Friday, December 28, 2007

Trying to count my blessings

Bad things:
Being sick for a week, thinking you're recovered, then relapsing even worse than you were before.
Missing your family and feeling lonely and sorry for yourself at Christmas.
About 4 measly hours of dull daylight per day.
Christmas television.
No appetite! At Christmas! The foodliest time of the year...
The ladybug infestation which is taking over the flat (true).
No flatmate to distract me from the bad tv and ladybugs.

Good things:
Spending Christmas Day with friends and a big group of lovely new people.
Playing sick scrabble (and winning!)
Sleeping about 11 hours a night.
A proper Wintry-Pine-smelling-Christmassy-Christmas tree.
Looking forward to New York in 2008!
Christmas television. It really isn't that bad. I have watched Monsters Inc, and Crocodile Dundee, and about a million old episodes of Friends.
Speaking of - friends looking after you when you're sick.
NYE in Bordeaux. Please God let me be recovered in time to appreciate all that wine.

Hope everybody has had a lovely Christmas and wishing you all a 2008 that is filled with love, bagels and adventure. Onwards and upwards, people.

Friday, December 14, 2007

90's gems rediscovered

God I love discovering some classic movie or artist which managed to slip under my radar while I was busy not existing/teething/obsessing about zits/pulling all-nighters at Uni. The latter applies here.

I got Rushmore in the mail the other night, and it is a serious contender for the title of My All Time Favourite Film (currently The Professional, or Leon as it is known over here).

I have seen many of Wes Anderson's later efforts - The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic* - but none of them have the wit, the grape-fruity freshness or the quirky verve of Rushmore. His later films feel a lot more contrived, and seem like they should be funnier than they are. But Rushmore - featuring a heart-felt nerd in Max - I loved. Possibly partly because I, myself, am a heart-felt nerd. And Bill Murray is great in it.


My flatmate, songstress that she is, has a vast and brilliant CD collection. I finally listened to the whole of Last Splash by the Breeders on the weekend, and damn if they didn't rock the 90's. I do love a bit of girl-rock (Liz Phair! Belly! Elastica! Wooo!). I really only knew Canonball, which is probably the sexiest song ever to feature the word "Cannonball", and Divine Hammer - but the whole album is full of dirty-loud goodness.

Go forth and watch/listen if you haven't already.

*Still worth seeing for the brilliant soundtracks alone.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Post-holiday daze

I am back from Melbourne after three glorious weeks, wrapped in a warm blanket of love from my family and friends to sustain me through the deep, dark London Winter. Which is not to say that I don't love my friends here; but Melbourne is my true home and will be forevermore. London suits me right now, and I will be here for at least another 7 months, but I am starting to think about heading home late next year.

It is strange, the time I spend back in Melbourne now. For the first days of my holiday I felt like Martin Guerre - struggling to feel like I belonged, feeling slightly oppressed by deeply familiar surroundings - despite my family welcoming me back with their usual love, manifested in bone-crushing hugs and random silliness.

After a shaky start, though, I started to really enjoy my time there and revelled in seeing old friends, basking in the sunshine, inhaling the sweet air and savouring every drop of tap water. Yes, tap water. Compared to London water, Melbourne water tastes like it is made from the tears of angels (they aren't salty like ours).

My time went by in a whirl of social engagements, which were spent breathlessly relaying the stories of our respective lives over the past year or more. Births, deaths and marriages, either real or rumoured. Home-purchasing, divorce, home-selling, new jobs. Religious revelations. Political persuasion featured a lot in conversations this trip, due to the looming election. Thank God Howard Is Out, is all I have to say on that divisive topic. One friend screen-printed her own climate change t-shirt (impressive). Another had a "Howard Exit" highway sign printed onto his top.

All up, I was very sad to leave. But the adjustment back into London hasn't been too bad, after the first extremely quiet weekend. The weather has been nice, which helps - the sun has actually made a few appearances. It is nice to see everyone here again, and there are many Christmas functions to look forward to. But I will miss everyone back home. I miss being more involved in their day-to-day lives, as opposed to the bi-annual flying visits where the babies have strangely mutated into walking, talking, tugging, emotionally-complex little creatures.

Ah well, there's always Facebook.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pepper Reynolds, 1993 - 2007

We took our family dog to the vet today to be put down. She was a tibetan spaniel and australian terrior cross, a sweet little dog with a rabbity-soft black and white coat and a brushy tail that curled up to her back. She had become very sick with cancer and was obviously losing the battle against the horrible lumps which had taken over her small body.

She had the sweetest puppy-face, right up until the end, with a petite black nose, folded over velvety black ears, and a little black bottom lip which looked like a shiny strip of licorice. Her "rocky road" belly was spotted pink, brown and white.

We used to joke that she was more like a cat than a dog - when you called her, she would come in her own time, and she was never terribly obedient - but in truth she hated cats. And joggers. And possums, which were her sworn enemies. She spent many long nights letting her outrage be heard as the possums cavorted out of reach in the trees and over the roof of our house.

Pepper was there when I spent hours out in the backyard researching, writing, and day-dreaming; my tears fell on her head when my heart was broken; she gave me comfort when I felt misunderstood and isolated from my family.

I still expect to hear her little nails as she trots across the decking out the back, and to see her expectant face at the window when she wants to come inside, breath from her little black nose frosting the glass.

A much loved member of the family, she will be dearly missed. If there is a heaven, she is there with Biff and Max from next door, and grandpa is sneaking her biscuits under the table.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween legs

The infamous purple tights, of Prince concert and work Summer Social fame. I knew I would use them again, and what better occassion than a Halloween fancy dress night down at my local?

Friday, October 26, 2007

I am not convinced I want to ride my bicycle, actually

So, I recently got myself a bike. It was an offer I couldn't refuse - ie. just ride away quietly and don't ask any questions, nosy. It has spent the last few weeks sitting in the entrance hall of my flat. A big, hulking, beaten-up mountain bike in our otherwise very girly flat.

OK, I thought. I have to buy a helmet (safety first!) and a lock. The bare minimum in the way of bike accessories. So I did that a few weeks ago.

Then I took it for the inaugral ride last weekend, to London Bridge and back, as a test run for the trip to work.

It did take me a couple of hours to get there, but that was because I had to keep stopping at every corner and checking the map. And it hurt to sit down for the next week. But gliding through the mostly deserted city, swooping past the empty Farringdon market and over Southwark bridge, I felt exhilarated to be outside and on two wheels.

OK, thought. I really can't do without some lights and a flourescent top, considering I will be riding home in the dark after work. So I went back to the bike shop and bought them.

A few days later, it occured to me that if I am really going to do this, I am going to need a big ass girly saddle. So I went back to the bike shop and bought a wide-ass saddle with strategic cut-outs.

Now all of this gear is sitting at home, waiting for me to attach it to the bike and make good on those (internal) promises, remonstrating me for being such a darn chicken. I tell myself it is fear holding me back - of being crushed under a bus or run down by cars driven by cyclist-hating rednecks - but in truth, it is at least 20% laziness and 10% inertia.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Embracing my inner nerd: part 2

Another nugget which confirms my geekhood: I used to be obsessed with the X-Files, as were most of my family. I can still remember my brother's face, locked in an expression of hilarious concentration as he whistled along to the theme tune. It took me a while to get hooked - the first few episodes seemed to be entirely composed of Dana Scully wandering around the woods at night, shining her torch around wildly and calling out "Mulder? Mulder?!" in an increasingly frustrated/worried tone - but slowly Fox Mulder's good looks and gravelly monotone got to me.

So imagine my delight when I discover that Mr. Duchovny is appearing in a new show, Californication, in which he plays some kind of writer/sex fiend cutting loose in LA after the breakdown of his marriage.

There were a few things about the pilot which disturbed me, however. One was that David Duchovny didn't quite convince me as Hank Moody, the bad boy writer gone off the rails. Then there was the completely unsexy sex scenes. And then this charming encounter where Hank taunts his blind date after she asks him to tell her about herself, using his creative intuition (seeing as he's a writer and all):

“I think you were born in the valley. Nice part, though. Your father was middle-management, white collar executive. Stay-at-home mom. You didn’t want to stray too far to go to college so you went to USC. You had a serious boyfriend in college, you broke up right after, he married the next one. You got a low maintainence gig in a human resources industry, you had a string of bad relationships, you put on some weight. You looked around, you saw all your friends starting to pair up and get married so you decided you should lose the weight, you joined a gym, maybe you did a little running.

You say you want to work - maybe start your own party planning business, you fancy yourself kind of a poor gal’s Martha Stewart - but what you really wanna do is sit at home, on the couch, with some poor sap, watching reality TV while he watches you get fat again.”

Pretty bitchy, huh?

Afterwards, I stayed up and watched the pilot episode of 30 Rock, a new show I knew nothing about. Here's Jack Donaghy (played by Alex Baldwin) sizing up his new employee Liz Lemon in the first episode:

“Sure...I gotcha. New York, third-wave feminist, college-educated, single and pretending to be happy about it, over-scheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says 'healthy body image' on the cover, and every two years you take up knitting ... for a week.”

When did men get so damn catty?! I mean, I know these characters aren’t real (hyuk - I ain’t stupid), but this dialogue was written by men... wasn’t it?

