Like a Business Trip Virgin – Expensed for the Very First Time

This is Zurich. To find out why you’re looking at a picture of Zurich, you’ll have to keep reading.

I realised this morning I have nothing left to stress about. What on earth am I going to do now? I can’t remember how one acts when one is sane and composed and dare I say… happy?? Well, I’m sure I’ll muddle through. Life’s bound to go pear shaped sooner or later.

So September’s come and gone. That happened. I passed my Life in the UK test, I went to Italy to check out real estate, I survived going to London to (attempt to) take photos for a friend’s wedding and got back just in time to post off my UK residency papers. Stress, stress and more stressssssss. I also had two job interviews in there somewhere. One I didn’t get because I don’t have Edinburgh experience in answering a phone, writing down what the person tells me is broken and organising someone to repair it – but he thought I was terrific and if he had time to train me on answering the phone, writing down what the person says and organising the repair person, I would have been a shoe-in.

Oh hey, wait a minute, there is something to stress about – I’ll be unemployed again in three weeks. See, told you. Oh, that feels better.

Anyhoo, being stress free today reminded me of the time I went to Zurich for a week with work in 2011. If you’ve never been, and for me coming from London (where I lived then), the absolute calm of Zurich is friggin’ eerie. No, it’s pungent. It gets up your nose and makes you screw up your face and think “what the hell is that?”

On the plus side, my stomach miraculously behaved itself the entire week. Having to sit in a deathly quiet office with three senior managers is normally enough to have it perform an aria of gurgling and suspect eruptions, brought on just from the fear of that deathly quiet, never mind what I chose to put in my mouth that day. But to my utter amazement, not a peep. It was the first time I started to see a link between my gut, my head, and how much a city can affect your stress levels.

But anyhoo, I digress. Here’s a little ‘diary’ I wrote while there. I dug this out because I’m lazy, I mean busy, and I haven’t written anything on my poor blog for so long. Millions and bazillions of readers are bound to be wondering if I’m alive, or if I’ve discovered God and moved to the Amazon to spread his word to some unknown jungle tribe. Actually I did discover God and I am spreading his word – on Twitter.

Just for some background, the reason I was sent to Zurich was to gather space management statistics for a week, to help them configure the floor plan of a new office being built next door. In other words, I walked into every office and counted empty desks twice a day, then wrote the numbers down. Obviously such lowly grunt work was beyond the three senior managers whose office I wrote these figures down in, so the most cost effective solution was to fly someone from London to do it, put them up in the Marriott for a week and pay for their meals. That, by the way, is most certainly not a complaint.  Continue reading

Gettin’ Out of Dodge

In a month’s time I’m leaving London. It’s been four and a half years and I’m no more enamored with the place than I was when I first got here. So I’m off to Edinburgh. And if you’re like every single other person who I’ve told this to, you’re going to be thinking “Ooh you’ll need to rug up” or “oooh it’s expensive there” or “Edinburgh? WTF?”

Well first of all, yes, thank you, I’m aware it’s colder the further north you go in this hemisphere. But my research tells me that rent is half what I pay here and monthly travel passes are a quarter of London’s, so I don’t know where you’re getting the expensive thing from. Maybe you’re talking about eating out at nice restaurants, in which case, I’ve heard of this thing called supermarkets and home cooking, so I might give that a go.

Why Edinburgh? Well I went there once. It was nice. It will do.

I just really want to get out of London. As well as wearing a hole in my unemployed-bum pocket, London has worn the hell out of me. Edinburgh is tiny, you can walk across it in half an hour, there’s 7.5 million less people, you’re not likely to be pushed and shoved on the Tube (because they don’t have one),and I’ll be able to afford a car, which means I can go for drives and do ‘stuff’. I can’t afford to do stuff in London. When I try it all goes pear shaped anyway. In the four years I’ve been in London I hired a car once and anyone who read this blog post might understand why the car point is even making an appearance on this justification-of-the-nation list.

Plus I do believe I might have relatives in Edinburgh who don’t know I exist. A spot of ancestral digging sounds fun.

