Wednesday, 29 April 2009

It's Over!

Ladies and gentlemen of the world. I have now finished my semester at Royal Holloway University of London.

I had been waiting for this day for so long and now it's here... it's weird because it feels as if time has flown by but at the same time as if it's taken ages looking back on all the things I can remember of the term.

I met up with Tamsin and Liam - so good to see them after the Easter break - and we went to hand in our assignments. This was the first time I ever had to hand in assignments online as well as hard copy so that was a new experience. The hand-in room was buzzing with people excited to be finished, moaning how bad their assignment was or moaning about upcoming exams. I did a happy dance. As you can see... I'm just a blur of excitement.
Then we all went to the pub. I don't know if I've mentioned this but (one of) the university pubs is called the "Monkey's Forehead". This pub was full - of drama students. Because none of us have any exams all my classmates were in there drinking and laughing - really good to see them after the break. I ended up having several drinks (I don't need to say anymore) and had a very enjoyable, yet fuzzy, time. Tamsin had to go to a meeting so Liam and I went to see the Players show. It was extra funny given our state.
After that I went back to my room to recuperate before dinner with Miranda! She's back! Yay! Actually after I wrote the last blog she turned up at my door and it's been SO GOOD catching up with her and her German adventures. We are almost done planning our Europe trips which I am very excited about though nervous given this swine flu nonsense... She has booked her flight home on the 22nd of June which means I will be home around that time too! I'm starting to miss home a lot given that I'm now just hanging around in my room without assignments to do which is a bit sad. Online Monopoly can only entertain you to an extent.
It's kind of nice having all the girls back in halls - they are being quiet! Yay! Consideration yippee! I do miss having the bathrooms and showers to myself. Blocked drains and hair everywhere have returned but at least my footsteps don't echo freakishly as I walk the halls.
Miranda, Leonore and I are planning a day trip somewhere on the weekend so, hopefully, my next blog will be much more interesting - and educational - but mostly hilarious.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

It's Almost Over!

Wow... could this be the longest I've gone without blogging? I hope so because I've actually had a valid reason.

Assignments killed me.

Okay so I'm exaggerating. But they did a pretty good job at killin' the ol' soul. Literally for the past five or six days (I've lost all concepts of time) I've been stuck in my room eating and breathing these assignments. I mean the only time I've been outside this room in the past week as to go grocery shopping and to the library. Good times. Take a look at the space I was working in... pretty depressing...
But I'm almost done! Yay! I'm just changing fonts and jazzing up the final product to hand in tomorrow! Yippee! Then I'll be finished my courses at Royal Holloway.

I'm so glad I got the bulk of them done yesterday because there were all these boys staying in my corridor. All the girls that live here are on Easter break, as you know, and these teenage boys were here for some event or something like that - a mini marathon I think I heard? Anyway here I am the only girl wandering the halls. My goodness every trip to the bathroom or pantry was a worthy anecdote. I'd open my door and hear cat calls and all that rubbish as I stretched my legs. Ugh... teenage boys. One kid tried blocking my path by doing the moonwalk into me. How sad. And I'm not joking either.

Later that night I went to the bathroom before I went to bed and some of cool kids (I use the term cool here loosely) were defying their teacher or whoever by standing in the halls in the pajamas and chatting after "lights out". The only problem was their pajamas were just underpants and out I come in my elmo pajamas trying to keep looking straight ahead. The boys started laughing at their attire and when I came back from the bathroom one of them was waving a plastic sword around. A plastic sword?! I ask you? Why would you bring a plastic sword with you? More importantly where did he pull it from??

This morning they were up and screaming at 5am! FIVE! They could have been quiet but this one kid just keep yelling "Rise and Shiiiiiiine!". I was ready to walk out there and punch them all in the face, one by one. I didn't. Eventually they left and I was to be interrupted two hours later by a cleaner who wasn't just jiggling the handle of my room - I hear a key in the lock, lock turns and I go "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!". Stupid guy. He said sorry but it was a bit late for that. After ambushing me he started actually knocking on the doors. Stupid guy.

Some of the girls have arrived to restock their rooms with posters, cushions and ... booze. You know necessities? Hopefully tonight the Founders dining hall will be open. I never thought I would be so excited about their food but after living on soup, microwave dinners, noodles and crackers anything will suffice. Still waiting for Miranda to get back though... sigh...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Au Revoir Good Times!

This blog starts with Sunday - my last full day in Switzerland - boo hoo! I didn't write about Sunday in a blog of it's own because I didn't take any photos and I don't like posting blogs without photos because... photos are nice. Yes. Nice.

Sunday! I woke very late to the sound of Jun's other Australian friends in the living room. Julie and Nicole had come from their respective exchanges to here. We're all Australian but studying all over the world Jun - Switzerland, Phoebe - England, Julie - Germany and Nicole - Ireland. So we decided to have a picnic. The four of us set off to find the perfect spot which ended up being miles and miles away. We walked through Jun's university campus which is so peaceful. Most likely because the students weren't there as it was a Sunday but also because the campus is slap bang in the middle of a little forest. There are trees rustling and the constant sound of cowbells. Jun's campus figured why paying money to hire someone to mow the grass when you can get sheep and cows to do it for free? Yep. Cows and sheep roam the campus grass lands with their little bells jingling all the time. Jun said it's hard to concentrate in class because of this farmyard symphony. Fair enough.

