Tag Archives: London Reviews

Howdy Stranger!

Oh my gawd, HI!

Man I haven’t seen you in ages! What’ve you been up to? You won a beauty pageant? And got a promotion! And found the love of your life?! Well, that’s not surprising at all since you’re so delicious. Plus, yeah, I’ve been stalking you on Facebook, so I kinda knew already.

Where have I been? Well, I guess I’ve been having a couple of those weeks that kinda answer the ‘why did you move to London?’ question that bewildered locals always throw at me. All credit to my funemployed pal JJ, who is the BEST at fun-hunting instead of job hunting EVA. What have we been doing? Well…

We went to THE GLOBE for FREEZIES! Not only did that tick off a massive London To Do, but it was the first ever musical at the (reincarnated) home of Shakespeare… history on history baby! Plus, it was a modern take of a Greek classic of Euripides, that I’m sure I must have translated at some point in my Classical days (*casually brushes off shoulders of leather-elbow-patched tweed jacket*). AND… golden speedos. Need I say more?

What else? Well there was the taping of the show Catchphrase. All I can really say is that the only time I’ve ever seen or will ever see that show was in person. I totally thought that freaking ‘golden robot’ (according to Wikipedia) Mr Chips was a banana, like, you know, ‘banana chips’? That or he’s just a chip. But that ain’t no robot! If that irritation weren’t enough, the super Essex simple-sweetie sailed away with over 20gs in prizes, while I was stuck there watching the host do endless retakes at the end for all the lines he or the production team gaffed. Seriously, go to Graham Norton. He knows what he’s doing. AND he’s actually funny.

That same week we took advantage of the London Design Festival to get free booze. Sounds like a non sequitor? Well, it was promoting stones that you freeze to put in your drink instead of ice cubes so as not to dilute the mythical glory of our Northern neighbours’ godly nectar. Simple design genius perhaps, but I was only interested in the magic the uber-proto-hipster barmen wrought to make me like whiskey! Load it up with mint and lemon and lime and I’ll be all over it. Or rather it’ll be all in me. ASAP. My mouth is watering now for Mint Juleps. And if that Blue Grass band would please alternately score my life with their sultry southern hick hipstering and narrate my life with their surprisingly broad Brit accents, I’d be even happier.

Then there was the Butterfly Enclosure at the Natural History Museum, which brought back memories of the Otago Museum Butterfly House in 2008. Granted, this one had less wedding dresses and MUCH less booze, but it was equally sweaty and just as much makeup ended up in my boobs. But I did find my new favourite butterfly. Granted, I didn’t have one before, but this one was epic. On the outside, it was pure folliage. Like, you’d have to have psychic powers that connect to butterflies to distinguish it from a leaf. But when it flexed its wings open, its insides were a triumphant regalia of blue sapphires. Commonplace on the outside and glorious on the inside – if you tell me I’m like that butterfly, that’ll be a massive insult-complement combo hit right there. Possibly a fatal hit.

And of course there’s the resurgence of pub quiz at a new close-to-my-house-thank-bloody-gawd location. Usually during the music round I zone out while my team shouts ‘MotzBach!’ and ‘Unicorn #5!’ and I get nuffin. But this week was a random hip hop theme, and my team watched agape as I managed an answer for all 20 question parts and got enough to bring us up from about 9th to 3rd. Who knew I was so gangsta? Yup, me, that’s who. Bad Geeks 4 Life!

But sadly, and despite my #1 thug status, now that the infamous JJ is employed once more I’m rather at a loss.

You know, we should totally, like, hang out… Maybe we could get coffee sometime?

Or I guess I could just go back to those ER reruns…

I hear the pitter patter

Today I saw the city cloaked. The Shard wore a veil to shyly hide its heights while the Gherkin shrugged its shroud about its hunched shoulders in mourning for the Summer passed now beneath the ground. Ben tolled away, concealed as usual, but his mask was sheathed from the rest of us, the spires shooting blindly towards oblivion. Those circling the eye graduated briefly to those hidden heavens, only to return to earth, triumphant or disappointed, depending on the make of them.

