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Posts Tagged ‘London’

One week anniversary

Important news first: I GOT A JOB!

I’ll be working as a receptionist for The Health Works, a centre that offers yoga, pilates, and bellydancing, as well as several types of physical and mental therapies. I visited last week hoping to take a yoga class and ended up chatting extensively with Jo, the Director. This morning I had a wonderfully informal interview, and I’m going to begin training tomorrow. This position is ideal for me for several reasons: first, I’m fascinated by all the services offered here and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from the practitioners; everyone is super friendly, so I think it’ll be a great social haven (I’ve already been invited to the Christmas party!); it’s a flexible, part-time job, which means I’ll still have time to attend poetry shows and theatre performances and maybe pick up some freelance writing gigs on the side; and it’s a 15-minute walk from my house, so I can save time and money on transit. Hooray!

What else has happened this week? Here’s a short list:

  • Dinner with my flatmates and their former flatmate at this incredible Portuguese restaurant called The Windmill on High Street. I’m planning to take my grandmother there when she comes to visit the neighbourhood.
  • Bang Said the Gun reunion! See my post about this wonderful poetry series.
  • Bought a yoga mat and making good use of it.
  • Tried biking with one of those London rental bikes in Hyde Park and beyond.
  • Checked out Sexual Nature (exhibit about the mating habits of various animals; so so good) at the Natural History Museum; photos posted on Facebook!
  • Visited my grandmother in Upminster (and learned to avoid transit on weekends; replacement buses take forever…) and met her boyfriend, who is a total sweetheart. I approve.
  • Attended Disco Night at The Cock Tavern (not kidding…) with flatmate R and gossiped about boys.
  • Invited myself to a picnic with my new poetry friend W and ended up meeting several members of her beautiful, welcoming family. Nigerian wedding leftovers shared in a gorgeous park on a Sunday: what more could I ask for?
  • Went to see The Golden Dragon at Arcola Theatre with J. Holmes and caught up over a delicious meal at a nearby Turkish restaurant. Funny thing about this show: I went in not knowing what I was about to see, and part-way in I concluded that this was reminiscent of another contemporary German play I had seen recently. Perhaps German theatre is trending something very specific! Funnily enough, this play and the other called Arabian Night were both, in fact, written by the same playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig.
Not bad for one week, including jet lag!
Also, for the past two mornings, I’ve spent close to an hour just walking (and occasionally jogging) around the neighbourhood; not actively searching for anything or analyzing anything, but just allowing myself to soak in my surroundings and my mind to wander. It is very relaxing and very freeing, actually, to be completely anonymous in a place that I currently call home. I could get used to this.

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I’m not sure which title is more accurate. Probably the latter. Though I like to think of myself as a Londoner while I’m living in the city. I try not to unfold maps and wave them around in public (in fact, I’ve resisted buying a map to avoid that temptation altogether), and I try not to ask for directions too frequently. This, of course, has resulted in my getting lost on several occasions. But, hey, at least I’m wearing cute outfits while wandering around desperately searching for the underground.

I feel like I’m way overdue for a blog entry. My reasons for the delay are three-fold:

  1. LIFT Festival kept me busy! Oh my goodness, we’re talking about 12-17 hour days. Part of that is travel time: living in Upminster means it take 1-2 hours to get anywhere in central London. Also, there were a few complications with the company from Tunisia: set pieces and props arriving late, trying to organize rehearsal space, and arranging for media interviews in our few spare hours. Even after the company returned home, I was keen to attend other LIFT shows, including Home Sweet Home, Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans, Beloved and Haircuts by Children.

    Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans

  2. I’m still working on my thesis. Nuff said.
  3. I’m applying for jobs in London. Man, I hadn’t realized what hard work that can be! I haven’t actually applied for a job in about 5 years: in Ottawa, people have been nice enough to offer them to me based on my prior qualifications. Also, I’ve been in school, so I haven’t had to worry too much about having a full-time job that actually pays a full-time salary. I’m really hoping for this Assistant Producer job with the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill. Check out the description: isn’t it so perfect for me? They have a mini outdoors festival on this week, and I definitely plan to attend/participate in some shows.

