Monday, 10 June 2013

London Fields

Over the weekend London experienced their version of a heat wave - and to their credit I even got a little sunburnt on my face and arms! A miracle, I know. My housemates and I headed on down to London Fields (which is a great park area in East London) which is right by the Broadway Markets. The plan was to buy up lots of fresh goodies like cheese, bread, dips, and pastries and gorge ourselves while lying in the sun. 

We did just this.

We found this kook wandering around with a pair of goggles and something that looked like a probing stick.

They always say that the Brits make the most of any fine weather and boy do they. But still I wasn't prepared for the amount of revellers there actually were!The atmosphere was off the wall. There was literally people everywhere - not families and kids, but a young crowd. Someone brought massive speakers and a DJ started up and the drinks kept flowing. This is the kind of London vibe that you just don't find in Brisbane.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

When Peter Pan met Alice in Wonderland

I’d booked tickets to Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre two months ago and had been eagerly awaiting to see the show since then. This stars the magnificent Judi Dench and her equally impressive co-star Ben Whishaw (you may recognise these partners-in-crime from the latest Bond film) as Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Peter Llewlyn, better known to us as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

In my typical cheap-theatre-going fashion I booked myself the cheapest seats possible (£12). These put me in a restricted viewing area - which usually means something a bit minimal but these seats you literally had to lean so far forward I thought I might topple off the balcony! A sore back was well worth it though.
View from my seat if I didn't lean forward

Dench and Whishaw are both broken people when we meet them. They retrace their lives through fantasy, reality we see their former youth that captivated Caroll and Barrie’s attention and sparked two of the greatest children’s stories ever written. But the two writers fascination with childhood and never growing up has impacted both their lives disastrously. It’s starts off with quite a lot of black comedy, Dench’s character displaying a sharp witty tongue. Peter Pan comes flying down and Alice pops her head from under the floor. These young, vibrant characters contrast harshly with the reality of what has become of their inspirations. But as the stories progress, and the themes of pedophilia, aging and lonlieness begin to push the comedy to the back burner. In the end you are left with an extremely sad, despondent and hopeless feeling. I spent the good last half hour of the show attempting to stifle my sobs.

The set is brilliant, the theatre itself beautiful and although I’ve heard complaints of it being too wordy, I thought the long passages of speech were so beautifully written (John Logan) and delivered so brilliantly that it didn’t feel long. I don’t really have a bad word to say about it except that I thought that the boy playing Peter Pan was slightly weak (especially in vocal quality) compared to his fellow cast members, though he did have an air or springy youthfulness.

We went for cocktails afterwards and sat there debriefing about the show for a few hours, and kept talking about it the next morning, and the next night too. It’s a piece that will stay with me for a while to come.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Job Vacancy - East London

Saw this on my walk to work the other day. One of the perks about living in East London - there are just so many opportunities to try new things! Seems legitimate to me. What do we think?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A Beginner’s Guide to the London Public Transport System

If you’re moving, just moved, thinking about moving to, or just visiting London then there is 99% probability that you are moving from a much smaller city, with a much less complicated public transport system!

Buses and a train every now and then (which I definitely wasn’t sure how to use), was the extent of my public transport knowledge before moving to London. Just the sheer size and scale was overwhelming, and I’d never used an underground system before. That being said I was also equally impressed with the way London actually manages to run it’s public transport on time and about ten times faster and more frequently then little old Brisbane.

Never fear, like all things, with time comes familiarity and soon you’ll be riding a double-decker and running the rabbits warren like you were born in the big smoke. But in the mean time, here are some explanations about different public transport and some tips to make it easy to get around!


The Underground/Tube

This is generally the quickest way to get around, and (depending where you live) will probably be your main source of public transport. It can be a little daunting at first with so many lines and I spent a lot of my first few weeks getting on the right tube line…but going in the wrong direction.

A few tips:

1.     If you have a smart phone (is there anyone who doesn’t?) Then get a tube map app! They are free, and can tell you the quickest route to and from your destination, the route with fewest changes, any delays on different lines or closures, a map of the entire tube system including the Overground lines as well as working without wifi! 
2.     Always avoid the tube in peak hour (generally from around 7am-9:30am, and 5:30am – 7pm) because people will LITERALLY trample you to get on. I have had a full-grown man shove me to the side so he could get on. If you are going to travel in peak, or have no choice as I do for work, then make sure you’ve got some guts about you to stand your ground.
3.     When riding the escalators you stand to the right and walk on the left. No expecptions, people will get annoyed at you if you don’t.
4.     It is hard to tell which direction your tube is going once you get on the actual carriage – though the little man that speaks to you will tell you at every stop so you’ll work out if you’re going the wrong way after one stop.
5.     Mostly only drunk people will talk to you, (I’ve had two drunk men ask me on dates while riding the tube) but other than that people stick to themselves, their headphones or their books. No eye contact or smiling is accepted.  


