Friday, December 25, 2009

I'm dreaming of some White Christmas...

Christmas is all about family, right? It goes without saying. But being back for my first family Christmas in 6 long years, it's the little things I've noticed that take me right back the Christmas days of my childhood. It's the punchbowl on the bench, the handmade stockings stuffed with Wizz Fizz and sherbies, the hilariously OTT Disney Christmas album playing on the record player, the crappy decorations we made in Primary School that mum still puts up, and White Christmas.


I'm so glad I decided to spend Christmas at home this year.

1 cup icing sugar
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup rice bubbles
1 cup skim milk powder
1 cup dried fruit (I used mostly sultanas with a few festive glaced cherries and candied orange peel pieces thrown in)
250gm copha (solidified coconut oil, hard to find outside of Australia)
100gm white chocolate to melt and drizzle on top, if you so desire (I don't)

Melt the copha in a saucepan on the stove. Mix all the other ingredients well and add melted copha to combine. When it is thoroughly mixed and there are no dry pockets, press it into a baking tray lined with foil/baking paper. Set in the fridge and cut into squares to serve. So simple, but so good - and it's very pretty piled in a bowl.

Happy Christms, everyone! I have spent the day in thongs (my brother's, hijacked), wearing an Australia flag t-shirt (a gift) while throwing prawns on the barbie (highly unusual). Yep, I'm reclaming my inner Aussie.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Achievements, setbacks, change and no change: 2009

At the beginning of this year, I decided this was going to be a year of personal growth for me. And of course it was, like every year is. Whether you like it or not, time passes, you grow older, good stuff happens, bad stuff happens, some things change, some things stay frustratingly, exasperatingly, the same. You break up with someone. You renew your visa. You move home. Meet new people. Call your parents. Book holidays. Try a new class. Fill out your timesheets. Say goodbye.

One of the things that has forced me to take stock recently is having to detail every one of my absences from the UK for the past 4 years as part of my Permanent Residency application. I have had to look carefully through my passport, noting all the stamps that have shown my movement through various air and sea ports since 2006. Tellingly, the number of days I have spent outside of the UK has crept up every year, but most especially this past year. 2009 is the only year I've taken two trips back home in twelve months. When I first came over, it was more likely to be 18-24 months between visits to Melbourne. My visa stamps tell a parallel story: here's me with short red hair in 2003, shiny with sweat after running to the post office in 40 degree heat to get my passport picture taken in a lunch break; in 2005 with long, mousey hair (my first English boyfriend prefered it natural); in 2006 with even longer hair piled over one shoulder, chubby with happy domestication; and in 2008, resignedly single again, Winter-pale with newly bobbed hair, rugged up in a friend's left-behind Winter coat.

My newest passport picture will show me with a short fringe, dyed honey-blonde hair, my face a little gaunt from the stress and lack of sleep of the past 5 months or so. Everyone I've seen on this trip has commented on how thin I am, and how pale ("You've turned into a pasty pom!"). I hadn't realised.

So what have I achieved this past year? I've been to four new places - Brussels, in Belgium; the Cinque Terra in Italy; Tolmin in Slovenia; and the Scottish Highlands. Undergone a four day Introduction to Psychosynthesis course, during which I had a profoundly moving experience during one particular therapy session. I've started volunteering regularly at a local Primary School, reading with a couple of gorgeous year 1 and 2 kids. Completed a four day acting course. Moved home twice. Given online dating another go (tentatively, because my heart isn't quite in it). Taken up knitting like every other single girl did in the noughties, although all I have to show for it so far is one rather wonky scarf which my Dad is going to be the proud recipient of come Christmas Day.

And I've decided to move home to Australia after I get my citizenship. Apparently I qualify in February, a full year earlier than I expected to. I'm not counting my chickens though, because in my experience? Those Home Office motherf*ckers like to change the rules every 6 months or so, just to mess with my mind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cyclists vs. Da Police

There is an annoying little section of my ride to work every day where the cycle path ends abruptly and you are supposed to get off your bike and walk through a short section of pedestrian-only area.

Problem is, it's a very wide and inviting bit of pavement and it takes about 2 seconds to freewheel through it to where the cycle path continues, even when you're braking so that you're moving at the same speed as the zombies pedestrians are walking. It's a no-brainer for most cyclists - like riding through red lights (always giving way to pedestrians, of course) to avoid the traffic, it seems so pointless a rule that it would offend your common sense not to break it.

