Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I'm having such a good work week:
- I've been offered a 3rd job.
- I've had 100% attendance (the students, not me) and a positive appraisal in my 2nd job.
- And I've been asked to take an extra class in my 1st job - I will be teaching the old men's class twice each week. Yippee!

A year and a half after moving to London I am finally pretty much fully employed!

Apart from that, there's not much to say so I want to take this chance to rave about my current two favourite things on the web:

These Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies podcasts by Arun Krishnan are hilarious and incredibly clever. There's a lot of humour and not much language to learn so I'd recommend them to all, irrespective of whether you aspire to Bollywood stardom or not. You can play them direct from the website or download them to your portable device.

Gwen Yip has moved from Hong Kong to London and documents her adventures through cartoons. They are the cutest thing I've seen in ages and her observations are very funny. I've been inspired but since I can't draw, I've commissioned a cartoonist who is promising to deliver by this weekend...

Monday, February 26, 2007


Lately I've tried to make sure that I blog each Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. The reason is that my statscounter shows a huge spike in hits every Monday. Why is this? Do you all get to work on Monday morning and spend the first part of the day stuffing around on the internet?

I didn't manage a post yesterday because I was up (slightly) north in the ancestral homelands. I had a good time and managed to read almost every article in every section of the Saturday newspaper (ok, except for sport). It's so healthy for me to be seperated from the internet for a few days.

I logged back on this afternoon to find an exciting email. I finally have that elusive third job! It's only temporary at the moment but at least I've got my foot in another door...

(p.s. viewed the apartment on Saturday but no good lah)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bending the rules

I don't usually comment on Australian politics. Actually I'm usually happier not even thinking about it. But I read about this on a blog this morning and was really annoyed.

There are plenty worse things happening in the world. But (possibly because of those worse things) the combination of Dick Cheney, guns and John Howard (pandering to the US yet again) constitutes a veritable axis of evil.

Tightening gun laws is the only good thing I can ever remember John Howard doing. In contrast, I have a long mental list of negatives - impressive considering that I've been out of the country and quite out of touch for the last few years.

Hearing that the Federal Government pressured New South Wales to change it's gun laws for Dick Cheney's private guards (yes, he of infamously bad aim, of all people!) really gets up my goat.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The empty nest

The sofa is looking very bare. Mogfa moved into her new home yesterday and this flat is an empty nest.

Her new place is cool with a view over Shoreditch Park. I'm jealous. And her new flatmates are very friendly and quite funky. One even has (quite clean looking - I approve) dreadlocks.

She was a little anxious about making a good impression. But then she found out that the girl who she replaced was bringing home several different men per night, hosting wild parties (when flatmates were away) and doing drugs in the bathroom. As Mogfa said, 'Whatever I do, I've got to be an improvement on that!'.

Mogfa's move has inspired me. I'm not sure if it's age but I'm getting over inner city living. I loved it when I was in Hong Kong but people there don't tend to pee on the streets. Come to think of it, they don't vomit all over the place either. It's charming what alcohol does to people.

We're going to view an flat on the weekend which is between Mogfa and Cal's places, about ten minutes walk from each. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

May the year of the pig bring you plentiferous amounts of prosperity, happiness and more prosperity. I couldn't put it better than this text which I recieved today:

'May the year of the boar bloom like a flower, beautifying delicate matters with a touch of love in harmony.'

Lured by this flashy website, we headed off with LPCB and the Sherwinators, in search of festivities. So had several hundred thousand others.

Chinatown (brought to you by Cathay Pacific) was chockas, completely housefull. Apart from the decorations, however, there wasn't much going on.

Ditto Trafalgar Square. There was a stall there selling little drums and paper dragons. There were also promotional stalls run by Air New Zealand and a travel agent. Oh, and there were some dignitaries on stage giving speeches.

After a while we realised that everyone was doing the same thing as we were, walking between Chinatown, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, convinced that there must be something going on somewhere.

Thankfully, I spotted two dancing lions, allowing me to go home somewhat satisfied. Unfortunately, they had both attracted such a crowd (desperate for entertainment) that I couild only just make out the tops of the lions' heads.

It's amazing how little it takes to attract a crowd of several hundred thousand in London. Is that a testament to how little there is to do here?