The Overground

Basically an above ground train – like any other you may have had in your home town. Though if your hometown was anything like mine, they definitely run more frequently and they run on time (a crazy concept for a Brisbanite like me). 

Compared to the underground the run significantly less frequently – about every 10-15 minutes – and take a bit longer.

The DLR (Docklands Light Railway)

This is a fairly new addition to the public transport system in London and reach from central London out East as far as Beckton. It’s frequent and relatively fast and is particularly useful for getting to the London City Airport.


Double-decker buses have been an enduring symbol of London and most tourists want to get their first ride on one – though they usually do it on one of the big red tour buses.
Buses take ALOT longer then any other mode of transport, but if you are only travelling short distances then they are worth the price difference alone. I like catching buses when I know I don’t have to rush anywhere. I actually get to see my surroundings and get to know the area a little bit better, it’s easy to forget there’s an outside world sometimes in the rabbit warren that is the tube system.

Night Buses

Night buses are amazing. I can’t stress this enough. If you are going to have nights out in London and have ahhh ehhh umm…. A ’few’ drinks…. then they are going to be your best friends. Black cabs and unmarked cabs (which are unsafe to get, though I must admit have caught a few home before) are ridiculously expensive. If they can tell you’re not a local they will charge you about double the price they would a Londoner! So the best way to get home in the early hours of the morning is a night bus. Be prepared for it to take a little longer …. But you never who you’ll meet at 3am in the dredges of East London to spice your journey up.

Note: Not to be confused with Harry Potters Knight Buses – have yet to see one of these.

General Tips

1.     Get yourself an oyster card – even if you’re only in town for a week or two. If you hand it back in you can get the five quid back that it costs to buy it, and the tickets you get on an oyster work out to be much cheaper than paper tickets.
2.     The transport system is divided into 6 zones – 1 being central London, 6 being the outskirts. Obviously the more zones you have to travel across the more expensive it becomes. Buses only cost a fixed amount per ride, no matter the distance.
3.     There are a high number of suicides in the underground.  As a new Londoner they still make me upset, but for Londoners they regard them as mere inconveniences of their day. They can be slightly callous about it. Perhaps this comes from their constant exposure and familiarity, and has thus become familiar and therefore no longer shocking. For us small-towners might find it a little bit more difficult to dismiss.

Good luck! 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Red, Red Wine

Makes me forget... oh, oh.... 

You all know how the song goes!

I'm staring down the barrel of a 30 day working month... yes you heard (read) me - month! Between my two jobs, I'm working 30 days straight. This may seem a little crazy (cue maniacal laugh here), but sometimes you have to do these things!

I have hit about half way in this crazy month and came home tonight to an empty house. Spaghetti (delicious - my father's recipe) and a glass of red wine (Sainsbury's brand - we are still on a budget people!) were in order. I've never been a big casual drinker, but have grown up with my parents always having a glass or two of wine with dinner. 

My question is when does it become sad to sit at home enjoying a glass or two of wine by oneself, or am I, heaven forbid becoming an adult? They say one is good for your health right?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Quick Review: Merrily We Roll Along

Last night a good friend was nice enough to arrange free tickets for us to go see the musical Merrily We Roll Along at the Harold Pinter Theatre.  In reverse chronological order it tells the demise of a group of artist friends, a composer, a lyricist, and a writer from the sixties to through to the seventies. I’d never even heard of this musical before yesterday so I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much.

It definitely explored themes I’m particularly interested in as an artist myself – how do you balance between doing art for yourself and for the public? When do you pick money over art? As well as the themes that as you grow older and wiser (or less so in some cases) the dream that you can change the world slowly fades. Jenna Russell as Mary the writer, really stole the show for me - funny and heart breaking at the same time. Every line was a 'if I wasn't laughing I'd been crying' feeling.

I found the second half to be much stronger then the first, as it dealt with the younger parts of the friends lives but the whole show lacked any show stopping songs. Although they were upbeat  (and at times quite witty – one especially about the Kennedy’s) at the time, I couldn’t remember a single tune from the minute I walked out of the theatre!

The theatre itself was rather unimpressive but a good space nonetheless. A tip if you are looking for a pre-show drink - keep walking up the stairs to the top and there is a lovelier (and perhaps a little bit fancier) bar where less people seem to go – probably because of all the flights of stairs. The line’s are shorter and there are arm chairs to sink into.

Good company, a few laughs and theatre - All in all, a great night.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A Serious Case of Homesickness

Last week I hit the six month mark since I officially moved to London. More then enough time I would’ve thought to reconcile myself with British sensibilites and weather, learn my way around the tube, find some local haunts and meet and English gentlemen. I think I’ve got everything down pat, except the English gentlemen, so how come for the last few weeks I’ve been suffering from that debilitating disease called homesickness?

