Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday, Soho, Pizza and Jazz

Can you get a better combination than that?

Last night, The Man (soon to be 'The Husband', although I think I'll stick with 'The Man' as 'The Husband' just freaks me out!) and I took a dive into Soho for a spot of jazz. More specifically, we were checking out a potential jazz duo for our reception. We'd never been to Soho Pizzeria but any place that doesn't charge cover to listen to jazz and lets you stay for hours as you munch pizza is a big plus in my books!

The Jane Parker duo turned out to be perfect for a summer-night boat ride down the Thames. Smokey-voiced, she belted out jazz classics and even agreed to have a go at interpreting a Bellini classic for us during our reception (good luck on that one, Jane!). The pizza was inexpensive (for Soho, anyway) and flavourful, and our Corsican waiter was spot-on with his service. I could barely believe we were still in Soho, but the nearby group on a hen night was a harsh reminder.

The Man watches Jane Parker at Soho Pizzeria.

After dinner, we crossed the street to Kingly Court. Just off of Regent Street, it's a small, hidden area with bars, restaurants and shops that neither one of us had been in before.

The coolest map I have ever seen at Kingly Court.

Inside Kingly Court.

Mannequin in shop window, Kingly Court.

As the surprisingly warm night started getting cooler and the sky darker, we headed back out to Piccadilly Circus and down the buzzing streets to our car.

Piccadilly Circus.

Friday, May 29, 2009

More Nice News!

The Man proposed!

Yes, after five years together, he popped the question on the spot where we first kissed, on the anniversary of the night we first met five years ago. It's safe to say that I wasn't expecting it; in fact, I had to collapse on a bench afterwards to recover from the shock!

Never one to celebrate occasions like birthdays or anniversaries, I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he'd booked a concert at the Royal Festival Hall, then dinner afterwards at the same restaurant we went to on our first date. Usually, I need to do a countdown a good month in advance to ensure he remembers any important dates.

It was a great concert with the London Symphonic Orchestra playing Brahms and Tchaikovsky, and a warm night as we strolled by the Thames to the restaurant. After consuming our dinner and wine, we wandered over to where we kissed, he asked me to turn around while he fiddled with the ring, and when I turned back to face him... he proposed!

We're planning to get married in the middle of August in a small ceremony with family and friends, and we're keeping it true London-style: ceremony in a Dali art gallery on the South Bank, then reception on a boat on the Thames. London has played such an important part in both our lives that we want to celebrate it, as well! Here's to life, love and London!

Dali Universe, County Hall, South Bank.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Missing, But in Action!

Thanks to everyone for the congratulations on my upcoming London book! I've been severely neglecting my blog due to -- well, life -- but now that the long weekend is behind me, I hope to be back on track soon!

Meanwhile, here's a photo of Hyde Park last Sunday. It was a glorious day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Month of Good News!

I love May! I love May! I can't say it enough.

May has always signalled new beginnings to me: It's the month I first moved to Montreal to start my first 'real' job after graduating from my Masters; the month I came to London. And now, it's the month where two amazing things have happened. I'll ration the good news for maximum impact (and annoyance, I'm sure).

So today is Good News Bit Number One:

I have a book being published!

24 Hours: London, an hour-by-hour listing to all the cool and crazy things there are to do in this city, is set to be released in the UK in August 2009 - with other parts around the world to (hopefully) follow! If you're in the UK, you can pre-order your copy through that behemoth beginning with A that I shall not mention for fear of annoying independent booksellers.

I kept it quiet in case something went awry, but now that the copy is laid out, the cover designed and it's 'pre-orderable', it might just be safe. The book was a ton of fun to write and research and it totally rekindled my love for the city. It is indeed a great place to live.

A few of the cool things in the book:

- London's ecological dance club, where the lights are powered by the movement of dancers on the dance-floor.

- The Kniterati, a monthly knitting book group.

- Colin Firth's coffee shop.

- An artists' collection funded by KLF with the money didn't burn (literally!).

- A 24-hour beigel shop once frequented by Mick Jagger.

-Ghost theatres, ghost hunting, and ghost stations.

And oh, so much more!

If you or someone you know is coming to London... well, you know what to do!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WAG: Memory Lane

This week's writing assignment is to describe something from memory. It's going to be short, as my mind is operating under a considerable layer of fog these days!

Her hard, puffy cheeks are frozen into a permanent smile. I try to comb her hair, but the yarn-like strands are too thick to even pass through the comb. My heart sinks in disappointment -- hair-styling is one of the things I'd been looking forward to most. Her body is soft, pliable; stumpy arms and legs jammed into a pinafore. She smells like a foreign combination of plastic and baby powder. I sit her down on the bed with the rest of my stuffed animals for company. Ten pairs of blank black eyes follow me around the room, and I flee to the safety of humans.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oxford Street Slalom

Today was unusual. Not only did I leave my flat (yes, there are days I don't go into the outside world), but I actually -- voluntarily -- went to Oxford Street, the Queen of the Consumerism. I had an errand to run just off of the dreaded stretch. Heavy-hearted, I took the Tube and alighted at the centre of commercialism itself: Oxford Circus. Quick as a flash, I darted across the busy road and onto Great Portland Street, leaving the retching buses behind me.

