell a little white lie to spare their feelings "No you're fine - you're not overweight at all". I've heard this before and wondered if it was just a platitude since it's a basic fact that I'm heavier than I could be. Then I realized the people telling me that they think I'm pretty / hot / beautiful / gorgeous (oooh all of the words we all want and deserve to here) might actually believe what they're saying because they're the ones I'm closest to.

I was so proud when I lost weight and dropped two dress sizes. Maybe I should forget the size thing altogether and just be proud that I'm taking care of myself and that I like the reflection I see in the mornings (most mornings anyway) and that there are people out there who think I'm beautiful no matter what the little tags say.

Check out this site

Poor little bug on the wall

This is one of the meaningless posts that you feel justified to publish simply because it's your blog and you can write what you want to.

I'm a bit of a nature girl and have enjoyed looking at the different trees and flowers (and animals of course) that they have in the UK. If you read my photoblog (wow pimping out the blog twice in two posts! shameless!) then you'll see the cute pics of swans and other birds that don't generally hang out in the wild in Canada.

What I didn't realize is that there are mosquitos in London, England. Lots of them apparently. When we were at Green Park with Eve & Natasha, they both complained of mosquito bites on their arms and back while Jeremy and I looked at each other thinking "mosquitos? I don't see any, hear any or have any bites". The next day, Eve had over a dozen little red dots on her back - a testament to the annoying little bugs that apparently like European blood better than Canadian blood. Fine with us.

Since our flat doesn't have any screens on the window or doors, we have the choice of leaving everything closed up all the time or being at the mercy of all of the little creatures that live outside. It hasn't been much of a problem - no hordes of buzzing little insects or anything like that.

Last night we were watching The Simpsons on my laptop when we noticed a huge ass bug flying near the wall that looked like a mosquito on steroids. It flew like one, buzzed like one, but on further inspection, we're not sure what the heck it is:

Since it's size and very long legs made us question whether or not it is a giant blood-sucking insect, we decided not leave it alone: rather than whacking it with something, we both tried (unsucessfully) to herd it back outside so it could live where it belongs.

I just saw him on the ceiling a few minutes ago.

Not sure what he wants or why he won't fly back out what must be a huge space to him - through the wide open door, but apparently there's something in this flat that he kept his interest. Hopefully it's not to lay eggs or something (yes I know i've been saying "he" but i guess it could be a girl).

Or maybe he's laughing his ass off at the two giants on the ground swinging hats and towels at him.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Another Weekend Comes and Goes

It's amazing how little weekends matter (or even register) when you're not working. The days blend into one another with amazing smoothness and before you know it a whole week has passed. Thus is my life right now...

This weekend turned out to be a pretty good one.

Friday night was my first TimePlan social at a very cool pub in the downtown area. Tons of teachers and staff came out for a free drink and buffet and to socialize. I was really surprised at the number of people who came out - including the office manager and other higher-ups. The food was great, the bar had a fun, trendy atmosphere, and we met a whole lot of people from all around the world. Some of whose names I remember...

I drank a LOT of beer (it was super cheap and some was free) and then two "Snakebites", which are apparently a mix of beer, cider, and something else... those things packed quite a punch, to the delight of the Australian teacher who suggested I try one. I'll get him back next time...

We met a Canadian couple who actually lived in London, Ontario, had gone to Western University and lived within a few blocks of our last place there. It was so strange to be sitting in a bar here talking about places back home with people who knew what streets you lived on. We talked nostalgically about Tim Horton's coffee, hockey games, and living spaces that are bigger than a walk-in closet. They were telling us about a Canadian style bar that has all sorts of good beer and puts on a huge party every Canada Day. Apparently it's a good fix for Canadians who are feeling homesick. I can't wait to find out if they play hockey games.

Friday's events brought home the realization that I have signed on with an excellent company. Not just because they spring for a free drink & food for all of their teachers once a month, but also that their office is full of people who'd been originally hired on to be teachers. All of the employees I've met started off just like me. They divide their office people so each has a "team" of teachers (usually all from one country) so they can properly help us get accomodated and find work. It's amazing how much they remember about us - one of the office people actually asked Jeremy if he'd had any luck finding work yet. Amazing the difference that you see in people when their company actually worries about their well-being.

At the end of the night we found our way towards the night buses. Anybody who's been in London and ridden a night bus knows the kind of things that happen. We were told a story about people rolling then SMOKING joints on the top of a double decker night bus - apparently the whole top of the bus was full of smoke yet nobody did anything about it.

