Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Interesting Evening

The picture to the right has nothing to do with today's post. This picture is by a guy called Edward Monkton. He reminds me a bit of Gary Larson in his twisted view of the world.

Now on to the actual post......

I was invited by XFM Scotland to take part in a listener focus group this evening. Myself and 8 other people were involved along with the facilitator and the station owner. What an interesting evening. The radio was one of the first things available to me to immediatly immerse myself in the local culture. I discovered bands I'd never heard of, picked up on the local slang and started to try and deceipher the numerous accents.

Pizza and beverages of a wide variety were offerred and the discussions began. Everyone was able to comment on music, playlists, what they liked and didn't like about the station and others as well. It was a very broad demographic so I hope the station got some useful information out of the comments made over the course of the evening.

Goody bags were handed out at the end, but sadley they were one short. However, my name and address were taken down and I'm supposed to get something special. I'll let you know what that ends up being when/if it comes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Swing Kids (or the WORST movie ever)

Oh Christian Bale, how could you? Was it the money or perhaps the chance to work with Kenneth Branagh or Barbara Hershey? I have just watched what I think is the worst movie I've ever seen. I mean, I was expecting a bit of cheese but this was way past that. Let's start with the premise:

In Nazi occupied Germany, the youth of the nation were pressed into joining a pro-Nazi Youth League called the "Hiterjugend", or Hitler Youth. A group of rebel teenagers, however, chose to defy Nazi directives and grew their hair long and listened to American music while calling themselves the "Swing Kids." This is the story of one group of Swing Kids and how Nazi rule and persuasion tore them apart and set them against each other.

So we are in Germany, why does everyone have an American or British accent? But every now and then a German phrase is thrown in (with perfect enunciation) just in case you forgot this was supposed to be Germany.
Ok, I can get past that, I mean I'd rather have no accent at all rather than drifting in and out of one (think Kevin Costner in Prince of Thieves).

Next - the writing was just terrible, characters drift in and out for no reason, a love story thrown in and then forgotten about. Did I mention the glaring continuity errors? In one scene a dance club is raided and shut down, but then the same club is used again later on. Any plot twist could be seen a mile away.

But the absolute clincher was the overly dramatic ending when as the protagonist is arrested and taken away by the Gestapo he thrusts up his arm in a mock Nazi salute and shouts back in defiance "Swing Heil Thomas, Swing Heil"
The sad part is, the Swing Kids was an actual movement in the 1930's so lots of material there for a good screenplay. But trust Hollywood to dumb it down to a dance movie with little or no substance.
I need to watch something else to cleanse my pallet

Friday, January 26, 2007

Still Sick

I woke up this morning still feeling awful so I stayed home again. I just knew if I went back into the office rather than getting better it would just drag on for the rest of the weekend. So here I sit on the couch, feeling like a slug.

I did make a pot of chicken & rice soup, almost from scratch. I used pre-made stock but added my own veggies and herbs. I thew in some chili flakes for some kick as my taste buds are still a bit on the dull side.

There was a made for TV movie on the tube this afternoon called 'Jack', starring Stockard Channing and Ron Silver. It didn't take long before I noticed the locations and realized it was filmed in Vancouver. So of course I had to watch the whole thing.

You may not believe this but the rain in Vancouver looks different from the rain here in Glasgow. It seems more fresh and green there. I think it may have something to do with the forest.

Here's a picture I took up in the North Shore Mountains looking out towards Deep Cove back in British Columbia Canada. It's one of my favorite shots.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

In Sickness

Last night and today did not go well.

I had a horrible nights sleep as my right tonsil decided to cause me grief. Tossing and turning all night and then still awake at 5AM with my throat red, swollen, thick and goopy I realized I was not going to make it into the office.

I did think of pointing my digital camera down my throat to take a picture to post, but thought I'd spare you the ick factor.

I spent the whole day in my PJ's drinking lots of hot liquids, having cat naps and watching the BBC 24hr news channel off and on. Even in Scotland daytime TV is limited. There was a semi-interesting half hour program on the A-Z's of protesting. Apparently R for Riot is counter productive. Riot at the Hyatt anyone?

At about 3:30 it hit me.... Today is Robert Burns Day. I'm so disappointed that I don't feel up to somehow marking the occasion by doing something Scottish (other than the obvious, living here).

I remember a few weeks ago noticing many of the pubs and restaurants were advertising tickets for their Burns Supper. Last week while doing my grocery shopping I did look at the various haggis for sale. Yes you can even get vegetarian haggis too (I'd probably start with that one). But alas the germs got to me first. I guess there's always next year.

The Parting Kiss
- Robert Burns, 1788

Humid seal of soft affections,
Tenderest pledge of future bliss,
Dearest tie of young connections,
Love's first snowdrop, virgin kiss!

