Visa conga

Feb. 25th, 2010 04:10 pm
wonderlanded: (Default)
Five and a half hours, four queues, and all of A Secret Garden later, I have emerged from the Border and Immigration Agency.

And while the official proof in the form of an ID card will follow shortly, I am Approved, and told to come back in two years with slightly less documentary evidence of our relationship for my Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The relief, it is big.


wonderlanded: (Shark)
Oh, I am rubbish at updating, n'est-ce pas? Anyway, here are some numbers for your edification.

1. As [livejournal.com profile] lsugaralmond has pointed out, our nerdy commitment to pub quiz totally paid off last night when we were presented with a case of Taittinger champagne for winning the quiz league. This has essentially offset our quiz entry costs, so hurrah! We are ace and we have much champagne which is exciting. And we are planning a braniac quiz night which will be even more ace. We might even let you have some of our champagne.

Top quote of the night goes to Lizzie's other half, with the line: "See, David? Who said getting an education wouldn't get us anywhere? It was totally worth it. Look at us. We've got fit birds and champagne."

2. We had a lovely time on our first-anniversary trip to Barcelona, though I wasn't quite so taken with Barcelona as some people seem to be. It's a perfectly nice city, and the weather was perfect, which absolutely made the time away for me. The food was good, the Gaudi stuff was very interesting, and it's a great city to walk around. But I found Barcelona a bit unremittingly tourist-oriented for my tastes. I just didn't get what all the overwhelming fuss was about, you know?

3. We went to see WALL-E on Sunday. It is my favourite film of the year. I think it may be one of the more beautiful films I've ever seen, in every sense of the word. I will not go on at length out of respect for those of you who haven't seen it, but yes -- I cried.

3. My mother is coming to visit in November (yes, again -- she approaches international travel as others approach childbirth. Each time she says "I can never face that flight again". Then the memory fades, and she finds herself booking another flight). We are going to get on the train and go from London to Switzerland then on to Italy, for two or three weeks. At this point it looks like we'll be stopping in Montreux, Bern, Venice, Florence and Rome -- three nights in most places. Mum's never been to any of those places, and I'm quite keen to revisit the Italian ones. I've never been to Switzerland at all, which seems odd. So: I am 30 years old, and I am going Interrailing with my mum. And we are going to spend her 55th birthday in Venice -- which, considering that's where I spent by best friend's 30th, seems fitting.

4. We had a fabulous French street market on the next street last weekend. It was great -- crêpes and galettes and saucisson and cheeeeese. Sunday dinner involved a sausage, four different kinds of cheese, bread, crackers and wine. Completely brilliant.

5. I am all cookingish at the moment and am having to restrain myself from going down to John Lewis and filling my arms with all the saucepans, grill pans, and specialty cookware my arms can carry, if for no other reason than we cannot fit one more object into the flat.

6. Speaking of the flat, there is still one lone box on the floor. Five months after we moved in. I do not know how long before I simply throw it out the window. (This is separate from the two boxes on the table in the bedroom that are covered by a tablecloth and on which the TV perches at an increasingly Pisaesque angle, the four boxes artfully hidden by cushions between the side of the sofa and the wall, the eight boxes on top of the wardrobe, the two boxes that are increasingly being moved into big Muji drawers beside the desk, and all the boxes of books under the bed, in the boiler cupboard, and in the corner between the bed and the bookcase. It should be pointed out that none of these boxes contain anything that belongs to me. The word 'box' now makes me flinch.)

7. I still hate my job. It is rubbish. One year, seven months and one day.

8. I have taken up knitting again. I have managed a lacy shawl for myself which has many creative mistakes to individualise the pattern, and I'm nearly finished a very nice scarf for David which is very simple and in moss stitch.

Goodness, my life is really quite dull, isn't it? Apart from champagne, obv.
wonderlanded: (loving pen and cricket)
My brother got married yesterday.

Thanks to everyone for your comments on the speech. Below is what Dad read -- with what was from all accounts cracking delivery. Dad is good that way. My mother, my sister-in-law and most of my mothers' friends cried, or so James tells me.

I spoke to him while he was at the reception. He said, "Iss, we've got another Fox. Our plan for world domination goes unchecked!'. He then said that the ceremony was everything he thought a girl could ever want, and that's all he wanted because he just wants Krissy to be happy.

