Help from My Friends – Settling into my UK Life : 13-16 March 2009

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I began this day by walking about my area in search of a ‘3′ store in which I could purchase some internet bandwidth. Mission accomplished, I returned. But en route, what should I see, but a man being arrested by the police – something I’ve never seen before, even in Cape Town. He was being cuffed and a car was standing ready to take him away. I walked briskly on. Who wouldn’t?

With my internet connection organised, I spent the day sending off emails and making contact with everyone who happened to be on line at the time. That evening, I caught the bus to see Sarah and Andrew in East Finchley and we had supper in a Greek fish restaurant called Posidon. The evening ended in true Janine-fashion when I had a dramatic fight with the fern plant behind me. The fronds had got caught between my bag and my shoulder. So, as I turn, the plant followed. There I was, fighting off the invasive plant that would not let me go and blinded my every move with its waving and persistent branches. Finally, with plant leaning precariously over, Andrew rescued me from its pernicious hold and we left the restaurant with me in loud giggles.

After this misadventure, we went back to their place and had played Texan Uno with a ‘last stand’ card that none of us really understood but played anyhow as we drank some fabulously frothy hot chocolate . When the yawns overtook us, I got on board the bus and made my way home while listening to some hooligans fighting and screaming on the top deck.

14th March

I spent the day taking a bus to Angel, before going on to Trafalgar Square. After walking a fair distance, I saw that it was the Kurdish New Year and they had put up a stage on which some performers were singing and playing. It was fascinating! People were wearing T-shirts and waving flags with a picture of a man

Later, I had to walk to the shops to get some supper, and on the way, I could hear the soccer fans singing and chanting and cheering all the way from the Emeritz Arsenal Soccer Stadium. I’ve never heard anything like that before. There must have been thousands of people there. It’s relatively close, but not that close. Only a fair sized chorus could have made that amount of noise.

On the way home, there was this guy walking down the path in the opposite direction to me with a skateboard in hand. As he walked, he threw his board down at his feet and skated off on it. But within a second, the skateboard came zooming back towards me sans man. I turned around and saw that he was lying flat on his back in obvious stunned embarrassment. Everyone stood frozen, unsure of what they should do. Eventually the guy got up, grabbed his board and rolled off, desperate to gain back some respect. That really made my day. I could hardly stop laughing. For once, it had been someone else and not me!

15th March

This morning, I went to church. It’s a smallish Anglican Church down my street. They were so welcoming. I had hoped to enter unnoticed, but before I knew it, the minister was welcoming me and, shaking me by the hand, asked me where I came from. I told him, ‘Cape Town,’ and he was so happy. His sister lives in Camps Bay! Now, that’s living in style.

I then caught a bus to meet Sarah and Andrew. We went to this wonderful park (Alexandra Palace) that just stretches on and on and has a 19th century ice rink and a farmers’ market from where we bought some takeaways before sitting in the park and soaking up the beautiful sun. I got so HOT that I took off my jersey and jacket (gasp). After lazing about for a few hours, we went to a new tea house that has opened up in their neighbourhood and enjoyed a pot of Earl Grey Tea before I left to come back home.

16th March

Today, I prepared myself to spend the day in a semi-depressed state. I had run out of milk the night before and could not bare to face the day without a cup of coffee. No milk meant no coffee: no coffee meant no energy: no energy meant no milk. It was a vicious circle that I had no inclination to break.

But then, I dragged myself to my computer, switched it on and found that Carmen and Rob had arrived in London already. Carmen was online and we soon started chatting. By 13h30, Carmen was seated in my lounge, while our lunch warmed up in the oven. We chatted, catching up on the months we’d not seen each other.

For supper, we walked to Stingray, that lovely little pizza place down my road, and shared a pizza. Carmen treated us to some red wine. I ordered the Bulgarian while she ordered the Spanish. Typically, we preferred the wine that we had not chosen, and after one sip, we decided to swap. Fine by me. The wine was amazing. And it was Spanish! Wow. The great thing about London is the choice! There’s not just South African wines, but there’s Californian, Mexican, Bulgarian, Spanish, Italian, French, and so the list continue. All there is, is choice. Bread, milk, coffee, toilet paper. It’s all very well, but the mass of choices you face is daunting. What cell phone server should I go for? What cellphone package should I go for? Should I use an oyster card to travel? Should I get a monthly pass card for travelling? Or should I just go on a day to day basis? Everything requires choice.

After a couple of hours of talk and gluttonous pleasure, we went back to my place and had hot chocolate before I walked back to the tube station with Carmen and saw her off.

I’ve been kept very busy this week thanks to my friends here in London. I’ve not had a day of nothing to look forward to. I may not have a job and I may not have enough resources to see me though the year, but at least I know my friends are always there to distract me from my worries and to keep me positivity believing that the glass is half full.

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