Stones? What year is this???

Yes, I’ve heard the Brits use the word stone to describe their weight before (a coworker wants to loose 2 stone) and i even know what is means (1 stone = 14 lbs, by the way).

But today, I’m flipping through the channels on TV (skipping by Friends and Big Brother, yes they really are ALWAYS on!) and I pass a show about weight loss makeovers. I happen to pause at the exact moment that the rather large woman is getting onto a bathroom scale. And what do I see? A screen shot with her weight … in Stone!
Here I was thinking that the use of stone was simply a colloquialism, something leftover in British speak, and now I’ve learned it’s so much a part of their vocabulary that bathroom scales are made to report this bizarre form of measurement.

What’s next? Cubits, furlongs? quarts? Shillings? Fortnights (damn.. they still use that)

I shouldn’t be too surprised. A quick snoop on wikipedia and I learn that the UK decided to go metric only 43 years ago, and is still in transition to the metric system! 1995 was the first year all packaged goods sold in Britain required to be labelled in metric units. 1995? Christ, Algeria has been metric since December 1842 but 153 years later I can only just get a bottle of corn syrup in liters. Bravo England.

And if you have time … look at this:

Highway Robbery at Leister Square

This should really be lesson number one if you’re moving to London: don’t ever see a movie at the Vue Cinema in Leister Square. Well .. unless you think it’s normal to pay 12.50 for a flick. yes, 25 Canadian Dollars!
Now the thing is, I get to the theater with only a few minutes to spare so when the price comes up, I pause for a split second, try to remember what I paid at the move theatre in Angel a few months back… unpause, no time for this, and I pay the surly teenager (nice to see that is a universal constant).
Anyway, i text a few friends about how expense it is, and it seems that EVERYONE knows that Leister Square is overpriced. But let me tell you how much .. DOUBLE!

One friend simply texts: That’s Central London!

Is this even legal??
Come on! Double!

Plus side, The Darjeeling Limited was good. Also, I’ve learned my lesson -won’t go there again.

Oh, and whilst on a rant … British tv sucks. Nothing good is ever on. It’s just Big Brother and reruns of Friends. And as I sit listening to crap Smash Hits Radio … radio is not winning any rave reviews from me either. Not a good day for entertainment.

Is it spring yet?

I’m getting sick of the darkenss at 4pm! It’s 4:45 right now and pitch dark out there.
And today it was pissing rain.
These are not the sorts of winter days I’m used to!

But it is fairly mild. Surely spring is just around the corner…

Champagne Eurostar

The jetlag from our trip to Hong Kong is still with me, although slowly getting better. The first morning I woke up at 5:30am, next 6:30am and today 7am. It’s progress.

Having drinks last night with my friend Heather the topic came up about the new Eurostar terminal at Kings Cross. Heather has already taken advance of the fabulous convenience for us North London girls, but she did note that the famed champagne bar was no where to be seen. Wide eyed and bushy tailed, I popped in early this morning to have a look.

It’s finally arrived, the most publicised part of this new terminal:


Tiny eh?

I took a peak around at some of the other services. It seems most of the cafes and eateries are French. I suppose that keeps with the theme of an international terminal linking you to France, but if I was French and came up to London I think i’d be a bit disappointed to see crepes … oh how exotic .

Sent from my BlackBerry� wireless device

In other news some change is in the air. I’ve accepted a new job. Reasons aside, I will note that the new job is in Mayfair, one of three distinct financial districts in London (The City, Canary Wharf, Mayfair) and I’m very much looking forward to exploring my new area. Belgravia has been interesting, but Mayfair definitely sees more action.

Mips’ big day out

A few days late… but Sunday morning we decide to let Mips out to explore our English garden (translation little cubicle of cement with some overgrown vines out back). One of us forgets to lock the door and next thing we know, he’s off exploring the neighbouring cubicles:


It took a lot of persuasions but Jason manages to drag his ass back into the house. Anyway, mediocre cat story aside, I thought the reader(s) of this blog might appreciate seeing a shot of the back of our house and the random smattering of brick walls that divide up the space:


Guy Fox Day Fireworks

This weekend is “fireworks day” in the UK. In Canada we reserve the privilege of lighting stuff on fire for some old hag’s birthday; here in the UK they use fireworks to celebrate terrorism.

