Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year That Was...A Year Later

I first posted this list on New Years Eve last year, so here it is again for this year:

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
Where do I start? Went to my best friends wedding in Sydney, worked in a call centre, moved to live in London, saw Abu Dhabi and Dubai, worked for a whole week without having to answer the phone once, went to Paris...the list is almost endless!

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't do New Years Resolutions as they are always doomed to failure! I did keep my resolution to save money and finally move to London. I won't be making any this year, but I do have 'plans"...they're different, aren't they?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my friend Chris had a little girl this year

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Australia, United Arab Emirates, England, France

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
That would be May 10 - Mothers Day, my friends wedding day and my last day in Australia

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Moving to London and starting my new career

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't think I have failed. Sometimes, things haven't worked out as planned or have been harder than expected, but that's not failure, that's all part of life and living your dream

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My Crocs!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Hannah, who was my first guest from home. We had a blast!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Can't think of anyone...

14. Where did most of your money go?
Paris...and clothes!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Hannah coming to stay, Paris, the release of New Moon and Christmas

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
"Number One" by Tinchy Strider and N-Dubz (just because it was on the radio ALL THE TIME!!)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?
Happier, mostly, but sad when I think of home

ii. thinner or fatter? question!

iii. richer or poorer?
Poorer :-(

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
More trips out of London to see the countryside

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Staying up too late, reading!

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I opened presents and had breakfast with the family I work for, then spent the day with my cousins and auntie and uncle from Australia. Oh, and thanks to Skype, I opened presents with my family in Brisbane too! Great day

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
One Tree Hill - all the season one oldies!

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. Hating people is never good

26. What was the best book you read this year?
Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda. An old favourite, but it's set in Paris and I read it on the Eurostar on my way there

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Olly from X-Factor!

28. What did you want and get?
A new start as a nanny in London

29. What did you want and not get?
Knee high flat black boots...can't find any I like!

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
That would have to be New Moon (and no, I don't care what you think!), followed closely by Nativity!. So funny

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Spent the day at work in the boring call centre, counting down the days until my escape! And I was 36

32. What's one thing that made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Massive unexpected payout from the Australian Taxation Office!

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

34. What kept you sane?
Having my room on a seperate level to the kids I look after!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the moment?
I still love Ewan, but would love to run into Jude Law, strolling down Kings Road in Chelsea

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Huh? I don't get to see much news

37. Who did you miss?
I really miss my family and friends in Australia

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My little cousins, Arwen and Zion!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Life is too short - follow your dreams

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb"

So that's all from me. Have a great New Year and all the best for 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Day

I know it's already past, but I need to tell you about my Christmas Day.

After Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, braving the freezing temperature both outside and inside the church and the dark, muddy lane leading to the church, I got to call my family on Christmas morning (12.30am, my time, 10.30am, their time) and open our presents together, thanks to the wonder that is Skype. It was absolutely amazing! So good to see everyone and even my 84 year old nana could almost hear me!

Made it to bed by about 2.00am, only to wake up at 6.30am to call them again before breakfast and present opening with the family I work for. After wading through mountains of trains and princess costumes, I headed back up to my room to get ready for Christmas with my family. They came to pick me up at lunch time and we drove through Richmond Park, which was now completely devoid of snow and ice, just in time for Christmas, to their house.

Christmas lunch was the whole deal - turkey, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon, pigs in blankets, pudding, brandy cream, custard, mince pies...and the list goes on. My cousin put on an excellent spread. Then it was time for more presents, Christmas movies and a few "nana naps".

I got home late after a great day spent with family. Good times.

Boxing Day was a day to be spent in my pyjamas (none of this rushing out to Christmas sales for me! Do I look insane? OK, don't answer that!) with a good book, which is exactly what I did. The house was nice and quiet as the family I work for left for Devon for four glorious days.

The day after Boxing Day was very similar, although I did change out of my pyjamas and today, I even got out of the house and went to do some shopping.

So that's how I spent my Christmas, and the days that followed. Only three more days left in the the decade! Wow! But I'll save all that for another post..

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

Last Christmas, I was avoiding snakes and trying to get rid of a bad case of sunburn. This year, things look a little different.

It seems that we will not have a white Christmas here in London since the rain and milder weather has washed away even the ice that, while not being snow, was at least white. This Christmas finds me thousands of miles from home, but thankfully only a few miles from family. I'll be spending Christmas Day with my cousins and auntie and uncle and calling my family in Australia on Skype at midnight tonight (Christmas Eve) so we can all open presents together.

I've found it hard to get into the spirit of Christmas this year and as weird as it sounds to those who have always had a winter Christmas, I think it's because it's just too cold! Christmas to me is a stinking hot day, usually raining, a lunch of cold cuts, salad and copious amounts of seafood. I have tried my best and I've had moments where it feels perfectly normal to be all rugged up singing about a Winter Wonderland. I'm sure I'll get used to it.

But, at the moment, I miss home. I'm sure I'm not alone.

