Goodbye London

Can’t say I enjoyed my final hours in London.

There was so much to do and so little time, primarily working out how to cash my arcane cheque from Winter Wonderland.

I swear I told them in November I didn’t have a UK bank account (given it’s near impossible to set one up as a nomad without looking like a money launderer) and was told cashing it wouldn’t be a problem.

Well it was.

Not that they recalled that conversation and not that they were willing to put aside this infuriating ‘can’t do’ English attitude to ensure I could access the money I was relying on to see me through until I get a real job back home.

In hindsight, me losing the plot at one of their HR ladies on the phone, after she, without knowing any of the facts was quick to blame me and began patronisingly calling me ‘Rachael’ at the beginning of each of her sentences as if I didn’t know my own name, clearly didn’t help my cause.

But seriously, it was insult to injury after enduring 75 hours of being locked in a token booth and forced to listen to Christmas music on repeat, while desperately needing to pee.

All I can say is thank goodness for the parentals, who saw right through my too proud to ask for help ‘I’ll be fine’ facade and immediately topped up my bank account with an emergency loan.

Without them I would have been royally screwed right now, because despite working full time for the past two months and not paying rent thanks to the perks of purebred cat-sitting, money goes nowhere in London.

It’s a city you need money to have fun in.
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And as much as I loved my time here, it’s not the type of place I can see myself getting a flat and a career job in.

Everyone is in a rush, everyone is stressed, you queue for everything, it takes a good hour to get anywhere, thousands of people resort to internet dating because it’s a tough city to crack and most disturbingly – people outwardly ‘how dare you’ tisk when the Tube conductor comes over the loud speaker to announce in a monotone voice that there’s a delay on the line after some poor soul saw no way to improve their life but to jump in front of a train – at rush hour.

The English also have this habit of making things exceptionally difficult when they don’t need to be – the payment from Winter Wonderland is case and point, as is needing to see a doctor when you don’t have a fixed abode, or going to the optometrist for contact lenses.

Above all, I’m positive London’s no place I want to raise my kids.

Clearly I’m talking in the future (the only baby I have at the moment is a food baby) but watching mums (and the elderly) struggling up Tube stairs (because a lot of stations lack step-free access) while intolerant commuters shunt past them is something I never want to experience first-hand.

But perhaps the tipping point for me is there’s no seaside in London.

Sounds silly, but being from New Zealand not being able to see the ocean makes me feel just a little bit claustrophobic.

So on pretty much my only day off in December I managed one last day-trip to Brighton to see the beachside town – taking my sister’s best friend’s mum along for the journey.
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In hindsight we probably shouldn’t be allowed to travel together – managing to get on the wrong train and only clicking a good half hour later when we both thought it was funny the train conductor didn’t mention anything about going to Brighton.

Credit to us we were at the right platform at the right time – we just got on the wrong train.

As for Brighton (when we finally got there), it’s not really a beach, it’s pebbles and one hell of a rolling current.
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And as for the pier with its dated arcade games and crusty carnival rides deep in winter hibernation, despite being so incredibly different to home (where the ocean is left to revel in its natural beauty) I actually found Brighton Pier tackily brilliant and strangely charming.

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So all in all what I’m trying to say is that I’m confident I’ve made the right decision to go home.

But surprisingly I’ve accumulated a lot of clothes from my year away, which I blame mostly on my recent discovery of Primark.

I kinda wish Ear Candle Wax Girl never introduced us though, as packing my rucksack took numerous attempts and I’m actually scared to open it now for fear of being buried under an avalanche of mainly blouses.

Sadly I didn’t have room for bus face, though it would have been mighty easy to steal her given she packed herself.

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But I don’t think she would have survived my extended stopover in South Korea – apparently they eat cat here, and dog, and according to the pub’s Mexican chef – ‘they eat baby.’

I thought he was pulling my leg until he pulled up articles like this on my iPad.

Surely that’s cannibalism?

Maybe eating cats and dogs isn’t so bad after all…

My first orphans’ Christmas

I don’t think I’ve been proper homesick until Christmas Eve.

It’s not that I don’t miss home, I do, it’s just I haven’t experienced this full-blown smack you in the face homesickness that people describe.

