Archive for February, 2010

Why are live music venues suffering? Do we not want gigs anymore?

February 26, 2010

The Half Moon pub in Putney, London

Last night I went to a gig at the Half Moon pub in Putney. It’s a really good venue for live music, especially unsigned bands and it gives them a chance to get a bit of exposure.

My friend who’s visiting wanted to go see a live gig because when she visited me in Perth (she’s from Poland) I took her to a lot of gigs. I do miss going to gigs in Perth but I’ve been a bit lazy over here and haven’t really bothered to scope out the scene.

Someone told me the Half Moon was good, so we went along and I was pretty impressed. It reminded me of a venue from home and the music was good too.

Although Perth, Western Australia, has a tiny population, the music scene is really good. We’ve had loads of musos from Perth who have been recognised for their music – Empire of the Sun, AC/DC, Eskimo Joe and Pendulum to name a few.

However, in recent years, live music venues, especially those that feature bands that play original music, have been suffering. Just recently the Hyde Park venue in Perth closed (can someone confirm that it’s closed to live music for good) and over in London the Half Moon was saved from closure just months ago.

I think in both instances people wanted to buy the businesses and turn them into gastro pubs. How bloody boring, there’s one of those on nearly every corner already. In the case of the Half Moon, bands such as U2, The Rolling Stones and Kasabian have played there (albeit when they were lesser known) and it is a great launching pad for new  bands.

So what I want to know is – are people less keen to see live music than they were 20 years ago? Is the band scene dying? Why are these venues suffering so much? Are we losing our originality and would we rather just dance to a DJ and ‘doof doof’ music than see some talent?

I would’ve thought that for many bands, London would be a great place to try and break into the scene. But if there aren’t any venues willing to give you a chance, what hope do you have?

Hottest summer in Australia, but coldest winter in UK – just my luck!

February 24, 2010

Gone are the days when I used to spend lazy afternoons sunning myself on the beach

Yesterday was not a good day to be an Australian living in London. I discovered that while the UK was facing its coldest winter in 30 years, Perth, Western Australia – where I’m from – was experiencing its driest and hottest summer since 1977. Perfect.

Perth has had an average maximum of nearly 32 degrees since summer began. London, meanwhile, has had what feels like a -10 degrees average since the beginning of December. (Slight exaggeration, but it has felt like it!)

I won’t deny it, the weather is starting to get me down. It doesn’t help when every time I log onto Facebook all I see is photos of my mates in Australia sunning themselves on the beach.

Here’s an interesting fact though – although Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer diagnosis in the world each year, with around 30 people per 100,000 being diagnosed with the disease – the UK has more than 18 people per 100,000 who are diagnosed. I don’t think that statistic is so far off Australia’s, especially for a country that almost never sees the sun.

I think I know why this statistic is so prominent though… so many women over here go to solariums. I see them everywhere I go, the browned women who look as though they just came back from a holiday in the Med, even though it’s mid-winter.

I never used to understand the theory of going to a solarium and when my British friend told me that she goes once a month, I was shocked. However, after living in a miserable climate for more than a year, I’m beginning to see the (solarium) light. But if the skin cancer from such a machine didn’t kill me, my mother probably would murder me first for using it.

So while my friend flaunts her tan and talks to me about how that extra vitamin D leaves her feeling merry, I will stay a pale, almost translucent, shade of white and count down the days till spring begins. Which, by the way, is meant to be on Monday. But it’s still 2 degrees outside!

Ah London…you’re beginning to grow on me

February 23, 2010

London town

My friend is coming to visit me today and stay for a few days. It’s her first time in London and I’m really looking forward to showing her around.

I must be starting to become a London local because I was thinking to all the bars and places we could take her and then I realised that I know this city a lot better than I did a year ago. It has taken awhile, but at long last it’s starting to feel like home.

