Sunday, August 22, 2004

Old Blighty then!

<>Well hello there - apologies for the gaps between posts!

Lots has happened since I arrived. I now have a mobile
- I'll be emailing the number through to you all as it costs heaps
to txt internationally. Having a few problems with 'my
vodafone' though - very frustrating. I may end up having the number change but I'll let you know.

Singapore was great but pretty jolly hot - but with
the airconditioning it was not too bad though I had
the air conditioning up too high for one night at the
hotel, until I figured out how to adjust it.

Lily (Phil's sister-in-law's sister) was a great
guide. Not only had she arranged our hotel rooms at
the hotel she is head of housekeeping at, she upgraded
our room and we only paid $60 a night for the room (I
thought we were supposed to pay $60 each). We didn't
do much in the way of touristy stuff. Our hotel was a
bit further out from the touristy area so we just went
and had a look at Raffles - didn't go in as we were
too hot, sticky and grimy. We spent our time trying
everything in the local cuisine and a spot of
shopping. We even tried durian fruit (the stinky one)
which was not as smelly as I imagined - sort of mango
smell with oniony undertones. We also had: yum cha,
singapore chilli crab, laksa (phil had this for
breakfast - $2), hor fun, oyster pancake, chicken rice
(the best in singapore apparently), steamed greens,
pork belly, prawn noodles, jackfruit, dragonfruit -
and the worst European breakfast I have ever had
(apparently the hotel used to only serve Asian food
for breakfast but Asian customers requested an
european buffet?!). We bought a stereo and an i-trip
so we can play our i-pod through our stereo or any
handy radio. We really enjoyed ourselves and Lily was
really nice - she wouldn't let us pay for anything and
took us everywhere for 2 days. We couldn't have asked
for a better introduction to Singapore.

The flight from Singapore to the UK was uneventful.
Managed about 6 hours sleep. the selection of movies
was average so i mostly watched the little plane move
closer and closer to Europe.

Upon arrival at Heathrow I had to line up in a very
long queue and Phil took about 5 minutes to get
through passport control. He was standing on the other
side with our luggage before my line even started
moving! Luckily we were at the back of the line and
we got moved to another faster moving line - I think
it might have taken me 20 mins to get thorough which
was pretty good. I had to go answer some health
questions but didn't have to see the doctor.

It was raining when we arrived but warm so we dropped
off our gear, had a shower then headed into central
London (we have been staying for the last week and a
half in Staines). I foolishly chose to wear my
jandals with my jeans, which rapidly got soggy - I had
to roll the jeans up and wash my feet several times.
By lunchtime the sun had come our and we were able to
sit in the sun in Covent Garden and devour a delicious
cornish pasty and beer. By the time we got home that
night we were mightily knackered though and my ankles
were sooooo swollen it was gross. Did see a few of
the sights though and experienced Oxford St for the
first time. No. of pubs visited : 3 pint

Day 2 - we headed into town again. I had to go to the
recruitment agency so I went in by myself and met Phil
and Haz (cousin's husband) after I'd been at the
agency. Reed had a job for me at Coutts & Co private
bank so I needed to complete all the requisit forms to
register properly with Reed. They contacted me the
next day to ask me to meet someone at Coutts for the
once over and by Friday afternoon I had a job,
starting on the Monday as a Credit Officer at Coutts
& Co, working in the Entrepreneurs, Acquired Wealth
and Retired division. £15 an hour too which I have
rapidly realised is a pretty good hourly rate. The
rest of day too was further checking out of London's
sights (I didn't realise that Big Ben was so gilded!).
We did the 'run for and leap onto the back of a double
decker bus' and drank more beer. We dropped into
Clapham on the way home and visited my friend Phil who
works at the Clapham Fresh n' Wild - I bought some of
that yummy wholemeal bread Rach! and then drank some
more beer. Phil and I purchased some veges at Fresh
n' Wild and took them home to make some dinner for my
cousin and her hubby. Yummy pasta with tomato, red
wine and olive sauce with fresh parmesan grated on
top. Oh my god the amount of organics available in
this country is great - I was at a Sainsbury's today
and I could have bought every single thing organic if
I wanted to! I'm in heaven!!! ; - ).
No. of beers: 3 pint (one of which was London Pride -
never again)

Day 3
We did nothing but chilled out at home. The jet lag
had well and truely kicked in by this time and I was
feeling pretty shitty. Lay around the house and took
stock of everything. Had dinner at the rather
unfortunately names 'Yellow River - Staines'
restaurant. Reasonable asian food - reminded me a bit
of Monsoon Poon. To tired to really eat properly
No. of beers: none, I think

Day 4 - Friday
Had my 'interview' (in the loosest sense of the word)
and was duly hired. My bosses basically gave me the
once over and told me that things were a bit mad and
they really needed my help provided I was ready to hit
the ground running etc etc. I said - 'of course' and
they offered me the job starting Monday. Yay! I was
now employed!