Then Christmas Eve rolled round and opposed to catching up with all my friends at a bar in Nelson and going carol-singing with the family on the church steps, I found myself pouring pints and using every part of my will to not burst into tears – especially after I learnt we were staying open later than anticipated, meaning I missed my Skype date for my nephew’s first Christmas.

Instead at the pre-arranged Skype time I found myself polishing glasses opposite a very drunk patron saying on repeat – ‘I know you don’t like me. You don’t like me do you? It’s ok that you don’t like me. Why don’t you like me?’ all because I refused to serve him – not because I didn’t like him but because he was shit-faced.

So by the time I managed to get home it was already Christmas and in a desperate attempt to cheer myself up I decided to play dress-ups with the cats.

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But putting that little Santa hat on their heads was a bit like animal cruelty – especially watching their tiny paws frantically clawing at their throats in an attempt to pry the elastic band off, so much so I didn’t have the heart to try again to get the perfect Seasons Greetings from ‘Bus Face’ (my affectionate nickname for Leila) and ‘Ellie-cat’ photo.

I then comaed only to be woken a few hours later, not by snow as I had hoped, but by thunder and lightning and sideways rain which made it difficult to get motivation to walk to my orphans’ Christmas brunch at the pub.

I’m glad I made the effort though, there were eggs and bacon and crumpets and Vogels, a kiwi pumping out Flat Whites on the coffee machine – and a real Christmas tree.

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Post-brunch I excused myself for my obligatory Christmas nap but it turned into a four hour one, to the point I actually had to be woken for Secret Santa.
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And, I was still half asleep when I made the mortifying discovery that the present I had brought, which was a joke present (a giant Hello Kitty head filled with bubble-bath) and a cool present (a selection of awesome candies like Pez, Push Pops and Haribo) wrapped separately but tied together with string had come apart, meaning they got mistaken for two individual presents.

By the time I realised it was too late and Coconut next to me (his nickname because he’s from Samoa) and the only one who knew my predicament made me feel worse whisper-teasing ‘you ruined Christmas’ at every opportunity, before that somewhat awkward moment at the end when everyone couldn’t work out why there was one present left under the tree.

Afterwards I felt so bad for the poor sod who got the Hello Kitty head I fessed up and gave him the spare present too.

As for Christmas dinner, the concept of a full-blown roast really suits Christmas when it’s cold and generally miserable outside.

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It makes less sense in a South Pacific Christmas, though we try anyway – then again my Aunty’s festive summer raw cauliflower and crushed gingernut salad doesn’t make much sense either.

I ended up piking from the pub at midnight, while the revellers stayed on until it was light outside and spent the next two days on the couch with an pre-migraine-ish headache watching the Kardashians, leaving only to fetch more Whittakers’ chocolate and RJ’s licorice sent over from my big sister.

Thinking about it, I’m sure there must have been an ulterior motive for her sending it to me, given I get to see her for the first time in a year in little under a month and when the roles were reversed and she came back from her year abroad I once joked – ‘you were so fat you worked up a sweat walking around the house.’

But now here I am about to go home a good 10kgs heavier than her – and she just had a baby.

To add insult to injury, she wore my what I would deem my ‘skinny Rachael’ clothes as maternity clothes.

And, I would truly like to do something about the shape of my arse but I live off pub food because it’s free and last time I attempted running in London I face-planted and spent the next three weeks plying gravel out of my hands and elbows.

Karma I tell you, karma.

As a endnote… a big thank you to Ernesto and Emma for letting me use their Christmas Day photos because I was too slack to take my own!

Diary of a bar wench

Dottie: ‘Where are you from?’
Me: ‘New Zealand.’
Dottie: ‘Good, why don’t you go back there then?’

Meet Dottie, once high society MBEr (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and now progressively losing her marbles, ripped fur coat wearing, I would deem alcoholic pub regular.

In fact Dottie is so much of a regular at our pub, her bottle of Pinot Grigio is labelled and kept in the bottom left of the wine cooler for when she visits.

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And she visits almost every day (and even more so since she was banned from her other local), meaning my fellow bartenders and I, along with the rest of the regulars, are subjected to having the same conversations with her day in, day out – she truly has the memory of a human goldfish.