The day is called Guy Fawkes Day (not to be confused with Gay Fox day, the celebration of the end of persecution of homosexual vulpini). Guy Fawkes was in a group of Roman Catholics who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I on the 5th of November of 1605. Basically they celebrate that a religious fundamentalist tried to kill a bunch innocent people – and it doesn’t seem clear that they’re celebrating that he got caught or that he was trying to blow up parliament. But regardless of the motives, it’s always good to see some greenhouse-gas-emitting explosions on a warm Saturday night.

Sylvia was out of town tonight so I attended the festivities myself by attending the free fireworks display in Blackheath. There were a hell of a lot of people out and the town was packed with police keeping people moving:


The fireworks show was quite impressive. Here are a few of the (many) pictures I took with a tripod:




Here’s a good picture of the big finale:


Several people had sparklers out:


The show was only about an hour long, and I spent twice that time getting there and back, but it was still an enjoyable outing. Let’s hear it for the war on terror!

A Very Happy Hallowe’en

I’m sitting at home all alone this Hallowe’en; Sylvia has been very busy with a project at work. Hallowe’en isn’t taken nearly as seriously here in the UK as it is back in Canada – here’s it’s pretty much just a kid’s holiday (though I did see a few students dressed up on my ride through Cambridge today). Now that we’re living in a house I have to hide inside to keep the kids away. I’m shocked that kids actually trick-or-treat around the King’s Cross area; I guess prostitutes and drug dealers have kids too.

But this is a special Hallowe’en for me tonight. Want to hear a really scary story? Sylvia and I have been sleeping on the floor (and more recently an air matress) for the past 3 weeks! Yep, since we moved into the new unfurnished house we’ve had no place to sleep! This terrible state of affairs came to a close today after our new mattress was delivered by Dreams. Here she is:

New Bed

I cannot tell you how excited I am. We decided to go all out: a King-size (or as they say here, “Super King”) mattress with 6,000 luxurious pocket springs and a sweet, sweet layer of memory foam on top. That’s what I like to hear. They even provided it in a “split” mattress that zips two smallers mattresses together to fit it up the small stairway in our London home. That’s the miracles of modern mattress technology; is there anything they can’t do?

It’s going to feel soooooo good tonight. This is the best Hallowe’en ever.

Friday Night is Roller Disco!

What happens when you take a bunch of British teenagers, dress them up in what they think is 80s clothing (having no living memory of it), feed them alcohol, give them roller skates, and put them all into a small club? If you guessed a recipe for disaster, your right! Welcome to Roller Disco at King’s Cross.

Kasia was in town and we wanted to try something new for her only Friday in town. Sylvia suggested Roller Disco and the plans were in place. I actually used to go roller skating in the 80s, so I had dreams of revisiting my childhood with a big skating rink with Belinda Carlile replaced with banging house music. Sylvia had similar aspirations; probably related to the days she used to ice skate like a champion (though not dressed as a Treasure Troll). Needless to say it wasn’t quite what we expected.
First of all, there was mass disorganisation. And trust me, if there’s one thing that pisses Sylvia off the most it’s disorganisation. “Why the hell don’t they have a different queue for skate pick up and returns? If I ran this place ….” Combine that chaos with sweaty drunken people on roller skates. Good times! It was a great show: as soon as one drunkard fell over the rest fell like bowling pins:

The most difficult part for me is that it’s tough to get your grove on whilst on roller skates. Bottom line: great to do once for the experience but we won’t become roller regulars. My childhood memories will never be relived. Oh well, at least Jesus approves:

7 Things I Hate about Moving

1. Not being able to figure out new appliances.
Our slick stainless steal gas stove has been well loved. All the numbers and settings are rubbed out. How I managed to
cook a turkey on Monday I’ll never know, but cooking has become a retro experience. If the recipe says cook at 350F …
I cook in what feels like a hot oven when I stick my hand in to check.

2. Not being able to figure out new appliances, again.
After several hours of angry beeps from our washing machine Jason figured out the the cold water pipe connected to the machine had been shut off. Fun.

3. Getting screwed by moving companies and their supposed maximum prices

4. Trying to get the Post Office to forward our mail to the new address when postal workers are on strike and the post office is closed.

5. Not knowing where any of your stuff is. Problem is much worse when you have 3 floors to contend with.

6. Dodgy pipes that lead to leaking showers that lead to wires shorting out that lead to lots of sparking and arching that lead to small panic attacks, a mad (futile) dash to Tescos in search of a fire extinguisher and a quick call to the fire brigade.

