Sicko

So there I was congratulating myself on staying healthy after my sojourns in those transatlantic germ cans we call airplanes.

And then this morning I woke up with a nose like a faucet and a head full of goo.

I was totally going to post something thought-provoking and poignant, but I can’t think of anything. At all, really. So. More content-laden posts later. Seriously. I am so dumb, I lost a Co-Op car today. I parked it on Laurel instead of Willow Street. Stupid tree-named streets, who can keep track?

Alert!

Just so you know, Mr Bloggle, Admin Extraordinaire, has enabled a catchy thingie to try and filter more spam, as the evil spambots are leveling ever-bigger spam charges at the blog. If you have trouble with the new plugin, let me know so we can fix things.

Friday Confessions

Sorry I missed last week. I think it’s understandable, though. I mean, I hope it is. What with not even being on this continent and such.


Anyhow. On to this week’s confessions. Jeez, I have been a slacker. Mentally, diet-wise, and budget-wise.


1) I had vegetables twice while I was away. Okay. One of those times, the vegetable in question was tomato sauce. Back on the veg wagon with me!


2) I meant to write some songs for the musical. That’s what long-haul flights are for, right? Nope! Turns out there’s nothing inspiring about being wedged into cattle class and periodically rammed with the drinks trolley. I can suffer for art, but I’ve got to be able to move my limbs to do it.


3) I racked up the credit card more than I mean to. On one hand, that’s what vacations are for, right? And I did need new clothes, and of course, the bras. And I needed ot buy those three-for-ten-quid pashmina knockoffs. And…well. You get the picture. I’ll be a little frugal for a while and it’ll all work out.


Anyone else got anything to confess?

My Love Affair With Wales


Welsh Countryside
Originally uploaded by Liz du Canada


As I have mentioned before, the best thing about Wales is the Welsh. Not to generalize about an entire nation of people, but I have yet to meet a Welsh person who wasn’t funny, curious, wry, and generous to a fault. Here are a couple of examples from my recent stay:



1.) I get off the train with no map or plan as to where to stay in Swansea that night. I have one night and then am off to a friend’s house, but I am not going to sleep under a bush. I’m too old for that. Anyhow, it’s a gorgeous sunny day and I’m happy to walk along, when I spy a Unitarian church. I knock on the door and am invited in by the caretaker. He gives me a tour while the woman who runs a dance school in the church hall calls around looking for the best rate. When she’s got something good, she lends me her mobile to talk to the hotel proprietor. THEN, the caretaker drives me the couple of miles down to the oceanfront and introduces me personally to the man at the hotel.



2.) My fab friend Ness took a day off work to drive me around South Wales and look at museums and go shopping. This is absolutely true to form for her, as her house is kind of like a Hitcher hostel. Need a mini-break? Tell her you’re coming and she’ll be ready. Her husband and children have adapted readily, as they never know who’s going to be in their living room at any given time. Pretty cool.



3) While Ness and I were shopping, I decided to get a few more bras at Marks and Spencer. Let me just evangelize a moment on the importance of wearing the right size. it’s important, okay? Okay. And if I want to actually go to a store to try on a bra in my size, that bra is going to cost about a hundred bucks, if not a hundred and fifty. So. I wanted bras. M&S bras start, in my size, at about 16 bucks. So, yes, I was buying bras. Anyhow, I’m there in M&S, and I tell the salesgirl what I’m looking for. Not only does she race around the department gathering a dozen bras she thinks might suit, she enlists the help of a friend, who goes off on her own bra-hunting mission for me. That hasn’t happened in any other M&S I’ve ever been in.



Now, the Welsh have their detractors, who say that they are a volatile bunch, prone to setting fire to holiday parks ( trailer parks) to protest English domination. Sure, they can get a little agitated, but who wouldn’t, after more than 700 years of being told they were inferior and useless? Hell, I’d torch something as well.



Another thing I love about Wales is how the people and the land form a kind of dichotomy. The people are gregarious and love to laugh. The land keeps secrets. The people will buy you a pint and start a conversation, but the land waits for you to listen to its whispering. The people are moved to act. The land waits, and is, down in the very bones of earth, possessed of a kind of stubborn patience that says, ‘You can’t change what is’.