So wherever you find yourself this Christmas, at home with your family or on the other side of the world from the ones you love, I want to wish you all a very, very Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

This week there has been a lot of excitement about snow...and mostly just from me! The Brits don't seem to feel the same as I do about snow, they see it as an inconvenience, instead of looking at its beauty. Yes, I understand the travel chaos it can cause, but after all, it's snow, people! There are so many people in the world who've never even seen the stuff. Maybe after I've been here for a few years, my views on snow will change, but for now, I love it and hope there is more to come.

On Wednesday, the first snow began to fall, which coincided with the kids last day at school, so we drove to Richmond Park and had a snowball fight and a bit of a play in the snow. By Thursday, it had all washed away. Oh, well. I have not given up hope of snow for Christmas Day.

Last Sunday I went to a Carols service at church, which was fantastic. It was a very cold night and obviously, we were inside, but it did remind me of the many carols services I have been to back home, outdoors, in your shorts on a hot night, the poor bloke dressed as Santa melting in his suit! It sometimes feels like Christmas, even though it's cold and I've been playing all my corny Christmas albums at every opportunity to get into the spirit.

I am so glad that I finished all my Christmas shopping last week. I really don't want to go near any stores if I can help it! I did have to make another trip to the Post Office though, and was not surprised by the "service"...I have come to expect it. The guy behind the glass (I can't call him "the guy who served me", because there was no service involved!) spent the whole transaction on facebook on his iPhone! There are no more words...

My auntie and uncle arrive from Melbourne tomorrow and I'll be spending Christmas with them at my cousin's house. Not sure how I'll get there yet since there are NO buses or tube trains that run on Christmas Day, and just to make it fun, the taxi's are impossible to find and charge you extra...just another joy of Christmas!

On a festive note, the kids and I made a very cool snowman for the playroom, along with some pretty impressive snowflakes. I love my job!

Well, so far, that is my lead up to Christmas. Tomorrow, I am off to church again for a Christmas family service...with my family (the ones that are here at least!), then it will be a few days of "work" as normal, then Christmas 2009 will be here.

Oh, and it will be will be white...please??

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday Snapshot

Today was a perfect wintry day in London and I stumbled across this Christmas Fair in Leicester Square on my way out of the cinema after seeing "Nativity!", one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time!

Christmas is in the air!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Skype and the 'office' Christmas Party

I seem to always be behind the times when it comes to technology.

I bought my first mobile phone in 2002, my first digital camera in 2004, only joined facebook 12 months ago and have finally downloaded Skype...yesterday! Why I waited so long, I'll never know.

So that means this Christmas, I'll be able to open my presents 'with' my family in Brisbane. The wonders of technology.

But that will also mean no more phone calls when I've just gotten out of bed, hair sticking out in all directions!

Today, I am starting my second round of Christmas shopping for the people I know here, since my first lot are winging their way to Australia as we speak...I hope. This round of present shopping is late, I know, with just over two weeks until Christmas, but I am armed with my list and hope to get in, buy everything on my list, within my budget, and get out before the crowds get worse. Yes, I am delusional!

On the work front, the past couple of weeks have been pretty standard, and the kids both finish school for the Christmas holidays next Wednesday at 12noon. Which should be very interesting since their schools are about a half hour drive between them. Then they have just over three weeks of holidays, and it's down to me to entertain them rain, hail, (snow??) and shine.

I was thinking about my past life as a receptionist the other day and this would have been the time of the Christmas Party that was usually down to me to help organise. Oh, how I do not miss the office Christmas Party! No matter what you planned, someone wouldn't be happy, people would never confirm or decide to bring guests at the last minute. There would be the one obnoxious drunk (or seven!) and the person who falls down and seriously injures themselves. The only thing I am organising this year is the making of a snowman out of cardboard and cotton wool. Hmm, let's see...what do I prefer?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Joy of (sending presents home for) Christmas

Ah, Royal Mail, how I love thee.


This last week, it seemed I spent most of my life at the Post Office in an attempt to get my Christmas presents sent home to Australia before the cut off date this Friday.

On my first attempt, I purchased a box that was far too large and had to return to buy a smaller one the following day. Having done this, I packed all the presents into the box, a perfect fit and trekked back to the Post Office to send it. After waiting in the queue for just under half an hour, having the box weighed, I was told it would cost over 60 pounds to send home. What? Sixty pounds?? Unfortunately, it was true. I hate to say it, but the gifts did not even cost that much!

Apparently, it was just 300 grams over the 2 kilos that would have made it much less. The guy behind the counter told me that I could split the parcel, that was a perfect fit, into two smaller parcels, it would cost me about half that. Great. Another trip to the Post Office is just what I need at this time of year. So I dragged the parcel home to re-pack it into two smaller ones, which turned out not to be such a perfect fit, and so some presents needed to be "adjusted" (sorry, Caitlin, but you'll get the rest for your birthday!).

Back at the Post Office today, I joined the queue, which was even longer than yesterday, and managed to send the two parcels on their way to Brisbane.

