Archive for January, 2010

Is Australia safe from knives?

January 29, 2010

Knife crime always seems to be in the news in the UK and it is quite a big problem over here. Between 2007 and 2008, 22,151 knife offences were recorded by the police throughout the UK.

However, knife crime in Australia seems to becoming a problem too. Just a couple of weeks ago a 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death at a birthday party in my home town of Perth, Western Australia. New South Wales police have also stated that they’re going to crack down on knife crime after three separate stabbings happened overnight on January 11. Two of the incidents were involving teenagers.

Just last year, 170,000 people were caught carrying knives around Australia. This is a much larger number than the knife offences recorded by the police in the UK. Although in Australia these people hadn’t yet used the knife they were carrying, to be carrying a knife at all indicated that they would be willing to use it.

It certainly seems as though knives are the most common use of weapon when committing a crime in Australia. In 2008, knives were used with 31 per cent of attempted murder victims; 34 per cent of murder victims; and 19 per cent of robbery victims.  This compares to firearm use where guns were used in 30 per cent of attempted murders, 12 per cent of murders and 6 per cent of robbery offences.

Although there’s not much of a difference between the uses of the two weapons, it is still rather alarming. I have always considered Australia to be a safe place. However, I have heard stories that there is a nastier side to the streets.

My friend used to be a bouncer at a nightclub and he told me that one night when he went to break up a fight on the dance floor, two men pulled out large knives. He immediately stepped back and called the police for help. This same friend told me that there were a lot of gangs that walk around the city at night carrying knives.

Obviously it is not as safe as I thought it was… and it seems as though it is getting worse. Hopefully it will not become as bad as the UK though, where in 2008 there were six deaths a week from knives. That’s almost one a day!

Why are the Brits ashamed of their flag?

January 28, 2010

As we proudly waved the Aussie flag on Australia Day, I had a discussion with a friend of mine as to why the British don’t seem to get their flag out very often. My friend said that she felt it was because if she waved the British flag about she felt as though she was being a nationalist, a racist and that it was almost a statement to say that she voted for the British National Party.

My friend said that at Glastonbury last year, people who had the British flag flying proudly outside their tents were labelled racist pigs and abused. She said that she was a bit embarrassed to wave the flag and that the negative connotations probably stem from the end of World War II.

At the end of the Second World War, there were labour shortages in Britain and the government went searching for immigrants. Many people who fought for England were allowed to move to the UK and this was the beginnings of mass immigration to the country and the arrival of different cultures.

Not all British citizens were happy to see other nationalities on their shores and so they hung up the British flag in their windows as a way of saying ‘go back to where you came from, you’re not wanted here’. Then in the 1980s, skinheads terrorised England with their racism and white nationalist views. Their symbol was also the British flag, as well as the St George’s Cross flag.

Racism is still prominent in England today and the British National Party (BNP) is proof of this. Up until a few months ago it was forbidden for a black person to become a member of the party. The BNP had to change this rule after they were challenged by other parties who said that the regulation was illegal.

The British Department for Culture, Media and Sport have acknowledged the issues with the flag and have even written reports on the topic stating that:

“The Union Flag is one of the most recognisable symbols of the UK. But while in other countries, such as France and the United States, the national flag is regarded as a source of pride, in recent years the Union Flag has all too often become the preserve of political extremists, a symbol of discord rather than harmony. It is critical that this symbol is not hijacked by those who seek to work against the fundamental British values of tolerance and mutual respect.”

I think it’s sad that the Brits can’t wave their flags high and feel a sense of patriotism. In Australia my neighbour has the flag up outside on a post and as we all know, on Australia Day we’re all covered in the symbol. Although some feel it is time to change our flag (myself included) at least we are not ashamed to hold up the current one.

Do you think Australia should become a republic and change its flag?

