Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank You!

Just want to say a big end-of-year thank you to everyone who has read my blog; helped with my wedding; come from overseas to visit; bought the book; helped review it; or mentioned it to friends! I really appreciate all the help and support over the past year.

All the best to everyone for the year ahead.

The Lives of Others

Since I'm all reflected out, I thought I'd share others' reflections on the past year and decade.

From an American in Dublin: The Decade in Review

From a writer in deepest England (i.e., I can't remember where exactly she lives!): The Noughties in Numbers

From a Canadian writer now in London: That Time of Year

From a Canadian back home in Montreal: 30 Things

Care to share? Post your link in the comments section below and I'll update this post with your link.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Noughties

For lack of anything else to post about (my brain has gone into hibernation for the past week or so), here's my past decade year by year. Details are slightly sketchy but it's been fun trying to dredge them up!

At this point in my life I was quite career focused, so my highlight of the year was landing a job as PR Manager at a high-tech company in Ottawa, Canada. I was excited to leave my former job at a hectic PR agency behind and work in-house at a firm with lots of perks (soft drinks in the fridge; free bagels every Friday and a fooz ball table? Heaven -- not to mention the increased salary). I was well on my way to corporate happiness.

In retrospect, I probably should have stayed at the agency as the variety of working with different clients was actually something I enjoyed, and I quickly found myself feeling a bit bored in my little beige cubicle. I had great colleagues and the company was brilliant, but... surely this couldn't be it for the rest of my life?

I quit my job and moved to Poland to teach English. I'd always wanted to live in Europe and my growing boredom (along with a new and crazed CEO) at the company meant the timing was perfect. What did I have to lose?

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I loved Poland and the people I met there, and moving on my own to a country I'd never been to gave me a massive boost of confidence.

A year of travel, from Gdansk to Budapest to Wales and back again.

Finally tiring of gallivanting around Europe, I decided the time had come to think about my future. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Education programme at the University of Ottawa and moved back to Canada to renew my life at home.

I tried to get excited about staying in Canada, but I wasn't ready to 'settle down' (and it was too bloody cold, anyway!). So I packed yet again and moved to London to teach.

This year is a bit of a blur, filled mainly with adjusting to the harsh reality of UK classrooms and drinking half a bottle of wine every night in an effort to cope. The best bits were the holidays -- trips to Paris and Spain helped me make it through!

Another muddled year as I tried to come to terms with what the heck I wanted to be doing over here in the UK (because teaching certainly wasn't it). I tried my hand at teacher recruitment, which I enjoyed but still couldn't see myself doing long-term.

The highlight of this year was quitting my job and deciding to try to make it as a writer. There were many factors that lead me to this point and although at the time they weren't exactly welcome, I can only be thankful now for the part they played in helping me come to this decision.

Revelling in the freedom of being my own boss; seeing daylight; and being able to go outside whenever I wanted! It was a great feeling to create; to use my mind for something other than benefiting the bottom line.

My previous post says it all (and now I'm getting lazy; this has been much harder than I thought it would be!).

Bring on the next decade!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009: Month by Month

I can't believe the year's almost over! It's been a great year, with so much happening -- mostly unexpected, which in my mind makes it that much better. I thought it'd be interesting to pick my top monthly highlights as this year fades away into 2010. I may even attempt yearly highlights for the decade if I'm feeling ambitious. In the meantime, though, I'll stick to the past year.

So here we go!

- Finished Novel Number 3 (still languishing away, waiting to be revised).
- Joined the Marylebone Writers' Group, where I met some lovely writers with whom to share my writerly woes.

- Dyed my hair (it was a slow month and really, that's all I can think of).
- Oh yes: I pitched Novel Number 2 to agents and received a ton of rejections. Obviously I'd blocked this out.

- Turned 35. Failed to meet my goal of getting an agent before my 35th birthday.
- On the upside, The Man and I had a great birthday weekend away in Oxford.

White Horse Hill, just outside of Oxford.

- Signed contract to write 24 Hours London. Woohoo!

- The Man and I celebrated our fifth year together... and he proposed, completely unexpectedly.

- Parents came to visit from Canada and we took a trip to Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim Palace.

- Friends and family started to arrive for my wedding!

- Got married and had a wonderful honeymoon in Croatia.

On the boat as we head back to shore at the end of the day.

- Finished Novel Number 4 and started work on 24 Hours Paris.

- Went to Cairo to visit The Man's family.
- The Man's film had its world premiere at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival.

Trying not to fall off my horse at the pyramids in Giza.

- 24 Hours London launches!

- Great Christmas in London with friends and family.

I couldn't have asked for a better year. Let's see what 2010 brings!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! Here are a few photos from our day:

Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square on our way to the South Bank.

On the South Bank on a sunny Christmas afternoon.

St Paul's and Christmas tree.

The sun sets on a quiet London.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in London: What to Do?

It's almost Christmas! Whee! As I've expressed several thousand times before, I love London at Christmas. The city shuts down and if you venture out, you almost feel like the city's yours. We plan on doing our annual Christmas walk along the South Bank, across Millennium Bridge and around St Paul's, then on to the Founder's Arms for mulled wine before heading home to cook the turkey.

If you feel the urge to hit the streets before stuffing yourself, Londonist has a great run-down of what's on in the city. Here are their top tips:

Join the Serpentine swim: there's nowt as refreshing as a mid-winter dip. The Peter Pan Christmas Race has been held at the Serpentine Lido since 1864. You won't be allowed to swim unless you're a member but we can vouch for spectating being excellent fun and will mean a brisk walk through wonderful Hyde Park early in the morning. The race starts prompt at 9am so if you're planning to go, get up early - there isn't any public transport all day!

Cycle Southwark: Keeping in the outdoor sport vibe, Southwark Cyclists are running a slow and sociable ride round deserted Christmas London. Meet 10am at Cutty Sark Gardens or 11am at Southwark Needle. It's brilliantly laid back: it's free, no need to book, just show up. Linger for a late lunch up Edgware Road after and hang about for the evening's Critical Mass ride from 6.30pm.

Test your credulity: Ripley's Believe It Or Not is open on Christmas Day between 10am-8pm. For the skinny, read our interview with the Odditorium founder.

Walk in Pepys & Dickens' footsteps: London Walks are running 2 tours. "Christmas Morning, 1660 - Samuel Pepys's London" goes at 11 am followed by "The Christmas Day Charles Dickens's London" Walk at 2 pm. Meet at the big Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. £7/under 15s free, no need to book.

And if you just want to curl up with a book, here's one to download for free! Publishing's a tough business, as author Lee Jackson can attest. After writing and publishing several novels, his publisher decided not to renew his contract (he 'only' sold thousands, not tens of thousands...). So he made his new novel, The Diary of a Murder, available to read for free online.

Read it for free by clicking here.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Most Loathed Britishisms

I should be full of fluff and light this close to Christmas, but I figure there's a lot of that around elsewhere so I thought I'd serve up a dose of negativity! Of course there are plenty of North Americanisms that I detest, too, but there are my top hated phrases/words on this side of the pond. Feel free to chime in with yours for either side of the Atlantic!

So in no particular order, here they are:

1. innit - I first encountered this lovely contraction of 'isn't it' when I was teaching at a comprehensive. It puzzled me at first, since it's usually not used in the meaning of 'isn't it.' For example: 'I didn't do my homework last night because the X-Factor was on, innit?'

2. 'I was stood there/ I was sat there' - Words cannot explain how much I hate hate HATE this commonly used construction. You hear it everywhere, from the telly to the radio to the teens in the street. For example: 'I was stood there waiting for the bus for half an hour.'
I don't care how frequently it's said; it's just not grammatically correct and it sounds terrible.