Well, actually, this particular episode of 30 Rock was written by a woman - the woman who plays the "over-scheduled, undersexed" Liz. You are letting down the sisterhood, Liz. I'm disappointed in you. And in you, Mr. Duchovny, object of my teenhood affections and Executive Producer of a show which seems to divide women into two groups: potential sex partner or object of derision.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Words AND pictures - what could be better?

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am a bit of a nerd. All I wanted in High School, and Uni, was to be cool. It seemed to me (at the time) that being cool was somehow related to "not giving a shit" and being extremely laidback about, like, everything. To display enthusiasm towards anything was to reveal yourself as deeply uncool. I think this must have been the time I learnt to hide my enthusiasm away, because now I have trouble getting enthusiastic about anything. Except chocolate, of course. But I digress.

The geekiest thing about me? I read comic books. Witness the progression of my life through the funny papers:

1. I start out on Asterix and Obelix, borrowed from the local library.

2. Move on to Peanuts, then Garfield throughout primary school.

3. Read MAD magazine feverishly through high school.

4. I discover Calvin and Hobbes through a friend at Uni.

Of course, in the meantime, the Simpsons were exploding all over TV, South Park came out and all of a sudden cartoons were not Just For Kids anymore.

5. My Dad introduces me to Krazy Kat, the sweetest and most lyrical love story between a cat and a mouse that you will ever read.

6. Somewhere along the line, I come across Robert Crumb and his whacked-out hippy comics from the 70's.

7. A friend gives me a copy of Ghost World for my birthday, which I enjoy on a visual level, but which leaves me with an uncomfortable, desolate feeling (maybe that was the point).

8. Since being in the UK, I discover the razor-sharp Life in Hell, by Matt Groening - as well as:

9. the Persepolis series, by Marjane Satrapi. That is a proper grown-up, educational read, my friends. You no longer need feel ashamed that you are reading a picture-book.

Then came:

10. Maus by Art Speigelman. Words cannot do justice to this incredible book. It won a Pulitzer prize. That should shut those cool kids up.

Anyway, back where it all began.

Yesterday I walked past one of those shonky "temporary" book sales, and I couldn't resist buying a set of 10 Asterix comics for the bargain price of £22.

I inherited my love of Asterix (and subsequently my love of all story-based comics) from my Dad, who could frequently be found sitting up in bed of an evening, cup of tea on the bedside table, giggling quietly over the antics of that indomitable Gaulish village, holding out against the Roman invaders...

Thanks, Dad. I shudder to imagine how different my life would have been if you had been heavily into competitive sports or something.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Amster-damn good

Nothing like a last minute trip to blow your budget right out of the water!

Amsterdam was lovely. After getting over the initial shock of wandering into the red light district (by accident - alarmingly easy to do), I was smitten. The pretty canals are lined with trees and narrow brick houses leaning into each other (and out over the street - something to do with hoisting stuff up to the top floor). The trees were still mostly green, but starting to turn shades of bright yellow and orange, making the city glow with autumnal colours. I spent half my time there daydreaming about living on a cute little houseboat and cycling to work.

This city is built for bike riding. The locals ride their bikes everywhere, some with wheel-barrow-like contraptions at the front for the kids. There is no question that in the street traffic pecking order, cyclists are at the top; followed by tram drivers, then buses, then pedestrians, and finally cars. Negotiating their way slowly between everyone else. As it should be. Cars must die.

I did a bike tour in the rain, and words cannot describe how lovely it was to be back in the saddle once more. I haven't had a bike for 4 and a half years now, and damn I miss it. I felt like a true Amsterdammer in my poncho, cycling from windmill to dairy farm in the wet (not that Amsterdammers spend their spare time cycling to see windmills and other tourist traps, but y'know).

Here's me hangin' in the Post CS building, temporary home of the Stedelijk Modern Art Museum and a very cool bar called 11.

And here's me doing starjumps on guess which floor?

And in case you were wondering, no I didn't partake of the wacky baccy...

* Photos once again curtesy of the lovely Emma, thanks to my missing download cable.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Wow, that was the quickest transition between seasons ever.

Sunday: Swimming outdoors at the Ladies Bathing Pond in Hampstead Heath, enjoying the surprisingly mild late-afternoon air and the odd bursts of blissfully warm sunshine through the clouds. Wearing flip flops. Eating ice-cream. (probably only about 23 degrees, but this is London after all, and I feel obliged to make the most of any 20+ weather).

Monday: Wake up to FREEZING COLD MORNING. Jack Frost giggles maniacally as he tip-toes around homes in London, blowing blasts of ice-cold air into the gaps in people's beds. Didn't think to take a coat to work; after all, I was swimming at the heath yesterday! In a bikini! But I seriously regret that when I see that London has collectively brought out their Proper Winter Coats (I obviously didn't get that memo). Once again, the streets of London are clad in shades of Black, Grey, Bland, Khaki and Boring.

Belatedly, my workplace has scheduled the "Summer Social" for this Thursday, with a Caribbean theme. Timely, I don't think. But it will be one last chance to drag out the colourful Summer dresses and pretend, for one blissful night, that we are in the tropics. I am planning to wear my yellow sun dress with the purple tights I bought for Prince.

Not Prince, The Man, mind you - Prince, the Stadium Spectacular. The little man in the white suit funked. He grooved. He played his git-ar with alarming sensuality. His twin dancers bent every which way. His female drummer, grimacing in her zebra stripe outfit, scared me a little. The bogans in the audience scared me a lot.

It was fantastic!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Regretting the fourth Tiger beer

It is all coming back to me, like a bad dream. All the crap things about being single. After a few weeks grace period in which I have been happy socialising and keeping busy, trying to do some yoga now and again, eating well, looking after myself - the sordid reality is creeping in.

The booze-filled nights out, where you spend more time fending off drunken stags than enjoying yourself.

The bizarre logic of rounds-drinking, in which you seem to have no choice but to drink loads in order to be part of the 'group'. And the laws of mathematics dictate that the more people there are in the group, the greater the portion of alcohol each person consumes. How the hell do you break out of this sorry cycle? No wonder the Brits are a nation of binge-drinkers.

The greasy food consumed after the night out, leaving you feeling poorly the next day (on top of the hangover).

The way you haemorrhage money, what with the eating out every second night, the booze, the entry fees, the theatre and movie tickets, the new clothes, the steep increase in rent...

Moaning aside, I am enjoying being more sociable generally. My new flatmate has been generous enough to invite me out with her and her mates on several occassions, so I shouldn't really complain. And my workmates have been brilliant, as always. I love those girls (in a strictly hetero kind of way). Unfortunately, my ex and I were both quite anti-social home-bodies, and we had a bad habit of discouraging each other from going anywhere, at all, ever.

But oh, my head! My bank balance! My liver!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Naughty but nice flapjacks

Flapjacks sound quite wholesome, what with the oats-honey-sunshine-and-fields connotations, but these aren't really what I would classify as health food.

140gm butter
200gm porridge oats
25gm dessicated coconut
50gm light muscovado sugar
100gm brazil nuts, chopped
85gm dark chocolate, chopped
5 tbs golden syrup

Gently melt the butter with the sugar and golden syrup. When the sugar has dissolved, mix in the oats and coconut (this stage tastes yummy). Press the mixture into a greased tray. Sprinkle the chopped nuts and chocolate over the top and press into the flapjack mixture. I guess you could adapt this stage to add whatever you like to the top, as long as it is chunky and doesn't burn too easily (maybe dried apricots and almonds? Or dried cherries and white chocolate?).

Chuck into the oven at 180 C for 25 minutes, or until golden.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Enjoying the sunshine at Notting Hill Carnival

Photos courtesy of the lovely Emma.

Highglights: Some of the costumes were extraordinary. The atmosphere was thumpin'. And the jerk chicken was bloody amazing. In fact, I think there should be a festival devoted solely to jerk chicken. Not jerky at all, just freakin' tasty.

Lowlight: waiting 25 mintues to use the toilet, in an extremely slow-moving queue of irate women, with a constant stream of men walking past to take a quick slash in the mens.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Asahi's, guitars, flip-flops and umbrellas

I had so much fun at my flatmate's gig the other night. In fact, I feel like I am paying an emotional toll now, for the overdose of fun (and beer) I had. It is like I am only allocated so much happiness, and if I go overdrawn, I have to make it up in grumpiness.

Anyway, the gig was excellent. My flatmate writes funny, sweet, quirky and interesting little ditties, which are more like short stories (or modern day fables) set to music, mostly to do with the folly of human relationships. There were tons of people crammed into this little basement room under a pub in Farringdon, but the atmosphere was very friendly. And blessedly unsmoky. Smoking ban, I love you.

We stuck around for the second supporting group, One Eskimo, who were really good, and obviously aiming for the Bigtime. They were a really polished act, with trumpets, some sort of electric hookup (the sound of school kids cheering was a bit disconcerting), and their own logo - a really cute eskimo illustration I wish I did. I can't think who to compare them to - Keane? Coldplay? - no one seems to fit their style of hypnotic soft pop/rock. Anyway, they were lovely, check them out.

The main act were the very smiley Noel Prior Band, an energetic folk group from Truro, Cornwall (I been there!). The lead singer sounds a little like Elliot Smith, but their songs are a lot more upbeat and impossible not to jig to. Although, the typically London crowd managed to spend most of their set standing stock still. At one point, a random girl pleaded with me and the two girls I was with to go up to the front, to give the band a little encouragement. We didn't - I for one didn't want to look like a groupie. Finally, for the last number, the band appealed for some movement, and the small crowd finally loosened up. It was like watching a room full of robots get switched on simultaneously.