When I first arrived – I’ll be honest – I didn’t really warm to London. It’s one of those cities that seem to grow on you gradually. Now I love it. It’s not the prettiest of cities. You don’t walk down the streets and marvel at the cuteness of it, like you might do in a city such as Paris. London is grimier than that. But there is a certain something about the city that excites me. The hustle and bustle, the old pubs that have people spilling out of them onto the pavement, the immaculate terraced houses of Notting Hill and the rougher streets of Tooting. It’s all exciting and no matter what the day or the time, you can find something to do and somewhere to go.

Londoners also aren’t the warmest of people. They’re very reserved and it’s hard to get to know them. Once you do break the barrier down though, they can be very friendly people. And after a year of being here I’m slowly starting to break the barrier and become friends with the Brits. (Most of my friends over here are Australian, even though I’m ashamed to admit it!)

So when my friend said she was coming to visit, I picked my brain and organised her an itinerary. We’ll be visiting places where we can get 2 for 1 cocktails and we’ll be eating at restaurants where I can get 50 per cent off because I know if you visit a certain website beforehand you can get a voucher. Living in London is expensive, but if you’ve been living here awhile you can learn to get around the expense.

I’m even becoming a local at a bar in Covent Garden because I go there nearly every week for cocktails and my boyfriend and I celebrated our birthdays there. Will definitely have to pay that bar a visit when my friend arrives…they practically know me by name there!

Can’t get to sleep ‘cos my landlords have the noisiest sex

February 22, 2010

I’m feeling very tired this morning. Why? Because my landlords were humping above my head until the wee

My house, where the walls and floors are as thick as tissue paper

 hours of the morning. Literally.

One of the reasons why I love London is because all the buildings are old and beautiful. This includes the house I live in, which was built over 100 years ago. But it’s a Victorian terrace house and every time someone so much as tippy toes around upstairs, the house creaks and moans like you wouldn’t believe.

Unfortunately for us, our landlord’s bedroom is above our room. And last night the floor wasn’t the only thing that was moaning. They were. At least four times a week, as I am about to drift off into a peaceful slumber, I am violently awoken by a sudden pounding and squeeking noise coming from directly above my head. Sometimes I’m already sleeping when I am woken by this sound. Sometimes it’s FOUR IN THE BLOODY MORNING.

Sorry, I am sleep deprived, and therefore cranky. It would be fine if it was simply a case of ‘wham, bam, thank you man,’ but unfortunately for me, I think my landlord takes Viagra. They’re at it for HOURS. Maybe I should be happy that a couple in their 50s have such an active sex life. And maybe I would if they didn’t keep me awake while they went at it like Duracell bunnies.

My landlord told my boyfriend last week that he needs a double hip replacement. From all that thrusting, I’m not surprised. I’m just hoping that it puts him out of action for awhile so I can get a good night’s sleep!

Aussies win at the Vancouver Games

February 19, 2010

Torah Bright

I woke up this morning to some exciting news. Australia has won its first gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Torah Bright has won gold in the women’s snowboard halfpipe final. Not bad for a country that is more well known for its surf and sun than its snow.

It’s the second medal for Australia -Dale Begg-Smith won silver in the men’s moguls, even though he was tipped to win the competition. He lost to Canadian skier Alexandre Bilodeau, who became the first athlete to win a gold medal on home soil. It was a shame Begg-Smith didn’t win gold, but I was quite happy for the Canadian, because in the past two winter Olympics Canada has hosted, no Canadian won a gold medal.

Not many people know that it snows in Australia, but it does and in both Victoria and New South Wales there are ski slopes. The mountains may be more like hills compared to the ranges of Canada and France but it is still worth skiing in the winter time.

My dad used to take me over to Falls Creek in Victoria every year, from the age of seven. My mum doesn’t like to come because she’s not that keen on skiing (although she keeps saying it is because she has a sore knee but we know the real reason) and so it is a good chance to spend some quality time with my dad.

The United Kingdom has yet to win a medal at the games, but perhaps this will change soon. It doesn’t surprise me that the Brits aren’t doing as well at the games. Most English people like to holiday to hot places and escape their miserable weather, rather than visit a snow field. After living in a freezing climate for the past five months I’m starting to understand this logic.