I do love Wales. I kind of wish I was still there.

Photo-A-Day London



HRH Queen Elizabeth


Originally uploaded by Liz du Canada



The photo-a-day meet was an absolutely wonderful experience. It was a drizzly, blustery day, but we were all bundled up warmly enough and set off from the Embankment tube station, along to Covent Garden. When I am a squillionaire I’m taking everyone there shopping. There are tacky crafts and cool crafts, gorgeous textiles, silly tourist stuff, food, more food, opera singers, and buskers. It’s wonderful!


One of the best things about the meet was actually meeting Hitchers. I have been ‘speaking’ to some of these people online for three years or more, and so meeting them in person was such a funny experience. My perceptions of them through posts and discussions, and now seeing their photostreams were sometimes quite accurate, sometimes wildly wrong. However, it was an experience I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon.


We ate lunch at a long table with red lights above, in an underground restaurant. It was sort of like eating in a very civilized corner or the Underworld.


Back out into the bluster, we crossed Waterloo Bridge and then went along the Strand to the Globe Theatre, where we had cake and wine in The Swan, the pub there. It was heaven to sit at the long scrubbed wooden table, watching the grey world outside.


My camera wasn’t as fancy as some of them, but I had such a good time it didn’t much matter.




Click on the blue ‘Liz du Canada’ to see the pictures.


Next up: Welsh Wales and why I love it.

In Welsh Wales.

I’m more behind in the blogging than I thought I would be. For one thing, I started sleeping more than four hours a night. For another, I was too tired after my photo-a-day meet to do anything but have some dinner and watch some television.


So. More details when I have a bit to talk about them. I am not dead or injured or anything. And I do love Wales. The best part about Wales is the people. I am currently sitting next to Ness, my bridal shop-owning friend, and I’m uploading Flickr photos. I won’t have a chance to title them all, but at least they’ll be there and I’m happy for any and all comments.


More when I have a chance. Now, I am off to try on shiny things!

Day, Dinner and (several) Drinks.

Friday dawned not so bright but plenty early for me. Oh, Gods of Jetlag, please have mercy! I try not to calculate my sleep-hours-to-waking-hours ratio too accurately, but I am plenty tired of waking up between 5:30 and 6:30, thank you. Enough of that. Please.


So. I knew I was going back to the British Museum because I wanted another stab, but I had some time before it opened, so I went over to the Internet cafe with the early hours over in Oxford Street, and wandered through Debenhams, where I saw a lot of designer things I probably will never buy. But then a lovely makeup woman asked if I wanted a makeover. Did I? Absolutely! I pictured myself as an understated woman of glamour, the kind of woman who doesn’t grace magazine covers because she is too refined. Me, I was thinking of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. And, dammit, I’m in London! I NEED a makeover!


Well. The woman was obviously working for the Scary Clown Bureau, because when she was done with me, I was bronzed to a sort of chrysanthemum shade, with candy pink, frosted eighties lips. Seriously, Vicky Pollard would do a double take. I used several kleenexes to wipe myself off as much as I could, but I still felt a little bit yucked. The woman and I obviously had very different ideas of how to improve my looks.


So. Onto the British Museum, particularly for thee Eye-opener tour about the gods of ancient Britain. She was a great guide and shed some light onto a subject I know little about, apart from Marion Zimmer Bradley books. But the best? The best was that they recently found some buried offerings to a goddess named Sedonia. Yeah, new goddess for Britain! She resembles Athena in a lot of ways, and the hoard they found was commissioned at least in part, by a woman with a Latin name. High class. Could write (her name at least). Pretty cool stuff.


I had lunch with my friend Amy and her husband Ulrik. They have just moved here and Ulrik has a job with a great company. When he had to go back to work, Amy and I took a walk to re-register me at the hostel (no problem, just a glitch in booking) and we sat down over a couple of pints to talk. It turns out Amy has been having the most awful time with her thesis advisor. I’d like to punch him in the nuts, he’s such an ass. He doesn’t think Amy should get her PhD. Not because she’s not intelligent enough, but because he doesn’t really approve of what she does. The ass. Amy’s hoping living in London will rechartge her batteries and desire to work. I hope so as well.


