Thursday, September 28, 2006

10 Novels that have thrilled me

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
The True History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey
1984 - George Orwell
Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Trainspotting - Irvine Welsh
The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Fear of Flying - Erica Jong

(This list is by no means conclusive. The author reserves the right to make additions/ommissions from this list at any time without prior notification. This list represents a personal opinion and should in no way be used for the forces of evil)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Culture Clash - the torture of the brit/aussie relationship

I miss home. I don't miss the steering wheel being too hot to touch in Summer, or the need to wear sunglasses during every waking hour (even indoors sometimes!), or the hayfever attacks that left me weeping all through the Spring. I don't miss the bushfires, or the ugly "new" suburbs, or waiting 45 minutes for a bus. What I mean is, I miss my home - my family.

It has been hard, harder than I have let myself realise, to stay in this country when my family and most of my friends are on the opposite side of the globe. If I was blessed with the gift of foresight I may have reconsidered getting involved with a British man... but who thinks about these things? All I knew was, he was damn cute and I had come to London to experience a different way of life. Part of me suspected that I would end up with a British bloke - after all, the aussie blokes never seemed to work out, and everyone predicted it would happen when I left for London. I remember rolling my eyes and assuring them all it would never happen.

There is no getting away from the fact that this situation has created pressures in our relationship - pressures which most couples never have to deal with. The question of "your country or mine?" is still waiting to be answered, dumped in the too-hard basket for now. The sad truth is that one of us is going to have to leave their life behind and build a new one in a different country, without the comforting background noise of family and life-long friends. I am still resisting this, hoping that we will return to Oz sometime soonish to try it out.

I am going home for a short visit in November though, by which time it will have been 2 whole years since I have seen/hugged my parents and youngest brother, and a year since I saw/hugged my middle brother. I can't wait. Seriously, I am twitching just thinking about it.

I just don't know how I am going to cram 2 years worth of catching up into 2 jet-lagged weeks in Melbourne.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Anticipating Autumn

Three good reasons to look forward to the (Northern hemispherical) Autumn - besides beautifully-coloured crunchy leaves underfoot: there are new albums due out by three of my favourite artists.

Amy Winehouse blew me away with her sassy, jazzy, smoky, sparky debut - Frank. This woman has the most amazing voice and some seriously eyebrow-raising lyrics. The new album apparently has a 1950's vibe.

Beck had me from Odelay, way back in 1996 when the uniform consisted of flannelette shirts for the boys and white t-shirts under spaghetti strap dresses for the girls. I have since accumulated all of his albums (even the kind-of-depressing Mutations), but Seachange was the album that made me relegate Beck to always-buy status. His new album apparently harks back to his mid-90's work.

Joanna Newsom is a new addition for me. She definitely takes a few listens to get used to, and a few more again to start appreciating. Her voice is like that of a crazed girl-child muppet, but her lyrics read like snippets of pure poetry - "music deserving devotion unswerving", alright. She accompanies herself on the harp and piano. This is an artist who has really captured my imagination, and I am really interested to hear more of her stuff.

Bring on those brisk and breezy Autumn days, I say; fill your ears with soul-warming music as you pull your coat tighter around you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A meal worth 6 nights of sleeping on the ground for

We just got back from a(nother) camping holiday in Cornwall... no, I don't love camping that much, but it is cheap and it means you get to eat out if there is even a hint of bad weather - there is no way the camp stove will cope in this wind/rain/mist! My, isn't it getting dark? We can't possibly cook outdoors in the dark! Oh well, I guess we will have to eat at Rick Stein's. Or Fifteen.

We ate at the Seafood Restaurant one lunch, and it was possibly the most lovely meal I have ever eaten. But then again, anything remotely truffle-flavoured has me salivating in anticipation and my fillet of brill with potatoes and mushrooms was smothered in the stuff.

Fifteen was also a good experience, in a wholesome, supporting-local-produce, giving-local-people-valuable-work-experience kind of a way. Even the uniforms were really cute, fresh and funky, in true Jamie Oliver style.

I did manage to squeeze into my wetsuit on a few occassions - in between meals - and do some light body-boarding, but the conditions were wa-a-ay too rough for me to consider taking a surf board out. Surfing is a sport which requires total lion-heartedness to attempt and learn - it is no sport for namby-pamby knock-kneed wimps such as myself. I did manage to stand up for a bit in Venezuela a few months back, but soon after I copped a board in the face and ended up with a badly cut lip and a severely impaired "fearlessness" factor.

