Monday, 26 September 2011

Miss Lame- In Action!

My lovely home:
Home is becoming so full of bodies, voices, personalities. So bright and complimentary. Energetic, yet homey… and most important and fortunate of all, genuine.
Allow me to try to paint a picture of this lovely household…
*We enjoy a cup of tea together and share the ins and outs of our day

*While I struggled with the news of my Grandfather’s passing the past 2 weeks, I received many offerings of hugs and ears for listening from my new, deeply genuine and kind flatmates. I accepted these offerings and although I am still adjusting to my new home with these lovely new people in my life, extensions of kindness such as these truly set a tone of openness that will only grow and flourish with time!
*This past Thursday evening, all 6 of us sat together in our lounge and constructed an email outlining the issues that need tending to. We put our heads together and craft a message with language that is simple and clear yet expresses our dissatisfaction and the urgency of the situation.
-We used basic, concise word choices such as “NEED”, “NOW”, “BAD” etc

-To indicate urgency we used: CAPS-LOCK and "!!!!!"
…We hammer out our message, laughing and bonding over our frustration and the utter absurdity of the state of our flat. We laughed and "winge-ed" (British slang for whining) about our landlord's approach to home repairs and follow through, or LACK thereof!
For example, there is something quite entertaining, yet tear prevoking, about the fact that the landlords promised to have the front and back yard cleared of all garbage and reno materials before our tendency, which still, to this day, has NOT been cleared. Meanwhile, our young repair fellow (Turkish couples younger brother) drops in, unannounced and at random, for approximately 5 minutes, to lay out some tools, a mop and some wooden edging/skirting in my tiny bathroom, only to leave it there for 3 days in a row, with no progression, until he recieves my complaint.  
They seem to be creating the ILLUSION of carrying out jobs/house repairs.
After the emotionally draining experience writing our email, we decided to go drink our sorrows away/test out one of our local pubs on Broadway street.  Bonding on Broadway.
*We all contribute to making Chaudrey a little more charming… Chaudrey is starting clean up nice and the manic-depressive episodes are getting less regular- we have begun a collage in our living room, where art, posters, fliers, maps, photos are all welcome. We are developing an artsy, warm space. 
Also, come spring, Stavros and I will create a beautiful garden in the backyard together- floral as well as herb and some veg!    
Note: There has been some debate amongst the flatmates on the name of our flat. Some feel that Charles is an appropriate fit, while others feel that Audrey works well (inspired by a poster of Audrey Hepburn- “breakfast at Tiffany’s” in our lounge).  We were able to compromise and go with “Chaudrey”, which has enabled the story and personification of our flat to exacerbate further into a beautiful tale of Chaurdry’s sexual confusion, finding clarity and the current state of transition she is going through. Chaudrey is truly beginning to embrace her feminine side and is getting prettier every day. 
*We are comfortable ”taking the piss” out of each other!  A very good sign of friendship and acceptance in British culture.
Example: After leaving my meaty snack of blue cheese stuff chicken breasts wrapped in wild beef pancetta smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen counter, corrupting the communal space with my carnivorous ways, my vegetarian flatmates, Thom and Kat, threatened to place peas under my pillow and carrots in my bed… Ultimate veggie revenge! 
*We have a great deal of ingenuity and have managed to come up with the ultimate solution to not having shot glasses. A dire issue, I know. 
We take vodka shots out of cored apples for birthdays.
Note: Apple-y vodka is DEFINATELY better than non-apple-y vodka, and if you’re hungry you have a snack to follow. As the british say… “BRILLANT!”
*I manage to experience STUPENDOUSLY SUPPPPERRRRRR-dork Miss Lame moments at home…
The moment: In the midst of attempting to explain my love of teaching to a few of my flatmates, in particular, my enjoyment of working with youth designated at risk/behavioural, Rachel suddenly exclaimed, laughing intensely, “WHHHHAAAAATTTTT DID YOU JUST SAAYYYYYYY!!!!!!?????!!!!!”… I hesitated and thought hard about what I had been saying to cause such a reaction…I let out a small, confused “whaa…” as I reviewed my story…  “SAY THAT AGAIN?!!??” Rachel exclaimed, checking to make sure she heard right, her eyes wide and her mouth open and grinning from ear to ear, waiting in suspense for me retort…  Remembering the last thing I said, “I like kids with a little spunk?” I looked up questioningly…Innocently… As Rachel and the other absolutely BURST into laughter. It started to click… Starting to blush because I could tell I was about to be informed that “spunk” didn’t mean ‘edgy’ or ‘attitude’, rather something terribly inappropriate.  I could just feel it. Turns out “spunk” definitely refers to ejaculate here and maybe everywhere… I am just very unfortunately misinformed on this word.
It is necessary that I understand NEVER to say “I like kids with spunk” EVER AGAIN.
It’s best that I found out this way.
Thank you Mr. Principal for the interview. Might I add that I really enjoy working with kids with a little spunk? 
DAY ONE of my supply teaching experiences, Miss Lame had a super dork moment of course.
Hi Class, I would like to introduce myself… My name is Miss Lame, HAHA, err, uumm”… I correct myself and indicate my actual name, but at this point myself and the entire class is having a little laugh. What a great start.
PROS and CONS of the splendidly spastic world of supply teaching
The incredibly hectic, last minute nature of supply can be quite unsettling first thing in the morning, in a new metropolis, in a new life. Miss Lame takes MUCH comfort in organization and prior preparation… This being said, receiving a call at 7:15 am telling me I need to find ____ bus stop, to take bus number _____ to _____ underground station and catch the tube going some direction, switch to another tube line going some other direction and finally and sometimes the most perplexing part, decipher the streets of London all to find a school within 45minute time frame. Upon arrival, I am directed to a “contact person” who then throws a school guidelines and policy pamphlet at me, and stuffs a very dry, “read-from-text-answer-questions” lesson plan, which is destine to fail in engaging the students into my high-anxious hands.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to be thrown in the deep end, teaching year 11 “maths” or something wonderful like that.  Limited to no time to process the information I am to deliver.
This is a CON by the way.
On the other hand, there are many splendid things about supply work:
*I have to opportunity to ease back into the high school, teaching setting with less pressure- No lesson planning, marking, admin, no worries! Home time = MY TIME!
*MISS LAME LEARNINGS… I am forced to adaptable and quickly developing my behaviour management strategies as supply teaching introduces a whole new demand on this facet of teaching for the following reasons:
a) Names- To gain a misbehaving/not listening students attention I have the following HIGHLY INEFFICIENT options:
1.  Walk across the classroom/gym space, right up to the student, make eye contact and provide a message.
2. Try to get their attention using my booming “Miss-Lame-is-for-real-voice” and provide a complete description of the student in order to gain their attention (the fact that all schools in England use uniforms does not help this approach)… least effective.
SO far my best option, a recent adaptation: 
Students leaning over desks, standing, wandering, backs turned, socializing.  

