Trip Start May 27, 2010
Trip End Aug 31, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, September 13, 2010

After a traumatic start involving a day off work and tube strikes, I saw out the boring working week and had planned to make my maiden visit to the Redback.  For those not in the know, the Redback in Acton is an Aussie/Kiwi establishment not too far from our house.  This establishment puts on cheap drinks Thursday through to Sunday, which tends to attract a lot of the bogans Australia thought they were rid of.  There's a first time for everything, but sadly, Friday night was not to be my first, for I scored tickets to only my favourite group in the world, MUSE!  Even before I came to London I had wanted to get my hands on tickets for the September concert, and on Friday afternoon Huggins emailed me to let me know she had the goods, and off we trundled to Wembley Stadium after crashing her work cocktail party and skulling a few wines and munching on some pizza.  It is almost 12 months to the day since I was standing outside a venue in New York City listening to them play a live broadcast for the MTV Awards, and lead singer Matt Bellamy came out to play outside.  It was wicked.  The show on Friday night would have to be up there as one of the best I have ever seen.  I think even if I had been booked in to have dinner with the Queen that night I would've stood her up for a look-in at a Muse concert.  Love love love them.  So I was on a high when I went home, and they have been playing flat out on my iPod ever since!

I'm now a paid up fully-fledged member of a gym.  It's located just downstairs from my office so there are literally no excuses to make for not being bothered to go to the gym after work.  In light of this membership, I made the most of the weekend and binged on the 30 euros worth of chocolate I bought in Bruges and put a fair dent in a slice of chocolate cake at work on Friday.  Sadly, it was quite dry, and there was nothing terribly enjoyable about it, so I don't think it really counts.  And yes, I finished it regardless!  I ate waffles and pizza and Burger King.  So bring on the skinny!  The fate of the Heathrow Injection, in my case, is sealed (in a crisp packet).

On the same day as joining the gym, my spirits were heightened when I purchased a book of "1000 things to do in London for under 10".  This is sure to be my new bible.  Not that I really had an old one to compare it to.  But yeah, I'm excited, and have already doggy-eared a few pages for things I might like to do on my "off" weekends, although I think some of the doggy-ears might be a bit crooked given that I was folding them on the bus and the bus crashed (no one was hurt).  I considered for a fleeting moment attempting what Julie in the film Julie & Julia did by completing a recipe from the book every day and blogging about it, although in my case it would be completing one of the 1000 things every day until I'd reached the end of the book, or my stay in London, whichever came first.  The moment was indeed fleeting though, and the idea left my mind almost as quickly as it entered it.  Instead, I decided on Saturday to take the book's advice and head to the National Portrait Gallery to see the entrants and winner of the BP Portrait Award.  The exhibition was great, highlighting the fact that there are some really talented people around.  After this I headed to the Natural History Museum to brush up my knowledge of the big bang and evolution and shake hands with a whale.  While I was there I learnt that you can't actually shake hands with a whale because they have no hands.  Bit of trivia.  It was a cool day out though, and I felt good for doing something cultural.  998 things left and counting. 
I made a trip to Thorpe Park with the girls on Sunday, just to shake things up a bit.  Thorpe Park is a big theme park which boasts a range of terrifying rollercoasters large enough to scare the bejeezers out of even the reigning winner of the World's Strongest Man competition.  I've never really been a rollercoaster sort of person - the Big Dipper at Luna Park in Melbourne was always enough to frighten me, and the rollercoaster at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen was my first upside-down experience, so one could imagine my terror when I looked up to see the Stealth ride looming down on me, and the horrific screams coming from the depths of its passengers' lungs.  Yep, it was scary.  Gemma and I exercised our "CHAI TEEEEEAAA!!!" ritual and were left rather unsettled by the whole experience - Gemma, so scared she couldn't even make any noise!  The craziest thing about it was the speed at which it took off.  It was like what I imagine being in a rocket ship would be like at blast off.  The orange shirt guy was hilarious to watch - he was all dancing and laughing and having a great time while he was being strapped in and waiting for the hydraulic thrusters to kick in and launch him up into the sky, and when they finally did, he was put back in his box, G forces stopping him in his tracks.  Yeah, cop that orange shirt guy.  Wanker.  The Saw ride was scary too, although not nearly as daunting as we first thought.  The thing with rides is that you line up, you're scared, you get strapped in and make sure you're confident that the seatbelt isn't going to come undone, and then in less than 30 seconds it's all over and you're left to untangle your hair, and your nerves.  You get off the ride, go and check out the photos that are taken mid-flight, laugh at the ridiculous and terrified expressions on your faces and then think "why did we just do that to ourselves?".  It was a great day out but we were all left dishevelled, exhausted and with little or no voices!  The rides at Oktoberfest look like child's play compared with Thorpe Park, even with a belly full of German beer!

