Friday, 30 March 2007

Money can't buy you happiness...

... but no money at all can't buy you anything. The combination of being paid at the end of the month, starting work at the beginning of the month, and not wanting to burn through any more Australian dollars (our pacific peso doesn't go very far with the exchange rate), meant that I was down to 1p in my bank account, and a few silver coins in my pocket. It's amazing what you'll eat when poor... Tesco's egg and cress sandwiches are a culinary delight not to be missed by any discerning pauper.

Luckily, I did get paid as promised. This was no small surprise given my past experiences with the personnel department. So once again, I'm flush with funds.

Or was.

Once I deduct rent, bills, and a few entertainment costs, I'm back to living off less than £1 a day for the next month. Admittedly, the 'entertainment costs' are a week long trip to Cyprus, and tickets to Glastonbury. Getting tickets to this festival is more difficult than getting a passport - you have to pre-register online, which includes submitting a biometric valid passport photo, just for the privilege of being able to try and buy tickets this Sunday. I'm expecting the only attendees to be industry types and terrorists who thought they were applying for a UK passport.

Yours in pauperism,

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Viral music

Ok, I know I've spent a fair bit of time slagging off this country: the weather's rubbish, the people are useless, the food's... well, you get the idea. But, the one thing the Brits seem to do well - apart from lying on Bondi Beach turning red, smoking and chatting on mobile phones doing everything in their power to be struck down with cancer - is music.

Yes, the likes of the spice and 'suga' young females were spawned on this island, and like the British Empire, they had their moment of glory ruling large parts of the world, but with the constant scrag in-fighting and the real risk of starving themselves to death, it was only a matter of time before Darwinian principles came into effect and knocked them from the top of the pop evolutionary tree. I mean, the same thing's happening to Britney - mating with another pop wannabe is a bad idea, there's clearly something detrimental on the processed pop gene, and soon enough they should breed themselves out...

Which of course begs the question: in such a musical gene-pool vacuum, what will replace them? Well, I'd been predicting it and praying for it for a long time, but now finally the time has come. Like a mutated wild type virus thought long since dead (the plague is making a come back you know), 90's pop is back again! Of course, for the true believers, it never went away. But with the triumphant return of the Proclaimers to the UK #1 spot, it can no longer be denied.

Yes, that's right, 500 miles is back again thanks to a spot on comic relief (an annual charity event over here that is rarely comical, but we're all relieved when it ends) with the chaps from Little Britain. Dyalan claims that this is all thanks to his work:
Hmmm I don't believe that they are back at the top thanks to some shitty charity comedy gig, I prefer to believe that I brought them back. After all, I have been listening to my proclaimers tape in the car for the last week, and although one of the speakers isn't working I play it pretty loud. All it would take is one British tourist to have heard it, then he'd get a craving for more proclaimers. Upon returning home he'd pass it on to a couple of friends, who'd pass it on to a couple of friends and so on - then pow! back to number one.

and if so, that makes Dyalan the Ebola carrying rhesus monkey that has led to this outbreak. Well done, that man!

Unfortunately, not all 90's acts were as fortunate as the Proclaimers - Right Said Fred, undeniably the greatest ever aerobics-instructor turned musician act are now reduced to spruiking laundry detergent.

So, despite the plain food, the expensive cost of living, and the miserable weather... at least English music is here to cheer me up.

Hold on - aren't the Proclaimers lads Scottish???

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Best reply

I think these words from Adam, in response to the "I'm not dead yet" email, are a fitting description of the antipodean contribution to modern England:

"Glad to hear you haven't died. If you had, the political fallout might have forced us to pull out of England. And god don't we know it, England needs Australians there, on the ground, keeping the peace, helping it become a civilised country again."

I mean even the English cricket team can't seem to behave in a civilised and dignified manner at the world cup! (okay, perhaps comparing the behaviour of our national XI's isn't the best way to win this argument...)

Friday, 9 March 2007

This is a LOCAL country...

"... for local people... are you LOCAL???" demanded the customs official at Heathrow, who did actually have an upturned nose not unlike Tubbs. I should have taken his message to heart.