Apart from the daily ‘where are you from?’ jibe, there are seven other conversations with Dottie worth noting:

1. Dottie: ‘Do you like England?’
Me: ‘Yes.’
Dottie: ‘Well you should, England did a lot for the colonies.’

2. Dottie: ‘Rachael, do you know what you look like?’
Me: ‘No Dottie.’
Dottie: ‘A Jew.’

3. Dottie: ‘You’re quite common aren’t you?…I’m quite posh.’

4. Dottie: ‘Rachael, do you know I made being gay acceptable in England?’

5. Dottie: ‘Rachael, I would like a bottle of your finest New Zealand wine… I do like to support the colonies.’

6. Dottie: ‘Rachael, do you know I’ve met the Queen on six occasions?’

7. Dottie: ‘Did you know I spent a fortnight with Prince Charles?’

Despite my heart sinking every time she walks through the door, I am strangely sort of fond of Dottie and there was nothing quite as sobering as watching her face light up the other day when Loius Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’ came on and she sat facing the wall theatrically slurring it to herself.

Of course Dottie’s by far not the only colourful regular at our pub – considering the English treat their local like we’d treat our living room.

Other notables include the Cockney twins, one of whom is possibly the world’s worst long drawn out going nowhere storytellers, Driver Dave, who despite always ordering a pint of coke and a plate of wedges never complains when I regularly give him a glass of coke by accident, the American Colonel Sanders’ lookalike who always leaves us a generous tip, the tortured eccentric artist dripping in diamantés who likes to drop into conversation he has a yacht moored in Cannes, and the old Irish chaps who spend their days trying to get my phone number and have one-liners including – ‘where have you been all my life’ to which I usually reply – ‘I don’t think I was alive for most of it.’

But hands down my favourite is Disco Joe.

Disco Joe dresses like Crocodile Dundee and comes in to disco dance to his own music blaring through his headphones early on a Friday or Saturday night.

But you meet some real dregs of society working at a pub too, like the guy who complained about how long it took to get his pint after the glass randomly shattered in my colleague’s hand seeing him bleeding profusely on the floor, the girl who spewed down the front of the bar at 3.30pm on a mentally busy All Blacks’ test match day, the druggie who left her needle right next to the toilet seat for someone to stand on and the fat butch lady from a lawyers’ Christmas Party, who clicked her fingers at me, slapped the bar and yelled ‘excuse me’ to which (quite over her moaning about possibly everything that night) I snapped back, loudly barking – ‘excuse yourself, I am serving another customer, you wait your turn.’

But despite the niggles I strangely enjoy pouring pints, it’s ‘character building’ – or at least that’s what I tell myself, especially in the mornings when I’m getting up close and personal cleaning the men’s urinals, or when I’m hand ringing out the mop because I didn’t realise it came with a detachable squeegee, or when I find myself accidentally giving a customer a gin-less tonic, or a Guinness topped off with cider, or when the Mac’s Gold keg runs out without warning squirting foam at eye level and I loudly exclaim ‘how come it always explodes all over my face’ – which as soon as it’s out of my mouth I realise is about as bad as frustratedly shouting – ‘how come I never get the cock?’ in forth form badminton.

Safe to say being a bar wench, a bit like anything that requires logic and common sense, does not come naturally to me.

Just ask pub regular John, who watched me for a good two minutes the other day trying to fit a coffee mug under the coffee machine before losing it and yelling across the room – ‘Jesus Christ woman, it’s not going to fit.’

He was right.

On that note I should really mention John, one of my favourite regulars, who introduced me to the likes of Slinky Dildo on You Tube in retaliation for introducing him to Can’t Hug Every Cat – which coincidentally pretty much sums me up at the moment, as I find myself purebred cat-sitting this little rascal and her sister for my cousin and his girlfriend over the Christmas break.

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Back to John, this is him dressed as a horse/cross-dressing nun at our fourth anniversary Castle-themed birthday party.