3. lurgy/ lurgi - This is a particularly horrible words used to describe a cold or flu-like illness. Apparently it originated from the BBC Radio Comedy The Goon Show. For some reason it puts me in mind of a zombie with a runny nose.

4. cossie/ pressie/ bessie friend - Why must everything be made diminutive? Swimming costume becomes 'cossie'; present 'pressie'. I cannot bring myself to utter these words.

5. anythink/ nothink - There's no 'k' on the end of 'anything' or 'nothing', so why do some people pronounce these words as if there is?

That's all for now, but I know there are others lurking on the fringes of my subconscious so I'll add to the list as they come forward.

Oh yes, and Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Day in London

12 p.m. - Kensington Palace in the winter sun.

1 p.m. - The new Isis sculpture by Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park.

2 p.m. - The Christmas Fair, Hyde Park.

2:30 p.m. - Hitting the rides and navigating through the crowds.

3 p.m. - The Bavarian Village, with mulled wine, sausage and 'original French fries from Germany'.

4 p.m. - Heading home back through the park.

6 p.m. - Skating at the Natural History Museum.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh the Irony

I have a confession: yesterday, on the way to The Times Online's Live London Q&A, I got lost. The Man was kind enough to point out the irony of the London expert getting turned around on her way to answer questions about, er, London. Not that it needed any pointing out, really.

The journey didn't exactly get off to a great start. A few minutes before leaving the flat, I went to get my trusty A - Z. But do you think I could find one of our many copies? No. Several minutes and multiple dust bunnies later, I was still scouring under the bed in hopes of finding one buried amongst the rubble of paper. I tried to calm my rising nerves, telling myself that I'd be alright. After all, I did have step-by-step instructions from GoogleMaps. How complicated could it be?

Well. I should have known better. When you go to East London, nothing is easy. You might start out on the right street but somehow miss veering off to the left and end up far from where you're supposed to be. Why not just look at the signs? I hear people asking. If only, if only. Locating a sign anywhere can be a task; they're so rare you'd think they're made from gold. My GoogleMap was soon rendered useless as I'd strayed far from the square inch mini-map of where I was supposed to be.

Luckily I'd left plenty of time to make it for the 1 p.m. start. So I quelled my growing sense of panic and stopped to ask a builder for directions. As nice as he was, said builder also happened to be Australian and although he tried to help by looking up my destination on -- argh -- GoogleMaps, he had as much of a clue as me (none).

Scurrying down the frigid streets back towards my starting point to start all over, I decided to ask another dapperly dressed gentleman. No joy -- he was a recent transplant from India and was lost himself. He shrugged as he wished me luck and we plodded off in opposite directions.

It was now 12:30 p.m. Standing in the maze of streets, my hands were blue-white and numb from clutching my GoogleMap. My vision was blurred by the wind whipping my fringe into my face. How on earth was I ever going to make it when no-one had ever heard of The Times, let alone how to get there?

There was nothing more I could do. The time had come to abandon myself to the street god of East London.

A ray of light blinked out from behind a cloud, temporarily blinding me. And as my vision cleared, I saw it: Wilton's Music Hall. Wait, I thought. I know this place! I'd researched it for my book way back in the summer, when the whole area looked completely different than its current bleak wintry landscape. I grabbed my crumpled GoogleMap. There it was! A landmark I was standing right beside. Now I only needed to go down the street, turn left -- and lo and behold, I'd make it!

I broke into a run, my heels clomping in the empty street. Almost there, almost there, my heart pounded out. The Times' sign came into view and I slowed my pace, trying to breathe normally and pull myself together. I was here. I'd made it.

I am a 'London expert', after all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Other News...

Now that the snow has melted, I'm over at Musings of Ondo Lady answering questions about my favourite authors, my typical day and what's up next!

Let It Snow

Look closely... those white streaks are what's known as snow, a rare occurrence in these parts.

While it's nothing like last February's snowstorm, today's flakes were enough to send Londoners (and me) into our own flurry of excitement. Twitter was awash was tales of 'it's snowing in Westminster!' and 'it's coming down in Barnes.'

The view from my window.

I've obviously been away from Canada for awhile, because I was excited too. I'm not snow's biggest fan, but when it's almost Christmas it does have a magical effect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coming Down the Mountain

Now that I've calmed down a bit, I can tell you that I'm over at Karen Gowen's blog Coming Down the Mountain, talking about my new favourite subject: promotion. Karen and I crossed paths when she won a copy of my book through Nicola Morgan's awesome blog, and Karen graciously offered to interview me for her site.

Thanks, Karen!

Guidebook Writers' London

When I worked part-time in a spa and was nearly dying of boredom at 7 a.m. in the morning, online news websites were my saviours. The Guardian, The Independent and The Times were my main staples and I'd read everything I could, all the while dreaming of having my own book featured there.

And today, my spa-induced vision became a reality! My book is featured in The Times travel section as part of their Guidebook Writers' London article. Not only that, but I'll actually get to invade their offices in Wapping and take part in a live Question and Answer on Thursday for an Insiders' London feature.


Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Reading List: Progress (or Lack Thereof) Report

Back in January, I put together a reading list for the year ahead. I stuck to it for awhile (OK, a month or two) before I got sidetracked by other books I wanted to read. So I still have a lot of reading to do in a very short time!

The red books are the ones I did get around to reading. A Year in Provence is by far one of the best books I read this year. Peter Mayle is a brilliant writer.

If you had to choose, what would be your favourite book read this year?

Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Kitchen God's Wife - Amy Tan
Music and Silence - Rose Tremain
I Know why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Small Island - Andrea Levy
Pillow Talk - Freya North
Riders - Jilly Cooper
Herb n Lorna - Erik Kraft
The Best a Man Can Get - John O'Farrell
The Consolations of Philosophy - Alain de Botton
Little Black Book of Stories - AS Byatt
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert M Pirsig
A Year in Provence - Robert Mayle
Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
Complete Poems - Elizabeth Bishop
Summer Lightening - PG Wodehouse
The Outcast - Sadie Jones
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
A Mercy - Toni Morrison
The Believers - Zoe Heller
The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas at the Homestead

It's been awhile since I've been home for Christmas, so The Man and I have slowly been developing our own traditions.

The Man's stack of mince pies. He's definitely embraced British tradition. I've a long way to go.

It's quite interesting sharing my life with a man for whom Christmas has little-to-no significance, growing up in a completely different culture. Of course, he's familiar with all the rituals from watching American TV, but something often gets lost in translation. I'll never forget when he asked me when the 'actual' Christmas Day was -- sometime in late-December?

Our tree, squished into a corner in our flat.

I miss going home in December, but it's often too expensive and risky travelling to Canada in winter. One year we almost didn't make it home after a massive winter storm stranded us in Ottawa. So we've stayed put the past three years and I have to say, I love London at Christmas.

Holly from Portobello Market in our 'fireplace'.

The city slows down, people stay in, and a sort of calm descends. Not even the Tube nor buses run on Christmas Day, and most everything is locked up tight (except some pubs, usually open from around noon to three). We get up late, make a special breakfast, then open gifts. If the weather's nice, we'll head to the South Bank to drift down the walk alongside the river and wander across the bridge to St Paul's. After some fresh (usually frigid) air, it's back to the flat and time to feast on turkey and pie.

Friday, December 11, 2009

If Your Desk Could Talk

If your desk had the power of words, what would it say about you?