Then off to dinner with my internet friend, Mrs Magic. Her real name is Anne, but we usually just call her Madge. Our friend Ladelley and L’s husband and baby daughter came as well, which was really cool. The thing about meeting people from the internet is, if you’ve known them a long time, it’s not meeting a stranger. It’s meeting someone whose mind you already know. And so it was the opposite of awkward for us all.


They asked me what I was doing and I said I had a date with a fiftysomething man to watch the football, which they laughed at.


But Pete wasn’t there. However, Scotch Robbie was, and he and I talked politics, the past, and morality for a while. Robbie’s been a manager of several construction crews for over 20 years. So when I asked him why Ian and Franco (THAT’s the name of the guy with one ear bigger than the other) thought I was staying at a French brothel, he laughed. ‘They haven’t really been anywhere, those two. And hostels are about freedom and a certain promiscuity, at a certain age. They haven’t traveled enough to see that there are ways of doing things beyond their own.’.


And then I sort of lost my mind. Because here was a middle class value looking right down its nose on a working class value. And I could tell I have definitely bought real estate on Bourgeois Boulevard. Even if I don’t want to, my bread is buttered on the white-picket-fence side. And there’s nothing I can do about that.


Robbie introduced me to Northern Dave (seventy, missing teeth, roguish gleam in eye), West Country Dave (seventy, shy, scarecrow of a man) and Dave of No Geographical Appelation (slightly pompous), so we chatted for a while.


Now, the pub up the corner closes at 11, so Robbie grabbed West Country Dave and me to go to a birthday party at another pub, ‘Just for a drink’.


Almost the first thing I noticed was the pair of King Charles Spaniels peeking through the skylight on the roof.


‘Robbie, there are dogs on the roof.’

‘Oh, yeah,’ he said equably, ‘They’re the landlady’s. She’s a flat up there.’

‘Oh.’


The Birthday Boy was someone named Neil, who was about ninety, but very spry. He danced a lot, and occasionally had a small refreshing nap. Franco and Ian where there so we chatted for a while. There were also a couple of large Swedish men who kept requesting ABBA abd Ace of Spades. When the DJ actually played their songs, hey danced around like a couple of shaven water buffalo trying to dislodge flies. It was a hazard to be within their blast radius. At one point, West Country Dave looked at the floor in front of me and said that he wasn’t good at dancing but if he was he’d ask me, but he was never very good with the ladies. I said it was onaky, that I’d prefer not to be injured by flying Swedes.


At some point, an Irish guy came up and introduced himself to me. I did not like the way he looked at my boobs, but felt reassured when he noticed my claddagh ring. ‘Lucky fellow’, he commented.

‘He is,’ I agreed, and turned back to the conversation I was having.


This guy kept watching me and it was kind of creepy. He kept making conversation. Of course, I had to ask him to repeat himself, because his accent was so strong. Then I answered politely and turned back to my original conversation. At this point, West Country Dave was asleep sitting up at the bar, and I had propped a chair behind him to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. Irish guy kept on asking me if I wanted a drink. ‘No,’ I said, I’ve had enough. ‘I’m going home.’

‘Oh, I’ll go with you,’ he said.

‘That’s okay. I can manage. You have a full pint.’

‘So have another one. It’s on me,’ he said.

‘No thanks, I’m done.’

He was persistent, and not in a good way.


So, readers, I did that girl thing. I threw a strop and left. He called from the corner but I just kept walking and then I was inside the hostel, just me and the alleged French prostitutes. And even a multitude of alleged French prostitutes is better than one guy who can’t understand that no means no and that a woman knows her own mind enough to be able to make her own decisions.

The British Museum Kicked My Ass, But London Loves Me.

The British Museum is just too big to see. It defeated me. I tried. I really did. But I knew I was beaten when I just started taking random pictures of things in the hopes that it would make sense.


Feet aching, I boarded a bus. Easier to see stuff and be driven around, right?It was one of the best things I coould have done. With my head full of Sutton Hoo and mummies and the Elgin Marbles, as well as a hundred other archaeological miracles, I headed out of Central London and went Northeast for a while. It was a sunny day, and let me tell you, this is one gorgeous city in the sunshine. I passed out beyond the tourist zone and began to see everyday people living everyday lives. I saw a dozen shops I wanted to investigate, but my feet were that sore that I wasn’t going to be able to drag myself off the bus. So I didn’t. I just watched life go by.