Miss Lame: "Hi class! I would appreciate it if you could listen up here, please and thank you. It's time to get started.

I am able to grab the attention of majority of the class using my booming Miss Lame voice. Some students soften but continue their banter, but their whispers culminate and generate a dull roar. This is when I turn to students who are listening for help.

Miss Lame: “I’m bored of waiting and getting nowhere…aren’t you?

I then place my hands behind my back and wait.

Moments later I have a number of students doing the job for me.

Students: "GUYYYSSSSS!!! Listen to Miss!!! Shut up guys!! Listen to Miss!!"

A real voice and energy saver.

b) Class/school Rules- hard to know them all after a 5 minute debriefing with an administrator…
c) Supply is often assigned utterly simple/boring textbook work- the least bit engaging… I’m bored… The kids are bored  = our hyperactive brains cannot stay on task for the entire period.
If I have an ounce of time between obtaining the lesson plan and delivering it, I enjoy the opportunity to be creative and try to layout the lesson in a more entertaining/engaging way. This has proven to be effective and highly rewarding.
Student: “Miss, you should get an actual teaching job… Like here, at this school, teaching this class…
Ultimately, supply work challenges my behaviour management, creativity and ability to think on the spot. This is becoming less and less stressful and more empowering each day.  I am starting to feel like true-blue Miss Lame in the classroom and it feels wonderful!

A mass of students, awaiting their first instructions of the period. I open my mouth and start to speak. Few words escape me before I am cut off and a crowd of eager, intrigued, entertained expressions surround me and the same question is thrown at me from every direction:
… Slightly disappointed that my Canadian-ness isn’t very apparent… “Try further North…” I grin and wait for them to solve the mystery.  Once the students have concluded I am Canadian, the interrogation and comments ensue… ALL at once.
-“Miss! Do you know Dre?
-“Miss! Say ‘about’!”… I say “about”… *laughter
-“Miss! Where in Canada are you from?”…
-“Miss! Do you know Justin Bieber?”… “Actually his hometown is very close to mine…”… “MISS CAN YOU GET ME HIS AUTOGRAPH?!?!!?!?!??!?!?”… “yes.”… “REALLY MISS?”… “no.”
-“Do you play football miss?... Are you any good miss?”
-“What do you call football miss?”… They wait for my response and it is obvious they already know the answer… I respond “soccer, but I’m learning to say football”… A few of the students break into abrasive, poor attempts at Canadian accents- “soccer”/“I like soccer”/“let’s go play soccer”… Having the piss taken out of my Canadian accent is something I have become very used to J

“When was the last time you heard something incredible?”
Waiting in the underground, a giant sign across the rails, broad and towering, its dark, close, bold features grab me.  A portion of a hand holding a guitar neck, so magnified you can see the creases and texture of the skin, tones of dark grey. This image is prominent.  My eyes are then drawn to the words beside this image. “When was the last time you heard something incredible? These words took power over my brain, connecting my thoughts to over a week ago, when I stood mezmorized, watching a group of five, bombard my auditory system with their incredible sound.
The lead guitar climbs, the musician's fingers hammer and bend the strings so quickly they appear to float over the fret. It's his face, the tension, the passion, the sweat that indicate his workrate. The drummer flails with coordinated spasms. So much technical intent, yet so much freedom and spirit. Two violins rage and fill every crevas surrounding my body, engulfing my ears, buzzing my body. I feel the instruments building and building and can feel a head on collision coming. Together they peak, their individual sounds colliding and they explode into a utterly powerful, cooperative sound brawl. I am blown away.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A kajumble of emotions