Mine would say that I stare out the window a lot, write three or four words, jiggle my leg, check the Internet, then leave... and repeat, ad nauseum. It would certainly comment that I dress for the Arctic, clad in three or four layers, wrapped in a blanket and huddled next to a heater (it's cold in the office in the morning!). It would note that I seem inordinately annoyed by a barking dog every day at 11 a.m., and it would beg me note to eat chocolate whilst typing because it doesn't like to be covered in melting chocolate goo.

My desk.

But luckily, desks can't talk (newsflash, I know). So is a picture really worth a thousand words? Looking at this photo, it would seem I am a fairly neat person. And while I do like order, I have no idea what is in that pile of papers to left -- in fact, that pile has been there for the past year or so (in varying heights). Luckily, the corner desk is quite large so I have a lot of room to spread out. To the extreme right, I have a glass full of pens and pencils because even though I use my laptop, I like to feel there are writing utensils nearby!

What would your desk say?

24 Hours Paris

I know, I know: it never ends. I've barely finished harassing people about 24 Hours London before starting up with Paris. But I just had to share our new cover design!

And the 24 Hours Paris book blog is coming along, too. The book's scheduled for release in Spring 2010. It was tons of fun to research and write!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Web Wonderland

No proper post today as I've spent the last six hours redesigning (if you can call my basic manoeuvres 'design') my web page. There's still a lot of filler needed, but you can take a look at

And if you think it's rubbish... please, don't tell me!

Coming up tomorrow: if your desk could talk, what would it say?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Lights of London at Christmas

With the dark seeping in around 4 p.m. these days, it's a good thing Oxford Street has gone totally bonkers with its annual Christmas lights. Even the rain and blustery wind can't detract from that smidgen of festive spirit the lights kindle within you.

The rain had just stopped as I headed over to Marylebone on Monday night for my weekly writers' group, so I decided to take a few pictures on my way. Enjoy!

Oxford Street, just outside of Bond Street Tube station.

A very appropriate Christmas decoration... in London.

Column of lights heading towards St Christopher's Place.

Lovely shop window.

Last Contest of the Year: Win a Copy of 24 Hours London!

Head over to Anglotopia where you can win a copy of 24 Hours London simply by writing in the comment box what you would do if you only had one hour in London. Open to anyone, wherever in the world you are!

And you can still win a copy of Victoria Westcott's amazingly informative book Guide to Teaching in London by answering this question: True of False: Kids in the UK wear uniforms to school. Email your answers to me by Friday and you're in the draw!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teaching in the UK: Q&A with Victoria Westcott

Today I'm excited to have Victoria Westcott, a former teacher in the UK (and now a recruiter for teachers) talking about her experiences in England. Victoria's written an ebook called Guide to Teaching in London that I really wish I'd had when I first came over! She answers my questions about her three years here, what it's like to go back home and how the book came to be.


Would you like more insight into the UK educational system? Do you know someone interested in teaching in the UK? Victoria has three copies of her ebook to giveaway! See below for details on how to win.

Current Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Years in England: 3

Cities lived in: Essex; Bedfordshire; London, England (Islington and Notting Hill)

Why did you decide to come to England?
I graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Education in 2004 and knew that teaching jobs were scarce in Ontario, so I applied for teaching jobs in England. I had never been, but I heard that they were hiring teachers so I thought I should at least apply. I also applied for jobs in Northern Canada, but quickly realized that I’d rather be in a big city than in a remote location with all that snow. It all happened very quickly. I applied at the end of July and was on a plane by August 24th.

Did you have a job before heading over?
Yes, I did, although I wouldn’t recommend that other teachers do that now. I had an interview with a school on the phone, and accepted right away. It was quite remote (in Essex) and really, I wanted inner city London, but I was nervous about not having a job before I arrived, so I just took it. After two terms, my cousin who is a Deputy Head Teacher (aka Vice-Principal) came to visit and convinced me that I had more than that one option. I quit and moved in with her. After a couple of months I found a job teaching in London and recruiting teachers for the agency that brought me over in the first place. I loved London!

What did you find hardest about adjusting to life in the UK? Any tips for expats to adjust relatively easily?
I’m not a particularly quiet person, and I was “shushed” a few times by strangers. It was random – once in a pub, by a woman that joined our table for lack of seats elsewhere – she told me that she couldn’t hear her friend. I was horrified. Then, another time by someone on the tube. It’s not like I was shouting! I assure you, I don’t yell. I don’t think anyone in Canada would call me loud, it’s just that for British folk, I think I must be really loud. Eventually, I learned to speak more quietly, but not without a few nightmares and a bit of neurosis.

What did you enjoy the most about living here?
My social life. I live on Vancouver Island now, in a pretty small city (only 300 000 people! Is that even a city? I call it a town...) and I run Classroom Canada out of my apartment. So, I don’t get out much. Plus, I’m 33 and single in a city that locals say is for the “nearly dead or newly wed.” Needless to say, when I go to London every year I go out big time. I adore my friends there and am lucky enough to return for work every year, so I get my social fix there. You just can’t be bored in London! Not that I’m complaining about living here – it’s just the exact opposite of London. Here, I walk along the beach and stare at the Rocky mountains. I kayak, canoe, dragon boat and sail. There, I go dancing, out to dinner, to museums and art galleries, travel around get the idea I’m sure. You were a teacher here, like me.

What do you think is the biggest difference between the English and North American school systems?
The million dollar question, Marsha! There are so many differences, it’s hard to pinpoint just one, but I’ll go with behaviour management. I think most teachers would say the same thing. Canadian students listen when a teacher tells them what to do (yes, a generalization, but if you teach in London, you’ll know what I mean), and in England it’s just not that easy. Teachers have to earn the students’ respect, and keep them constantly “in line.” It’s a lot more work on a day to day, minute-by-minute basis. At the same time, the lessons are better planned in England so you spend much less time planning than you would “back home.”

Why did you decide to write a book about teaching in England?
There wasn’t one out there. No one had written anything like it, and I knew that I would have wanted a book like this when I went to teach in London. Since I write on a regular basis and enjoy it, why not?

What did you find most challenging about the process of writing a book?
Well, first let me tell you the story of how this ebook came to be. It started with a crazy idea over drinks and dinner with my cousin and sister. We decided to take all of our talents and work together to complete the project in 3 weeks time. I had 7 days to write the ebook (Mantra: “JUST WRITE!”) and my sister, a professional screen writer, had 7 days to edit it and make it something people would actually want to read. Then my cousin, a professional designer, had 7 days to make it look all fancy-schmancy as an ebook. Most ebooks are a designers worst nightmare. As my cousin says “Just because your uncle Bob says he can design, doesn’t mean he should,” and it was important to all of us that it look and feel professional. And, you know what? We did it! 3 weeks later it was up online at I’m ridiculously proud of it.

So, the hardest part?
Honestly, I don’t focus nearly enough on marketing the ebook. The actual writing part was very easy – I have a niche market, and I wrote about what I know, so really, I don’t think it could have been any easier. But marketing – getting out there and promoting it - that’s where I think I’m not doing enough. Other ebook writers send out thousands of emails and give freebies and the like, but... well, I’m busy with work and so I don’t really do that kind of thing. Maybe one of your readers will have some suggestions for how I can market it better. That would be great!

Any more books in the works?
Yes. I have been writing the American edition of the Guide to Teaching in London for over a year now. Okay, that’s a lie. I’ve spent a few hours over the last year on the American edition. I need to just sit down and get it done – I dream of completing it over the Christmas holidays. Then, the Australian edition and the Kiwi edition and...well, we’ll see how far we get.

