May 31, 2007

Things I Know on a Thursday

All right then. I've snuck away from the Big Blogger house to make a few non-BB related observations.

Sir David Beckham? Seriously?

Isn't Maddie's mom old enough to be Jean-Benet? I'm just sayin' ...

My week-by-week one-to-one teaching contract has been picked up. I'm getting paid to talk to people who think I'm amusing and edumacational. Couldja just die? I could just die.

Hollyoaks is better than Big Brother. Discuss.

Two new short stories, polished and ready for submission in the next 14 weeks. No fooling around.

May 30, 2007

Hermano Grande

I'm packing to go into the Big Blogger house, and Davina's getting ready to whisk this year's liabilities into the there-will-be-no-poppadoms Big Brother house. All very exciting. And yet, I'm kinda sorta wishing I was with L on his business trip ...


I'm sure the Big Blogger house will be every bit as luxurious. On el otro mano, maybe my Hungarian student wants to have a few 1-to-1 English lesson on the beach for the rest of the week?

:: :: :: Update :: :: ::

Just got an email from L at half-past midnight Spanish time. The moon over the Mediterranean is lovely, he's just finished dinner and now he's lost in the hotel. This can only lead to trouble.

Where's a cabana boy when you need one?

Teacher's Pot

True story ...

I walked into school a few mintues ago and headed downstairs into the staff dungeon room. In the hallway to the you-must-have-a-keycard-to-enter teacher's resource room, there's a bulletin board where notices are posted for individuals. It's like a giant message board.

Today there's a bag of weed and pack of papers tacked to the board. No name. Someone must have dropped it.

I wonder how long it'll stay up there.

Reminds me of the Grey's Anatomy episode where Meredith's panties were tacked to the board. Who's going to be Callie and take the fall?

Nursery School on the Square

"Can I have a word?'

It was the caretaker of the row of townhouses we live in. That's his opener when someone's complained about us. It's happened a few times lately.

Last week the carpet cleaners started too early and there were complaints about the noise. Caretaker came up about 20 minutes after 8am and said he'd been getting calls. We're not allowed to start any work until 8am and they started prior to that, "but there's nothing we can do about it now."

If it was really a big deal, he should have stopped them before they started. He was outside watching the whole thing.

They had arrived at 10 minutes to 8, and and started shortly thereafter. So there was undue racket for all of 5 minutes.

Yesterday's "word" was that there'd been a complaint about me running a business from my home, which is not allowed. I can only assume this "business" is the Life Club workshops on Tuesday nights. I told Caretaker that it was no more than a small meeting and he said, "I don't want to know about it. Just do what you have to do before he goes to Landlord."

So I email Landlord, tell him that I hear there are complaints about us and want to clear them up as quickly as possible. I'm summoned to his office this morning. I felt a bit like I'd been called to the principal's office.

"So what's going on?" Landlord asked.

I apologize for the early start on the carpet cleaning the other day, which he waves off as Sod's law. "They either don't show up or start too early. Don't worry about it."

Then I say, "I'm running a workshop on Tuesday nights. It's hardly a business, per se, more like a glorified book club meeting. But if it is creating problems I'm happy to find a venue, which might take me awhile."

He says he had no idea about any issues until he talked to Caretaker this morning, who told him that Mr Hedge Fund had asked Caretaker to speak to me about it.

I'm rightly confused that Mr HF didn't come to me directly, instead of going to Caretaker with veiled threats of going to Landlord ... especially since Mr HF lives directly below me and is out of the country six months out of the year in what his wife describes as "tax exile." It's hard to have so much money, apparently.

Landlord shrugs his shoulders and says he doesn't know why Mr HF didn't come to me directly. "How many people come to these workshops?" he asks.

I tell him, on average, there's 3-4 people. The most I've ever had was six. Landlord looks as me with a "are you kidding me" expression.

"Frankly, my dinner parties are louder and more crowded than anything we do at Life Clubs," I tell him.

"I don't have a problem with it. I suggest you talk directly to Mr HF and create some house rules and leave me out of it." BTW, Mr HF owns his flat and I think is about sniffly about having "renters" upstairs. Landlord owns about 8 flats on the block.

Landlord also suggests that this might be a residual effect with "all the drama going on in Flat 3", which is the flat above us. The one with the demon child and the estranged couple.