We got to the spot (eventually) and sat next to the lake to eat the delicious spaghetti Jun had made earlier. It was a bit colder today so all of us were sitting on a bench with our hoodies up. We looked like some sort of gang. The lake was lovely and it was foggy so the mountains were eerily present in the background. The water melted into the skyline once more and I felt like I was in Valhalla or some such place. We then ate a block of chocolate (can't get enough of it) and waddled back. Jun and I didn't get up to much for the rest of the day because everything is closed on Sunday. It's not like home where the hours of places are restricted on Sunday. Here, EVERYTHING is closed. Literally everything. It stinks.
Monday rolled around and we got up early so I could have a good look around the city centre of Lausanne. Catching the metro into town was the first time I bought a ticket. And I got checked. Lucky! Hee hee! The Swiss Lady Luck was on my side. The city of Lausanne and all the shops are situated on the most extreme landscape. The whole city centre is mounted on undulating terrain and these aren't just little hills these are practically vertical ones. A real beast when you're carting your suitcase around. Well Jun was kind enough to carry it. Thank you Jun! We walked all the way to the top and I had to take a couple of minutes to take in the view. The landscape is really what makes Switzerland. There aren't many sights to see but the view wherever you go is awesome. Back down the hill. JUN: Grumble grumble.

We walked to the other side of town (not a huge walk it's all quite small keep in mind) and I found my Swiss souvenir - a new pair of pants! Yippee! By this time we went to the train station and I said goodbye to Jun. Thank you Jun, once again, for having me!

Took the train to Geneva airport and eventually got on my plane (it was delayed). When I tried getting through British customs, my goodness, the woman really wasn't going to let me into the country without a fight. Luckily I had all my documentation - people thought I was mad being so over prepared but I was right! Ha ha! I gave her my offer letter to prove I'm a student visitor and even though it said on the sheet in front of her when my dates of coming and going were she goes "When does your semester finish?"
"Umm...I think it's around June 15th?"
"Says June 12th here."
After writing numerous amounts of detail she stamped my passport and I was finally free! Got my bag and caught the bus back to Founders - Hall of Doom. It's funny how I missed my little room all until I went to sleep on my awful mattress. Stiff necks all round. Now comes the worst week of my life - writing my two demon assignments! If you don't hear from me I've become buried in boredom. Plus I won't have much to write about anyway unless you're interested in facilitating a Dramatherapy session? Anyone? No?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

I'm just popping off to France for a bit.

Woke up pretty late this morning. I use the term 'morning' loosely. Jun cooked some delicious pasta for us to eat on our journey and we set off to Evian. The name Evian may be ringing bells in some peoples' heads because it's a very popular brand of bottled water. Well guess where it comes from? Evian, France. Which is where we were headed.

We arrived at Ouchy to catch the ferry which only takes 35 minutes. 35 minutes to travel from Switzerland to France! What a luxury. No smelly planes. That's the Swiss flag flowing next to me, by the way. The weather was beautiful and later on that day I actually got sunburnt. Can you believe it? I only had to travel to another country to get sunburnt. It's only light but it's there! So on the boat and marvelling at the lovely town of Lausanne getting smaller and smaller as we swim across the lake. It's funny how much different the town of Lausanne looks to Evian. Just the architecture of the buildings is quite interesting. We pulled ashore at Evian, getting our passports out, ready for inspection - but there was none! If you want to skip the border and enter into France illegally - do it here! The Europeans' are so relaxed about all this is really nice. So trusting.

Jun and I walked along the lakeside (in France - can't say that enough) and this little town is so beautiful! Nothing is out of place here. No rubbish or stray leaves on the grass. Every hedge is cut into perfection. Flowers everywhere with big bumble bees buzzing (lot of 'b's there). It was so nice. I was feeling ready for another ice-cream (I had already had one before we left Lausanne) but Jun and I realized we didn't have any Euros! Whoops. Totally didn't think about that. We were stuck with our Swiss Francs. It didn't matter because Jun had made delicious pasta for us to picnic on so we sat looking over the vast lake and ate lunch. It was so good sitting in the sun (though later I was burnt) feeling warm and full just relaxing. We were sitting next to a mini golf course so people would putt putt past us muttering in French. I'm not doing so badly with the French side of things. I mean Jun asks for most things but if I were here on my own I can manage the basics. I know basic words to get me by - who would have thought I listened, to some extent, in French class?

After this we kept pottering about the town and were trying to find the actual spring where Evian water comes from. We walked up and down the high street and then found an alleyway that led further up the hill. The whole town is on an inclining slope - doh. We heaved ourselves up and found the spring! Well it's just a little spouting tap but it has a plaque and everything and was found in 1786 or so. This is where the water comes from and the whole town here uses this water. It's free and we had to wait in line whilst the little old ladies of the town came forward with their 12 big bottles to fill up. I don't think anyone here pays for tap water considering they can get it all for free here. I think the shopkeepers of the town buy empty Evian water bottles, fill them up here for free and sell them to unsuspecting tourists. I would. After waiting in line for a while I got to fill up my one little bottle. Okay it was worth the wait. The water is so good! I mean water is pretty standard but this was cool, crisp water. This water tasted nothing like the awful health water at Bath. Jun and I agree that it's the water of immortality so we're going to be living forever. So far so good.

We climbed up to the very top of the hill to look out over the town and lake in its entirety. Great view. Sat on the grass for a while and just relaxed. It was 5 by this time and it still broad daylight. It still freaks me out. We walked the other way along the river while we waited for the ferry to arrive and then said our goodbyes to France. I'll be back! Don't you worry!