Errand finished, I was determined to make my way back to the flat as fast as I could. I picked up the pace, negotiating the traffic, eyes focused on the roundrel lighting my way home. Oh -- what's that? Miss Selfridges? I'll just duck inside. Ooh, TopShop! The bright colours were a siren song temporarily blinding me. Zombie like, I trailed through the racks of clothing, my hands drawn out to touch the soft shiny fabric.

No. I must be strong. Back up the escalator and out onto the street, I dodge the demons of commercialism: shoppers clutching their treasures, possessed by their possessions. They fix me with their eyes, hitting me with their bags as they pass by in an effort to make me succumb.

I duck, I dodge. I try to cross to the Tube entrance, to take cover within the musty-smelling cavity, but my way is blocked by the side of a bus proudly displaying a Mango advert. I avert my eyes, push through the stand-still cars, and breathe in relief as I run down the gritty stairs to the Tube.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Dreaded Form

Months after I originally started researching my application for British Citizenship, I still haven't submitted the form. Why? A combination of procrastination, lack of funds, and... fear of forms.

I hate filling in forms of any kind, especially those with the designated boxes for each letter. I have a 'form phobia', I guess. My hand-writing has always been notoriously messy -- in primary school, I almost missed the school-bus once because I had to stay behind to practise the letter 'q'. Then there was the day I was deemed 'bright as a button, but oh, so messy.' (Yes, I am traumatized.) So being forced to constrain my letters within the neat lines of a box is scary.

I'm also petrified of making a mistake. What if I miss something out? What if I spell something wrong? This fear goes all the way back to when I was completing my university applications -- rumours were rife of people getting rejected simply because they wrote outside a box.

I hate forms. Forms hate me. We are not companionable. And if I ever want to be a British citizen, I need to face the dreaded form with the pen as my sword.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WAG: The Results

The theme for the Writing Adventure Group #11 was “Scaredy-Cat” Choose a stranger and observe him/her for a little while. Now give them a phobia. A full-on, jump on the chair, scream like a little girl, unreasonable fear.

And the results are...

How to Join the Writing Adventure Group
Dan Powell (New WAG Member!)
Alexia Brown (New WAG Member!)
Nancy Parra
Peter Spalton
Frances Wookey (New WAG Member!)
Christine Kirchoff
Nixy Valentine
Sharon Donovan
Melanie Trevelyan (New WAG Member!)
Iain Martin
J. M. Strother - Mad Utopia

Next week’s Writing Adventure:
“WAG #12: Memory Lane” Thanks to Lulu for the topic idea! For this week, describe something by memory. It can be a place, a person, whatever you like. Include as much detail as you can as well as your impressions. If possible, then go and see this thing, and also describe how your memory of it was different from the current reality. What had you left out? It also might be interesting to include how your memory of it is different from someone else’s! No limits on this one! No rules to break!

Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. Deadline: next Tuesday, May 19th.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WAG: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

This week's assignment was to pick a stranger and assign them a phobia. Over the course of my regular Monday-night journey to my writing group, I encounter many souls to which I could easily assign one phobia or another. But one particular individual stands out.

My writer's group is in Marylebone, central London. For me, this necessitates the Tube to Baker Street, then a 10-minute walk down one of my most hated streets in London: Marylebone Road. I hate, hate, hate Marylebone Road. The wide lanes of speeding traffic, the few and far between crossings where you only have about five seconds to scuttle across the road, the dreaded tourist-swamped Madame Tussaud's... all conspire to make this one of most unpleasant locations in London.

Last night was one of the windiest nights I can remember, making the walk even more hideous. I picked up my pace, practically running down the road. I noticed a man lumbering down the sidewalk ahead of me. He jerked to the right, then the left, then back to the right again, as if he was dodging invisible bullets. I looked behind me. Nothing there. Was he crazy, or was I? Was there something for which I, too, should be pulling evasive maneuvers?

I rubbed my eye, trying to dislodge an errant piece of pollen the wind had smacked into me. Then, I looked up. With every gust, pollen streamed from the leaves above, hurtling through the air like miniature bombs. I looked back to Zig-Zag Man, still cavorting in front of me. With all the grace of an elephantine ballet dancer, he was trying to shield his body from the raining pollen. Nose streaming, eyes running -- for him, pollen was the enemy, representing long nights in the no-man's land of the sofa so his other half could sleep, the constant invasion of the cough into his throat. He would not give in to its insidious ways; he would fight against it at all costs.

Sadly, though, resistance was futile. He was felled by a sneeze, and with an anguished snort he succumbed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Five Years in London

Hard to believe that I've been here for five years. Yes, time has flown by, but in another way it feels like a lifetime since I've left Canada behind. I landed in London with no job, knowing no-one.

