Monday, 30 November 2009

Strange Sunflowers | Mellow Yellow Monday

My 2nd entry to MYM are photos of strange looking sunflowers from my garden last summer

For more MYM Photos click the badge


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Ode to the kind First Bus Driver

Twas a nice Friday morning
The weather outside was beaconing
of a rare sunny day in winter

Time was short and even though
There was a cake
For a friend I needed to wrap
Grabbed I my rucksack
And bid my hubby to post the cake for me

Off I rushed outside the door
The bus would be there at the bus stop soon
And up the hill with might I ran

Halfway through the bus stop I spotted
The bus had come and soon will leave
Gathered all the strength I have
Doubled the speed of my tiny feet.

Slowly the bus started to roll off
The kind bus driver his attention I caught
Faintly I uttered for him to stop and wait

He surely was a kind old man
His kindness be blessed all the days of his life
For he pressed the brake to wait for me.

My heart a-pounding fast it was really deafening
In my chest I felt an agonizing pain
But my heart was filled
With thanksgiving a genuine
For the kind old man who's behind the wheel.

May his joys be multiplied
and all his kind deeds be blessed.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

First Bus drivers, some are good some are bad

The author of this post is just so happy that she can take the bus to work with the minimum fare--£16/week or £56/month. There are a handful of bus services in her city but this one's the only one that takes her closest to her workplace--the First Bus. Interestingly, the minimum fare is not the same all over the land. A one day unlimited pass costs between £2 - £6.60 depending on how the area I guess.

Anyway, the point that the author wants to make is this. These buses are oftentimes late. Sometimes 5 minutes and on worse occasions up to 50 minutes or more. This is really annoying especially when the weather is inclement and you're at the bus stop without a shade which is likely most of them.

Some drivers are nice and considerate. Once, the author was running late and she was running uphill to the bus stop when the bus came. Good thing the driver spotted her and waited for her to cross the road. But others are nasty and inconsiderate because once they have closed the door and you were late for even just a fraction of a second they won't pick you up. They seldom get to the bus stop right on time and when they do they don't show mercy. Whereas passengers always lose time waiting for them to arrive because they got stuck in the traffic jam etc, etc.

Many times, the author wishes she had more options. But she thinks that the reason why this bus company is not really keen on improving their public service is because there's no competition so passengers don't have a choice really.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Autumn Leaves | Mellow Yellow Monday

I took this picture from last autumn and I hope it passes the criteria. This was my first autumn ever when I got here in the UK and I was so thrilled to witness the changing of the colours of the leaves. They bring about cheerfulness, gaiety, and fun.

Note: I have just joined this group called Mellow Yellow Monday (MYM) where members post photos of nature or anything yellow. For more MYM posts and photos click here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Asian shops abound here

This is a post I have mislaid for a long time because I am always busy as a bumble bee. Anyway, I'd like to go back in time when I first arrived in the UK. My husband took me out for a walk and we passed by a couple of Asian shops but I didn't dare go in because I thought they only sold spicy Indian foods. A couple of weeks later, I found Asian Foodmart which previously was called Filipino shop. There I found mostly Filipino and Thai foods so I was very happy--well I still am. On top of that the owners/managers are Filipinos.
Here's a screen shot of their website which has more Chinese than any south-east Asian touch.

This is just one of the many Asian shops here in Norwich. I think there are about ten of them scattered across the city centre. So even if I'm thousands of miles away from home I can still eat my favorite tom yum, Silver Swan soy sauce or Datu Puti soy sauce with kalamansi, kare-kare*, sinigang*, pinakbet*. They also sell tilapia, bangus (milkfish), kamoteng-kahoy (cassava), ampalaya (bitter gourd), papaya, and all those stuff. They even have banana leaves for baking but oh well, I don't get to buy everything I want like tondan (sweet small bananas with very delicate skin, hence, not suitable for export), malunggay, fresh buko (young coconut)  but at least whenever I fancy a real Filipino food I can just go to any of those shops.
*these are typical Filipino dish

Hope you enjoyed this post. Please leave a trail so I'll know you've been here. Thank you.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Response from National Express

Here's a response from National Express which I thought earlier would fall on deaf ears. I'm rather surprised that they took time to reply to my complaint. I won't say anything anymore but I'm going to invite you to have a look.
Happy reading!
Opps sorry, I can't make it any bigger than this but if you click on the image it will take you to the file which is more legible.