"What drama?" I ask, clearly clueless as to what's going. Nobody tells me anything.

Apparently all you have to do is ask. Landlord tells me that the owners upstairs are getting divorced and it's messy and there have been lots of comings and goings with the parents moving in and out one week at a time, shuffling the kid around.

It's Peyton Place right under, well ... above, my nose and I didn't even realize it.

So Mr HF has his knickers in a twist, but doesn't have the balls to walk up a flight of stairs and say anything to the lowly renters. I'd say it's him being horribly British, but he's Canadian -- usually they're so much nicer. Meanwhile, his adorable wife and daughter are lovely and happy to eat my pies, come up and borrow corkscrews, and share a glass of wine -- while he's out of town.

And if we recall, Mr HF was the one who created all the racket outside my bedroom window all summer long with the patio building, men hanging from harnesses outside my room and demolition/reconstruction of his back wall. Never once was there a notice or comment from them about all the work they had done, and how disruptive it might or might not have been. Now that they have the nice garden patio, with terrace extending from the kitchen, they're the ones echoing up into our bedroom in the evenings.

If I were a betting man, I'd say they're bucking to get us out so they can take over this floor and have the whole thing to themselves.

Too bad for them .. we've got the lease until November, and the expat package is guaranteed to pay the rent till then, so they're stuck with us ... the heathen renters living above their means.

Who wants to come over for a nice long game of Wii?

La la la.

May 29, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #45

Six years ago, she’d been in the bath for a weekend. It began as a quick getaway from the kids. “Mommy’s taking a little bath,” she said, “you guys watch Barney.” It pained her, but that purple antichrist was a godsend. Having once sworn the “I love you” earworm would never crawl near her house, she admitted defeat, but hung onto her promise to never feed them McDonald’s.

She fished the Happy Meal toys out of the tub and slunk into the steaming water, plopping in a Lush Bath Bomb as well. They couldn’t be sold when they were broken, so her sister Margie would drop off remnants on the way home from the mall. Half Blue Bomb, half Sex Bomb.

A 6’3” blue genie materialized from the fizzy water.

“Once you go blue, you’ll want no other hue,” he gurgled.

Not long after that weekend of bubbly bliss, her kids, like their mother, found a new set of toys to play with. Barney was extinct as his prehistoric predecessors, replaced by a tribe of azure trolls named Brainy and Azrael and Papa.

“Fucking Smurfs,” her husband growled, never understanding her ever-so-quiet response …. “You have no idea.”

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


Big Blogger is Watching

Big Blogger 2007

Nominations may (or may not) have closed for this year's Big Blogger, and I'm nervously awaiting large men in dark cloaks and double-secret "thou shalt not be racialist" contracts to whisk me out of tonight's Life Club meeting, and toss me into a houseful of we-eat-Americans-for-breakfast writers charming British bloggers who have no idea who I am.

Then again, the sorting hat might choose to just spit on my name, rather than spit it out. Truth be told, I've already been surprisingly included in one fabulous British blogging event this year and one recurring cool project that with a decidedly British bent (come on y'all in the States ... more nominations!) , so I shan't bemoan any want of Blighty blogceptance.

Still ... it'd be a fun way to kill a few hours a day between lesson plans and a creative writing course I may or may not be taking. Oh, and thinking about moving flats.*

Fingers crossed.

* That got your attention, didn't it? More news as it develops ... or doesn't.

— — — UPDATE — — —

I'm going into the house. Am very nervous to be amidst such illustrious company (and the others as well). Fortunately, I have some dimestore diazepam to take the edge off and I'm so much more clever when sedated.

So many decisions. Do I just be myself and let the others "play their game"? Do I lie low or do I come in all shooting from both barrels (bet you didn't know I could do that, didja)? Do I fashion myself into a whacked-out, narcissistic, substance abusing ... (hey, shut up, that's not funny) ... caricature that the audience just loves to hate? Do I take fashion advice from Jodie Marsh or Kamal? And what about my secret sex .... oh! If I say it, it won't be a secret anymore. Shhhhh.