You’ve returned back to Canada. What do you miss most about the UK? And what’s the best thing about being home again?
I love my life here in Canada. I work from home, live in the warmest part of Canada (no snow!), choose when I take my holidays and how many I take, and help Canadian and American teachers relocate to London, England. I am fortunate in every way. I get to travel to London as often as I like, and travel across North America with work. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I miss shopping in London and my social life and every once in a while I’ll have the thought that I should just pick up and move back, but my life here is really great as well. I have the best of both worlds.

Anything else to add?
Thanks so much Marsha! This was fun to write. If anyone wants to contact me directly, please see these websites:;;;

To win one of three copies of Victoria's ebook, email me at with the answer to this question: True or False: Kids in the UK wear uniforms to school (Hint... they always looks nice!).

Contest ends Friday, December 11th at 5 pm GMT. I'll draw from the entries.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tube Mystery

One of my favourite blogs for all things Tube-related is Annie Mole's Going Underground. Last week, she featured a fine gentleman spotted on the way to Canary Wharf station by Cdl Creative.

It boggles the mind. But then again, it is the Tube where a parallel universe of propriety exists.

What am I talking about? Click here to find out.

Update: And this creature (of the animal variety, this time) just spotted on the Tube, too!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Observer of Life

Sitting at my desk, I often feel like my life is filtered by the confines of my window. Sometimes I grab a camera to capture some of the random (and strange) sights. Here's a collection from the past year.

A rare sunny summer's day. I love the intense blue of the sky.

One of the strangest sights spotted this year. Is it a car? Is it a motorised wheelchair?

The Gaza protest last January.

Sun sets in a winter sky.

One of the many horses that make their way down our street on a regular basis. Sometimes I manage to catch them, sometimes not.

A lone cab cruises down the road during the Great London Snowstorm (i.e., more than a centimetre of snow) last February.

Horses of the, er, white variety.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hidden London: Kensington Square

Photo from Open Squares.

It's been awhile since I've done a Hidden London post, mainly because I needed a wee break from writing about London. But I can't stay away from the topic for too long -- I just love this city.

Wandering around High Street Kensington today, I ducked behind Whole Foods and into the leafy quiet of Kensington Square. As a student of philosophy, The Man had been keen to show me this square where John Stuart Mill had lived and since then I've always loved its timeless ambiance.

It's one the oldest squares in London, created in 1685 by Thomas Young who 'did sett out and appoint a considerable part thereof to be built into a large Square of large and substantial Houses fit for ye Habitacion of persons of good Worth and Quality, with Courts and Yards before and Gardens lying backwards’.*

Building a square so far from the centre of London was fairly radical and Young apparently had problems finding tenants (today, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn't want to live there!), but his venture was saved by the establishment of a Court at Kensington Palace.

The Court left Kensington in the 1750s and the square languished, with no renovation schemes or remodernisation. Because of this, the square still retains a lot of its original characteristics.

Although the gated garden is for the use of residents only, it's enough to wander the square, examine the houses' facades and imagine the former residents.

And if you get hungry, pop by Kensington Square Kitchen for some delectable cupcakes and muffins to bring you back to reality.

*From: 'Kensington Square and environs: Introduction', Survey of London: volume 42: Kensington Square to Earl's Court (1986), pp. 5-11. URL: Date accessed: 04 December 2009.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Horror!

I'm at India Drummond's blog today, talking about the joys of self promotion. India's a Twitter friend whose witty commentary quickly became an important part of my writing life. Thanks, India!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back to Canada

No, I'm not going back to Canada. But I'm there virtually, anyway. Today I'm answering questions on Classroom Canada and Canadians in the UK. What is there to do in London at 2 a.m.? How on earth did I go from teaching to recruitment to writing? Have a read to find out!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brought to You by the Letters A and Z

I came across this photo today on London Daily Photo and it looked so much like my own collection that I had to laugh.

I'm going to float the theory that the number of copies you have of this handy book is directly related to the number of years spent in London -- I've been here for five years, and I own five! The book's called the A - Z, and it's kind of like having GoogleMaps in your pocket. Each page shows a different cross-section of London streets, (almost) down to the smallest passageways. Simply put, if you live in London you need to have one of these.

I first realised the importance of having one when I was called out to supply teach in a neighbourhood off Edgware Road, central London. Just off the plane from Canada, I'd taken down the fastidious directions from the recruitment consultant, naively thinking: how hard can it be?

Well. After getting lost in the maze of streets and finally getting to the job -- horror upon horrors -- late, the consultant (fielding my increasingly frantic phone calls) suggested I get an A - Z. When I wasn't chasing after errant children, I wondered what on earth this A - Z was. Vowing never to get lost again (OK, I didn't really know how to get home), I popped into a corner store and asked if they had one. The man handed me a coil-bound Inner London edition, and my A - Z collection was born.

I'd like to say I never got lost again. But little did I realise that my super-sized Inner City London edition didn't cover far-flung environs like Harolds Wood and Ponders End, where I was shunted off to supply teach. My wanderings prompted another A - Z purchase, this time covering the whole of London.

A - Z number three was purchased in a fit of panic when I mistakenly thought I'd lost one. I just couldn't bear to hit the London streets without my faithful companion in hand. Number four was a mini-version bequeathed to me by a friend returned to Canada -- great to store in your hand-bag but not so great when half the streets seem to fall in the centre crack and you need microscopic vision to see anything. And the fifth? Well, you wouldn't want your car journeys to be neglected, would you? It's nesting comfortably in the glove compartment.

This posting (not paid, honestly!) has been lovingly brought to you by the letters A and Z. I'm telling you, never leave home without it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mutton or Lamb?

It's a rainy, dull day in London. Streets and shops are practically empty as people huddle inside their cozy flats. But for some, staying in just plain boring.

So... why not make your own fun? That's exactly what these teens did.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What's Next?

Now that my book is out and most of the launch hoopla's behind me, I've begun to focus on what's next. '24 Hours Paris' is, for the most part, completed (yay!) and as always, my goal of getting published on the fiction side comes to the fore. Of course I'm ecstatic to be published, period -- and even more so that it's something to do travel, which I've always loved writing about -- but I really really want to get my fiction out there, too.

It's ever-so-slightly embarrassing to admit that I've written five novels, none of which has been published. I've pitched two, put away two more to be edited, and I've just completed my fifth. It might sound depressing, but I can see I'm getting better. I feel more confident, too, about what I'm doing. So, it might take another five -- or ten -- novels, but I think I'll get there in the end. And if not, well... at least I'm enjoying the journey.

Cross your fingers for me!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

The blogs are alive today with the sound of clucking as Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. So to all the Americans who come across this post today... Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's what the confused Brits have to say about it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All Marketing, All the Time

It's my new obsession: marketing! Time-consuming and humiliating -- sometimes. But mostly fun and exciting. I have to thank everyone who's helped me with promotion, from friends and family to complete strangers (and it's not over yet -- if I haven't hit you up for something, just wait!).

Today I'm over at Hell or High Water, talking about what I've learned in marketing my book.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Canberra Calling

It's been awhile since I've seen my name in newspaper print. I trained as a journalist and spent a few scintillating years working as an editor of a medical journal before bailing out and going into the wonderful world of public relations.

So I was eager to see a copy of an article I wrote for the Canberra Times (if, like me, your geography is questionable, Canberra is the capital of Australia). The article came out last Sunday and I finally got a PDF last night. Thanks to Mary and Peter Nelson, friends of my parents living in Canberra, I'll have a hard copy as soon as the post obliges.

In the meantime, here's the link!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Urban Travel Blog... Check it Out!