It’s also time to get another job. Being an unemployed bum has run its course, as has the bank balance. I’ve yet to make any money from photography (probably because I realised that will take years of hard work – not 6 months), I haven’t landed a book deal (probably because I haven’t written one) and I’m not a superstar blogger (probably because I write infrequently, don’t promote it and what I write is not that globally interesting – locally though, I can’t understand why I’m not dripping in accolades and Dior handbags – errr kidding, I’d never buy a handbag).

Besides, I hate to admit it but I miss having an office job I hate. OK no I don’t. But I miss getting paid.

I don’t regret my somewhat crazy decision last August. I may not have managed to find a way to make a living doing what I love – yet – but I’ve had six months to indulge in it without the distraction of twelve hours a day participating in the rat race. I’ve tried many different avenues and failed many times but I will continue chipping away. And I’ve been luckier than most that I’ve had the opportunity to take time out from the real world to try all this. Most importantly, I’ve had time to figure out what IB bloody S is and get to grips with it away from the stresses of the daily grind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go off to the dentist. All the saccharine in that last paragraph has made a few of my teeth fall out.

Five definitions of boredom

Laziness
It was Saturday. The sun was out for the first time in days. The miserable weather of the last week had driven me inside, into the pajama pants, and under the covers to you know, do work, research, study, surf the internet, lose motivation, catch up on Dexter and all right, fine, become a sloth. So I turned to the girl who blows her nose with one hand and I said “That’s it!”

“That’s it” I have learnt, is a proclamation I make quite often, usually followed by some ridiculous statement I have no intention or ability to commit to. That’s it, we’re moving somewhere with better weather! That’s it, I’m going to get fit! That’s it, I’m learning to fly a plane so that when I’m neighbors with Ange and Brad we’ll have something to talk about!

On Saturday, disgusted with myself for not going outside when the sun came out, it was “That’s it, I’m hiring a car and we’re going for a drive tomorrow!” But this time I actually did it.

On a scale of self inflicted pain, driving in London runs a close second to piercing your netherbits. Then again, that results in a happy ending, allegedly. There is no pleasure to driving in London. But since a train ticket to the English countryside starts at around £25, there were three of us and the rental was £40 plus petrol, it made sense to grit our teeth and just deal with it till we got out of the city right? With a car we could come and go as we pleased, there’d be no screaming babies/teens/bogan mothers to annoy us and we could pull over if something quaint and English presented itself. Much better right? Hmm.

Concentration
The girl who I decided was in charge of navigation set about trying to get us on the A2 while I set about trying to decipher all the different squiggly lines on the roads. I realised then that I don’t really know London at all by road. I’m always on trains or buses and never really take any notice. I didn’t even know that the main street of Peckham Rye, one that I’ve been on many times, is only for buses and bikes. Luckily a guy on a bicycle explained this to me in a nice loud voice and with helpful hand gestures.

Nobody ambles about anymore do they? We always have somewhere to get to, an itinerary to stick to, and we want to get there the quickest and easiest way. So in a car that means freeways, and for the driver (that would be me) that means an hour or two on a straight-ish road, shifting focus between three mirrors, making sure some other driver hasn’t fallen asleep from all that concentrating.

Small Towns
I chose Whitstable because the girl who eats anything except (so far) turnips and sea urchins had expressed a desire to try an oyster. As soon as I had made sure there wasn’t any kind of innuendo in the meaning of that sentence I researched, and apparently if it’s oysters you want in south east England, it’s to Whitstable you go. I also noticed that Canterbury was close by and it’s always good to have a plan B if the small town proves unsatisfactory. Not that I knew anything about Canterbury, but I expected it would be a smaller version of Oxford or Cambridge – over run with day tripping tourists and extortionately priced memorabilia, but better than being at home in bed watching the sunshine fade. Continue reading

Farty McBland

Six days into the Elimination Diet. Or should I say one? I keep accidentally stuffing it up by not reading ingredients labels properly, so I’m not sure if one mouthful of a banned substance means I need to start again. At this rate forget ten days, I’m going to be on this thing till Christmas.

So what’s it like? Well, I’m sure we’ve all watched enough episodes of The Biggest Loser to know that for the first few days of any diet you’re mostly losing water right? What? Isn’t the television where you learn everything about life too? If the number of trips to the loo are any indication, it seems I’m losing the Indian Ocean. Middle of the night peeing used to be because I’d had too much Jack Daniels, now it’s because I’ve had too much Apple and Elderflower juice. That’s not cool, that’s just embarrassing.