Homesickness seems to be a taboo subject amoung expats, it’s not something they like to admit too. On top of missing your family, friends, weather, humour and homely creature comforts you are also filled with an overwhelming feeling of failure. When you do manage to work out time-differences and daylight savings, and get the Skype connection to work for longer then two minutes, friends and family are always want to hear exciting stories and what amazing adventures you’ve been up to. To admit that actually this week has been, shall we say, shit, would be like admitting defeat. But let’s be honest, you weren’t constantly have an amazing time at home, and relocating yourself to half way across the world is going to be one of the hardest things you ever do and doesn’t come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

I think that my homesickness is actually a sense of homlessness . Although I long for a long lunch with my Mum, nights out with my best friends and am desperately craving a road trip to the beach (sand not stones) I can’t see myself moving back to little old Brisbane…ever. I don’t seem to have anything to move back for. Brisbane is no longer my home, but neither is London quite home yet either.  Being caught in this limbo leaves me disorientated, lonely and indescribably sad. I feel like I’m mourning my old life.

This overwhelming sense of disembodiment kind of makes me want to crawl up into a ball in my bed and have a cry. If you too are suffering from homesickness, I would definitely advise you NOT to do this (or at least not for very long).  Thing’s I found that have helped –

1.     Skyping my Mum and literally having a good old cry about nothing
2.     Seeing one of my good Aussie friends who is also living in London and drowning our homesickness in a bottle of red wine
3.     Going for a run/walk and listening to my favourite music
4.     Eating Vegemite on toast (cheese is optional)
5.     Looking up Australian news and see what’s happening with Gillard and the carbon tax (really nothing has changed)
6.     Emailing/Vibering my friends back home (it can be hard to keep contact but a small message is better then no message!)
7.     Soaking up the sunshine that has recently hit London and reminding myself why I moved here by going to see as much theatre as possible!
8.     Stopped putting pressure on myself to try to be happy with everything in England

So crack open a bottle of wine, chocolate, a good book, a cd, a plate…whatever your mood tells you and remind yourself that home will always be there – that’s the best thing about it! Give your new home a chance to woo you, if you’re open to it’s advances, you just might fall in love and let it heal your broken heart. 

Regent's Park Sky

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Pick Me Up!

Found myself with an unexpected free day on Sunday. For me the best place to go when alone is an art gallery! Generally that's my rule - I like to wander at my own pace, take several seconds by a piece or maybe an hour whatever suits me. But boy was I wrong on this occasion! I should've brought friends, not just one but many!

I went to the Pick Me Up Exhibition at the Embankment Galleries in Somerset House. This Graphic Arts Festival had things on every corner that caught my eye! It was super-interactive, and I've got to say just down right fun. From colouring in for adults to an idea's machine, photo-booths, and projections of live drawings.

Lot's of the artists prints were for sale from an affordable £10 to more exorbitant £300. I decided to pick up this little number.

It was cheap, soft, comfy and the print is just damn cool. The Collective that made this one is called Coffee Club, and you can buy their stuff here. Unfortunately by pure chance I went on the absolute last day of the exhibition but I'll definitely be keeping my out for more gems like that...

Also, the flowers are starting to bloom in the parks - these ones put a smile on my face.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A Night at the Ballet

Yesterday I had a long awaited day off! After a much needed sleep in, my housemate Rach and I spent the day together.

After a surprise thunderstorm (something all to rare over here – a lot of drizzle, no thunder!) the sun gods blessed us with a brilliant, if windy day. We made our way into Covent Garden to go to a little Vegetarian restaurant that Rach had been raving about for months. And now I see why. 

The place is called Food for Thought – a hole in the wall and completely unassuming. No need for fancy tables, chairs or menus the food speaks for itself. Rach chose the Kashmiri Gobi with Eggplant and coriander raita and brown rice, and I had the Quiche of the day which was sweet potato and sweet corn with salad on the side. Both were to die for. You would think a quiche and salad to be pretty standard, but it was delicious, with four different side salads and MASSIVE servings.

 We cleared the plates cleaned and managed to fit in dessert.

Banana and strawberry scrunch and apple and plum crumble.

It was a chore, but someone had to get through it all.

The food was simple, delicious, quick, healthy and cheap. The best thing about this place is that the menu changes everyday, and you can get their cookbook for £9.99.

I had gotten us ticket’s to see the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum, so after recovering from our food comas, we walked down to the theatre. Which was absolutely breath taking.