Oh wait.

After complaining to you endlessly about first the cold and then the heat, I want to do anything but complain about the sudden onset of constant rain and creeping mist in London.

Therefore I offer up to you instead my equal-top-3-fave-poem EVA…

HONE TUWHARE – RAIN

I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence
rain

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see
you

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me
rain.

London: the next level

As you all know, my parentals have come to London town. Yegads! But once the planes, trains and automobiles were booked, the accommodation hastily arranged, and my room ‘sanitised’ to a parent-friendly level, I had to consider the things I needed to tell them to keep them, well, alive.

I write about LIVING in London, which is why I bitch and moan and generally wank on about my ‘feels’. But suddenly I had to think about London from the point of view of a tourist, and even worse, a tourist who’s NEVER BEEN ANYWHERE. Of course, two years ago that was me, wide-eyed and freaking out about the smallest details in the face of a giant adventure.

So now that I’ve got a craptonne of countries and a year of living abroad under my Heathrow-injected belt, here are some things I would like to go back and tell myself, or anyone new to the big city, based on the past week with my parentals.

London: tourist mode

  • Stand on the right on escalators, walk on the left. If you stand on the left, a secret buzzer goes off and all commuters within a three-station radius will automatically head in your direction, to stand behind you yelling ‘exCUSE me!’ You will be lucky to survive the resultant stampede. Many do not. Others come back in wheelchairs or suffering from lifelong tremors.
    Bonus points if you sass another tourist making this fatal error.
  • If you are lost, don’t think standing still, looking about you and glancing at a map will invite those about you to offer help. The key is to aggressively leap in front of the passers-by and make the most sympathy-inducing puppy eyes. This will cause an enormous 20% of Londoners to remember that they are human beings, and you WILL be given directions.
    Bonus points if you make someone remove their earphones to help you.
  • Learn the lingo. DO NOT expect people to infer meaning from context. This is a skill you have learnt by osmosis by watching international television all your life. If you ask for ‘trim milk’ at a coffee shop, the barista WILL assume that you have had a stroke and are speaking ‘word salad.’ Stop him calling the ambulance and then explain that you meant ‘skim’ or ‘skinny’.
    Bonus points if you slip ‘jandals’ into conversation and don’t get questioned.

London: secret levels unlocked!

  • Smile at and speak to bus drivers – other people on the bus will assume this means you’re either terminally ill or have special needs, and will probably give you their seat.
    Bonus points if an old lady with a cane stands up for you, you poor dear.
  • Carry a survival kit. You may never be trapped underground but if that train grinds to a halt with your carriage still in darkness, you will suddenly realise that you are hungry, thirsty, dry-lipped, and entertainment-less. For this reason, always carry water, a snack, chapstick, and a friend or other distractor – Candy Crush being my current Raison d’être.
    Bonus points if you ace the level while a snooper watches over-shoulder.
  • Do not feel at home because you see a Flat White on the menu at the coffee shop. This version of home has been raped and pillaged by orcs, and all beans sent to a bitter death in the hell-fires of Mount Doom. Don’t take sugar? You will. I saw my caffeine-addict-but-not-coffee-snob mother THROW OUT a full coffee yesterday.
    Bonus points if you kick the habit altogether because it’s just. Not. Worth it.

I asked my parents what else they’d learnt in the last week in London, and the immediate and vehement response was ‘EVEN OLD LADIES ARE BITCHES!’ My Other Mother learnt this most obvious of London lessons on day one in town when an old piece of animated crepe paper shoved her into a baby in order to squeeze her lizard-skinned arse onto an already packed lift. Mind you, this was in a fancy-pants department store, so whaddya expect, right?

The other major lesson they’ve learnt is that EVERYTHING IS SOOOO OLLLLLD! I knew this would be ‘a thing’ for my mother since I spent many a late evening as a 14 year old passionate about Latin (yup, geek-fighter here) trying to make her comprehend the timeline I was working with. When I tried to contextualise by saying my favourite Roman author Ovid wrote about the same time as Jesus was around, I saw the brain gaskets blow.