Last Thursday, after receiving the news that my 6 week maternity cover had fallen through, the day before I was to start, and with a week of emotional ups and downs, I sat, cross-legged and heavy hearted on the huge comfy chair in my living room, with the yellow rose I cut from our rose bush out front in a beer bottle vase in my lap, my nose buried in the centre of the soft pedals, inhaling the powerful, soothing sent of the rose.  This helps bring the soft tears I need to expel and then sooths me back to a state of calm.
A gift from nature. So simple and perfect.
You will be great.
The first three weeks of my time in the UK have been wonderful and much of my positive experience can be attributed to my companionship and time spent with Matt. We shared many laughs, great conversations and both extravagant as well as simple lovely experiences together- from wine on the cobble stone road next to Covent Garden Market, to simply laying, talking in the park or walking and laughing down Broadway Street as we struggle to consume our snack of "strawberries and cream on-the-go". 
Like myself, Matt is just beginning a new and very exciting chapter in his life. He has moved to Bristol to begin his university program to become a Paramedic.  I will miss Matt, my charming British gent, who showed me many gems of London, educated me on key British terms/mannerisms and “took the piss” out of my Canadian accent.
British Terminology: “Taking the piss”
Definition: to make fun of/poke fun/teasing between friends
During our time spent together, Matt shared with me much about his time and hardship in the military.  Being confronted with death. Witnessing, feeling the threat, deterioration and loss of lives- flesh, blood, bodies. I can’t imagine.  As he shared his motives and passions behind his career goals it became clear to me that he is exactly where he needs to be. I admire him so much. He offers the world so much wisdom and courage, and will truly make a difference both as a paramedic and person.
Dear Matt,
You will be great.

Our Flat… Personified!
With our landlords (a newly married Turkish couple) in Turkey for the first month of our tendency, and the landladies younger brother, in the primary stages of learning English, left behind to carry out repairs and deal with issues, my lovely flatmates and I often share in feelings of utter frustration by the growing list of issues and annoyances with our home.  We do our best to respect the landlords’ wishes despite this…

Yesterday, my flatmate, Thom, and I began to personify our hair-pulling yet endearing household… Since, I have been pondering how to perfectly explain the “personality” of our flat. I have come up with the following…

1.       Its name is Charles.
2.       Charles has a mood disorder: Bipolar
*Manic episodes- Charles gets overzealous and wets himself often (when showering, water leaks down through the house to the ground/1st floor… Charles needs some chalking…) 
*Depressive episodes- Charles gets overworked and over stressed and shuts down completely (two electrical system overloads thus far)… He is VERY difficult to pull out of this state and requires extra assistance… If only our landlord’s brother better understood Charles… Then maybe he could keep Charles from getting so low… 
3.       Charles feels incomplete… (he still requires a little table in the lounge- Temporary, saggy Mrs. Box is on her last legs…) He also feels a little overexposed and in some areas… (i.e. needs curtains)
4.       Charles has some endearing qualities…
*Despite his dirty, dishevelled exterior, he has a lot of potential to clean up real nice… He just needs some major tidying, trimming and bush removal… ha. bush.
*Charles is bright. (Nice big windows for the sunshine to pour in through)
*Charles lives in a wicked area of London England- hip and trendy, young and fun.
*Even though Charles mood is shifting constantly he is filled to the brim with love. (aka lovely loving roomies… super cheese, I know.)  
Let me introduce you briefly to the lovely folks I live with…
1.       Rachel- A “Northern girl”…Recent graduate in textiles- while seeking work in her field she is tortured by her work at a call centre where she is told to be pushy and the threat of her job is held over her head based on numbers/sales made- ew. Rachel is creative, fun and chatty… We made origami lions together. This says a lot about how well we will get along.  
2.       Kate- Also a "Northern girl"... Recent graduate in Market Research- working in her field. - She is warm, genuine and very lovely to be around.
*Kate and Rachel are long-time friends… Both have been so sweet and inviting.
3.       Stavros- Web designer- Lovely Greek- He likes to cook and garden… We’re going to get along just fine!
4.       Kat- Works in Cambridge- commutes everyday- 12hrs = travel + work per day… CRAZY. She is a musician and really chill to be around.
5.       Thom- About to begin his 2nd year in University studying Creative Industries- which is highly tied into  the music industry and other modes of media and management.  He is a musician and ultimately hopes to follow this passion. He has great insight into people and the world around him so we get along swimmingly and have great conversations! 
6.       Jon- Student in English, particularly creative writing… musician/free spirit 
Sometimes we just need a hug.
Beth needs a hug.
You know when you just want the pressure of someones body surrounding your body. I want this. From head to toe. A big fucking hug. A sustained hug for as long as it takes for me to feel the way I need. I need this weight lifted. I need my heavy heart to get up and dance.
I think next week will make my heart dance. I know it. :)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Buenos Dias Grandpa