Met Briddy for lunch and she took us out to Bromley
where she is living with her new girlfriend Sal. Sal
is a real honey and they are very much on the same
wavelength. The house is fabulous (they are boarding
with this great woman Katey who owns the place) - it
even has a back yard and 2 cats. Phil and I are here
this week looking after the place while they are all
away, what a bummer *wink*. Fab lunch too as Sal's
cousin who is a chef cooked a salmon strudel that was
d-vine! We then whipped off again and met my friend
Tony for dinner. He lives in Fulham so we went to a
local Antip bar - it was pretty naff but it was really
good to see Tony. Was pretty tired from the jet lag
still so had to leave earlyish. When we got back to
Staines we discovered that there was something wrong
with the door to the flats so we had to wake up my
cousin who was heading to Edinburgh really early the
next morning to let us in.
No of beers: 2 pints

Went to Cranleigh in Surrey to see an old uni friend
Ngaere, and meet her husband Chris. Really nice to see
her again and we got to see a real market in
Guildford. We also went to a wonderful "ye olde
English pub" in the middle of the countryside -
complete with low ceilings, wood beams and two old
geezers and their dogs and personal pool cues. While
the guys were whipped at pool Ngaere and I caught up.
We then went back to theirs and had a nice meal and
some more beer. I have decided that I prefer John
Smith's Extra Smooth as my tipple of choice. On the
Sunday we went back into town and met my sis for lunch
in Richmond.Very nice. We then headed for the city and
went to check out Camden - with my still slightly jet
lagged brain it was almost too much to absorb. Decided
that maybe we would not want to live there but it will
definitely be worth another visit. We dropped into
the Coal Hole for a pint AM! Very nice - have been
back a few times and it is just down the road from my
work too. At some point we went to Greenwich as well.
We have been checking out a few areas with a view to
where we want to live.

Anyhoo - this leads onto:
The last week:
I have been working at Coutts & Co for a week. My
friend Luke who I worked with at AMP sits next to me.
My other co-workers are pretty nice and easy to get
along with (Andy, Peter, Harry and Suzanne). 'Next'
has been my saving grace with regards to appropriate
work clothing though I still need to get some more
work shoes. The work is not very hard though learning
the ins and outs has left me with a headache at times.
Peter my TL gave me really good feedback yesterday
just before I left so that made me feel pretty good.
Phil had his interviews at some agencies but these did
not really come to anything. On Thursday he sent his
CV to the woman at Reed who I got my job through and
she got back to him on Friday with a job at Barclays.
He's going into Barclays on Monday to meet with them.
Fingers crossed.

We found a place to live in Balham SW12, a few blocks
away from the Bedford pub which is apparently a great
(free) live venue. Nice one bedroom flat at the top
of a terrace house. Sunny with views over the roof
tops and 5-10 mins to the Tube/NR. It was only the
second place we looked at but it was so good,
especially in comparison with the smelly dank shoebox
we looked at in Knightsbridge for only £20 less. I
have discovered that you can buy Krispy Kreme
doughnuts at Harrods so will be missioning down there
sometime soon. We will be hopefully moving into our
new flat in about a month. We've paid the deposit and
just have to send in our references to the owners so
we can be assessed. If Phil gets this job that will
help things in that department no end.

So far things have been going pretty well - I've had a
few bouts of homesickness when tired and crabby but
have met some really great Brits as well. I think
that we are going to like it here. The trick is to
selectively listen to advice from everyone and apply
the old common sense and intuition when required.
It feels really strange to think I am on the opposite
side of the world from you both - until I put on the
TV and can find no mention of New Zealand at all (and
the British are only just getting into their stride at
the Olympics)

Well thats about enough for now - its getting late and my memory is failing me a bit. There is a lot that we have missed of course.

Ciao until the next post - hope you are all well - Mel and Phil