My mother is a super clever cookie, but coming from NZ and not being a uber-dweeb, it was almost incomprehensible how old things are in London. Things that you can just walk over and touch and spit on and lick if you’re so inclined. This is probably my favourite thing about having parents in London – exposing them to things that blow their minds and make their eyes widen and give them a taste of that passion I have for the how-we-got-here, the complete WTF of where-we-are-now in the scheme of things, and the holy-mother-of-god of the where-we-could-go.

Plus, now that they have experienced at least one rush-hour tube journey, they understand the true love-hate-love relationship that I have with London.

A heart in one of the places I heart - Brick Lane graffiti heaven.

A heart in one of the places I heart – Brick Lane graffiti heaven.

 

Rain drops keep falling on my head

I think I should start a blog about the weather, since that’s all I seem to be able to talk about these days. You’d all read that riiiiight?

  • “Weather or Not” (‘hot or not’ styles ORRRRR perhaps more of a ‘would you rather’ affair)
  • “Hot Topics” or “Topical Highs and Lows” (current events [lol, pun within a pun])
  • “The (not very) Bright Side of LIfe” (like Failbook, but with… Rain?)
  • “Blow you away” (umm… this could go in several directions, although if it’s anything like Wellington wind, you’re going dooooowwwn. If you know what I mean). 

I think the obsession with talking about sunshine is a symptom of the SAD perhaps, or a product of the season that has no name. No applicable name at least. I’d call it Sprinter, but it ain’t goin’ anywhere fast. I’d call it Wing, but it just won’t fly the fuck away!

I begin to feel that thinking about sunshine is like trying to understand the universe. Right when you think you’ve got it, the fragile notion slips through your fingers, and as you grasp for it, it shatters into refractions of your imagination.

I begin to feel that talking about sunshine is like calling for Beetlejuice three times. But instead of bringing it to you, it drives it away and you’re haunted by the rain instead, which prods you with an irregular rhythm reminiscent of the most irritating unrelated child.

I begin to feel that dreaming about sunshine is dreaming about home, and a dangerous game for an emigree far from home. You wake up with the image in your head and can’t quite figure out if it was dream or reality.

You’ll all be sad to learn that regular guest-star LD has just left the UK, turfed outa the country after two years of faithful service to the gods of theatre, art, and intellect. Along with thoughts on Zombies, she recently shared with me her theories on sunshine. Having moved hemispheres 4 times in as many years, she’s noticed a pattern – Shite Weather follows her. It’s not that she always moves at the wrong time, it’s that she gets the worst of all seasons no matter where or when she goes.

I laughed at her egocentric weather philosophies, as I laugh at those who take astrology seriously. It is human nature to make patterns where they don’t exist. It is confirmation bias to hear a list of generic qualities and think ‘that’s meeee!’

Until… I started to see the patterns myself. Like the Summer I shared with her in London which swung wildly from weeks at a time of rain to everyday 30 degrees – humid and sweaty either way at a time I was trying to get a job. Sweating off my makeup and dignity was not how I wanted to dress to impress.

Just imagine the sensation of being smushed ass to groin with a million strangers a day on an airless, aircondition-less underground when everyone just came out of the rain – jackets there’s no room to remove, damp hair steaming, sweat rolling off noses but arms trapped too far away to swat at it and desperate, ineffective attempts to blow it away with a lower-lip-thrust-exhalation (is there a word for that?!).

Since then we’ve had a Winter that’s driven me to blogging about the faarking weather more than once. More than twice. More than human decency can abide. Even English people (who like to complain about the weather even when the sun is beating down) have said that this has been a long cold Winter. The free Tube mags, bastions of journalism as they are, have had articles on how to deal with SAD in the face of the constant grey, and most of us have taken to drink. Like… more than usual.

But the icing on the cake, the sign from above, the confirmation of this most ludicrous theory, came last weekend. It was LD’s last weekend in London, and after a Winter that seems to have lasted exactly the length of her Visa, the sun came out to play. It may have still been in the mid-single-figures (that’s a generous description for 3 degrees, I know), but it was glorious.