Here is what Dad read, from the sister-on-the-other-side-of-the-world:

To my brother on his wedding day:

I was not, at first, entirely convinced by the idea of having a little brother. If my comfortable reign as Queen of the World was going to be upset, I thought that the usurper could at least have the decency to be a sister.

I am very glad that it wasn't a sister, but instead a brother we called Cricket.

While I was not always a very nice sister, all my early memories are of things you and I did together -- of Two Little Boys and their Two Little Toys, of stamping out fires started by a slightly overzealous pyromaniac and carefully not telling Mum about it afterwards; of later discovering that pyromania is inherited through the male line; of being at the farm playing in matching pyjamas and gumboots; of using you as a human shield against angry cattle during branding,

You were a long-suffering cast member in whatever theatrical extravaganza I happened to be producing in the back garden -- a hospital patient wrapped in green crepe paper, Boy George, a barbie doll, an escaped lunatic, a blind convict, and your most memorable peformance as a dog -- in a play in which the role of my brother was played by a Dalmatian.

You were, contrarily an immensely gentle boy with an awesome capacity for destruction. If asked to describe you then in one phrase, I would have to go with 'he liked to whack things'.

We each have our clearest memory of your creativity in this field. Mum's is the time a can of shaving cream was left where you could get at it, and the house was tranformed into a winter wonderland of foam. Our grandmother counts it in the number of times she had to buy a new aerial for her car after you snapped it off. Dad's is undoubtedly the time he found you cleaning his black MG with a wire brush until it shone a dull steel colour that pleased you very much

For me, I remember the day Douglas was born very clearly, not because of the aqcuisition of a brother we were calling Margaret, but because of the fuss when Nonnie discovered the carnage wrought as you had neatly decapitated every single plant in her tenderly nurtured garden.

It must have been about two years later that Dad had perhaps the finest moment in a life strewn with achievement, as he looked from a paddock full of thistles in bloom to a small boy who was whacking a fencepost with a stick, and thought, 'Hang about...'. You and the stick were dispatched down the paddock, and a lifelong passion for thistle-bashing was born.

Aside from dismembered Barbie dolls and broken Hills Hoists, I remember many, many books. I remember The Three Billy Goats Gruff, the father-son equivalent of the Battle of Waterloo. I remember reading books onto tape for our grandfather in New Guinea, so that he too could also enjoy the wonders of The Wump World, a charming story that saw a new record set at Toowoomba Library for the most number of times a book could be borrowed by a devoted small boy. I particularly remember bedtime, when Dad read to us all seven of The Chronicles of Narnia, books I always associate with warmth, Dad, and my brothers. Mum was, very sadly, banished from reading the books to us at bedtime because you thought she made the voices too exciting, and you couldn't get to sleep afterwards. I trust you have stayed awake as Dad reads this.

I remember frosty mornings at Gold Park shivering in a westerly watching the Under 6s play footy. I particularly remember the day you got your hands on the ball, sprinted up the field, and stood in touch looking puzzled as to what to do next until another kid caught up to you and said 'give us the ball, Fox'. You handed over the ball and the kid made the try. That kid may well be one of the guests here today, because my brother is the most steadfast and loyal of friends.

You have a reputation, too, as a willing receptacle for a guilt trip. When I was little and was asked what my father did, I answered 'My daddy is a liar'. 'Lawyer' is a dificult word for small tongues. When you were asked that question, you gave a more detailed answer: "My daddy goes to work every day so that we can live."

I remember getting lost in Tasmania with you, and the look on your face when you had run over a mountain, run back, and told me 'Penny, I just saw the bloody car.' I remember the seven-hour walk that followed, too. I ask your forgiveness for that, but I'd point out that I was right when I refused to let you die there because in your words 'you'd had a good life and done everything you wanted to do'. Because you hadn't done this.

I am, personally, in awe of the relationship the two of you have built. What you are doing here today is the natural extension of the lives you have built for yourselves, and I know that you will make each other very happy in the years ahead.

To Krissy, I say three things:

First, if you ever have a son, tell him that another little boy wants to read the library book so he can't borrow it for the thirty-second time.
Second, if you have that son, and he and James come back from the farm singed and soot-stained, it's best to turn a blind eye. Remember that pyromania is a male Fox trait and there's nothing you can do about it.
And third, my brother wrote a letter to his Year 3 teacher at the end of the year, and told her that 'my mum and my dad think you are the best teacher that I have ever had, and do you know I think that she and he are right'. Krissy -- my brother thinks you are the nicest girl he ever saw, and do you know, I think that he is definitely right.