Our tickets are booked for the International Rules football in Dublin at the end of October, which should be enough to give us a reminder of the nature of Australian Rules football, and in turn serve as a reminder of the bogans that attend football matches.  In any case, and football aside, a return visit to Dublin will be welcome considering the most I saw of it last year was the inside of a pub, the inside of a brothel, and very briefly, the inside of my hostel.  What a crazy night that was.  And what a crazy start to our Paddywagon tour the following morning on the bus when all I could do was vomit into a bag and hold onto the seat in front of me as Tom struggled to keep the big green machine on the road mid-commentary.  For those who weren't sleeping through his immensely interesting story-telling, the looming threat of Tom losing control and plunging the bus into a ditch on the side of the road was real, and scary.  "Just hold on a minute guys," he said, while wrestling with the wheel and then breathing a sigh of relief when the bus came to a halt.  If that had've been Stevie, the driver on our Scotland tour, he would've wiped his brow and whipped out his bottle of holy water (whisky) and taken a really big swig.  Nat and I still laugh and shake our heads, wondering how we ever survived that trip.  Compliments to the mad Scottish driver for letting us live, but we're pretty sure he was over the blood alcohol limit on numerous occasions and shouldn't have been behind the wheel of anything, not even a tractor. 
I was sitting out on some big steps having lunch the other day when I was kind enough to ask an old man if he was ok after watching him fall over as he tried to make the ascent up the two big steps.  It was so obvious that there was no way he was going to be able to get up there without falling over.  And sure enough, after one step, and a walking cane that gave out underneath him, he tumbled.  I asked him if he was "alright", which in English terms appears to have the Australian equivalent of "how're you goin' mate", to which he replied that he was fine.  I was left wondering whether he actually understood what I meant, like I wasn't just asking him if he was having a good day.  Haha, old man falls over - "having a good day, mate?".  Hahaha.  So I felt all warm and fuzzy for a brief moment knowing that I'd offered assistance to a senior, but then laughed my head off once he was out of range enough that his hearing aid wouldn't detect my sniggering.  When he'd wandered a short distance and wanted to get down the steps again, I watched as a man of middle eastern appearance helped the old man get back on the ground safely, and I was comforted in the knowledge that there are good people in the world after all.  Because I laughed, I'm not one of them.

Some birthday announcements:
A big shout out to my sister whose birthday it is today, 13 September - a sprightly 27.  Wow.  Time flies.  Seriously, it's not even funny anymore.  Life is just getting away from us.  It seems like it was only yesterday that I was in protection mode, bundling Jacci out of the house via the lounge room window because I thought there was a robber in the house, when in actual fact it was just the wind causing the house to creak in its old age.  It seems like it was only yesterday that I took a pair of scissors to her lovely little ringlets and chopped them all off in an attempt to make her look just like my mutilated Barbie.  And while I'm on the subject of Barbies, it seems like it was only yesterday that we broke into the neighbour's house to play with their amazing Barbie collection (they even had Skipper!) and make an epic mess, only to be found out at a later date.  It seems like it was only yesterday that I chipped one of her teeth in Vernazza by chinking my beer bottle on hers when she was taking a swig.  It seems like it was only yesterday that we would ride our matching blue and pink sissy bikes around the backyard on tracks that I'd drawn in the gravel with the end of a broom handle - I always thought I'd be a good council worker, painting lines on roads - perhaps I've missed my calling...  Happy birthday little one, I hope this year brings all you wish for.  In the case that your wish was for me to go overseas so that you could be free of my torture, consider it granted!  Miss you. x
Happy birthday wishes also go to Matt Woodhouse who turned 18 this week.  I feel really old when I think about what I can write about him, and it's a story he's heard and will continue to hear until I stop laughing about it.  I'll never forget the time I was home looking after him one day, and I noticed that he had disappeared for a while, my attention having been stolen by Judge Judy or something equally trashy on TV.  He was only two or three at the time, and I had grave fears that he'd gone out and jumped into the swimming pool without my noticing and forgotten to take his floaties with him.  After doing a loop of the backyard, checking and double-checking that he didn't end up in the drink, I headed back inside only to find him in his room, naked, with a texta, having a grand old time drawing on his buttocks while looking in the floor to ceiling mirror to make sure he hadn't missed any spots.  Once the panic had subsided I realised just how hilarious it was, and it's something I will never forget, nor will I allow him to. 

Postscript:  Rick Pearson of The London Evening Standard gave Muse's show five stars: "...Complete with two encores, spectacular lighting and peerless musicianship, this is how all super massive shows should be. Breathtaking and brilliant."
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Alice Wilcox on

They're chips, not crisps

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