Tuesday, March 27, 2007

All hail the champion of Exit Row seating! AKA Karen.

Long before I stepped foot in London Karen rang me at some silly hour of the morning to say that she had booked us a trip to Prague in March. This was very exciting but as it was September and 6:00am on a Monday morning I struggled to find the appropriate enthusiasm. However, as we trundled towards the Czech Republic last Saturday, I was certainly looking forward to seeing one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

Karen had booked a rather early flight (we would have had to leave home at 3am to get there in time) so we stayed at the Stansted Hilton. In order to get to the Standsted Hilton I had booked us on the 8:30pm bus out to the airport. Then, to get to the bus stop we had to catch the notoriously dodgy District line. To cut a rather long and uninteresting story to anyone who wasn't there shorter, we only just made it to the bus stop by 2 seconds and that was with the bus running late. The bus then dropped us off at Stansted airport where we had to figure out how to get from there to the Hilton. Instead, we figured out how to get to the nearest pub. Things were grim though because we didn't want to visit the ATM for pounds when we really needed Czech dollars. Managed to scrape enough £'s to sink a few beverages. I like to call it "strategic planning".

My first impression of Prague was not favourable. Saturday was dark and dull and I wasn't feeling the draw of the town at all. Karen, on the other hand, had been reading the guide book on the flight over and was pointing out the streets and landmarks that were mentioned in the book. After a delicious and extremely cheap lunch we wandered through the shopping section of Old Town and visited many of the different stores. I like the way that Prague doesn't pretend to be another city. Belgium and Paris seem to be smothered with H & M, Mango, Next and Zara stores. Except for the odd United Colours, Prague proudly supported and displayed their own fashions. Whilst shopping in the $CZ99 store (equivalent of £2) things started to get very interesting...

The Czech Republic had been playing Germany in the soccer that day. The German team had apparently thrashed the Czech team. With a history of tension between the two nationalities it was no surprise then that things got a little out of hand in the main square. The same square that Karen and I happened to be in. Chanting became yelling, walking became marching and friendly banter became full blown rioting, complete with bottles of flaming liquid hurtling through the air and police in full riot gear. Cool! I loved it, Karen...not so much. Even though I was keen to stay and watch Karen ushered me into the Promod store (which my Mum will be grateful for). But the store had glass walls at the front and was two stories high so I still got to watch all the action. Good thing too, since they locked the square down and we became stuck in the store for an hour and a half. And what is a girl to do when she is locked in a clothing store for 90 minutes when she gets bored of watching the police run down the street with batons raised? She shops!

After the store let us out and the streets had cleared we headed back through the destruction to a small Czech restaurant to eat dinner and catch some zzzzzzzs.

Sunday was a much better, if a less dramatic, day. The sun was shining and the streets were filled with happy people taking part in the market festival. A stark contrast to the day before that's for sure! Karen and I booked a city tour which took us to the main sites of the city. I think the Castle and the Clock Tower deserve special mention. The castle is huge and has a diverse and scary history. I was impressed that for a long time, if you opposed the government, they would throw you out of the window! No getting your hands dirty with guns, poisons or drugs.

As part of our tour we were allowed entry into the clock tower. This is no ordinary clock tower, no, it is an astronomical clock tower! It felt like you could actually see past the horizon when you reached the top. The roofs of the building raced up to meet the blue and white sploodges of sky and clouds. The buildings in Prague feel almost alive and exude a individual personality each evident through their paint work, balconies and window shutters. As you look down the streets each building is painted in either pastel blue, pink, yellow, purple or green. Their roofs match, perfectly complimenting the "feel" of Prague itself.
Back to reality on Sunday night. Karen is the champion of budget airline flying. Those who know her will vouch for her super speedy walking. When you fly with EasyJet you can not get pre-allocated seats. So, we all line up and it's a first come first served basis. Karen is in her element as she races towards the plane's stairs and secures us the Emergency Exit row seats. She is a champion at this! You have to see her in action. I'm glad that she's on my team. My job is to carry the coats, luggage etc while she streaks past the other passengers.
Exciting news - I got a job. An actual "go to the same place each day" job until the end of the UK academic year. It is teaching a Year 1 class in Middlesex. I can commute by bus from home which is rather convenient and I can now give up travelling on the District line each day. Woo Hoo!!! The school's name is "The Blue School" and it has a good reputation for being strict on both students and teachers. The website is http://www.lgfl.net/lgfl/leas/hounslow/schools/blue/?start if you want to take a look although I am sure I will post photos once I start.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Arch Bishops and Ferrets

So, what did you do with your day?

Me? Well... I met, was formally introduced to and chatted with the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.