Back in Switzerland once more... we walked back to the bus stop and caught the bus back. I actually tried to buy a ticket this time but the machine wouldn't accept my coins so it's fate telling me I don't need to buy tickets for public transport. So there.
Jun made a delicious dinner of sweet chili stir fry and we settled down to watch X-men and hit the hay.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

This town is tres jolie.

I was very nervous about waking up this morning (not that I could prevent waking up but you know what I mean) because I didn't want there to be any repercussions of yesterday's illness. I was okay though! I just get sporadic painful stomach cramps which come go away pretty quickly. I'll be fine!

Today, Jun and I got up and went to do some grocery shopping at Aldi. Most of the Swiss people don't shop at Aldi because it's German and they don't like it. Strange. Jun was telling me that it's so weird here because meat is really expensive because Switzerland doesn't import any meat from the various surrounding nations. Switzerland is pretty small and there aren't many cows so meat is very expensive and there is no fresh milk in Switzerland. Seriously. You go into the supermarket and it's all UHT fresh forever milk. Bleh. Again, this is because they don't want to import anything which would be why their economy is so strong. Is having a strong economy worth disadvantaging the population? I guess so.
So we went grocery shopping and got back to Jun's and had a delicious stir-fry. We then went to visit Jun's friends Allison and Kimberley. Allison is Americana and Kimberley is from Sydney - Aussie Aussie Aussie!
The girls were a bit busy at first so Jun and I went and had a look at the lake. WOW. This is one heck of a lake. The sun came out and the lake sparkled and on the other side of the like is... FRANCE. France was sparkling at me. There were swans floating about in this serene crystal water and it was very picturesque. The horizon couldn't be found because the sea was the exact blue of the sky so the landscape looks like an incredible painting. This is all framed by dark blue mountains in the distance sprinkled with pure white snow. It's a breath taking place.
We sauntered back to Allison and Kimberley's house and dragged them out to go have a look at Ouchy which is further up the riverbank and Jun described as "like South Bank". Keep in mind 'Ouchy' is pronounced "o-shi" not "ow-chi" as I like to call it. I could actually wear my sunglasses and marvel at the cleanliness of this place. The blue of the sky and sea is offset with a multitude of colourful flowers dotting the walkway.

We then rented a paddle boat and had a paddle around the lake which was awesome. I so wanted it to be hot enough to swim because then you could relax in your bathing suit and jump into the water if you wanted. Some of the paddle boats had slides on the back of them for this very reason! Today, however, it was a bit nippy and the water was freezing to the touch but it was so lovely paddling about on this giant lake. I said we should just hijack this boat and paddle to France where we would be out of their jurisdiction! Ha ha! We would start a new life as pirates and raid other boats. This all happened in my head as no one else was too keen. It was funny because we were paddling in sunshine but over where France was there were major storm clouds that were black and consuming the landscape. The boat rental guy said "beware the tempest that's coming". Seriously. But in French. After a paddle around we went back in as it was getting rather windy and the oncoming "tempest" looked pretty grim. You can see the dark looming clouds behind my head...

We hopped out and decided to go back to Kimberley's house for chocolate pancakes and hot chocolate. The Swiss really know how to do a good chocolate anything. The instant hot chocolate is amazing and they don't sell chocolate bars here they only sell blocks of chocolate because this is Switzerland and they do everything chocolate related properly. They also have excellent cheeses here which I will feast on very soon... This means that all the clich├ęs of Switzerland are true as there is chocolate, cheese and I saw a cuckoo clock shop in Geneva yesterday.

After our chocolately dinner Jun and I headed back at around 8 (it was still very light) and sung the elephant love song medley from Moulin Rouge on the walk back from the bus stop. Good times. I'm probably going to jinx myself but so far I have only paid for one train trip and that was from Geneva to Lausanne. Everything else - the metro and the bus - I haven't paid for because there are no daily tickets it's just 3 Francs for every trip and I can't afford that. Keep your fingers crossed that I won't get in trouble! If I do I'll just talk in English and start crying. Jun will act like he doesn't know me. The system works. Jun says “Hi everyone”.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Salut Switzerland!

Okay. I'm here in Switzerland and it's lovely... the trip to get here, however, was not so lovely. Let me set the scene. The night before I left I got my bag packed and everything ready to go so I wouldn't stress too much in the morning. Went to bed. Woke up and was extremely ill. I could not believe my bad luck. I haven't been sick my entire time of being here and illness chooses to strike me now? Why? WHY? I ran to the bathroom and was violently ill. Managed to get back to my room where I got inside the door before collapsing onto the floor clinging onto my bin hoping I wouldn't puke again. What a lovely blog this is turning out to be! I had a raging fever and was sweating my life away as I lay on the floor thinking "No! No! I have to fly to Switzerland today!". It gets worse. I was going to have breakfast with Miranda's parents that morning and I had to call and cancel - I felt SO BAD. I just wouldn't have made it up and down the stairs without blacking out. Dreadfully ill. So I lay down and tried to sleep for half an hour. Woke up and had another hurl. Felt better. I gave myself a pep talk throughout the getting-dressed-and-ready-to-go process which consisted of "You're doing great, Phoebe. Just put this in the bag and you're all done. You can do it." Which helped. Managed to get to the bus stop and waited there for an hour because two buses decided not to show. Throughout the bus ride I kept a plastic bag in my handbag in case I needed to be sick again - that's commitment to this trip. On the bus there was a full-on argument between passengers as the bus driver didn't stop at one of the stops and the woman wanting to get on ran up to the bus and started tapping on the door. But he drove off. All the other old dears on the bus began arguing with one another in loud voices:
"What a rude man! Mean man!"
"He was doing the right thing! He can't let someone on at a round-a-bout!"
"She wasn't at the round-a-bout. He didn't stop!"
"She didn't signal him!"
"Yes she did! The bus driver should be more concerned about his passengers given that we pay his salary!"
And this went on and on and each woman who got off would give the bus driver a piece of her mind. It was all very amusing.