A couple of times I've been caught out - ages ago a community police officer pulled me over, took my details and gave me a warning, and another time a couple of bobbies were officiously blasting their whistles to warn cyclists to get off.

This morning, however, as I rode up to this area (as I have been doing twice a day for over two years), I noticed a group of policemen who had obviously pulled over a couple of cyclists and were ticketing them. The girl on the bike ahead of me turned around to warn me, even as I was getting off, and we shared a wry smile.

As I walked my bike through the pedestrian area, I passed about five other cyclists coming from the opposite direction, casually walking their bikes as though they do it every day. We all shared a glance, a roll of the eyes, or a "those-dumb-cops-with-their-silly-rules" kind of a smile. I felt part of a subversive group of rule breakers. A well mannered, slightly scruffy, but generally law abiding group of rule breakers.

Teeny tiny cupcake bombs

Adapted Taken wholesale from the Domestic Goddess (I would like to be reincarnated as Nigella, please, God. Not sure how that would work, time-and-space wise, but I'm sure you of all people could manage it).
This makes a huge batch. For a normal sized batch, just halve the quantities.

250gm butter, softened
250gm caster sugar
4 large eggs
250gm self raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-6 tbs milk

For the icing: use whatever icing method you prefer. I used whipped cream and icing sugar, but buttercream or plain old lemon would work fine. Decorations look lovely scattered over these babies - stars, silver balls, sprinkles etc.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.

I just put all the ingredients except the milk into a big mixing bowl and used a bamix (hand-held mixer) to blend, which worked a treat. Add the milk until it reaches a soft, drooping consistency.

Then all you need to do is spoon tiny blobs into your miniature cupcake holders, which is seriously time-consuming but also kind of fun. If you have a piping bag, so much the better. Don't be tempted to fill the cases, I put small teaspoonfuls into each cup and they puffed way up.

Watch them in the oven, they only take about 7-10 minutes to cook and will burn very quickly if you leave them too long.

Then all you have to do is make your icing and spend a good 20 minutes carefully icing them one by one until you are left with a sea of gorgeous, bite-size treats that will win you much kudos.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Share-house living for introverts - the experiment comes to an end

experiment 2

What with the Halloween party and various extra people moving in/staying over at the house (seven of us at last count), I have had it. The wheels have fallen off this particular experiment, sadly. I reached breaking point last week, when Friday found me a nervous wreck after existing on virtually no sleep for several weeks. I tearfully booked flights back to Australia for Christmas (yay!) and decided that I need to move out in order to preserve my sanity.

So now, the house hunting begins again. I can't afford to live on my own (which I would do in a heart-beat) so I am going to try and find a flat to share with one other girl. Like I was was doing just 5 months ago.

*heaves world-weary sigh and slaps forehead at own stupidity*

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. Something like: Go home, sister! Your parents miss you! London in the Winter is miserable! You aren't designed to be a travelling nomad!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What's hot + what's not this Wednesday

Hot Dogs
* Halloween circus party decorating - so much fun! I spent the Friday night before blu-tacking up twisted crepe paper streamers in the kitchen to give it a Big Top vibe. The house looked ah-mazing thanks to the efforts of the entire household.

* Up. Saw this movie in Imax 3D and loved it. A funny and touching story of an old man whose attempt to escape the modern world is complicated by various hangers-on who refuse to leave him the heck alone. Finally, a pixar film for grumpy loners everywhere.

Plus, the old guy reminds me a lot of my Pa (not the grumpiness, just the big square jaw and glasses).

So long, suckers

* Miniature cupcakes. Little bite-sized pieces of heaven, and definitely worth the faff of carefully placing teaspoonfuls of mixture into what seemed like endless trays of tiny paper cups. Recipe to be posted soon.

* Party escape-hatches. I had some much needed time out upstairs with a friend at the height of the party, watching The Breakfast Club and discussing the various merits of Judd Nelson vs. Anthony Michael Hall (my vote goes to the reformed Nelson). Bliss.

* Hula-hooping! Joy in circular format.

* Short & Sweet. Free short films every Monday at Café 1001, Brick Lane - what could be better? Here's a taster:

Cold Cats

* Suspiciously tall and bum-fluffy trick-or-treaters with no costumes. Lame.

* Feeling a bit partied out and wanting to hibernate.

