Monday, 27 July 2009

Time for a change?

I recently returned to work from a holiday to the joy of a "town hall" meeting (does that mean I should start calling my boss 'mayor'?) where it was announced that, due to poor performance, the company would be undertaking a "right-sizing" (yippee! free gym memberships for all!) and reorganization over the next 12 to 15 months.

Euphemisms aside, it wasn't particularly surprising news, but the axe is set to swing quite savagely with 1 in 5 to be shown the door. Apart from talk about looking at "streams" of the business (did we suddenly become Thames Water?) and the need to "stay the course" (yay! golf day!) during the cuts, the no useful information was given along with the gloomy announcement. When will people find out? What provisions will be made? How will the business be run with fewer staff? ... In staff morale terms, they may as well have said: "Look at the 2 people on your left, now look at the two people on your right... one of you won't be here next year. Enjoy your weekend."

So, looking down the barrel of another shitty short term job on my CV (not my fault this time!) the prospect of deportation back to the colony next year, and the fact that 30 is approaching and all my friends (well, the ones not in London anyway) have sorted their lives out and settled down, it occurs to me that now would be a good time to consider a new career... or perhaps rethinking the whole 'must have a career' model to life altogether. But, being me, meaningful introspection requires copious amounts of alcohol, so it's difficult to remember the blinding insights I had the night before. In the cold light of sobriety, the options appear to be:

  • 'stay the course' and hope I dodge the axe and don't get deported, stay in the dull, dead-end job and accrue benefits until I can afford to retire (read: never);
  • leave (jump or pushed) and try for another job in the same field in the UK... then stay in the dull, dead-end job and accrue benefits until I can etc.;
  • leave the job and the UK, try for another job in the same field back in Oz, then stay in the dull, dead-end job and accrue etc.;
  • try to start in another career altogether... what it would be, I've no idea. (If you know of something going for an English-speaking person with all their original limbs, moderate drawing skills, but no nunchuk skills whatsoever, let me know in the comments);
  • opt out of the prescribed life path - a friend lent me Into the Wild at a point in my life when perhaps she shouldn't have. If I die in the Arctic (I am currently considering joining an expedition*), blame her. Alternatively I like the idea of travelling overland back to Oz, and taking it slow.

Obviously the last one sounds the best, or at least the most interesting. But there are complicating factors: family, relationships, and the fact I'm enjoying life in London. And the underlying character flaw that I can't make a decision to save my life. Stay tuned to find out what, if anything, I decide to do. Probably nothing.

*There are two answers to your question: "Why not?" and: "For fun."

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Londoner Lost in Blue Mountains, Oz-UK Relations Take A Battering

(That's right, a series in which I blatantly cross-post my mutterings on londonist. I know no shame. )

The story about Jamie Neale is getting quite a run over here in London. Frankly, I think they've just been waiting for a feel-good story about a London teenager. The headlines might as well read "London Teen Not Dead, Not Even Stabbed." And it was all feel-good, with warm fuzzy feelings all round, until it turned out he'd signed away exclusive rights for his story for an undisclosed (read: large) sum. I must admit my reaction was less than favourable: "Why reward stupidity? He risked his own life, and the lives of the rescuers, why does he get a big pay out? Big deal, he got lost in the Blue Mountains and survived; I get drunk and lost every time I go out in East London (far more dangerous), and I survive: So where's my hundred grand?"

To be fair, he does claim he'll give the money to the rescue services and Katoomba hospital and if he does, top marks for doing the right thing. But I'll be interested to see if that eventuates, since it may just be a reaction to the allegations it was a hoax. As I mention in the post, it's all pretty standard fare for a rescue-story media circus in Oz, and no doubt there's more to come.
The thing that really struck me though, is the comment flame war going on below the Evening Standard article. It seems to start with a comment on the Australian media (I'll be first to agree that we don't produce anything at guardian or Indy level, but we at least avoid the barrel-scraping of the more popular papers over here... the Aussie press operates in a teacup, and is guilty of brewing up the occasional storm), so it's a fair comment to make, but the manner of making it leaves a little to be desired...
Typical Australian media, get the stroy wrong and accuse a decent British
lad as being as crooked as the australian's criminal forefarthers. .... The
xenephoibic australians need to get a life and stop whinging
... unless perhaps you're Pauline Hanson (all spelling has been faithfully preserved). I particularly like the touch of tarring an entire nation as xenophobic (or -phoibic) - Alanis Morissette could have written an extra verse. And it all kicks off from there... I'll leave you to read it at your leisure. It does strike me as odd that two of the most racist nations on the planet ("Bloody South-East Asians/Eastern Europeans stealing our jobs!" "Bloody Muslims/Muslims building mosques!" - delete as appropriate) seem to reserve their most blatant racism for each other, when they are in fact so similar.
The fact the Ashes is on probably doesn't help.
So dear reader, what's really happening in the Neale story? Is the hoax accusation a media beat-up, or do we really think it's a scam? And how are the racism levels back in Oz these days? Any more flag-waving riots? And why do we hate the Brits (and vice-versa) with such gusto?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Dunwich Dynamo