Much fun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Squidgey banana, blueberry and pecan muffins

These turned out really well, considering I made them out of leftover fruit that had been languishing in our office all week (not as gross as it sounds).

300g self-raising flour (I used light brown)
1 tsp bicarb soda
100g light muscovado sugar (or golden caster sugar), plus extra for topping
50g porridge oats, plus extra for topping
2 medium bananas, very ripe
285ml natural yoghurt
5 tbsp olive oil
1 large egg
150g blueberries
80gm pecans, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 180 degrees. Mix the flour, bicarb soda, sugar and oats. Make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas until nearly smooth. Stir in the yoghurt, oil and egg into the mashed banana until evenly combined.
Pour the liquid mixture into the well and stir quickly with a wooden spoon. Don't be tempted to over-mix! Tip in the blueberries and pecans and give it one more stir. Divide the mix between 12 muffin cases, then sprinkle the tops with a little sugar and a few oats. Bake for 18-20 mins until risen and dark golden.

Good straight out of the oven, but they keep pretty well too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Bipolar Weekend

I don't know where my head's at. Saturday was really good - I spent a happy afternoon shopping for food and household items which my flatmate mysteriously doesn't own (grater, collander, scales, wooden spoon), made a mean quiche, cracked open the bottle of champagne I had been hoarding since Christmas, had friends over for a dinner party, sung along to Nina Simone...

Sunday was not nearly so good. I spent a lonely afternoon taking the bus miles out to Ikea, wandering around in a daze through Ikea, spending money that I don't have in Ikea, and putting stuff together (wrongly) from Ikea. I did get a nice cushion out of it though, and my new clothes rack (which I eventually put together correctly) is way better than that rickety old swaying thing I had before, which probably would have collapsed under the weight of all my threads. The trouble with living in London is that clothes are just so cheap, so plentiful, so infinitely varied, that your wardrobe ends up becoming a textile dumping ground.

My flatmate was away all weekend, which was kind of good - I like my space - but by the end of Sunday I was starting to feel decidedly miserable. I didn't speak to anyone all day besides shop assistants, and that was the bare minimum in terms of human contact. At 9.30pm, my lowest point, I missed a call on my mobile from my brother in Sweden, and I didn't even have enough credit to call him back. He is even more broke than me, rubbing together his last two kroners.

We did exchange a couple of texts though, and that was enough to get by on. I think I need to get some kind of incredibly demanding and time-consuming hobby going.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In which I talk about somebody else for a welcome change

One of my dear friends from home is on the cusp of releasing her first self-produced album. I met Andrea through a friend and almost straight away we had a "connection", which we later admitted is rare for both of us (sensitive, creative, unsociable creatures that we both are). I had recently moved into her suburb and was thrilled to have a local friend, whom I could drop in on without warning. One of my more annoying traits, the unannounced call-around.

Andrea is tiny, blone and curly-haired, with a cheshire-cat grin and a very distinctive voice (clearly enunciated but with a very Australian drawl). She likes the colour red and almost always has at least one item of red clothing on her person. She also has a small pug called poppy on whom she dotes, with a fervency I find hard to comprehend - given poppy's ill-temper and her "only a mother could love it" squashed face and squat little body - but accept. We have seen each other through various relationships; break-ups; and reclaimed singlehoods (celebrated with a few drinks down at the Geebung). Always the red wine, with Andrea.

She used to work part-time in order to devote her spare hours to music, and just lived quite frugally (apart from the red wine). I was forever in admiration of her gentle-natured tenacity, and always very curious about her music and songs, but never got to see her perform live and was too shy to ask her to play me anything (or I felt she would be too shy to play it for me). All these years, and I had never heard Andrea sing.

Last week, I heard some clips of Miss Barnett's songs for the first time via her website. Maybe it is my current emotional state, but there was no denying that it touched my heart to hear one of my friend's true talents being poured directly into my ears from the other side of the world.

Good music, especially live, can cut straight to your bones or heart or gut. It can stop you in your tracks, put you under a spell, and at the risk of coming over all Danny-Zuco, electrify you.

I even have a sort of weird Pavlovian response where, whenever I hear an orchestra start playing live, it brings a tear to my eye. Literally. It's embarrassing.

So today I would like to raise my glass (of red, naturally) to Andrea; and my new flatmate, also a musician; and all those other unsigned musicians out there who make music because they love it, and because they are compelled to.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Things I love about London*

Eating char-grilled chorizo sausage in ciabatta with rocket and roast pepper (or capsicum, from my previous life) at the Borough Market.

The tube map.

Breast-stroking my way around the Ladies Bathing Pond at Hampstead Heath, dodging ducks and lily pads (after the shock of the cold water has worn off).

Reading the papers on the weekend - in particular, the Saturday Guardian and the Sunday Times. Especially if they are giving away free DVD's!

Sitting on the top deck of the 43 bus, lurching past the Bank of London, the Monument, and Tower Bridge as the sun rises over the Thames.

The vast Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. It takes my breath away every time.

The incredibly detailed directions people give you ("..on your right, you'll see a window box full of violets, you want to head left past the Kings Head..if you reach a bridge with a chapel in the middle, you've gone too far..").

Taking your plush red velvet seats at the Royal Opera House as a hush falls over the crowd.

Walking along the cobblestones in Covent Garden, humming "Wouldn't it be luverly?" to yourself.

The transformation that takes place when it snows.

Drinking champagne at the Fumoir bar at Claridges (fancy!).

Shavasana at the end of a hard yoga class at the Life Centre in Notting Hill, lying blissfully on your back and gazing at the clouds drifting over the skylights.

Boarding the Eurostar at Waterloo and arriving at Gard du Nord in Paris 2.5 hours later.

The excitable audience at the Prince Charles Cinema.

The ridiculously varied regional accents.

The first note of the orchestral score at a West End musical, with excitement in the audience running high.

Looking at the ever-changing, always stunning shop window displays around Regent Street and Bond Street.

Feeling the weight of history under your feet and fingertips, everywhere you go.

*Please note: this list is subject to change or deletion at any time; especially when it has been raining throughout most of the "Summer". Thank you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Melodramatic sigh

A quick update: I moved into my temporary home last night, which was weird, but not as bad as I thought it would be. The most traumatic part was packing up my flat earlier in the day and lugging the last of my stuff to work on the bus, crying all the way, my ex-boyfriend barely holding it together next to me. The situation between us is vastly complicated - we both care so much about each other, but we just couldn't seem to make it work. It is so sad.

However, I know now that I need to spend some time on my own to sort my head out before I can be in a successful relationship. If I'm not happy, my boyfriend is never going to be happy - certainly not enough to want to marry me and make a future with me. The truth is, maybe I will never be completely "happy" and maybe I will never be in a life-long relationship - and somehow, I have to come to terms with that.

A friend from work (the same one who came and looked after me when I got sick at the tube station), helped me lug my stuff all the way to Hampstead and kept me entertained with talk of the banana harmonica she is bidding for on ebay (100% true). My thanks go out to her and her fruit-instrument obsession.

* * * * *

I am reading Alan Bennett's "Untold Stories", which (so far) is about his family and the secrets, illnesses, and everyday struggles that seem to exist in almost all families once you get past the rosy public face. He describes, in his very gentle, precise style, his two independent aunties, who see themeslves as more daring and free-spirited than their timid, married middle sister. Both of them end up marrying late in life, but the husband of the eldest aunt dies not long into their married life and leaves her distraught and angry to have lost something she waited so long for. Bennett, drafted into driving her to the funeral, finds himself getting impatient with the show of emotions she "puts on", feeling she is hamming it up somewhat, uncomfortable with the uncontrolled display of her feelings.

This particular recollection really stung me. I have been accused of being melodramatic in the past, by a member of my family. I don't think I am a dramatic person generally - most people would describe me as cool, calm, shy, quiet, not in the habit of calling attention to myself - but I have always been at the mercy of my emotions. The strength of my emotions can leave me lying in a useless heap on the ground, too weak to stand; they can make me physically ill; or they can (very occassionally) lift me up to a state of bubbling excitement. I have always felt things very deeply, and taken everything to heart, privately. I feel my emotions are what hold me together; define me; are as much a part of me as my blood. To dismiss them as "put on", for the sake of creating "drama", is repulsive.

Anyway, most importantly, me and my thin skin are surviving. And I am feeling more on top of my emotions now (despite the current mess) than at any other point in my life, especially my early-to-mid twenties. What I am aiming for, ultimately, is an even keel. Oh, how I envy those emotionally-steady-as-a-rock people.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Message from the depths of self-pity

Wow, this week has been hard.

On the up-side, I finally found a new home, sharing with a lovely girl in North London (my allegiance to the North is complete), about half as close to work as I am now.

But, ohhh my stars, this week. Almost as soon as I had agreed to take the new place, I started to have doubts; and those doubts soon spun themselves into a full blown stress attack. It all hit me quite hard that I am going to be on my own. Again. My dreams in tatters. Starting over, for what feels like the hundredth time. Cue: near-fainting episode on the tube, a million commuters brushing by my huddled body. A guardian angel appears, whose kindness and concern provoke a flood-burst of tears. A colleague is called. I am given tea and put on a bus home once I feel well enough to stand and walk.

