Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I liked the Pimms best

It's funny how being in a different place compels you do things you would never usually be inclined to do. In my case, this includes attending a sporting event. It's funny how it had never even occurred to me to go to the Australian Open, but when we were offered tickets to Wimbledon, I suddenly decided I needed to go.

Wimbledon tournament takes place at the rather grandly named All England Tennis Club, and the Club has a wonderful sense of history and prestige. One of my favourite aspects of this were the army officers who were posted at the entrance to the smart seats:

I also loved the very twee looking linesmen/women and ball boys/girls, who were decked out head to toe in adorable Ralph Lauren outfits:

Given that we were in the cheap seats and didn't have access to Centre Court and therefore the famous players, we hung out at the smaller courts and watched some unknown/washed up Aussies play. First up was Wayne Arthurs, who is apparently 36, so I have to admire the fact he was still playing and actually won after five marathon sets. We were right next to the court which was amazing, and got to demonstrate our full repertoire of tennis noises....

'Oooohhh' = very good

'Aaauuuuu' = what a shame

'Arrrrrhh' (followed by sucking in air through teeth) = that was crap

Unfortunately we were not the only ones feeling vocal. There was the mandatory group of drunken Aussie blokes that yelled commentary, some hilarious but most inane, from the sidelines for the *entire* match. They were irritating in the extreme and I felt very embarrassed in front of the chilled out Dutch supporters of the opponent. But, when 'Wayno' took it out in the end, he rushed over to them, so it made me think they might have had something to do with it.

(Team Aus in a quiet moment)

The Age has written an article that sums the match up beautifully and features a photo of Wayne with his cheer squad. The guy at the back with the flag was particularly annoying.

We then saw a few bits and pieces of other matches, including catching a brief glimpse of Venus Williams, and then went to see another unknown Aussie, Chris Guiccone, play a British wild card.

It has to be said that the British fans were extremely boring on the cheering front: 'Go Alex!' was pretty much as creative as it got. So much so I was actually pleased when Team Australia showed up again and started chanting 'Get on the G-train!' and 'Go the Goochinator!!'.

All in all it was a lovely day, and we were exceptionally lucky with the weather, as despite it having rained everyday for the last two weeks we didn't have a drop all day. But I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn't able to use the new brolly I had purchased especially for the day.

And yes, strawberries and cream and Pimms and lemonade were both crossed off the list!

Friday, June 22, 2007

I know this is lazy but...

...I am terribly terribly tired from my stressful government job and so rather than put in a bit of effort and write a post myself, I am exploiting the fruits of somebody else's blogging labour. Brown dog/newly-named Alpha and I spend a lovely day up in Canterbury last weekend, which was beautiful and quaint and quiet and just what we needed. He has written a great post about it, which can be found here.

I have decided that my excuse will be that he used all the good photos on his blog so there is hardly any point in me doing another one. I hope that's half convincing.

But I will leave people with this image:

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, believe it or not, *this* is the recently unveiled London 2012 Olympic Logo. I don't know if news of this has made it back to Australia, but there has been quite the backlash to it here. I believe it was triggered when the promotional video for it made people start getting migraines and having epileptic fits. Or perhaps it was because it was revealed that the design team was paid £400,000.00 for *this*. Or maybe because it's not as emblematic or reassuring as your standard Olympic logo. Or maybe it's just too pink and weird for most people.

I love a good fuss over nothing. I was almost considering entering an alternative logo competition being run by The London Paper and dusting off my On Dit Photoshop skills (which were pretty limited) but nay, I couldn't be bothered. In any case, the Olympic organising people have said that we're stuck with it. Though they have tried to jazz it up a bit for the paralympics:

I'm used to the logo now, and almost like it, though maybe its just because I'm delirious with tiredness as work has been really flat out this week. And yes, I'm at work now and I've managed to find time to write this post, but only just. It's been exhausting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Too bland to think of a witty title

Yesterday I was despatched to Birmingham by my work to watch a court hearing for a prosecution of Cadbury by Birmingham C.C. over last year's salmonella debacle, which cost the company a massive 30 million. My boss suggested that I spend the day there and get some sightseeing done (oh the joys of working in government!) He assured me, as did a number of other people in the office, that "Birmingham had improved a lot". That made me sceptical, but as I rule I NEVER turn down free travel.

The day did not start well when all the trains to Birmingham from Euston were cancelled due to flooding. I had to take three tubes over to Marylebone and catch an alternative train that took far longer. I was stressed and tired from having to get up so early. By the time I finally made it to Birmingham, I'd ended up missing the Court hearing altogether.

Oops. So I had a little time to kill.