January 26, 2010

Happy Australia Day everyone. I’m feeling a bit un-Australian this morning as I woke up to a grey sky and stepped outside where it was about 5 degrees. Not exactly the normal 35 degrees I’m used to experiencing on an Australia Day.

I’ve come to work where I’ve been reduced to looking online to check how the Triple JJJ’s Hottest 100 is progressing. I share a small office with my boss and he finds listening to music distracting so we have to work in silence. There’s no sound card on my computer so I can’t even plug in some headphones.

As Australians back home wave their flag proudly, I have started to wonder whether this time next year we might be waving a different flag. It has been in the news lately that many Australians want to change the flag so that the Union Jack doesn’t feature on it. Personally, I don’t believe that this will happen until Australia becomes a republic.

I don’t think that Australia will become a republic until the Queen dies. Unless Prince William was the heir, I don’t believe that many Aussies want to see Prince Charles take the throne. He’s neither inspiring nor youthful. Prince William, on the other hand, has won fans after his recent trip to Oz. The men thought he was a top bloke after he shot that rifle and women got so excited they almost threw their panties at him.

Celebrities such as Ray Martin have been pushing for a flag redesign because they believe that the current flag is ‘colonial’ and that it’s time to embrace other elements to our nation, such as the Aboriginal people. The federal government has promised that it will hold another referendum on becoming a republic if it is re-elected.

I’m all for a flag change. I would like Australia to become a republic as well. I don’t feel Australia is particularly a British nation anymore and in fact we seem to be doing a lot better off than the UK. We have fully recovered from the recession, our politicians aren’t as corrupt and our bankers aren’t a pathetic greedy bunch.

We’re an independent and successful nation and I think our flag should reflect this.

What do you think?

What’s a popular job in the UK?

January 25, 2010

News out this week is that social work managers from North Somerset in the UK are travelling to Australia to recruit experienced childcare staff and social workers because of a shortage in England.

I find it ironic that the Poms have flown to Australia to recruit childcare staff because I thought that Australia itself had a shortage. Perhaps I am wrong. I had a friend who previously worked in childcare and she was paid an appalling wage so perhaps they don’t have a shortage if they can afford to pay them so terribly.

In the past I know that Australian cops have flown across the world to recruit police from the UK. It’s got me wondering – are certain professions more popular than in other parts of the world?

For me, I would rather be a policewoman in Australia than in the UK as there’s less knife crime and at least you can walk around on the beat in the sunshine. But there seems to be a shortage and certainly in my old job in Australia I had a lot of dealings with the police and they all seemed to be British.

I know that if you’re a hairdresser and you try to get a visa for Australia you’re more likely to be successful than someone with a particular university degree that Australia doesn’t want. Such as my degree – journalism is not a profession with a shortage; in fact I think there’s a waiting list!

In my case, journalists are often paid a pathetic wage, especially if they are starting out. Some don’t even get paid for what they write, instead they’re expected to feel ‘privileged’ that their stories are being published. I’m not sure if they understand that we need money to feed ourselves.

Perhaps I should have chosen a career as a teacher or a nurse. At least then I would have found it easier to get employment when I first arrived in London.

England – a place drenched in history

January 24, 2010

Kingston

One thing I love about England is the history. You can walk down a street in London and trace the same steps that a king or queen may have made centuries ago. You can dine in a pub that was built before Victorian times. You can explore a museum that was commissioned for Queen Victoria.

In Australia, if you have a building that’s 100 years old, it’s ancient and will probably be heritage listed. The house that I’m currently living in in London was certainly built over a hundred years ago, although I’m not certain when. The church across the street has 1789 stamped across its door, so perhaps it was around then.

The other night we went walking around the centre of London after a meal and we stopped in Trafalgar Square. In front of us was Nelson’s collum, behind us was The National Gallery, we were surrounded by embassies and next to St Martin In the Fields church. The buildings were built either in the 1700s 0r 1800s, probably before Australia was even discovered by the British.