Thank god for the kindness of strangers (and workmates).

I am trying to work on my gratitude. I too easily fall into a state of self-pity and anxiety. I need to work out how to be thankful for what I have, and for those people around me who care and are helping me. Me, the lone wolf that I sometimes feel, proud of my independence but scared to let people see me as I really am. Which, right now, is a vulnerable mess. Putting on a brave face, because what else can I do but continue to function?

Me oh my.

Next week will be better.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Finding the spacious, bright, leafy and private needle in the big, stinky, overcrowded haystack

House-hunting. I must be some kind of masochist, becacuse I kind of enjoy it, in a guilty sort of way. Not that I'm looking forward to leaving my beautiful, private flat with the magnificent green view and (almost) private woodland paradise just around the corner. Or being on my own again after 4 years of cosy cohabitation. Or sharing with strangers.

But I do find it fascinating getting to peek into other people's lives; to see what sort of taste they have, whether they use their kitchen, how scrupulously clean or comfortably messy their home is, what posters they have up, the proliferation or conspicuous absence of books. And of course, I judge them accordingly.

The anal obsessive whose flat looks like a magazine spread.

The scruffy hippies who are mildly bewildered by my lame establishment job.

The young, irresponsible gits who think cocaine is like, the best thing EVER!

The guy with two overweight labradors in a tiny Hampstead flat.

The ones who watch Big Brother. Daily.

The goth girls who keep rats in a cage in the living room.

The naturist who believes in the "freedom, spirituality and exhiliration" of being nude at home (I didn't go to see that one).

The girls who work in "fashion", and have not a brain cell between them (obviously no books there).

It is entertaining. I am also enjoying seeing other parts of London and discovering new villages, which is kind of fun. I have been living in rather a posh area of North London, so it is good to know that there are nice, reasonably green areas that are a little more...diverse. And a little grungier. But that's ok. The people are (mostly) lovely.

* * *

Also: I think I saw Tori Amos on the tube the other weekend. Could that even be possible? Tori Amos takes the tube when she's in London? I know she lives in deepest Cornwall somewhere, so it is possible that she was on a day trip to the capital. Then again, maybe the lack of sleep is finally causing me to hallucinate.

In case you are wondering, I was too scared/awed to approach her. And I would have felt a total dick if it wasn't her.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Breaking up

Confession time. I am determined to be as honest as I can be about this experience. Maybe someone out there will take some comfort from my words. In any case, it might help me on this very bumpy ride.

Things I am scared about:

- Being on my own again.
- Not having anyone to hug.
- Being lonely.
- Feeling unlovable (ie. my emotional messiness).
- Living with people who turn out to be nightmares.
- Not feeling comfortable in my new home - wherever it may be.
- Not knowing where my life is going.
- Not having my family nearby for support.
- Falling apart.
- Having to go home in a state of failure rather than of.. triumph? No. Glory? No. Success? Well, in a sense. That will have to do. A small scale success, as in: I survived London on my own and made a small life here for a while.

Things I am OK about:

- Getting more time to do things I want to do for myself. Or perhaps I should say, being pushed into doing more things I want to do by this experience.
- Spending some time looking inwards and finding out what makes me happy/contented/at peace.
- House-hunting. I haven't come across any real weirdos yet - just slightly too small, slightly too dark, or slightly too noisy rooms, but the people have generally been nice (which is reassuring).
- That the struggling has taken a back seat (for now).

Things I am happy about:

Ummmm...that it's Summer?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Flat hunting between tears

Lordy, lordy, lord. My oh my, I forgot what a stressful business it is being on your own after 4 years of unhealthy co-dependency. Oh wait, I have never been in quite this situation before. Mamma mia.

Sometimes I imagine a particular yoga teacher's voice in my head, telling me in her beautiful, elongated, soothing voice: "breathe innnnto the heart chakra and oooout through the belly chakra". And vice versa.

I am not sure if I even believe in chakras, but at this point, whatever helps me get through this, y'know?

Also, I have lost my appetite, pretty much completely. This has never ever happened before. I find it bewildering and disturbing. If there was one thing I thought I could count on in this world - besides the love and concern of my parents - it was that my passion for food in general and chocolate in particular would never wane.

* * * *

I went to a quiz night last week - a colleague is raising funds for Oxfam (hi Bix!). One of the questions in the Literature round was: "Name the book which begins with the words, "Call me Ishmael". I knew immediately that it was Moby Dick.

I do love reading, but I never got around to Moby Dick.

Also, I have a pretty bad memory for books/history/geography. Unless, that is, it happens to have been referenced in a comic, a format for which I seem to have total recall.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The struggle

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousnes.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

These words are comforting me as my world tumbles in.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

On being female and 30

So, I turned thirty earlier this year. The media here is pretty much hysterical about "women in their thirties" (insert concerned but judgemental frown). Men won't date them - they're too desperate! In a panic about their shrivelling ovaries! Realising they can't have it all! Throwing themselves into work/the gym/binge-drinking!!

Personally, I am not that happy with the way things have turned out for me - but that's nobody's business or concern but my own. Society has changed massively since my parent's lifetime. The future seems uncertain but most certainly grim. Our society is in thrall of excessive consumerism and the pursuit of wealth, at the expense of individual and communal wellbeing. I do feel that, in this instance, ignorance would have been bliss (had I settled down in my mid-twenties, bought the house, had the kids, and stayed cocooned in the miniature inwards-looking world of the family).

Then again, maybe not. I have always been an obsessive worrier, since about the age of 4. Every childhood picture of me - every holiday snap, every school photo, every family portrait - shows a skinny little blond kid with crooked teeth, looking worried.

In fact, I looked pretty much like this girl:

Remember her?

Some days I wish I could turn my back on romance altogether and harden my heart, be that strong, independent girl I used to feel like sometimes, striding through the city Amazon-like (it matches my physique, anyway).

Brain, I am ordering you to override heart! Did you hear me, Brain? That's an ORDER!

* * *

Useless brain.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Grumpy, snappy and cranky

Grrr. Hayfever has made a weeping mess out of me. I know a lot of other people are suffering, and let me tell you, I FEEL YOUR PAIN, people. It (the pain, suspended in mucus and tears) is running down my face and pouring out of my nose. Strangers are offering me tissues on the street and asking me in soft, concerned tones who my next of kin is.

Historically, my hayfever has been a lot better since I moved UK-side. I think the pollen count must be worse this year than usual. Plus, I haven't been sleeping and things at home have been a little - shall we say - fraught? Also, I just moved offices, so I am back on the tube. Otherwise known, in my head at least, as the Stinkin', Overcrowded, Frequently Delayed Festering Tunnel of Communicable Disease (or SOFDeFToCD for short). If you have even the slightest hint of hayfever or a cold, your journey on the tube becomes almost unbearable. The filthy air quality adds to the general torment happening all over your face.

To summarise, I am NOT in a good way.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Welcome to audio heaven

I have got four brilliant new CD's on rotation on my mini...wa-hey! I am love-love-loving all these discs and highly recommend any or all of them. Check out the links to hear what I'm talking about.

Saltbreakers - Laura Viers

I discovered Ms Viers at my local library a while back, and she does look a little bookish and librarian on the cover of her Year of Meteors album (quirky glasses, mousey hair, cardigan). But don't be fooled - her music is truthful, down to earth, and interesting to listen to (you can't say that about the Sugababes). Themes of nature, water, swimming and star-gazing abound. A soundtrack for floating in a private swimming hole at night time.

American Doll Posse - Tori Amos

Not everybody's cup of tea, but I love Tori and her endearingly kooky ways. This album is positively schizophrenic in its scope, but Tori has talent to burn. And here, she throws so many new ideas on the fire, the blaze can probably be seen from space.

Release the Stars - Rufus Wainwright

A little more commercial than previous albums, with production by Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys. Still, his back catalogue is stupendous, so Release the Stars easily earns the title of: "merely brilliant". Big, spangly, luscious - and all underscored by the gorgeously distinctive voice of the inimitable Rufus.

Memories and dust- Josh Pyke

I must admit, I wasn't expecting too much from this home grown singer/songwriter - I am ashamed to say that a bit of the old cultural cringe put me on my guard, despite my instant love of his Release the Wolves EP. But Memories and Dust is a joy to listen to. Hints of a less depressed Elliot Smith, a more sober Evan Dando and a less wise-assed Ben Lee run through this whimsical folk-rock album.

For those who are new to my blog - folk-rock is my bag, baby.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bye bye bruv

I hugged my little bro for the last time (for a while) this morning. *sniff*. He is heading off to catch a plane bound for Sweden at 6pm tonight. It has been so, so nice to have him around. I figure it is the most amount of time we have spent together since we were little kids, amazingly. As teenagers, we crossed paths occassionally, exchanging nothing but a friendly punch on the arm in the hallway. It is so humbling to see him grown up into the sweet, loveable, growly-voiced bloke he is now. We are both trying to live good lives and be the decent people our parents brought us up to be.

He has been nothing but the easiest house-guest ever, washing up every night and tidying up after himself, offering his food-chopping services at every dinner. He raved about the meals we cooked him, and seemed perfectly happy to spend nights at home watching Peep Show on DVD, with the odd Aerobie outing.