* The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. A grown-up fairy tale of pacts with the devil, virginal daughters, and unrequited love; as seen through an antique kaleidoscope while high on mescaline. As fantastical as it was to watch, it left me cold (as so many of Gilliam's films do). Made more watchable by a deliciously sly Tom Waits playing the devil.


* My lovely big SLR losing a bunch of pictures from the party - distressing! Fingers crossed it's just a senile memory card and not the end of a beautiful relationship.

* Not having anyone of the masculine variety to watch the utterly brilliant Series 4 of The Wire with.

Inspired by loobylu.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Melancholy weekend

What do you get if you mix:

1. The end of daylight savings, meaning the darkness is starting to close in;

2. Having to say goodbye to a good friend who made the working day that much easier to bear (how dare she defect to Australia with her lovely English boyfriend in order to pursue their future together!);

3. A critical lack of chocolate in the vicinity;

4. A realisation that this is the longest you've not been in a serious relationship for... well, ever; and

5. A week of not very good sleep.

Any guesses? No?

Well, let me enlighten you. What've got yourself is a serious case of the sucks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wins my vote for funniest video on the interweb

"Alright, which of you preppies put gold dust in my fencing mask?"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Playing against type

Phew [wipes sweat theatrically from brow]. I've just completed a four-day intensive acting course. After my well-rehearsed but poorly-acted Shakespeare monologue on the second day, the famously cruel director of the school made me sit down and asked me why I'd come on the course. I had been utterly petrified, to the point where I was on the verge of tears and/or fainting, and it showed. I got the words out, and they were "immaculate" according to him, but I was so paralysed with terror that I could only stand there like a post.

I'm pretty sure Juliet would have been pacing, flitting to the window and back, and making gestures of impatience as she waits for the nurse to return with a message from her beloved Romeo. But the most I could manage was to swivel my torso from left to right. My feet might as well have been super-glued to the ground.

Why? Why put myself through that? That's what I've been asking myself all week. But apart from that horrible moment (and it was only a moment), the rest of the course was really quite good fun. For me, as I tried to explain to the director, it was a kind of personal challenge - my own personal Everest, if you like (well, maybe just Base Camp). For an introvert like me, the thought of performing in front of an audience is far more challenging than the prospect of climbing a mountain. I know I could train to climb a mountain, and make sure I had the right equipment and support. The thought of it doesn't scare me at all. Even jumping off a waterfall didn't compare in the fear stakes to what I went through this week.

Before I went on the course, I would never have imagined that I could sing on my own in front of an entire class, or complete a serious dramatic scene in front of a small audience. For me, just getting through it was a little victory.

I particularly enjoyed the stage-fighting - especially the fencing - and the game of theatrical wink-murder we played afterwards. I thought my "stabbbed in the back" was really quite convincing. But my favourite part - which the teacher assured us was everyone's favourite part by the end of the four days - was the musical number. We learned "A Real Nice Clam-bake" from Carousel, and then performed it as a group, each of us singing a solo line or two from the verses. It left me on a wonderful, warm-hearted high. Maybe that's the point of musicals - they are much more fun for the actors than they are for the audience.

One of the boys from the class - a sweetheart who reminded me a lot of Omar from The Wire - told me afterwards that I should think about getting into some am-dram. I would have laughed and told him he was crazy a week ago, but now I find myself considering it.

Maybe I should start a theatre group for introverts. The In Crowd? Let Us Intertain You? If we could get the audience to sit behind a one-way mirror and not make any noise, it might just work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Good times for a change

A while ago, as part of my ongoing efforts to be less cynical and to take postive action towards alleviating my depression, I made a decision - albeit a guilt-ridden one - to curb my exposure to the news. Yes, being aware of what is going on in the world is important - and I realise that some people will be horrified by this admission - but some time back I decided that my mental health was more important to me than knowing all about what's going on outside my door.

Watching or reading the news in the UK makes me anxious, feaful and unhappy. I am not sure what it is about this country and its presentation of current events, but much of the time it seems there are only two kinds of coverage - the gloomy and the inane. It doesn't help that my father, who worked as a film editor at a news station in Melbourne for many years, had a very low opinion of the manipulative nature of the media and the self-important unscrupulousness of the journalists who worked there.

Checking the BBC news site now and again is about as much as I will tolerate now, and that's only because it gives the user some semblance of control over what they are ingesting.

