Guests, Life in London
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The Start of 2023

Featuring lots of food, lots of shows, and one less than the usual amount of lungs.

On Saturday the 31st of December we arrived home from Turkey, mostly because flying on the 31st is so very very much cheaper than flying on the 2nd.

The flight home was an event. The lady directly behind Sameer (I was sitting on the other side of the plane), started off the flight loud and belligerent, and then two hours and multiple beers in became problematic. When people asked her to calm down, she called racism, which was then not helped by a random white dude trying to explain to everyone that actually she was the racist because she was pointing out that someone else was white. She threatened violence multiple times on the man in front of her, and then nearly got punched by his wife when she started calling him names. In the end, we all made it off the plane, and Sameer saw her eventually get escorted away.

Sameer got stuck at immigration (while I swanned through the e-gates), and also ended up stuck with a migraine, thus missing the train drama, which involved a group of lads joking around (their ladies had gone to freshen up somewhere), until suddenly one of them punched the other in the face. The punchee started bleeding and was taken away down the end of the train, while the alpha of the group kept on (quite calmly) saying ‘nah that’s not on mate, you don’t punch in the face’ to the puncher, who continuously tired to explain that the other lad had insulted his mother, and then- when alpha refused to yield on the point that face punching was just not on, eventually broke down into tears.

Drama drama drama.

In any case, we eventually made it home, and were greeted by amazing food cooked by Sameer’s BFF. I ate and immediately fell asleep, barely making it to midnight Turkish time, while Sameer recovered and hung with the friends.

On the Shiny First Day of the Month we hung with Sameer’s friend, and then that and the next day’s holidays were very much about washing, cooking, gym-ing and trying to generally organise our lives.

This, by the way, is Arabesca, a cat that lives in my neighborhood (between my house and my coffee shop). She’s super friendly, and on non-rainy days spends most of her time on the footpath waiting to be scritched. Known and loved around the neighbourhood, she’s also one of those ‘things’ that kept me sane and provided some sense of community, connection and routine during the Lockdown period.

Go for a walk, get love from a cat.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I went hard at work, and on Thursday I fought with the British post and customs which had a) decided to send back a package of mine that had only been held for two working days and b) had decided to hold a package from my family hostage.

Eventually the package (filled with glass offcuts) came, as did my dramatic Aussie Earrings (see below for galahs), and my desire to own an unholy amount of earrings was on its way to fulfilment.

^ Behold also my new solution for storing them, a repurposed fire grate.

On Friday evening of that first week of the year, we did dinner and a show, treating ourselves first to Syrian Food at Imad’s Syrian Kitchen.

Imad’s is a Bib Gourmand restaurant, the Michelin guide’s group of very-tasty-but-not-crazy-expensive restaurants, which we’ve been aggressively trying to try around London.

(There are too many to do in a year, but a lot of the ones on the list are vaguely Italian/French/European, which excites me much less than some other options, so we’ll do our best to cut into the ones that seem shiny).

Syrian food, as it turns out, has falafel.

Which also means it has my heart.

From Imad’s, with our bellies stuffed, we stumbled to Soho theatre, to watch Frankie McNair’s ‘Relax your knees’.

It was a bit of a last minute pick, chosen because Frankie had recently (2022) won Best Newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which suggested both a certain quality, as well as a certain Australianess.

(Because obviously it’s important that Sameer gets exposed to Australian culture, to help him appreciate how very very funny I also am.)

Overall, despite the stuffiness of the room, it was a fun experience- an odd little mix of more classic standup and character pieces (there was an ‘Australian aunty/Australian uncle’ bit that I think worked more for me than Sameer). The best part was a weird little skit about long fork lady, and a bit with a banana going towards their eye in a literal interpretation of a romantic song.

On Saturday 7th we went to a very secret place that Sameer loves that I’m not allowed to tell you about. in case you all go there and he can’t get a table one time.

It was pretty chill, except apparently I chose to make this face:

In the evening, we made highly delicious Korean food using a 30 second tiktok video with practically no instructions as a recipe.

Then, on Sunday we parted ways and I got to spend time with Liah, a friend from Australia who was passing through London.

We ate and walked around a bit, and saw some markets. But most of the day’s activity could accurately be described as ‘trying to hide from the very-awful weather’.

A true British experience and all that.

Monday evening was Shakespeare’s Globe time, or more accurately, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (the Globe’s indoor, candle lit sibling) time.

We went to watch Hakawatis– me, with Nina and Michelle from work. The tickets were cheap (5 pounds), and our view wasn’t fantastic, but overall the show was an interesting watch.

Based on the premise that, while Scheherazade was telling her tales to the king to keep him from killing her, somewhere in a deep dungeon were other women, waiting, and hoping for her success.

In this version, the women first discuss their own plans to survive the king’s blood lust if Scheherazade fails, but also spend their time telling and then writing down their own stories to pass her her to tell.

Tuesday was a quiet day, and then Wednesday was another spur-of-the-moment comedy event.

This time, it was Liz Kingsman’s ‘One Woman Show’. Less of a standup/sketch, and more of a full blown production.

It was really really good- clever and fast and funny, and featuring a pretty great Australian charachter (you’re welcome Sameer). It was interesting to see just how polished this was, compared to both other comedy, and other shows in general.

I would 100% recommend it, and will also try to see anything by the same Comedian in the future.

Our final thing of the First Fortnight was a meet up with Sameer’s friends for some Korean food.

But also, somewhere in all that- on Wednesday and then Friday, I had a series of lung tests, an X-ray, and then finally, finally, an appointment with a lung specialist in this country.

It’s taken a few years to get through the NHS to a specialist (paying privately was 450 pounds), which is somewhat understandable given the non-emergency nature of my needs, and the very very pressing issue of the Covid pandemic.

Understandable, but still slow.

It’s been over 15 years since I had my left lung removed, so the checkup was mostly just to get myself ‘into’ the British system, but I’m really glad that the doctor herself requested the tests and X-rays before our meeting. I’d actually never had any proper lung capacity tests as a follow up to my operation, so it was cool to get some data on the whole thing.

All up, things are pretty good. My right (remaining) lung has expanded a bit, but also seems to have gotten better at exchanging oxygen. The compensation is enough that- even though my lung volume itself is reduced overall, I’m just shy of 80% breathing capacity, which maps well to the ’80-100%’ range for my non-smoking age demographic.

Apart from that fairly positive news, it was also helpful to talk to the doctor about some of the ongoing issues (mostly, spine curvature), and how to deal with the secondary effects that arise from them (swim swim swim). Her advice was largely confirmatory in a lot of ways, but that in itself was reassuring, and it was also interesting to learn that- while I will be able to increase muscle fitness- my lung capacity and fitness is going to stay the same. Finally, she also gave me some access to some (very basic) emergency medicines to provide some security in the context of a pretty-overloaded health system

The first two weeks of Jan, 2023


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