Hmm... Birmingham. It was a challenge for even me, current champion of all things and places British, to find much to like in Birmingham. Perhaps it was the queue outside KFC at 11.00 in the morning that gave me a bad first impression. Or maybe it was the queue outside the Magistrates' Court, that actually stretched a good 30 metres from the entrance. Inside, I hadn't seen so many single mothers and babies since my brief stint in the Family Court in 2004, when I was just a little legal-spring chicken (or course, now I am a big fat haughty legal hen and would rather not leave my nice office at all, thank you very much!) On the upside, the court building looked like it was one of the prettiest in Birmingham, so at least I got to take a look.

After I had phoned in the outcome of the hearing (guilty!) I went exploring. Well, really just down to the main drag, but I'm pretty sure I saw all the highlights. This included a mall which I hate to say was not dissimilar to Rundle Mall. There was also a sad little makeshift beach, which was really just a large patch of sand. There was also a brand spanking new Selfridges store that was located in another architectural highlight - a brand new building that to me, resembled a giant piece of bubble wrap:

I also saw the city's cathedral, which according to my Dad (who as people who read the comments section know, is the fountain of knowledge for all things British) was hastily propped up in the eighteenth century in a far to small a space in the town centre so that Birmingham could officially be given the status of 'city'. Well, I can confirm that the space was too small, and the cathedral itself was somewhat overshadowed by the giant bubble-wrap building.

When it started to pour with rain I took it as a sign that it was time to head back to London, but was pleased to have ticked another place off the list. Not that Birmingham had necessarily been on the list. Ah well.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Another installment of Bits and Bobs...

This is some random stuff I've been up to lately:

  • The London Dungeon: A warning to all visitors to London. DO NOT GO HERE. It is crap. Imagine being stuck in a series of claustrophobic, dark, smelly rooms with a bunch of American tourists. Yep. And I only have myself to blame for telling the others it would be fun and camp and novel. On the upside, we met a very nice 21 year old American girl called Dionne who was here on a Contiki tour and told us that if we ever wanted to catch up, we'd be able to find her in Juicy Couture.
  • Visiting Pub on the Park, a nice little pub with a big deck that borders our local park, where Brenton has managed to scam himself some casual work. He told them all about his years working in the Unibar and they were very impressed. Obviously bluffing can get you everywhere and his years spent in pubs have paid off. I was amazed by how quickly he has picked up pouring a beer and memorising all the strange drinks that English people seem to like (shandy's, spritzer's, Fosters).

  • Seeing some excellent exhibitions including Gilbert and George at the Tate Modern and How We Are: Photographing Britain at the Tate Britain. Gilbert and George are a funny pair and create what I think is the most self-indulgent art I'm ever likely to see. Photographing Britain was a fantastic exhibition of British photography throughout the ages, including some wonderful 19th Century photographs of patients in mental asylums, aristocrats on their way to costume parties who were dressed like they were in the Masquerade scene in Phantom of the Opera and my favourite, 'Wanted' photographs of suffragettes that were used by the Police in trying to track down those militant hormonal crazy ladies.
  • Seeing Billie Piper from Dr Who and the funny/weird guy from Love Actually in a play called Treats. It was surprisingly dark play and apparently inspired by The Doll's House, which I and probably everyone else remembers well from high school. The play was not amazing but had been extremely over hyped, so me being me, I had to leap on to the bandwagon.
  • Visiting Brick Lane in East London, which is a surprisingly long lane full of Indian restaurants and some pretty cool bars. The prices on the menus are purely tokenistic and you are basically expected to bargain for the cost of your meal. We managed to nab ourselves quite a good deal, but the experience was quite stressful and the food pretty average. But still worth seeing and apparently they import a whole lot of sand during the summer and turn the place into a mini beach.

  • Getting robbed at a pub on Goodge Street in what has to have been one of the most brazen robberies ever. One minute my bag was under the table beside my feet, the next it was gone. While I managed to retrieve the bag itself after a few minutes (I snatched it back from some poor girl who had found it), the canny bastards had managed to sift through it and extract my treasured iPod, phone, 40 quid and my Oyster (train) card. So I now have an ancient phone and a lengthy insurance form to complete. Tres annoying.
  • Hanging with Brenton at Green Park, Buckingham Palace and St James's Park (below), which were very beautiful and but not as manicured as you'd expect the gardens surrounding Buckingham Palace to be (or perhaps that section is just not open to the riff raff).
  • Attending an organ recital with Aj at Westminster Abbey. The organ sounded beautiful but proving that all the culture I have talked about above is actually wasted on me, I fell asleep.