Every now and again, however, a story bucks the trend by reaffirming my faith in humankind. So it is that I heard of Lloyd Gardener, a young man who came forward with information relating to a horrific rape case, and subsequently donated the £10,000 witness reward money he received to the victim of the crime. Decent.

I experienced some Pure Human Decency (PHD) myself recently while cycling home late one night, when a motorcyclist pulled up next to me at the lights and warned me I'd lost my rear light a way back. I thanked him and hopped off, cursing my bad luck - cycling through London at night without a rear light is a bit too kamikaze for my liking - and started walking back down the busy street to see if I could find it. Just as it was dawning on me how hopeless the task was, a Japanese couple walked up to me, the woman's cupped hands extended towards me with a hopeful smile on her face. They had seen me lose my light, fetched it from the gutter and waited for me to come back. I smiled broadly and thanked them profusely, while they bowed and smiled back at me. It was a lovely moment of human connection amid the chaos of Tottenham Court Road on a Friday night.

* * * *

If you'd like to partake of some PHD, consider joining the Karma Army. You don't even have to sign up if you don't want to, you can just practice some random acts of kindness under your own steam. Not newsworthy, perhaps, but definitely worthy.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What's hot + what's not on a Wednesday


:: Halloween party planning. The costuming opportunities! I'm thinking stripey-stockinged hula-hoop girl for our circus-themed house party; and road-kill for the Halloween roller-stroll.

:: the delightful Words & Pictures by Quentin Blake, an out-of-print book I've been trying to track down a copy of for ages. Praise [insert deity here] for ebay bargains.

:: Coffee made by the 2009 World Barista Champion. If you happen to be in the East London area, I highly recommend you take some time out to visit lovely yorkshireman Gwilym Davies at his stall in Columbia Road, or at the Golden Horn on Shoreditch High Street.


:: Going shopping to buy a pair of blue-green tights and coming back with boots, heels, belt, two new coats, chunky necklace and jumper. But no tights.

:: Overdrawn bank accounts (see above).

:: This weird Autumnal cross-over period - it's drizzly and the nights are getting longer, but it's been so humid. Awaiting those lovely cold, crisp mornings which mean I can cycle to work without arriving a sweaty mess.

Inspired by miss loobylu.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Going with the Flo*

Lord knows I've gone on about how much I love a kooky female singer/songwriter on this blog.

Throw in some way-out costuming (hello Björk), occasional use of a harp ('sup Newsom), lyrics strewn with violence and otherwordly themes (Amos, I'm talking to you), delivered with utter fearlessness and total abandon, and you've got me hooked, baby.

It almost goes without saying that I was always going to love Florence & the Machine.

I haven't been this excited by a female singer since I discovered la Amos in high school (it seems I have a thing for melodramatic redheads). So excited in fact, that after I got back from her amazing gig on Monday night, I couldn't sleep for the tangle of songs in my head and the aftershock of tribal drumming in my chest. The afterimage of that flame-haired goddess striding the stage in diaphanous gown hitched up to show off her alabaster legs and gold-studded ankle boots is going to haunt me evermore.

I thought the album was absolutely blinding, but live? In person? Let's just say if the album was Florence turning it all the way up to 11, in concert she blew the needle clear off the dial. The lungs on that girl. I was in awe, torn between gawping at the pre-raphaelite vision jerking and prancing on stage and tearing myself away from the balcony for some mentalist dancing. I ended up doing an odd combination of both (I am great at prop-dancing. Chair dancing, bike dancing, balcony dancing - I'm your woman).

The crowd did that annoyingly English thing of standing still for most of the gig (despite Flo exhorting everyone to jump and howl) only to totally lose it for the final song of the encore. What's up with that, English?

It was a spell-binding night of one electric track after another, starting with the dark-eyed My Boy Builds Coffins and ending with the glorious Rabbit Heart. It was truly one of the greatest gigs I've ever had the joy of attending. And that is not an accolade I throw about lightly. If you don't believe me, ask Walks. Or Sincs (I don't actually know either of these people, by the by).

*with apologies to Sweet Nothings for stealing his headline. I couldn't think of a better one. In my defence, I didn't get much sleep.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Epic geek crush

Oh my god you guys, I just stumbled across this hottie on and I think it's true love or something 'cos I honestly feel such a connection to this guy, and I know he doesn't even know, like, who I am or that I even exist or whatever, but I just feel, like, so strongly about it that if we ever did get to meet, he is just going to know, y'know? he is just going to be like, where have you been all my life? and I'll be like, waiting for you, sweetcheeks!