Most importantly ... what will my catchphrase be? All the good ones have been taken ... "Who is she!?!" ... "I'm cooking the books for the very first time, woo hooo, wooo hooo" ... "Just shut up and open the envelope" ... (oh, wait, that was Amazing Race)

And will the rest of the house realize that I'm a twin, secretly moving in and out of the rooms, spying on everyone and reporting back directly to little furtive blogger?

I just hope I'm not the first one to get voted out.

It's All A Blur


Too much to do today. Lesson plans to sort, a staff meeting to get to, a Tuesday 200 to write, a Life Club to get ready for, and now the cat's walking around squealing in pain and throwing up on the carpet that I just got steamed cleaned last week.

Did you ever have one of those days when it's all just swirling around you and the duvet seems to be half-calling you and half-mocking you, knowing that there's no way you can succumb to its warm cocoon?

It's mornings like this when I forget to breathe. Forget to sit down, take things one step at a time and focus on the task at hand.

Okay then, the vet's been called and an appointment's been made.

The cat sick won't leave too horrible a stain. Nothing that the steam cleaners can't get out next time. Why'd he have to barf on my side of the bedroom? Let it go. At least it's not in plain site.

I did more prep work over the weekend than I thought, so the lesson plans (at least today's) will be fine.

We've done tonight's workshop before, so it will be like visiting an old friend.

And the plot/characters/twist for today's story will probably come to me on the tube or during the staff meeting.

Ahhh, I'm calm and centered and, well, reasonably focussed again. At least for a minute or two.

It's so easy to get caught up in everything and lose sight of what we can actually accomplish. Wouldn't it be nice if we came with the auto-focus settings that the snazzy digital cameras come with?

Auto-focus. How do we install that in ourselves?

Maybe that's what a few deep breaths and this cup of tea are for.

May 28, 2007

A Lost Weekend

Cold and gray, windy and drizzly. Seems like most any Memorial Day we spent in Provincetown, back in the days we used to head up to the Cape for the long pre-summer weekend.

London just wants us to feel "at home" it seems.

The big news of the weekend is the Lost finale.

Spoilers ahead.

Hurley in the van sort of made me well up a little. I love when the underdog saves the day. Not too surprised that they didn't shoot Sayid etc.

Jack's beard ... it was terrible. And while I thought he was in the future (cause surely we'd have known about his oxycontin habit by now if it'd been in the past), I kept thinking, "well on the island his stubble's almost as gray as mine ... surely they're dying his hair by now, fyi ... so his beard would be really gay in the future, and yet, no" so I wasn't really surprised. kate looked hot.

So the questions are ... who was in the coffin? Is Kate with Sawyer (and she looks good w/ a little lip gloss)? Surely Charlie's not dead after all that?

And .... the really big hole for me ....

Oxy Jack says to caramalemocha latte chief surgeon with the eye lashes, "Go upstairs and see my dad, if I'm drunker than him, I'll leave."

How is Dr. Daddy Shepard (btw, any relation to Addison???) back among the living in a post-island world?????


May 25, 2007

Step Away from the Co-Eds

Here's a fun new game ...

Stand outside the Globe Theatre and spot groups of 20-somethings with American accents. Then ask them what college they go to.

I was looking for the Mercyhurst College tour. You know, that bastion of baccalaureate brilliance on the southern shores of Lake Erie. I did not find said group.

I did however, meet up with wary audience members from University of Richmond, Ithaca College, and Dennison University. The lady from Dennison was Ohio through and through -- friendly, chatty, and 40 pounds overweight. I know my people. I neglected to ask her if it was still the drug haven that we knew it as when I attended Wittenberg.

It's funny the looks you get when you saunter up to a gaggle of giggling sorority girls and say, "Excuse me, which group are you with?"

"Like, how did you know we're with a group?"

I told them I was psychic.

I didn't find my college friend (he's now teaching at Mercyhurst), but I did see Eamonn Walker of Othello. He's much bigger than he was in Oz. Kinda hot, carrying all those bouquets of flowers. I wonder if there are any prison scenes in this production.

Here's a tidbit I just read -- Mr. Walker is the first black man to play Othello at the Globe. Can that really be true?

The times they are a changin'.

May 22, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #44

“Alec is your prince charming,” Linda said, splitting the last of the Pinot Noir between them.

Emma caressed the band of gold on her necklace. “I don’t know … the ring doesn’t fit.”

