Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wanderlust, and Anarchy in the UK

Things have really slowed down here. Most of my friends are going back to their various countries of origin for good, and the general atmosphere is one of wrapping up. Which is fine, except that I have a tendency to develop wanderlust when I get too bored. It would happen at semi-regular intervals when I was living in Bathurst for uni and I would sit at my computer for hours, facebook stalking anyone on my friends list who happened to be overseas at the time or torturing myself by compiling a photo file of places I would rather be.

Of course London was always one of the places I dreamt of being, but I've been here so long now that I feel very much at home here. I oscillate wildly between seeking out a feeling of home wherever I am and running desperately away from it. When times are good I love being at home here. But at the moment I feel like my life is a constant battle against the drudgery of domesticity. It doesn't help that I recently picked up a second job, so now my weekends have been cut in half by yet more responsibility. When do I have the time to be young?!? Never, it would seem.

Not really. I'm just feeling sorry for myself. And the extra money will come in super handy when it comes time to leave the (relative) safety of London for the big wide world. Besides, it's good to know my shop girl skills are still razor sharp. And this time my dreams of getting up one morning and going to another country are palpably achievable. In fact I've got two weeks of holidays at the start of August, when I'll be going to Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Salvation is, both metaphorically and literally, just beyond the horizon.

In other news...

We need to talk about Rupert.

The collapse of News International's notorious tabloid News Of The World is far and away the most exciting news event to happen to Britain in quite some time, not least because finally freedom of the press is more than an ironic Murdoch family in-joke. 

Watching Murdoch Senior squirm alongside his son and recently deposed surrogate daughter was schadenfreude personified. The Murdochs are basically the media mafia, and Rupert's brutal and narrow minded opinions have permeated both British and (to a somewhat lesser extent) multitudinous international media outlets to a ludicrous extent. Given the power he wields over both Parliament and the police force I'm almost surprised he hasn't just wandered into Buckingham Palace and asked Lizzy to hand over the crown and be done with the whole charade.

It would be wonderful to think NOTW's demise could mark the start of a media revolution that would see the Murdoch's reign if not ended then at least scaled back. God knows it's warranted. NOTW and by association News International has been exposed as a cesspool of lies and moral decrepitude, where truly despicable and harmful things took place. And there are more than enough people who would gladly see the Murdoch's toppled. For one thing, the public have been gifted with a rare awareness of the inner workings of a corrupt regime, and the actions of a well placed, power hungry few have resulted in joblessness for many blameless employees.

Not to mention the governmental repercussions. To say David Cameron's position is precarious would be a massive understatement. In fact, Ladbrokes and Paddypower have 4/1 odds that Cameron will go.

But given that The Sun On Sunday is already a thing, chances are low that any real, lasting change will be affected within the British media. And the public protests have already taken on a farcical element (search #piegate if you don't believe me).

Still, I live in hope. Really it isn't the size of the change that matters, it's the action that produces it. And, if nothing else, the events of the past few weeks will be a great thing to have lived through.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hindsight is 20/20

If this was a book instead of a blog I would have given this post the secondary title of "...or, An Apology". Because, Mum, I'm so freaking sorry.

This is my seventh month in this job now, and to celebrate my successfully passing the half way point my host parents jetted off to Valencia, leaving me to look after the kids full time for an entire weekend. And thanks to a well-timed strike followed by a student-free day, I had the boy for 4 days and the girl for 2.

Luckily this isn't going to become a regular occurrence. But with the Summer holidays looming I will inevitably be spending a lot more time alone with the children.

Let me just clarify that my kids are great. They're a sweet, friendly, helpful pair who love each other and give me next to no trouble at all. And they completely outdid themselves this weekend. But those 48 hours still made me seriously question whether I really want children. And I don't mean whether I want them anytime soon (for the record, the answer to that has always been a great, resounding "no"), but whether I actually want them ever. Of course looking after your own children would be a significantly more rewarding experience than looking after someone else's (I'm assuming, anyway). But still.