I reached for my sunglasses, buried deep in the very small pile (have I mentioned I’m poor?) of totally unnecessary belongings. The daffodils newly planted in the revamped patch of council ‘green’ near my house reached for the skies, after previously dipping their heads to the ground a little more each day since planting, unable to battle gravity without the motivation of the yellow ball of awesome to reach towards.

But the creme de la creme, the incontrovertible truth, the astrology of… LIFE, came when I Google Mapped my way to LD’s house that fateful last day in London. Clearly the London gods and the Sun gods had gathered together, checked the airport departure lists, had a coupla gins, laughed unkindly at her, and got our the sunnies that she would never need:

You want it? I’m gonna give it to ya

Well I’ve learnt a blogging lesson. My attempt at short posts a few weeks ago was a dismal failure – partly due to my lack of follow-through, partly due to my distrust of brevity – and apparently some of you actually like/accept my ranting style, self-described as ‘observational whining’ (there’s, like, a category and all).

In fact my distrust of brevity is a lie: in the workplace I’m all ‘give them what they need to know, and nothing more.’ I don’t want the message to get lost, or for my underlings/overlords to be all tl;dr. I’ve had to learn to fluff out work emails with niceties and the workplace-appropriate versions of smiley-faces so that a straightforward change in process email isn’t misinterpreted as ‘rarrr rarrr do it minions rarrr!’ It’s more effective if you imagine me as a t-rex flapping my ineffectual arms around. Coz that’s how those emails are generally received.

But in this wee corner of the blogosphere I DO WHAT I WANT.

In fact this is also a lie: if I could do what I want I would be the Grace Helbig of the blogging world, or the Le Clown of the blogging world (wait, he IS the Le Clown of the blogging world), and you minions would flock to me like sheep on New Zealand (OMG outside of NZ in-joke. Coz seriously, it’s all cows now. *If you know what I mean*). We’d laugh, we’d cry. You’d love me, I’d love you. We’d all marry each other no matter our sexuality, race, nationality, Visa status, desire for each other, desire for marriage, or ability to meet in person, coz Marriage Equality is the shiznit. I’m using old school cool lingo coz WHY WASN’T THIS DONE AND DUSTED AGES AGO?!

Anyways, I’ve buried the point deep like point-ception, but I think it’s lurking in my back-lobe somewhere…. oh yeah! I wrote a post yesterday full of ‘why am I sad?’ and ‘I’m trying to be happy’ and, like, FEELINGS. Feelings are weird but you can’t avoid them. Much like your weird cousin Barry. But just like Barry, they get better with alcohol. Or MUCH worse. It depends on your feelings, and the inner workings of your cortexes (cortices?) and, well, Barry. Maybe Barry breaks out the soppy karaoke when he’s drunk. Maybe he thinks he can breakdance and breaks Aunt Hilda’s hip in the process. Maybe he punches Aunt Hilda in the face. Why is Barry at a Wedding? I don’t know. Someone get that bitch a taxi.

But I’ve learnt something about blogging (ohhh yeah, there’s the point, we’re there, people) based on my stats spike yesterday (and the numerous direct comments, but I’m gonna pretend I’ve inferred this shit. Correlation and stuff). Despite all the words (always too many words, yes, I do know this, and possibly too many goddamned parentheses), my readers like pictures!

Pictures are like reading with the eyes. Wait… there’s something wrong with that… wait… I’ll get it… no, I’m good.

Well, if you want pictures, you lazy, good-not-for-reading f***ers (fudgers, that’s totes what I’m saying), that’s what you’ll get. Although, as a safety warning, please remember that when I promise you things, they are HIGHLY UNLIKELY to ensue. But this me looks hopeful about it:

Also, is it just me, or was this a SUPER-SHORT post?