I'm posting on the fly today as I'm just on my way out the door to the pub (aka my writers' group in Marylebone), but I wanted to share this link with you. It's a new travel website, started by former Polish resident and now Barcelona-dweller Duncan Rhodes. The site aims to provide all the information you need about destinations world-wide, in just one page per destination.

I'm a recent contributor to the London portion of the site. If you get a chance, swing by and tell Duncan (and me!) what you think!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just One Hour

Smitten by Britain recently held a competition to win a few copies of my book (thanks, Melissa!). Her question for entrants was: 'What would you do in London if you had just one hour?'

The answers were so great I decided to steal them for my own blog! Here are a few:

I would rent a helicopter and have them fly me over London for an hour so that I could take in the entire city from a pigeon's point of view !

I would make sure I was there on a Sunday so I could go to Speaker's Corner, after which I would go to the National Museum (I've never been and I've always wanted to), followed by a play at the Globe Theatre (the season starts after Shakespeare's birthday in May), and finish with a look at Big Ben and a pub dinner.

Kensington Roof Gardens! Its owned by Richard Branson and is THE most amazing place. We spent an hour there on a whistle stop tour last month and we loved it. If we didn't have a guide we would never have known it was the name suggests, it's on top of an 6 or 8 storey building!

What would I do in an hour? Only an hour? Oh my gosh, I don't know how this little Canadian Country Mouse could possibly take in all that history, culture, and beauty in just an hour! I would either find the largest memory card for my camera and run around taking pictures of everything and everybody and then look and drool over the pictures in the comfort of my own home, or, more than likely I would spend the time in the Natural History Museum. Sigh.... heaven.... even if it was just an hour. Thank you for making me day dream!

Oooh I adore london! If I only had an hour I would go to the Borough markets and eat myself silly, then sit by the river and people watch while I digest all my amazing food. I have family in London and have visited there several times, but never, ever get sick of it. After Sydney, it's probably my favourite city in the world!

I would stand in the middle of Waterloo Bridge and take it all in. I can't believe I used to complain about that walk every morning before I moved to the US. It's breath-taking!

Living there anyway, I know that a free hour in London usually means sitting on the tube trying to get somewhere! I always like a walk through Petticoat Lane market in the Middlesex Street area. Best done on a weekend when it takes over multiple streets.

I would go to Rigby and Peller in Knightbridge and be fitted for a perfectly fitting, beautiful new bra or two, then stroll into Harrods food hall and smell all the wonderful aromas and buy a sinfully decadent pastry or some truffles.

I'm probably boring, but I absolutely love Charing Cross and its old bookshops, so I'd spend some time in the second hand book shops before bowing between the throne that is Foyle's!

Only 1 hr? I'd probably spend it the way I spent my first hour there - take the tube to Baker Street and wander around Regent's Park to enjoy the roses in bloom. ...Or maybe I'd grab a milk chocolate chunk shortbread and canned pimm's & lemonade from M&S, wander around St. Pauls and cross the Millenium bridge over to bankside for a quick stroll past the Tate, Globe, etc.

I have never been outside of South Africa, so the first thing I would do when I get to London, will be to go to Madam Tussauds and kiss Lady Di's cheek! I watched her wedding, cried when she died and would love to see what she looked like in real life! I would then walk the streets of London to look at all the old buildings in wonderment! Our country's oldest building, the Castle in Cape Town, was built only in 1666, so I really would like to see the architecture of the older buildings. Then, if I still have time, I would run to see the Rosetta Stone and Leonardo's paintings!

And Melissa recently gave me the Superior Scribbler Award (thanks - again!), which I shall now pass on to five other bloggers:
India Drummond
Sarah Eve Kelly
Tim Atkinson of Bringing Up Charlie
Deniz Bevan of The Girdle of Melian
Karen Jones Gowen of Coming Down the Mountain

The Rules:
Each Superior Scribbler I name today must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving bloggy friends. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Harsh Reality

It's Friday and almost the weekend, so hey -- here' s a little reality check to get the weekend started.

According to this article, writing one New York Times Best-Selling book per year will keep you just above the poverty line. Well, no-one ever becomes a writer for money! Do they?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Weird British Things - Part Two

Thanks to all who commented on the last post! Karen had a good point -- sometimes it's better not to tell cabbies where you're going until you get in. That way, they have to take you.

And maybe mince pies are better with Devonshire clotted cream. I'm just not sure I'll ever find out.

Here are some more weird British things. Feel free to comment and let me know if it's just me, or if these things are indeed strange for most non-natives. (Last post on the weirdness, I promise!)

Toilets with a button on top - What is with that? I want a lever to flush, dammit. Not some button on the top.

Washing machines that open from the front - I find washing machines here, in general, so confusing. And don't get me started on the washer/dryer all-in-one combo!

Power outlets with on-off switches - I think this is a great idea. Plug it in, turn it on.

TV licenses - What, I have to pay to have a telly? And the funniest fact of all (discovered when I had to write the 'Life in the UK' test): if you're blind, you get 50 per cent off your license. What a deal!

Small, small fridges - I can't believe how big fridges are when I go back home.

Standing up in pubs - Please can we sit down? Why do I have to stand here awkwardly with my drink, even if there are chairs available?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weird British Things

(Before I start my list, let me clarify that these are the things I found weird when I first moved to Britain -- and still do, in some cases. I'm not saying Brits are weird for doing these things.)

Mince pies at Christmas - Can anything be more disgusting than horrible stodgy pastry stuffed with squished raisins and dates. Blek.

First-class and second-class post - Seriously, what is with that? Even the post must be sorted according to class?

Windows without screens - Leaves can blow in! Bugs can circulate! Windows need screens!

The Queen owns it all - Even if you buy a flat (in London, anyway), after 999 years it reverts back to the Queen.

No tax! - Now this I love. OK, there is tax, but at least it's rolled in to the price.

Tell the cabbie where you're going before you get in - Once you're in, they can't refuse your fare so you need to flag them down, then lean through the window and then tell them where you want to go.

More to come in future posts!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Publishing Terms

I love Twitter. Not only is it a brilliant distraction when you're facing 200 pages of editing, but it also provides interesting little tidbits from sources around the world. Today I found this, courtesy of agent Janet Reid.

These are my favourite bits.

ADVANCE: A secret code signalling to the marketing department whether or not to promote a title.

AGENT: An intellectual property and contract law specialist who is unable to pass the bar.

AUTHOR: A large class of individuals (approximately three times as numerous as readers) serving a promotional function in book marketing or providing make-work for editorial interns.

AUTHOR BIO: A piece of creative writing whose length varies inversely with the attractiveness of the person depicted in the AUTHOR PHOTO.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Pictorial fiction. Authors always choose photos that emphasize that quality in which they feel most deficient.

AUTHOR’S DISCOUNT: A penalty charged authors who are unable to wheedle sufficient masses of free copies, purportedly for the purpose of promotion, from their editors.


BOOK DISTRIBUTION: An elaborate system testing the commitment of readers by making sure they cannot obtain specific books too easily.

BOOK REVIEW: A recycled press release offered to publishers by newspaper and magazine sales departments as an inducement to advertising.


COMMERCIAL FICTION: The notion of publishing as a way of making money.

COMP COPIES: A publisher’s entire inventory, according to the urgings of his friends and colleagues.

COPY EDITING: A phase of publishing that requires little or no budget, is considered of slight importance, and may be omitted at the option of the publisher.

COPYRIGHT: A concept invented by lawyers as a hedge against unemployment.


DEADLINE: An item that exists to be renegotiated and revised. In his famous paradox, the Greek philosopher Zeno proved that deadlines can never be met.


EDITOR: A writer with a day job.


FANTASY: An author's sales aspirations.