I arrived at Terminal 5 and took some deep breaths in order to get off without gagging. Checked in my bag and then got the full treatment from Heathrow security. They must have had the x-ray scanners up super high because I set it off! First time ever. One of the security people took me aside and I was frisked up and down by this woman... Oh my... quite an experience.

Everything was fine and my flight was on time and I made to Switzerland after managing to keep a whole muesli bar down! Things were looking up. Flying into Geneva was AMAZING. It's so green and beautiful with mountains covered in snow falling as the backdrop to this green wonderland. It's like England but SO much prettier. And warmer. Hooray!

Jun met me at the airport and we decided to bop around Geneva and get dinner before heading to his hometown of Lausanne which is a 40 minute train ride away. We walked down to the lake and it was stunning. I was so glad it was sunny and blue sky because it had been pouring with rain that morning and the forecast for the weekend was bleak. I saw the main monument of Geneva which is the giant fountain, Le Jet d'Eau, which is one big fountain. I can't say it's a very flattering photo of me given that I'm still a faint shade of green but you can see the lovely jet of water. Makes me think of the fountain in our lakes at UQ back home! Just being here is breath taking. Using one of Jun's terms - being in the beauty of this place just makes you want to die because when you go away from this place you'll miss the beautiful landscape too much. I'll be dying a lot this weekend.

We tottered around the town for a bit and settled on... sigh... McDonalds for dinner. Don't be thinking that after all my illness I went and did a stupid thing like eating a burger and fries because I didn't. I had a really delicious salad. Who would have thought? The only catch - being in Switzerland - was that the salad cost 7.90 Francs which is about 10 Australian dollars. Whoa. In McDonalds? My main thought for this short journey was - "Eep!". Kind of concerned about my funds at this point...

We caught the train to Lausanne (25 Francs) and went to Jun's student flat which is very nice and met his very nice housemates. Once we got to Jun's I was pretty tired so I took a shower and we watched a film. Glad I arrived alive is all I can say!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Palace of the People

Happy Easter Monday everyone! Today we went on a little trip around the town of Glasgow itself and went to the People's Palace. It's this lovely old building that houses the history of Glasgow from 1750 and it's surrounding by green rolling gardens. I don't know why I wrote that they're rolling... but they are. We went into the green house first to warm up because we didn't bring our coats as it's not too bad today! You walk along these paths about the green house looking at the various plants and the signs alongside them that say "Do not touch/climb/look at the plants". The path was built out of these thin wood slats which bent dramatically as we walked on them and I was ready to smash them to smithereens and plummet to my death. I didn't. Don't panic.

Then we went to the top floor to work our way down this fabulous museum. I was hilarious. Every information board would state how crap Glasgow really is. There was literally nothing good to be said about this town, statistically, which is a shame because I quite like it. Here you can see Julia's responses to "Glasgow still being one of the most unhealthy cities in Europe" and "Today, 30% of Glaswegians live below the official poverty line".

Another thing I learned from Julia (and The Guardian) is that the life expectancy in Iraq is 67 and minutes from the town centre of Glasgow it's 54. Yippee! Viva la Glasgow!

They had a section on crime and punishment which had a jail cell and a short video about executions. The last person they hung publicly drew a crowd of 88 000. Fun for the whole family! Literally children were dragged along to these things. The last hanging in Glasgow took place in 1965! Eep! This video showed the place where they were hanged and because the criminals' bodies belonged to the state they would be buried inside the prison grounds. I learnt that the most common type of crime in Glasgow's history and including today is theft. I also learnt that 1 in 30 criminals are women. Go us.

Right next to the crime section was the dance section. Weird. I mean I was reading about beatings and suddenly there was a pink dress in front of me and a smiling woman. Had to back track. Anyway they had these footsteps on the floor marked out which were the steps to some dance so Christine and I started jigging about and Julia acted like she didn't know us. Then there was a section on holidays and the beach so Julia and I got an appropriate picture to mark this.

Next came the war section - they REALLY need to work this place out in a more logical way. There was a story of a soldier who was shot but survived because he had a bible and a mirror in his pocket. They actually had the bible and mirror and boy they were wrecked. The mirror was made of tin or something because it's all warped where the bullet went in. Then he tripped over a land mine and died. Just kidding! We had a little rest in a bomb shelter listening to air raid sirens and a recording of a very Scottish family talking about being in the bomb shelter. There was a sign explaining the war and how it affected the Scottish public and title read "Bombed Oot". Too true. Downstairs came the modern Scotland which was the 90s. Julia and I agree that the 90s cannot be considered history because we remember it!

In one section of the museum it was talking about how women died a lot in childbirth because they had rickets and their bones were too brittle. I found it hilarious that people got rickets because they built they're houses all too close together and there's no sunlight in Glasgow. Today it was cloudy. So Julia and I got rickets. If I hadn't explained this picture it would just look like Julia and I really need to find a bathroom. That's probably what the passer-bys thought.

