Monday, March 27, 2006


I've changed. The temperature has gone above 10 degrees for the first time in ages and I feel like it's Summer.

Over the last few months I've got used to cold. I stopped wearing fiddly things like gloves, scarves and beanies and I started to look down on the 'tourists' who walk around central London dressed for the Arctic. It's the same pointless smugness I feel when I pass Hare Krishna singers and mentally correct their pronunciation.

But I'm not as tough as I like to think. I could handle the cold when I had to. But I tended not to leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary. Winter made me very antisocial.

The maximum temperature tomorrow will be 13 degrees. In Sydney that would be cold. In Hong Kong it would warrant a 'Cold Weather Warning'. But I'm coming out of hibernation.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I'm loving the Commonwealth games but the BBC coverage has me reaching for the mute button. My annoyance reached a peak this evening when they played a section of Australian commentary just to laugh at how worked up the commentator became. Thank goodness for the more composed BBC coverage with lines like 'Scotland are just having the meet of their... uh... lives'.

Muting the coverage wouldn't be a total fix however. I still wouldn't be able to see the events in which British countries don't win any medals. And I haven't seen an overall medal tally so far. I am fighting the censorship by including an abbreviated gold medal tally below:

Australia: 42
England: 18
Scotland: 8
Wales: 1
Isle of Man: 1

I was shocked when I searched out the overall tally on the internet. The only tally which is shown on the BBC (repeatedly) is the men's swimming tally. This may have something to do with the fact that Australia has only won one gold.

Hmmm. I had no idea I was so patriotic.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


There has been an obvious dichotomy at the farm lately:

With the arrival of Spring, a lot of baby animals have started to arrive. Super cute. My favourites so far are the baby quail.

At the same time, little people are not so lovely. One of the kids in the youth program was involved in a stabbing a couple of weeks ago. This week another kid stole a bag belonging to one of my new students, the second theft recently. Luckily the whole thing was caught on CCTV camera and the stuff was retrieved.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ends and beginnings

Everything seems to be starting or finishing at the moment. I finish tutoring and start correspondence study next week. New classes have just started at both my other jobs.

I started teaching "English and computers for fathers" on Saturday. The class turned out to be a small group from the Middle East and North Africa. A couple of people have been in the UK for up to 13 years and want to brush up their English and computer skills to keep up with their school aged children. One student was a complete beginner on both counts and it took some time to find out that he has only been in the UK several weeks. I realised things were tough when various questions were all answered with either his name or 'Morocco'.

The tutoring work is a different world. My Kazakh students (jagshemash!) are fine tuning their English so that they can participate more fully in the office they work in. I've really enjoyed teaching one student who is quite a linguist. He has just read a book on the relationship between Russian and Sanskrit (a subject I find fascinating) and he also makes very interesting comments about similarities between Russian and English. I'm going to miss the intellectual discussion.

Down on the farm things were quite emotional today with the end of my first class. Over the course of three months the group has really bonded together, to the extent that one student with accommodation problems is moving in with another who receives government assistance. All of the students will continue on as part-time volunteers and I'm thinking of organising a dinner sometime in Finsbury Park, the 'little Algeria' which could become my new Chungking.

I'm back to familiar things with the next group starting at the farm tomorrow. It seems that most of the students are going to be Congolese. Speaking of which, I confirmed a long-held suspicion today. 'Do you want to kill me?' is actually a direct translation of an expression in Lingala. I'm planning to learn the Lingala version and using it as often as possible.

This is not as dramatic as it may seem. When I worked in Hong Kong there was one Congolese guy who would say it anytime we didn't serve croissants at breakfast.