Six years ago, she’d been in Bath for the weekend. A dusty old woman scooped the ring off the pavement beneath Emma’s feet, whispering, “This must be yours.”

“There must be some mistake,” Emma said.

“No, it belongs to your true love,” the crone insisted, refusing to take it back. “Can you buy me a sandwich?”

Emma handed over some loose change from her pocket, happy to be rid of the beggar woman.

Back in London she showed it to Linda, costume jeweleress extrordinaire. Turns out it was a man’s 18-karat gold wedding band, inscribed “forever in love.”

It became Emma’s talisman and, as the years went on, her own glass slipper. Relationships bloomed, but the ring never fit and the men drifted away.

Alec was different. Unlikely friends at first, sparks they hadn’t seen coming had grown into what could be the warmth of true love.

“That fucking ring,” Linda sighed, uncorking more Pinot. “For God’s sake Emma, it’s not his fault he’s a double amputee.”

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


There's No Place Like It

We're beta testing a Life Clubs blog. Here's what I wrote today. What's the harm in a little cross-posting, eh?

:: :: ::

I was standing at the back of the crowd on the Astoria's dance floor last night, listening to Fountains of Wayne. They're a power pop band from New Jersey, and they'd pulled in a crowd of loyal fans into a smallish club in London. The boys were at home on the stage. The crowd was definitely at home with the band (are there really that many transplanted 20-somethings from Jersey in London?). And me, I was just enjoying the tightly constructed guitar riffs and the catchy lyrics, which are often all about living in New York City ... a place I called home for over a dozen years.

Home. It's a odd concept, isn't it? I've pondered it before. As adults, most of us pay good money for our own places to live, but we often talk about "going home" for Christmas. Many people spend more time in their offices than they do in their living rooms. There are all kinds of television programs and books on how to make a house a home.

Just what is a home?

I think for me, over the past couple years, I've realized that home is more of a state of mind than a mailing address. Sure, you can create areas in your flat that are full of beautiful things or physical reminders of people you love. Or maybe you're a zen minimalist, and find joy in an abundance of clean, clear surfaces.

But perhaps those physical things and spaces are just reminders of the "home" that's inside each of us ... a soothing blend of comfort, peace, and tranquility that comes from getting to know ourselves.

What's home for you? And how can you take that along where ever you go?

May 21, 2007

Adult Entertainment

"Well, that was almost a little too subdued," L said, pouring himself into the comfy chair with a freshly topped up glass of wine.

It was only 8:30 and the guests had left, having had platefuls of jambalaya and lasagna, loads of libations, and several rounds of assorted Wii sports (tennis and bowling being the competitions of choice). Only major drama was a near miss on a car getting towed away.

Another success, low key as it might have been.

I reminded L that the invite said from 4-8, 'cause he was off to Glamorous Banking Location™ (thanks Derek) on a way-too-early plane. He's been visiting GBLs quite a bit lately, and there are more in the cards. I don't think he's thrilled about it all (you know the Canucks, the only time they show emotion is during hockey season), but it sounds pretty exciting to me. Geneva and Madrid are on the books this month, with Israel, Moscow, Turkey, Dubai and some other Middle Eastern gigs on the way.

"My early mornings have never stopped you guys before," he said.

True enough. Then again, most everyone did have places to be in the morning. And not every event needs to end in wigs and frocks and Drag Twister. And how refreshing that nobody will have woken up with a hangover or a memory lapse on how they got home.

Fair play, it was a newish mix of people, so folks might have been on good behavior. That happens sometimes when new ovals gets introduced into the Venn Diagram of otherwise familiar social situations. Then again, I know all these people and they've never been high on the shy scale.

And, in our defense, most of us had to work today. Even me.

Takes deep breath and and chants "I can do this, I can do this."

I've gotta plot out a couple more ideas for my first 1:1 lesson this afternoon. Better to be overprepared and have too much than to have the lesson fly by in half the time I'd planned for and have the first day be all about "so what do you want to talk about?"

Then again, in private lessons, it really is about what the client wants to learn, talk about or practice ... but still, it's good to have a few edumacational thingies in one's back pocket. I'm the "teacher" after all.

"I'm the teacher." That sounds so ... not quite right.