Now, have your say, please.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Why online shopping is better--and why it's not

For months I had been scouting for nice pair of black boots but not until lately did the shops display more style. I went to try them at Shoe Zone, Mr. Shoes, Clarke, Marks & Spencer and other shoe shops but nothing really fir my finicky feet and my fussiness. Well, when you go shopping for shoes and clothes you better make sure you are comfortable wearing them, won't you? For me the number one criterion is comfort and number two is design, and then the price.

To make things short, I saw these cool, super comfortable boots from Barrats. Earlier this week I got an email from them with a discount voucher if I purchase online. But I don't want to buy shoes or boots unless I have not tried them on. So I went to the shop to try the ones I liked but they didn't feel very comfortable. So even if they were cheaper I didn't go for them. Good thing there's a similar design but £10 more expensive. But what is a tenner when comfort is at play? I am so relieved I didn't buy online otherwise returning them would cost a little bit of a hassle.

So I bought them from the shop thinking that the cost of postage would equal to 20% of the price but when I calculated I would still gain £5. So I took them back to the shop and decided to buy them online.

You see, here in the UK online shopping is becoming more and more popular and most of the time you get a better deal. Same thing as when you book for flight online.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Royal Mail chief is paid £1m a year?

According to news, this public servant earns five times more than Gordon Brown, the prime minister. How can that be? Why do they allow such thing here in the UK? How could he sleep at night when the postal workers' pension has a deficit of £10b?

Here's an excerpt from

In the financial year 2008/09, Mr Crozier was paid £633,000 in salary, £139,000 in bonuses, £17,000 in further benefits and £206,000 as a cash supplement in place of a pension payment.
He has banked £2.4million in performance bonuses and £ 3.6million in pay since taking over as chief executive in 2003.
Read more:
I used to think graft and corruption only exists in poverty-stricken countries. But as it appeared they are everywhere. Oh yes, I must have been so blind and idiot not to realize that from the very beginning. I think I just don't read too much about other countries' affairs. I only react when my toe has actually been stepped on.
I remember my friend in Bangkok saying that a corrupt politician in the UK wouldn't probably do much harm as it does in Thailand as in the case of Thaksin when he allegedly sold a government share to a Singaporean company and earned around 74b baht.

In the Philippines, politics is considered as the dirtiest of them all and people are sick and tired of them. But even in this rich UK, garapal din sila pagdating sa pera (there are plunderers all the same).

But on the positive note, there are no more postal strikes as both parties have come to an agreement. So I'm happy for the posties and I'm happy because things are back to normal at work--no more half-day works.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Today in UK history

Today is Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Every year, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, UK observes a 2 minute silence to commemorate with respect those who were killed in the World War I. It is not only observed in UK but also in other parts of the world.

Armistice was signed by the Allies of the WW1 and Germany on November 11 in 1918.

So today, at the eleventh hour everybody just stops doing what they are doing for 2 minutes paying respect to our war heroes who sacrificed their life for us to attain this  freedom and peace we are enjoying.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Car boot sale-UK version of ukay-ukay

As you see in the photo, car boot sale is like ukay-ukay and it's called such because people put their stuff in their car boot but actually they lay them on a table or on a mat on the floor.

In a car boot sale you will find almost anything you need--jewelry, gardening, collections, DIY tools, furniture, kid's toys, music stuff and many more--at a very, very low price especially unwanted stuffs that people want to get rid of. They are even cheaper than in the charity shops. You can buy many things under a pound.

Car boot sale is done on Saturdays and Sundays during spring and summer.
Photo courtesy of

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Beautiful Hyacinthus

Who is not in love with the lovely hyacinths? This is one of my delights here in the UK. I love them so much and when I saw them in the shop I couldn't help but express my admiration. The following day my husband bought me a plant with 3 bulbs in a pot.

When I was in Thailand I bought my mother a bulb for 40Baht believing it was a hyacinth because the seller had photos of them in different colors. I wanted to buy 2 buy it was too much for one bulb. But when mom planted it and the leaves started to come out it looked like the normal two-lovers. We had been tricked!

On another occasion I saw them again in China town and they were so much cheaper--20baht per bulb. I had not learned from my mistake, I bought 3 bulbs this time and sent them to my mother in the Philippines. A couple of months later, mom told me they were two-lovers again! So that's it. I never bought them again.

Surprisingly, hyacinths originally came from Arabia as opposed to what I had always believed that they were European flowers. Which means they should grow pretty well in Asia if weather is the issue.

