Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Place

Just thought I'd post some photos of my new place ... taken on my phone so apologies for the quality ...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Je ne sais pas Francais

So, I've made my first foray into mainland Europe - I hopped on the Eurostar to Lille on Saturday morning and spent the weekend sitting in the sun, drinking beer and eating chocolate. Lille maybe not top the average person's must-do-when-in-Europe list, but then I'm not your average person. Actually, I chose it because the Eurostar stops there and it's cheap ... but it's totally great for a relaxing weekend away. It was amazingly sunny too, which helped, and it was a "national day of reflection" in France (in advance of the election on Sunday) so everyone was in a cruisy, contemplative mood. Perfect for lazing around at a cafe polishing off a few Leffes and watching the world go by. The only thing to disturb the overall pleasantness of the weekend was my embarrassing lack of language skills. I've been in loads of countries before where I can't speak the local language, but haven't really felt all that guilty about it because, after all, who really expects a white tourist to speak Mandarin or Shona? But in France there was a pretty legitimate expectation from the locals that I'd have at least a basic command of their language. It can lead to some awkward situations, like when an old man in rough clothes comes bouncing towards you holding an empty sardine can with some coins in it, speaking rapidly in French. How do you react when you don't know what he's saying? I mean he could be saying "I've just found this can on the street, does it belong to you?" or "I'm running the Paris marathon in a couple of weeks, fancy sponsoring me?" or "I thought this can would have sardines in it, but for some reason it's only got coins, do you think it's a sign from God?" or of course he could have been asking for some spare change to buy food and shelter. Who knows? I found the perfect reaction for all these situations though - I gave an open-handed shrug and kept walking. It's a shame this doesn't work in all situations. Like when the bargirl asks whether you'll have another beer or when the waiter asks how you'd like to pay for the bill ... I think it would be wise to invest in some French lessons before the next excursion in a couple of weeks time.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tips anyone?

I've been at work here in London for around 3 weeks now and am yet to do anything productive. Unless you can count trawling through the latest statistics on the Herald Sun Supercoach website or watching "Ask Ninja" video clips on YouTube as being productive. Although I'm not at a magic circle firm, I was expecting work levels here to be a touch higher than they've turned out to be. In fact, the hardest thing I've had to do over the last couple of weeks has been work on my foozball. Foozball (aka table football to the Brits - how boring a name can you get?) is, in a kind of Ally McBeal-esque way, a huge sport around these parts. There's an old foozball table on my floor that seems to be the firm's social hub. Even as I speak I can hear deranged giggles from various partners as they bash away on the table. We're about to move to another building and two brand spanking new tables are a key part of the fit-out. The corridor gossip is all about what the playing characteristics of the new tables are going to be like. This is serious stuff. Not that I want to sound critical of a bit of uber-competitiveness - it's all good fun after all. But there is a serious downer about this whole craze: I suck at foozball. I mean, I'm really bad. At first I claimed it was because in Australia we played foozball with a different shaped ball and I was used to being able to pick it up with my hands. But those excuses are starting to wear thin and now it's dawning on everyone that I'm just really crap. Now, I'm not all that upset at being crap. In some ways, I'm actually glad that haven't developed a reputation for my "handy wrist action" the way some people here have. However, getting thrashed on a daily basis my my workmates is starting to get to me. The mocking comments from partners aren't doing my confidence (or career prospects) much good either. Clearly the way to win respect around here is to dazzle on the foozball pitch. So I've decided that I want to develop some skills. Any chance that those of you with some past foozball-playing experience can give me some tips?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Happy days for panel beaters

One thing I've noticed about London is that there are a higher-than-usual number of expensive cars parked on its streets. And we're talking in the higher-ranges of "expensive" - like around the region of Ferrari, Bentley, Aston Martin, Porsche, that sort of thing. And when I say they're parked on the street, they're not just parked on the street on a Sunday afternoon when all the investment bankers leave the offices to show off their newest toys. No, they're actually parked out there ALL the time (apparently they didn't design London large enough to fit in any garages). Now, I've never owned an expensive car before (or even a car at all) so I can't really speak from experience, but it strikes me as a bit of a risk to leave your ride out in the open like that. I mean, a 15 year old kid with a set of keys could have lots of fun in London, if you know what I mean. And if you add a screwdriver into the mix, that kid is going to be able to pick up a very handy badge collection. And then there's London's weather to take into account. I imagine that every time it hails the number of pock-marked Benzes floating around town increases dramatically. All I can say is there must be some very happy panel-beaters out there ...