May 20, 2007

Onion Powder

Apparently it doesn't exist in London. At least not in the seven stores I went into this morning (ranging from Tesco Express to halal green grocers that sell everything to open air markets to Selfridges).

Who knew?

I doubt anyone will notice that the cajun seasoning mix in this afternoon's jambalaya is missing anything, but still. I'll secretly know that my creation isn't up to Emeril's standards.


(Jimmy, bring a jar over if you get the London gig next month).

May 19, 2007

Speaking of Laughter ...

... through tears of horror ...


You know you want to marry her, or at least take her home to mum.

The Best Medicine

I just got back from an all-day meeting which ended with a laughter workshop. One of the core ideas behind it was to engage the right side of your brain and to turn off the critic in the left side. Oh yeah, you know the one.

Before we got into full-fledged laughter for no reason, there were a number of really good warm-ups designed to lower any potential nay-sayers' "this is rubbish 1st-year acting class bollocks" (yeah, I might have been a little dubious at first) and build some good-hearted giggle energy within the room.

We sat on the floor, closed our eyes and drew self-portraits. Then we tried to explain them to each other. We used all the colored pens and crayons we could find to draw a picture of laughter. I was a bit surprised to see a lot of musical notes in my picture.

Then we took random slips of paper out of an envelope. We were told each of us had an animal in our hands. "Imagine your creature. Touch your creature. Think what it looks like, feels like, and sounds like," the leader told us.

I looked at my slip of paper. It said "COCK".

I held up my slip of paper and asked, "just how realistic would you like this exercise to get?"

Then we had to walk around and make eye contact with each other, greeting one another with the sound our animal makes.

Again, with my paper in the air, "um, mine usually doesn't make much noise."

I decided to forego the quiet "spurt" noise and make like a rooster to the rest of the farm yard which included a horse, a chicken, a cow, a monkey, a lion (I think), and a seal. I don't think the girl who made the seal noise was too happy when I hit her on the head. Hey, it's a laughter workshop and who's to judge if one makes an arguably ill-chosen baby seal joke?

Turns out to be a great hour, especially if the leader has a big full infectious belly laugh that any stand-up would pay to have in his audience. It's a really upbeat way to end a day with a bunch of people you barely know. More information on the concept is available here.

Interesting. This is the third time in a couple weeks that I've found myself resisting an activity because, well, it just seemed ridiculous. And in each of those situations I've tried to take a deep breath and get out of my head and just go with the flow. Yup, just like in all those bad acting classes. The funny thing is (see what I did there?), each of those three instances have produced really pleasing results.

Bottom line — quit thinking so much and go out and have a laugh.

May 18, 2007

A My Name Is Alice

Alice Johnson, that is. Gosh, I feel a bit like Karen Valentine in Room 222. And I bet nobody that reads this is even old enough to remember that show. Actually, I'm not old enough either, ahem, but I have a savantian memory for anything related to Love, American Style ("... truer than the red, white and blue-ue-ue-ue ...").

Two weeks ago today I finished up being a student at IH and today I got my tour of the staff room and my copier PIN number. Start my first lessons on Monday.

It's just part-time and will probably only go week-to-week for now, filling in the schedule around the full-time teachers who are contracted to have x amount of hours. That said, next week I'll be working 1:1 in the Executive Center. It's a good way to get my foot in the door at the school and a put what I learned last month to use. They get very busy in August, so getting my feet wet now will be a good way for them to see if I can take on a full-time class when they're swamped.

My lucky victim student is an arts administrator from Hungary who wants to improve his social English, conversation skills, etc. I can already think of lots of authentic texts to play with ... brochures from the Tate Britain, podcasts of Mark Kermode's movie reviews from BBC 5 Live, blurbs from Time Out London, clips from Sunday's New York Times Arts & Leisure.

Or maybe he'll want to chat about Premiership football, in which case I'm screwed in for some education myself.

I wonder if he watched Eurovision ....

I think this is going to be really fun.

May 17, 2007

The Wedding Marsh

From the steel trap mind of Jodie Marsh ...

Fuck, Katie Jordan crapface Price is getting all this attention because her darling Peter (I say a person has never been better named, he's just a dick) is dying of some mystery disease that starts with an 'e' ... electrolysis or something.

Paris is going to jail. Hmm, there's an idea. But spending time the CBB house was enough like prison for me, so no thanks.