America is at the top of the medal table with 18 and Germany is second with 11. Australia is coming 15th but for a nation that’s not known for its snow, I think this is a good effort. It’ll be interesting to see where we poll at the end of the games. And whether the United Kingdom manages to poll at all.

Are UK schools better or worse than Australian schools?

February 18, 2010

It was revealed this week that one in five UK children graduate from primary school without the basic understanding of mathematics. When I was at school I was never very good at maths but my parents made me take after school classes in primary school and then in high school I had one-on-one tutoring in order to pass my exams. This really helped and without it I don’t think I would’ve done so well. (Not that I did fantastically, but I passed.)

My partner is currently working as a teacher’s assistant, teaching children who are 10 years old. He said that his class couldn’t figure out that a half was 50 per cent. I’m sure when I was 10 I knew that.  Did you? However, my boyfriend teaches at an under-privileged school and he said it’s not necessarily the teachers to blame.

Half the time the children in his class don’t turn up for school and they’re not being pushed by their parents at home to attend. Neither are their parents helping them with their homework. He said that when they had a parent and teacher meeting, only two parents turned up. Low and behold, they happened to be the parents of the two top students in the class.

The other problem, my boyfriend says, is that no one in his class has English as a first language. Many of the children are from war torn nations such as Sudan and Ethiopia and do not speak English at home. He said that this creates problems when he’s trying to teach them because sometimes they have problems understanding what he says. Not only this, but his teacher is from Jamaica and has a thick accent that a lot of the children struggle to understand.

Are there similar problems in the Australian school system? I know that the paying schools, at least in Western Australia, often seem to do better than the public school system. In the last end-of-year exam results in WA, eight of the ten top schools were private. Does this mean that the parents sending their children to private schools are getting better education, or do the parents who can afford to send their kids to private schools push their children more?

Whatever the case, I think something needs to be urgently done about the British school system. Recently on Dispatches, primary school teachers were asked to sit a maths test for 10 year olds. The average grade was 43 per cent and only one teacher got all the questions right. If the teachers don’t know the maths, how are the students meant to learn it?

Pauline Hanson…good riddance!

February 16, 2010

So Pauline Hanson has left Australia. This is news that many Aussies will delight in, but for those of us living in the UK – where she is headed – it’s not such good news.

Hanson is known for her racist politics and was the former leader of the One Nation political party, campaigning against immigration. The party had beliefs similar to those of the British National Party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, has been outspoken in the past about ridding Britain of its ‘ethnic’ population.

Hanson said she is leaving Australia because she feels that it is no longer the land of opportunity. I am stumped as to what she means by this, especially seeing as though Australia, especially Western Australia, is still booming, whereas UK is in the midst of one of the biggest recessions it has ever seen. But then again, Hanson, who once said Australia was in danger of becoming ‘swamped’ by Asians, has never struck me as the smartest person. (Before she was a politician she left school at 15 and worked in a fish and chip shop.)

I’m not sure how well Hanson is going to fit in over here. To me, the UK is more multi-cultural than Australia, mainly because their immigration laws are a lot less strict. No doubt, Hanson will quickly become chums with Griffin and it’ll be interesting to see whether she joins the BNP. Perhaps it will cheer Griffin up. He’s not been having a good time lately, after the courts ruled he has to change his rules and allow people who aren’t white to join his party. Not that I can see any black people joining the BNP any time soon!

Hanson has said that she doesn’t plan to return to Australia, but us Brits don’t want her either. In fact, I can’t think of a nation that does…One Nation? Perhaps she should create her own, just for her…somewhere out in the middle of the ocean.

Were you spoilt on Valentine’s Day?

February 15, 2010

I hope that everyone all had a good Valentine’s Day. I received a practical gift – a hairdryer – which I chose myself and which I desperately needed. I bought my partner quite a few presents, which I guess he felt a bit bad about because he thought his didn’t match up.