Hooray to the mayor and co. for pedestrianising so many streets for the day. But next time, more excitement please!

Thursday, February 15, 2007


After eight months of waiting for various appointments and results, I finally have an official diagnosis. My biopsy showed damage to the lining of my small intestine, indicative of coeliac disease. Basically this means that I have a problem with gluten, and need to avoid wheat and several other similar grains.

I think I've had the problem for the last eight years. It only became impossible to ignore when I moved from Hong Kong to London a year and a half ago. The change in diet worsened my symptoms and being less busy gave me time to realise that things weren't right.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Gluten acts as a trigger causing my immune system to attack my small intestine, sending my digestive system crazy. In addition, the damage to my intestine prevents it from absorbing nutrients particularly well. Obviously, this can cause any number of nutrition related problems.

The good news is that all the damage and any risk to my long-term health can be eliminated if I follow a gluten free diet. The bad news is that gluten turns up in places you wouldn't necessarily expect. Look at the ingredients list of any processed food and there's a good chance it will contain wheat, malt, modified starch or a vague 'thickener'.

At home eating gluten free shouldn't be too hard. I usually cook from scratch and I'm not upset about avoiding bread, pasta, couscous and other wheat based staples. I've long preferred rice anyway. I can replace flour with cornflour and make sure that I use gluten free brands of soy sauce, stock cubes and salad dressing.

Eating out, however, will be a different story. Even if I could find out exactly what had been put into my food, I would still need to ensure that it hasn't been contaminated by a chopping board, cooking utensil or frying pan that had been used with something else. Just a small amount of gluten would cause damage.

The worst thing is not feeling able to trust other people, even when they have the best of intentions. I bought a slice of gluten free lemon polenta cake at a market last week and the stallholder used the same tongs as he was using with the regular cakes. At that stage, I'd only been off gluten a few days so I ate it anyway. I've since discovered I can make a pretty good version at home.

A while ago, I went to a gluten intolerant friend's house for dinner. She served barbecued chicken that had been marinated in soy sauce, not realising that most soy sauces contain wheat. Even had there been no soy sauce, I would have been concerned about the chicken being cooked on a barbecue that had been used for gluten containing foods like sausages.

I've often been irritated by people who don't eat particular things but now I'm one of them. I had a friend at uni who only ate things that she had cooked herself and I thought she was quite crazy. Particularly as she made an exception for potato crisps. I may have the justification of an actual disease but I'm sure a lot of people will just think that I'm fussy.

Anyway, I'm feeling more relief than anything else at the moment. I'm excited at the prospect of being healthy again and I'm enjoying eating in the knowledge that I'm not doing any harm. I just hope that no one minds accepting repeated invitations to eat at our house! Here's a meal that we did recently to tempt you (all credit to Mogfa for the incredibly arranged salad!).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Other people's blogs

Jason has posted great photos of our trip to the Museum of Childhood yesterday. Yes, I couldn't resist playing teacher and doing a story telling session.Iqbal has posted a charming little poem he saw at the museum. Hmm.

I've just done the 7 Deadly Sins Quiz which Cal has written about. I'm too embarrassed to put up the results but I will admit to scoring fairly high on pride and envy!

It looks like last week's snow was much more impressive in the north of London. The Sherwinators took some very cool photos.

Slightly different weather in Hong Kong where Whitesilver went on a junk trip. I'm so jealous!

And Dim Sum Dolly is blogging again. Yay!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Baraf II

Respect to the forecasters for getting it right on yesterday morning's snow. It was predicted to start at 2am and I was excited. 'I usually get up at that time to pee' said Mogfa, 'so if it's snowing I'll wake you up.'.

She didn't get up but I woke at 4am and flakes had started falling. I woke Mosca and jumped out on the balcony. To my delight, snow had started settling on the cars below.

Fearing that the snow may vanish before I went out in the afternoon for work, I decided to go for a walk, my own 'London in Snow' tour.

Wanting to really 'experience' the snow, I went out with a raincoat instead of an umbrella. This made it hard to take photos and I ended up soaking wet. Stupid idea.

I jay walked into Parliament Square - since there's no legal way of getting in, why are there benches in there? I was highly skeptial of the snowman in front of Big Ben. I'm sure that it was made by a newspaper photographer wanting a classic shot.