Earlier in the day I’d been in the Kingsland Road area, which has a high Afro-Carribean population. Now, even further Northeast, a high population of Orthodox Jews. At one point I looked down from the top deck to see a group of Orthodox Jewish men of all ages gathered around some kind of cooking apparatus. I want to say barbecue, but it seemed to be more of a barrel in which to steam things. In the brief seconds the bus rolled past, I realized that, for all I try to learn about how others live their lives, there’s always something else to learn. Then a little boy with the traditional hat and sidelock ran across the road, money for candy clutched in his hand, and I forgot to be philosophical.


Well, I was pretty hungry by the time I got back close top Central London, and I was dithering between fish and chips and quick pasta. But where was the 73 bus? For once, was London’s transit system letting me down? The sun was sinking rapidly and I was beginning to get cold and irritated.


‘You lookin’ fuh da 73, luv?’ There is a giant bald man addressing me.

‘Yep.’

‘It don’t run between 5 and 6:30. You gotta catch it at the common up there. ‘S the stupidest arsing thing, ain’t no sign posted, is ‘ere?’

‘Wow, that’s really strange.’

‘Stupidest fing. Ya wants to go home a night, ya got to go to da common. Just up the road, two stops. Take any bus.’

‘Hey, thanks!’


This brings me to another observation: Everyone I have asked for help has been unfailingly polite. Several, like the gentle bus stop giant above, have gone out of their way to volunteer information to me. Granted, I am not stopping in front of juggernaut Citry types, interrupting their blackberry work. But, really, everyone is so damn nice here. It’s a little unnerving. London, where is your brusqueness? Not that I’m complaining, cause you sure know how to make a girl feel welcome. But why so nice? What do you want from me? (Apart from all my money and a heartfelt respect for the people who live here).


Anyhow. It’s time for me to go meet some internet friends. I sort of feel like I’ll be meeting celebrities! Next installment: Beers with Amy, meeting Mrs M, and a raucous birthday party featuring dogs, class struggle, Swedish guys dancing to ABBA, an Irishman, and three old guys named Dave.

Boys Are Dumb. And So Am I.

When you walk off a plane into a new city, and you are jet-lagged, you have a number of choices. Here’s a quick quiz: What do you do to beat jet lag?


a) You can see some sights, walk around, wander the city, get used to the transit system, and then go to bed early, drinking plenty of water to compensate for dehydration on the plane.


b) You can do all of those things and then walk into a pub and ask about the football match. And then keep drinking and talking until 2AM.


If you chose b), congratulations! You have chosen the MonkeyPants option for acclimatizing in a new city.


I did not want to stay out late; let’s get that right. But it was about seven PM and the hostel was deserted, and I was bored, so I went for a walk. And I saw a pub. It seemed safe enough because of the large percentage of working class fiftysomething men at the bar, nursing pints and speaking sharply to the huge TV screen. So, thinking of Sarah’s advice, and how I didn’t want to go to bed too early, because where’s the fun in that? I went inside.


I leaned on the bar and asked for a half-pint of beer. (Jet lag, remember? I am not actually wimpy.) The barmaid gave me something called Speckled Hen, which was too girly. So. I had a second half-pint, this time somethng called John Smith. A much better beer.


By now I was getting advice and commentary about the match from Pete, a man with a working-class London accent and kind eyes. Because I was standing by Pete, who was kind of like that pub’s Norm, I met a bunch of other people, including Ian, who had allegedly been beat up by bikers, so walks with a cane, and his friend whose name I will surely recall at some point, who had one ear larger than the other.


Well, I had another half-pint and talked a while to Ian and his friend, and they introduced me to Chris, who seemed intent on impersonating Shaft. He went around the corner and lost his hat, but brought his dog, a staffie cross, to meet me.


We talked about all kinds of things, drug laws and everything, and werehaving a great time, until it was suggested that I didn’t really love E because I came to the UK without him. To which I responded that they were knuckle-dragging troglodytes with no sense of proportion. It was cool that I didn’t care about smoking pot, that I could travel comfortably alone, that I thought a woman could earn a fair wage and not depend on a man, but I didn’t actually love mine because I wasn’t traveling with him? Bollocks to that, you lot of chauvanist cunts.


