Squirk's Overseas Experience

The tales of one Kiwi returning to Mother Britain and exploring the Big Wide World... without being eaten by a shark.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Our heritage indeed

To celebrate New Zealand's national day in London, it's traditional to attend the biggest pub crawl in London—the informally-organised Waitangi Day Circle Line pub crawl. I got some very confused looks from The Monkey when I brought her to Kiwifruits (the New Zealand shop) so I think I'll need to look elsewhere for support—anyone interested?

I think I'm more interested in the massive 4pm street haka in Parliament Square, which needed special dispensation from the Police this year now that gathering for protest action there has been criminalised.

Update 30 Jan: I've fixed the link to Kiwifruits. (thanks Bob)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sweden, part 4: The awesomeness

So, the trip didn't work out according to plan. Who cares? I wasn't going to let a little thing like being in the wrong place spoil my trip.

(Continuing from part 1, part 2 and part 3)

It turns out I hadn't written down the name or address of the hostel, so we had to use my vague memories combined with tourist maps and dumb luck. (My vague memories consisted of a hostel beginning with Slottss, on a street called Vegetarian.)

We walked for hours in the sub-zero temperatures, past frozen rivers and stinky trams, stopping only for an awesome pizza each.

When I spotted Slottskogen on the corner of Vegagatan, my heart swelled with joy and I announced that we had arrived. Bob eyed the shiny building suspiciously and asked, Does that really look like a hostel to you?

The place looked so much like a fancy hotel/apartment block or casino complex that we continued searching up and down the street, desperately trying to contact someone who could look up the details. Of course, it turned out that Slottskogen is just one of those clean and modern hostels that charge half of the going London rate.

Other memorable parts of the trip:

  • The creepy Californian paedophile who told us all about his S&M sex fetishes, blood rituals and 16-year-old Norwegian girls before he told us his name. He thought Peter Jackson should be raped and killed for making good movies that were too long.
  • Trekking through the snow-covered hills, following animal tracks and a barbecue.We saw a moose!
  • The curry-pineapple-banana-peanut pizza. Beat that, Filedelfio's!
  • Using ferry-boats and trams on the same 90-minute ticket as a public bus. Cheaper than a 2-zone Tube journey, too!
  • Attempting to learn Swedish by looking at newspaper adverts, kebab-shop menus and MTV.
  • The enormous statue of the town founder or a Norse fish god or something—wearing a fuzzy red Santa hat.

I've put up some photos of the trip if you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How was your weekend?

I spent the weekend in Paris. It cost me about a week's rent, or twenty lunches, or a dozen pub dinners. It only took about three hours on a train, and I was back in time for work on Monday.

I love living in London.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pub culture?

Today is Monday. I haven't been into a pub today. I didn't go to the pub last Monday either. Neither of these absences have arisen from particular anti-pub decisions. I just didn't go.

For those not living in Britain, it may seem a little confusing (or even concerning) that I make note of days without visits to the pub. Such frequent patronage of public houses would be highly unusual in New Zealand, but here in Blighty the pub far more than a place to go every week or so to get wrecked. In fact, with the dearth of decent takeaways (or even casual restaurants) that plagues the London I live in, the humble pub is a good bet for lunch or dinner any day of the week. It doesn't hurt to down a lager or two while you're there, of course, but it's a very relaxing way to pass the time if you have some good company (or even a good read).

Pub food varies quite a bit in quality as well as selection. The good old bangers & mash can be found everywhere, and most pubs have a meatless version as well. I can't comment on the carnivorous ones, but it's interesting to compare the interpretation of vege sausage at different places. The Old Bank of England on Fleet Street will give you a large plate of delicious Glamorgan sausages with soft mash, delicious gravy and a salad including rings of red onion; The Court on TCR serves a swimming pool of gravy surrounded by walls made of something dry and fairly plain called Quorn.

I'm tempted to start taking a notepad to the pub with me and doing little mini-reviews, actually. Not on Mondays, of course...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sweden, part 3: Everyone else

There was some confusion as to what was going on with this whole Scandinavian trip. My friends would be in it for the long haul, and I'd join up with them on two brief occasions in two separate countries.

