Monday, January 29, 2007

Jeet gayi!

Hooray to Shilpa for enduring racism and bullying (and whatever else you want to call it) and winning UK Celebrity Big Brother. I never anticipated becoming such a trash tv addict.

I've been a Shilpa fan ever since I saw Jaanwar in Lucknow in 2000. It was the first time I watched a Hindi film in a cinema and I loved it. She looked ridiculously glamorous as the emotional mother of a child who goes missing and is taken in and raised by a reformed gangster.

My favourite Shilpa performance, however, was her portrayal of Tom Hanks' role (yes, that's right) in Phir Milenge, a Bollywood adaptation of Philadelphia.

As the above posters demonstrate, her presence in Bollywood has always been slightly peripheral. I'm hoping that her Big Brother success takes her to new heights.

As for me, now that it's all over I have my evenings back! I'm hoping to use them wisely and wean myself off television for a while.

Oh, and I am determined never to enjoy an S Club 7 song again.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not a mullah

I'm getting slightly concerned about the level of laughter in my old men's class. Several of them are over seventy five and I'm worried that someone could have a heart attack.

Last week we were practicing conversations about the weather and one student from Morocco kept everyone laughing by disagreeing with others and insisting it was warm and pleasant.

My oldest student goes into quiet laughing fits. Yesterday Mogfa visited the class and I had them introduce themselves. The 83 year old said 'I am from Iran.... but I am not a mullah', gesturing to imaginary headgear and then bursting into wheezy laughter. I held my breath.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I called my grandma on Wednesday. 'I spoke to the vicar from Brockmoor today.' she said, 'He's just been to Pakistan for a relative's wedding and he said that he met someone there from Hong Kong who knows you. It was KT. What an incredible coincidence!'.

A couple of hours later I was out at a friend's birthday dinner, chatting to a girl from Sydney. 'I feel like I know you' she said, 'You look really familiar'. I was kind of skeptical but I asked where she studied. 'Sydney Uni and then UTS' she said. 'Oh, me too. I guess we've just seen each other around somehow' I suggested.

Not content with that, she asked what I studied at Sydney and we figured out that we both did politics. 'What year did you do the first year subjects?' she asked. '2001,' I said, 'then I did a foreign policy subject and the ones on Southeast Asia and South Asia'. 'Oh,' she said, 'I did first year in 2000 and I didn't do any of those'.

'I also did the Middle East and Isreal and Palestine subjects', I offered. 'Me too!' she replied, 'with Leanne!'. Suddenly something clicked, 'you were in that tute at 9am in the tropical health building, weren't you?'. 'Yes,' I answered, 'we used to sit next to each other, didnt' we. And we used to talk. I remember you giving me advice on subjects I was thinking of taking. And we used to discuss Leanne's outfits.'.

I was wondering whether I am going senile. How could I not recognise someone who used to be a tute buddy? I was also wondering whether it is rude to ask 'Did you used to look incredibly different to how you look now?'.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


After a very mild few weeks, winter has finally arrived in London. I opened the front door this morning and was shocked. I called out to Mogfa, the new arrival from Sydney, who rushed to join me. We both stood in the doorway admiring the thick coating of snow on the roof of the carpark behind our apartment block. It wasn't particularly photogenic, however, so here's a picture from the street outside.

I detoured via Trafalgar Square on the way to the train station. Even the lions had a coating.

At school the snow had settled everywhere. The path from the tram station, usually notorious for muggings, had become a treacherous climb, with the students shuffling up like a huddle of penguins. It's weird how they all wear black, despite the absence of a school uniform.

In my excitement I texted my mum and a friend in hotter climes who replied with the following:

Us baraf mein yeh geet gaana mat bhoolna 'zara sa jhoom loon main' (in the snow don't forget to sing the song 'I may sway a little')

Here it is, a valuable warning of what might happen if you get drunk while on holiday in Switzerland.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Yesterday my advanced class had a discussion about workplace conversations. Several students expressed their frustration that the most important socialising between colleagues seems to happen on cigarette breaks or post-work trips to the pub.

I asked the class about the most common topics of conversation at their workplaces. 'English people talk about the weather a lot' said one student, 'but at my job they talk about their diets even more. Everybody seems to be on a diet all the time'.

Several others agreed, including me. Since Christmas, my colleagues' lunches in the staffroom at school have become even scantier. I used to sight the occasional diet muesli bar but now everyone seems to be restricted to salads consisting mostly of cabbage.

And the diet talk is never ending. The ridiculous thing is that few of my colleagues could be described as slim. If they were eating at home as they do at school they would be wasting away. So why the continual pretense of extreme dieting?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Welcome back

I managed to smile when I arrived back at Stanstead Airport and saw this crush at immigration. It took over 45 minutes for me and about an hour for the companions with Australian passports.

I've always considered myself a patient person but living in the UK has taken me to levels I never thought possible. I now think nothing of queueing for half an hour in the post office. Or sitting for 15 minutes in a stationary train, waiting for a platform to become available.

I amazed a friend in Hong Kong by explaining that I have to go on the the internet before travelling, to check which underground lines are working. I have the choice of 2 lines to get to my Saturday morning job and one or the other is invariably down. Last Saturday, neither were working. This wasn't a problem, however, because I've learnt to anticipate the worst and had left enough time to catch the bus.

And that's the beauty of living here, whatever comes next is going to feel like Disneyland.

(p.s. Have just realised that, like London, Disneyland is an expensive place where you spend most of your time queueing. Still, you get the idea...)

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Okay, I promise these are the last of my holiday pictures. Granada was another beautiful city and I loved the snow-capped Sierra Nevada backdrop.

The main sight in Granada is the Alhambra, a Muslim fort and palace complex which was begun in the 13th century. The palace is well preserved and the architecture and decorative patterns throughout the building are incredible.

Water played a major part in the design of the Alhambra and many original water features have been restored. There is even a staircase where water runs down channels in the handrails on both sides. It's incredible to think that this was all done without modern pumps.

The fort at Alhambra afforded a fantastic view of Granada. Very much recommended!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Seville was ultra-touristy but charming. We stayed in an old part of the city and spent a lot of time getting lost in the maze of little alleys around our hotel. To my surprise, it felt like a sanitised version of Old Delhi.

Seville has an huge cathedral which was originally a mosque. This tower is the only part of the mosque which remains (albeit with alterations). Note the orange trees in front, the whole city was full of orange trees in full fruit.

From the top of the tower there was a view of the entire city. This is the bull fighting ring. We did a tour of the ring and I was kind of disturbed. I didn't realise how much torture the spectacle involves before the bull is killed.

Seville was that cool kind of place where you can just walk and happen upon interesting stuff. This plaza was just a little mark on our map but it was beautiful. The tai chi group was an added bonus.

Spain had abundance of nativity scenes, like this one in a shoe store. Epiphany seems to be a big celebration there so the Christmas season was still in full swing.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


I arrived back in London last night after a great holiday. The skies were blue, the sun was warm and the food was delicious. I'll put my Lisbon photos up now and save Seville and Granada for later.

Much to everyone's annoyance, I made constant comparisons between Lisbon and Macau. As much as I love Macau, I had to admit, however, that Lisbon is a bigger, better version.

The best thing about Portugal was getting to do some outdoors stuff. In London I really miss seeing the sun rise or set over the sea.

And it had been almost a year and a half since I had seen waves. This was the western most point in Europe.

I even got to climb a real hill to a Moorish castle with incredible views.

But best of all, I got the chance to be really silly. Lisbon was too warm for my new hat but I'm determined to wear it in London. It has dinosaur spikes at the back which don't show in this photo.