Regular readers will know I don't mind a long bike ride... or trying things that might make you question my sanity, so when I heard about an overnight 200km ride from London to Dunwich Beach, of course I was keen. As a guardian writer puts it: "What I love most is its sheer random pointlessness."

The guardian piece does a good job of capturing the experience. For me, the wee hours of the morning were eerily magical (maybe it was the delirium brought on by exhaustion?)... Riding through the countryside in the pre-dawn darkness, following the red lights ahead of you as they seem to flutter up the next hill... you couldn't imagine a better way to spend the weekend. And then the rain started. And the muscles started to hurt. And you run out of food. And you can barely lower yourself onto the saddle anymore...

Finally you make it to the beach, and it looks like some sort of cycling Normandy - bodies and equipment strewn across the beach. Nevertheless, swimming in that cold grey water was better than a dip at Bondi on a scorching January day back home. My companion and I reheated ourselves in the nearby cafe/fish shop. Raising our cups of tea, I toasted "Well, we did it." "Yep. And never again." came the reply. Within a few days we were already talking about doing it next year.

There's a picture gallery of the ride on londonist, which completely fails to convey the feelings of exhaustion and misery that came in the early dawn light, nor the elation of finally finishing. If anyone is considering it, there's a bit more info in this post, and now that I've done it, I'd also suggest: forget the organised food stop at half-way, the queues are ridiculous. Take your own, or stop early and have a pub dinner; arrange your own transport back, whether it's a friend with a car or cycling back to the train station (a lot of people were nearly stranded in Dunwich after the coaches and vans failed to pack the bikes properly).

Finally, maps of the ride:

Friday, 3 July 2009

Blur: Hyde Parklife

Apologies. This was meant to be a proper gig review, but my rambling got in the way. And other people do it better anyway.

I must admit I felt a bit of an impostor at Blur's big Hyde Park comeback gig. I had ticket number 11, but only thanks to Mad Mark who is actually a member of the fan club. Sure, I like Blur's music - correct that, I love it - but not in the same generation defining way that the rest of the crowd did. My 'discovery' of Albarn et al, like all the decent stuff in my catalogue, was a sisterly hand-me-down. It was Jules who got me into Pulp, The Pixies, Lou Reed, and the same for Blur. I used to get in trouble for constantly 'borrowing' her copy of Parklife.

Her musical nous was so refined that she was a fan of the Whitlams when they were struggling nobodies gigging around Sydney, and she tired of them long before the suicides and success, obviously foreseeing their popular acclaim and accompanying fall from musical grace. Without Jules' influence, my musical tastes run to cheese and pop (I didn't see Rick Rolling as a sudden flash-in-the-pan meme, but as long-deserved global acclaim - I never gave you up Rick)... and when I become a tragic fan of a band you've never heard of, it tends to stay that way (The Fantastic Leslie? Lazy Susan? The Real Tuesday Weld? ... maybe I just like bands with names in them). Anyway, the point is, Blur didn't happen to me like it did for everyone else. The battle of BritPop meant nothing to me. It didn't define my teenage years/twenties the way it did for the rest of the crowd. And I'm not qualified to comment on the musical mastery or otherwise displayed by Coxon etc... like the pair of Aussies in front of us who could air guitar/drum along with every song. I like the tunes, and they remind me of a bygone age, but not the same age that everyone else was remembering

Nevertheless, the gig was amazing. The lads have still got it, the crowd still loves 'em, and most importantly, they seemed to be really enjoying it up on stage. There was a whole lotta love in the park, (apart from typical gig-jerkery: shouted conversations during performance, needless shoving, bottle throwing...) If rumours of a proper reformation are true, I'll be sure not to come late to the party again.