Not to worry, he cleaned the house from top to bottom and then made me the most delicious lunch which had him slaving over the stove for a couple of hours.

Sometimes I think that actions speak louder than words and that’s why it’s great to be pampered on Valentine’s Day. Anyone can buy someone a gift (if they have the money) but not everyone can be bothered to make their loved one a card or spring clean the house.

I don’t really see the point of Valentine’s Day, to be honest. It seems as though it’s a commercialised and expensive love day where people make money on the fact that you have to ‘prove’ your love.

To me it’s a bit of a waste of time, because I don’t need a day like Valentine’s Day to feel loved. What do you think? Were you spoilt on V day?

My mum actually received a gift from my dad this Valentine’s Day, which I thought was rather sweet, seeing as though they have been married for more than thirty years. But then she told me that it was only because they went away for the weekend and one of their friends bought a present for his wife, prompting dad to do the same.

Perhaps all men need a kick up the backside at some point – or maybe they just don’t buy into the Valentine’s Day advertising as much as we women do?

Alexander McQueen kills himself…why do so many people take their lives?

February 12, 2010

World renowned fashion designer Alexander McQueen died yesterday. Being in London, it was big news here and I’m sure it made bulletins around the world. He apparently hanged himself, which is very sad news.

McQueen had Twittered recently that he was struggling to get his life back on track after his mum died earlier this month. He was due to showcase his next collection at London Fashion Week in March and it is a mystery as to why a man so successful and loved would want to do this to himself.

In England it is okay to report on suicide, even if the person isn’t famous, as long as the journalist does not release specific details. For example, reporters are allowed to say that the deceased died from an overdose, but are not allowed to state what drugs were swallowed and in what quantities. This is meant to prevent copycats from carrying out the same act.

In Australia, the ethical laws surrounding suicide are taken one step further. Unless it is a prominent person who killed themselves, it is not allowed to be reported. However, if the suicide story was something unusual then it may be talked about in the media. Something ‘unusual’ includes double suicides or suicides that injure someone else in the process.

I think that in Australia suicide needs to be discussed more. I’m not sure if I’m a firm believer in copycat scenarios – if someone wants to kill themselves they’ll do it, no matter the circumstance. I believe that by not discussing suicide it allows many Australians to turn a blind eye to the problem.

In Australia, more people die from suicide than in car accidents. This is a shocking statistic, yet it is one that is known by few. Certainly, when I was growing up I knew more people who had killed themselves than who had died in a car accident. It was tragic.

Why is there such a problem with depression in Australia? I’m not sure. All I know is that more awareness needs to be created around the issue, so that solutions can be found for suicide prevention. What do you think?

Spit? Can’t you just swallow it?!

February 11, 2010

Why do people in England have a horrible habit of spitting wherever they go?

This morning I was waiting at the bus stop and this well-dressed lady in high heels and a suit came and stood next to me. Next thing I knew, she’d tilted her head to the side and spat and big glob of spit on the ground. Not so lady like any more.

Is it because it’s colder here and everyone has phlegm? Or do people lack hygiene? Or perhaps in Australia we’ve been taught not to litter and somehow we associate spitting with littering? Who knows? All I know is that it’s quite disgusting.

I still remember when I was about six or seven and my mum took me to the park. A teenage girl arrived and was spitting here, there and everywhere – all over the play equipment. My mum gave her a sharp talking to. My mum probably would’ve had a fit if she spent a day catching the bus with me in London.

Each day I venture out on to the footpath I have to manoeuvre myself around the giant gobs of spit that lay splattered like dog shit all around me. And my boyfriend isn’t exempt from the spitting horrors either.

Last weekend when we went for a run he managed to slag on the ground between breaths. If I hadn’t of been so out of breath I would’ve had some strong words with him. But I was having enough trouble gasping for breath to start lecturing too.

Can someone explain to me why this foul habit is so popular over here? I  think perhaps England should have the same laws as Singapore – a £200 fine for the dirty habit.