(Continuing from part 1 and part 2)

Despite what Flight of the Reindeer might say, it takes more than belief to make it true.

What Alex thought
Alex was spending a nice, quiet Christmas with his girlfriend Smurfette and her family.

After Christmas sometime, the two of them would take a train to Copenhagen (meeting Vader along the way). Bob and Rob would show up somewhere about here, and we'd play in the fun-snow at Legoland.

What Smurfette thought

Alex was coming to visit her for Christmas. He'd suggested a trip to Legoland some time ago, so perhaps they could organise it sometime before she leaves the Northern hemisphere. Not too soon, though, because she's all booked up with work after the New Year.

What Bob thought

Rob doesn't know what he's doing, but a random holiday sounds good.

(Continued in part 4.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Empty homes

The other night, a mystery guest arrived at the door to look at a room for rent. I was confused, and told her she might have the wrong house. She didn't. I just have no idea what happens in my own house.

I share a place with six other people, but I barely ever see any of them. If it weren't for the magical cleaning and dirtying that goes on in the kitchen, or the occasional locked bathroom, it often feels like I live alone!

The maintenance guy tells me that Matt the gym salesman is taking a contract somewhere overseas. And apparently Christian's parents are migrating to England so he's moving in with them when he gets back from Geneva.

The naked Polish couple that moved in a month or two ago don't speak English.

I may need a new place to live.

Dates for the calendar

Landmark events, irate shopkeepers and dodgy phonecards made for an interesting weekend.

6 Jan
My favourite flatmate of all time, Neil, celebrated a birthday. I tried to wish him a happy birthday but he was busy playing Thai Xbox Sushi or something.
7 Jan
My favourite phone-buddy of all time, DJ, celebrated as well. I even got to talk to her for the first time in ages!
8 Jan
My favourite Detective Inspector Monkey Pirate Queen of all time, Emily, returns to London in under 12 hours.

Hooray for all of you!

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sweden, part 2: How I saw it

(Continuing from part 1)

Christmas in Sweden, Denmark in the New Year. A fun holiday or two, visiting old friends and new countries. This was exciting! As it turns out, however, everyone involved had a different idea of just what was going on.

My impression of things

Alex and Vader were spending Christmas at Smurfette's place in a small town near Gothenburg, Sweden. They'd stay there a couple of weeks and then take the train to Copenhagen, Denmark, to visit Legoland.

Alex thought it would be awesome if we could do it all together.

Bob and I would fly to Gothenburg, take a train to the small town that Smurfette comes from. We'd muck around with them for a couple of days and fly back to England. After being back at work for a week, we'd fly out again—joining our friends in Denmark. We'd explore Legoland and spend the rest of the weekend eating waffle-cones and Danish pastries before returning to our regularly scheduled Blighty.

part 3 and part 4)

Update June 2006: Added navigation to the parts that followed

Private tattoo

A quick laugh — this best belly-button tattoo ever (warning: slightly dodgy picture). Also, there's another one a little lower down (warning: even dodgier picture)

Ah, body art. Where's Vegan Jo, the corporate punk, these days? Her beautiful, colourful tats covered most of her upper body -- often peeking out of her sensibly flash business casual attire.

Sweden, part 1: Casual beginnings

After some brief exchanges, my friend Bob and I planned a trip to Sweden for Christmas. When I say brief exchanges, I mean two sub-minute conversations with a drunken man at farewell parties, two e-mail messages and a partridge in a pear tee. By this stage we had dates and flights and everything. Very organised, I think!

(Continued in part 2, part 3 and part 4)

Update June 2006: Added links to the mayhem that followed.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Not exactly 1984

I watched a whole episode of Celebrity Big Brother, and enjoyed it. What has become of me?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Clearing the backlog

It may be a bit belated, but Merry Christmas, everybody.

I hope everyone had a better Christmas dinner than my efforts.

Tune in next week when I wish my readers (both of them) all the best for 2006!