Sitting down with my parents, early evening, Monday, after my first day of supply work experience, to have a skype chat.  Both my parents are home at 3:30 in the afternoon to have a chat with me?...  The news, “Grandpa Bob has passed away”… It doesn’t sink in. Or maybe it does. I’m just numb. For some reason, the first feeling, the first response, is acceptance… “okay…” I say slowly, softly and bring my hands to my face, to feel my cheeks. I apply pressure to the sides of my face… Thinking some more about how this news makes me feel.   My parents peer at me through the computer screen with concerned and supportive eyes. I repeat “oh…no… that’s so sad” a few times over as I think… “how do I feel right now?…  Grandpa has passed… Grandpa has passed?.. Grandpa has passed… Grandpa.”… Our final visit in August with Grandpa flickers in and out of my head.  My family, parents and siblings and step Grandma Pat, fit into spaces in his small, cozy room in Empire Living, North Bay… His gentle, deeply sincere and loving tone with which he says “Iiii love ya.”, paired with his gruff, honest and dry as desert old man character as he offers a witty comment that takes us all a few moments to catch, process and react with laugher. So juxtaposed but comfortingly, completely Grandpa…  Refocusing in on my parents through the computer screen, there is a sinking feeling in my chest that begins to come in…  I feel so removed through the screen.  So distant. Still processing, my brain taking in and analysing the news, almost over logical. There isn’t much surprise inside of me but I feel the need to have an emotional release. The tears need to come. I just feel so out of it, yet so accepting… More analysing…“What do I need? What does this mean?... I wont see Grandpa again. He is gone.. His mind is blank, his body has stopped…” My heart sinks further as I start to contemplate this and as I think about the physical distance between myself and my parents and how much I want their tangible warmth and affection. I realized more and more what was missing and what made this moment so strangely numb for me… I want to sense their feelings, share and experience our feelings of loss together.  I wanted to think about and be sad about Grandpa with them.  The skype video screen is fuzzy and delayed. They are so close yet SO far away. Cold and lonely.  I want their presence. Tears.
I am glad to say that there will be a reception held in celebration of my Grandpa’s life at a later date, when other family members living far away and myself are able to come together. I will have a chance to think about and be sad about Grandpa with my family in time.
In the meantime, I want to say Buenos Dias to my very special Grandfather, Lyman Robert Lein, who has given me his gift of green thumb, a piece of him in me I cherish so much.
I choose to wish him “Good day” in Spanish, as there is a beauty in the Latin American culture and language that touched me deeply during my travels- so loving and expressive, bright and warm. 
Buenos Dias Grandpa Boobie.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


A common greeting in British culture- “you alright”.  While passing by neighbours, or during initial interactions with new acquaintances, recruitment agents or my new flatmates, I have been confronted with this friendly but ultimately very confusing greeting.  Said more like a statement, with a lack of upward inflection at the end (which would indicate an inquiry), I catch my brain quickly entering into a fury of wonder about how I am to respond appropriately to the individual addressing me.
Brain Fury:
“Did they just ask me if I am alright? Or are they telling me I look like I am “alright”? Is this their way of just saying “hi”?  What do I say? Do I respond with just a smile? Say the same thing back?... “No, no… YOU alright”…  Do I answer them like they’ve just asked me how I am doing? OR even if it is meant to be a question… Do they really want to know?... Is it just one of those things you say and not expect an answer to?...  Well, I need to respond somehow, and the person addressing me must be getting confused by this HUGE pause I have taken to analyze their greeting… SAY SOMETHING!!!”   
My final decision on my response to this greeting:
Out of fear of being rude for not responding at all, I take the friendly, new and naïve Canadian girl approach and assume they have thoughtfully asked me how I am doing…
With enthusiasm, I retort: “I’m great thanks! How are you?!?!?!” and give them a big smile!  
My observations: 
So far I have observed the following reactions to this approach...
1) Smiles (check mark)
2) Slightly confused smirks… I suspect they are thinking something along the lines of:  she’s obviously not from around here…”… AND/OR… “Gosh, she so fucking energetic.
1) “Well, you’re in quite a good mood aren’t you.”
2) Some people actually answer my question and tell me how they are doing. Although they do seem slightly thrown off by my enthusiastic response and my questioning back.  I think these are the individuals with a lot of sensitivity and tolerance of my newness. They get that I am genuine and want to engage in conversation even if I don’t respond “normally”.
Based on my observations, ultimately, I don’t think I have officially figured out the ACTUAL way to respond properly to “you alright”, but in the meantime I hope I come off as at least endearing and friendly. J
Another cultural learning curve to overcome:
As I drink my English Breakfast tea with “squeezy” honey and loads of milk (A SUPER COMFORT FOR MISS LAME), I think about how small subtle differences in the British and North American culture really do come into play and have a powerful impact on interactions… at least as I adjust and come to better understand them as “the norm”.
One thing that I have come to notice is the level of modesty that the British culture seems to exude, particularly when receiving “thanks” or “compliments”… As a hyper emotional/expressive being, I have always been perhaps almost abnormally responsive to gestures and thanks, always jumping to respond and validate every comment. Here, people seem to want to minimize this type of attention and often respond to thanks with a mild, seemingly indifferent, “it’s alright”. It’s done.  At first I had a hard time understanding this kind of response, and would often overanalyze whether the person was really happy or how they actually felt about my thanks, comment or compliment.  Undue stress of little Miss “busy-brain” Lame…  I’m getting the hang of it now.  
ORGAMI Mastery!!!!!
Firstly, you now know an origami master. I know. It’s all very exciting.
With two “Origami Jungle” booklets (parts 1 and 2) and an abundance of orgami paper squares in an array of colours and patterns, I set out to make a gift to Matt, for his wonderful company and gestures of magical adventures over the past 3 weeks.
Thinking “this is going to be fun!” I sat down confidently with the origami booklet and set out to find the perfect origami jungle creature for Matt’s gift.
“A lion. Perfect.”
I got to step two of eight or ten or something along those lines before I was completely stumped. NOT A CLUE. Feeling disheartened, and perhaps a little mentally delayed, I toiled and worried that maybe I’m just not meant to create origami creatures…
An idea! 
YOUTUBE!... I felt very clever as I searched through youtube to find a quality video illustrating how to make an orgami lion. “This way I can watch the folds happen! This will make it so much easier!
Rachel, one of my new roomies decided to engage in origami crafting with me at this time.  She is so fun and lovely and her company was much appreciated.  Together we sat in our lounge for at least 30 minutes, fighting through the origami lion video, stopping, rewinding and pausing the video constantly to capture and understand each fold, crease, inversion, all the while cursing the little 12 year old boy in the video who gracefully, calmly constructed a perfect lion before our eyes in a 10minute time frame.  It got too late and our brains became exhausted. Burnt out and feeling diminished and pitiful, we went to bed with half lion origami pieces sitting on our coffee table/box with black fabric stapled on it. I am so glad to have flatmates willing to engage in random crafting with me. Home sweet home!
Feeling dejected by my initial origami experiences, I took a day off origami attempts.
When I came back to it, I decided to start with an excessively basic origami creation. I made a ridiculously easy lion, which actually looked more like a snake with a big head. Drawing on a face with whiskers helped slightly… The quick success gave me confidence to move on and seek a more challenging option. Setting aside plenty of time for pausing and revisiting steps and pouring myself a big, calming mug of tea with “squeezy” honey and milk, I was ready for the challenge.
SICK OF LIONS, I decided to seek another cool animal for Matt’s gift. It practically jumped off the screen at me “ORIGAMI TYRANNOSAURUS REX”… GOSH DARN RIGHT!!!! 
I selected a gold square of origami paper. That’s right. I was going to use a favourite/fancy piece of paper.  I was going to get this right the FIRST TIME! No “trial run”! A video of approximately 11 minutes in length, I worked through with patience and focus (thank you caffeine) and managed to MASTER in approximately 1 hour!!!!!!

