Thursday, June 29, 2006

Camping, UK style

We are going camping next week, in Wales - a region famous for rain, sheep, leeks and welshmen singing rugby songs in the back of taxis. The 5-day forecast is looking depressingly bleak. This weekend is supposed to be OK (ie. mid-20's), but all of next week is blocked out by raining cloud icons. I have been trying to convince my boyfriend to book a last minute trip to Spain, or Greece, or France, or anywhere the sun is shining and there might actually be a small incentive to go swimming at the beach.

As it is, I hardly see the point of packing my boogie board and wetsuit if the weather is sure to be crappy. I did my time body-boarding-in-the-sleet; crying in the open-air changing rooms because my fingers were too stiff with cold to pull my wetsuit over my ankles; and I hope never to repeat it. Perhaps, if there was a possibility of a hot bath and a large bed at the end of it, I could throw myself in - but crawling through the mud into a freezing, tiny tent after spending the best part of the day submerged in an ice-cold sea doesn't appeal, for some ungodly reason.

Did I mention that we went camping during the Boscastle floods? Oh yes, we were out there, moving the tent to higher ground in the dumping rain (so that we were only under 1 foot of water instead of 2), getting soaked every time we had to leave the tent to use the bathroom, cursing the rainclouds and eating our meals at the local Tesco's.

Contrary to what you might expect, camping is huge over here. In fact, it is enjoying something of a renaissance (witness the Cath Kidston floral-patterned tent). The only teensy, tiny flaw in this UK-wide trend is that: 1. the weather is shit. 2. The weather really is shit and 3. I'm not joking when I say that the weather is shit. There are about 2 weekends in England where the weather is perfect for camping, and it is impossible to predict when those weekends will occur. So booking a camping holiday in advance is a really silly idea.

On the other hand, you can get on a plane and be somewhere ridiculously sunny and hot within a couple of hours...Boyfriend, if you are reading this, please take note. I am starting to weary of your insistence on camping in the UK. Please can we buy a caravan or some plane tickets? Please?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Les Miserables - un triomphe!

On Friday night, we finally went to see Les Miserables - one of those things I have been meaning to do ever since I arrived here all those months/years ago (like actually going to Buckingham Palace and Harrods). I was a bit concerned that it wasn't going to live up to the hype. There was a fleeting moment, soon after the curtain went up to reveal a group of men breaking up invisible rocks with invisible pick-axes, when I got that sinking feeling it was going to be a whole lot less classy than I imagined.

But I needn't have worried - it was fantastic. Apart from that one instance of miming, the rest of the production was brilliant and the singing was breath-taking (literally). Some of the songs had somehow, mysteriously filtered their way into my consciousness (Master of the House, At the End of the Day) without my ever having seen a performance before. But the best thing about it was the way each new scene looked like a glimpse into the past (even if that past did look surprisingly Dickensian for 19th Century Paris). The three hours flew by; the story was involving and dramatic, but never too complex to follow; there were a few moments of light relief to break it up a bit. By the end, I was awed that it was possible to spin such a tale, and take the audience on such a thrilling journey, in such a short space of time.

It was transporting, like good theatre should be. And it has whetted my appetite for more...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Krispy Kreme doughnuts - the work of the devil

Over here, sometimes I hear a snippet of news from home that, due to the distance between my place of birth and where I am now, gets a little blown out of proportion in my head. So it was when I heard that Krispy Kreme doughnuts have made their greasy way over there.

I can't help feeling a little protective of my Melbourne, the city I was born and grew up in. I feel kind of like a big sister figure in relation to my home town (maybe because I am a real-life big sister), and like a big sis, I want to protect my Melbourne from the big, bad, nasty world at large. If I can be incredibly patronising for a minute, there is an innocence about Australia which I wasn't even aware of until I left her sunny shores. My first response on hearing the news was outrage, followed quickly by a feeling of helpless disappointment - another piece of litter strewn on the pathway to American domination.

The problems I have with Krispy Kreme doughnuts are many. Behold:

1. They are seriously, heart-stoppingly bad for you.

2. They promote annoyingly American-product-style bad spelling, which just grates me like fingernails on a chalk board.

3. I don't know how much they are over there, but here in London you could blow your whole lunch allowance on one doughnut.

4. I hate the nostalgic, "1950's Americana" packaging.

5. They have a doughnut called the "Cruller", which features a weird spiral pattern. This is completely unecessary and wrong.

6. Speaking of which, there are just too many varieties. Americans took the concept of consumer choice, and sprinted off with it, turning it into a brain-numbing, zombie-making nightmare of obesity and excess.

7. The ridiculous spin they produce in response to bad press. For example, the "nutrition information" button on the website, which makes dumb people feel reassured by its presence alone.