Just prior to cutting my face up, I had reached that rare state of mind (for me) where the combination of sunshine and cold water and adrenaline made me look at the board and think "I am going to tame this sucker!" and a swell of fierce grrl-power rushes into your veins. The thing about surfing is, you have to really, really want it in order to do it properly, if you know what I mean. It truly is an all or nothing sport.

And frankly? I would rather be watching those crazy death-wish surfers from the comfort of a good restaurant, relishing the fresh raspberries and licking white chocolate mousse off a spoon. Do I sound food-obsessed? Because I think I may have made the wrong career choice.

Friday, September 08, 2006

6 months in and still not bored of the bus journey

Taking the bus instead of the tube was one of the best decisions I made last year. Miraculously, I never get bored of the journey to and from London Bridge each day - there are always so many people on the street to watch - couples having fights outside a restaurant, cyclists getting into punch-ups with homicidal drivers, and of course the sorry street cleaners at the bottom rungs of this city's economy. Not only do they have the noisiest, dustiest, most toxic job in the world, they have to endure the added humiliation of driving what looks like a miniturised pope-mobile, with whirling brushes attached.

Recently, banners and bus ads have started appearing that proclaim "WE ARE LONDONERS", with the "ONE" highlighted, in big black and red letters. They give me a slightly eerie feeling of hands-joined solidarity tempered with a streak of good old-fashioned fear of being blown up. I was in London on 7/7, and I took the tube to work the day after (my reasoning was, the terrorists aren't going to strike two days in a row, right, I mean - that's just too obvious!). I definitely feel safer on the bus, though, where I can eye-ball everybody who gets on and keep a lookout for suspicious packages/shifty looking men.

I know it is highly unlikely, and that I am probably more likely to be hit by a bus than be involved in a terrorist incident, but the truth is, no one knows when it could happen again, and how bad it will be next time. Terrorism statistics don't count for nothing in my book, because the motivation behind such acts are impossible for white Westerners to comprehend or account for.

Anyway, in the unlikely event that there is a bomb on my bus, at least I will see the sky before I die.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Giving Wizz Fizz a run for their money

Wow! These gorgeous, bubble-gum pink English apples taste just like sherbert, including the fizz. I haven't been so excited about fruit since we went raspberry picking in Wales. Yum!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saturday morning muffins

These yummy, yummy muffins are taken from my baking bible, "How to be a domestic goddess", by Nigella Lawson. Her recipes are very good, but the best thing about her books is that you can read them front to back - they are written with such a lovely, warm, lyrical voice. Baking has always been theraputic for me, and there is something so satisfying about whipping up a batter and producing a batch of muffins or a cake - the gap between the miniscule effort and the immense satisfaction makes it a very pleasurable experience.

These are called "Christmas morning muffins" in her book, but they are good any time of year!

200gm plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
75gm demerara sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)
freshly grated nutmeg
I clementine (or mandarine!) or small orange
about 50ml of milk
60gm unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
150gm dried cranberries

Combine the dry ingredients. Squeeze the orange/clementine into a measuring jug, then pour in milk until it reaches 150ml. Add the melted butter and the egg, and beat. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix lightly (over-mixing kills muffins!). Last of all, add the cranberries. I also added some poppy seeds because I love the delicate-popping texture they give.

You can also sprinkle some more sugar and/or cinnamon on top of these before baking.

Cook at 200 degrees celcuis for 20 minutes maximum - check them halfway through as I found they only took about 12 minutes. Makes 12.

Eat at your leisure, or before the blokes in your household get a whiff of them.

Summer fades away

It has been a lot cooler lately, and I am getting that poignant "end of Summer" feeling. Somehow the transition seems gentler over here than at home, where the weather changes its mind almost constantly, and always dramatically, sometimes in the course of a single day. Still, it is kind of a sad feeling, mixed up with the dread of months spent indoors and hours of darkness closing in on the day.

However, there is a little, tiny, eensy part of me which is experiencing a hint of a thrill at the thought of experiencing Winter in London again (fourth time around - can you believe it?!). This year, I will definitely go ice-skating (it is one thing my boyfriend flat-out refuses to do, for the slightly lame excuse of his height. This also excuses him from horse-riding, apparently). I really miss roller-blading and ice-skating is the next best thing. Nothing beats that feeling of gliding along in graceful arcs, weight on your left, then on your right, as though the wheels/blades were a natural extension of your feet. So much smoother than walking.
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