Speaking silence, dumb confession,
Passion's birth, and infant's play,
Dove-like fondness, chaste concession,
Glowing dawn of future day!

Sorrowing joy, Adieu's last action,
(Lingering lips must now disjoin),
What words can ever speak affection
So thrilling and sincere as thine!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

At What Cost?

There is lots of talk here in the UK on climate change and an individuals carbon footprint. It's true we need to be constantly reminded of our effect on the environment. One of the hot topics being discussed in the media these days is air travel and the impact the low cost airlines in Europe are having on pollution. Read this article from the Yorkshire Post.

I'm not sold on this argument just yet. I love to travel (but hate to fly) but I strongly believe the world is a better place if people get out there and experience different cultures. I find people that are world travellers are more open minded, accepting and understanding of others. By getting out there and meeting new people and experiencing a life outside of the box you daily exist in, you quickly learn that you are NOT the centre of the universe and perhaps we can all get along a little better.

How many wars and conflicts are started because the two sides have not made an effort to truly understand one another. In my opinion (and it's just that, my opinion) I think this is worth the negative impact on the environment. The few flights a year I do take can't make that much of a difference.

However there are many things I can do every day that will make an impact. Recycling and compost are 2 that quickly come to mind. When I was still living in Burnaby, I had curbside weekly pick up of recycling. Not just bottles, cans and paper (all kinds of paper & cardboard) but also a wide variety of plastics and tetra packs as well. Then all my raw food scraps went in the compost bin in the backyard to be turned into wonderful rich topsoil to be dug into the garden that spring. I was lucky if I had one small grocery bag of garbage a month.

I am sad to say that is not the case here. The recycle bins in around Glasgow only seem to collect tin cans, plastic & glass bottles and newspaper. Yet the grocery stores here insist on prepackaging everything in plastic that is not recyclable. I must buy 9 tomatoes in a plastic dish wrapped in cellophane, or 3 zucchini's in a plastic dish wrapped in cellophane, the broccoli is covered in plastic wrap etc etc etc. What a complete waste! I try my best to go to a fruitier or cash and carry where the veggies are in a loose bin and I take my reusable shopping bag with me. Then I live in a tenement building with no compost bin in the back close. Surely this city can do more to encourage recycling and compost? In a country so small it is in their own best interest to do so as there is limited space for land fills.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, walk or take public transit rather than drive when possible, take a mug to the coffee shop rather than getting a take-a-way cup, get a programmable thermostat on your boiler, turn off the lights if you're not in the room, replace bulbs with energy efficient florescent, plant a garden, compost raw food scraps, take a shower rather than a bath (share the shower if you're so inclined) - you get the idea. None of these things require all that much effort but do have an impact on your surroundings. It's something that we can all do, every day. Think of the accumulative impact a population of 600,000 (that's Glasgow) could have.

What do you think?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nothing New

As my profile states, I'm a dull person. Just feeling really tired today. I guess I'm still recovering from the stress of last weeks travels (see previous post). Also I'm feeling quite beaten up trying to deal with the bureaucracy of the UK banking system. It's been 2 months since I sent in my paperwork and they are still pending a missing declaration that they MUST send me but never do. I asked if I could pick it up at the branch and they said no - I just can't win.

The temperature has dropped today and it's going to be even colder tomorrow. I'm listening to the BBC news in the background and I hear that the Pickton trial has made the news all the way across the ocean. What an awful awful story.

Mondays suck.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Home Safe and Sound

Well it was an interesting couple of days for travel. It started Thursday morning as the snow began falling at 7:30AM while I was standing outside waiting for the cab to take me to the Airport.

The closer we got to the airport the harder the snow was falling so I wasn't all that surprised (relieved) to see that my 9AM flight was delayed to 10:05AM. Gives me time to grab a coffee and scone as I hadn't had breakfast. Plus once the sun comes out I'm sure the snow will melt quickly.

Well as you can see, that didn't happen. I won't go into all the nerve wracking details (I don't like to fly at the best of times), but the sun eventually did come out and we boarded at 3:00.

Great - except what we were flying towards was a nasty storm hitting the southern part of Great Briton, lots of gale force winds and such to make our descent and landing one of the most nerve wracking I've had to date.

Click here to see a BBC news item on the damage from the storm and pay special attention to the plane attempting to take off (sideways) into the strong winds. That gives you a bit of an idea what we were landing into.

But as you can see by this post I did live to tell the tale. The next day was absolutely lovely with clear blue skies and no wind, not even a soft breeze. I spent the whole day trapped in the Chichester office in meetings but at least my walk to the office was nice. It's a cute little town and I'm sad I didn't get any time to explore. But I'll be back for a week in February so I'll get my chance then.