So last week when I sent a box to my mom in the Philippines I put in six hyacinth bulbs of different colors, blue, dark and light pink, peach, purple and light purple.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Complacency cost me £70, Whew!

esterday hubby and I had a very crazy day. Arriving in London at 3.41 pm we had less than 20 minutes to get out of the tube and then to the Phil embassy and then back again to the subway to get an ID. In 30 minutes I managed to finish but with the help of my irritated husband because I didn't prepare anything and he had to get out again to get some money for the application fee. Although I was not the last one to arrive at the embassy but since I had to fill up the application form and do everything in there I was pushed last. I finally was done a little after 5 pm and it was Friday! Good thing the people at the Phil embassy in London are so much nicer than the ones in Bangkok. Whoever here has been  there I'm sure you have met that "taray" lady who works there.

I'm always like this and I just never learn. Earlier in the morning I was online and chatted with my friends in Bangkok. At ten o'clock I shut down my laptop to make some arrozcaldo (sticky rice porridge) believing all the while that we'll make it to the bus station by 11.30. When we got there we realized that our departure was 10.30. we're late an hour and so I had to buy another ticket which cost £50 whereas our online ticket we booked earlier costs only £24 return. Life! I mean how stupid can one get--that's me. And that £50 only took us to Stanstead airport. We had to get another bus to go to centre of London and that was another £19.

To add insult to the injury, on our way home the bus was late an hour and all they can do is "apologize". When passengers are late, they buy another ticket. When the bus is late, sorry is all we get. I told my husband, "I don't want to use this bus again!" But what choice do I have?

This is the not first time it came late and they don't come 10 or 15 minutes late but ONE friggin hour! And there is no provision made for the poor passengers.

Before posting this blog I went to national express site and wrote a complain about this malpractice on their side. I really think that they should refund the passengers when their bus is an hour late because they are wasting our time. Though I'm pretty sure the complain will fall on deaf ears but at least I voiced out my concern and blogged it out too. It's obviously an abuse to the general public.

Friday, 6 November 2009

National Insurance number

hen I started applying for a job one of the first questions was "Do you have a national insurance number (NI)?" I was like "What the h*** is that?" Obviously I didn't have any. NI is like an id but it's a number and not an identity proof that is assigned to someone living and/or working in the UK foreigner or local. For some people NI enables them to claim benefits when they are laid off from work.

The first time I applied for one I was denied because allegedly I didn't show any proof of employment. Of course I couldn't because I didn't have a job yet. And I found it really ridiculous that they require me to give them proof or payslips when I hadn't started working yet. And it seemed to me that before they employ you you must first have an NI number. I was like sandwiched between two mountains. Luckily, my first agency accepted me without it and they just asked me to apply for one later on.

Now once you start working in the UK you pay for national insurance on top of the taxes. But I noticed that I only am getting deductions for National insurance and not for taxes. Maybe because I haven't really worked for one whole year but I'm afraid that when they start deducting taxes from my pay I would be getting only half of what I am netting now.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Volunteering and Job Hopping

The Volunteer

oncerned of being idle and unproductive while my application was in progress, I volunteered to a charity shop (Break Charity) that is just around the corner. I was happy with the job I got involved in and my community expanded a little bit. This volunteer job was going to be a great help with my reference when I finally started submitting applications for a job. Many people who are temporarily out of work find it very useful to volunteer in a charity shop.

Not long after, I received a letter from the Home Office certifying the application and at the same time informing me that I could already seek employment while the application was in progress.  The next day I started sending out resumes left and right. A couple of days later I got invited for an interview. The job was data entry clerk for UK Business Mail. The first question was about my passport. When I told the them I hold a Philippine passport I was turned down. The reason--they didn't have a licence to employ non-European.

Pending Job Post

I was unfazed. I sent out more application letters and continued working in the charity shop. It was the start of the school year and many schools were looking for assistant teachers and Mid-Day Supervisors (MSA). Unfortunately, I was told that in order to teach in the UK I must have a qualification from the UK and at least a year's experience. Obviously, I knew nothing--until now--of the British curriculum. But for MSA I didn't even need to be educated because it's just supervising pupils during lunch and playtime. I got two interviews for MSA post--the first turned me down, the second accepted me--the Harford Manor School. Then here comes again the passport issue. Since I didn't have it, I couldn't start work. But they told me that once I receive my passport I get employed.