Among an endless and varying list of no-no’s (depending on whose version of the diet you follow) I’m not allowed to have yeast, dairy, corn, eggs, beef, potatoes, onions or garlic, so ingredient checking has become my new hobby and I pretty much have to clear a whole afternoon to go to the supermarket. As a by-product of this new hobby I think I may have figured out why so many people develop a yeast intolerance these days. Have you got any idea how many things in the supermarket have yeast in them? 134,987. Trust me, I’ve checked. Or if there’s no yeast, there’s potato starch or corn starch or maize starch, the latter which I learnt on day three’s stuff up, as I quickly spat out the Mango chutney, is bloody corn too. Arrrgghhh, why didn’t I know that? Why don’t we learn these things in school? Scrap Pythagoras and throw in some nutrition will ya? Except for poly-amorous couples, I’m yet to meet anyone obsessed with triangles. Continue reading

Ode to the tasty buds

It’s about four days till I have to start the elimination diet. There’s no surprises here, it is what it sounds like. You take away everything that could possibly upset your digestion for a while so it’s out of your body and then reintroduce food one at a time to see if you have a negative reaction to it.

To prepare for this monumental deprivation I’m doing what any sane human being would do: eating just about everything I’ve ever put in my mouth “just one last time”, because I know there’s a chance I won’t be able to have it again if it proves to be something tummy can’t handle. Mostly that means my diet this week consists of sugar, alcohol and things I haven’t had in years, so they couldn’t be the source of the problem anyway.By the way, do you know how hard it is to find fairy floss on a whim?

I wish this kind of prep was suitable for other challenges in life. If this is what you did before a marathon I’d be giving Eddie Izard a run for his money. If this is what you did before a wedding, I’d be giving Zsa Zsa Gabor a run for her money. If this is what you did before moving to Adelaide… ahhh… actually, sorry no, silly me, who voluntarily moves to Adelaide. Are you mental?

But I’m not happy Jan. This diet thing doesn’t leave any room for vices. Seriously, man must have one really bad thing in his life, a thing that’s naughty and forbidden and bound to lead to a colostomy bag by middle age. It’s what makes life exciting, what makes you feel like you’re walking on a tightrope instead of being strapped into the kiddy seat of life. If I follow this diet, that’s pretty much everything gone. The only thing left to get a thrill from each day will be picking my nose, but fark, I’m probably intolerant to mucus too. Continue reading

Dr Feelbad and his ill mannered bedside

It’s officially been a month since I quit the office job. On my first day of unemployment I wrote up two pages of “to do’s” and throughout August I’ve been getting through them at my own procrastinating pace. I’ve also been doing an excellent job of ignoring the most important one; fixing my bum.

But I finally signed in at the new doctors surgery last week and booked an appointment. I don’t go to doctors much, but since I moved to London my body seems to be falling apart and trips to those in the medical profession are becoming all too frequent for my liking, although for me frequent means more than once a year.

For some reason I have this idea that when you leave your local GP you’re generally feeling better.The Doc has assured you that the green, puss spewing mini volcano on you inner thigh is quite normal, they’ve made the appropriate empathetic noises, maybe even a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and you walk out with a prescription for the cream that’s going to smother not only the life force of volcano but all your apprehensions as well.

I had to wait half an hour to see my doctor. Not uncommon at a GP, no. But in the UK they’ve got this 10 minute rule for each patient and as far as I can tell they stick doggedly to it. If you haven’t got all your ailments seen to in the allotted ten minutes, they tell you to make another appointment. I’m not kidding.

Now I consider myself fairly patient, and admittedly I was slightly entertained in the waiting room watching a mum give her young daughter tough love as she continually stuffed up tying her shoe laces (the kid, not the mum), but I was left to wonder why I had to wait half an hour. I saw the woman who went in before me to “my” doctor leave ten minutes after my appointed time. What was he doing? Paperwork? Toilet? Internet surfing for a new job? The waiting room was now empty but for me and a guy with the buttons of his fly undone (what’s the correct procedure there by the way, do you tell people?). Hurry the hell up will ya!! I’m an unemployed bum, I’ve got things to do, blogs to write, freshly scented bathroom odours to destroy. Geesh. Continue reading