Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pre Concert Nerves

Yes, I am still hacking away at the cello. For the past 8 months now, C, The Magic and I have been going to ELLSO (East London Late Starters Orchestra) to learn our respective instruments (2 cellos and a violin. We could almost make a band with that!), and even though our very kind teacher says that we're coming along really well, I still can't help thinking I sound like I'm taking a cat, stretching it out, and making it screech. Though I guess with a cello, that's more of a cow like screeching noise.. either way, it's not the beautiful, deep, non-scratchy tones of a cello that I fell in love with. In fact, sometimes when I play I feel like I'm actually offending the very instrument I'm trying to learn.


I've been told continuously that whilst it's not best to blame your instrument, the one I've hired from Guiviers is in fact, how do you put it, shite. As a beginners cello from a place that holds such prestige, I definitely wasn't expecting it to be the best one in our class, but I certainly wasn't expecting to be told it's the worst one in the class either. My cello teacher has finally realised his pleas for me to spend around £1000 on an instrument was falling on very deaf (and very mortgage laden) ears, so a few weeks ago he brought in a very inexpensive cello for me to try, and see if I wanted to buy. It's weird, because there's something about it that has me intrigued, as I keep finding myself smelling it. In orchestra rehearsal I find my nose pressed against it, taking deep breaths. It's got this really strange, sweet smell to it. I tend to do this mostly whilst being bored listening to first violins being told again and again how to play (as an aside: why not just play the way the conductor tells you? I don't get it? Why do they constantly need to be told two, three, four THOUSAND times what to do? Just do it. Please. The rest of us are ageing here). The thing is whilst I will probably buy it, I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't fallen in love with this new cello like I was expecting to. I'm wondering if it's because my teacher borrowed it to use in orchestra to show us how to play this really strange piece where we have to hit our instruments, play past the bridge, use the back of the bows to make noises. He then kept saying things like "hmm, this really is a terrible cello! I'm sure all of yours sound better than this! Wow, this bow is rubbish as well! I'm glad I'm using my worst instrument to show you how to play this piece. Now if any of you have better instruments, do not, I repeat, do NOT do this" - then he'd go ahead and smashes the bow against the bridge. Yeah that feeling of deflation that kicks in after your teacher, who is selling you the instrument, tells 30 odd people that it's crap is something that people should not have to go through. Consumer confidence is not riding high with this girl.

Tomorrow night we're playing at a pub in Greenwich. Our entire orchestra have split up into little performance groups to basically show off to each other, since in an orchestra only the selected soloists really get to stand out from the rest of the punters. So 5 of us in stage 1 cello (that's like the toddler school of the orchestra) are playing 2 pieces (well, playing could be a bit of an exaggeration. Hacking is another synonym. Crimes against music could be another), tomorrow night. When I practice alone, I think it sounds terrible, but there must be something about constantly being hungover at orchestra on Saturday mornings that makes me think as a collective, we could actually sound ok. Am I kidding myself? I guess we'll see tomorrow, when at the end of our two pieces people either give us a standing ovation as cello prodigies, or clap quietly and politely in that very British manner... C & I are also playing 2 other pieces, both composed by people from ELLSO. I am secretly chuffed we're allowed to play, since some of the people who are with us have been playing for years and years, and we've only been at it for 8 months. Plus, no one in the audience will really know which notes we don't actually know how to play yet, and that all my back extensions are just completely made up. 2 words for tomorrow night: Air bowing. Much like air guitar, in that no noise is made, but with an actual instrument between your legs. Oooh sounds a bit rude eh?

So wish me luck. I'm sure it will be fine. Besides, everyone there will be performing, so there is no real audience as such, so no one is really going to care what a bunch of first year cello students sound like. I might be a bit jaded but I don't really think anyone is going to care what anyone else sounds like, as long as they themselves don't hideously fuck up. Here's hoping I don't either!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Your Friday Moment of Zen: Let them drive cake

I saw this ad last night on the tv and it is fantastic!! Not just because it's cake, but because I have always had a bit of thing for the "Sound of Music".. (I defy you to find anyone my age from Sydney who didn't love the Sound of Music.. or maybe that was just something wierd with the all girls school I went to. I think I could recite the entire movie, sing all the songs, and possibly do the dancing bits too. Captain Von Trappe. Grrr).