All in a London day's work really.
For those of you who don't know who he is, the Arch Bishop of Canterbury is most important and highest ranking person in the Church of England apart from the Queen. As significant in the Church of England as the Pope is to the Catholic religion.

How did I meet him I hear you ask? He popped into my classroom. I kid you not. His son goes to the school that I taught at today and he was saying a formal mass and was given a tour of the school afterwards. I was in the middle of teaching and turned around to see him coming through the door with his entourage and the school administrators and Principal. Talk about a shock to the system.

Plus I taught a kid that looks like a ferret.

All in all, an exciting day at work huh? :)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2 tube mice + 1 Where's Wally = A great night out.

Have just got home from watching the St Patrick's Day parade in Piccadilly Circus. In typical London style the parade is held the day after the actual St Patrick's Day. I celebrated St Paddy by dragging Karen and Adriaan out to the Fuel Bar in Covent Garden last night to meet up with Davina and her friends and Vic and Rebecca. We weren't actually meant to go to Fuel but for £10 jugs of cocktails we were persuaded to stay. :) It did come at a price though. The doorways are very short (as is the way with most buildings over here) and I am very tall. Add heels and a few cocktails and I was headed for disaster which occurred when I smashed my head on the doorway and made it bleed. Spent the next 20 minutes with my palm pressed upon my noggin. Didn't stop the festivities though!

You've got to love the fact that I spent ages finding a green shirt to wear only to spend the evening with it hidden underneath 4 other layers of clothing. My jacket only came off for about an hour. So much for making an effort! Davina made a huge effort though; she had painted tiny shamrocks and pints of Guinness on her nails!

Convinced that the doorways were out to get me and with happy hour coming to a close we all traipsed down to Leicester Square (with a few pit stops along the way) and though the theatre district to catch up with Davina. She took us to "this great bar that someone told me about". Turned out it was a gay & lesbian bar. Not sure what to make of being asked out by both a girl and a guy in the space of 5 minutes in the same bar.

We lost Adriaan on the way home. How you lose someone on the same train who was sitting opposite you I don't know, but we managed to do it.

The streets around today's parade route were packed so I pushed and shoved my way up to Lillywhites (sports store) and watched the floats and trucks go by from the huge stairwell. I wish there was more to say about the parade but it was pretty run of the mill with Irish music and Celtic dancers.

Went to 2 job interviews this week. Completely different positions. I have to go back for a second interview for one of them but haven't heard anything about the second one. The first one is for a Year 1 teacher in Middlesex and the other one is for a computer teacher in Battersea.

Friday night was a lovely quiet evening at Anthony and Matthew's house in Turnham Green. Matthew is a fantastic cook and he whipped up an amazing meal for us. Karen brought along some white balloons and we made our way to Acton Green Park to release them for a small celebration for close friends at home. Then we went back to the boy's house and had a great dinner with marvellous company. I first met Anthony at home back when I was in Year 11. He went to school with Karen too.

Have just re-read this post and realised I sound like a huge booze hag. Oh my! I'm not really. I promise. :)

P.S: So what's with the heading I hear you ask? Karen has this theory that if you see tube mice (tiny mice who live on the tracks at tube stations) you are going to have a good day. Don't ask me why. Those who know Karen will be nodding their heads in understanding. Anyway, we saw 2 tube mice last night. But then we also saw a guy who was dressed exactly like Wally out of the Where's Wally books. So Karen thought that Wally should be worth 2 tube mice. 4 tube mice worth of good night!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Kew Gardens

The end of this week was much better than the beginning, thank goodness. I ended up going to some nice schools (although one child was suspended out of my year 6 class on Friday) and finished the week off by gate crashing the Academics party at Bar Ha Ha at Charing Cross. Even though Courteney, Rebecca and I don't actually work at their schools, we thought that since we all met through Academics and there would be free alcohol, we should go and "support the cause". It was a very good evening even if I can't work out English people to save my life.

Today I went to Kew Gardens with Davina. The gardens are only a short distance away from my place and Davina had a free ticket in because she is taking a school group there this week. The gardens are beautiful although I am not sure I would pay the money to go and see them. I think the Botanical Gardens in Sydney are just as spectacular, although as a school excursion for high schoolers I can see many benefits.

Each section of park is different and they have created a garden of small focus gardens. My favourite was the senses garden where you walked through five sections each dedicated to a different sense. Unfortunately since it is only the beginning of Spring here, a lot of the flowers were not out, but the half a million Daffodils did a great job of making up for it.