7. Trying to find the cats after 2 trucks worth of firemen search the entire house for that illusive fusebox (in noisy boots I might add) and scare the ba-jesus out of them. Note, cats like to hide IN fireplaces.

8. Not having internet for almost a month while the internet muppets sort out how to hook us up again. Come on!

Well lets hope the new place is worth all this hassel.
At least this answers where Britlog has been lately.

A Change of Season

You can pack away your tank tops (or vests as these crazy Brits call them). Summer seems to be over folks. Maybe I shouldn’t call it Summer since we never really had Summer. No, I arrived in March and suddenly the jet lag faded and Spring hit us with a warm smack upside our heads. I remember April lunches in the city parkette across from my work and the weekends with Jason trying each park on London’s leafy menu.
But it never really got warmer than that. I think we had Spr-ummer. Which is probably why I’m more aware of of this change of season.

It’s cold alright, early November in Toronto cold.

I don’t have much else to report. We might be moving soon, but I don’t want to share too much. We haven’t seen the lease yet and I don’t want to jinx it. We’ve come so close to renting a new place twice now, I can’t bare the thought of having to start the search all over again.

For now, I wait for my lease, pull on a jumper (that’s a sweater don’t yu know!) and watch the MOBO awards on BBC Three. How can such a powerful voice come from such a tiny shell of a body?? Amy Winehouse, put down the heroin and pick up a Banger in a Bap (..bap! see, I’m learning).

It’s Been One Fantastic Year

One year this week, September 10th, 2006, I entered the United Kingdom. And what a year! Sylvia and I got married on the 23rd (our first year anniversary, “paper,” is fast approaching) and after spending almost 6 months living apart we started living London. We went through the arduous process of importing our two cats into the United Kingdom and we both started new jobs.

Travel this year for Sylvia and I has included Fiji, The Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Thailand, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, and all around England. We’ve already got a few more trips lined up to Germany, Italy, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. My business travels have taken me to Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, The USA, and Canada with a total of over 63 flights this year – and that’s just from flights where I kept the boarding passes! I managed to avoid going to Korea somehow, despite having LG and Samsung as customers; we’ll see how long that lasts.

This year we’ve viewed more flats in London than I’d care to remember: dealing with estate agents is a truly painful experience. We have had a few friends make the long journey over to visit and we have as many again coming in the next few weeks!

We’ve had lot of interesting experiences that have made it to the blog including attending horse races, dealing with the tube, travelling by train, hunting for the perfect flat, buying Manolos, navigating the floodwaters, watching local sports, exploring English cuisine, mobile blogging, tasting sweeteners, bitching about the weather, hanging out with the cats, stumbling through the language barrier, getting well deserved status, attending tradeshows, exploring the Sunday pub culture, tasting cheese, the trials and tribulations of international professionals, ranting about the commute, ranting about budget airlines, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of travel.

So what do we think about living here? We bloody love it. Let’s hope 2008 is even better.

Licence to … Drive

I’ve got my UK driver’s licence! Oh yeah!

Driver’s Licence

No, it’s not what you think – I didn’t take a road test. Actually I still have yet to attempt to drive in the UK at all. Through the miracle of international treaties, I can drive in the UK without ever setting foot in a right-hand drive car. It’s like diplomatic immunity but … well … nothing like diplomatic immunity.

Consider this list of countries:

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Korea
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Zimbabwe

What do these have in common? Well nothing, except that the UK allows people with driver’s licences from this haphazard list of countries to “trade in” for a UK licence. My Canadian licence was due to expire next month so I figured I might as well do the swap. By the way, I notice a disproportionate number of “island countries” in this list. I think there’s a pro-island bias in the UK.

But it’s not all roses and kitten tails. I cheerfully ordered the relevant forms but when they arrived I found their dirty little racist secret:

Automatic Only Licence for Canadians

What?! So you’re telling me I go take a driver’s test in Zimbabwe and I’m a-okay to putter around in a manual transmission but a Canadian can’t hack it? Are they saying that the drivers of Barbados are more capable than I, a noble graduate of Ontario Truck Driving School (car lessons)? I feel so singled out, betrayed. I bet if I were born on an Island they wouldn’t have any issues with me. At least they printed it on 100% recycled paper.

But then I realized I’m kinda crap at driving a manual transmission anyway and they’re probably right: most Canadians can’t drive a manual transmission car worth shit.