I can't find the youtube link so I'm afraid you'll have to actually go to here to watch it from the Skoda site. It's a brilliant ad, and since all I feel like I've done for ages now is eat cake, this is a perfect, Friday afternoon zen like piece. Feel like eating a bit of tyre now.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ahh! I'm so excited! Designers! Designers! Designers!

C was looking for things to do in London tonight and she's found the Grand Designs Live Show on during the 8th-10th of June!! I'm so excited! I am definitely going to go, and I'm definitely going to try and book some time with the BIDA interior designers one-on-one appointments. I am SO excited!

Grand Designs is a show on Channel 4 and More 4 showcasing some amazing houses, and their owners, whose houses are from an architectual and design point of view, pretty amazing. One house, for example, was build one a corner, built with not a single window facing out the street,. However, on the inside, the house was designed around a giant chestnut tree, so one entire wall was a giant curve, using the tree as it's mid point. This section was made entirely of glass walls/doors that could be slid, so as to pretty much open the entire ground floor. And because the outside walls were completely secure, the house, despite being half built with glass, was completely private. My description does not do it justice, so here is the link. This has to have been one of my favorite houses from all of the series. Even if the owners were a bit mad...

I am constantly in awe of the people on these shows, and their guts and bollocks to be able to make such bold and beautiful statements with their houses. And since I've just moved into my first flat (which btw looks heaps nicer now than it did a few weeks ago when I posted my distress at living in a newly moved in tip), I now want to have the bollocks myself to be able to make bold design gestures, rather than just playing it safe.

Anyway, so I am uber excited about being able to go to this show. It also means another night of wanting to go to bed early has gone completely down the pan, as I have now spent the last hour looking up design blogs and websites. Some of note, that are either my favorites, that I visit daily, or ones that I am sure I will start going to are:

  • fantastic site! I find so many cool things I can not afford here, but annoyingly most of the things are from the US so are harder to get here in ol' blighty
  • - I have loved their smallest, coolest apartement competition. Loved with a capital L. So many cool places, and I've discovered my secret superhero power: to be able to spot Ikea furniture from thousands of miles away! Not as useful as being able to fly but still, I'm proud.
  • Just found this a few days ago. The stationary competition has definitely caught my eye, since I am a big fan of paper and all it's parephenalia... Once on a road trip through North France, my friends were less than impressed when I wanted to take a detour to go to the Paper Museum. Why anyone wouldn't want to go to a museum dedicated to the art of making paper I simply cannot understand, but in the end, we didn't go because shouting won the day. And I wasn't loud enough.
  • YAY! Finally a house/design magazine based in the UK I can look at on the web! There are loads of really good american ones, but again, nice to look at, can't buy anything though...
  • I love their wallpaper!! AND their from the UK! Hurrah!
So that's my list of design sites I'm currently obsessed with. If only I could get enough time during my working day to look at them more often, rather than having to wait until 1am to do so, that'd be perfect.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First post as a Brit

Yes, here it is. My first post as an Aussie-Brit (sorry, I just can't get myself to say my nationality without sticking "aussie" in there first).

I've been insanely busy for the last week, which is not much of an excuse for my slackness with my blogging, but it has meant that this is the first time in 7 days I've managed to get time to sit down and write. This mostly has to do with my ruddy job. Stupid salary paying job. Expecting me to actually work for a living. Bastards.

The Citizenship ceremony:According to the website, the British citizenship ceremony is supposed to be something to mark the occasion of becoming British with a memorable event. This meant that we all had to get dressed up, go to the local town hall, and stand in front of which ever mayor (past or present) turned up, who came into the main room, all dressed in her ceremonial robes. The ex-mayor who presided over us was this woman so short and small I actually thought she was a midget. Turns out, it was a bit deceiving because the man in front of her, holding her Mayrol stick (used for changing the TV channels or for poking the people pealing her grapes I'm guess) was such a massive circus freak of a giant, it made this petite woman look look like a 3 child. I almost burst out laughing when I saw her. Not very stoic and British of me. After some speeches, we all had to individually say our names, and swear the oath to "give my loyalty to the United Kingdom" and to Liz. Next came the "singing" of the national anthem (well, I say "singing" in the loosest possibly term. Almost everyone mumbled their way through it, except for the comedy duo act of Calv and Dr D, who were on the balcony yelping their guts out, albeit slightly off key. I've been told that singing God Save The Queen without having your arms raised in the arm, excepting to see football players (be it rugby or soccer) try to murder each other and screaming "COME ON EN-GER-LAND!" afterwards is very strange indeed).