For one thing, it's boring. I wasn't expecting there to be so many dead hours. Time consuming? Sure. Expensive? Of course. But boring? I'd envisioned constant activity and eventual exhaustion. Not so much, as it turns out.

For example: On the Saturday we went to a school fete, and I finally understood why my Mum always volunteered to be involved. Because I managed to make the stalls and lunch last around an hour (a stretch, believe me. I must have visited the book stall at least 5 times), before retiring to a shady hill with a cup of Pimms and my ipod for the next 3 hours.

There was also a strange frustration/guilt combo, which really came into play on the Sunday. I took them to the movies (in case you're wondering, Kung-Fu Panda 2 - not too bad) (or should that be not 2 bad?! Not really, no). And when we got home all they wanted to do was watch TV or play video games. Their apathy towards any other suggestions was so irritating I knew I'd cave in the end, but I felt terrible for allowing them to be so lazy.

But none of that compared to how nasty they could be. The boy isn't so bad - occasionally he'll say something mildly hurtful by accident, mostly because he doesn't have any real social graces yet. But the girl, soon to be ten and just discovering the joys of adolescence, can be a right little bitch. The worst part is that they're usually so sweet and genuine and nice you can't help but like them, and then they'll turn around and go completely the opposite way, leaving you feeling strangely awful. I'm not sure why - why should I care about the opinions of any nine year old, let alone one who's only known me for half a year? But dammit, she knows the right buttons to press. Luckily for me she likes me enough and I'm close enough in age to her that I can remember how I was at that age, and therefore can quite easily guilt her into feeling bad and being nice again (definitely a responsible child care strategy).

But that's what I want to apologise for really. I turned out ok in the end, as I'm sure my 9-year-old will too. But I remember being just as precocious, dismissive and downright mean when I was her age.

So. Mum, I'm really very sorry. I'll give you a couple of Grandkids to make up for it. Well, probably. Well...maybe.

Also, if anyone has any suggestions for keeping two children under 10 entertained for 2 months, I'd be more than happy to hear them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Laura In London

On Monday I received a phone call I had been waiting seven months for. Laura was in London.

Laura and I went to school together, but didn't really spend a lot of time hanging out until last year, when we discovered a mutual love of day drinking. And although inappropriate alcohol consumption seems a poor grounding for any kind of relationship I now consider Laura one of my closest friends, thanks primarily to the $3 drinks at Bar Century and an excess of free time. I mean, we do actually have a lot in common so that probably helped. But mostly it was the drinking.

So that's what we did.

It was incredible to see her again. She was staying in Camden, so on Wednesday I took half a day off work and went up there to meet her. Isabel came too, making Laura the one person to have infiltrated each and every one of my friendship groups. We spent the first part of the day trawling the markets, but once Isabel had to leave we got down to business.

I knew seeing Laura would be a slightly bittersweet occasion. She is basically the embodiment of everything I left behind, and seeing an old friend is so different from seeing the various family members who have come over while I've been here. Inevitably we talked about the various people we knew back home and reminisced about the past, but over the several hours we spent together we also spoke a lot about our future plans. And I have to admit it was reassuring. When Laura arrived I was super excited, but also slightly nervous. It's been so long since I've seen any of my Australian friends that I wasn't sure how things might have changed.

Once the pubs had closed and we'd run out of vodka I decided it was time to go home. And despite reassurances of her return in August ("there are heaps of times even at home when we wouldn't see each other for a month") leaving was difficult.

But not as difficult as I'd anticipated. Leaving Australia was the hardest thing I've ever done. I remember sitting on the plane, feeling totally along and realising that two and a half years is a really long time. I had no friends, no safety net and no way of knowing whether I was making a huge mistake, so I wanted to cling to everything I was leaving behind. Now all those concerns have become non-issues. London feels like home now too, and the friendships I've made here are no less valid just because they're newer. And, most importantly, I don't want to go home. Seeing Laura made me very happy, and August will be a blast, but it didn't make me miss home at all. If anything it made me feel more at home here. Besides, I'm only ever a (painfully long) plane ride away.