Sunday, July 30, 2006


Today DR Congo holds its first free election since 1960. It has been postponed several times over the last couple of years and I've followed each develpment in class with Congolese students - first in HK and now in London.

Despite a number of reported problems, including 5 million additional ballot papers, the UN has been pleased with preparations. Most observers expect the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, to remain in power. I find this hard to reconcile with what my students say about Kabila. I guess I have only met people who have fled the country.

In any case, I hope that the election is a step towards peace and the end of the incredible suffering in DR Congo. I've left a spare hour in my Wednesday class to fill with some election news.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Last week I rented a car and drove for the first time in a year. Cal had recommended a trip to Canterbury Cathedral and the surrounding Kent countryside.

Canterbury Cathedral was very cool. So was Cal's old school next door, slightly more grand than the now-bulldozed local comprehensive that Knuffy's Owner and I went to!

After Canterbury we were keen to see the coast and drove to the nearby seaside town of Deal. As we arrived, the comment was made (not by me!) that England is 'the most underwhelming country in the world'. Could the grandeur of the cathedral have been forgotten so quickly? Ok, so Deal was pretty ugly.

But later I found out that dissing Deal has become something of an English literary tradition: Samuel Pepys called it 'pitiful' and Daniel Defoe wrote that 'The barbarous hated name of Deal shou'd die'. Even Jane Austen and Dickens have made unfavourable references!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Explore Sydney!

Here is the Lonely Planet forum thread that Mim mentioned in her comment. I love it:

Posted: 07 Jul 2006

climbing Mount Druitt


I will be in Sydney in October and am looking to do some climbing. I know of the Blue Mountains, but I've seen on a map of Syney a place called Mount Druitt. Has anyone climbed it? How hard was it and what's the altitude?

Posted: 07 Jul 2006



Sorry, but you just asked one of the funniest questions i have seen on this forum. The blue mountains are mountains of sorts, but MT DRUITT???!!

With Mt Druitt, the only thing you found was what is probably the worst, most depressing and crime filled suburbs in OZ! Oh, and there is no mountain there, maybe a hill or 3!

Posted: 07 Jul 2006


Are you sure James?
I once saw a T-Shirt that said "I climbed Mt Druitt".

Posted: 07 Jul 2006


You should also climb Rooty Hill while you're at it.

Life, be in it
Posted: 07 Jul 2006


Summer Hill and Rose Hill are also interesting peaks around Sydney.

Posted: 08 Jul 2006


October should be Ok. Most of the snow should've melted by then. Do you plan on doing the South face or the more technical north West face? I can do you a good deal on a couple of sherpas. Email me ----

Life, be in it
Posted: 09 Jul 2006


#6 Sherpas? Surely you mean a couple of bodyguards, a police escort and an armoured car.

Climbing equipment (carried by all the locals) is a couple of cans of spray paint, a can of mace and a flick knife.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Little Fish

I am often embarrasing in the cinema. But I was at my worst when watching Little Fish yesterday.

I didn't know that it was set in Cabramatta, Sydney's Little Vietnam. I used to love visiting Cabramatta and couldn't help commenting any time I recognised something:

'I've been in that restaurant!'
'I use to love that shopping arcade!'
'That's the cinema where I used to go for Hindi films!'

Worse than that, I laughed more than anyone in the cinema. I was surprised to see Noni, 'Oh my god, it's Noni!' (my favourite Play School presenter) and laughed whenever she swore. I laughed at expressions and combinations of swear words that I hadn't heard in ages.

And I laughed loudest (and alone) when one of the characters announced that he had got a flashy new job in the city and Cate Blanchett said:

'I guess this means you'll be moving somewhere like Strathfield'.

Although parts of the film are supposed to be humorous, it is actually a very moving drama with an incredibly gripping suspense element. I loved it and am thinking of going a second time. Hooray for the funky local cinema!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dum, dum, digha, digha

One of my friends called from Hong Kong yesterday. He lives in a room even tinier than my old one and shares a bathroom and kitchen with several other rooms.

'My dad called, he was asking me to sign some papers to take ownership of part of the family property'

'Why's that?"

'Oh, well there's a new law in Nepal about how much one person can own. If he doesn't transfer some of our property out of his name it will go to the government. But it's a hassle, I really don't want to do it'


'Well if there are ever any problems I'm going to have to go back now and sort them out. Besides, it's in a really hot part of Western Nepal'

'So how big is it?'

'I'm not sure how to say it because we only use Nepali measures, do you know how much a digha is in Hindi?'

'I'll just look for it on the internet... no, I can only find song lyrics with 'dum, dum, digha, digha'. Is the land as big as Tsim Sha Tsui?'

'Oh much bigger'

'Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan?'