Hunt for the Easter Egg of Meaning

*Warning: Easter‘s religious message discussed – no offence intended to anyone of any faith or otherwise*

My mother has always loved Easter, for reasons I’ve never fully fathomed. We’re not a religious family, but I think perhaps it’s because it’s more personal – the sort of holiday you celebrate within just your immediate family – and a lot easier to be extravagant on a small budget than at the much more pressurised Christmas. More than once I was lavished with soft toy bunnies as well as the mandatory chocolate – traditionally a chocolate button egg, and a bunny, which MUST be eaten ears-down of course (is there any other way?).

In recent years, after moving to Wellington, Easter has been special because I’ve had forced time off at the same time as everyone else, and usually taken advantage of it with a trip to Dunedin. I don’t care about the chocolate (in fact I banned it last year), and I’ve not even noticed if there’ve been hot crossed buns on sale this year, so for me, Easter doesn’t mean much without my Mum.

This led me to think about what Easter would be for me here in London. It’s a four day weekend, which is lovely as I’ve not had a day off since starting my current job. Of course, as a temp those two extra days are unpaid so I can’t afford to go anywhere, most of my friends are out of town, and the weather is still depressing. Nevertheless, I was given chocolate eggs by work, was looking forward to lots of sleeping and reading, had some great plans locked in with the people who are about and knew that Timeout London would provide with some entertainment to fill in the gaps.

On Good Friday when my plans for the afternoon were postponed, I googled ‘London Free Good Friday’ and found the “Passion of Jesus” play in Trafalgar Square. It’s generally advisable to avoid such tourist areas, but I secretly enjoy the spectre of an enormous modern crowd filling a place of such historic moments, and speculating on what those in the passing hop-on-hop-off buses will think is going on. My jerk brain always tells me this would be the perfect time for an act of terror, as it does on the more packed tube-journeys, but I tell it to shut the hell up and stop muttering about bombs.

As I said, I’m not religious, but I know the story of the Passion both from the Sunday-school perspective and the historical viewpoint from studying the period in Classics, and I was curious how the tale would be played out for a modern audience. I assumed it would be fairly short, and planned to go to the Wellcome Collection‘s ‘Outsider Art from Japan’ exhibition afterwards, just to mix it up, so I rocked up as rugged up as I could be in my holey wardrobe, with an overpriced coffee in hand to keep the chill at bay.

It turned out that I would stand there in the grey square under a grey sky for over an hour and a half, hedged in by a crowd of neck-craners, all straining to see the giant screen, let alone the actual action. Feet stamped, lips chapped, gloved hands clamped around empty coffee cups, as everyone in the crowd had arrived with the same warm-up plan as me.

Fifteen minutes in I got the titters as someone near me whispered about Monty Python, an association which was reinforced every time a minor of supposedly stupid character spoke out in exaggerated cockney. This is where I started to notice the blatant prejudices blaring through.

While Jesus spoke in an unaccented theatre English, the Jewish priests were wizened, croaky, creaky-voiced hags of men, whose every word and movement likened them to a two dimensional Disney villain. They were selfish, money-grubbing politicians who used their religious positions for personal gain. Conversely, the Romans were also shown as political animals, but rational ones, who tried in fact to save Jesus from his fate, but ultimately washed their hands of the matter. They left the decision to crucify to the Jewish horde, who voted clemency to a dirty, diseased criminal in rags over the obviously innocent and cleanly-robed Jesus.

The production costs were clearly enormous for a free, outdoor play: a massive big screen, a very effective sound system, actual crosses with pulleys and winches to lift up Jesus and his criminal side-kicks to the crosses, and a menagerie of a horse, an ass, and a cage-full of fat pigeons it must have taken an age to chase around the square.

I only wish they’d spent more on the script. Like the villains, Jesus was just as lacking in dimensions. There was no question, there was no doubt, there was no humility. He was the Lord incarnate, he was certain in his righteousness, he was pompously magnanimous and he was boring.

I stayed until the very end because after such a tired version of the story, I had hope that there might be a relevant message for a modern audience. Surely Easter, whether the Christian version or the Pagan festival of Spring, is about new life? The resurrection of Jesus mimics the old myths of the goddess of nature going down into the underworld for Winter and coming back in Spring, bringing new life with her to the world.

