Friday, 30 April 2010

Ice Ice baby

Heading off to Stockholm tomorrow for the long weekend - or as Viking puts it... the land of Vikings!

Tracey and I haven't really planned what we're going to do in this so-called land of tall beautiful blonde people. There's a plethora of museums, outdoor saunas, shopping (who could expect anything else from the originators of H&M and Ikea??) and loads more...

The only thing I have on my wish list is a visit to the Ice Bar! Yes, I want to fork over $20+ for the luxury of sipping a drink in an ice cup made from glacier water, while enjoying the cool surroundings and, here's the best part, wearing a massive parka. To be honest, it's the parka that I'm after...

Thursday, 29 April 2010

living in a bigoted world

If you live in the UK, chances are you've heard all the buzz about Gordon Brown's little mishap... aptly coined now as "Bigot-gate"

The Prime Minister is set for re-election, and in an attempt to show himself able to connect to his voters, he spent some time earlier this week talking to ordinary Brits amongst a slew of media cameras and journalists. Unfortunately for him, one such voter was a Gillian Duffy, a 66-year old Labour-supporting widow who grilled him on deficit, immigration - the typical issues a voter might bring up.

Mrs. Duffy, however wasn't going to be swayed by his typical political responses and demanded to know about those who were claiming money from the state but weren't vulnerable, namely those "Eastern Europeans" who were "flocking" into the country.

PM Brown's response was that while millions of immigrants move into the UK, millions of Brits emigrate right out...

...and after exchanging a few niceties about grandchildren and such, he walked away to the safety and privacy of his car.

Or so he thought.

Once inside, Mr. Brown called her a bigoted women, and that the encounter had been a disaster. Unfortunately for Mr. Brown, his mic was still on, and the comments were picked up and fed right into the salivating hands of the media.

Now the UK media is in a frenzy... Gordon Brown skipped out on his campaign duties to spend 45 minutes groveling at the feet of Gillian Duffy, the UK public are calling for blood and his campaign is at threat...

What gets to me though, is that despite all the chatter on twitter, the commentary on tv, the many articles written on the subject, very few people have actually come out to say that what Duffy said was, to sum it up, the words of a bigot.

What saddens me even more, what makes me reconsider my decision on whether or not to stay in the UK, is this quote I just read from Gordon Brown regarding immigration to the UK:

"I understand the worries people have about immigration. I understand the concerns about what is happening to people's neighbourhoods and I understand the fears that people have. But we have taken action with this new (immigration) point system. Net migration to the United Kingdom is now coming down."

So basically, I can kiss getting another work visa goodbye...which at the end of the day, may be a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

je-je-je-jet lag!!!

it's past 1 am, last night I was cheerfully up til 3am, and not so cheerfully up for work at 8 am.

How can I sum up the last few days? Well, I managed to beat the volcanic ash and fly over to Vancouver where....

I hung out with a cereal-eating Fiyo

Got artsy with some corn...

Devoured a lot of crab...

Caught up with a dear old married couple

Practiced walking down the aisle

Said 'yes' and 'I do' dessert

Watched another couple get married - congrats Rox and Wren, so happy I made it!

Friday, 16 April 2010

the sky is falling

Call me chicken little, but sometimes I just like to think the worse of every situation.

It's a kind of insurance really. If I think something is going to turn out bad and it does, well then I'm not in for some nasty surprise.

Classic example is the first date. I never expect anything from the guy, heck I build him up in my mind to be such a freak that it's no wonder the poor lad never calls me back. Conversations typically go something like:

"So why did your last relationship go wrong..."

"Any annoying habits I need to know about..."

"Really, you're saying you've NEVER cheated on a girlfriend?"

Anyway, just when I think things are starting to go my way, BAM volcanic ash starts to drift over from Iceland and disrupt the airspace over the entirety of the UK and Northern Europe, causing havoc in airports, cancelled flights and a stressed out Irene. See, I'm supposed to fly out to Vancouver on Wednesday morning. And if this were for just a regular visit back home, I wouldn't be so upset. But my brother is getting married and I'd really like to be there to witness that. It's kind of a big deal. Not to mention he's adjusted the open bar figures to accommodate my "irresponsible drinking habits" (his words, not mine)

So yes, if I seem to be spouting off negative vibes and moaning about missing the open bar and the wedding, don't bother telling me to think positive. I can't, it'll just jinx me.

Monday, 12 April 2010

nothing says Easter like some angry hippies with hash

Easter break was spent this year in Denmark.

Following a relatively stress-free journey to Stansted where Jess and I managed to once again run through an airport terminal to our flight, and an hour long delay on the plane while they attempted to fix some sort of technical problem, we made it to Odense, the third largest city in Denmark.

Staying with the wonderfully hospitable and charming Jensen family, those two days were full of getting chased at by an angry horse, partying Danish styles and raiding Cecile's parent's well-stocked fridge.

With very little sleep, we made our way over to Copenhagen and as the city had pretty well shut down for the holiday weekend, Jess and I found ourselves at the one place in town that was sure to be open - the Hard Rock Cafe. After taking a very long nap, we ventured out in the drizzling cold weather to find a place to eat dinner, then to find the elusive Ice Bar - which surprise surprise, turned out to be closed.

Monday was our official sight-seeing day. We saw boats, brightly coloured houses, squares, walked along the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe and stepped outside the European Union for about an hour into the strange strange land of Christiania.

Formerly a deserted military ground, a group of hippies in the 70s took over the space and formed a separate state within Denmark. It's kind of like a strange Mad Max world, of ram-shackled and run down warehouses, make-shift shelters made from driftwood and old pieces of metal and bonfires in garbage cans.

A large sign with 'No Photo' spray painted on it deters tourists from documenting their time here, and the rough looking residents of Christiania enforce it. Really the only friendly face I saw was from a woman on "Pusher Street", but that was just before she gestured down to a table of hash invitingly.

It's an interesting "social experiment", a commune of sorts, where people have gathered for decades to celebrate peace, love, legalized cannibis, and who knows what else. What's even stranger is that it's become a tourist zone. A must-see attraction of Copenhagen, as iconic as the little mermaid statue or the brightly coloured townhouses that line the pier at Nyavn. In a way, being a tourist attraction legitimizes Christiania. Because it's so popular with visitors, it's become engrained in the identity of what makes Copenhagen what it is. While many Danish people resent the Christiania residents for living on prime property without paying astronomical taxis, in a way I wonder whether they also take some ownership, pride even, that this "social experiment" has gone on for decades in their country. Something which surely would have never happened in any other country that I've been to.

At any rate, here are the obligatory photo-ops from the gates of Christiania:

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Happy Easter - as the thunder rumbles

it's the Thursday before the easter long weekend... and typical of this country, the sky has turned from an ominous grey, to outright downpour, lightning and thunder.

It's the kind of weather where one wishes they were cosily tucked under a duvet with nowhere to go, except I'm in the office and have dinner plans tonight. Not to mention I need to pack for my upcoming trips.

Copenhagen this weekend - land of very tall Danes, a little mermaid and Hans Christian Anderson. It's also a very brisky 3 degrees there at the moment, so I'll be taking my winter clothes out of storage.

thankfully I'm heading to the sunny (and hopefully not rainy) Barcelona right afterwards, where I'll soak up the sun, sangria and sumptuous tapas (like the alliteration there?) while gossiping in french/english with my wonderful cousin, Kim.

I promise photos and updates when I get back!!!