BURSTING with excitement to show Matt his origami masterpiece, I presented him with his gift soon after his arrival on Thursday evening. He loved it. Success.
I know one might think, “phhuussht, origami, a kids toy, not much to it, just follow the instructions”, but I honestly can’t begin to explain how proud I am of my development and progress in origami creation. It is quite a treacherous skill to develop at first, and practice and perserverence were definitely required.  And I am happy to have brightened Matt’s day!   
All-in-all, origami makes the world a better place.
SURPRISE DATE!- Friday September 9th   
 Don’t you dare look at the tube map!” Matt warned me as we sat on the cushy, 80’s patterned tube bench seat, with a tube map posted directly across the way from us... Teasing me… For 45 minutes!  
I had to reassure Matt at least 4 or 5 times that the brief moments I lifted my head up and my gaze seemed to catch the map I didn’t ACTUALLY process/acknowledge the lines and station names displayed in front of me. 
Filling time with some nerdy science talk and our experiences and thoughts on examination/testing situations (cool, right?), we carried on along the tube for 45 minutes, and I only figured out our destination when the pleasant British lady recording announced our arrival at “Kew Gardens Station”.
THE perfect gift for Beth Lame.
I struggle to find words to explain how much joy this gift brought me.  I was and continue to feel completely touched by the thoughtfulness of this gift, blown away that Matt devised this day of floral adventure knowing that I, Beth Lame, the nerdy, 25 year old garden lover, would be in absolute heaven.
Beaming, in a continuous state of smile, I was entirely mesmerized by the beauty and vastness of the floral wonders this park had to offer… Sauntering in a happy haze, we walked along the outdoor, traditional British style gardens of Geraniums and one of my favorites, begonias, in vibrant red-pink. They reminded me of one of my favourite dreams of all times, wherein my garden back home was completely filled with blooming, brilliant begonias.  
Some people have “sexy” good dreams… Miss Lame has “gardening” good dreams…

As we continued to walk, we approached a gorgeous, grandiose greenhouse... A classic off-white painted metal structure holding hundreds of panes of aged glass. This elegant building appeared to be bursting at the seams with foliage and growth on the inside, this made me burst with excitement as I galloped energetically up to stairs and swung open the doors to the “tropical” themed greenhouse and dove right into the moisture saturated air. Leaves bigger than me, SO many shades of green, diverse textures and shapes. Incredible. I wanted to touch it all.

We passed through a room dedicated to many crucial plants in the medicinal world... I felt the urge to roll around in all the plants and hope for everlasting health... 
Our exploration then continued outside, where we found a treetop walkway. Aligned with the tree canopies, I was able to see the details of the diverse tree foliage surrounding us and the vast park space beyond.
Oh boy, I love oak trees! Particularly the ones with the smaller, rounded edge leaves!... English Oak, I think!” I pointed excitedly… “THOSE ones!... NOT those ones!”….
Matt: “I didn’t know people had favourite oak trees…
Yet another Miss Lame moment.
Cool People have Beet-Themed Dinner Parties and make homemade pasta on Saturday Nights…
The past two Saturdays have entailed eating glorious dinners of handmade pasta with the amazing Martin and Tarvi… And wine of course!  These two gents were my initial temporary flatmates upon my arrival from Canada. They opened their home to me, as friends of a friend of mine, with no hesitation, just absolute warmth. I cannot begin to find the words to explain how incredibly moved I am by their kindness. They made such a difference in my new life here in London England and I am so glad to have gained their friendship.
Martin’s new pasta making machine has provided much entertainment in the dinner-making process!!! Two Saturdays ago, our dinner party, included abnormal amounts of beet root. Not a common vegetable of choice, a complete fluke that Martin and I both brainstormed beets at the same time, our entire meal was composed of this delicious and nutritious, deep red veggie- I brought a warm beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts and Martin created an incredible beet filling for the ravioli.  YUM!
My initial thought- Red poop? I know. Beth = Class.
I have been given a 5-6 week Maternity Cover job at a Jewish highschool in the north end of London... Teaching Science!!! I start on Friday September 16th!!!! HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEECCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK YEEEAHHH!!!!!!