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I went as a princess and while I didn’t find my Prince, I did get pulled aside by a regular and told I should seriously consider moving to Orlando Florida to get a job as Alice in Wonderland at Walt Disney World, which I know was meant to be a compliment but I took a bit like the Flight of the Concords song lyric – ‘you’re so pretty you could be a part-time model.’

But the best thing about working at The Castle is the people I work with, especially my fellow pint pourers Ollie and Freddie, who have resorted to calling me ‘Keisha’ in retaliation for me occasionally mixing up their names and Castle owners Cate and Aaron, who among other things, upped my shifts after I quit Winter Wonderland, let me live upstairs in the spare room for the first three weeks I worked here and accompany me on bike to the bus stop after my late shifts to save me from being accosted by the neighbourhood weirdos.

Case and point – the lady who pooed between two cars opposite the pub in broad daylight a couple of weeks ago.

And I can’t end this blog without mentioning our Mexican chef Ernesto, who calls the gigabytes on his iPod ‘jigabites’ and when the 12th of the 12th and 12:12 rolled around excused himself from his kitchen lair to come downstairs and excitedly proclaim – ‘it’s the ‘apocalypsis.’

But the only ‘apocalypsis’ that came was news that our much loved pub will be closing for good on New Years’ Eve, thanks to the local council voting in favour of developer’s plans to knock it down to make way for a four-storey apartment block.

So as much for me as for you, here is the 360 degree panoramic view of The Castle from how I see it – and will remember it – from behind the bar.

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My nightmare before Christmas

Unless I seriously go off the rails, being locked in a token booth at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park for upwards of 12 hours a day is the closest I will ever come to knowing how a prisoner feels.

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Only difference is I get paid for it.

Actually that’s disputable, I barely get paid for it and I think prisoners actually have a better deal – at least they have a toilet in the corner of their cell.

As for me, if I want to go to the toilet during my double shift (outside of my two unpaid 30-minute meal breaks and my two toilet breaks) I have to humiliatingly walkie talkie beg a supervisor for a ‘comfort break’ – a euphemistic code for ‘please Sir I am about to piss my pants’ which is usually met with a blunt bark down the line – ‘you should have gone during your break.’

But I should have known this job would be horrendous, there were warning bells before I even began.

Take the application process, I spent half a day filling out the forms after spotting the big shiny ‘recruiting now’ banner plastered on their website only to be rudely told ‘applications closed like a fortnight ago.’

So I went and got a job pouring pints, only to get an email the same night at 11pm offering me a job in the token booths and asking me to come in at 11am the next morning for my induction.

Curious, given I never applied to be anywhere near copious amounts of British pounds considering my mathematic illiteracy and even more curiously, my induction happened two days before my actual job interview which consisted of pretty much – ‘I like your Wellington boots, sign here.’

But I think the fact I spoke fluent English worked in my favour and I guess the calibre of talent doesn’t really matter considering it is possibly the easiest, most mind corrodingly dull job one could have.

The punter asks – ‘how does this work?’

You say something along the lines of – ‘£1 equals one token and rides generally cost between 1-7 tokens.’

They look at you blankly.

You repeat the above again, slightly slower and louder this time and with any luck they buy their tokens and be on their merry way.

But my favourite are the punters who slap their money down and order – ‘I want a ticket for the ride that goes up and down and round and round, you know.’

Actually Sir I don’t know, there’s only about a hundred rides at Winter Wonderland that fit that description, could you be more specific?

Then there’s the ones that just want a map, or directions to the ATM, or to the place I’m never allowed to go – the toilet.

Considering my tone you’d see why three double shifts or 40 hours of Winter Wonderland-ness a week was all I could mentally sustain, especially on a quiet day when I seriously considered stabbing myself with my counterfeit currency detection pen if I heard I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus, All I Want for Christmas, Santa Baby, Do They Know It’s Christmas or randomly Club Tropicana one more time.

And considering my every move was captured on CCTV and I was banned from eating and using my phone, it’s a miracle the pen and paper I was using to record the high and lowlight of each shift wasn’t also confiscated.

Enjoy…

Shift #1: one month till Christmas.

Highlight: getting a free hot chocolate after holding up a sign reading ‘hot choc for tired token booth staff?’ to get the attention of the cute German guys selling mulled wine and hot chocolate in the stall opposite us.