So there you have it. My personal tirade against the great American bandwagon, rolling over countries like an unstoppable juggernaut, spilling grease, spewing CO2 and rewarding idiots wherever it goes. Please bear in mind, I am the hugest sugar-fiend, and doughnuts used to be the highlight of my week in High School. So I will understand if you succumb and try one of these doughy delights.

Just as long as you don't mind feeling sick with yourself afterwards.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Things to do before I die: Handle a tarantula

We went to the London Butterfly House yesterday after spending most of Saturday and Sunday morning lazing around enjoying the bizarre sensation of warmth (ie. from the sun). It was that or go to the pub to watch Australia get beaten by Brazil in the soccer (is there anybody out there who really thought we had a snowflake's chance?). Anyway, I am SO glad we did, it was a magical afternoon spent chasing elusive butterflies for the perfect shot. There was one in particular which obviously had attention-deficit disorder: it refused to sit still for even a second to be photographed. Naturally, it was the most spectacularly big, irridescent blue butterfly in the whole place.

The boyfriend came along to "keep me happy" in his words, (his sincerity is lovely to behold!), and ended up taking more pictures than me. Also, as you may have guessed by now, we got to hold a tarantula! There was a very sweet old bloke doing demos in the insect house, and as soon as I saw that big, hairy spider I thought, "this is it. I have to do it now or I may never have the opportunity again". For the remainder of his talk, I was mentally preparing myself for it. And I have to say, the sensation of its gossamer-light feet on the palm of my hand was quite... lovely! Not remotely hairy. And of course, because I had done it, my boyfriend had to do it too. I swear this is me in the photo, it was just a hugely unflattering angle for my chin(s):

Her name is Chile Rose, and she really isn't as scary as she looks.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Albino Ladybird

Cute, huh? Man, I miss pets.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Beastly movies

We went and saw The Omen the other night (not on 06.06.06, that would have been too spooky). And while there were a couple of "jumpy" moments - and one in particular made everyone in the theatre gasp and a couple of girls scream - it really wasn't that scary.

The conclusion I have come to is that they (and by "they" I mean Hollywood) just don't make scary movies like they used to, gosh-darn it (slaps knee and pulls comical face). Except for maybe the remake of The Ring, which scared me despite the fact that I was watching it on a dinky, scratched-up screen on an aeroplane, there are no modern films which scare the pants off me like those old flicks (still) do. And The Ring was a remake of a Japanese horror film.

I also watched Wolf Creek recently (Australian, non-Hollywood), and I have to admit, it was quite well done. There was one point at which I had to switch off the DVD and seriously contemplate vomiting. But again, that was more a symptom of the sheer nastiness of one particular scene than legitimate fear.

I think the scariest movies are ones that A) could be real (ie. no pseudo-religious hocus-pocus or distracting special FX), and B) involve a character slowly coming to the realisation that they are completely alone and vulnerable, either in the physical sense or in their beliefs. Rosemary's Baby is seriously spooky, as is The Stepford Wives (yes, it's horror - read the book). Also, The Day After. These are movies with big themes, and possible, really terrifying scenarios - not your usual slasher/bogey-man flick.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

House huntin'

Our landlady has asked us (nicely) to vacate her flat, so we are house hunting yet again. I worked out yesterday that I have been renting now for about 7 years of my life. And yes, I am aware that I could have paid off that groovy beach-front pad by now, but you know what? I have never had a massive deposit at my disposal OR the inclination to settle down in my own bachelorette pad. I think buying a place on my own would have been an admission of failure on my part (failure to settle down, find/marry a suitable bloke, etc. etc.) and would represent some kind of resignation to the single life. Which was too depressing to contemplate, y'know?

So now that I am happily attached, but finding my life at the mercy of the evil Landlady/Overlord once more, I am beginning to question the wisdom of continuing to rent.

I must admit though, house hunting is kind of fun at first - getting to peek in other people's homes and be consistently horrified by the dank, microscopic hovels that people (sorry, agents, sub-human) try to palm off as "compact and homely". I mean, who would be an estate agent? Yes, you get to drive a fancy car and wear a nice suit, but you might as well wear a badge saying "I sold my soul for an upscale apartment and a BMW". The words "slimy" and "estate agent" go together like Simon and Garfunkel.

The entertainment factor quickly evaporates though, with the growing realisation that you will have to live in a 5th floor sardine can or face a 30 minute walk to the tube station each way, every day. The most frustrating thing is seeing what looks like the perfect home, with a big "LET" sign in front of it. In London, you either have to be supersonic-quick, or prepared to wait in a hell of a long queue. Concerts sell out in minutes. Stella McCartney's collection at H&M was sold out within an hour of the store opening. Flats go up on and are let 20 minutes later. And if you want an avocado salad sandwich from Boots, you damn well better get in there before the hordes do, lady.
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