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.
I’d booked tickets to Peter and Aliceat 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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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?
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
Good company, a few laughs and theatre - All in all, a great night.
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
6.Emailing/Vibering my friends
back home (it can be hard to keep contact but a small message is better then no
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.