Or not. But Jeremy Warmsley sure is nice to look at, isn't he? Even if he does remind me a little bit of the boy in The Shining).

Oh, and he's not bad to listen to either.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Melancholy beauty

Breaks my heart all over again. Can't wait to see these guys live.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

How much more can a deeply cynical/hopeless romantic take?

There comes a time in every single girl's life (so far, so frickin' Carrie Bradshaw, right?) when she feels that she is done with the whole search. Done. Over it. She is at the end of her tether, and she just can't summon the energy to even think about putting herself back out there. Her options at this point seem to be:

1. convert to lesbianism;
2. become a nun; or
3. get cats.

None of these options are open to me because:

1. I like boys;
2. I like boys; and
3. I'm allergic.

Picture this scenario. You meet a guy, a lovely, tall, kind-eyed guy who you stumble across in the course of your everyday life and, after enjoying a long and rambly chat outside in the sunshine, pluck up the courage to ask him out for a coffee. He says yes. The stuff of daydreams.

So you meet up for a date in an intimate venue and it's going really well - the attraction is apparent, you talk about all sorts of things, and the more time you spend together the more you discover you have in common. A love of folk music. A disdain of alarm clocks. A belief in the revolutionary power of cycling.

A couple of hours fly by.

And then, just as he is saying how glad he is that you asked him out, and is suggesting that you meet up again soon at a place he knows, you make an off-handed comment about how scary it was asking him out, when you didn't even know if he had a girlfriend or not.

He squirms. He says "What if I told you that I do have a girlfriend? And a son?"


The "date" ends shortly thereafter.

So. Not the worst date I've ever been on (I'll blog about that another time), but definitely in my Top 3 All-Time Shitty Dates. Being single in your thirties sure does suck sometimes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bestival 2009

Man, I am so happy to have left behind my twenties. I struggled through those years really not liking myself very much, not knowing myself very well, and not looking after myself as well as I should have. Thank f*ck I made it to my thirties. Yes, there are also challenges particular to this decade, but I know myself so much better now. I know that I need a certain amount of space, comfort and privacy in order to stay sane. I know that if I start feeling self-conscious, drinking more is not the solution. And if I feel like a cup of tea while everyone around me is drinking cocktails, I am just going to go ahead and get a frickin' cup of tea and I honestly couldn't give a toss what anyone else thinks about that. I LOVE TEA.

more tea and papers

All of this is to lead up to the point of my post today, which is that I really enjoyed Bestival. Way more than I ever expected to enjoy a festival. Yes, it was dusty and dirty. Yes, there was a terribly long and painfully slow queue for the loo's in the morning. Naturally, there were noisy people who made sleeping difficult. And it was so cold at night that my bones ached even with 3 pairs of leggings under my tracksuit pants. At times it did feel like an endurance task.

All of those things are part and parcel of the festival experience, non? I knew what to expect in terms of the level of physical discomfort. I had prepared myself as best I could (toilet paper, baby wipes, antibacterial gel, wellies, my own tent). What I didn't expect was that I would spend quite so much time giggling like a school-girl with my friends; or that I would find myself dancing like an idiot in an outdoor rave one evening, deliriously sober; or that the crowd would excell even my wild imagination with their incredible costumes.

skinny spaceman meets baby alien

Saturday was a constant colourful parade of amazingly outfitted people, like a mass hallucination taking place in broad daylight. There were Judy Jetsons and Ziggy Stardusts and astronauts galore. There was a Lady Smurf, a group of monkeys in space outfits, a female Predator, and a man who simply wore a giant ear on the front of his t-shirt, with a sign saying "last in stock" above it (think about it). There were meteors and mars bars and milky ways and black holes. We saw several Buzz Lightyears but only one with a life-size toy grabber (he was attempting to grab one of the Thunderbirds crew when I last saw him). We were mugged by men clad in full-body (including head and face) morph suits in various hues one afternoon. They appeared like a scary hallucination and, probably sensing our fear, made their way over to hug us en-masse until the day-bed we had been reclining on collapsed under our combined weight.