I should probably research Judaism in advance in order to limit my super dork, potentially offensive predicaments/situations in which I'm certain I could easily find myself... 

"would anyone like a bite of my sausage???"... terrible...   

NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

FOOTBALL, FLAT FRUSTRATION and FLOWERS! (who doesn't like alliteration?)

(sorry Mom- this time it was necessary) 

 Last Sunday (August 28th), I went on a solo mission to Regent’s Park to seek out the gardens, which Martin, my temporary flatmate at the time had indicated I should go see… With Martin and Tarvi in Paris for the weekend and the race against all other flat seekers complete (flat found, but not yet moved in), I needed to breathe, explore and take in nature in a form that I miss dearly. 
Wondering up and down, alongside the carefully manicured, yet, mature and melded floral mosaics, I felt at ease and completely happy to be living and taking the moment in.  Bright yellow marigolds paired with deep red dahlia and soft purple English Aster against shrubs of slight, cool, grey-blue leaves… Perfect.
After enjoying the gardens and taking a few snapshots, I continued along a walking path, rather a walking highway, which led me through the centre of the ginormous park.  Looking to either side of the path, all around me, there was FOOTBALL…  Pick-up games of FOOTBALL, participants of varying ages and cultures, playing at varying intensities, EVERYWHERE.  I walked and stared eagerly, longingly, at the play all around me. I may have been twitching with the urge to sprint over and engage in a game of FOOTBALL IMMEDIATELY…  It was absolute torture.
I must have looked bizarre to the people walking the park “highway” around me, as a battle in my head ensued… 
The Battle:
Completely distracted as I walked, I gazed at groups playing, often stopping in my tracks as I thought… “you really should just go over there and ask to join in”… anxious with desire and apprehension all at once… staring some more... “yes, just do it”. I convinced myself for the moment and started towards a group of players, walking a few meters in their direction… stopping... as I thought… “what if they’re too hard-core and intimidate me and then I don’t play my best and then they all think ‘who does this girl think she is, thinking she is good enough to come play with us’…”… Feeling self-conscious and sunken, I return to the highway and continued, more purposefully down the path again… *Eeyore voice*… “I’ll just run home today and try again another day…”… Filled with disappointed in myself for not just going over there, I look back over my shoulder regrettably…Knowing deep down, taking the risk is always the better decision…  (again, people around me, observing my behaviour,  must have thought… “THIS GIRL IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY!”)... I pulled myself together as I thought...
NO SHOULDA, WOULDA, COULDAS!… This is what life is all about! This is why I am HERE in London England! Taking risks is what brings about opportunities, growth, and the best things in life… 
That was it. I had to do it. After so much contemplation and turmoil on the park highway, there was no turning back on the decision. I MUST PLAY FOOTBALL IN THIS PARK TODAY!!!!
I set out to find a group of footballers that felt “right” for me and I did. A friendly bunch, majority males, but a couple of girls in the mix, a variety of fitness levels and ages, a general desire to play hard, but also to have fun… As we began to play together, I could overhear words of encouragement being exchanged amongst players. Positive reinforcement.  My favourite. This is the group for me.
I am now on their emailing list and will be playing football every Sunday at 12:45pm. I played again this passed, Sunday September 4th, in the pouring rain and it felt DOWNRIGHT AWESOME!!!! 
I can now cross “find a group to play weekly football with” off my list of things to establish/do in the UK.
Firstly, my flat comes with a large backyard with TONS of gardening potential.  Looking forward to next Spring, fo sho.
My flat is a 3 story walk-up with 7 bedrooms total.  I have to only room located on ground floor, which is ideally situated across from a “toilet” and right beside the social kitchen/lounge area. Then there are 3 bedrooms on the second and third level each.  My room is ideal for the following reasons:
1.       It is very private and is not adjacent to other bedrooms
2.       I can sneak into the kitchen for a late night snack without crreeeaaakkkinnggg” all the way down the old, wooden stairs between the levels… Particularly useful for when I start lesson planning late into the evenings!
3.       My extraverted side requires regular social contact and with the social areas close by, just next door, I can easily shift over to the communal lounge, no problem, to chat up/harass my fellow flatmates, as they drop into the kitchen.
4.       Although I still have yet to meet all my fellow flatmates, I can almost guarantee I am the loudest of us all. With my room on ground floor, I am more separate from the other rooms and don’t have to moderate my voice as much, whether I am hanging in my room or in the social lounge/kitchen with friends.
All so ideal.
An unfortunate circumstance- Friday September 1st- Approximately 10:30pm
With my two new lovely flatmates away for the weekend and the entire flat to myself, and no plans, I hoped to mask the fact that I was completely alone by spending my Friday evening in a brightly lit home, while engaging in internet communication with friends back home… Likely play some music and dance vigorously by myself. Play make-believe that I am dancing amongst fellow retro night friends/frequenters at Call the Office or something.
This did not happen.
Instead, I sat in the light of two sagging and dejected candles, lent to me by the next door neighbours, with absolutely no power on a Friday night.
With the delivery of our brand new washing machine that day, I eagerly “loaded r’ up” at about 10pm to wash some of my accumulated laundry.  About 5-10minutes into the load, the electrical system of the entire flat overloaded and all was dark and silent.
Initially, I sought help from the neighbours, hoping they would know how to solve such an issue. One very friendly lady came over to take a look at the breaker system and help, but once it seemed that there was no hope for having power that evening, I instantly had this incredible urge to be left alone.  I was anxious and in need of space... I NEEDED the opportunity to be emotional. I felt cooped up, suffocated with her around, poking at my fuse box (pun intended…), with no solution in sight. I fought to hide my anxiety, as this friendly women offered suggestions. My frustration and urge to be left the fuck alone quadrupled when her mother came in, only to poke at my fuse box some more and repeat the same conclusions her daughter did. STILL no solution.  Stuck in the same place, wheels spinning, my anxiety and need to explode building. We were getting nowhere and I couldn't listen to their voices anymore. They sounded loud to me. Difficult to take in. Finally, they left. I went to bed.
It was noon the next day that I had power back.  What a night.
Beth’s first, not so pleasant, meltdown moment in the UK.
On a more positive note: My new flat is in a really fun, fairly central (Zone 2) area often identified as “London Fields”/”Broadway Market” area.  I am perfectly placed in this area, with a 1 minute walk to the park- “London Fields” and a 5 minute walk to “Broadway Market”, a sweet villagey stretch of street with charming little shops, pubs and cafes.  HOW PERFECT!  Green space for my tree hugging, nature loving ways and a fun little social hot spot and amenities at my fingertips.
After the not-so-positive Friday night in the dark, this past sunshiny Saturday (September 3rd), I got to witness my fantastic area in full form. Completely vibrant, bustling and slightly “alternative” are good words to describe it!... 
London Fields, which Martin likes to call “fashion Fields”, really did embrace its nick-name.  I got to see “Fashion Fields” in FULL affect.  All of the hipsters came out in their trendy, vintage wear and spanned the entire green space. Literally 75% of the ground, a grassy carpet for the masses, was covered, with lean bodies, vintage patterns and materials and fixed wheel bicycles.   It looked like a hippy movement.  This made me smile.