The whole thing was actually really fun. Calv, Dr D and C came to watch me take the oath so I can now go and live in France if I want without need of any visas. It was very weird, but everyone who was there, all 40 or so of us, were all grinning from ear to ear. I guess we all must have been thinking about the hard slog we had to endure for 5 years to get to this point, and if you've been here so long, you must have embraced some of the country (heck, they make you pass a "Life in the UK" test before you can even apply to check you know something about Britain) so by standing in that room, you were saying you too wanted to be part of it .

During the ceremony, I am ashamed to admit, but at one point I almost cried. I found that my mind started to wander, and I started to think about how long it had been since I'd lived in Sydney, and about everyone I left behind, especially my mum and dad, and what sort of life I could have had back home. The two options I think would have been still living with my folks, without much having changed since I was 21, or married, squeezing out sprogs. Would I have been happier? Who knows. What I do know is that I'm glad I stuck it out, because this is what I'd wanted from the moment I realised that my sponshorship lead straight to that little maroon passport at the end of it all. So all the homesickness, and missing friends and family, and leaving everything familiar I guess has been worth it. Plus, I do have an amazing network of people around me, which has seriously kept me sane (though barely!) for the last almost 2190 days in England.

As for my gift: I've been asked about this already. No, to my great disappointment I did not get condoms or a AK-47, which I think really would have captured the spirit of South East London. No instead I got this delightful passport holder, emblazoned with the Southwark Councils crest, and a little "Southwark" on the bottom. Just in case immigration in some foreign country ever wanted to exactly where in London I'm from. I'm actually a bit disappointed. Not that at this point in time I'm ever going to need one, but you know, a pregnancy test with "Your Courtesy of Southwark Council" would have been more apt for the area...

And finally, after the ceremony the two most hilarious, classic, only in Britain, racist things happened, (which are actually quite funny):

1) The compair was congratulating us all, and asking how we all feel. Then he said "OK, so now
you're all British, you have to go home and start eating roast beef, and roast spuds, and Yorkshire puddings. Remember, that means no more peas and rice OK!"
2) When I went to hand in my form to the photographer so he could send my pics back of me shaking the ex-mayors hand, he asked me:

"ok, you're the girl from New Zealand right?"
"no, I'm Australian" (me thinking 'there weren't even any New Zealanders at the ceremony!')
"Oh, that's right. Ok, I'm just going to write something on your form down, you know, just to help me remember who you are, and make sure I send you the correct photo"
"Um ok"

He, with a perfectly straight face, writes down: Australian. Chinese Looking.

For some reason, that made me laugh my arse off. Not in the least because I don't even look Chinese... What a welcome to Britain eh.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Britishness. 11 hours and counting.

Tonight is my last night as a citizen of only 1 country. Tomorrow at 1pm, I will be finally swearing an oath to Queen and country (how very James Bond), and becoming British. Right after the ceremony, I intend to get my British passport and standard issue, possibly Nike, track suit, obviously in bright pink (ooh sexy). I then intened to quit my job and start collecting my benefit cheques which everyone's tax money is paying for, start wearing Burberry with some real conviction, talk about those f’in imigrants comin’ to ma country and takin’ our bleedin’ jobs, and spend my first giro cheque. Also, according to the press, as a British woman, I should be drinking 110 units of alcohol a week, get into fist fights with other women, try to smash someone's face with a bottle and get arrested for GBH.

Hurrah! What exciting things to look forward to eh!