It had been ages since I last walked into Westminster. The permanent protest was looking very subdued and I wasn't sure if that was a result of the snow or not.

Horse Guards Parade was empty except for this man in black. I love the way that a path had been worn through the snow.

In St James' Park there were only a few hardcore snow lovers like this guy who struggled for ages to get his dog to stay still.

The geese didn't seem to mind though.

I followed a squirrel, trying to get a photo and found the family home. By this time, the camera battery was running low and I had to turn the camera off and on and snap quickly. This meant I didn't have time to turn the flash off - thus the zombie look resulting from my attempt to get rid of the red eyes.

I just managaed a photo of Buckingham Palace before the battery died completely. Then I rushed home to get out of my wet clothes. Hooray for snow!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Still there...

The bikes aren't going anywhere fast. Knowing how I feel about modern art, someone suggested that they may be an 'installation'.

Yes, it has snowed again. More on that later...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Serving the people

Weekends have been busy lately. I think it's had something to do with Mogfa staying here. Having three people in the house has made me much more sociable. This weekend we were so occupied that we didn't even notice several motorcycles exploding right under our balcony. Weird.

As expected, naked+2 didn't eventuate. I did a search around for superfluous items I could put on and found a silver bracelet that I bought in Chandni Chowk and a badge that Panda gave me in Hong Kong. She bought it to tease me for getting so excited about my brief fame when the media became interested in asylum seekers. I'm told it says 'serving the people' in Chinese.

I usually get annoyed at people who go to two parties in one night but I did it myself on Saturday and ended up at Jeanie's place for a very competitive game of risk. Jason was on my team but when we started losing he distanced himself, getting up to take these great photos. He finished in time to sit back down as we started winning.

Sunday involved Dreamgirls and a serious Macanese cooking session. The movie was good but not up to my sky high expectations. If only they could have sung real Supremes songs! Baked seafood rice was great. Photo to come later...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Things you can catch

Much to my relief (but to the possbile detriment of this blog) a mutiny is on against the naked+2 theme. My source informs me that most people will attend tonight wearing an excessive amount of clothing in protest. I'm still very grateful for all your suggestions.

I had decided to wear an ankle length kameez, plus underwear or the hat, depending on how thick the material was. I even asked the old men's class this morning about where to buy one. They weren't much help, however, since they all agreed that 'London expensive, buy Morocco cheap'.

This morning's lesson was transport themed and someone asked me why we say 'catch the bus'. I had just finished giving some examples of things that we catch when one of the oldest students stood up, 'Joe, I need to catch the toilet'. I hope I'm that funny at 77.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Yes - that's the theme of a birthday party I'm going to at the weekend. Only two pieces of clothing per person. Obviously it was concocted by someone who, unlike me, spends copious hours at the gym. Any smart ideas for my outfit?

One item could be my new hat - I may be making a fool of myself all over London but it gives me the power to make grumpy people smile.

Warning: Extreme Complaining Ahead

Working multiple part-time jobs has some definite positives. The main one would have to be variety. My students range in age from 17 to 83. Some speak English fluently and want only to develop a more formal style of writing. Others struggle to form letters or utter a whole sentence. I love what I do and I never get bored.

At the moment, however, I'm preoccupied with the negatives of my working situation.

Judging by the number of hours I teach and the amount of money I earn, my two jobs do not add up to full-time employment. Recently I've had a couple of offers of additional work but I'm not sure how much more I will be able to fit in.

Working in such a variety of contexts means I spend hours at home preparing material which I have little opportunity to reuse. On top of that, there is the expense and time of travel around London. And each job I have comes with its own set of admin, meetings and communications.

And from a professional point of view, I have another big frustration. The maximum amount of time I spend with any class is two hours per week. This severely limits the amount of progress that I am able to see students make.

That is frustrating in itself but what makes it really annoying is that I am expected to use complex planning, goal setting and assessment systems designed for teachers who have many more contact hours with their learners.

Unfortunately, this is the nature of the work that I am doing. Permanent full-time work in this field is very hard to come by. Things only seem to be getting worse in the UK with the government continually making cuts to the provision of English lessons for migrants.

I'm going to give it a couple more months, see how my new job offers work out. If things don't improve before the summer holidays (when I will have a couple of months without income) I'll need to seek some kind of extreme solution.