Scattered around the park are greenhouses dedicated to different plants. The rainforest one was mind blowing and it was almost as if you walked through the doors into another country. They pumps a very fine mist of water through a sprinkler system on the roof. The mist is so fine that even when you put your hands in it you can't feel the drops of water. You can walk up the tall spiral staircase to a level that runs across the roof and look down on all of the winding vines and canopy of leaves.

The most interesting greenhouse was the one for desert plants. They had a section on animal eating plants. It would be great to see the plants lure and tease their pray into their death traps. I wonder if they have to feed the plants insects since they are in the greenhouse and now out in the fresh air? To get to the animal eating plants you walk through this virtual sea of pink, white, red, yellow, violet and green. It was a visual overload!
Back to school tomorrow. Fingers crossed for a better week this week.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Schools and a big stick

The beginning of this week was really crap and I cried on the way home from school. Other passengers on the double decker red bus kept looking at me funny. But then that's nothing to the stares I got when I burst into tears on Chiswick High Street on Tuesday. Everyone has days like this, but I swear, if it was legal to take a big stick to school and swipe at a few kids I would seriously have thought about it on Monday afternoon. Year 6 in North London were hideous and whilst I managed to keep it together for the school day, I lost it on the way home. Luckily after a block of chocolate and a chat to Mum things seemed a little brighter and the rest of this week is going well.

Am totally missing St Martin's (my old school) and the routine that I knew so well. Because I am supply teaching, everyday is like starting a new job. So for 9 weeks now I have basically had a new job every single work day. Today I worked at a school which is next door to Karen's work. I do PPA cover which is like RFF cover. For all those non-teachers reading this, PPA and RFF are time slots in the program where the normal class teacher gets time off to prepare. At St Martin's this was library and music and Italian and PE. Over here though it is not linked to another subject. Another teacher (me) just comes in and teaches your class for 2 hours. Anyway, today I had the infants (yesterday was juniors 3-6) and I had a nursery class after lunch. All lesson I squished playdoh for one little girl. She was a bit of a witch too because she kept stealing my stash and using it. I was making tigers and she kept stealing them! After afternoon play (recess in the afternoon) I had a reception class (Kindy equivalent) during their outdoor play time and I had to stand in the middle of the playground whilst they built a fortress around me out of blocks. It was a very action packed afternoon. The school is really lovely and after the shocking beginning to the week I needed a nice school.

Davina is organising a picnic on Sunday so keep the fingers crossed for a dry day for us. :)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The week that was the first in March.

Another week, and another 3 schools. Only this time I was mainly in the West End which is one of the ritzy areas in London. You can tell the difference when instead of being stabbed with a pencil, a child came up and asked me what carat gold my watch was. I wish I was making this up, but I kid you not, it happened on Tuesday. I have also turned into a dance teacher too. That was my job on Tuesday and Wednesday at two different schools. I am the least co-ordinated person I know so it was a laugh trying to teach children about different moves and balances. Thank goodness the teacher's left plans and instructions.

On Wednesday I didn't get any work and because the agency had guaranteed me work they sent me to a school who didn't need me. I got to teach dance to Year 2 and thread beads onto string with Kindy. Oh and I also got to wash some paint brushes! You can't argue with that kind of day can you? Especially when you get paid for it.

As I mentioned last week we saw the Cat Empire play at Shepherd's Bush. Managed to swipe a photo of Davina's blog of us in the Walkabout pub after the show.

From left to right that's Stu, Mark, me, Karen and Nick. Davina is taking the picture.

On Friday night Courtney, Louise, Vic, Karen and I went into Convent Garden and returned to the scene of our Australia Day crime. Also met Courtney's friend Brigid, who is a great girl. Welcome Brigid! As well as Brigid's friend Dave. Welcome Dave! 3 pound cocktails did a lot of damage and I made the (very smart decision) to leave early and head home.

Courtney and I with a "June bug" and "Raspbreeze" during happy hour at the Roadhouse.

Some days speed from one into another due to school and just doing all the little things that you need to do. But every now and then I get a brain flash and think "Oh Wow. I'm living in London!" It's a little strange because sometimes I forget. I mean I know I am here, but I forget that I am in LONDON. Although I must be settling in well, because there was a group on a tour bus walking through Piccadilly Circus yesterday and I thought to myself "Bloody Tourists!" when they stopped dead in the middle of a construction walkway blocking everyone. Plus I got annoyed and voiced my opinion when London Transport shut down all three westbound tube lines (Piccadilly, District and Circle) and we struggled to try and get home.
Photo above is Vic, Brigid and Courtney at the Roadhouse and the one below is Louise and Dave.

Also wanted to wish Annalise a very happy birthday for the 2nd of March too.
"Happy Birthday Lise!"