Cheap ticket’s up in the Balcony only cost £10 if you nab the seats early enough, and being organized it definitely worth it. We saw Ecstasy and Death, a collection of three short contrasting ballet’s. The first Petite Mort was my favourite. Only about half an hour long, with six dance partners on stage, all in simple flesh coloured costumes. They seemed like ephemeral beings, almost like they were swimming in water. Their skill and strength made the hardest movements seem effortless, and the dancers exuded a passion and raw energy.

The second, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, was a short piece also which was a little reminiscent of Street Car Named Desire. Perhaps it was just the raw brute of a man in overalls, stamping around the set of a run down apartment. A beautiful woman manipulates him and her love drives him to suicide after which she reappears to him as Death. It was a highly erotically charged piece with a lot of force, but for me the costuming and set didn’t quite work.
 The third and final piece, Etudes, took the audience through the rigorous training of a ballet student from bar work to the final performance with the skill needed to be a classically trained ballet dancer. The large cast were dressed in simple black and white costumes with stereotypical tutu’s with the men in tights made for some striking images. There were some beautifully crafted moments excellently staged lighting, using silhouette to highlight the dancers skill and elegance. It amy be missing the point with this piece but I didn’t connect emotionally with the piece and for me the final two were ruined by the perfection of the first. All in all, highly recommended though there are only 5 performances left. Rach and I headed home, a perfect ending to a perfect day off. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Theatre Fix - The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle

Last Tuesday night I decided to have a little impromptu outing to the theatre. I hadn’t been in a while and needed my fix. What to see? Firstly there was the issue of money (the issue being I don’t have any) so it had to be cheap. Secondly it needed to be close to work so I didn’t have to travel far.

I decided to have a little look into Soho Theatre’s programme and The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle popped out at me.  The young Irish Theatre Company 15th Oak, have been claiming accolades left, right and centre on the fringe scene, so I thought it was worth a look in. And with tickets for under-25s at £10 how could I resist? I hadn’t been to Soho Theatre before, and it had a great atmosphere the bar down stairs was absolutely jam packed, with theatre goers and non-theatre goers alike.

Eric Argyle was in the upstairs theatre, which is a self-proclaimed area for emerging companies, young people and brave new writing. A central London platform for anyone who has been tearing up the fringe'. Sounded perfect. Since moving to London, I have been to see really big productions like Book of Mormon, The Lion King, People and The Woman in Black. But small indie and fringes productions is where my love lies.

This photo is the property of Soho Theatre

So when I walked into a tiny box painted black with some dim lighting, I felt home. The play was a book, about a man who wrote a book about his life (non-linear form). A little confusing to begin with, the different time lapses and different realities meant it took me a little while to get into the swing of things. The extremely wordy dialogue didn’t always serve to help this, but the language itself was beautiful – though hard not to think it perhaps should’ve remained a book. Theatre is a visual medium, and I always like to follow the rule ‘don’t tell them if you can show them’ so the descriptive narrating felt a little redundant at times.

Pre-Show Set

That being said, I really enjoyed the show. The actors were lively and young, and brought life (and sort of death) to their characters. There were poignant moments, as well as some sardonic humour, which had me laughing out loud. All the little stories within stories left me wanting to know more in the best possible way. The icing on the cake for me was the music, played by the cast, with guitars and accordions, which seemed to melt into the set, creating a beautiful and surreal atmosphere.

I noticed that some of my fellow patrons left the theatre balling their eyes out. While I wasn’t reduced to tears I did leave the theatre thinking about the true weight and implications of seemingly small decisions in our lives. The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle gives food for thought, eyes and soul and is on until the 20th of April at Soho Theatre.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Spring Awakening... (not the Musical)

Over the Easter weekend, as anyone living in London will know, Daylight Savings officially kicked in! As an Australian expat who just experienced her first winter in the Northern Hemisphere, this came as a welcome change. For me it meant that I had officially survived the short days, ice cold winds and snow drifts of an English winter. Now I can emerge from my hibernation, gradually reducing my layers of clothing week by week.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Winter  - experiencing snow fall for the first time, drinking mulled wine and cider, Christmas markets, roasted chestnuts, cute winter coats and gloves, ice skating out doors and gorgeous frost covered parks. 

But, after falling over on icy path ways, tube systems down due to bad weather and leaving work in pitch black, I am well and truly ready to welcome in the first signs of spring.

All the natives say that London comes alive in the Spring, and that’s when I’ll truly fall in love with this city. Flowers bloom, trees become leafy fortresses, parks bustle with sun-seekers and everyone seems that little bit happier on the morning tube crush.

I think I’m already well on my way to being in love with London (if not love, then a very deep and potentially life-long friendship), so I can’t wait to see what London pulls out of the bag over Spring and Summer. I plan to see shows at The Globe, play croquet, attend the Royal Ascot Races, have a picnic in Hyde Park and soak up as much Vitamin D as England will allow me. 

Pimm’s and lemonade anyone?