The company put me up at The Ship Hotel and it was very nice (much nicer than the Croydon Park Hotel). Thursday night I allowed myself a large glass of Libertad Malbec/Bonarda (Argentina). I've never had a Malbec before but the description given on the wine list made it sound enticing. "Strong aromas of wild berries and strawberries with hints of vanilla and white pepper". It was just lovely, of course now I'll never be able to find it anywhere. Oh well.

The flight home Friday was uneventful. Went straight from the airport to a bowling alley for a work event. It was a very long 2 days and I'm oh so glad to be home in one piece.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Random Thoughts

I've noticed that the letter 'H' is pronounced differently here. For example if someone is verbally spelling their surname, oh let's say Harris. They would pronounce the H as "Haych" as opposed to Aych.

As you all know in the UK they drive on the left side of the road (North America drives on the right). So that has taken some getting used to. As a pedestrian I needed to retrain myself to look right first, then left (unless it's a one way street). But today I found something else that seems backwards to my North American brain - the photocopier.

I went into the copy room to, you know, take a copy of something. I lifted up the lid, slapped down the page on the top left corner and hit copy. The machine gave me an error message saying it couldn't determine the size paper I wanted to use. No worries, I know how to manually override the automatic setting. The machine whirs and whizzes and bingo - a blank page comes out. I try it again making sure my page is aligned correctly and again get a blank page.

Now I'm feeling silly, I mean how hard is it to use a photocopier?. I'm staring at the machine, reading the option buttons, check to make sure there's no jam and paper (force of habit). I lift the lid again and give it a good once over - that's when I notice it. The copiers here in the UK align the pages using the top RIGHT corner (not the left) and when I thought it through, even the output tray was on the opposite side to what I'm used too. I feel like a complete idiot.

News Bulletin.... this just in.

The salt trucks in Glasgow are now using a combination of salt and...... molasses to coat the roads when the temperatures dip down to the freezing point. Check out this story from The Evening Times.

Lastly, tomorrow I'm off to the town of Chichester for some meetings so no more postings until Saturday I'm afraid. Lucky me, I fly out on a day they are forecasting gale force winds and snow. Goody.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Week

It's been a hectic week and I'm still in a bit of recovery mode from it.

Monday afternoon I went to the wonderful metropolis of Croydon for some in-house training. The company arranged for cabs to take us (there were 5 from the Glasgow office) to the airport and my goodness we had a chatty and enthusiastic driver. I had trouble keeping up with him.

We flew British Airways and were given a 'snack' on the flight
I was OK with the chicken salad half, but the pastrami with egg mayo was a bit much. And then they ask if you want wine with it !?! I still don't understand this countries cuisine.

We flew into Gatwick and that was my first time in that airport. We needed to find the trains which were at the other terminal but between the 5 of us we managed OK. The train to Croydon was about 20 minutes and the hotel was just 2 blocks from the station so we managed NOT to get lost. But by the time we checked into the hotel and up to our room it was close to 9PM and we hadn't had dinner yet. Thanks to all the added security checks and lengthened minimum check in times what should be a quick trip can easily stretch into 5 or 6 hours.

Sat down for dinner in the hotel restaurant and ran into some people from the Bristol office as well. It's always a bit awkward being thrown together with people that you have never met before. Unless there is a real extrovert in the bunch the meal time can be quite quiet. But we managed OK.

The hotel we were staying at was the Croydon Park Hotel . Apparently it's a 4 star 'luxury' hotel but I didn't think it was anything special. The rooms were pretty generic and cold. But who can argue when you don't have to pay the bill.

The 2nd night after dinner there was a football match on the TV in the hotel pub so everyone crowded in there to watch the game. I keep forgetting that England hasn't brought in the non-smoking legislation that Scotland and Ireland has. So it was a bit of an adjustment dealing with the smoke again.

I don't think I've ever watched a full football game before so Joe from the Bristol office was kind enough to talk me through the whole game. It was Liverpool vs Arsenol and it was a very high scoring match with Arsenol winning 6 - 3.

The trip home was a bit sad as you just start to get to know people and then you have to leave. The 5 'boys' I was travelling with were all very sweet and they were quite shy to start but finally started to open up a bit on the trip home.

Thursday and Friday it was back to work. I ended up developing a migraine Friday afternoon but managed to get through the day and even join the gang for a pint after work but needed to go home at 7:30.

I took some heavy duty drugs when I got home but that night I didn't sleep well. I thought I was over the worst of it when I woke up Saturday and did my grocery shopping and had a shower. But as I was fixing dinner that night the migraine crept back again. I had a friend over for dinner that night and I think I faked it OK but by the time he left I was in really bad shape. I thought I was going to be sick, but got my drugs and went to bed right away so I think I nicked it just in time.

Unfortunately the flat across the street and up the block decided to have a rip roaring party that lasted until 4AM so again not a great nights sleep. But today (Sunday) I'm happy to say my migraine is completely gone.

