Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kell's Bell's! Recommendations: Part Two

For a political thriller which is beautifully shot, impeccably acted and *gasp* emotionally involving (forget the book), go see:

For extremely lo-fi chill-out music which is surprisingly moving, coming from a lone husky-voiced girl and a clunky piano:

For a fascinating, hand-drawn look at a young woman's life in a turbulent Iran:

For dunking in your coffee and using as a rectangular straw before the whole structure collapses into a gorgeous, chocolatey mess (you can get these at the bigger Tesco's stores now - woo hoo!):

Saturday, May 20, 2006

In praise of sharing digital music

Yep, I'm a believer in sharing the love. Thanks to the ipod revolution, I have literally months worth of new listening material backed up that I haven't even got around to yet. I will be forever grateful to those lovely, lovely people who worked out how to fit a warehouse full of vinyl into your back pocket. I suppose this is what the big music corporations are worried about - that no one will buy new music because we can just copy all our mates files. Well, I am here to refute that claim. In fact, if anything, listening to all this new music has actually caused me to go out and purchase some new CD's which otherwise would have slipped under my radar - because as all music-boffins know, the quality of the music on a CD is far superior to the quality of a much-compressed and downloaded MPEG file.

Plus, there is just something so nice about owning the whole package, with the cover notes and the lyrics and the photos of the artist in varying states of coolness.

Some new discoveries include: Goldfrapp - Black Cherry (I never really got them before), The Delays, the Shins (as sprinkled liberally throughout the Garden State soundtrack), Paul Weller. And, of course, Ray Lamontagne. When I first heard this, I assumed he was some beautiful 70's hoarse-voiced crooner, in the Neil Young vein. But this was actually released in 2004 - and it is a lovely thing to have come across so serrendipitously.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New specs

Well, here they are. Got a kind of funky secretarial vibe, don't they?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The month that ate my budget

I am already halfway through next month's budget, because of the following very necessary things:

1. New glasses (wow! I nearly fell over when he gave me the total cost of the cute Karen Millen frames + the glare-resistant lenses)
2. New prescription sunglasses (as above, also necessary for driving without careening into other cars due to glare)
3. Very cute green dress for upcoming wedding attendance (absolutely necessary)
4. New shoes to go with new dress as no current shoes will do (ditto)
5. Dentist appointment (teeth are doing fine, thanks!)
6. Hygienist appointment (gums are rotted to hell! That bleeding whilst brushing thing is NOT HEALTHY, apparently)
7. Our monumental Grocery Shopping Extravaganza, the total of which should be able to feed a family of 5 for a month, but in reality feeds me and the Boyfriend for about a week.

And our landlady wants to increase our (extortianate) rent. Yeeesh!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Can't get enuff of that green stuff

I just now got back from a ramble on Hampstead Heath. If there is one good reason for staying in London, the Heath is it. There is no way I would have survived this long if it wasn't for that mind-bogglingly huge green space that takes up most of North London. Every time I walk through the gates and into that green paradise, I have to resist the urge to fall to my knees in thanks to the Powers That Be - whomever it was who decided, all those years ago, that Londoners needed a bit of country-side that wasn't too far a stroll from their urban pad.

The Heath is enormous. There is no park in Melbourne that can touch it for sheer scale. And it is a very different type of "park", in that it seems hardly landscaped at all. It is very natural, bucolic and lovely, with wide green, gently rolling fields of tall grass broken up by various woodland areas and the odd pond for swimming or fishing in. Compared to the wild areas at home, it seems terribly gentle and good-natured, meant for bare-foot walking and gourmet picnics - with not a bull ant or a huntsman spider in sight. The worst that could happen might be getting a wasp bite, or possibly being attacked by a feral squirrel.

And, bliss upon bliss, I managed to find a quiet spot where I must have sat for a good 20 minutes without seeing a soul. You have no idea what a freaking luxury this is in the urban hotspot that is London. During all that time, I had no one but a group of extremely cute squirrels for company, plus a few blue tits flitting prettily around the place, their wings whirring past my head every few minutes or so. The only sound was the cawing of crows in the distance, and the funny vibrating, kazoo-like noise squirrels make to threaten other squirrels with.

As I wandered past the Ladies Bathing Pond (oo-er!) on my way home, I decided I should definitely make better use of this free and gorgeous swimming venue this Summer. When I first arrived in London in 2003, I was totally unprepared for the Heat Wave! (as it was reported in every newspaper), and I would regularly stop off at the Heath on my way home and plunge gratefully into the muddy brown waters of the pond. Not as gross as it sounds, believe me - and your skin would feel wonderful afterwards. Oh my lord, I can hardly describe how good it felt to jump into that cool water after spending the previous 2 hours suffering in the hell that is the London public transport system in Summer, sandwiched between sweaty armpits and being broiled alive in my own juices.

I remember the pond as being a haven of olde-worlde civility, with ladies of every description breast-stroking their way unhurriedly through the weeds and ducks. It still ranks as my top London experience (besides meeting my boyfriend, of course).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Norf v. Sarf

Here in London, there is a distinct division between "North" and "South" of the river Thames (or "Norf" and "Sarf" in pure cockney) - a snobbish kind of rivalry exists between the two, not dissimilar to the Syndey/Melbourne divide. In these terms, North London is probably more similar to Melbourne in that us Northerners consider ourselves a bit more cultured, more bohemian, more real, innit, and just a tad less try-hard than those "down there". They have Richmond Park; we have Hampstead Heath. They have Clapham Common; we have Highgate Cemetary. They have pubs overspilling with noisy, drunken Aussies; we have poetic winos on the park benches.

The full extent of this divide was brought home to me the other night, when I was leaving work after 9pm, which meant: 1. Free Dinner; and 2. Free Black Cab Home (one of many perks, including: 3. Paid Overtime, unheard of in the Melbourne design world). So I was standing in the queue, behind an obviously "South London" girl (groomed, pushy, obnoxiously trendy). The first cabbie to pull up wouldn't take her, as she was going South and he was heading home up North. So she pushed her way ahead of me as I was heading towards the second cab, waving her highly manicured fingers frantically and affecting an attitude of "if I don't make eye contact, she doesn't exist" towards me.

But the cabbie had already made the snap judgement that she was a Clapham Try-Hard, and I, with my unkempt hair and scuffed, flat shoes, was a North London Person of Artistic Integrity - and he gave priority to me! Brilliant! And all the way home, he spun me tales of how much he hates "those pushy Clapham types", who "wish they lived in Kensington" and how he tries to screw them over wherever possible, just because it gives him a thrill.

I am not sure where his unearthly hatred of all things southern came from, but I was too grateful for the lift home to do anything but agree with him.
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