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!