'Much bigger than that. I went there once, we had to use a jeep to get around'

Friday, July 21, 2006


Just one week left and I can't wait for the release of Omkara. The adaptation of Othello looks really clever and the casting is incredible.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Yesterday I confirmed a suspicion by asking a real English person.

These are peanuts.

These are monkey nuts.

If there were monkeys in this country the distinction might make more sense. Then again, I'm not sure that they would prefer unshelled peanuts anyway...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Flying rats

I went out early on Sunday morning, heading for an 8am church service. When I got to the church and saw only two people inside I changed my mind and went for a walk instead.

Central London is dead on a Sunday morning. It's peaceful but stinky because there's a lot of urine and vomit around from the night before. I walked through Trafalgar Square where homeless people were waking up and a guy was wading through the fountains fishing out rubbish with a net.

Without all the usual crowds, I noticed the abundance of signs advising people not to feed the pigeons. The signs included a translation in Hindi, which may come as a shock for tourists from India, hoping to recreate the opening scene of 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge'.

An article in the newspaper today caught my attention. A member of the 'Pigeon Action Group' was quoted, complaning that a hawk used to scare away pigeons in Trafalgar Square has mauled 14 since the start of the year.

Fascinated by the idea of a PAG, I went googling and found out that there is much more to the story. In 2001, the London authorities reached a cash settlement with the last pigeon food seller in the square.

Feeding the pigeons was outlawed, with the exception of a daily 7:30am feeding by a group named 'Save the Trafalgar Square Pigeons'.

Recently however, the PAG emerged, doing rogue feeding outside the official arrangements. It is unclear whether the PAG are a radical splinter group from the STSP. The STSP, however, are now very unimpressed because their permission to do controlled feedings has been revoked.

I guess this means less pigeons. Yay.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Work stuff

One of my bosses apologised this week - the funding application has been rejected for the additional project I was going to work on. My other boss has promised just a couple of additional hours when the new academic year starts in September. I'm feeling lazy working 2.5 days a week. I'm looking forward to starting my final uni subject in a couple of weeks time.

Meanwhile, I went to a training today where I met an Australian lady with a similar qualification to mine. She spent a couple of years doing office temping before she got her first teaching job in London. That made me feel better about the miserable month it took me to get work. 'You're lucky' she said, 'I sounded much more Australian than you when I first arrived'.

To increase her employment prospects she's completed local qualifications which are at a lower level than the postgraduate one we both have from Sydney. Nine years later she's about to start the same masters course that I have almost finished by distance. If I'm not more employable in nine years will someone please force me to change career?

Saturday, July 08, 2006


I got a shock in the supermarket checkout line yesterday. I had just put my basket down on the counter when a woman waved a packet of ham in my face, 'Do you mind if I go first? I've only got this'.

Is that acceptable? I only had half a basket of goods, not a trolley full. And she didn't even attempt to justify herself by saying that she was in a hurry. I let her go in front, of course, but I wasn't very impressed.

I've also been annoyed (more than usual) this week by slogan t-shirts. I seriously think they should be banned. The one that really got my goat was 'For every animal you don't eat I'm going to eat three'.

When the t-shirt asks a question, am I within my rights to tell them my unfavourable answer? I certainly wanted to when I saw someone wearing 'Do you want to see my favourite yoga position?'. No!!

It doesn't help that there are several slogan t-shirt stalls on the street outside our flat. I don't know how anyone could be so vulgar as to wear most of these.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

O nzambe nangai!

When my asylum seeker class really gets going colleagues sometimes peek in the door, checking that we're not killing each other. Our discussions can often be heard from the other side of the farm.

Working with people from DR Congo has developed my ability to be loud when necessary. In addition to funky dance moves, I've also picked up a few expresions, English translations of ones in Lingala.

Yesterday I asked someone for the real Lingala versions so I can start using them. Both of these are mostly used for expressing displeasure:

O nzambe nangai! Oh my god!

O lynge cobo manga? Do you want to kill me?

Sunday, July 02, 2006


It's a common observation that the English are weather obsessed. What I find strange is the eagerness to believe that the weather here is extreme.

Right now it's about 30 degrees maximum in the daytime, this is known as a 'heatwave'. A couple of weeks ago, a five minute downpour led to front page newspaper headlines about 'London's monsoon'. If it's windy there are 'torrential gales'. And in winter, if the snow sticks to the ground there must have been a 'blizzard'.

Although daytime temeratures are currently about 30 degrees, it falls to about twenty degrees at night. This doesn't stop the BBC website predicting that tonight will be 'sultry'. What I love though, is the same thing I've heard weather reporters saying since the middle of the week when daytime temperatures went above 25 degrees - 'It's going to be another scorcher today and very difficult again to sleep at night'.

I'm managing to endure the torture. Last night I went strolling around in a short sleeved shirt and felt really comfortable for the first time in ages. Lovely.