Online shopping next Christmas? What a great idea!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Snapshot

Anyone who was in London this weekend will know that there is no way this photo was taken this Sunday! I just needed to remind myself what a blue sky looks like...

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon

At last, November 20th is here and my tickets are booked for New Moon tonight!

The only downside about seeing the movie tonight is going to be the 100's of screaming, teenage girls. Well, if you can't beat 'em...

Anyway, I am very excited and last night my boss called me "such a teenager", which I choose to take as a compliment!

Now I just have to wait until 8.30pm!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Australian in Paris

I'm back in London after my weekend in Paris, with some awesome memories...and very sore feet.

Well, after my brief post of our first day in Paris, Hannah and I headed back out to take some pictures of the Arch de Triomphe, Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower all lit up at night. Just amazing. We eventually found a Franprix supermarket to stock up on some supplies for the following day, as it was going to be a big one.

Saturday morning started with a trip to a local market just around the corner from our hotel, where, after chickening out of buying some "fromage" and a baguette (I was afraid I would say the wrong thing!), we purchased a croissant and then went into Starbucks, where Hannah ordered her coffee in French and I asked for the loo, in French. It has to be said that I was very proud of myself!

The first stop of the day was to the Metro station, where we managed to buy a day ticket for the train with the help of the customer service lady who did not speak a word of English, but we managed to understand each other OK, and we were soon on our way to Montmartre.

Seeing the Sacre Coeur was just like being on the set of Amelie, one of my all-time favourite movies. We climbed up all the steps and had a good look around. The weather was absolutely perfect, but very windy, and the views of Paris were breathtaking. Hannah suggested we take a tour of the crypt, and I agreed. It would be good to see underneath the church. How stupid I was. After attempting to read the sign, written in French, that mentioned something that looked to me like "300 steps" we purchased our tickets and went through the turnstile, of which there was no return. I remember thinking it was strange for there to be 300 steps down under the church. That seemed like a very long way to me.

Once through the turnstile, I was faced with a spiral staircase...leading UP! Oh, yes! We were taking the stairs all the way to the top of the dome and yes indeed, there were 300 steps, if not more! The stairs didn't really bother me, but it was very narrow and winding, smelling very strongly of a toilet, and I began to feel really dizzy. Although the views that I saw when I made it to the top made the whole thing seem worth it. See for yourself:

After Montmartre, we headed out to the cemetery at Pere Lachaise, which is where Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison from The Doors and Marcel Marceau are buried. It was the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been to...and I have been to lots. I love to wander through cemeteries, even though most people I know think that is strange. Hannah, luckily, was not one of those.

After spending the morning in the cemetery, we grabbed some lunch at The Cat Cafe across the road, where the staff did not speak a word of English, but again, with the help of my trusty phrase book, we managed OK.

Back on the Metro, which is a very efficient, if somewhat smelly and hot experience, and off to Notre Dame. This cathedral was incredible.

After Notre Dame, it started to rain, the first and only time over the whole weekend, and we walked along the Seine to Pont Neuf and then back on the Metro to Champs Elysees, to buy our tickets for the Lourve on Sunday. My feet had just about fallen off by this point!

Back at the hotel to put up my feet for a while and then we headed out to a French restaurant for 8pm! That may not sound strange to you but as a nanny who eats with the kids at 5.30pm each night, eating at 8pm was a luxury!

Our waiter, thank God, spoke very good English and offered to translate the whole menu for us! At one point, he was explaining a dish and could not think of the word in English, so he pointed to where his kidneys would be on his body, which, if I had liked kidneys, would have made me change my mind about ordering it. There's something just a little disconcerting about being shown a potential menu item on the human body! But the food was delicious and, in case you're wondering, it was Cote Vignes in the 16th Arrondissment. There's a free plug!

The only downside of the evening was we had decided to dress up and I had my high heeled boots on and could barely walk, and we went the wrong way down the street and turned a three minute walk into a 10 minute hike!

Sunday was another beautiful day and we went to the Lourve. I have no words to describe that place. I could have spent days in there and never been bored. We got there early which was great because we got to see the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa without the crowds. After the Lourve, we walked to the Metro through Jardins des Tulieries and sat by the pond in the sunshine. I didn't want to leave.

But the Eurostar waits for no man (or woman) and I had to say farewell to Paris.

Before I came, I never had any great desire to go there, but now, I know it is a place to which I will definitely return.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bonjour, tout le monde!

Bonjour from Paris!

Today started at 2.00am for me, after four hours sleep, a drive through sleepy London to St Pancras station to board the Eurostar to Paris! The train trip was uneventful and after wandering around Gare du Nord, we eventually found our Metro line and made our way to our hotel. The room was ready, and even though I couldn't remember the word for "thank you so much", I think my wide smile got the message across.

Dumping our bags and arming ourselves with maps, we headed out to explore, and promptly went the wrong way! But who cares? We are in Paris!

Here's where we went today:

Tonight, we're headed back out to see it all lit up.

Au revoir!