As I continued passed my lovely, thriving park, I reached Broadway Market ON A SATURDAY…
The entire village-y stretch of road was COVERED with vendors, tightly packed, side-by-side with people weaving and pouring through the tracts of pedestrian space down the sides.
All my sense were filled to the brim with stimulation. The melody of “oh when the saint go marching in” rose and fell as I passed by a group of 3, playing in the street.  Colourful, fresh fruit and vegetables jumped out at me… I spotted the deep green leaves of kale and my dorky nutrition side kicked into gear as I pondered what healthy-yet absolutely delicious meal I would like to make with it… Meats and cheeses, fresh breads, drool-inducing deserts… Dresses and vintage fashion items drew me in… and… FLOWERS!!! Absolutely STUNNING flowers… Lilies, roses, gerber daisies, sunflowers, hydrangeas in green, pink and indigo blue! Now this is the best type of overstimulation. People, sounds, smells, colours in every direction.
A crucial purchase of the day: Flowers to myself as a “pick me up” after last night’s unfortunate events…. Oh and a dress too. J
I love my life.

P.S. Another wonderful day spent with the charming Matt. My favourite parts:
1. Matt exposing his science-dork side as he observed and initiated a discussion on Eutrophication as we walked along-side a stunning, yet aglae-rific waterway… I’m so glad to have company in the super-dork world here in London England.
NOTE: Eutrophication and the process whereby aglae accumulates on the surface of more still water, due to excessive food (algae food = nitrogen- manmade contribution of course).  The problem is that eventually all the algae build-up will block the sun from penetrating down into the water. This causes issues for other aquatic life below… Gluttonous aglae…
2. Strawberries and cream on-the-go!.. Feeling quite peckish after our walk along the canal, we bought some strawberries as a snack… Matt felt it was a priority that I try the traditional British snack of strawberries and cream… So with cream drizzled carelessly over the strawberries, the container dripping EVERYWHERE, we walked on down the street, mucking up our hands and faces and savouring the delicious snack.
NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.

Friday, 2 September 2011

I cannot believe I’m here and I can’t imagine not being here!