To James, I have only the last words from the last pages of a book that will always and always make me think of you: "The term is over, the holidays have begun; the dream is over, this is the morning."

This is the morning of the holidays of your life.

I can't be with you today, but I will never go to Narnia without you. I hope you take your family there too one day.

With all my love, Issy.
wonderlanded: (Lizzie - oh really?)
I had two separate memorable experiences between work and the Tube tonight.

First, I was waiting for the lights to change on Parliament Square outside the Abbey. I just missed the lights, and so I was reading the "upcoming events" board inside the Abbey fence.
Two young American women -- clearly tourists -- approached me really politely. The fact that they weren't demanding I stop disrupting their photo opportunity by committing the cardinal sin of walking along the footpath to or from my office was unsettling to start with.

Polite American Tourist 1: 'Excuse me, I'm really sorry to bother you, but do you live in London?'
Alice: [removes earbuds, waits for question about what time Prince William goes to church]: 'Um, yes?'
Polite American Tourist 1: 'I hope this isn't an inappropriate question...'
Alice's Brain: Oh, crap.
Polite American Tourist 1: 'Is it ok for people who aren't from London to go to Mass at Westminster Abbey? I mean, is it considered rude?'
Polite American Tourist 2: 'We're Catholic, too. Would that be okay, or would it be better not to go?'
Alice's Brain: Careful, it might be a trap.
Alice: Um, yes, no, that's perfectly all right. That's fine. There's the Cathedral, too, you know. It's Catholic. It's just up the street.
Alice's Brain: Why are you speaking on behalf of the Church of England?
Polite American Tourist 2: 'We thought it would be nice to see how they use Westminster Abbey for its intended purpose, but we don't want to offend anybody.
Alice: Oh, no, you wouldn't do that. There's a separate entrance for going to services near the shop. Don't line up with the tourists. I think.
Polite American Tourist 1: 'Thank you so much, we're so sorry to have bothered you.'
Alice: [in shock] Oh, that's quite all right. You didn't at all. Um, enjoy London, won't you? dashes across the road before the Polite Tourists turn into demons or winged monkeys or something SLIGHTLY LESS MYTHICAL THAN POLITE TOURISTS AT WESTMINSTER.

Then I stopped at WH Smith at Westminster Tube to buy a Diet Coke and some fruit pastilles, in an effort to banish my hangover once and for all. The woman at the counter patiently explained to me twice that if I bought the Daily Telegraph for 65p, I would get my drink for free. Otherwise it would cost me 1.29.

Turned out I couldn't pretend to buy the Telegraph to get my drink for free. She insisted on me taking the paper with me. Which is how I became the kind of person who carries the freaking Telegraph on my Tube journey home.

Krakow

Jun. 12th, 2006 02:15 pm
wonderlanded: (Mary smiling)
My flight is now four hours delayed -- they're clearly letting the pilot sleep it off -- so I give you Krakow. )
wonderlanded: (Spychick)
As I'm delayed in Vilnius for three hours and have paid my 50 Litas to use the business lounge, it seems like a stirling opportunity to catch you up on my trip (sans photos, sadly).

So: Warsaw )
wonderlanded: (Harold)
My dad rang today. (The phone actually rang as I was in the gas chamber at Auschwitz. Thankfully, I had switched the phone to silent and called him back later. More on the visit later when I have collected my thoughts about it.)

I was very glad I managed to find the English language to speak to him, because I seem to have lost it due to my brain being steeped in Foreign. Polish continues to be difficult, though I have added thirty or so words to my vocabulary, with no help from the Dorling Kinderley Polish phrase book, which actively and maliciously LIES about the Polish for words like 'station'. My brain is doing what it did when I was in Italy, which is to search any and every other foreign language with which I have a faintly passing acquaintance and spit it out at inappropriate moments. F'rinstance, using 'ja' or 'da' in a country where the equivalent is 'tak' is probably not helpful. (And 'da' sounds uncommonly like the Polish for 'two', which is just confusing to the person who is trying to sell you something or give you directions.)

Amusing experience buying train tickets this morning. My Polish failed me (unsurprising, as I was not trying to buy vodka) and I accidentally segued into German. (Alice's subconscious: 'Can't find Polish. Germany is next door. Try German.')

The very nice ticket lady turned out to be reasonably conversational in German. (Alice's rational brain: 'Oh, bugger. You don't speak German very well at all, you idiot.')

