Friday, April 29, 2011

One Day My Prince Will Come

Hola amigos! I'm alive! I'm not entirely sure how that happened, by the way. I was almost certain Europe had finished me off for good (hence the extended radio silence). But apparently not. I'm back in old London town and back to the (admittedly quite relaxed) grindstone.

Unfortunately I'm not going to regal you with my tales of continental debauchery just yet. Instead I'm going to use this opportunity to jump on the latest bandwagon and put in my two cents about the Royal Wedding! Woohoo! Exciting! Infinite exclamation marks! (I'm really tired)

I was um-ing and aah-ing over whether or not I wanted to trek it into town with all the thousands of other hard core royal lovers for the ceremony this morning. On the one hand, a royal wedding is admittedly a fairly important pop culture event that doesn't exactly come around every year. But on the other hand, I'm not sure I'm totally ok with all that time, money and media scrutiny being thrown away on this one-off event. Case in point, did you know that Alabama has recently been flattened by devastating tornadoes? Because I'm fairly confident that at least 90% of Brits are completely ignorant of that fact, so monopolised have television, radio and print news outlets been by wedding coverage.

Nevertheless, I swallowed my inherent cynicism and casually made my way in around 10 o'clock this morning. By that time Green Park was closed, The Mall was closed, Trafalgar Square was closed, and trying to get anywhere near Buckingham Palace was nothing more than a fools errand. I managed to snag a reasonable spot on Marlborough Street, off Pall Mall (of Monopoly Board fame) and directly parallel to The Mall, along which the happy couple would pass after the ceremony. And while I didn't actually get to see anything, per se, I did hear a lot of cheering. Ha.

To be honest I wasn't too concerned with what I did and didn't see, and I was glad to have been part of the crowds and the atmosphere anyway. Although admittedly not glad enough to try to push my way up to Buckingham Palace for the balcony viewing. Instead I went home and caught the royal smooch on TV. Plus my London family had recorded the ceremony for me, so I got to have my (wedding) cake and eat it too.

As I was watching the ceremony, and later while I was talking to my host parents and their street party friends, I couldn't help but think: Being a Princess must be awful. I mean, Kate and Will are clearly very much in love, which is wonderful, and she's exactly what the royal family needs as a brand
9so much for swallowing my cyncism, huh). But at the end of the day, she's married much more than the man of her dreams.

Obviously she knew what she was getting into, and I'm sure this isn't a marriage that was entered into without careful consideration on both sides. I don't know Kate Middleton or what she wants, and I'm not trying to pass any kind of judgement. But whatever her dreams were pre-royalty, she can pretty much kiss all of them goodbye.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me. I'm not even sure I really believe in marriage, so I'm probably not in the best position to give commentary. They did look very happy, and I honestly hope they will continue to be so. I was also very impressed by the way the ceremony seemed so intimate, despite the fact 2 billion-odd people were watching (don't they lead such bizarre lives?). And I'll admit, I got sucked into the wedding fervour over the course of the day despite myself. It was an undeniably beautiful wedding. I just hope that when my Prince comes along, he does it with a little less pomp and/or ceremony.

Although...the horse-drawn carriage? Wouldn't say no to that.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

I'm off to Belgium tomorrow! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee so excited! I've dreamt of travelling pretty much all my life, having been brought up on a steady diet of my mother's travel tales. Living in London is amazing, but so sedentary. But for the next 7 days I'll be living the life...I have a bus ticket, a hostel, and no other plans. Wish me luck!

A few facts about the state of the nation in Belgium (care of Lonely Planet):
  • Smoking
    Banned in Belgian restaurants, but not in caf├ęs (pubs/bars)
  • National debt Belgium has one of the EU’s highest debt levels – 94% of GDP in 2005
  • Minimum gross monthly salary €1210
  • GDP US$350 billion
  • Unemployment
    Flanders 10%; Wallonia 18%; Brussels 21%
  • Chocolate consumption 16kg per head annually
  • Area 30, 278 sq km
  • Inflation 2.8%
  • Population 10.5 million
  • Beer consumption 100L per head annually
  • Sex 58% of Belgians are satisfied with their sex life, up on the worldwide average of 44%

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Family Affair

This week has been an emotional upheaval for my family, so it was an incredibly happy (for me) (selfishly) happenstance that my Uncle and Aunt were spending a few days in London before embarking on their European adventure.

Ha. So I'd just like to point out that London is no longer included on my list of "places that count" when thinking about Europe/the UK. As I said earlier tonight, London may not yet feel entirely like home, but I definitely feel like I live here.

You know what's a strange phrase? "A Familiar Face". Most of my friends here have faces that are, in actual fact, familiar to me. And yet, I still think of people who I knew before I moved here as "familiar faces".

Anyway, back to the point. My Uncle an Aunt are on the first leg of an amazing tour of the UK and southern Europe, and tonight I was lucky enough to have dinner with them. My family have always been close, and one of the things I've missed most since being here has been seeing my cousins on the regular. So it was incredibly comforting to have family members within touching distance.

Unfortunately their visit has been marred by an untimely and shocking death in the family.

Of course this tragedy is not going to derail such longterm plans as a trip to Europe but it is an untimely reminder, to me at least, of how...precious? short? life is.

I firmly believe that a life lived casually, happily and, above all, ridiculously, is a life well lived. And I'm confident G lived with a healthy appetite for all three of these values. Plus he was one of the few people I've met who had unequivocally met and married their soul mate, something I am endlessly envious of.

Nevertheless his death has made me remember how much I love just being. I've been indulging in self pity recently, and forgetting how lucky I am to be here. I don't want to be complacent. I live in a city I've dreamed of for years, with a smorgasbord of travellers delights at my feet. I'm young, I'm reckless and I have every intention of using these few short years to my absolute advantage. If nothing else good comes of this awful situation, I've at least regained my sense of self. The hell with responsibility. I'll be a real person when I decide, and not before.

So while seeing my family was wonderful (thanks Bob and Ali!) I have no intention of returning to Australia anytime soon. There's too much I need to do first.