Ah, testosterone, you great leveler of the playing field. If a woman doesn’t stay home to wash her man’s socks, she is obviously a brazen hussy with no sense of duty or romantic love. Because that makes sense. Whatever.


So later, I’m walking home, and Ian and his friend whose name I will surely recall at some point, are walking with me, and Ian is shocked that I’m staying at the hostel.


‘The French place? You’re staying here? At the FRENCH place?’ He looks disproportionately scandalized.

‘Um, yeah. Is there a problem with that?’

‘It’s just, it’s well, it’s..It’s horrible!’

I look around. There are a few girls from the German school group smoking on the steps. ‘What?’

‘It’s an awful place! Prosssies and drugs, and…’

‘Uh, those aren’t prostitutes, you moron. They’re German scoolgirls.’

‘Look, why don’t you stay at Chris’s?’

‘Because I’m staying here.’


At this point the conversation deteriorated. Possibly he thinks I am a prostitute or drug user. Or maybe he was just beng gallant. But whatever. He spoke several times of my not living up to my potential. I think that might have been code for ‘wear tighter fitting clothing’. I’m not really sure. But it was an interesting experience, and it showed me one thing: The partriarchy is alive and well, and wants me chained to the stove in Vancouver, just so my man doesn’t miss a meal. Alternately, it wants me to sleep with random Englishmen because obviously I can’t be that serious about E, if I’m drinking beer and watching football in London.


Hussy that I am, I’m going back to watch the match with Pete tonight.

Weird City

The thing is, I’m a creature of habit. I feel immeasurably better knowing that I know how to get to my hostel now, and I am a little bit nervous of all the strangers out there. In my normal life, I have a very proscribed sense of place and who I am in that place. Here, not so much. I could be anyone! So I’ve decided to acclimatize as best I can to being a denizen of this city as much as I can.


Here’s some stuff I have observed and am emulating:


Londoners have this really special way of crossing the street. They wait there sedately for the light to change, and when it takes too long and there are no cars coming, they go anyway! I haven’t figured out exactly how they decide, because sometimes there’s no cars coming forever and they just stand there. At other times, there’s the briefest hesitation and then they leap across the road like so many biped gazelles. They really do move quickly.


They say sorry. Lots. Man, as a Canadian who apologizes even more than normal Canadians, I can get behind this. They do it in person if their toddler runs out in front of you, they do it when their sleeves brush you, and they do it when their city passes indoor smoking bylaws. Seriously, I would have photographed the sign in the pub window, but I was busy grooving with my Inner Brit. The sign was basically, ‘We are very sorry that this inconvenience has been so unjustly leveled on you, our valued patrons. We are so very sorry that we can’t even make a nice patio space for you to smoke and drink on, because of the draconian laws and the unreasonableness of the city, and they just don’t want you to have fun, and we’re really sorry, but we just won’t take a health code violation for you to keep drinking and smoking here. Sorry. Really sorry.’


Their crazy people are not so intimidating. No one has asked me for change yet, apart from those magazines that the homeless get printed and sell for change. Not one teenage punk with a rottie cross on a piece of rope sitting outside a store in a fetid nest of rags. And most of the homeless people I see have their hair dyed pink or orange. I don’t know what that’s about. Although there was one old guy with a strong Eastern European accent on the tube who wandered along in his dapper suit, blessing people as he went. Catholic style, with the four points of the cross. You know, I just wasn’t scared of him, even though he started talking about how everyone needed to be happier.


Also, I am acclimatizing by not wearing a brightly coloured backpack. Seriously, why do people think they’re not going to get pickpocketed when they load 15 pounds of gear on their backs and then wander around in a foreign city, pausing to gawk at buildings while crowds swirl past them? Hell, I could be making money off some of the rubes I’ve seen, and I’m not really in pickpocketing practice.


I am also becoming aware that I just don’t have enough time to do this place justice. Maybe even in my whole lifetime.

Bad Behavior has blocked 185 access attempts in the last 7 days.