Just outside the palace is the Doulton Fountain which is one impressive fountain. Queen Victoria is on the top and she came to have a look and was very impressed. The fountain was all run down and rubbish until 2004 when they spent a million pounds restoring it. Before it was restored it didn't have any water in it and Julia would ride her tricycle around inside it - keeping in mind she was very young.

We then went home and watched another football match (not Celtic) over a homemade chili dinner. Julia is a really good cook and I'm not at gun point while I type this I swear. There were all these chilies in it so it was quite hot and the football was serenaded by a sniffing symphony.

Tomorrow is another day locked in the law library while Julia supposedly studies and I try to write my awful assignments. Bleh. It's funny because up until the time we have to leave we watch as many episodes of "Sex and the City" as possible. I guess we need to pluck up the courage to do some work when we are supposed to be on holidays.

Wednesday I head back to Egham and then the next day I jet off to Switzerland! Yippee! The fun never stops. Except when the library intervenes. So long!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Thar Wee Toon ov Inverary

Happy Easter everyone! I didn't think I would get anything this year but lo and behold I scored! And when we went out into the car Christine found another egg for Julia and I! Yippee! After a traditional Scottish cooked breakfast (vegetarian) consisting of beans, has browns, toast, eggs and potato scones I thought my heart would pack it in. But it didn't and we motored off to have a look at the lovely Scottish countryside. No heather but lots of daffodils. We drove past Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne. We stopped at a little town called Inverary which was very sweet. It had all white old buildings and the sun was out so I didn't need a coat. You know what sunshine means... ice-cream! After ice-cream we went and looked at the Inverary jail which was complete with hilarious wax figures. Here is the guard of the jail. Note that he's really looking at Julia... ...and so this resulted. I guess the jail really makes you think about what's important. Kissing wax figures? Not just kissing... I got lucky too... ...sexual harassment lucky... No idea what the figure was supposed to be doing. I'm just very creative. Anyway we went inside the jail and found more hilarious figures in want of hilarity. And so it would be. I find it funny that I've come all the way from Australia (convict town) and I get to Scotland and I'm imprisoned again! My ancestors could sympathise.

The jail tour begins with tales of torture from the past. My goodness they were ruthless! Women who committed adultery would get their hands cut off and hanged. Most men would get their ears nailed to the gallows and then eventually hanged. Fun fun. They were so awful hundreds of years ago. I mean there was no consideration for human life. Bleh. They were brutal.
Inside the place they had a real life court room with figures in a frozen trial and a recording of the transcript. I walked in there and had to really check which of the figures was wax and which were other tourists! Try and guess in this photo...
Most amusing. Because we were mucking about we got punished. Julia asked this guy for a photo but he just locked us up. Shame. I was having such a lovely day.

He was quite determined to keep us in there. This was an exercise cage so he made us walk up and down for a while. We were laughing and joking but he kept a straight face. There weren't many people in the jail (tourists) so this guy's job must have been pretty boring. Unless he wasn't paid... he was just... dressing up sneaking in and locking up young women... hmm... Onto the old jail! There are actually two jails in this place. The old one was built first (in the 19th century) and is the epitome of hell. Overcrowding, disease, insanity, starvation, asphyxiation and that's all in one very small room! There were women and men in the same room which didn't go down too well for the women I assume. They even put children in jail for theft. One little girl of seven was thrown in this place for a couple of weeks because she stole a turnip. As you've gathered this old jail was so awful that they built a new one years later and made the old one for women only. Charming.

This new jail was one of the best in the land. Talk about opposites. It was so much better than the other jail that I decided to take a nap in their luxurious hammocks.

This jail seemed awfully proud of its bathroom facilities. Every level would boast a working WC. Some of them flushable others 19th century style boxes. They would also explain the bathing habits of the inmates. They would only bathe every two weeks! Here's one now...

I guess Julia is helping. I found some guy on one of the impressive loos.Hehehe. I think he was a wax figure... In this jail people were saying that the prisoners had too much of an easy time so they made them do pointless tasks. These weren't even tasks that gave back to society. These were pointless tasks. There was a crank that prisoners had to turn a certain number of times a day. It wasn't easy to turn so they got a workout. There was another one that was a giant wheel and several inmates could be on it at once. It was like a rat exercise wheel. Which served no purpose. If they didn't do their pointless tasks they would be whipped. It was mostly little boys that would be whipped in their several day sentence. They had a photocopied book of all the records and there was only one 15 year old boy - the rest were younger! They never whipped girls but Julia felt the need. It was funny because when we walked into that room there was a big fat white guy on the table and some little woman whipping him. He was squealing and the onlooker was laughing. It was quite weird. I was hesitant to get on that table with them still in the room...

My jail sentence had been served so we let and had a walk around the town and found a lovely soap shop and a lovely sweet shop! Both of which were packed with people after we got inside so we set the trend. We took a walk along the lake and marveled at the sunshine and the pretty lake/loch. Here it is... Loch Fyne...

After this Loch we drove back and passed Loch Lomond and then stopped in Luss. Luss is the town where Julia wants to get married some day. There was this little souvenir store where they were giving away the most delicious short bread I've ever tasted. Looking at this picture Luss looks at lot like Loch Fyne but trust me it's a different location. After this pit stop we went and had dinner further down the track. It was delicious and then we went home and to bed. I was yawning all the way home and I couldn't work out why because the sun was still up. It was 8! No wonder I was yearning for my pajamas. Hope you had a good Easter!

With a "ha ha ha" and a "ho ho ho"

We went to a Comedy Show!