And that 2-bit pop tart Lily Allen (who wouldn't be famous if it weren't for her geezer dad ... yeah I'd have done him back when, but I'm totally respectable now) has gone and winehoused about being too fat on her blog, after slagging off Kate and her size-zero Top Shop line. How do I get a line at Top Shop? Well, I've done plenty in the changing room, but that's different. Anyway, boo hoo Lily Allen. What a crock of a publicity stunt that was. Nobody came to my rescue when I was bullied on Celebrity Big Brother and wrote about it on my blog.

I need better material. And more lip liner. And a husband. That will get me more publicity. It worked for Anna Nicole (bless, she finally reached her target weight) and it worked for that no talent skank Jordumb .... it's bound to work for me too!

I know ... I'll get a husband on the web. A couple of those gay boys I'm always showing my baps off with can design web pages. Yeah, that's just what I'll do.

Who wants to marry ME?

May 16, 2007

Loaves and Wishes

I woke up this morning to the whirring roar of a lawnmower. Could be annoying, but closer inspection yields two rather lovely looking lads across the street tending to the square.

I hated having to mow the grass when I was younger. Absolutely hated it.

I'd open the windows to let in the smell of freshly cut grass, but that would take away from the scent of banana bread that I'm baking in the kitchen.

Yup, this is my Wednesday morning — drinking a cup of tea in front of my window, watching the boys cutting grass and waiting for my bread to bake.

When did I become a suburban housewife?

Wasn't I just in Amsterdam 48 hours ago? Quelle monde.

I got my grade back from school. Did better than I expected (yay me!) and am very pleased. I have a meeting/interview with the Director of Studies for the Executive Center of my ESL college this afternoon -- it's the part of the school that teaches business English to executives. Maybe all those years of Brand This! will lead to something after all.

And if not, I can always bake.

May 15, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #43

Sixteen hours ago she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. When Heather walked down the aisle, Bryan wasn’t sure he’d last the ceremony. How often does the groom well up before the bride?

The wedding was his idea. Heather would have been happy to see a Justice of the Peace in Albuquerque, get hitched in a hot air balloon floating across the Serengeti, or just keep living together.

“As long as I’m with you, nothing else matters,” she’d told him countless times. But no. He wanted to show her off, to let everyone know this goddess chose him over all the others.

Sixteen hours ago his dreams had come true. And now, fighting more tears, he looked at her silently sleeping in their honeymoon bed, her auburn hair a fiery halo. Not able to sleep on the plane, she’s still crashed and oblivious to her own impossible beauty as well as their Caribbean surroundings. Wide awake, he’d headed down the gym.

He twisted the band of white gold on his left hand. Sixteen hours ago it was all he ever wanted.

And now, he’d trade it in a heartbeat for another hour with the Argentine fitness instructor downstairs.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last time's Tuesday 200.


Wanna Buy My Snake's Oil?

You are The Magician

Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.

Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing, you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.

The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

May 13, 2007

Lend Me an Ear

Last year Klingons, this year lesbian balladeers.

Seriously, America. You don't know what you're missing. We recruited another Eurovision convert last night. And to watch it on the big screen in Amsterdam's Soho bar, complete with running commentary from a cute EVSC-savant compere (in English with requisite Dutch accent) ... really, he was like Rainman with all the trivia he knew ... was, like the Russian entrant sang, "a cherry on the gate."

CB says, .... well had several quotes last night but sleep seems to have dulled our rapier-sharp wit.

It did make him realize how much he loves the trash in Eurotrash.

And now, with the contest over, that only means one thing ... Big Brother is just around the bend.

Off for more Dutch culture. We're bandaging our ears and heading off to the Van Gogh museum. Visited Anne Frank's house yesterday. Is it just me or is there something a squidge wrong about there now being a bagel shop next to it?


May 11, 2007

And ... Scene

School is over. 120 hours of class time and countless more of preparation have come and gone. I'm now a certified EFL/ESL/choose-your-own-acronym teacher. Yay me.

Now I suppose I should find a school that will hire me.

Oh those pesky details.

But first, I think a quick trip to Amsterdam would lovely. CB is in Frankfurt and wanted to meet up somewhere on the Continent. Why not?