Gate Theatre presents DOMINI PÚBLIC

So yes, if I do find an arts job, I plan to live here permanently for at least one year. I’m looking forward to this adventure, but there a few things I’ll have to get used to. I’m going to provide a list of London quirks for anyone thinking of visiting or living here in the near future. Perhaps some fellow Londoners would like to add some items in the comments section. But for now:

  • People see theatre. Like, it’s not a completely niche thing. There is an audience for professional theatre. There is an audience for community theatre. There is an audience for children’s theatre. And there is an audience for weird little site-specific outdoor pieces that take places in obscure corners of the city. I love that people are aware of the arts around them. It is very inspiring.
  • The underground (and all associated forms of transportation) is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, the trains are frequent and generally reliable — except when there is construction, which happens every weekend and some weekdays. In those cases, some lines are closed entirely and you have to reroute your trip. And then the tube stops running just after midnight, even on weekends! Thankfully there are night buses that are in operation across the city. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I’m living in Upminster, which requires a long train ride to get home… which means my nights end before 11pm. Not much time for a post-show drink.
  • There is little to no public recycling. Plus most of the little Italian cafes charge extra if you want to “eat in”, so everyone gets take-out and just throws the waste in the garbage afterward. It makes me cringe so much.
  • Don’t bother asking for directions. Most people hardly know where they’re going, let alone where you’re trying to go. Just check the detailed maps at bus stops.
  • Bang Said The Gun satisfies my need for awesomeness every week. This loud and rambunctious series focuses on spoken word, but welcomes every other kind of art form and every kind of artist. The organizers were incredibly sweet with me, and they even added my name to the (competitive) open mic list even though I arrived a bit late – again, thanks to changes on the underground. Through this series, I found out that London is brimming with poetry shows, and I plan to attend as many of them as possible! Props also to Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Cafe.
  • It doesn’t actually rain that much. Uh, knock on wood.
  • Very few people have commented on my accent. It seems like everyone in London has a slightly different accent, depending on the neighbourhood, or because they come from Ireland or Wales or Scotland or some other part of the world. Each accent is as individual as the people who carry them. It’s kind of beautiful, actually.
  • London to Paris by train takes just over 2 hours and costs £130 return trip – that is, if you book only two weeks in advance. Oh, by the way, I’m going to Paris for a few days in August. Yippee!

I plan to return to Ottawa on August 16. Until then, I’m going to discover some London hot spots! Keep you posted.

Shakespeare's house for rent. Anyone?

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Bye bye Canada!

Right now I’m sitting at the airport preparing for yet another trip to the old world. This time I’m visiting the UK for a really fun gig: I’m going to be playing “Host” to this theatre company from Tunisia that is participating this year in the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). I’m meeting with the festival organizers on Saturday to sort out all the details. They’ve asked me to meet them by some “van” near the National Theatre. Sounds suspicious.

I return to Ottawa on August 16, and until then I’ll be spending time in London, acquainting myself with the theatre scene. And I may take a trip to France for the Avignon Festival and then check out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

I’m going to rely on the power of the internet for suggestions, so here are a few questions I’ve been asking myself and haven’t yet had the chance to find the answers. If you are able to respond helpfully to any of the following items, please post your advice in the comments section below. Thank you!

  • I need a phone while I’m in London. Is there someway of “renting” a phone for just these six weeks and “borrowing” a UK phone number? Pay-as-you-go with text messaging would be perfect for me. I do have my Motorola phone from Ottawa, and I have canceled my regular plan with Rogers: is it possible to apply what I need to that phone? Could I also use this same plan in France and Scotland?
  • I’m supposed to take this Tunisian theatre company to some cool places in central London. Any ideas of places to go / things to see that aren’t too costly and would be interesting to French-speaking visitors?
  • I’ve bought an Oyster pass (weekly) for the underground. Is that the cheapest and most efficient way of getting around?
  • Am I allowed to take a bicycle on the underground, or is it merely frowned upon?
  • Is it crazy of me to think I can get away with biking in Central London?
  • I guess I need to find myself a bicycle first…
  • What are the regulations for busking in London? I’m thinking of trying my luck as an amateur flautist.
  • I don’t know anything about Avignon. Enlighten me.
  • I don’t know much about Edinburgh either. Except that they have this awesome Fringe festival.
  • Is it easier / cheaper / more convenient to travel by bus, by train, or by plane within Europe?
  • Should I refrain from speaking with a faux English accent? Sometimes I can’t help myself!

* I’m not actually a female pilot. I just think that it’s a really sexy term, and I’ll favour alliteration over correct definitions any day.

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