1.       It’s FOOTBALL.
Pants apparel which spans the whole leg length which can be found in various styles including “skinny”, “boot cut”, “high-waisted”…
Pants = PANT”ies”!
Saying something as innocent as “Those are some nice pants!”… Or worse yet, “WHAT DID YOU DO! Your pants are all dirty/wet…” would be taken VERY wrong.
I am 99.9% certain I will continue to slip up and say “pants”, at least for a while, so I have decided to take a pre-emptive approach to the issue when I start to work at schools.  Being lame with no shame comes in handy in scenarios like these as it enables me to lay it out on the table and prepare those around me for my less-than-smooth ways. 
Hi class. Nice to meet you. My name is Miss Lame. I will say pants sometimes. When I do, I mean trousers.
3.       The saying “look BOTH ways when crossing the street” is necessary for my livelihood here. 
My hyperactive, act-without-thinking tendencies in combination with my graceless, laborious approach to identifying left from right (creating an “L” shape my left hand thumb and pointer finger…) is a deadly mix for road crossing here…  Looking BOTH ways before crossing the street is the least mentally strenuous approach as there is no deductive reasoning with my hands required and ensures that I don’t get run over by a car, whether I naturally look the Canadian direction first or not. 
Over the years I’ve just learned how to work with my “special exceptionalities”… as you can see.
I cannot believe I’m here and I can’t imagine not being here!
I cannot believe this is my home” … I catch myself thinking this and sharing this thought with whoever happens to be standing with me, many times a day. Yes, I talk to strangers… All the time… Part of being lame with no shame.  
How do I even start to explain my first week here in London England? Life is so exciting and uprooted and unpredictable. From London Ontario to London England, I feel so strong and out of balance all at the same time.  I love it.
The history that stretches in front of me, from the cobble at my feet to the grandiose, classic structures towering above me, makes my chest feel heavy and my skin raise. I want to touch it. I want to experience it fully. This city is so aged and experienced, yet so lively.   So rich with history and culture, I stare, admire and try my best to absorb everything that I possibly can…  Again. I cannot believe this is my home. 
My first week was busy with sorting out life matters, thus purposeful, carefree exploration was less than one would expect.  My exploration included figuring out the transit system (buses and “The Tube”) and seeing various pockets of the city in order to complete particular tasks. Days were spent running from one appointment, to the next… to the next, hovering over the oven while I made dinner and eating it all at the same time and then rushing out the door to view flats in a race against all other flat seekers!  It was completely dizzying and anxiety provoking at times.
Let me tell you something about flat hunting in London England… It is unbelievably hurried and vicious!  As soon as a good flat arises, it is snatched up within the day. The pressure to drop whatever you are doing to go and see a flat on the fly is incredible! Because if you do not YOU WILL MISS OUT.
Of course with the intense hustle-bustle of my first week in London, there was the odd super-dork moments that came up…  
Introducing a super-dork/Miss Lame moment:
After receiving a tour of a gorgeous potential flat, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the lovely current group of tenants.  We chatted about the usual… What we did for a living, where we were from etc.  One of the tenants than mentioned a few more features about the flat.  As she named a few typical items/features my attention span dwindled, as I started to get excited about the rental space…
Tenant:blah, la, la, blah… and a kitty
My brain:KITTY!!!!!!!!!
Excitedly, I exclaimed “OH! You have a kitty! I love cats! Where is it? I would love to meet it!”… As I spoke enthusiastically they all stared at me with a slight confused smirk…
My brain: “Whatttt did I say??????”
… and then broke out into laughter…
Tenant: Laughing…“Like, a kitty of cleaning supplies.
Did I mention I have trouble thinking before speaking?
The instant I heard “kitty” all that stood out in my head was an image of a sweet cat that I could befriend.
After a week of busy-ness and responsibility, the sole purpose of this past Friday was ADVENTURE and LEARNING!!!!  
I had the opportunity to truly explore some of the beautiful, historical pieces of London with the guidance and wisdom of a charming British man named Matt.  How on earth, within one week’s stay in London England did I manage to find myself a lovely gent to spend the day with??  We just so happened to have seats next to each other on my connecting flight from Iceland to London Heathrow, during which we talked and connected quite immediately!
Matt’s initial instructions were to meet at Waterloo Tube Station... I arrived to the gift of a GIGANTIC Ferris wheel ride (“The London Eye”) along –side the River Thames and overlooking central London.  As we reached the peak of the enormous loop, with a breathtaking view of the city, Matt pointed out his plans for our path of exploration.
After the sky-high experience we walked from the “London Eye” towards Westminster Bridge, dodging and hopping over the recently created rain puddles as we continued on our adventure!  We crossed the bridge and approached Big Ben and the Parliament buildings attached, with their gorgeous vertical, pointed features and gold leaf accents. Beautiful.  Matt informed me that more recently, a man dressed in a Spiderman costume and scaled the side of Big Ben as a protest. Cool.  
Continuing on, we walk alongside Parliament square, which was bordered with dishevelled tents, which Matt informed me, contained people who  have been  there for 10 years now in protest of war in Iraq.  In the square, there was also a statue of Sir Winston Churchill, who Matt, with his incredible knowledge of military history, enthusiastically educated me on his leadership role in the Second World War and his part in the popularization of the peace sign, “V” for victory, as the war drew to a close.  However, Mr. Churchill was also known to be a cantankerous character, with a particularly abrupt and witty, yet absolutely brutal approach to those who challenged him. 
While he is known for his powerful words and messages he also had some hilariously brutal statements that he is remembered by as well.
We then toured Westminster Abby- Completed in 1090, 921 years old… OLD. Craning my neck to pier up at the immense, high arching ceilings, absolutely amazed, I wondered how the fuck this grand structure could ever be created with the tools and technology of 1090…??? We wander and wondered about the tombs, the knights’ flags, the code of arms and symbols that we saw around us… If only we could “google it”, we often thought…
We ate sandwiches in Trafalgar Square, scaling up the side of Nelson’s Column to sit, eat and take in the excitable energy and hustle bustle of touring folks and whizzing by cars and big red double decker buses.
Next, we were off towards Buckingham Palace, where we watched the VERY STILL guards in red with tall poufy hats, carry out their traditional regime of switching posts.  The tall hats really do have minimizing effect, and (in my opinion) make grown men look like little 12 year old boys dressed like nut crackers!
To sum up this incredible day, we “tubed-it” to Covent Garden Market, where we observed a man singing, operatic style, with jeans on an a casual T-shirt. Not your typical opera singing “get up”.  We then sat at a road side café, drinking wine under a big umbrella while it POURED rain all about us. The cobble road gleamed in the downpour and colourful umbrellas dashed around us!  
Did I mention this day was INCREDIBLE?
This day of adventure was perfect and left me feeling completely special and (yet again) in awe of this amazing city.