Most of the day was spent relaxing and watching television - "Sex and the City" mostly. There was a Celtic match against Hearts and they drew 1-1 which wasn't very good. The game kicked off and Celtic scored in 35 seconds! That was pretty good but saddening because they didn't score again. I needed to be at the game - then they would have won.

Anyway that night we went to The Stand which is Glasgow's stand-up comedy club. I haven't ever been to a stand-up comedy club before - even though there's one at home. So we got ready (I was wearing my new dress. Yes, I bought a new dress I'm terrible) and Julia curled my hair. We picked up Vinny and met Andrea there. Doors opened at 7:30 and we were there to get a good seat because if you get there later they don't just not let you in you just have to stand all night. Is there some sort of fire hazard risk here? You think they would have a maximum occupancy for this underground cavern of laughs but they didn't. They kept squishing more people in. We got a little table and squished in and got some drinks. I was ready and eager for the show to start but it didn't start until 9! An hour and a half of drinking and then they send the most amateur comedian out first. How is that not sending the pig to the slaughter?

The show consists of a compere and 4 comedians. After another drink the compere came out and warmed up the audience. By warmed up I mean he picked on the people sitting closest to the stage relentlessly. Glad we didn't sit there! Julia and I were disappointed that he didn't ask if anyone was here from further than Britain. Oh well. He was too busy mocking the guy in the front row.

Out came the first comedian. He a lot of good jokes but his timing was a bit off and I think he got spooked by the hecklers. There were signs everywhere in the club saying "Please don't talk" but not heckle! After drinking for an hour and a half the audience were not very kind. The comedian knew it but at least he didn't give up. He even said "Wow you guys really aren't going for this material are you?" He did have some funny jokes though. One was that he saw some graffiti in some public toilets which really surmised Glasgow's population - "Homos are gay". I laughed. I felt pretty bad for this poor guy and eventually he left and Julia and Christine were saying that they were surprised the audience just didn't boo him off the stage! Yikes! I was waiting for a bottle to fly by my head and smash him in the face. Or some drunk person to lumber onstage and pull out a knife. Given that knife crimes are highest here in Glasgow in all of Europe. Yippee!

That guy left, compere came out and admitted he was drunk, we all laughed and then there was a 15 minute break. More drinks! This place must make LOADS of money you would think they would put in more seats or renovate the place to accommodate more people or something.

Break over. The next comedian was this American woman who was very funny. She made a hilarious joke about the crayola crayons and how there was a "flesh" colour and the controversy surrounding it. The colour was changed to "peach" but in the south of America to "superior". Ha ha. Very witty woman. Compere and then another man. This guy was my favourite. My favourite part of his act wasn't a hilarious observation but just an anecdote that every Glaswegian could relate to. Some guy was in the cinema and clearly wasn't enjoying the film because they stomped down the front of the cinema and went "This film's SHITE. See yerr laterrr!" I'm laughing about now as I'm typing. Julia was like "Yeah that would happen that's why it's funny". Oh my. These Scottish folk.
Another break and then the final comedian. He was pretty funny too. I mean I had a good laugh several times over. One of the guys in the front row had obviously had way too much to drink because he actually fell asleep! Of course the comedian saw this as an opportunity to mock this guy. It was funny. Later that night as we were driving back we saw him puking on the sidewalk and his friends walking away. It was a very fun evening and I think I'll give the one at home a shot at some point. Tomorrow is Easter and I hear the bunny calling!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Back to Kilt Land! Och!

Now let's see where was I? I'd just gone to Cotswold is that right? Scroll, scroll... yes. Okay. So the next day I pottered about the scarily empty halls of Founders. Trying not to freak out because of the serious absence of people when there's a jiggle at my door! Pulse quickening I wait... rattle rattle... I walk softly and quickly up to the door and say "Hello?" waiting for my soon to be murderer to say some creepy comment before he begins hacking away at my door with an axe. What I did hear was "Sorry!". It was the cleaner. He was cleaning the other rooms - why don't they have something that has the rooms which people are in and aren't in? Because then this whole episode wouldn't need to repeat another eight times - seriously. By the last few I would get up and swiftly open my door with dramatic flair only to see a different cleaning person going "Sorry!" Sigh.

Next day was my flying to Scotland day. Got up and caught the bus with Miranda and Amy because Amy was flying back to the States that day. It was good having bus company but we parted ways when it came to terminal 5. I won't see Miranda for a whole week! Shock horror! Her parents are coming to visit and they will have a lovely time seeing the sights of London and Ireland. I jetted off to Scotland on an empty stomach thinking that, like before, British Airways would give me a delicious meal. I got a biscuit. A biscuit! I could have cried I was so hungry! I think maybe because my flight was at 2 in the afternoon that was snack time not meal time. Boo hoo. The flight itself was, obviously, successful as I'm not currently dead (or a zombie just to clarify) but it still frightened the poop out of me! On take-off the plane was rumbling and shaking and making this awfully loud whining noise. It was SO LOUD! It was a scary flight and I always manage to freak the person out sitting next to me as I fiercely grip my arm rest and grind my teeth. Oh well. I arrived safe and sound and met Julia and Christine at the airport no worries.