I then made a valiant save and found my English. Which I proceeded to speak with a strong Polish accent, confusing both myself and the nice ticket lady further. (Alice's brain: 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU FOOL? I QUIT.')

Incidentally, I suspect I would have done much better by affecting an American accent, as my mixed-up-vaguely-RP accent seems to be muddling to most people.

Interestingly, I'm not using French at all -- which is the only other language I speak at least passably. My brain, apparently, thinks that French is unlikely to be palatable here. Why it thinks that Italian, which I barely speak except for opera, is okay is beyond me.

I think I am going to start telling people I am from Iceland, to explain both funny language and lack of fluency in any known language. Only with my luck, the people will turn out to speak fluent Icelandic due to spending their adolescent years in Rejkavik.

Moskva

Jan. 14th, 2006 08:48 pm
wonderlanded: (Irina Smiles)
Today, I did a number of things. The one that took up most of my time was defrosting the freezer, which judging by the fact that none of the drawers would open any more, so choked were they with ice, had not been done for the last two or three years.

But the most fun thing I did was going to the Russian New Year's festivities in Trafalgar Square, which were exceptionally cool. Among the much food and hot chocolate I consumed, I managed to pick up a number of booklets and brochures from Intourist and other Russian travel services which will come in terribly handy for my trip.

The Intourist ones are all frightfully professional, but my absolute favourite is the City of Moscow's Official Tourist Guide, which has been interpreted by someone with a shaky grasp of idiom, at best. Some gems:

"Public lavatories occur without any order... you will be charged for using 8 - 15 roubles."

"Each country has its own legends, and in oral traidition of people never been in Moscow, this country is a huge forest with peasants and bears and permanent snow. Maybe someone pictures Moscow as a capital of communism. Less people know that we have won the Second World War. Dreams and reality usually differ."

"First thing that one should know when staying in Moscow or in any other city -- mind your manners and no one attacks you."

"This trouble may occur in Moscow -- occasionally being involved in a terrorist attack. In preventing this kind of attacks the Russian capital is in the leading positions. Keep away of crowded places, watch out unattended luggage or boxes and don't be afraid!"

"And after all let us talk about street and transport thieves.... Don't snow or count dollars or euro before somebody's eyes. Be polite and God bless you."

It's awfully sweet, and awfully funny. I think I'm going to have readings.

GIP!

Oct. 18th, 2005 10:01 pm
wonderlanded: (Dark Lord)
I have nothing to say. The icon is enough.
wonderlanded: (Serious Spy Stuff)
The Guardian Unlimited Newsblog has been discussing a new, condensed version of the Bible designed to be read in under 100 minutes.

Apart from noting that cutting out Revelations 22:18-20 might not be very safe ("...And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book") the best part is in the comments.

Challenged to summarise the central text of Christianity in just 100 words, readers have come up with some truly inspired stuff.

I'm having trouble choosing between a couple of them:

"Old Testmanet: Sex, Nudity, Violence, Vengeance, Gang Rape, Murder, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing - and the occasional prophecy.

New Testament: Letters, Sermons, After-Dinner Speeches, unreliable eye-witness accounts and a weak final act with an over-reliance on Monsters and Babylonian Whores."


...and the one that seems to be slightly confused about Peter Rabbit.
wonderlanded: (Hello Mike)
Does anyone else have a problem where they are unable to see Anna Chancellor on the television without shouting "Duckface!" at the top of their voice?

Just me, then?
wonderlanded: (Default)
I've been rereading We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, which is part of the preparatory reading I'm doing for Africa. We're travelling as far east as Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border, and I want the knowledge of what happened in those places -- before and during 1994, and since -- to be fresh in my mind.

Somehow, the last page caught me unawares, again. It is devastating. For those who haven't read the book (it is certainly difficult, and not everyone's cup of tea) I want to share that last story.

On April 30, 1997 -- almost a year ago as I write -- Rwandan television showed footage of a man who confessed to having been among a party of genocidaires who had killed seventeen schoolgirls and a sixty-two-year-old Belgian nun at a boarding school in Gisenyi two nights earlier. It was teh second such attack on a school in a month; the first time, sixteen students were killed and twenty injured in Kibuye.