On our bus, a very drunk guy offered the bus driver 5 pounds to wait for his mates, who were slowly making their way up the road from a pretty long ways away. The bus moved on. We stayed on the bottom of the bus because the top sounded like a house party. Loud music, a little smoke, and lots of shouting and laughing. Nobody got off from the top of the bus the entire time we were on it.

Saturday involved sleeping in very late, relaxing around our flat; reading and playing video games. I've re-discovered Super Mario and all sorts of cheesy Nintendo games - a decent substitute when you have no internet access or TV in your place. I totally suck at MarioKart now, which is a disappointment because I used to kick butt at that game.

Today we went to Kensington Gardens with Eve and a couple of her work friends who are actually from Germany. The weather was incredible: very warm (28 degrees) and sunny with one of those nice light breezes. We sat on the grass and watched the zillions of birds and people wandering around enjoying the day. I took a lot of pictures (see my photoblog) again. This place is perfect for any photographer - you never run out of things to take pictures of.

We had some very interesting conversations about why some French Canadians want to seperate from Canada, places in Germany that are fun to visit, why Canadians love ice hockey as much as they do, the mystery of the game of cricket (that none of us understand, but everybody in Britian seems to love), and where we were on Sept 11, 2001. I love talking to people from other countries - it's always an eye opener to see how people from other places look at Canadians. They really do think we all love beer & hockey. Unfortunately I completely fit the stereotype so people don't always believe me when I tell them lots of people don't share these passions.

We found this great little market that sells hot food like curly fries, samosas, wings, chicken pieces, spring rolls, and all sorts of other good treats for a very small price. It's really close to our flat, so I can see us going there very often. Only 99p for a huge serving of curly fries. I'm really glad my job means I'm running all over the city and on my feet all day. We learned in the first week that the British love their "chips" - we're learning not to call them fries.

We're getting used to finding our way around this place without consulting a map all the time, have made a few aquaintances that will probably turn into friends, and are lucky enough to be in a gorgeous part of this amazing city.

Even though we haven't had any breaks yet from the bad news I've mentioned before, the optimist in me feels good tonight. I'm sitting outside in a beautiful night under a huge maple tree listening to internet radio and drinking a glass of cheap French wine.

Tonight it's okay that I don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

One Year Ago (an early birthday "card")

Dear Addis,

A year ago today I was driving down the 401 on my way to London, trying to imagine how much your mommy's life was going to change (and thinking that mine was about to change a little bit too). She was on her way to the hospital so she could finally have you. As I drove down the highway, I imagined an adorable little baby who would call me "Auntie" and completely steal my heart.

I had no idea.

That night I stayed at a friend's house and spent the whole night waiting for the phone call from your daddy to tell us you were finally here. We'd been waiting for what seemed like forever (although it seemed even longer for your mom).

Around 4:30am on September 10th, the phone rang. It was your daddy, sounding exhausted, ecstatic and overwhelmed. I don't remember what I said - and he probably doesn't remember either. He told me you were a healthy boy and that you and your mom were doing great. When I hung up the phone your mom's friend and I both started to cry. You see, we were there when your mom found out she was going to have you. We watched her get bigger each month and go through all of the preparations that new parents go through. I got to feel your little feet kicking inside your mom's belly and watch her get more and more excited for you to be born. It was pretty amazing stuff.

The first time I saw you, you were 10 hours old. Not even a whole day old! You opened your eyes and looked right up at me and part of me wanted to believe that you'd know my voice (since I had been around you mom for so much of her pregnancy). I said hello with tears in my eyes and remember thinking what a miracle you were.

Watching you (and your pal, Gordie) growing up has been nothing short of amazing. You went from being a little baby who slept alot to a little boy who laughs and smiles all the time, and imitates everything you see the big people doing. You're curious about everything and want everybody you see to come and say hello. It's easy to see that you'll have lots of friends as you grow up.

It's hard to believe that you're going to be a whole year old tomorrow! You've grown into an adorable little man that everybody likes as soon as they meet you (a lot like your mommy). I wish I could be there for your first birthday, but since I got to meet you on your first day in the world, I guess I'm still pretty lucky. Plus there will be many more birthdays for me to spoil you rotten with candy and educational teacher gifts...