7am tomorrow morning out of Gatwick. Ouch. I'm used to not sleeping, what's one more night of deprivation?

May 7, 2007

Ding Dong Dumbbell

Turns out it's relatively painless to replace a lost mobile, especially if you have insurance.

I knew that my phone dropped out of my cargo pants yesterday morning on the way to Victoria Station. It was early, and Larry was "driving", so clearly we were in a cab. I *always* check the cab when I get out, but it was early and I hadn't had coffee and blah blah blah.

I called the phone a number of times during the day, and it rang and rang (so I knew it was still turned on) but no answer. I'm pretty sure I didn't have it on silent mode, but you never know with me. Before I turned in for the night, I had to get the phone turned off. No point in paying for someone else's calls till the fully-charged battery wore out.

To replace the phone, the first thing you have to do is bar the old handset with your provider. This only caused me minor apprehension when I misunderstood the accent on the recording that told me I had to "buy" the old handset. Hadn't I already done that?

Easy enough and accents be damned. The handset, and the SIM card, (both previously purchased and accounted for) have been barred.

Next step is a trip to the Police station to fill out a lost/stolen report. I love going to police stations. They're like hospitals, but without that refreshing smell of disinfectant. I'd already gotten the requisite IMEI from Carphone Warehouse, so I wandered off to my local Met to file said report. It was easy as getting arrested, despite a my school-boy's assimilation error.

She asked me if I knew how I lost it, and I said, full of morning cheer and caffeine, "Sure do, it fell out of my pants yesterday morning." I heard my mistake before it came out of my mouth.

She smiled and said, "Trousers?"

So I got my report filed in less than five minutes, and now have a receipt from the Metropolitan Police Service which says: "Name of Loser: Bob M________". Nice.

I am the loser.

Next off is a quick jaunt back home, to call Lifeline ... the phone company's insurance company. I bought the policy when I got the phone last January and the coverage lasts for the entire 18-month contract.

Surely they won't be open on a bank holiday.

As sure as I am the loser, I am wrong. The guy on the phone is lovely. Not bitter at all that he's working while the rest of England lallygags. Or maybe he's just drinking. Scottish, you know, and they're separating anyway.

We go through the requisite Q&As. He;s being really chipper and friendly and then, when we get to the end of the survey, he says, "do you know your policy has lapsed?"

Erm, no.

"I thought it was covered until the contract expired," I said.

"Yes, but you have to pay for it."

"Didn't I pay the whole premium when I bought the phone?" I asked.

He informed me that it was billed quarterly and they'd not gotten a payment since last October. Readers with elephant-like minds will recall that's about when HSBC decided (for the first of two times) I didn't exist anymore and canceled all my direct debits. I thought we'd gotten all those reinstated. Apparently not.

Nice Scottish boy says, "Sorry mate, not much I can do."

Cheers, thanks a lot.

I explained the bank issue asked if we could back pay the premiums, but the situation proved to be quelle Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont, "beyond (his) control."

Oh well. That will does not kill us gives reason to remember why we love the Lexapro. I wandered off to my local Carphone Warehouse (they're conveniently located on every corner in central London, right next to a Starbucks) to correct my communication condition.

Hmmm, my contract doesn't expire till the end of July, so they can't upgrade me. Apparently there's a month-long window prior to your expiry where they'll work with you, and it's at least six weeks till they even open the shutters on that window.

Han, my able Asian assistant ponders for a bit, applies more product to his crazy look-how-high-I-can-spike-it hair, and tells me my best option is to buy a new SIM card with my existing carrier (02), and get a cheap(ish) replacement phone on a Pay-As-You-Go plan (the cheapest being Orange). I don't need to use the PAYG SIM, just use the new handset and a recoded SIM until I upgrade my contract in 6 weeks. Then I'd have a spare phone for the next time things go pear-shaped (as opposed to the pineapple shape of Han's coiffure).

It only cost me about 70 quid, and, as I said to Han, "it was probably easier and faster than waiting for the insurance company to file a claim and mail me a replacement."

"Um, not really," he said. "We just look up the claim on the computer and give you a new phone from our stock. Takes about 5 minutes."


My next rationalization is that the replacement phone and SIM card didn't cost *much* more than the premiums would have if the direct debits had gone through.

Cool. And, bonus, I now have an Orange account so I can get 2-4-1 film tickets on Wednesdays.