First job

Finally after about a month and a half I got a call again for an interview. It was rather short and sweet. They just asked me to fill up a form and the next day I started working--in a winery.

My first task was sticking stickers on a box of wine. Sounds pretty simple even a bum could do it. But it was sooo boring I felt like robot with a very limited function--stick the label, wait,... stick, wait....stick, wait....... although it didn't require cognition at all my mind was busy recollecting my past. I imagined my life as a teacher and now a freakin factory worker and even my youngest student could do my job. I felt like sobbing. Why on earth am I, an educated teacher, doing this no-brainer job while those farangs in Thailand some of them didn't even have a college education but they are teaching!? I don't mean to belittle them, please don't get me wrong. I mean they are not really qualified teachers but since they speak English as their native language, they can teach in schools  and universities. Somehow they are being looked up to. On the other hand, I cannot teach here because my qualification from a Philippine college is not good enough. I think it's not fair. 


Anyway, that time my husband worked on a night shift because he was studying every Tuesday so I also took the night shift--which paid more. Also that way both me and hubby would be at home same time and  went to work same time. Since I was working night shift, I also took another job as a caterer in a hospital ward at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNHU). Here I was working from 4-8 pm. Then my husband would pick me up and take me to the winery. In the morning he would come to pick me up again. Since we finish same time and he works near the city, I work 10 miles away, I had to wait 30--sometimes 60 minutes--for him to arrive. But that's okay. I seem to have lots of patience for this sort of thing.

In other words I was moonlighting which was good as I was earning an average of £70 a day sometimes £100 it was good but very draining. Sometimes I would go home and feel like a zombie. All because I wanted to catch up on all those times I was not earning. At work I ate too much so I  wouldn't feel sleepy. Interestingly I didn't get fat. I was doing well with my 2 jobs until the NNHU asked for my passport--I only showed them a copy and the letter from the HO but they let me start working anyway. When I told them that I had not received my passport yet they asked me to stop working. They are very strict huh.. I wonder why some people here could work with only a tourist visa. Technically I had an endorsement letter from the HO they didn't want to recognize it. Technically, I had to stop temporarily and as soon as I get my passport back I could resume working with them again. So I stopped at the hospital  but still continued at the winery which was a good thing.

Back to being jobless

Good thing I was still working in the factory so I had money for Christmas. After the New Year  my agency that put me  through to the winery told me that I was on my way to becoming permanent there in the factory. I was so elated. On my way home, however, I was asking myself if I really wanted to work in the winery and I prayed to God that if it was not His will He would do something to stop them hiring me permanently. But first they had to see my passport and when I couldn't provide it they also stopped calling to work which I took as a sign from God.

So back to being jobless again. I was getting desperate although I kept on clinging to a hope that I would eventually get something better. I went to Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) and showed them the letter from HO and they said it's very clear I could work but really it depends on the company/employer. On the other hand I couldn't insist they accept my letter. It's still their up to their decision.

Finally, I gave up struggling. I told myself that worrying won't make the situation any better.

£5 an hour
Then I went to post an ad at gumtree an online classifieds for about anything. And a week later, I got asked to do some child-minding. I would pick up a girl from school and stay with her and the brother until one of the parents came home from work. Sometimes I stayed one hour sometimes up to 4 hours but most of the time around 2 hours for £5 an hour--even less than the minimum wage of £5.73 but at least I wasn't idle and receiving something. At least it's so much easier than working my ass off at the factory. I was as though getting paid doing nothing. But still it's not too much. It's a bit too far from home and taking the bus was impractical. Sometimes my husband gave me a lift sometimes the parents picked me up and sent me back home. A couple of times I walked when the weather was nice and it took me 45 minutes. It wasn't easy, my feet were sore when I got home.

The good news...

I mentioned in my previous post that I wrote the UKBA for my passport and visa application. Two weeks later, my passport arrived with the Residence Documentation. Again, I didn't waste any minute. I was so excited I called the hospital right away to tell them I got my passport back. But they told me it had been such a long time my position had been filled. Now I have to start all over again. That was okay--I thought.  But things didn't turn out well and I had to give up chasing that catering job.

The next place I went was, you guess, the Harford Manor School. Unlike at the hospital, here they kept their word. As soon as they saw my passport and the visa I started working 1.5 hours a day M-F 12-13:30 pm. It was a good timing because I could still go child-minding which usually starts at 3pm.