George Alagiah interviews us on the BBC
Thursday 10 May 2007
Alex Horne – 10th May 2006 and 23rd May 2006
Tara and Chris have both already been mentioned elsewhere on this blog; the former as the girlfriend of our Icelander, Thor, the latter as the saviour of our Nearly Halfway Party. Initial contact with both was made at almost exactly the same time and thanks to a combination of poor organisation, cowardice and diplomacy on my part, I failed to pick one as our outright Canadian Representative. Here then, is a brief two-way blog, hopefully summing up both of their stories.
Tara is twenty-eight years old and has been living in London (with Thor) for the past seven months. Chris is thirty-six, has been here six years and was relieved Tara was so much younger than him as it meant she couldn’t have been one of his ex-girlfriends. That would have been too freakily coincidental (although a great story for us). As described before, I met Tara in a pub in Notting Hill. Chris and I met in a charming florist-cum-café opposite Charing Cross Hospital where he works in the IT department and which is confusingly located in Hammersmith.
On both occasions I arrived late, frustratingly so in Chris’ case as he’d mentioned in an email that after reading some of the blogs he didn’t expect me to be on time. Ha! I thought. I’ll be on time alright! But, despite that determination the dastardly buses denied me again (perhaps I should just leave a bit earlier) and I was forced to apologise once more. Chris then told me off for apologising (‘it’s so British! It’s not your fault, it’s the transport system’s fault’) and I found myself saying sorry for saying sorry.
When we arrived in the pub Tara asked Thor to get her a glass of milk. Unfortunately they didn’t serve milk, so she had a pint of lager instead. Chris drank something called Blackcurrant and Redcurrant Firefly which seemed quite appropriate in our flowery eatery. I found Tara through a friend of mine who plays Ultimate Frisbee at the weekend. As you might expect, this newish sport (I don’t think there’s ever been a Penultimate Frisbee) attracts a lot of international and, in particular, North American participants, and I had hoped to make it down to a game at some point. Maybe I still will. Chris probably would. He’s very much a go-getter type person. He likes trying new things and having got in touch with us through The London Paper has quickly become an invaluable member of the World In One City team.
Tara and Thor don’t know how long they’ll stay here. They both like to travel around and certainly don’t want to settle down just yet. Chris is marrying a Venezualan lady called Pat (she’s the PA to the ambassador of Venezuela so unable to represent her country here) next month (on 7-7-7, in Venezuela; that’s classy) and says that London could be the perfect home for them. Just as it does for Petra and her Nigerian husband, living in London would mean that both Chris and Pat’s families were equally accessible. ‘There are also huge opportunities for work here’, he tells me. ‘It’s in Europe, people speak English and there’s a temperate climate’, ideal for an international couple; while Venezuela might be too hot for him and Ottawa too cold for her (see Iceland), London’s famously average weather could well be just right.
According to Tara, Ottawa has 850,000 inhabitants. It’s a small population befitting a country that boasts just seven people per square mile. ‘When I recommend places for people to visit’, she said, ‘I suddenly realise that you can find them all on one block. It’s like one borough of London. It’s great but very compact.’ Chris is doing his best to make sure the Canadians who have come over here can still find each other. As a founding member and current president of the voluntary organisation Network Canada (mission statement: connecting Canadians), he helps put on twenty events a year. ‘We try to make it easier for people to network socially and commercially’, he told me. ‘They can meet people from their home town and experience all the different things London has to offer. I think Canadians, like the British, need a structure, a society, something to help them get on with things.’ Unlike South Americans, I suggest. ‘Absolutely. We’re much more reserved as a nation.’ I think back to Ligia, our Colombian, and can only agree.
‘Our newsletter reaches over four thousand people,’ Chris explained. ‘A bunch of us started it nine years ago with the support of the High Commission and it’s grown and grown ever since.’ I’m not surprised. Chris clearly knows how to organise people and events. I decide to try and learn from him. At the end of both of our interviews I mention my own actual line of work, stand up comedy, and insist that they come to see one of my gigs some time. ‘It’s a great evening out and you don’t even have to talk to each other!’ I say, trying to sound efficient and funny at the same time. They say they’ll do their best and I promise to add their names to my mailing list. I haven’t yet, admittedly, but I promise I will. Soon.