Another bonus is witnessing the relationship between my boyfriend and my brother grow in front of my eyes. They hadn't spent much time together at all, so this visit has been a chance for my brother to scope out my long-term boyfriend and give him the family stamp of approval, and for my boyfriend to gain an honorary younger brother to whom he can pass on Mac-guru/martial arts-wisdom.

Now all I need is for my youngest brother and parents to get their butts over here. Or for my boyfriend to agree to move back to Melbourne with me. Or for someone to invent instantaneous travel, Star Trek style. Which would be my preferred option.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The sweet smell of illicit flowers

Ahh... roses stolen from neighbourhood gardens. Who needs a florist when there is such a bounty right there next to the footpath, yours for the picking?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Little bruv

My brother arrived on friday, coated with sweat after carrying his enormous backpack all the way from the tube station (it's a good 10 minute walk) - his big, familiar gap-toothed grin and eternally-burnt nose beaming from the doorway.

Before he came, he told me not to change any plans, just to do whatever we were going to do anyway, and not to worry about him. I guess he didn't realise that, for me, being away from my family for so long means that having one of them over here with me is a big fat deal. I am so happy to have him here; just hanging out with me and my boyfriend, occasionally play-wrestling me to the ground, happily eating whatever we put in front of him. It almost feels like a holiday.

Yesterday, we rang home and spoke to mum and dad. They were thrilled to hear from us, and to know that we are both together and enjoying each other's company for a little while. It has really made me think about how comfortable and happy I am in the company of my immediate family, and how much I appreciate them (and miss them terribly). He is spending a year in Sweden with his girlfriend, after which - who knows? I can't believe we are both bobbing in the same easily-capsized boat, the HMS "International Relationship". Uncharted territory for us both.

It is good to have him, for now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Losing my troubles (briefly) at the end of two ropes

I have been really busy at work lately, staying back a few extra hours most days. Nothing major, but I haven't slept properly the last two nights and I am starting to get that familiar tightness in my stomach and the slightly fluttery feeling across my chest and arms, like you get after drinking a too-strong coffee.

On my journey home last night, I got off the tube and decided to walk home through the woods, which is a little longer, a little muddier, but loads nicer. It is also quite hilly; hence I don't feel so guilty about spending all day on my arse.

After a day spent immersed in grey with flourescent lighting, walking down the steep track into the forest feels like immersing yourself into a different world. As I walked, I bathed in the glorious Springtime brown-and-lime-green-ness, listening to the bird calls and feeling the coolness of the forest around me, inhaling the good, solid, reliable smell of earth.

I was starting the ascent up and out to my street when I came across a swing, dangling provocatively in the stillness of the forest. How it got there, I have no idea. The tree it is attached to doesn't have any branches for the first 20 feet or so. I put down my bags, hitched myself up onto the broad seat, took the white ropes into my hands and leaned back.

I felt like the girl in this painting (only less frilly), looking up at the patchwork of leaves blotting out the bright evening light, the air brushing past my face langurously. It was a lovely antidote to my hectic day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shopping with girls

I have always maintained that lone shopping is the only way to go. I don't understand those girls for whom shopping is a form of entertainment and "leisure", who head out in noisy, colourful gangs and make a day of it. For me, I want to have a very quick browse on my own, maybe try on some things, buy what I want, and then get the hell out of there. If there was some magical way for me to order clothes over the internet, whilst being able to try them on at home without the hassle of returning the duds, I would sign up in a flash.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a bit of clothes shopping. And I secretly think that, had I married a footballer - in some parallel universe where I turned out girlier and more idiotic - I would quite happily shop more at a lot better class of store. I don't have anything against a bit of rack-fondling and trying-on of outfits I know I am never going to buy.

But whenever I go shopping with other girls, without fail, I end up buying something that I regret later. And the other night, I outdid myself.

I don't know how exactly I ended up buying an original 80's, faded retro dress with puff sleeves and a blowsy rose print, but I know that I did, because it is in a yellow bag on my bedroom floor, with a receipt for £20.

Can I claim Temporary Insanity due to overdose of oestrogen particles, lack of oxygen due to intense giggling, and befuddlement of senses due to Gary Numan blasting out of the speakers?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Good news, sad songs

My brother just called me from Kashmir, India. Politically-volatile-but-kind-of-exotic-sounding Kashmir. That boy leads a way more exciting life than I do ("What are you up to, sis?" "Oh, well I was thinking about heading to the library when it stops raining").

I can't wait to hear all about his travels around sweltering India, and he just made my day by asking to stay for a week when he hits London before heading to Sweden. Yay! I have really been missing my family lately, so I am looking forward to seeing a sibling in the flesh (more huggable) and catching up. However, my bro is notoriously unreliable so I am not going to invest in an airbed/australian flags to hang out the window/jars of vegemite or anything until he is actually at my front door.

* * * *

If, as I do, you like your music to be more on the so-sad-it-breaks-your-heart side rather than bouncy-jumpy-up-and-down side, you might appreciate this list. Although some of these songs are way too upbeat in my opinion. Behold my own list of truly depressing ditties:

Beth Orton - Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine (I cried my eyes out to this, over and over, after a major breakup)
Neil Young - Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven
Juliana Hatfield - Table for One
Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Luka Bloom - Innocence
Aretha Franklin - Angel
Gary Jules - Mad World
Amy Winehouse - Love is a Losing Game (in fact, most of the defiantly brilliant Back to Black)
Joni Mitchell - Little Green
Lior - Grey Ocean
Liz Phair - Somebody's Miracle
Martha Wainwright - TV Show
Pearl Jam - Last Kiss
Ray LaMontagne - All the Wild Horses
Nina Simone - Ne Me Quitte Pas

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Despatch from London town, where the media-boys never grow up

Two buses pass in front of me, one after the other. The side of the first bus reads (because every single available space in this city is for sale): "For the love of boobs". I think it was for breast cancer awareness, but nowhere does it mention this. Or at least not in a font size that is legible to anybody looking at a bus from the street. The second bus reads: "". The "www" bit is made out of boobs. Cleavage. Actual photographs of actual cleavage. I am too scared to look at the site. I think it may give me a heart implosion and make me take permanently to the wimple.

Sometimes I feel we seem to have gone backwards, way back to those dark old days of the seventies, when it was perfectly OK to treat a woman like a piece of meat. Heck, if there was a woman at your workplace in the 70's, it was your right to make jokes about her sexual proclivities and pinch various parts of her at your whim, all in the name of good, clean fun.

It seriously annoys me that all the feminist movement appears to have done is to drive this compulsion underground, to some altogether seedier, nastier place. Most days, there is some complete tosser on the bus or tube, gazing unselfconsciously at a nude woman in his paper. Perfectly typical sight, this. I once saw a man who, from the outside, was reading a respectable paper - but had a porn mag tucked inside. At least this guy must have realised that it is a little bit wrong to view hardcore porn in public, and had tried to hide it (although not very well - the drooling and glazed stare was a dead giveaway).

Advertising agencies have a lot to answer for. And while I realise that my work (graphic design) is uncomfortably close to advertising, I would never be so thoughtless, lazy and retrogressive to use a pair of boobs to sell stuff to men.

Brothers, if you are reading this, please boycott Lynx for my sake. And your girlfriend's. And our Mum's.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Happiness is...

Four brand new CD's and a cheap dress from Topshop on their way in the post. Ahhh, I love the internet. Seriously, how did people manage without it? Oh, I remember. I lived down the road from that glorious temple of discount music, JB Hi-Fi. And before that, I rode my bike to Target. And before that, I made do with casettes my dad brought home from work (which I strongly suspect were rejected by his colleagues for being too dorky).

I don't know why it is more exciting to receive a parcel in the mail than to go out shopping for the same item. I think it is the element of surprise - is this going to be my new dress, or just some paper samples from the printer? - as well as the fact that ripping off the card packaging reminds me of Christmas.

Whatever it is, I always find receiving a parcel in the mail weirdly thrilling.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Everybody in the world should live like they do in France

We just got back from a quick trip to the South of France.

*inhale*. *exhale*.

It was necessary trip which involved 1) lots and lots of clearing out of stuff from my boyfriends father's house; 2) dodging the odd gigantic hornet; and 3) bursting our brains with the stress of liasing with local officials when neither of us spoke the other's language. Fu-u-un.

But in between the hard stuff, we were slowly drawn into the charm of this place. We walked and drove around marvelling at the stunning, raw beauty of the landscape. Fresh drinking water trickles down the sheer rock faces and is collected at a particular spot by locals who haven't yet got plumbing in their homes. The sheer mountainsides are covered with dark green pines and lighter green trees, so neatly arranged they could have been planted in perfect rows. The forests and streams hum and splash with life.

And the villages are breathtakingly lovely: built of a light-coloured stone, so that everything has a cool, clean, fresh look; timeless as an afternoon game of boule. The towns are characterised by plane trees lining the streets and dappling the squares, and the countryside is dotted with cyprus trees like upward brush strokes, pointing to the blue sky.

One afternoon we stumbled on the market in the local square where we were staying, and it was such a pretty spectacle, it seemed unreal. Well-dressed people wandered unhurriedly, tasting artisan cheeses and mushrooms and honey, smelling the wares of the lavendar distiller and enjoying their weekly ritual of purchasing their groceries from local producers.