Lots of Love from all the way across the ocean,
Auntie Melinda

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bitten by the Travel Bug

We haven't even been in London for a month and already I'm dreaming of places to travel. There are a LOT of places you can visit from London for very little money:

Trip to Venice: Plane tickets for two adults: 58.66 pounds return
Accomodations: 28 Euros for 4 nights

Trip to the French Riviera (St. Tropez): Plane tickets: 51.57 pounds return
Accomodations: range from 40 Euros to really freakin expensive

Trip to Mykonos Island, Greece: Plane tickets: 200 pounds return
Accomodations for 4 nights: 56.55 pounds

You can also do something called a "rail & sail" from London to Amsterdam, taking both the train and the ferry for 50 pounds return per person. Apparently the views during your journey are incredible... Add a cheap hotel or hostel to that and you've got a hell of a fun weekend.

Venice looks like the best deal right now, but we haven't even really begun to search. Apparently RyanAir is run by a billionaire who is very generous - recently they've begun to offer FREE flights all over Europe - you just have to pay the taxes.

Basically for the price of one or two day's work we can travel to a darn cool place for a weekend or even a week. Can't wait to start seeing everything that Europe has to offer...

Mykonos, Greece

Thursday, September 07, 2006

get me off this ride

There has been quite the rollercoaster ride happening since we've arrived. Good news and bad news coming without warning (and usually taking turns), and the realization that this might have all been a big mistake. Some of the things we've found out in the last little while have made me start to question how smart it was for us to move here. If I had known some of the things I know now, there's a strong chance I'd be writing a blog post from some place in Ontario...

Yesterday I got called to see if I wanted to work on Friday in a year 6 class (grade 5 back home) and after excitedly accepting and getting ready for my first teaching day, I got another call saying the teacher changed her appointment and won't need a sub after all... The good news is that I do get an extra day of teaching and it looks like a possibility of other work before the 20th. Sure would love a few extra days to help with the rent money.

The incident yesterday is typical of the type of stuff that's been happening - we get great news then something happens to completely puncture the bubble of happiness. Like how we don't have a TV but found good but cheap speakers so we could watch movies on Jeremy's computer. The computer had other plans and erupted into flames last night. Yep, flames. The video card decided to turn itself into a candle. Neither of us have ever seen anything like it before and I hope not to ever again. The rest of the computer wasn't damaged at all, but right now his PC is not usable.

We also found out that TimePlan had a job for him. Yay! THAT particular bubble of joy burst when we found out he can't apply for his visa while in the UK. Not sure what the policy is behind all of this, but the government has decided that there are too may migrant workers here and the if you want a working holiday visa, you
a) have to apply from your home country
b) shouldn't have a job arranged as the goal of this visa is for travel


So as he makes plans to fly BACK home to Canada so he can apply for a working holiday visa for "not working" that he needs to get a job (makes sense right), we try to figure out how he's going to make money in the meantime because I certainly can't afford to fly him home when I owe ridiculous amounts of money to both my parents and my bank.

While dealing with all of this junk, we've been enjoying beautiful weather and fun outings with Eve and her friend Natasha. Last night it took us to Green Park, where we had a picnic in the grass with wine, grapes, chips & dip and all sorts of yummy things (raised a toast to the Queen, who was only a 5 minute walk away). We got invited to visit Eve's family in Germany for free (just cost of plane ticket, which is like 60 pounds return) anytime we want.

I'm really hoping that the good news doesn't mean more bad news is on its way.

Is this the "real world" now?

Monday, September 04, 2006


I need some.

In previous blog posts I may have made reference to a friend of mine who isn't a friend anymore... We didn't get into a fight. We just stopped talking. Even though there is usually a mutual upset in friendships that don't last, I have to say I mainly blame her for the fact that we don't talk anymore. She made the choice to take herself away.

I've been pretty angry with her since Christmas for reasons that I won't bother getting into. Some of these reasons may have been blown out of proportion because I never did even talk to her about them. That's the problem with this type of situation: if you don't get into a fight then nothing gets said. Or resolved.

Have you ever had a friendship with a person who stopped making an effort to call her friends because of a man? A friend who, when the relationship wasn't going well, would call you crying or to vent about how miserable he made her, only to run back to him and disappear when things got better again? We never understood why she kept going back to this guy. Didn't have the chance to get to know him because I'm fairly certain she was worried we'd already judged him as not good enough. Which was completely true - we never did get a chance to find out otherwise since they kept their relationship to themselves, and only went out with his friends.

There were 3 of us who spent all of our time together - felt like I had two sisters. We shared everything and went through a few pretty intense things together (breakups, crushes, finding out somebody's pregnant) yet when this guy called, she answered. And disappeared.

I'm still pretty sad about the way things ended, but haven't thought about it as much lately - it's been almost 6 months since we last talked.