FOREIGN MARKET: The part of the country outside New York City.

FOREWORD: A blurb that is placed between the covers of the book to compensate for an unmarketable author.

FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR: An annual international exhibition of artwork on paper.


MAINSTREAM FICTION: The pretense that there is a group of readers who can be reached through writing that is sufficiently unspecific as to exclude no one.


NOVELLA: A short story that has not been edited.



PRINTER'S ERROR (PE): An error made before a book goes to print.

PUBLICATION DATE (PUB DATE): A sliding holiday based on the phases of the moon.


REJECTION LETTER (FORM): A condensed restraining order serving to justify requests for SASEs.

REJECTION LETTER (PERSONAL): A formulaic literary genre, premised on justifying not reading or misreading a manuscript, in which the narrator grossly exposes both deep character flaws and an absolute blindness to them.

ROYALTY: The glamorous heads of large publishing houses, also known as GLITERATI.


SALES REP: A roaming bookstore employee retained as a buffer against publishers and authors.


SHELF LIFE: Bookworms.

SHORT STORY: A story that is seldom short enough.

SPINE: Once an essential aspect of any book, spines are no longer found in the publishing industry.


UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY: A biography in which there is no trace of original writing by an author.

UNIVERSITY PRESS: A business predicated on obtaining materials from scholars without compensating them in order to sell the same materials at high prices to scholars.

UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPT: A manuscript that can’t sell because it includes too few salacious solicitations.


WORK-FOR-HIRE: Migrant labor.

WRONG FONT: Comic Sans.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jump n' Jazz

It was a wet, windy and generally miserable weekend in London. But there's a certain pathos to the wind-strewn streets, and weather aside, we managed to get in a lot of London love.

The Man's Egyptian cousin was visiting London for the first time and we wanted to show off our city. After pointing out the typical touristy sights, we dragged her off to the theatre - we'd scored a great deal on tickets to Jump from (£10 each!). It had been ages since we'd been to theatre - way back in August - and I was really looking forward to seeing a production that had received rave reviews.

If you like martial arts and slapstick comedy, you'll like Jump. I like neither and while I was pleasantly entertained for the first five minutes, I quickly found myself feeling bored. But The Man and his cousin enjoyed it, so I suffered in (sort of) silence. For me, it was like dim sum: you can eat and eat and just never feel full (fine for dim sum, but not so good for theatre).

But the jazz concert the next night more than made up for any theatrical disappointment. It's the London Jazz Festival this week, and we got some of the last available tickets. We didn't know what to expect from the two bands who'd be performing, but from the description of 'demonic' and 'wailing' instruments it certainly looked interesting.

Trio VD.

Trio VD took to the stage first, ripping into their instruments. If the Devil listens to jazz, I'm sure this is his preferred band. It was painful, it was beautiful, and it was astonishing that three musicians could produce such a glorious cacophony.

The trio was followed by the even more disturbing World Sanguine Report, fronted by gravelly voiced Andrew Plummer. Slightly extreme for my tastes -- especially his on-stage vignette featuring a seagull whose guts spilled all over a Leeds suspension bridge -- but you had to admire the talent.

And all too quickly, the weekend was over, our guest returned to Liverpool, and London readied itself for a whole new week ahead.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sloppy Signs

You know it's a slow news day when the ever-exciting Evening Standard comes out with a story about apostrophes gone awry.

Apparently errant signmakes are confused and signs are paying the price. Is it Bott's Mews or Botts Mews? Bishops Bridge Road or Bishop's Bridge Road?

However will the world keep turning? Click here to read more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First Timers

The Man and I are waiting to go pick up his cousin from Euston. She's in Liverpool doing her PhD for the next few years, and this will be her first trip to London.

I love introducing first-timers to London. When I first moved here, I had a steady stream of visitors to show around. Now, it's slowed considerably but The Man and I have the patter pretty well down. He introduced me to many aspects of the city when I first came, and he does it very well.

It's kind of hard to remember back, five years ago, when I arrived. I'd been in London before, but I still didn't know much about the city. I landed early one morning in May, and after settling into my flat in Highgate I headed straight to Camden Town to drink in the atmosphere - the buzz, the noise, the sirens and even the rubbish seemed so... London. I wandered down the street, past the market stalls, and I couldn't keep the smile off my face. Later that day I walked through Highgate Woods and across Hampstead Heath, still unable to believe I was actually going to be living here.

I still feel that way even now. I fell in love with this part of the world, met and married my husband here, and all things being well, I'll hopefully soon be a citizen.

And that's why I love showing people what I now consider to be my city.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

London in the 1920s

Recently featured on BoingBoing and sent to me by Jason (thanks, Jason!) this is a wonderful colour film shot in 1927. Some great shots of London almost a century ago.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Wonderful World of London Place Names -- Part 1

When I first moved here, I used to spend hours reading the Tune map and marvelling at all the strange names. So I thought I'd share the joy - and the reality - of my favourite London place names. Here's the first instalment.

Kentish Town (Northern Line)
The vision
For some reason, this evoked thoughts of a quaint village back in medieval times, with maids dancing around a fire and small thatched cottages.

The reality
A fairly grim, noisy and tightly packed cluster of flats and shops sandwiched between Camden Town and Highgate. No maids to be found anywhere.

Cockfosters (Piccadilly Line)
The vision
Need I say anything, really?

The reality
A tidy, orderly suburb with rows of white houses and... nothing really spectacular!

Shepherd's Bush (Central Line)
The vision
Fields with sheep, and one bush where the poor shepherd takes shelter when it showers.

The reality
Busy and noisy with giant roundabouts and now with the biggest in-town mall in Europe! The shepherds have long since fled.

Whitechapel (Central Line)
The vision
A white, er, chapel.

The reality
Wide, busy roads lined with kebab shops. More mosques to be found than white chapels.

Friday, November 6, 2009

24 Hours London: The Book Trailer

I know, I know: you're probably all sick to death of hearing about the book. But really, I think you'll like this. The Man and I spent 17 hours last week filming as many locations as we could get to, and I think London looks absolutely amazing!

Thanks to my lovely husband for persevering through horrendous technical details to produce such a great finished product (if I do say so, myself). Watching this trailer really makes me fall in love with London all over again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Day After

Well! What a great launch day; lots of exciting things going on! Great entries below (congrats to Brit in Bosnia); some nice reviews; and most exciting of all, seeing my book on the shelf!

While I trotted up to Notting Hill Gate (where I'd hit up the manager previously) to see my book, the lovely Prospera Publishing team headed over to Daunt Books in Marylebone and Standford's in Covent Garden. And here's what they found!

Daunt Books. I love how my book is blocking out the one behind it!

Squeezed in but holding its own at Stanford's.

(My book was on the shelf at Notting Hill Gate Waterstone's, too, but I'm too lazy right now to download the photo.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Chosen by a very high-tech method of drawing names out of an empty cupcake box (decadent, I know)....

Brit in Bosnia!

Email your address to and I'll send you the book plus T-shirt! And with the ongoing postal strikes, you should have it just in time for summer.

Thanks to everyone, again!

24 Hours in the Life of a Cyberspace Celebrity

This whole '24 Hours in Your Neck of the Woods' was inspired by a hilarious post by Michael Harling called 24 Hours Horsham. Equally funny (although slightly delusional, if I might add) is the post by Michael below.

Click here to see the full post on its original site.

10am: Wake up. Send manservant to check the post and download the receipts for the week. It’s not as much as last week so you’ll have to scrape by with only £746,837, but in these hard economic times everyone has to tighten their belts.

11am: Sooth aching ego with a brunch of caviar and French champagne.