We also saw some Roman ruins, an amphitheatre at Nîmes and one of the best remaining Roman aqueducts in the world, at Pont du Gard. All the time I was marvelling at the fact that the Romans did actually invade and occupy France, just like in the comic books. I am ashamed to say that 90% of the history and geography I know has come from Asterix and Obelix comics. Though I must say, they have served me well in this part of the world.

I couldn't help smirking at my memories of those "indomitable Gauls"; and thinking that some of that proud, patriotic spirit was evident in the people who live there now, who are defiantly preserving their traditional way of life. An example? You don't pay for parking between 12 midday and 2pm. Because everybody has gone home for lunch, including the parking officers. Now that is the way it should be everywhere.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Big Fat Banana Splodge Cookies

These are not attractive cookies, I don't mind telling you. The first time I made them, I was put off by their lumpy, bubbling, festering ugly-kid looks.

It didn't stop my boyfriend polishing off the lot, however, while my nose was upturned. This time around, in the name of scientific advancement, I taste tested them myself. They really are quite good.

175gm butter
3 small ripe bananas, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
100gm demerara sugar
100gm porridge oats
175gm plain flour (I used spelt)
1/2 tsp baking powder
200gm of whatever chocolate you happen to have lying about the place
(I like a mix of dark and white Green & Blacks)

Mix the butter, bananas, sugar and eggs together with a blender (or by hand if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way). Add the oats, flour and baking powder. Chop the chocolate up into small bits and add to the mix.

Scoop hefty teaspoonfuls of mixture onto a greased baking tray, with LOTS of room for spreading (these ugly mofo's love to stretch out). Bake for 15-20 minutes at 175 degrees celcius, or until golden.

Close your eyes and take a bite of warm, gooey, chocolate-banana flavoured goodness.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

London Rag Lights Up My Morning

The British press do a great line in putting a negative spin on virtually any story you can throw at them. This morning: Cig Ban Will Lead To Blaze Death Chaos! or something of that nature, in the reliably sensationalist Metro paper. Apparently, the impending cigarette ban will lead to more people smoking in their homes; which means more house fires and more deaths as a result.

Smokers? I'm sorry, but I don't care if you die in a fiery inferno, sparked by your own supidity and laziness. One dead smoker is one less a**hole making my journey to work/trip in the elevator/lunch at the pub that much stinkier.

In other news, Bob Fossil got on my 43 bus this morning. And I am happy to report that his hair is still very much in character.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I've gone a bit country since I met you, baby*

I seem to remember thinking to myself, at age approximately seven, after being given a square of cheese at a grown-up's party: "I am never, ever going to like tasty cheese, come what may". And now? Now I can often be found in the kitchen, cutting and eating slice after slice of that mature yellow goodness, sans cracker, just for sheer love of the stuff.

Likewise, if someone had have pulled me away from my grunge-rock/indie-alternative worship in the 90's and told me that I would come around to liking country music, I probably would have given them some serious sass, before laughing hysterically until they left the room.

And yet...

I think it was Rabbit Fur Coat which brought me over to the dark side. I never realised country could be so rockin' and not at all twangy. But long before Jenny Lewis sung her way into my favours, I fell head over heels with the bluegrass soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou by the legendary Coen brothers. And then there is my recent dalliance with folk, sparked by my discovery of the Wainwrights. Folk, country, soul,, psychadelic-folk-rock: the blinkers are off, baby.

There are some extraordinary female vocalists out there who I have been ignorant of in my anti-country-snobbishness. Foolish, brain-washed, uncool me. I have been missing out on the broken, dirty rasp of Lucinda Williams; the sweet yet cool warble of Jenny Lewis, and the impassioned powerhouse of the lion-hearted Neko Case belting out a tune (and boy, does she belt). Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is my current favourite album.

I even have Dolly Parton's Jolene on my ipod. If my 21-year-old self could see me now, I am pretty sure she would be stunned into silence at my supreme uncoolness.

* My middle brother took me to see the Audrey's on my trip home last November, whence I fell instantly in love with their soulful, sultry country music. I stole the line from the "Banjo and Violin" lyrics, off Between Last Night and Us.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Food, food and more food

Last weekend was a rampant 4-day cooking fuh-renzy. Other people have cleaning frenzies. I just let the dirt/laundry/mouse droppings pile up and make another batch of muffins.

I was very proud of my ultra-gourmet dinner on Sunday night, made with the leftover roast chicken from the night before. Firstly, I cornered my boyfriend into peeling a couple of sweet potatoes into fine slices, before coating them in an olive oil/lemon/honey mix, and laying them out on a roasting tray to cook. I tell ya, it is well worth the faff when you get those lip-smacking honey-glazed sweet potato crisps out of the oven about 15 minutes later.

So those, the leftover chicken, some watercress, pine-nuts, avocado, and a few leftover roast potatoes - and voila. This was the most heavenly warm salad ever.

And for dessert? Bramley apples stewed with cloves, grandma style, topped with whipped passionfruit cream (also left over from making a birthday cake).

I spent the evening basking in the kudos, being worshipped as Nigella Lawson incarnate; only taller, blonder and minus those pneumatic appendages. I may be a tad slovenly in the cleaning department, but who cares when your tongue is being transported to gastronomic heaven.

Celebrating the Annual Shedding of the Winter Coats Festival (no sacrifice required)

Yes, yes, yes, the weather has been gorgeous, blah-dy-blah-dy-blah. It is rather funny to watch everyone come out of their dingy winter cocoons and emerge, be-sunglassed, into the light, all fresh and colourful and renewed.

Odd thing: my boyfriend and I were horsing around in a clear space in the woods (he was practising some wu-style Tai Chi, very Crouching Tiger) - when we were approached by a man in a long black coat, asking: "Excuse me, is this the pagan gathering?".

A beat of silence in the forest, broken only by the hammering of a distant woodpecker.

Uhh, no.. but I would be interested to know of any future pagan rituals going on in my backyard, High Druid Priest of the Forest Worshippers.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hairy tales

Can I just make one thing clear to the reader: I detest getting my hair cut. I can think of nowt worse than having a weirdly-dressed stranger take my bag, wrap me in a tablecloth and guide me to a chair where I will have to sit still for a good half hour, with nothing to look at but my own miserable reflection.

I love having the new hair cut. I love walking out of the salon feeling incredibly self-consious, with luscious bouncy locks which will be history by afternoon. It's just the cutting of the hair which I hate, and the accompanying pre-cut and post-cut fuss. I hate the pre-wash in the uncomfortable neck-contour sink (whose neck? An ostrich?). I hate the nuclear-voltage blowdry where they deafen you whilst simultaneously scorching your scalp to a glowing ember.

Some hair-related things I have learned the hard way:

1. Don't go to a discount hair salon which is aimed at blokes (G.I. Joe's in Richmond, I am looking at you). I cried all over my colleague when I came back one lunchtime with a small boy's haircut (short on top, shaved at the back). It might have been cute on Mia Farrow, but I looked like a frickin' idiot.

2. Having said that, hair grows - it is never going to look that great for long, or that awful for long.

3. You don't necessarily have to talk to the hairdresser while they work. It is such a relief to come across a naturally quiet one who doesn't want to chat endlessly about your holiday plans, in between regaling you with vivid tracts from her hectic social life.

4. It is worth putting on some lipstick and changing out of your tracky-daks. If you show up at the salon looking like a bogan, they will give you a bogan haircut.

5. Don't get stuck in a hair rut. I have had all lengths from lesbian crop to (the current) born-again hippy, and all colours from brown (bad) to fiery red (strangely good), to rediscovering my mousey roots (current). It takes time to work out what suits you best - and your hairdresser must surely be sick of cutting her millionth "long layers, please" for the day.

6. It's just hair. You shouldn't need to spend upwards of £40 for a haircut. You wouldn't spend £20 getting your nails cut, would you? Well, maybe you would. But I sure as hell wouldn't. That money could be going to more useful things, like a new CD or more chocolate.

* * *

It was OK in Australia - my littlest brother's girlfriend happens to be a fantastic hairstylist. Brilliant! Discount super-smart haircuts for life. Fingers crossed they get married and we have a permanent hair-fixer in the family.

If only my middle brother was going out with a music-label guru. Or a master chocolatier. I'm not fussy; either will do.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


One of my many birthday presents - it was a bonanza turning 30, I tell ya - was some national book tokens. I love getting book vouchers. There is just something nice about going into your local bookshop and actually walking away with something to show for it.

As opposed to leaving empty handed after browsing aimlessly for hours, listening to every CD on the rack, reading unpurchased mags on the sly and drinking bottomless cups of coffee. Which is enjoyable enough on its own, but means you have nothing to read on the bus home.

So, the books I bought (and have enjoyed to varying degrees since) were:

1. Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir of Aspergers and an Extraordinary Mind by Daniel Tammet;
2. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters; and
3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

All laid out for your viewing pleasure above. I am a graphic designer; I can't help judging a book by it's cover.

My favourite by a mile was The Night Watch. It is a beautifully written book that plunges you into 1940's London - right in amongst the blackouts, bombings, and night wardens. Every little detail, including the language that the characters use, adds to the evocation of that very different era.

The book is also made more interesting for being played out in three parts, moving backwards in time. The first part of the book is set in 1949; the second in 1944; and the final section in 1941. As you move through the book, the back-story to the characters lives and relationships is slowly revealed to you, and you piece together what events have taken place in the intervening years.