Next week is also going to be a hectic week as well. Monday I have my interview for my National Insurance number and Thursday & Friday I'm in Chichester for meetings. Brenda's parents and sister are also in town for a visit so it's nice having people from home around.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Things I Appreciate

Honesty - it's a good thing.

Take this morning's sermon. The passage being preached on was a most difficult one, Ist Corinthians 7. As David said, this passage has the ability to offend pretty much everyone. So rather than skipping over the tough bits, I like what he did. He apologized in advance and then got on with it.

What is the point of only preaching the easy stuff (love, mercy, grace)? Life isn't easy, being a Christian isn't easy, being a single person in the church isn't easy. So why should the church pretend that if you become a believer it's just going to be wine and roses? (not that there's anything wrong with wine and roses)

Tough sermons need to be preached and heard. I truly believe the people are craving this news. Too long has the church tried to cover up the tough stuff to become more palatable to the unbelieving public. As a result the messages become wishy washy and interest is lost as there is no meat to chew on. The pubic (especially in a university town) can be an intelligent bunch and I believe crave the truth.

Yes worship is important, yes we need to be inclusive to all BUT not at the cost of watering down God's word.

I love a good tough meaty sermon, thanks David. If any of you would like to hear his message just click this link and go to the Jan 7th Morning service for the MP3 download.

(the opinions stated in this blog are solely the thoughts of this strange single girl with too much time on her hands)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Self Portraits

I didn't intend to do this but usually that's the way it works best. Let me backtrack.

Today was the day I was taking a chance and getting my hair cut & coloured at the salon down the street. This was the place I just walked into last weekend off the street. No recommendations, just a gut feeling. Things went very well. My stylist Lynn did an excellent job.

As mentioned in last weeks post I went back to the flat to take some pictures of the end result for all to see & critique. However, what I ended up with was something much different.

I don't really think of myself as an artistic photographer as I don't think my eye is good enough yet. But it is something I'm constantly trying to develop. So this afternoon in the bay window of my bedroom I thought the light was just right and I used the self timer on my Nikon and propped it up on a rolling cabinet.

These are the results.

For those that care, the salon is called Sculptur.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back To Reality

Is it too soon to long for a vacation?

I've been working for what, 3 weeks? And 2 of those have been short. I tell you, that taste of freedom was a bad thing. I need a quick plan to become independently wealthy so that I can go back to being the care free world traveler I started out as back in October.

Any rich single men out there wanting to rescue me and keep me in the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I've just dated myself there I'm sure.

January 2nd was a Bank Holiday (or statutory holiday for you Canadians) and it was an absolutely lovely day. After my breakfast and pouring over some of the cook books Abigail left in the kitchen. Then I went for a bit of a walk in the park and later grabbed a coffee and some carrot cake (a healthy lunch no?) at the Biblio Cafe. The rest of the afternoon I just walked around the area snapping pictures. Once the sun went down I headed back to the flat and I started playing around with converting the pics to black & white and sepia. You can check out my Flickr page to see the results of the day.

It's a tough life but someone's got to do it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Song to Start 2007

Have just spent the first day of the year doing absolutely nothing. Considering I didn't get to bed until close to 5:30AM I think I was allowed to have a lazy day. I spent my New Years day watching the telly and embracing the new culture. This evening was a Python fest of sorts with The Secret Life of Brian, The Life of Brian, and the Pythons and what they did next.

So in honour of the days events I bring you the lyrics of that great production number at the end of The Life of Brian... It's in the key of Am if you want to play/sing along.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
(words and music by Eric Idle)

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.

When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.

When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.

Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.

You'll see it's all a show
Keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

And always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the right side of life...
(Come on guys, cheer up!)
Always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the bright side of life...
(Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
Always look on the bright side of life...
(I mean - what have you got to lose?)
(You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing.What have you lost? Nothing!)Always look on the right side of life...

Bet you end up whistiling the tune all day now :>)

Happy Hogmanay

It's 4:08AM as I write this and I'm completely wired.

The big Hogmanay plans in George Square got cancelled on account of the 70 mph winds and driving rain that decided to kick up in the late afternoon. But that didn't affect Brenda and I as we were invited to a house party at Charlie & Dot's.

It was a good evening spent with some new friends.

I warned you I'd post the picture ;>)

The festivities revolved around good food, wine, a table football (Foosball) tournament with the kids (I played very badly)

a whisky at midnight and I think I had a few too many shortbread cookies - but they were so yummy. Later on, a few of us sat in the lounge by the Christmas tree and Charlie & Simon pulled out the guitars.

They played a few Canadian tunes that I should have known the lyrics to but just couldn't (I'm embarrassed to admit that). But still, I did so enjoy listening to the boys play.

The evening was brought to a close with my getting my butt whipped in a one on one Foosball match with Simon before finally calling it a night.

Happy New Year to you all.