Lowlight: having to share my token booth with a guy who loudly sang Bangladeshi pop songs, even when serving customers.

Shift #2: 29 days till Christmas.

Highlight: giggling at the poor token booth staffer who had to deal with an irate customer who demanded compensation after being hit in the head with basketball at one of the games.

Lowlight: being banished to the token booth at the arse end of the roller-coaster which everyone thought was the entrance to the roller-coaster and getting RSI from trying to sign language that they had to walk all the way round the other side to get in – only to watch them ignore me and try and find a shortcut behind the circus tent.

Shift #3: 28 days till Christmas.

Highlight: getting two free cupcakes from the lady in the stall opposite me, only to drop both in the mud on the way home but being so drunk with fatigue I ate them anyway.

Lowlight: getting accused of short tokening a couple of £6 tokens and then watching the situation escalate to the point security were called after they pulled the race card with my supervisor and were made to leave the premises – but not before mouthing ‘f%*# you’ and flipping me the bird.

Shift #4: 21 days till Christmas.

Highlight: getting my revenge on a posh English lass by giving her £15 of change in weighty £1 coins after she turned to her boyfriend and said ‘I don’t understand a word it says’ when I was trying to explain the difference between peak and off-peak pricing and her mistaking me for saying ‘pig pricing.’

Lowlight: being propositioned by the Craig David lookalike of an Ice Marshal and self-professed ‘best skater on the rink’ who mistook my need to talk to someone, anyone, as wanting to have sex with him.

Shift #5: 20 days till Christmas.

Highlight: being stuck in a booth with the seriously cool chap who played Albert in the West End production of War Horse, who has also blogged about his time at Winter Wonderland, and then having my dinner on the giant observation wheel.

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Lowlight: having a loud shouty punter accuse us of being ‘horrible people’ for not selling him ride tokens five minutes before the park closed for the night.

Shift #6: 18 days till Christmas.

Highlight: wandering around the Magical Ice Kingdom after my shift and finding my unicorn!

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Lowlight: being stuck in a booth next to the robotic eternally laughing Santa and then overhearing two break supervisors skiting about how they’d spent all day playing Facebook poker while my break supervisor was two hours late to cover my lunch break.

Shift #7: 16 days till Christmas.

Highlight: the arrival of ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ style travellers and witnessing my first real life ‘grabbing.’

Lowlight(s): having punters abuse me for the fact the power in our booth kept cutting out, my colleague getting bad electronic shocks from the token machine and a supervisor telling him to ‘just deal with it’ despite refusing to touch it himself, spending my entire meal breaks queuing to go to the toilet, our break supervisor being 1.5 hours late to give me a toilet break to the point I thought I was going to piss my pants and then not checking notes for frauds and trying to conceal transactions he’d mucked up to avoid getting in trouble on a till I was ultimately responsible for (leaving me with no choice but to dob him in), dealing with generally angry, shouty, rude, intolerant and impatient punters and finally losing the plot completely and sobbing all the way home on the tube.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a hearty female and I can put up with a lot of shit but the next morning I decided I would rather been broke than work another day for PWR Events at Winter Bloody Wonderland, so I wrote an email politely terminating my employment – effective immediately.

And given their employment-practices to date I can’t say I’m altogether surprised to still be waiting on their reply.

My first week of Olympicsing

Poor blog.

It’s been neglected somewhat as I focus on my real job, my first paid employment in eight months.

I’m back freelance radio reporting for my old company for the Olympics, something I haven’t done since early 2010 when I was lured to the dark side.

It’s a sweet gig but I can’t say it got off to a smooth start.

To begin with I’ve lost my radio voice (it’s arguable I ever had one in the first place) so it took me a good few hours to spit out my first four voice reports.

Then I got lost after travelling for an hour to see kiwi Olympic legend Barbara Kendall carry the torch. I was at the right street but in the wrong suburb.

Later that day I left £150 of prepaid travel cards on the tube. Luckily the London Media Centre was kind enough to give me another £90 travel card.

And not long after that, I received the devastating news that all my audio from my first few days reporting sounds like the people are aliens or that I interviewed them in a tunnel. What could I expect, I guess, I am using an iPad as if it’s a microphone, which is slightly awkward when it comes to holding it up in a press scrum.