I think I have always had a bit of "lez chick-lit" snobbery about Sarah Waters, which I now see was completely unfounded. The fact that some of her characters are gay is almost irrelevant to the main themes, apart from adding a layer of intrigue in those less-tolerant times. However, the main focus is on the complexity of their relationships and their individual characteristics and situations. As with Brokeback Mountain, you get so involved in the humanity of the story, you forget any awkwardness you may have had about watching two men hug.

Speaking of men hugging, Born on a Blue Day was a fascinating memoir by a high functioning autistic savant. He can make massive calculations instantly in his head, has memorised Pi to the 22,514th decimal place, and constructed his own language. Slightly intimidating, I imagine, to talk to. What originally caught my interest was his description of seeing numbers as colours, shapes and textures which built a kind of landscape in his mind's eye. It seemed a lovely cross-over of the world of pure mathematics (completely alien to me), and the artistic world. Also, most autistic savants are emotionally restricted, but David has managed to build strong relationships with the people around him and comes across as rather lovely and gentle-natured - which could be down to his upbringing (his parents loved children and he was the first of eight).

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was a little disappointing. I guess I was expecting another Memoirs of a Geisha or Sky Burial, you know: the sweeping epic and the intricate details of a completely foreign culture and time, with all the romance and wonder that entails. It was interesting enough, with the descriptions of foot-binding and other cultural practices, but the story didn't really grab me. It was presented as a study of the intimate relationship between a Chinese bride and her "old same", a special life-long female friend chosen by her family - a relationship which is in some ways more intimate than that she has with her own husband. It felt a little like a folk story, complete with unexplained gaps and moral overtones. I couldn't help feeling that, in the hands of a better author, it could have been a much more compelling read.

For now, it's back to the library. But not before I add some Sarah Winter to my (ever-expanding) Amazon wish list.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Day dreaming

My boyfriend and I both took the day off today, to hang out together. Why would we do that, you ask? Because lord knows we hardly see each other, what with us living together, being the anti-social homebodies we are, and having no responsibilities apart from getting to work 5 days a week. Well, Just Because, that's why.

So I went on my usual day-off walk through the woods, and because there was a light sprinkling of rain (the only type they seem to get here in London), there was hardly a soul about. It felt so luxurious to have all that space to myself, inhaling the smell of sodden earth, with the raindrops making chandeliers of the branches. I was basking in the peace and quiet that only a true wanna-be hermit can fully appreciate. Space is at such a premium here in London, and there are so many people crammed into this city, that it does feel strangely like a holiday when you manage to find a space to yourself.

I guess this is what parents (well, mums) mean when they rave about having just the tiniest smidgeon of space and privacy while ensconed in the whirlwind of raising kids, huh? You know, those people who are grateful just to be able to go to the loo in peace?


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


It's funny, the longer I stay over here, the scarier and more overwhelming the prospect of "going home" becomes. I don't know how long I would have to be over here before it felt more like home than...home, but I am guessing maybe never. Home is where your family are. And lovely though he is, my boyfriend doesn't quite qualify as family yet.

I have been over here for four years now - one more year and I qualify for residency. Scary and confusing: although I can see the benefits of becoming a resident (a UK passport would be SO sweet), it seems like a huge commitment to a country I never planned to live in for this long.

The truth is, I had hoped to return home mid-this year. Unfortunately, my boyfriend's father passed away unexpectedly last November, so our long-term plans have been shelved for the moment. I really don't know when I will be going home, which is kind of sad.

Life here still holds that dream-like quality which any expatriate will know about, where it feels like your real life has been suspended, and you are floating in space (like Ripley in Alien). Even though your body still functions - you go to work, cook meals and go to bed just like always - part of your heart remains in limbo, waiting for the return home and to your "real" life. I wish I could commit wholeheartedly to a new life here, which would make everything that much simpler, but I think I will always feel that pull towards home, to my parents and brothers.

Then again, I think it is part of my make up to feel a constant, underlying sense of yearning for some indefinable thing or state.

Maybe I have a restless soul. Or maybe this is just part of the human condition, part of what drives us to live, work, form relationships, procreate. Would I feel this way if I grew up in a remote village with no education or knowledge of the wider world? Who knows. In the meantime, in a less cerebral world, Spring has woken, ever so gently, and the evening light is taking on the most delicate soft pink hue. It is easy to feel a bit more hopeful when your walk home is accompanied by nodding daffodils and snowdrops, lit by this heavenly glow.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Workday flapjacks

These recipe for these yummy apple, fig and walnut flapjacks comes from 101 Cakes and Bakes. If you come across them, these little BBC Good Food books are full of great recipes, which are very straighforward and quick to make. This one is a little fiddly, but very yummy... and no wheat.

450gm bramley (cooking) apples
grated zest of one lemons
100gm dried figs (I used ready-to-eat, which was much better for stewing)
250gm porridge oats
2 large tablespoons golden syrup
50gm light muscovado sugar
140gm butter
tsp ground cinnamon
25gm walnuts, chopped

Peel and core the apples, then chop and stew with a little water over a medium heat until soft. Chop the figs finely and add them to the apple with the zest, and cook for 15 minutes until the mixture is fairly dry.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup over a low heat. Don't let the mixture boil. When it is melted, remove from the heat and add the oats and cinnamon. Mix well.

You are supposed to puree the apple/fig mix, but mine was already pretty smooth - I don't think you need bother. In fact, although you are supposed to make this in three layers, I think you could probably just mix all the ingredients to save the faff. I am all for skipping the faff.

Line a baking tray with some greaseproof paper. Spread half of the oat mixture across the bottom, then spread the apple mix on top. The rest of the oat mixture then goes on top of that. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top, and bake for 25 minutes at 180 degrees. When it is cooled, cut into pieces as best you can (it will be a bit of a gooey mess).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Melbourne Dreaming turns one!

Break out the Stevie Wonder and crack the Verve Cliquot! I managed to bust through the notorious three-month barrier and make it a full year of blogging goodness.

I will be celebrating with a glass of Amaretto and some Cote d'or Noir Framboise. Mmmmm booze'n'chocolate.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The dark side of the big city

Of course, living in a big city is hard, dirty and stressful. I have it pretty good; I found work relatively easily and earn enough to enjoy a decent quality of life. But every day here, I see beggars on the streets, migrants doing the jobs that no native would stoop to; and the stupidly huge gap between the super-wealthy and the dirt poor and struggling horrifies me.

There are some people who manage to make the most of their circumstances and maintain a sense of pride, which is humbling to witness. The elevator man at my work is a lovely Ghanian with a voice like Louis Armstrong and a smile like Pelé. Last Christmas, the girls I work with and I bought him a pudding for the festive season. In return, he gave us each a drawing of the plants that are dotted around the building at work, with a heartfelt message about how much he loves nature and always takes time to appreciate it.

That man shines with inner joy and peace, and he passes it on to everyone who brushes by him on a busy morning, numbed though they are to the suffering of the wider world.

Curb my enthusiasm, Larry!

I, like most people on the planet priveleged enough to own a TV, loved Seinfeld.

But, how's this, I was so naive and unworldly that I didn't realise all the characters were Jewish... it took my Jewish ex-boyfriend to point that one out to me. I just thought they were typical Nu Yoricans (and I guess they kind of were). Amazingly, he didn't dump me on the spot for being so flaky.

Much as I enjoyed Seinfeld, I was never tripping over myself to make uninitiated friends/family watch it. Some of the lines wore a little thin after much repetition. Forget Raymond - everybody loved Seinfeld. The canned laughter started to annoy me. The applause as any of the main characters entered the room started to annoy me. Jerry Seinfeld is a very funny man, but the show lost a little magic for me over the years.

I have been meaning to check for myself whether Curb your Enthusiasm (written by and starring the co-creator of Seinfeld) lives up to the hype, and the conclusion I have come to after watching series 1-4 back to back is that it is actually pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty good. Only people who watch the show will get that, but never mind. Actually, I fahked ahp. It is brilliant.

Curb Your Enthusiasm represents the next generation of comedy. It is so much funnier, more tragic, sharper, more complex, and edgier than Seinfeld. Clearly Larry David was destined for better things, and the freedom of writing for HBO has allowed his creativity to flourish. Larry David - the man, the character, the comic - is the show. His love of words and odd phrasings and voices shines through in the comic exchanges between him and his various cohorts. Larry himself is an enjoyable character to watch bumbling around on screen, saying the wrong things, digging himself into holes, and looking bewildered when events spiral out of his control. Each episode weaves together at least three story strands, sometimes more successfully than others, but always with a neat pay-off at the end.

I also love the fact that this show has never hit the popularity peak which Seinfeld enjoyed (being slightly geekier and more subversive), and as such, being a fan is kind of like belonging to a slightly more exclusive club - albeit mostly composed of geeks and writers - compared to the mindless hordes who guffawed every time Kramer skidded through the door in Seinfeld.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Best Weekend Ever

Hola! You know, usually I hate people who fit the description "bright and bubbly", but today I am feeling like I totally get those people. My style is usually 80% eeyore, 5% tigger, 15% Christopher Robin, but today those completely made-up statistics go flying out the window.