12pm: Gather lackeys and head for the stables to check on the polo ponies. Engage in pick-up game with lackeys. Make sure they let you win.

1pm: Have servants fill Olympic-sized bathtub with scented water and rose pedals. Invite a few “special” lackeys to join you.

2pm: Snack on canapés and brie on the east portico. Have servants release the hounds to keep gawking admirers at bay.

3pm: Off to your private golf course for another golf lesson from Tiger Woods.

4pm: Write Pond Parley article.

5pm: Show article to lackeys. See to it that they laugh hysterically. Fire those who do not.

6pm: E-mail article to Toni; she’s not busy, she can post it.

7pm: Take stretch limo to Brighton for private dinner at the Brighton Pavilion. Have lackeys follow in a bus.

8pm: Leave Brighton for London. Don’t forget copy of 24Hours: London.

9pm: Hunt for ghosts with London Paranormal:

10pm: Naked disco dancing at Starkers ( ) with “special” lackeys. Send others out for a kabab.

Click here for more.

By Michael Harling

And that's it! Hope you all enjoyed reading the entries as much as I did. Thanks, everyone. Coming up next... the winner of the draw!

24 Hours of Bloggery

To see the full post on the original site, click here.

5am: Wake up, two hours before I should. I hate when that happens.

6am: Finally drift back off to sleep after having mentally galloped through the day’s to-do list

7am: Alarm goes off. Hit the 5 minute snooze button. Prepare to be metaphorically shot out of a canon.

8am: Leave for school with Little Guy, after emotional debate about “cool” versus “warm” clothing. Teenagers have already left although one has left his glasses and the other her violin. Neither has taken keys. Think I will be “out” when they come home at 3.30pm.

9am: Allow myself an hour to do bloggy stuff. Having back issues helps here as I can’t sit for much longer.

10am: Jjump on treadmill. Deliberately donned workout gear first thing, so might as well make use of it all. Plus hair needs a wash.

11am: Apparently, I’ve pulled something.

12 pm: Having burnt off about three million calories, now famished and trying not to devour entire contents of fridge (which would be this week’s leftovers.)

1pm: Write something for PowderRoomGrafitti (dot com). Print off a chapter from next book and rearrange paragraphs for the tenth time. Deal with Mike’s half of Pond Parleys post. (Tut)

2pm: Head for shower. Stop off at laundry room and attempt the west face of the “mountain”.

3pm: Finish laundry and decide shower has to wait. Put on lipstick to distract from hair stuck to head and skanky workout gear. Head out to pick up Little Guy.

4pm: Sit in kitchen and patiently listen to teenage diatribes against school, homework, music practice and the world. Help Little Guy with “oo” words.

5pm: Stare hopelessly into fridge looking for dinner inspiration. (No, I’m not one who plans a week’s menus in advance.) Set to.

For more, click here.

By Toni Hargis

And for our final entry, back to the man who started it all...

24 Hours Montreal

Click here to see the full post on the original site.

7 am – breakfast at l’Avenue – show up early as the lines grow quickly! (922, Mont-Royal East, Plateau, Phone: 514-523-8780, Metro Mont Royal)

8 am – stock up at Jean Talon Market, in the geographic centre of the city. (7075 Casgrain Avenue, Little Italy, Phone: 514-277-1379, Metro De Castelnau/Jean-Talon)

9 am – stroll along Monkland Avenue, visiting chocolate shops, bakeries and pubs. (Monkland Avenue, Notre Dame de Grace, Metro Villa Maria)

10 am – pick up an ice cream (summer only) or a hot chocolate and more at the art deco building of the Atwater Market and stroll along the Lachine Canal. (Atwater Market and Lachine Canal, St-Henri, Metro Lionel-Groulx)

11 am – take a guided tour of Maison St Gabriel, dating from 1668, where les filles de roi, or king's wards, lived upon arrival from France and were taught by Marguerite Bourgeoys. (2146 place Dublin, Pointe-Saint-Charles, Phone: 514-935-8136, Metro Charlevoix (plus a ten minute walk))

12 pm – river surf in the Saint Lawrence! Private lessons are offered through Imagine Surf Shop. (Imagine Surf Shop 01320 Charlevoix, Pointe-Saint-Charles, Phone: 514-504-5522 or 697-0366, Metro Charlevoix)

1 pm – choose your own blend at David’s Tea, or sample some of their top sellers, including Coco Chai Rooibos, Turkish Delight and Organic Pu’erh Ginger. (1207 Mont-Royal East, Plateau, Phone: 514-527-1117, Metro Mont Royal)

2 pm – indulge in cheesecake – or any other cake – at the flagship restaurant of Kilo, purveyors to the Second Cup chain. (1495 Ste-Catherine East, Papineau, Phone: 514-596-3933, Metro Papineau)

3 pm – visit the Sun Life Insurance Company tower, the largest building in the British Empire at the time of its construction in the 1930s, featuring secret vaults where British bonds and stocks – and maybe even the Crown Jewels – were stored, Fort Knox-style, during World War II. (corner of Rene-Levesque and Metcalfe, Metro Bonaventure)

Click here for more.

By the lovely Deniz Bevan (I think she's lovely; she's been super helpful too!)

Whew! Hang in; there's just a few more left! Now over to 24 hours in the life of...

24 Hours London - Midwesterner Edition

Click here to see the full post on the original site.

6 a.m. Arrive at Heathrow. (Can you believe we’re in ENGLAND?!). A bit tired, but I just can’t sleep on planes, they just make me so nervous! I made my husband sit next to the weird man in our row on the plane (I don’t think he even spoke English! How is he going to make it over here?!) No paper towels in the bathroom, though. And how vulgar that they call it the Toilet. But did you see how the signs say “Way Out” instead of “Exit”? How cute!

7 a.m. Just got through customs and immigration! The officer seemed rather ornery if you ask me. Even when I tried to start up a nice conversation with him! I just think that’s so strange because everyone, even John and Sue, our friends who came to London last year, told us that everyone is just so nice! Well, he just must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. And can you believe it?! A stamp in my passport! Isn’t it just darling!

8 a.m. Whew! What a ride! Just arrived at our hotel in Piccadilly Circus (but I don’t see a circus?). We took one of those black cabs! Did you know that they drive on the wrong side of the road here?! I wonder how they do it! I just can’t imagine. I feel so English! Our friends that were here last year told us to avoid the subway at all costs because it’s so dirty. And it’s, well, you know, public transportation. We just don’t do that sort of thing. Oh and isn’t the hotel so quaint! promised us we wouldn’t even know that we weren’t in the States anymore! This building must be so old! Probably from like 1900 or something! How adorable!

9 a.m. We FINALLY got up to our room. Mind you, I called and emailed SEVERAL times to ensure an early check-in. I guess they just don’t know the meaning of customer service here. I’ll have to go back to Expedia and let them know exactly what I think of that. But our room does have a window! And you can see a statue! It must be somebody important! How cute!

10 a.m. We’ve rested for a bit and we’re ready to see the city! it’s a good thing our friends who were here last year told us to bring warm jackets! It’s so gray and rainy. You know, at this time of year at home it’s a little chilly but we always have sun. So we put on our Packers jackets (we LOVE the Packers!) and our tennies and we’re ready to go! I read in the guide book before we left that you should keep your valuables on your person in the big city (you never can trust hotel staff), so I bought this great fanny pack from Wal-mart before we left. It’s leather and everything! (I just love Wal-mart!). Besides, it’s a good thing we both have our Packers jackets so we can spot each other in a crowd in case we get separated.

