Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How 'bout it guv?

I am becoming quite adept in dodging charity collectors and Big Issue sellers. There's one I pass on the way to the supermarket who can be quite abusive if you don't stop and I've learnt to recognise him from a distance.

I thought I'd heard it all until a guy ran up to me waving the Big Issue this evening:

'Hallo guv! I'd try and extol the virtues of the current Big Issue but it's dire. There's absolutely nothing in there worth reading. Absolute rubbish. So how about putting in an Oscar winning performance (produces an Oscar) and just making a donation?'

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Doing it all

I've surprised myself by really enjoying the new job. The pull of the Dark Side is strong.

It's clean, there are no cats and it's right opposite the Houses of Parliament. The best bit is that my student (just one at a time) stays after the lesson to make sure that he has copied everything off the board!

In my 'more rewarding' job I spent an hour and a half cleaning the classroom today before the students arrived. That's usual because it's always filthy.

Today was extra special, however, because sweet chilli sauce was all over the tables, chairs, floor and walls. I even wiped it off the heater. I guess there was a food fight when the young people's cooking class was on yesterday.

I always used to complain that the NGO I worked for in HK was 'so coorporate'. I'm starting to reevaluate.

I don't miss the forms. Particularly the 'Permission for item disposal' form which required the signatures of 6 people in different offices.

But (shock horror!) I have realised the value of time cards. I've stood outside until about 9:10am twice in the last couple of weeks, waiting for the first of my colleagues to arrive with keys.

Anyway, it's not all bad. My colleagues on the farm are lovely (if late and unclean) and my boss has been fantastic about letting me change my working times to suit the second job.

And the best bit? One of my students says 'God bless you' at the end of every class.

I guess I'll try and enjoy the best of both worlds, community organisation and corporate.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sold out

Lately I've been congratulating myself on my environmental credentials:
- I walk or take public transport everywhere
- I carry old plastic bags with me when I go shopping
- I save stuff for recycling and take it to the nearest depot once a week
- I don't use heating at home - we're warmed by other flats above, below and on two sides

But the desparation of underemployment has caused me to sell my soul. I start a new part-time job today teaching English to engineers in an oil company. It's hardly going to be as rewarding as my other job.

Then again, I'm looking forward to teaching educated people with a very high boredom threshold.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


The small office at my work has reached feline saturation point. I have constructed a barrier of files around the edges of my desk but this is not stopping one cat from jumping into my lap and holding tight with its claws when I try and remove it.

A large fluffy cat has learned to defy the barrier by climbing from my colleague's monitor to my own. From there it descends and sits watching the mouse move around the screen, swishing its tail over the keyboard. It has a severe wind problem and it doesn't help that its bum is just centimetres from my face.

I am continually opening the window to get fresh air but I have to be careful that another cat, Sylvia, doesn't get out. She is in heat and desparate to get to a black stray that sits outside whining. My boss finds this whole situation hilarious, joking that Sylvia prefers black men.

I'm hardly learning to like cats but I'm certainly getting used to picking them up and depositing them away from my desk. This is a big thing for me.

The digital camera is currently on holiday in Australia. I'll publish some cat photos when it gets back next week.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Today is officially the most miserable day of the year in the UK. It is the first day back at work for most of the country and everyone is worse for wear after weeks of overeating and overspending.

I, however, am putting on a brave face.

I have just finished reading 'Watching the English' and I am now looking at life in the UK very differently.

The book was only so-so, treading shaky ground between humourous and academic writing.

But it prompted me to make a decision. From now on I will look at England like any other foreign country I have spent time in. I will endeavour to find the differences intriguing instead of annoying.

Because of this I will be calm about the furniture store that gave me an incomplete bookshelf and then took a month to produce the missing piece. I will amuse myself by contemplating the sofa that we still don't have three months after purchase. When I next call them I will remind myself that this is England where people expect things not to work. When they say, 'I'll just put you through to someone who can help' and the call rings out (again) I will merely say, 'typical!' and smirk.

Meanwhile, I made the exciting discovery today that I can walk home from work in an hour. Even in drizzly rain, I enjoyed myself and I've set my alarm to wake up early tomorrow. Anything to avoid the underground. It's amazing that the world's most expensive underground rail system can be so slow and dirty. Typical!