I just had the most lovely weekend. Friday afternoon - my meeting finishes earlier than scheduled (4.15pm!) which means I get to leave early. I walk from Embankment Place to Victoria station, taking in the beautiful St. James park on the way, and stop at the bridge to gaze at possibly the most picturesque view in London. I keep walking and all of a sudden I notice the presence of several extremely well-turned-out policemen, complete with old-fashioned Bobby helmets. It dawns on me that I just walked by Buckingham Palace (I have never seen it before). I turn around and go and have a proper look, amongst all the Dutch/American/French/German tourists. The guards are like dolls, they are so still and perfect.

So, after buying a few souvenirs for my mum, I meet my boyfriend and we go get some quick noodles at Wagamama before seeing the show we are seeing, stopping at Marks afterwards for dessert. My boyfriend and I are tight-arses of the highest order.

Billy Elliot, the stage musical, is fantastic – blisteringly energetic, heartfelt, moving, and gaspingly funny in parts. The stage works like a clockwork marvel, with a staircase leading to Billy's bedroom spiralling up out of the floor and back, and streetscapes transforming into a cosy front room and then into a community hall, seamlessly. I am floored, as I always am when I see a big west-end show in London. I hope that magic never wears thin for me.

Saturday, we sleep in until nearly midday. For a chronic insomniac, I have been sleeping well lately. We head down to Islington, and spend a lovely afternoon tinkering around a shop called After Noah, which specialises in retro nostalgia. We buy a load of sweets which my boyfriend hasn't seen since he was a nipper (refreshers, toffo's, sherbert fountains and shrimps) and I proceed to eat them all on the bus trip back.

I make cod and veggies for dinner, with stewed apples for dessert, and we settle down to watch one of my favourite films of last year - Little Miss Sunshine.

Sunday morning, I am dreaming that I can't get to work because my car is stuck in a tight corner and keeps conking out. My alarm goes off and I wake up in a panic, thinking I am late for work. I can't figure out why my boyfriend is so relaxed when I tell him it is 8am already, until he reminds me that we still have one day of the weekend to go. Bliss! Back to sleep.

I make rice pancakes for breakfast (we are going wheat-free for a month). Most of the afternoon is spent working on an identity for a friend. This is the first job my boyfriend and I have worked on together, and it goes fine. He tinkers with my designs, I tinker with his, it is all very co-operative. I walk to the shops and struggle back in the wind and snow with the groceries, but it's OK because there are crumpets with jam at the end of it.

My boyfriend makes polenta pizza (my suggestion), with a bit of help from me, and it turns out to be really yummy. I have not had much luck with polenta in the past - I remember some Jamie Oliver biscuits I made years ago which had the texture and crunch of sand. I think the trick is to get polenta meal (or flour), which is much finer and cooks much quicker.

We watch Clerks II (welcome back, Kevin Smith) and fall into bed...

I want more weekends like that.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Must Try Harder, Mr. Besson

We watched Angel-A on the weekend, a "new" Luc Besson film. I say "new" in inverted commas because the trailer only appeared on very recently, yet it was available for hire at our DVD joint (Archway Video, for the locals). I suppose this should have given me a clue as to the lame-osity of this flick, but remembering the Besson-worship of my university days, I decided to give it a go.

My Besson-obsession began way back in 1994 with Léon. Ahhh, Léon. You were such a sweet, intriguing, truly deadly hitman. I loved the way you dressed up to play charades with a tiny, tiny Natalie Portman; and drank glasses of milk with the gangsters. I worshipped your deep French voice and your little French singlet.

I think Besson could make anybody look cool, maybe even Burt Newton, but Jean Reno directed by Besson was smokin'.

I didn't discover Le Grand Bleu 'til later. Is there anyone who didn't watch The Big Blue and decide they were going to give up their job, travel to Europe, and become an immensely cool free-diver answerable to no one but the vast blue depths?

Or wish they were an incredibly fashion-savvy alien after sitting through The Fifth Element a few years later?

But Angel-A. Deeply, deeply crapulous, poorly scripted and paced, with a leading lady who had plenty of talent in the area of "looking hot in a mini skirt" but none in the crucial art of "acting". And no, Mr. Besson, filming in black and white doesn't make you more high-brow.

I loved you once, Luc, but now it's over. You scruffy, sleazy little French man.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Australian Connection

Even though I work at a huge firm, in a big tower, in the middle of London, surrounded by loads of British people, I have been fortunate enough to have always worked with a small group of other Australian girls. I cannot stress enough how much this has made my living in London a shed-load easier - in fact, I think without that Aussie connection, I would have been on a plane home long ago - boyfriend or no.

I think the British are generally more emotionally distant than Australians, in that they hold themselves a little aloof from people they don't know intimately. Also, most English girls just don't get the typically Oz sense of humour. I was expecting, perhaps naively, a nation of Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French-alikes (incidentally, if you haven't seen their Lord of the Rings piss-take, go to YouTube right now). Instead I got a nation of fashion-obsessed hyper-groomers, with a brittle sort of paranoid humour which isn't actually funny (see: Liz Hurley). They just don't seem to share the down-to-earth qualities that unite us Aussie girls.

Although...I can see how they would find us a bit overwhelming and uncouth at times. Like when we hold burping competitions at the meeting table after lunch.

Conversely, the blokes here seem to have been honing their comedic skills since learning to talk. Some of the blokes I work with are so funny that I often wonder why they aren't playing a regular gig to a paying audience, instead of wasting their talents on a bunch of Aussies gathered around the drinks machine. My boyfriend is also quite funny, but only for me (which I love).

However, when I tire of those witty British thespians, there is something so - easy - about sitting around at lunch shooting the breeze with my fellow Oz-landers. A single recollection will have us all in tears of laughter (Crazy John! The Reject Shop! Hey Hey It's Saturday!), or collectively drooling with nostalgia over long-forgotten treats (remember Summer Rolls? And spearmint Choc Wedges at the pool? The tang of Chicken Twisties and chlorine!). Our backgrounds are surprisingly similar, despite the fact that we hail from different corners of that vast continent - Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne at last count.

Oh, how far I have travelled to realise my inherent Australian-ness.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Songs that are guaranteed to get me on the dance floor

Connection - Elastica
Sabotage - The Beastie Boys
Universal Heartbeat - Julianna Hatfield
Professional Widow - Tori Amos (the The Star Trunk Funkin' Mix)
Stuck in the Middle with you - Stealers Wheel
Crazy in Love - Beyoncé (embarrassingly)

An ongoing list to be updated regularly as more songs occur to me at inappropriate moments.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Morbid thoughts on the 43 bus

This morning I heard the song which I would like to be played at my funeral: Innocence by Luka Bloom. I think it has the right blend of uplifting and heart-tugging, with a really simple arrangement and the beautiful, down-to-earth voice of Bloom shining through.

In other news, what the frrrp?! Those crazy Japanese. I mean, I really don't like those "sock" style ipod holders, but wood wouldn't have been my first choice of material...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Retail therapy - the happiness that only shoes can bring

I almost forgot, I bought these Camper shoes for myself as a 30th birthday consolation prize present - aren't they sweet?

And so comfy. Well, they would be if they were slightly, fractionally, microscopically bigger. I actually caught myself thinking the other day how much easier my life would be if I had no toes. Imagine! I could buy my shoes from regular shops insteady of Freaky Girl and Big Foot Mama.

So that's all fine and dandy, but the only "problem" is, I bought these so early (I needed to wear them to the work Christmas do, y'see), that by the time my birthday rolled around, they no longer felt like a birthday present.

Therefore, I am thinking about also buying this handbag for my own self. Because, like so many of my want-it-now, saving-is-for-losers generation, I am worth it, dammit! And, I really need a new handbag. My old one is so grubby (a bag made of cloth material? In London? What was I thinking?!), I might as well be hauling my stuff around in a sack full of mud. Made out of old hair and dust. I really would be doing my immune system a favour by replacing it with a new, hygienic leather one. I should be the US president: I can justify anything.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bryter Later

Isn't it funny how the weather can affect your mood so much? I have been feeling generally crapulous for the past 10 days or so, but today I can't help marvelling at the way the sunlight filters through the bare branches of the woods and turns the carpet of dusty green ivy leaves to gold; and how perfect and fluffy the clouds are against a sky so brilliant blue, it must have been freshly painted this morning.

Walking back from the library today (yes, I am a nerd! Why thank you!), I came across some kind of squirrel convention, with at least 10 of the critters running rampant around a particular fallen tree trunk. Usually these little grey fellas get all "eek! a human! run away!" when you walk within 10 metres of them, but these squirrels were obviously in the middle of some deeply important squirrel business, because they didn't pay me the slightest bit of attention. They just got on with the urgent task of chasing each other around tree trunks and skittering amongst the dead leaves.

It got me to thinking - you know, London would be a perfectly lovely place to live if it wasn't for all the other people crammed in here. The weather is really fine for someone who doesn't like the baking heat of an Australian Summer. The insects are benign to the point of insignificance, compared with the constant annoyance of flies and mosquitoes in Oz. And the countryside here is undeniably pretty. I don't think you could apply that particular word to anything about my home country (Rosellas? Kangaroo Paw flowers? Hats at the Melbourne Cup? Pink possum noses?). Dramatic, stunning, beautiful, yes - pretty, no.

There is something to be said about the charms of going for a walk through the Wintry woods, with your hands in your pockets and a scarf about your neck, and coming home all pink-cheeked and fresh. In an ideal world, you would have some freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream waiting for you. I guess I will have to make do with yet more Mars Bar slice.
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