The next day we went into Julia's university library and I was actually forced to do some work. Urgh. I got little done. The internet is an interesting place! Julia got some work done and day crawled by. Eventually we left and got back home to change into our jerseys because we were going to a Celtic game! Yippee! I've been excited about this for yonks so I put on a distinctively striped shirt this time... as you can see.
Looking at the photo I look quite lumpy but that's only because I had my jumper underneath it! It gets cold at that stadium and this was a game at night AND there was a breeze. At least it wasn't raining. I didn't try Bovril (the meat drink) but I did smell it because someone behind me was drinking it and let me tell you... it smelled like a meat pie with tomato sauce. That's EXACTLY what it smelt like. Quite tempting. Then I remembered it was beef juice - no thanks. So I settled with a hot chocolate and settled back to watch the game. It was a good game. Ha... I've remembered... towards the beginning of the match one of the Celtic players got injured (Samas?) and he lay on the ground and they played around him! He was on all fours, then on his back arm over his face and they just kept playing around this guy on the ground! It was hilarious. After the ball was kicked out the medics came over and escorted him off the field. Poor guy. Though I had my hard fan look on thinking "What a baby. If he can walk off then he's obviously not injured enough! Humph!". The game went for its designated 90 minutes and we won! 4-0! Yippee! I'm the good luck charm. The Australian player, Scott McDonald (Skippy), didn't score though. We decided it was because he was nervous playing in front of me. Skippy actually is from Melbourne and got the Celtic team to donate 10 000 pounds to the Victoria Fire appeal. How good is that?
The next day involved the library, once again, but this time I actually got some work done. You would realise this as I wasn't chatting on facebook all day. Go me. I'm still panicking about these stupid assignments though. They're so long and boring and I can't decide how to approach the question - argh. It stinks. Uni stinks. Booo. That night Vinny (Julia's boyfriend) and Andrea (Christine's work friend) came over and we had dinner and played Glasgow monopoly. In the Glasgow edition it has the sites of Glasgow instead of the usual Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square. One of the sites was the Celtic stadium which I bought. Woo! I also got a better photo of the grounds this time so have a look. I lost. All that online monopoly should have made me a pro! But no, I lost. Oh well I think I did well not getting extremely competitive and busting heads. I did very well keeping my composure. Andrea won if you were wondering.
Sorry there aren't more pictures! I haven't been taking many but I will now make it my mission. Today we went shopping and tomorrow we are going to the Scottish Comedy Club where they have stand-up comedy and Julia is very excited by the fact that the comedian will ask "Anyone here from farther away than Britain?" and I will yell like a loon. Here goes...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Cotswolds = Moreton in Marsh

Good morning sunshine! Yep actual sunshine. Amy (Miranda's friend from home), Miranda and I walked down to the train station today to take a long train ride to Moreton in Marsh. I was HOT walking down to the station. I could have been in a T-shirt! Egham is picking up.

Our journey began by taking a train to Reading and then changing ans going onto Moreton in Marsh. Once again the British spell things differently to how they say them and Reading is pronounced - redding. Moreton in Marsh is pretty straight forward but, hey, it's a pretty dumb name don't you think? Moreton in Marsh is near Stow on the Wold and Barton on the Heath - Seriously. Who comes up with this nonsense?

Anyway all these crazy named towns are within Cotswolds which is where rich people go for "mini-breaks" and so on. After what felt like the longest train ride of my life because it was alarmingly full and we had to stand up most of the way we arrived. Amy had pre-hired some bicycles to ride around the town with and for most of the train ride there I was panicking. I hadn't ridden a bicycle in years! I mean I know they say "you never forget" but what about when you fall off! You don't forget that either! Urrrggghhh... nerves. We each got a bike and helmet for all you worry warts and set off to the arboretum of Moreton in Marsh. I managed to take off and not fall off. I even remembered how to use the gears and all that bicycle jargin! Look at me go! Weeee! In the end I loved having the bikes and suggested that Miranda and I hire some when we are in Amsterdam. See some windmills - bicycle style.

On the way to the arboretum there was this dead pheasant right next the footpath and I stopped and took a photograph of it. I know that sounds weird but I've never seen one up close and they have such beautiful colouring! Reading that back I do sound kind of odd photographing dead things ... Moving on!

We got to the arboretum and, as you can see, it was very pretty. Not quite in full bloom but there were many many flowers out. Especially daffodils. There was this sign at the entry to the place that had a picture of daffodils which said "Daffodils NOW!" as if they had just got them in. It made me laugh a lot. It was very peaceful and picturesque. Amy has a big professional camera so Miranda and I each had a turn feeling professional. Wearing the camera (because it was so huge) made me feel like a total tourist. As you can see in the picture - that is the pose of the tourist - excited, alert and camera erect.

So we pottered around there for a while. Had some lunch and then went back to the town on our bicycles. It was pretty much all down hill from the arboretum to the road so we were flying along and - boy - it was freezing with the wind whipping us. Oh it was somewhat cooler in Moreton in Marsh than good ol' Egham. I'm actually finding that Egham is warmer than most places... and sunnier. Just before we hit the town there was this WWII aviation museum that Amy was debating whether or not to go in. On the train ride there we had come up with images of what the owner would like and decided he would be short, fat, balding, wearing a dirty singlet, grey chest hair, nazi bullets in his head and his name was Hank. Boy was I wrong. We stopped and took a photo outside of the place for laughs when this old man came up to talk to me about how inside the museum there was a real WWII plane we could get a photo of. This guy, honestly, was the monopoly man. He sounded and looked like him. Mustache and fancy waist coast and all! Oh Hank how you amazed us. Here's a picture of the museum we didn't go into!
Woo a big propeller! Moreton in Marsh has it all. Back into town and we locked up our bikes and went into (much to Miranda's delight) a little festival that was inspired by JRR Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. It was the sweetest little market thing. They were offering free entry and refreshments like little h'ordeuvres and cordial. There were costumes and jewellery inspired by the film, books and so on. It was really darling. The coolest part was (for some reason) they had a guy with an eagle on his arm. I got to hold the eagle! How rad is that? It started staring at me and I was waiting for it to peck my face off. It didn't. It was quite heavy though and I was pretty impressed. I mean look at my face - I'm glowing with nerdiness.