Cinema, anyone?

So I'm sorted.

:: :: ::

A couple hours later the home phone rings.

"Hiya mate, this is the taxi driver. I think I have your phone from yesterday. Who are you and where do you live?"

I tell him B2 and he says, "Really? I'm right near there, be over in a couple minutes."

Ten minutes later, I've got the lost phone back, and cool cabbie is happy with a tip of a bottle of Pouilly Fume and a tenner. I only use white wine to get the red wine stains out of the carpet.

All's well that ends well. Oh sure, I suppose I could take the new phone back and explain, but it's raining and I've got a lesson plan to write. Besides, now I have a spare phone for the overseas houseguests who don't want to pay roaming charges on their own phones (if they even have their own phones). We really are a full-service B&B. And how much fun is it to say "just top it up."

Unless, of course, anybody wants to buy a brand new Sony Erickson Z530i.

May 6, 2007

Heres' the Deal

cliffs of dover from
One of the sights on my list of things to see in England has been the white cliffs of Dover.

Not any more.

Not only have I seen them, but I've trekked across them. We left Victoria Station at 8am this morning, headed to Dover and walked 10 miles across the cliffs to the charming seaside town of Deal. Once again, Time Out's Country Walks Near London gave perfect instructions for a breezy walk in the sea air. A perfect antidote to being in a classroom for the past few weeks and then playing couch potato yesterday.

Only bad thing was my mobile fell out of my pocket on the way (stupid baggy cargo pants) and it seems I'm phoneless for a couple days till the insurance company replaces it. D'oh.

(Note: The picture's from the website, and it wasn't nearly that sunny, but still it was very impressive and a lovely walk.)

May 5, 2007

Where's the Stress in "Couch Potato"?

I've come round the bend and am in the home stretch of the CELTA course. It's been grueling, but it feels amazing to only have one more assignment to write (not due till Tuesday) and one more lesson to plan (to teach on Wednesday). Four more days of class and I'll be certified.

So I've got a day off for the first time in 3 weeks. I've spent it half-sleeping on the sofa, watching old movies on Sky Classic.

I remember watching Fantastic Voyage) as a kid on Saturday afternoon TV matinees, being mesmerized by how cool it'd be getting shrunk down to microscopic size and journeying inside somebody's circulatory system. I didn't realize how totally cheesy it was. There's all this 60s trippy music, and the Proteus traveling through what looked more like a lava lamp than a carotid artery. I dozed off before they fought the white blood cells, lasered the blood clot and escaped via the old man's tear ducts. At least that's how I think it ends ... don't really remember.

But it did remind me of the Monsanto ride at Disneyland in the 70s. Did you ever get to ride that? It was one of my favorites.

I slept through the next film, which I think was a war movie, and woke up to watch Rebel Without a Cause, which I'd never seen all the way through. I seem to recall hubbub aobut the film having a gay subtext. Subtext? Plato's love for Jim was about as subtle as Raquel Welch doing a scientific striptease into a tight-fitting white wetsuit to swim through a river of plasma.

Watching her slowly peel off her lab coat to reveal her curves (I'm sure she'd be considered fat by today's standards) reminded me of my favorite joke of the week ...

Q. What did the zero say to the eight?

A. Nice belt.

May 1, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #42

Seventeen more hours on the Greyhound and he’d be there. He’d left home thirty-five hours ago, and except for making a quick transfer at the Chicago bus terminal, he hadn’t set foot on solid ground since. The Windy City's bus number was 714. He took that as a sign, and proceeded to pop 2 of the Quaaludes that he had in his backpack.

There had been stops along the way, for fuel and for food and to change drivers, but he didn’t dare get off the bus. He wasn’t sure if his legs would support him. It wasn’t just the stumble biscuits. Somewhere just west of Wisconsin he’d grown bored of the lude buzz and figured a half-tab of microdot would be just the ticket.

An hour later the sunburned grandma across the aisle decided to have a chat with him. “You look so much like my Claude” she cooed, her words popping out in kiwi-green balloons. “Well, before that pit bull chewed half his face off.”

She had split into two and grown knitting needles for fingers. Those poor harmless skein people. Why must she slice into their baby blue brains?

Sixteen more hours to go.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.