For the last couple of days she's been on msn messenger and each time I saw her I wanted to send a message. Problem with that is:

1. Don't know what to say
2. Don't know if I want to bother trying anymore
3. Don't know if the things I want to say are going to make things better or worse
4. Since being with him she has totally changed so many of the things that made her the person she was (a fellow beer drinking hockey watcher actually) and I don't know if I'd be able to relate to her anymore

So I just sat and stared at the little green icon with her name beside it before closing my msn window. Maybe I'm being childish but I feel like she's the one who should be trying to salvage our friendship. Am I wrong?

Losing a friend is like (and sometimes worse than) being dumped.

Not sure what to do...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Flat

Even thought it means neglecting my photoblog, I'm posting the pics of our new flat here instead. There are definite pros and cons to living in a basement flat (which some of you might already know) but the area we're in totally makes up for it. It's so weird to be able to walk for less than 5 minutes and arrive in a place as grand as Kensington Gardens. Between that and all of the restaurants, pubs, and shops we will never run out of things to do in our own little neighbourhood.

Tonight we met up with a new friend, Eve, from Germany. She was on her way home a few nights ago and found me sitting on the front steps of our building (typing a blog post). Concerned that I'd locked myself out, she asked if I was okay. We ended up chatting and it quickly became obvious that we'd be friends. She's a little older than us (31) but has a very close friend who's exactly my age. The four of us went over to a pub in Notting Hill that has this beautiful roof terrace and cheap food & drinks. Sat there for several hours talking and listening to the DJ playing music from the 80s. We kept laughing at how old the songs were - the DJ was really good and mixed in newer music occasionally too.

I can't say what a relief it is to meet people (even if it's only two) who I know we'll hang out with. Both girls have talked about things we "have" to do together - shopping in Portobello Market for plants and secondhand clothes, going for a picnic in the park, hitting this great Australian pub called "the Walkabout" that "everybody" goes to.

Not to sound whiny or homesick but it did make me miss my girls (and my mom) back home - I would love so much to be able to do things like that with them. Someday we will again...

So it was a fairly quiet weekend. Good, but quiet. I look forward to the days when we can afford to go out and do a few more things, but since we're here for so long we can definitely be patient. For now I'll settle for watching movies on Jeremy's computer and having quiet dinners at home, trying to use the TINY kitchen as best I can. As you'll see from the pictures - the toaster oven is pretty high up in the air. The stove is on top, so I have to stand up tip toes to see inside the pots as I'm cooking. Was a lot of fun making spaghetti sauce last night...

A couple of different shots of the kitchen / living room area. The space you see through the doors is all enclosed and apparently ours to use. So of course I have big plans to set up an old table (if we can find one on the street I'd take it) and a bunch of plants. If you turn in the other direction you'd see our sofa bed & dresser (that is doubling as a computer desk right now). It's small, but cozy.

The bathroom is shaped kinda funny so I couldn't capture all of it in this picture - shower's to the right and toilet to the left. It's actually the most spacious bathroom we've seen in all of the flats we've lived in / looked at. We really like the bathroom, but I'd give about a million dollars for a bathtub...

As you can see our bedroom is literally just that. A room with a bed. There is no space for anything else in this entire room. In the left corner, you can see part of the wardrobe they left for us (that currently has no hangers in it) that pretty much takes up the rest of the room. We're planning on getting a few shelves installed on the walls so I can put my books and alarm clock (and my Canada stuff when it arrives) up on them. I thought we'd feel claustrophobic, but the bed's very big and the window makes the room feel bigger.

Outside, looking in. This is the outdoor space. It's not fancy and when the rain comes, a LOT of water falls into it. But after putting a few things (as mentioned above) into it, I know it'll be a nice place to sit and enjoy the fresh air.

I had to add my little Canada bear because he's the only decoration we have in the flat right now. He was a present from my mom and has a little heart inside filled with things from Ella Lake... like part of a hot dog stick and sand from our lake. It's the perfect reminder of home and I'm very glad I brought him. Not sure what his name is yet... maybe Canuck or something.

I was going to post pictures of our street, since it's full of trees and nice buildings, but that kind of advertisement of where we live just didn't seem smart. Just imagine huge trees and elegant, white buildings with shops at the end of the road and a pub around the corner.

So that's the tour of our flat. I was sneaky and took pictures before we unpacked so nobody can see how terribly messy it is right now. When you have limited space, it's so much easier to make a mess - we're already learning to do dishes as soon as dinner's over and put our things away as soon as they're not being used. Wow, my mom must be so proud - she's been trying to get me to do stuff like this for years.

Until next time...