Ah well. I traded in a licence that expires in 2007 for one that expires in 2017. Shazam! Maybe I’ll try taking a driving test in Zimbabwe next time I’m there.

Let the Chaos begin..

Fresh off the BBC website:

Tube strike travel chaos expected
Tube passengers are braced for travel chaos this week after unions confirmed a 72-hour strike by maintenance workers would start on Monday.

This should be a fun few days. I can’t even imagine what the streets will be like, and Jason has our camera!

The Italian Shop

I new deli slash sandwich shop slash cafe opened in Belgravia the other week. It seems I’ve found London’s version of my much loved Toronto Bay street establishment, Mercatto’s. Except perhaps that this place takes the Italian vibe beyond shelves stocked with Italian products, and further stocks their shop with (pretty, this is belgravia after all) Italian staff who yell orders at each other in full on pationate Italian.
They make a tasty rocket and tomato salad too.

Sent from my BlackBerry? wireless device

Tab day at the Sandwich Shop

I stopped by what has quickly become my favourite lunch time stop: Buckingham Coffee Lounge. Tucked behind a shopping complex with the likes of mainstream eateries such as Nandos, Eat, Wagamamas and the ever present Marks and Spencer, my little sandwich shop is delightfully simple. No Rocket + Brie & Cranberry compote baguette to be found here, just straight forward simple British sandwiches. Which of course means obscene amounts of mayonaise. But if I’m careful in my ordering I can avoid the typical gloopy english sandwich and get something quite tasty, and for under £ 2.50! Lately, I’ve become a bit of a regular, and as a result I’ve noticed that I’m not alone. The same 4 staff members who work there every day are starting to know me, but not as well as the hoards of cabbie drivers who seem to come by everyday. I’ve noticed the black cabs lined up outside before, but never paid much attention to how often these guys lunch here. But today the staff was extra chatty with them, since I learned today is tab day. At least half the place was setteling their weekly tabs with the shop. Quite the trusting policy especially given that we’re in central London and all the papers on the coffee shop tables are splashed with headlines about the 11 year old boy shot dead in a drive by shooting (err.. ride-by, it was from a bicycle. The killer is beleived to be 13). But in this little sandwich shop, London feels very friendly.

In this photo, you can see the green sign for the shop, and all the black (and one token red) cabs lined up outside.

image/jpeg Sent from my BlackBerry? wireless device

Potter Spotter Part 2

Continuing on the Harry Potter mania, there was a full gaggle of muggles at platform 9 3/4 today:

They were all fully decked out in capes, and the chaperones had wizards hats. How odd.
King’s Cross is busy today in general. I don’t know why, but today seems to be tourist day and my normally empty train is packed with poorly dressed fat Americans. Admittedly the weather is beautiful, but that seems to be the norm this past week.

BlackBerry Blogging

To continue our reputation of “the house of the future,” I’ve decided it was about time to set up mobile blogging on britlog. Through the miracles of modern technology, Sylvia and I can now post to the blog from our BlackBerrys. Here’s Sylvia blogging on the street:

This will ensure we can post all of our rage as it happens.

At long last, Summer is here

As the government and insurance companies tally up the flood damage, we finally get a a snippit of sun.  Blue skies, sun in my eyes … (sigh) … I haven’t had a lunch break like this since April.  So much for June and July!

Today I slapped on some comfortable shoes and explored deeper into Belgravia, an area that is mostly residential and for some reason, under perpetual construction and renovation. Perhaps this is a case of keeping up with the Jones’, because every seeminly perfect looking house is being gutted and massively renovated. And it seems that each house requires a large team of construction workers who all love to take their lunches sitting on the curb in front of the multi million pound home they are working on (and by multi I mean 15…). It makes for an interesting walk for me. With every corner that I round I am faced with a street lined with learing men all crouched down at knee level, keen to make comments.

But mixed in between the gorgeous creamy white homes, pockets of retail exist. It’s quite hidden, so walking along these small streets is like walking through a quiet little village. A quiet super expensive village (think a loaf of fresh artisan bread for 4 pounds).

Still, how nice is this weather :


No, we’re not under water

For all of you who keep asking, no, we’re not flooded. We’re well away from it as we were smart enough not to build our castle on a swamp. However last weekend we were in the Cotswolds and, while not the worst of the flooded areas, we definitely ran into some water. Here are some more pictures from our weekend.