I enjoyed history at school but only when we weren’t learning about Australian history. There isn’t much of a time line after white men arrived and yet we would learn it over and over again every year. I was speaking to a British friend two nights ago and she was telling me how at school they learnt about all the kings and queens and the rest of the British history. It sounded a lot more fascinating.

Of course, it’s not our fault Australian history is so short and in some ways its a blessing. We’ve never had a war on our shores and our history isn’t tainted with corruption or genocide. People move to Australia because it is truly the ‘land of the free.’

I appreciate all this, but I also enjoy exploring the culture and history of the British and I’m going to make the most of it while I’m over here. Today I’m going to Kingston – a place where Saxon kings were crowned in the 900s. Cool, huh?

Australians move to the UK because they’re unsettled in Oz

January 22, 2010

A new report has been published revealing that many Australians move to the UK because they have a ‘deeply-felt existential need’ for adventure and are in search of self-understanding and career growth.

I must admit that for me, the main reason for moving to England was to have a bit of an adventure. I also had these grand plans to improve on my career, but that hasn’t really happened exactly as I imagined, so I’m just living for the adventure at the moment.

The report said that expats move to the other side of the world because they don’t feel truly settled at home in Australia and for me this was also true. I felt that there was more to see than little-old-Perth and to be honest, I had felt that for a long time.

I got the travel bug at a young age. I think I probably caught it when I was 9 and my parents took me on an African adventure around Zimbabwe. We drove around in a ute (with me squeezed between them) and camped in safari parks. I saw Victoria Falls, so many wild animals and heard hyenas laughing at night. It was the best adventure and probably not one I’ll ever get to do again (well, not in Zimbabwe anyway).

I also think that I moved to the UK because I’m always up for a challenge and I definitely fulfilled that need by the move. Arriving in the middle of the recession, homeless, poor and jobless gave me a nasty shock but thankfully things have improved. If anything, facing the challenge has given me more confidence in myself and taught me that I can tackle difficulties head-on.

Uprooting myself created a desire to challenge myself further, which I think can only be a good thing because that’s the way you learn. It’s also the way you grow. If you do the same things day in and day out, what difference is that going to make to you as a person? You’ll still be the exact same person doing the exact same things in a year from now.

Moving out of home certainly gives you confidence, but moving to the other side of the world gives you wings.

London, the already expensive city, increases its prices

January 21, 2010

One of the reasons why I don’t like the beginning of the New Year is that businesses choose this time to hike up their prices. It was revealed yesterday that the average UK salary didn’t rise last year, for the first time in a long time.

I have to argue that if the salaries didn’t go up, why should things become more expensive? I suppose it’s due to inflation, but with this recession that we’ve been having, it seems a bit tough.

I’ve already been stung twice by the price hikes. Firstly, during the first week of the New Year I went to board a bus and my pass was declined. I apparently didn’t have enough money on it. I was puzzled, as I knew I had what I thought was the right amount on the card earlier that morning.

Turns out that I was wrong and that the fare price had risen. I’d read about it somewhere, but just forgotten. Thanks Boris Johnson for that.

Then this morning I went to the newsagent to buy The Times and was shocked to realise that the price of the paper had gone up to £1. I only had 95p on me. I had to ask the newsagent if he’d lend me 5p and promised to pay him back tomorrow. How embarrassing!

I’m not too great with maths, but I calculate that the newspaper’s price has gone up 10 per cent. That’s quite a rise when you consider less people are buying the paper and more are reading their news online. Hopefully the price hike won’t deter Times fans, but who knows? It probably won’t put me off, but it is still an annoyance.

Gone are the times when The Times cost the equivalent of 1p.

Australia Day in London… not so Australian

January 20, 2010

What are us Londoners to do on Australia Day this year? Firstly, we won’t have a public holiday so we can either bunk off work or party on afterwards, however either option is not as satisfying as the real deal.