Tomorrow, I have to stand infront of some official at the local town hall. I have to swear an oath to the Queen (which I've already done just by being born in Australia for fucks sake). I get a little certificate (I'm tempted to hang it in the toilet, because, heck, everyone will see it then won't they?), get my photo taken, and get a gift whose origin is "local to the region". Now since I'm swearing allegience to Liz in Peckham Town Hall, I've been trying to think what this gift could be. Not a bowler hat I'm thinking. Since Peckham is in South London (pronounced "sauff london"), and it's all a bit dodge here, I'm torn between expecting one of the following: velour track suit, contraceptives or a baby pram.

Christ, I can't believe tomorrow I will be British. I've only been waiting for this for the last 5 years now, and now that it's less than 12 hours away, I kindof feel a bit, well, aprehensive about it. It's not that I'm unhappy to have made my decision to stay here, but it's not without some guilt and pain at leaving my friends, family, but mostly my parents, thousands of miles away, for such a long time. It's especially wierd since percurment of British citizenship has been my main reason for staying. And now that I've got it, it's just so, well, wierd. Like wishing for Christmas as kid, only to find that it's infact just another day, but with more food and shouting.

I guess all in all I'm happy about this. It's what I've said I've wanted, and now I've got it. I guess I just don't know what I'm supposed to want next... I suppose there's nothing else for it really. I'll just have to now start wanting a manor in the country, long to wear flat caps, breed horses and start fox hunting with hounds. Tally-ho old chaps.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Typing on a waffle

Just a quick post because I love this, which I found on today. It's fantastic! Chris Domino has created a waffle iron in the shape of a keyboard. This must be a sure fire way to be able to lure your geek away from their pc, even for only a few moments over breakfast, without them getting teary.

Truly random.

Friday Moment of Zen: A shout out to the big fella's boat

Last night we finally got broadband!!! It's taken over a month for BT to fuck about with out phone line, and then another 10 days for the broadband company to set it up. (BTW, I absolutely detest BT now. They fucked me around for 2 weeks straight, trying to get my old number connected to my new house. Everyday they would promise me that the phone would be connected by that evening, and every day I would have to call up and say "well you know what? Still no dial tone". I hope I never have to speak to someone there again, because frankly, they are truly rubbish).

Anyway, I digress. Now having gotten broadband connected to my house I tried to set it up last night, obviously to no avail because I didn't have any of the settings for the router or modem and also because, lets face it, I'm really not that much of a techinally minded geek who can set up home networks or fix media pc's. So The Ex-Flatmate had to get waken up at 7am Sydney time to help me through it, and give me all the old settings. In order to pay him back, in non monetary terms, for the hour international call last night, I'm going to post this link of where the boat with all his gaff (his bike, guitar, nerd books, porn) currently is in the world. At this precise moment, the CMA GCM Verlaine, call sign DASO, is just south of Sri Lanka. Seeing as he packed everything off about 7 weeks ago, at this rate, he should get his stuff, I dunno, sometime in the next year?

There you go, kindof zen like. Whilst none of us are on holiday, at least The Ex-Flatmates porn is taking a nice lesiurely cruise around the Maldives.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The name's Girl. SuperNerd Girl

Look at my cape! Watch me soar through Nerdville!

I am a nerd today because in order to do some testing for a client, for code which we'd written about a year ago, I needed to have access to a private method. Which I didn't have. In order to do this, I was shown the hacker ways of reflection today, to make my test class get around Java's security. Hell yeah, for that brief 10 minutes of coding, I was just like Angelina Jolie in that flick Hackers.

Well, just like except, obviously I actually eat food, so I have more body flab than Ms Jolie. I also don't have really cool clothes, don't have collagen enhanced lips, and my handle isn't anything nearly dangerous sounding as "Acid Burn". Oh, and I haven't adopted any kids from random Asian countries, I'm not going out with Brad Pitt. And yes, yes, I know I wasn't trying to foil an evil computer genius, or hide from the Secret service, but I was trying to work out why there is a really random bug in my code, using a hacky technique.

Other than all those things, honestly, you couldn't tell her and me apart. We could have been the same person.

Plus, I was more hard core because we didn't have any crap graphics to get through the security settings in my code. All java baby. Mostly run through Linux. Oh yeah. Nerd me up.