Luckily one of my colleagues came to my rescue, giving me an iPhone to use, though the sim card tray promptly snapped, seeing me make an urgent visit to the Apple store to get a technician to ply it out.

But I feel I’ve finally overcome the teething problems and are now well and truly enjoying myself.

Here’s my top ten moments so far.

1. Going to cheer on New Zealand Olympic torchbearer Susan Grace who was selected for her work with London’s homeless. She was swamped by crowds and received such a roaring reception in the London suburb of Merton that many people asked me – ‘is she famous?’

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2. Getting to see Kate, Wills and Harry in the flesh when I reported on the torch’s visit to Buckingham Palace. Sadly I was so focused on getting audio and trying to move my arse out of the way of the guy behind me who kept ramming it, that the only photo I got obscures Kate’s face.

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3. Watching the Queen’s row barge Gloriana, which carried the Olympic flame, float past my old next door neighbours’ front lawn in Hampton Wick on the morning of the Opening Ceremony.

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4. Spending the evening of the Opening Ceremony at Hyde Park listening to Duran Duran belting out their 80’s hits, although I was bitterly disappointed they didn’t play ‘Girls on Film’ as it’s their only song I know all the words to. It was also amazing to look up to see the sky painted red, white and blue by some planes. I missed the plane part but did get a photo of the vapour trail.

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5. Being a groupie and getting my photo with New Zealand Governor General Jerry Mateparae. I know I’m supposed to be impartial as a journo but I love him. He’s a brilliant public speaker and is incredibly down to earth.

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6. Interviewing children on what they thought of the Olympic mascots and accidentally laugh/snorting (I blame my best friend’s mum for that bad habit) at a kid’s answer to my question ‘what do you think Wenlock actually is?’ and he replied – ‘They just like made it up, they had like left over scraps and they made it up, like random stuff.’ I couldn’t agree more, seriously what is this thing?

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7. Being the only journalists to actually turn up to an Olympic-themed high tea at a five star hotel in central London = more food for me.

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8. Getting to see all the troops wandering around town in their uniforms. Thank you G4S for failing to recruit enough staff! I will endeavour to get photos in the coming days…

9. Again being a groupie and getting my photo taken with Andrew Nicholson, part of our first 2012 medal winning eventing team.

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10. And finally, feeling exceptionally proud to be a kiwi after rowers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan produced New Zealand’s first gold medal.

Tortoise sitting

I feel like Doctor Dolittle this week as I’ve somehow accumulated a kitten, two goldfish, four hens and two tortoise to look after.

I have to say I was most excited about hanging with the tortoise, as I’ve been slightly obsessed with them ever since I met these ones in Turkey.

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But turns out tortoise in captivity are quite boring creatures.

They’re also fussy eaters and will only down their daily dose of lettuce, cucumber, apple and dandelion leaves (if I can be bothered going to the park to be stared at by locals wondering why the hell is that girl picking weeds?) if they’re washed.

In the five nights I was here this one barely moved.

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In fairness it is 60.

And, even the younger one barely ventured from its favourite spot – wedged between the pot plant and the step.

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In fact, the only amusing thing that happened was when the kitten sat on the little tortoise, while it was trying to get its ridiculously small mouth around a slice of apple.

But looking after the tortoise did teach me that a turtle and a tortoise are not the same thing. Turns out turtles hang out in the water, tortoise on the land and then there’s a hybrid called a terrapin which does both.

But I remain confused as to what the plural is for tortoise, as the debate seems to be raging online as to whether it’s tortoise, tortoises or my favourite pick – torti (like cacti).

Can anyone actually tell me for certain?

Moving onto the kitten… I’m quite allergic to cats so I’ve been trying to keep my distance, but it hasn’t made it easy as it only has two moods: loving and cuddly or pyscho and scratchy.

It also does this weird thing with jelly meat where it only eats the jelly, no matter how fine you mash the meat.

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Then there’s the ladies.

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There’s four of them and each day without fail they lay three eggs, so either one doesn’t lay eggs at all or they have a shift work system going on.