The first few weeks living in this country have been less than ideal. It's surprising that an Australian can feel so unwelcome and out of place in a nation that shares the same language, heritage and 'policy bitch' status with the US... nevertheless, I find myself feeling more foreign and unable to understand the strange local customs here than when I watched people drinking wine with snake penises in it in Vietnam.

Vincent Vega be damned! The little differences I can handle. In fact, I think mayonnaise on chips is fantastic (but serving carbs cooked in fat with a dollop of more fat for extra flavour does seem a bit excessive, and maybe, just maybe, has something to do with the UK's 'obesity pandemic'). My problem is with the great big stinking differences. And I don't mean the weather (although that is incredibly shit too).

The greatest shock so far has been the ubiquitous incompetence encountered while trying to find work: recruiters who promise you half a dozen interviews then stop talking to you; recruiters who do talk to you, but send you to an interview without forwarding you the position description; companies who interview you in January, promise to get back to you in a few weeks, but still can't give you an answer in March; HR departments who take a week to send an email; another company who actually want to offer you a job, but forgot to do so because someone went on holiday... the good news is that I have a job offer and start in a few days. But I still haven't seen a copy of the employment contract.

Given that any employer will end up having to give me money, I can understand their reluctance and inertia. But when it comes to me paying people money, I'd have thought that they'd be a bit more pro-active. My flat hunting experiences demonstrated that British incompetence isn't subject to economic theory - it's bred in, or in-bred if you prefer. So far, the letting agency we're going to be renting through has managed to mismanage just about everything, from messing up the reference checks to bungling the moving-in date... the good news is it seems like everything's sorted out now. But we still don't move in for over a week.

Everything should be fine soon, in a matter of days I'll be employed and in a place of my own.... famous last words? I'm not holding my breath.

On top of the job- and house-hunting shenanigans, London lowlights have included, but are not limited to:

  • spending my first day praying to the porcelain with food poisoning received on the Thai airways flight here;
  • returning from a weekend in Leeds, only to be told 5 minutes before my train left that the service was cancelled, then spending the day in 'amazing race' mode to get back to London for a job interview;
  • another job interview where I was literally told to go read a textbook (this is a LITERAL 'literally' Joe, I know how you feel about the word's misuse), and, to my disbelief, was then invited back for a second interview that was even worse.

It hasn't been a terribly auspicious start. About as auspicious as inspecting the entrails of a bird, then realising as you study the liver that the bird is a turkey from a Bernard Mathews farm in Hungary (sorry guys, a little Latin studies/British bird 'flu joke there). I guess the good side of all this is that I must be getting over my culture shock - I'm already fitting in as a whingeing pom.

One of the few moments of mirth provided by this bleak tumour of a city was the sight of a morbidly obese man in Tesco. This chap was seriously diabetic, in an electric scooter, with scabs covering his legs up to his knees, and a naso tube to assist his breathing. (No Leon, that's not the funny part). He was wearing a simple black XXXXXXL t-shirt with the slogan "I beat anorexia!"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and was almost tempted to ask to have my photo taken with him. I think that man has a message for everyone living under London's leaden sky... stop stuffing yourself with chips and mayonnaise!

The 'pie is back!

Blogging... the latest literary frontier... personal publishing for the pleb... a multitude of voices, and probably no-one listening... I've been told (thanks Emma) that a successful, sponsored blog can replace a 9 to 5 job. Now, I'm not exactly wedded to the cubicle life, so to maximise the number of hits, I should be writing about a CONSPIRACY THEORY that 9-11 was the brainchild of the pharmaceutical industry, who recognised that times of national distress lead to more SEX in the population, and needed to engineer such a disaster to bolster the sales of VIAGRA. I should probably have a mention of FREE NUDE PICS too...Unfortunately, that's not what I'm writing about. This is really just an alternative to cluttering your inboxes with the scintillating wit of my emails telling you all what an amazing time I'm having over here... or more accurately, it'll be a pedestrian account of my travels and travails in London, and should give me a chance to vent my frustrations about living in England.