Five years and three jobs later (what can I say, I get bored easily), I feel like this city is my home. I'm doing what I love (writing -- the only thing which doesn't bore me!) and living with a man I love. It's a good life.

I didn't know what to expect when I first came here. I didn't have any expectations, really, other than I just wasn't ready to settle in Canada. I'd gone back to the homeland ready to find a job and get back to reality after a few blissful years in Europe. A year and another university degree later, I knew I couldn't stay. So I set my sights in England, where I get a working holiday visa and find a teaching job.

I met The Man the week after I landed, got a job a month later, and life just sorted itself out. Yes, there have been bumps along the way but I have never regretted my decision to come to England. It's been good to me, and London is the icing on the cake. There's so much to do in this great city -- much of it for free. It's the longest I've lived in one place since I left the city in which I was born, and quite honestly I can see myself here forever.

Five years ago, I arrived not knowing the future. I still don't know what's in store, but I know it's in London.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Quite honestly, I've got nothin' today, so I'll leave you with this advert which always succeeds in making me laugh.

Friday, May 8, 2009

London Love-In

For the past month I've been working away on a non-fiction project -- a London travel guide -- for a deadline of today. It's been a great deal of fun and hard work, and has completely rekindled my love for London. I always knew it was a great city, but researching art collectives, late-night plubs (a unique combination of pubs and clubs all in one) and quirky museums has really made it evident that London is a city like no other. Of course, nothing in London is really 'hidden' anymore, but if you're not a local with five years to uncover it, you're probably not going to find that 24-hour Italian cafe or the world's longest playing composition (1000 years).

It's ironic that all of this comes just days before my five-year London anniversary. I arrived in the city on May 11, 2004. When I left Ottawa, the trees were barely coming out and spring had only just started. In London, everything was green and the air was balmy. I remember the drive from Gatwick to my flat in Highgate through the early morning M25 traffic, the mist rising from the hills. Later that day I wandered down Camden High Street, filling my eyes with the grungy shoe shops, tatty market ware and the prerequisite punks -- and I couldn't help smiling. I was in London, everywhere I looked was something interesting, and I couldn't wait to start my new life.

Five years later, I still have the same sensation (although this time on Kensington High Street, in west London). I love being surrounded with the history of the city, the push and pull of people from around the world expressing themselves and trying to make their way. The fact that museums are free, that you can wander through plethora of markets city-wide, that you can part all night in an undeground vault... and more.

I love London!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Toast, Ostrich and Bran Flakes

When I'm writing, getting hungry is just plain annoying. These days, as I'm trying to get through a seemingly endless (albeit interesting) stream of information, I really can't be bothered to fiddle around in the kitchen, let alone leave my flat for supplies. So, I usually end up eating something cobbled together from various leftovers in the kitchen. This week, I think, I hit an all-time low.

Yesterday I had dried ostrich meat.

OK, so it was biltong from South Africa, brought home (and forgotten) by The Man, but still. What's worse is that I actually mixed the meat with the one remaining egg we had left to scramble. Sounds disgusting but actually, it wasn't too bad.

Today I resorted to toast sprinkled with Worcestershire sauce, since we were sans butter. And then there were the days last week when I plundered the (generic) Bran Flakes, tearing through the large box at the speed of light.

I think I need to get out more.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bank Holidays = Rain

People go on and on about the unpredictability of British weather, but there's one thing of which you can be sure: when there's a bank holiday, there's rain.

Sure, it can be sunny for weeks on end before the long weekend. It can be sunny on the Saturday and Sunday. But Bank Holiday Monday? Clouds will appear as if by magic, and liquid will drop from the sky. It's as if you can't have one without the other.

Last May, the Man and I planned a long weekend in Devon a workmate's housewarming party. The workmate had just converted a barn in a small village and wanted to have a big outdoor feast. We left London in the pouring rain. It continued to Bristol, through Exeter and all the way to our small B&B in Coleford, where it finally let up. Fingers crossed it held off, we trekked down the winding country road to where the party was to be held. Mercifully, we had a few hours of respite - and even some blue sky! But the next day - Bank Holiday Monday, to be exact - poured so much we beat an early retreat back to London.

I leave you with a few photos of the elusive sun (from last year). I'd like to summarize what I did this year for the Bank Holiday but it's more conducive to sleeping than reading.

Strolling through deserted village (they were all at the party).

The country road to the party.

A small cottage we ran across on the way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Curious Case of the Misplaced World

Oops. I meant 'word'.

This has been happening to me with increasing frequency. My mind tells my fingers to write one word, but instead they end up typing a completely different one! It's not a typo. It's like my brains and hand are disconnected.

Today, I was writing an email in which I meant to write 'looking out my window'... it ended up as 'looking out my winter'.

Is this just me? Do I have wrong-word-itis? Is my hand struggling for power against my mind? And is there a cure?

(Oh - happy May Day!)