Last Friday I started teaching at a school in SoHo (near Piccadilly Circus). It is a tiny school wedged in between all the brothels and peep shows. I kid you not! The surrounding businesses are required by law to shut for half an hour at 8:30am and 3:30pm so that the children can walk to and from school without copping an eye full! There is no grassed play area and the area that they do have to wedged in between four buildings. They do have some pretty cool play equipment (totally illegal in Australia) and some soft fall ground but that is it. Makes me very appreciative of the beautiful playground at St Martin's. The school building itself is quite small but it has about 6 levels and lots of corridors and stairwells. All the stairwells are coloured coded so if you get lost you at least know if you are on the north, south, east or west of the building. The classrooms are very different too. Everthing is small and compact including the chairs (even the Year 6 ones). I reckon I could fit four of their classrooms into my one at St Martin's! Behaviour wise the children were not as bad as I was expecting. I had heard some serious horror stories from other teachers about their schools but apart from a biting incident (Year 6 kid, go figure!) they were good. I had to ask one particular kid in Year 3 to get back to his work over and over again. When I asked him for about the 10th time he turned to me and said "Anything for a lovely Australian lady like you". Then he saw that I was wearing a Celtic cross pendant and added "Oh and you are a Christian to boot!". What a character!
Yesterday I went to the Oxo tower on the Thames for lunch with Jo and Jonathon for Jonathon's birthday. The view was absoluetly spectaular from the restaurant on the 8th floor. You could see all the way up the river and had a fabulous view of St Paul's Cathedral off to the side of our table. On our way to the Oxo tower we stopped in at the Tate Modern Museum where they are having an exhibition on...slippery dips! They have built eight massive slippery dips through the middle of the museum and you can ride them for free. You and every child under the age of 80 on the weekends! It is pretty amazing watching people whizz past you in the chutes as you walk around the museum.
I am moving to Chiswick next weekend (hopefully, fingers crossed). Finding a flat has not been the easiest task and I've had a few teaching agency problems as well so they seemed to all roll into one last week. I've learnt a valuable lesson about not believeing everything people tell you. They tend to tell you what you want to hear and then don't deliver. But, it is all a learning experience and I am beginning to understand why Londoners are so jaded.
Some things I find amusing about London:
* They staple their newspapers. They also give you them for free and if you miss out there will be about 20 million discarded on the tube when you sit down.
* It is okay to spit, push, shove, elbow, punch, pull and stomp on people on the tube, but God forbid that you try and talk to someone!
* Grunting and pointng is an acceptable form of communication when you want someone to move over on the seat on the bus/train/tube. Especially if you are a native English speaker (and doublely so if you are an American tourist!).
* People walk like chickens with their elbows out and away from their bodies. I figured out this is because you can flap them and use them to push people out of the way on Oxford Street (main shopping area).
* Some things are really really cheap, like alcohol, and some things are really really expensive like shower caps. I can buy 3 vodkas for the price of a shower cap.
* Tube train drivers are obviously very bored and on some lines if you listen carefully you can hear them make funny announcements to keep themselves amused. I think that they think no one is listening. They are even more funny when they have a definite accent. My favourite is the Indian guy on the District line who likens the doors to an animal "Stand clear or they will bite you" and the Irish lady on the Central Line who has to remind everyone that you can't physically get off the train while it is moving.