Skipping work may be easy though – my colleagues didn’t even know there was such a thing as Australia Day when I mentioned it. And they call us ignorant. (Although, now that I’ve mentioned it, it may not be as easy to ‘chuck a sickie’!)

Thankfully there are a lot of Australian ex-pats in London so I won’t have to resort to partying by myself. One pub I was in last week had its Australia Day celebrations publicised along with the caption ‘Triple J’s Best One Hundred playing all day.’ Obviously an Aussie didn’t write that.

One of my friends suggested that she’d have a ‘summer’ party at her house and that we could all walk around in our bathers with the heating cranked, pretending that it was 40 degrees. Amusing as that sounds, I don’t think any invites have gone out so we won’t be doing that.

We’ll probably just end up having drinks after work. It’s my other half’s birthday on that day, so we’ll have more than one thing to celebrate (he’s a true blue Aussie).
Although whatever we do, I know it won’t be as good as whatever people back home are doing. They’ll probably be at the beach sunning themselves or sitting on the foreshore with the radio turned up full ball. Thinking about it almost makes me want to crack a Fosters. Almost.

British food – can it be good?

January 19, 2010

Sorry I haven’t blogged for a couple of days, especially after I saw that on Saturday I had the highest number of readers to my blog yet! I was really sick over the weekend, I think it was something I ate which gave me food poisoning.

Thankfully I’m feeling much better now. Talking of food, I was thinking about British food over the past few days. Why do so many people have such negative connotations when they think of British food? What is traditional British food? I think of bangers and mash, fish and chips, Sunday roast and Yorkshire puddings – what’s so bad about that?

I love watching celebrity cooking shows but it seems as though so many celebrity chefs are against cooking their own nation’s food. Gordan Ramsay loves his Indian and Jamie Oliver has toured the US and released books on Italian cooking – yet they tend not to cook English food. With the exception of River Cottage, why are they so against it?

Perhaps it’s because British food doesn’t really have the best reputation. French food is well known to be outstanding and other nations, such as Germany, Italy and even the USA are proud of their food. Australian food doesn’t have a bad reputation – quite the contrary – but our cuisine is hard to define.

Besides from the obvious – the BBQ – what else is uniquely Australian? You can hardly call Vegemite a meal. Anyway, I’ve decided that because I’m living in the UK I’m going to try and learn more about the local food. In some ways it is a lot like Australian food – it is so multicultural (well London is anyway) that the curries from Brick Lane have been said to be better than those from India.

Anyone local reading this – please give me some advice as to what British food I could cook up!

Depressed? It could be the weather!

January 16, 2010

People often talk about Australians being a happy bunch who find it easy to relax. On the other hand, others often say that the Brits are a crowd of complaining sods who are uptight and never happy.

I have discovered why. It’s the weather! I truly believe that the small amount of sunshine in the UK is to blame. There’s even a name for a disorder for people suffering from depression because of the lack of sunlight – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of the disorder include body aches and pains; changes in energy levels, sleeping patterns and appetite; avoidance of social situations; weight gain; irritability; inability to complete tasks; decreased creativity; and suicidal thoughts.

It seems that low Vitamin B intake can have mental implications. I used to think that so many Brits went to the tanning salon for vanity reasons but perhaps the sun bed is used to make them feel happier too.

In my experience, in the summertime Poms are much happier. They just about skip down the road, say hello to you in the street and the parks of full of people picnicking. When the sun is shining, the British are smiling.

While researching this disorder I found a reason as to why people seem to put on weight during winter. Apparently a lack of vitamin B creates a craving for sugary and starchy foods. Interesting.

It is estimated that in the USA, 25 per cent of the population suffers from winter blues, but only five per cent suffers from SAD. January and February are the worst months for suffers, which I can understand. Christmas has gone and the cold weather seems to be stretching on forever.

So the next time someone says the British are a depressing bunch, remember that it may not be their fault!