We visited “The Slaughters”:

The Slaughters

Our hotel in Lower Slaughter was flooded:

Floded Hotel in Lower Slaughter

Here’s a picture of the reception as we were checking in:

Flooded Reception

Fortunately they were able to put us in their “cottages” that were up the hill.

Several parts of Lower Slaughter were flooded:

Flooding at the Lower Slaughter Mill

We wanted to do the “Wardens’ Way” hike to Upper Slaughter but the path was … under the weather:

Wardens’ Way Flooding

The Slaughters weren’t the worst hit in the area. We had to turn around a few times whilst driving through the Cotswolds:

Flooded Road

Flooded Road

Of course The Guardian found a much better “flood” sign picture than I did:

Guardian UK Flood Picture

But in the end we still had a great time in The Slaughters:

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Potter Spotter

Every day this week I’ve seen people reading the new Harry Potter book (Sylvia on the other hand takes the road less chav’elled and hasn’t seen any). With this being the last in the series, it may be the last season of Potter Spotting in England so I’m glad I had a chance to see it.

I saw this one on Thursday:

Harry on the Bus

C’mon man, it’s been 6 days since its release! How slow a reader are you?

It’s not surprising that all the chavs have it. It’s available for only £5 at Tescos*:

£5 Harry Potter

* purchase of £50 of groceries required. Who the hell spends £50 at Tescos Express?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Harry Potter dies.

Jesus hates photography

If you surf on any of the big photography sites you’ll know that photography is a tough business these days. There are more and more places that are banning photography. Usually this is chalked up to the increased threat of terrorism in this post-9/11 world. However my visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral has given me another reason to despise those freedom-hating photographers – respect for religion:

No Photographs

At first I was surprised. Why should they want to limit photographs of St. Paul’s Cathedral. a beautiful work of 17th century architecture? Could the creator of the universe really be concerned with my charge-couple device capturing free photons emitted from the church interior, converting them to electrical impulses and storing them in non-volitile memory? Surely that can’t defy the 2nd commandment? So I ignored the sign and snapped a few nice photos:

(Note: I can’t confirm it, but viewing these pictures may damn your soul for all eternity. You have been warned)

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

But then I started thinking: maybe the folks at St. Paul’s were right? Did you know that there are absolutely no photographs of Jesus? None! Not even after he went to America after his first resurrection. Of course, you may say, this is because photography wasn’t invented until after Jesus’ death. But let’s face it – Jesus was no ordinary man and was known for his miraculous abilities. While there have been primative pinhold cameras for many centuries, the first usable photography was available in the 1820 after the invention of chemical photography. Contrast this with Jesus, who lived in mortal form from approximately 0AD to approximately 30AD or 33AD. The undeniable fact that we can conclude from this: if Jesus wanted his picture taken he would have invented photography earlier.

So it’s clear that St. Michael’s has a a legitimate reason to believe that Jesus hates photography. However, if you still feel that you absolutely must have some photographs of the interior of St. Paul’s for your collection at home, fret not: there are plenty of photographs available for purchase at the gift shop:

Gift Shop Photos

I’m sure these photos are OK though: the photographers were probably ordained ministers and used cameras that were bathed in holy water or something. After all, banning photography to increase gift shop sales whilst claiming publicly that it’s for religious reasons would be blasphemous, and clearly that couldn’t be possible from the bless’ed staff of St. Paul’s.

Luck brings me to a shoe sale

It’s amazing what good luck you can have.
It’s Thursday, Jason is out with his parents touring around London visting St.Paul’s Cathedral:


me .. I’m at work.
Dinner time rolls around and I suggest to Jason that we take his parents to something somewhat unique to London, a gastropub (high end food, but in a pub). I’d heard that this place called The Pigs Ear was good and it’s in Chelsea near Sloane Square which I thought would be a nice place to take the in-laws. We are after all trying to show them all parts of London, not just the touristy parts.
Well as luck would have it the gastropub happened to be on a very small side street that has nothing but houses … and the only Manolo Blahnik store in London. Actually, in the whole EU there is only two stores, this one and one in Spain.
It seemed a bit odd that I would stumble upon it this way.
But then I noticed a sign in the window: sale.
And a 2 day sale, starting tomorrow! What kind of good luck is this?!

Well that random Thursday night at the Pigs Ear is what brings me back to Chelsea on a Saturday morning:

.. and it was everything I hoped it would be.