And last but actually least, there’s the goldfish. I have nothing interesting to say about them.

As for why I’m kitten, hen, goldfish and tortoise/tortoises/torti-sitting, it’s all thanks to the wonders of housesitting websites on the internet.

I could hardly contain my excitement when I met the owner and she showed me around her amazing three-storey home in central London, which also houses an eclectic collection of antiques and nicknacks.

But it all comes to an end tomorrow when they arrive home from their holiday, leaving me exactly 30 days to find places to stay in London before I take off to Morocco and Spain.

I apologise to my London friends and family in advance…

London town

I recall my Dad once telling me – ‘never fall for an Englishman.’

Not one for listening what did I do…

Brutal lesson I suppose, but the Casio Watch Boy I met in Naples and the Casio Watch Boy I met on his home turf of London aren’t the same Casio Watch Boy.

It ended badly, very badly, although I must say I’m keeping the watch, one because I can’t afford another one, and two because it’s quite handy.

Luckily, there’s been a lot of other stuff going on in London to keep me occupied.

For one, Wimbledon’s been on, and being a bit crazy I decided to try my luck on final’s day for a ground pass, though it took me a good hour to work out where ‘the queue’ actually began.

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By the time I found ‘the queue’ it was 500 yards long, I was given the number 3,465 for the day and told I could be waiting up to five hours to get in, meaning the final would be over.

This is as close to the action as I got before I gave up.

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I ended up settling for the next best thing, watching Wimbledon at a Wimbledon pub, where I got myself quietly drunk on Pimms and tried to sober myself up with a Sunday roast, though not in time to prevent myself from balling over Andy Murray’s speech.

If you missed it, it’s worth a watch.

Besides Wimbledon, I’m proud to report that I’ve been playing tour guide to a New Zealand friend and I’ve managed to not get either of us lost.

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We also wound up outside Buckingham Palace and before you ask, the massive bag I’m holding is a selection of clothes my friend kindly brought over from home.

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I can’t even describe how exciting it was to slip into my favourite dress, until I discovered it had a massive hole in the side thanks to my sister wearing it during her pregnancy.

To be honest I’m not mad, I’m more gutted my sister wore my normal clothes as maternity clothes.

I digress.

Back to my New Zealand friend, I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating when I say that she is the nicest, sweetest person I’ve ever met.

She’s the girl who when someone smacks into her on the tube she apologises and she’s the girl that stops to talk to homeless people.

Not that I’m cold hearted, but I’m naturally sceptical, so when she stops to ask a well dressed woman with nice jewellery sitting on the footpath crying on London’s West End if she’s ok, I’m naturally suspicious.

Apparently she’s an overstayer who’s going to be deported next week. I have to bite my tongue as I’m pretty sure if you’re caught overstaying you’re on the next plane home…

Anyway, she goes onto reject every offer of assistance we can think of: helping her locate her embassy, a homeless shelter, a hostel. Nope, it’s clear she wants just one thing – cold hard cash.

We give up.

It was a bit of a downer on an otherwise amazing night seeing the Broadway musical ‘Wicked.’

Thanks to queuing up at 9am we managed to secure ourselves front row seats.

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Although, we didn’t realise they were front row until we asked the lady at the counter where the seats were.

She gave us a look of you must be f$&@ing kidding me and grunted – ‘front row, that’s why you’re queuing.’

We just thought we were queuing for good stall seats. Bonus. And, we were so close to the action you could see the actors spit when they sang.

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Apart from that I’ve wasted a lot of time on life admin of late.

Turns out not having a fixed abode makes setting up a bank account and going to the doctors a particularly painful ordeal.

Take going to the doctors for instance. Because I can’t register with a GP I had to wait four hours to be seen at a Drop-In Centre to get some routine prescriptions.

Then when it’s finally my turn, the doctor says to me after I politely query her advice – ‘frankly, I don’t really care about you, this is just my professional advice ok.’

I walked out slightly demoralised and clutching a one month’s prescription, meaning I’ll be doing it all again next month.

I decided the only thing to cheer me up was to go and watch half naked men in the new male stripper movie ‘Magic Mike.’

It worked, although it would have been better if it was in 3D.