11 a.m. Just starved! Thank God we found Mickey D’s! I made my hubby try it first to make sure it tastes the same. The last thing I need right now is weird food! It’s not quite the same, but I guess it will have to do. Even the cashier at McDonald’s had that accent! So adorable! Can you imagine! (Although I found her rather hard to understand. They claim to speak English here, but they use a lot of words that I don’t recognize so it can’t be English.)

12 p.m. Our friends who were here last year told us we just HAD to do the open bus tour! Although can you believe they wouldn’t take dollars?! And then they didn’t accept credit cards either?! We finally found an ATM (Can you believe they have those over here? Who knew?!). Isn’t this money funny looking! All different sizes and colors! How darling!

1 p.m. Finally got on the bus tour! Just delightful. Really wonderful! The guide even had an accent! We saw everything there was in the guidebook and how nice to be able to do so without having to do any more walking! And I’ll be darned! There really is a London Bridge! And it’s so cute with those two blue towers on each side!

2 p.m. Just starved again! All this walking can make a person hungry! We found this amazing, authentic pub called Wetherspoon’s! The food was so authentic, and it was so conveniently located right in the middle of everything. And I know it must be good, because there were a lot of people in there. Even lots of other Americans! I had the fish and chips and so did the hubby! Did you know that chips are really french fries! (I wonder if John and Sue knew that when they came here last year!) Just amazing!

2:30 p.m. Good thing we brought stomach medicine from home. I mean, who knows what kind of stuff they’re going to try to sell you here. We’re just not accustomed to this kind of food, you know.

3 p.m. We decided to get a bit crazy and just start walking! So many places to see! Lie-chester square! Totten-ham Court Road!

4 p.m. There is such great shopping around here! Everything you could want! Magnets with Big Ben, shirts that say “I Heart London”, I even got this great bag that has the flag on it and it says “London” across the front! I want to use it tomorrow but won’t that make me look like a tourist? I’m definitely going to pick up one of these cute scarves they have for my daughter. I don’t know what Manchester United is, but it must be English and her favorite color is red!

5 p.m. Oh my! I didn’t realize there would be so many people in England! Or so many cars! It makes it hard to take good pictures when people or busses keep getting in the way! How did John and Sue get so many good pictures?! Theirs were so cute!

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By Miss America England - An American in England

Can't you just visualise these tourists? Yikes. Right, up North for some more Canadian joy...

24 Hours Istabul

Click here to see the full post (with links - for some reason the links didn't come through) on the original site.

8 am – Find a bakery, any bakery, and enjoy a poğaça (pastry filled with white cheese) and tea for breakfast.

9 am – Stroll seaside in the Ortaköy district and check out the booths and stalls selling local handmade items.

10 am – Visit Deli Kızın Yeri (the Crazy Lady’s Place) in the Grand Bazaar, run by expat American Linda, and featuring gifts, housewares, and more from across Turkey.

11 am – Browse the well-stocked Pandora bookstore in Taksim for titles in English, French, German, Turkish... If they don’t have what you’re looking for in-store, it’s bound to be on their website!

12 pm – Take a ferry up the Bosphorus to the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

1 pm – Take in Ottoman culture at the Pera Museum.

2 pm – Spend a day on car-free Büyük Ada, one of the Princes’ Islands.

3 pm – Explore history at Kariye Cami Museum, the former Byzantine Church of Saint Saviour in Chora.

4 pm – Travel further back in time at Yerebatan Sarnıcı, an underground Roman cistern – there might even be a classical concert on, amongst the pillars and columns and Medusa heads!

5 pm – Follow the winding roads, spotting stray cats, down to Arnavutköy by the Bosphorus, for an ice cream.

6 pm – Feast yourself on Ottoman cooking for very little liras at Otantik Restaurant in Taksim.

7 pm – Visit the residential Levent district and treat yourself to köfte or a yarım puf (meat filled pastry) in the market square.

8 pm – Sample the bouquets at Viktor Levi’s wine bar at Tünel

By Deniz Bevan

Sorry about the links, Deniz (my fault!), but thanks for the great run-down! Now over to the American Midwest for a very different take on London...

24 Hours Rookyard

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6am: For those of you of an energetic frame of mind on a winter’s morning, a bracing jog round the village is what’s called for. And for those of you who elect to stay in bed: FORGET IT! The Boys heard Dad leave and despite the fact it’s still dark outside they need to get up – NOW!

7am: Indulge your inner child and your outer one’s too with Breakfast by Candlelight because all the lights have fused yet again and Dad took the torch with him on his early morning jaunt to see where he was going – he has yet to return…

8am: For the more adventurous this is the best time to see the only traffic jam in town while you do the school run. The powers that be put on a special show of closing the railway crossing for no apparent reason ten minutes before the train is due to pull into the station. After this delight the excitement intensifies as you try to beat the clock to the school gates avoiding all the traffic lights that are bound to be against you and not running over any of the ducks that always seem to have to cross the road when you are already a quarter of an hour late.

9am: Play Russian roulette with your hands and try to push the broody hen off the eggs. This hilarious pastime can last for hours as you pluck up the courage to thrust your hand underneath the hen one more time in search of eggs that may or may not be there.

10am: Exploration is the order of the hour. Traipse over to the dilapidated ruins, which purport to be barns and stables, as you search for the main power switch for the house. Don’t forget your karabiners, hardhat and climbing harness. Mind the old bats – No! Not me! The Pipistrelles!

11am: Exclusive Goat Herding unique to Rookyard takes place every morning at coffee time. Learn how to identify individual goat breeds and what they like best to eat. Watch in amazement as they opt for prized specimen plants instead of the brambles and nettles you are assured by their Keeper that they prefer. Learn the local Anglo Saxon dialect first hand from your hostess. Help the Keeper take the Goats to pasture and chain them there.

12pm: Get connected or not as the case maybe depending on if there are “works” being carried out on the mainframe/server/aerial/satellite dish. Opt for landline connection and become an expert Lexulous player in the time it takes to download a 1kb e-mail.

1pm: Lunch at the “Like it or Lump it Café” – speciality of the House; piatto di spaghetti al pomodoro served al dente. Possibly luke warm as well.

2pm: Escape to the countryside without leaving the house. Nip to the upstairs privy to pick your own toadstools in the damp corner by the window and to get better acquainted with a family of Starlings, via a small gap in the plasterboard, who for reasons of their own insist on having a concierge service to exit to the outside world.

3pm: Fashionistas, it’s time to dress up to the nines for the Yummy Mummy Run to collect the kids from School. Watch out for Christian Dior, Chanel, Ben de Lisi, YSL and Burberry. For those on a tighter budget there’s Crew, Jack Wills and of course every Mummy’s favourite Boden! (Please note that those wearing St Michel, De Nim and George are not necessarily the blood relatives of the children they are picking up and/or not desperately popular and yes I know nobody is paying me the slightest bit of attention…thanks for pointing it out.)

4pm: Musical interlude: marvel at the dexterity and aptitude of your hostess as she pins her eldest to the piano stool for the “5 Minute Practice” sonata. Please note that this modern piece is accompanied by whines and moans from both hostess and 6-year old pianist.

5pm: Feeding time at the Zoo. A family favourite. Watch how the mother lovingly slaves over a hot stove to provide a nutritious and visually delightful dinner for her two younglings. Chortle as they demand Beans on Toast. Laugh as they refuse to eat anything without lashings of tomato Ketchup and promises of cake and sweeties for afters. Smile discreetly as you notice how much is passed beneath the table to the ever-hopeful hounds…

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By Tattie Weasle

Don't you just want to move in? I know I do - for the humour alone! Now off to Europe for a place that couldn't be more different to Suffolk...