The prisoner on television explained that the massacre was part of a Hutu Power "liberation" campaign. His bad of a hundred fifty militants was composed largely of ex-FAR and interahamwe. During their attack on the school in Gisenyi, as in the earlier attack on the school in Kibuye, the students, teenage girls who had been roused from their sleep, were ordered to separate themselves -- Hutus from Tutsis. But the students had refused. At both schools, the girls said they were simply Rwandans, so they were beaten and shot indiscriminately.

Rwandans have no need -- no room in their corpse-crowded imaginations -- for more martyrs. None of us does. But mightn't we all take some courage from the example of those brave Hutu girls who could have chosen to live, but chose instead to call themselves Rwandans?
wonderlanded: (Default)
Oh and hey, look: Trip photos!

Austria

Mar. 28th, 2005 04:53 pm
wonderlanded: (Default)
I just adore Austria. I just wish I spoke German, because I feel like I'm missing such a lot. (And it's making the German keyboard on this computer even more difficult than it would otherwise be, because... man. All the letters are in the wrong place! The French one wasn't nearly so bad.)

We've been staying in Salzburg, or rather, Grödig, which is a little village that's still only a fifteen minute drive from the Altstadt. It was a grey day when we left Vienna, and the drive from Vienna to Salzburg was rather grey and wet, so we spent the afternoon wandering around the old town, and across to the Mirabell and its gardens, where the flowers are already starting to bloom. The Ostermarkts there were beautiful -- somehow a little less commercial than even the Viennese version -- and my cousin tells me that their Christkidndlmarkts are her favourite in the world, better even than Vienna's.

I adore Salzburg, and its shops and its gardens and its architecture. We did the Sound of Music tour yesterday (shut up) which was completely hilarious, but also took us to places like the Wolfgangsee and the Mondsee that we wouldn't otherwise have seen, as well as some of the Salzburg places.

It's underlined what I best love about Austria -- that the cities are all about their people, not their cars. The pedestrian streets of Vienna and Salzburg, in particular, are just fantastically wonderful. I haven't met one person who hasn't been really lovely, the food is fantastic, and the scenery and air just breathtaking.

On Saturday we went to Innsbruck by way of a detour through Waidring, where we have distant relations. We took the chairlift up the mountain had had a morning weiß beer at the top of the mountain in 20-degree weather, but with powdery snow still all around us, with a view of Kitzbühel and other similar mountains from our own mountaintop. My sort-of-cousin Ramon has promised to teach me to ski properly next winter, so there may be hope for me yet.

The Inn was green with the melted snow as we drove alongside it, even more than the Salzach has been -- I imagine because the snow in Tirol has only just melted. The motorway runs between dozens of tiny villages that seem to have just jumped out from between the pages of storybooks, and we have taken far too many photos.

Those who don't know where the Tiernsee or Briesau are should feel free to skim the next paragraph, because WE ALSO WENT TO PERTISAU-AM-ACHENSEE. Fangirlish moments abounded. We all agreed that it is, indeed, the most beautiful of the Tirolean lakes we have yet seen. The Maurach end of the lake was still frozen, but it was sparkling and clear around Buchau and Pertisau, which is utterly glorious and just like it's described. The village itself lies in a bit of a hollow, so there was lots of snow still on the ground, even though we were able to sit outside on a balcony for lunch on the other side of the lake, just up from Buchau, looking over the little whitewashed church and the slightly updated landing-stage. The air is clean and pure and still, and, interestingly from mz point of view, half the signs say 'Tirol' and the other half 'Tyrol'. I'll post pictures for all as soon as I reach London.

Today, I'm in Halfing, which is not far from Rosenheim, at the home of yet another sort-of-cousin. Boozy authentic Bavarian evening is planned for tonight, and then tomorrow we go to Tübingen, and then to Bonn, where I depart on Thursday morning for LONDON.

In other news, I got the Scottish job. Now I just don't know what to do about it.
wonderlanded: (Cecilia in field)
Thanks so much to all of you for your help with my Books for Alice project. I took some of your suggestions, and didn't include others, mainly because I'm wary about recommending books of which I've never actually heard. Plus, I have a very low threshold when it comes to sci-fi / fantasy, so I feel rather hypocritical recommending them to others.

So here, by popular request, is My List of Books for Alice )
wonderlanded: (loving pen and cricket)
Mum has bought a shiny new camera in anticipation of the trip -- it's fantastic, very close to the professional ones I use at work.

We've been faffing around with it a bit, and I thought that I'd share a photo or two of my own Jack with you. )
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