Moreton in Marsh is a pretty little town. Little being the operative word - more like tiny. It has very old buildings which house various boutiques. Amy was saying that when she was researching the town people were living there a long time ago and then up and decided they didn't like the houses and the town just became a ghost town. Then, eventually, people crawled back and that's why the houses and buildings are all so old - how weird is that? The only thing that offset the beauty and serenity of this little high street was the random carnival in the middle. There were a couple of carnival rides (like at the EKKA) in the centre of this high street. How weird it that? Walking up and down the high street you get to understand what the dangers of this town are. They are surmised in their street signs...

WILD DUCKS AND OLD PEOPLE! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Maybe not run... I don't think that it would be too necessary... just sort of shuffle of at a quickened pace. It started getting dark so the bike man came and collected out bikes and we hopped on a train to Reading and then to Egham. On the train from Reading to Egham we were just chatting when these two teenage boys walked up to us, turned and whilst thrusting went "Sha-wing!". I'm sorry... is that some sort of term of endearment here in Britain? Was I supposed to giggle, swoon and follow them to where ever they were going? Is this some sort of mating ritual? How odd. Overall, a very lovely day and very soon I will be heading briefly into the blue yonder and then into Scotland once more! Yippee! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Photoshoot! And pose.

Spent all last night working out what outfits I would wear for the photoshoot today. The voucher said minimum of four outfits... so I brought eight. A girl needs options! In case you were confused when we got our haircut the second part of our deal was to get a makeover, hair styled and then have a photoshoot. Today was the day. We trooped all the way to London with a little suitcase between us. I started getting butterflies in my stomach! I get nervous about this sort of thing... that and the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing in this scenario. After a couple of hours (yes it takes that long) Miranda and I were dolled up! It was funny because neither Miranda or I are use to me wearing make up and I had loads on so whenever she looked at me or I looked in the mirror we would jump and get shocked. Rather funny.
The best part was that they gave us champagne! Now I feel like being photographed! He he. The photographer lined us up and said I'll do some shots of the two of you in one shot. I didn't really mind either way but Miranda was hesitant. I asked her why and she said because it would be lame poses like us being back to back and what not. We got changed, walked in front of the camera and the guy goes "Now what I want you to do is stand back to back". We burst out laughing. When we later looked at the photos we just laughed and laughed. Neither of us could keep a straight face.

Then the real stuff got underway. Miranda went first and stole the show! She TOTALLY knew what she was doing posing and looking glamorous... Saucy minx. Me next and I was... well... I was still nervous and I was just useless and taking instructions it seemed. He would say "What I want you to do is..." (He said this every five seconds, seriously, which led to a lot of mimicking later between Miranda and I) and he would instruct me and I would get it wrong so in the end he would take the pose and I would copy - Urgh - hopeless. Ah well. Five outfit changes later and that was a wrap! It went surprisingly fast but then again I think we were down there for around two hours. I rather enjoyed myself in the end!
We were then forced to sit on a couch and wait in agony for out photos to be ready to be seen. They said half an hour but an hour later they were ready. For some reason the photographer took 120 pictures when they usually take 75 or so. This made Miranda and I more nervous because we knew buying the pictures would be VERY expensive (Oh how naive we were) and we only could have one photo free. Going into the little room we had a look of determination on our faces and the ability to be ruthless with our shots. This other guy began going through our photos one-by-one asking us if it was a yes, no or maybe. The first "no" Miranda gave she got back "why not?" we can crop it and make different with colours and so on. My photos scrolled around and it seemed the word "no" was the only one I knew! Hey - I'm a poor student... After the seventh "no" from me he would ask "why not?" as if to encourage me to like more of the photos and hence buy more but on my response of "because I look stupid" shut him up. Once he realised we weren't going to guy loads of pictures he really gave up trying. We asked about students deals and he said he would give us four pictures for 150 pounds! "That's a good deal". WHAT? We didn't even umm or ahh we just said "no". We can't afford that. It was hard choosing one photo but here it is...

What do you think? I'm certainly pale! Maybe a white couch wasn't the best choice... After all that battling with that silly man we left. Many hilarious impersonations later we got back to Founders and decided that since we had fancy make up and hairdos that we would have our own fashion shoot! Ha ha! We couldn't have picked a better place to do it. I mean Royal Holloway has some excellent sets... Here are some of my favourite pictures of the two of us...

It ended up being way more fun because we help each other out and giggle. The best part was we would take photos outside and if someone walked by we would suddenly remark, loudly, upon the lovely surroundings... Mostly it was "DAFFODILS. HOW LOVELY. Think I'll just get a photograph... are they gone?" There was one point when we were down neat this pond we found and we were quietly walking along the path and listening to the birds when this duck flew out of no where and landed on the pond. We both freaked! Jumped out of our skins. Later I took a photo of Miranda telling the ducks off for scaring us and being so noisy whilst we were shooting. It was really great ending to the day. It was an experience and I had a good time. I'm eager to do another one! I need to work out how to do my hair curly everyday... could take some time... I'll keep trying. Not much English history or any type of history in this blog but there you go...Hope you enjoyed anyway!