Resurrection is a surprisingly universal theme in mythologies all over the world, so it clearly speaks to people in a fundamental way. And yet the only message I got was Jesus is God, God is the only God, that’s all folks. I just tried Googling ‘Easter Message’ and I got the same messages, but WitH mIxeD CAps. JeSuS LoVeS CAPS.

And so I was disheartened, but I guess I wasn’t exactly the target-audience of a Christian play. Still, I feel that if religion wants to stay relevant, it should take opportunities like this to create a real message, have a genuine dialogue, and colour the tale in shades of grey rather than the black and white, colour in the lines version of the story I witnessed.

I expected to find a message of hope and renewal, which I could have related to on a personal level, whatever my religious views, but all I got was toe-numbingly cold and mind-numbingly bored. If you’ve also failed to find the meaning of Easter this year, here is my message to you:

Praise zombie Jebus for giving us chocolate before breakfast.

Praise Zombie Jebus

Burned by a hottie AGAIN

Hottie /ˈhɒ.ti/ n. slang for Hot Water Bottle

1. Relative to electric blanket, generally characterised as either:

a) poor cousin from ‘that side of the family’, who shows up to family weddings in sneans, confuses ‘then’ with ‘than’ and steals money from Great Aunt Cecily when she’s fallen asleep in the corner with the gin bottle.

b) Grandparent figure who can’t accept new technology, marvels at grandchildren using two thumbs to text, clicks on obvious spam email links, and assumes professional computer training is involved when fixing tech issues by turning it off and back on again.

2. First, last and only line of defence against the worst scum of the universe London weather.

3. Enemy of exposed skin, commanding offensive tactics too slow to wake subject of attack (slow and steady wins the race), but enough to engender physical damage.

4. Burninator of ankles.

The ankle burn I woke up to this morning and resultant feelings towards my hottie reminds me of my favourite (and possibly shortest ever) poem (Catullus 85):

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Oh, you don’t know Latin? Well, my fave translation (can’t remember if this was my own translation or I got it elsewhere, so I’m not claiming it):

I hate and I love.
If you ask me to explain the contradiction,
I can’t,
But I can feel it, and the pain is crucifixion.

As my ankle burns with its own inner fire, I boil the jug and put an unsheathed hottie in my bed once more. No, that’s not a euphemism. Though perhaps the metaphor matches.

I never learn. I know I should put a cover on, but it’s just not the same. I want to feel the heat on my skin. I want to squirm against the too-hot ridges of the rippled side and caress the smooth sides with my tingling toes. Why is it smooth on one side and not the other?! Is this some magical formula for heat dispersion/retention? Is it ribbed for my pleasure?

I curl around my hottie and that knobbly neck is like the awkward arm that must find the sweet spot under the crook or else be given up as collateral damage. It’s like hair in the face or a prodding knee – rejected on a less needy night, but accepted in the sum of all things when the sum of the day’s temperatures is sweet FA.

This sounds like an abusive relationship. It hurts me and I come back for more, night after night. My injuries are concealed with winter stockings at work – and what stories would I make up if not? I slipped and fell on the stove? With my… leg? I stood too close to a car exhaust? At ankle height?

Hot water bottles were all but banned when I left home. I’m not sure what the deal was, but they were almost impossible to find in stores. Something about perishing rubber and boiling water all over the children (not the CHILDREN!) and the burnination.

Having converted to the modern marvel of the delicious, convenient, sexy electric blanket with a timer (oh, how I adored on a night out to set it to turn on from 2 to 6am, just to cover the possibilities), I was a bit at a loss in London, where all is furnished, but not with such extravagances. I was kindly gifted a hottie for my December birthday last year, and it has been my constant (Read: only. Read: frustrated sigh) bed companion since.

I hate and I love. What is better – lying on a sheet of warmth, or cuddling up to an intensified ball of heat?

You know what would really be better: a bit of effing sunshine!

 

Updated to add: when I woke up after writing this, I remembered one unsexy feature of the humble hottie – the instant desire to kick its cold limpness out of bed in the morning.