I think perhaps the secret to a good festival is not to put any pressure on yourself. There were really only a few acts that we made a point of going to see - Florence and the Machine*, Friendly Fires, Jack Peñate, Fleet Foxes - and the rest of the time we wandered happily unfettered by a schedule, lazing in the sun, doing a bit of hula-hooping, but mostly checking out the utterly gob-smackingly amazing crowd. We went to bed when we were tired and/or cold, rather than forcing ourselves to stick around to see the last acts. I didn't even feel guilty laying in my tent on Sunday evening, warm at last after stuffing my sleeping bag with every piece of clothing I'd brought with me, as I was lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of Elbow playing the main stage.

Go ahead and judge me. My twenty-year-old self certainly would have.

My overall Bestival experience? Much fun and many memories that are making me laugh out loud right now. I would share them with you, but I'm guessing you had to be there.

*For the Flo fans, I totally get "You've Got the Love" now. I had thought it was a bit of an insipid and unecessary closer to an album full of belters, but no: it's just meant to be played to a field full of happy people who are feeling the love, against a backdrop of the gloriously setting sun.


Our Festival Glossary:

Foldies: The Festival stalwarts. People who attended the original Glastonbury in 1970 and aren't ready to give up the dream. Characterised by long greying hair and doped-up smiles.
Fluts: Festival sluts. Generally wearing tiny shorts and big hair, with rings of dark make-up around the eyes. Working their way up to Groupie.
Eninens: Nice n' normals (that would be us). Like a cider (or a tea), are careful not to tread on anyone, bring their own camp chairs.
Festies: Proper dread-locked, bare-footed hippies with dirt caked under their nails.
Frents: the über-cool parents who bring tiny children along to the festival so that they can learn all about the effects of excessive drinking and drug-taking first hand, while being exposed to the educational ditties of the Klaxons.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I bet you'd look good on the dancefloor

I bet you'd look good on the dancefloor

Loving my new magic shoes (they make your feet look smaller). This one's for you, Em!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The fifth rule of online dating is...

...don't neglect the real world. There are a whole lot of options out there. It's easy to become a bit disillusioned with internet dating - if I read one more profile by a "pub lover" who likes "putting the world to rights over a pint", my brain is going to shut down in protest. By comparison, real-world meetings can seem much more straightforward and agenda-free. You like roller-blading? I like roller-blading! Coffee? Simple. Well, maybe not quite that simple, but y'know - the attraction is apparent; you don't have to waste any time emailing aimlessly back and forth; and there aren't a frillion other girls competing for his attention at the same time.

It's good to step away from the screen now and again.

* * * *

Actually, this rule pretty much applies to modern life in general. I read in the weekend papers about an internet rehab clinic that's been set up outside of Seattle, to help people (gaming geeks, mostly) wean themselves off their unhealthy addiction to the 'net. For about a millisecond I wondered if I qualified as addicted (I do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time online nowadays - doesn't everybody with a computer-based job?) - but then I remembered that I went cold turkey for a week in Slovenia and I didn't start getting the shakes 'til day 6.

Part of me is amazed by the possibilities the internet represents (building virtual communities; instant access to vast amounts of information on virtually any topic, yada yada), and part of me is worried about the consequences of living so much of our lives via an electronic interface, not to mention the deleterious effects of exposure to the 80% of online content that is porn/paranoid conspiracies/celeb gossip-mongering/blogs about people's boring-ass lives.

Just typed myself into a corner there. Back-up!

It is rather amazing to have witnessed how quickly the internet has infiltrated every aspect of our lives since we first heard whispers of a "world-wide web" (gasp!) around our High School circa 1991. I was remarking to someone just the other day how grateful I was to have been born into a pre-digital world: one consequence of this was that my generation had a simpler, slower-paced, generally more innocent upbringing. We certainly don't take instant electronic communication for granted. Those post-digital-revolution kiddies are going to freak-the-flip-out out when the grid goes down.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Turn the sound up

Way up. Put that cup of tea down, and clear some floor space.

I dare you to listen to this without indulging in a bit of air-drumming and/or dramatic interpretive dancing. And falling a little bit in love with this flame-haired goddess.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why I ♥ London, part the second of many

London is a shock to many Australians when they first arrive. I spent my initial months here heartsick and lonely; numbed by the crush of the crowds and the cool distance of the people, dismayed by the grime and the grey. I lived in Archway (shudder), commuted for hours every day to various jobs where people barely spoke to me, and turned a lurid shade of pale from the lack of sunlight. I have never felt so utterly dispossessed as I did in those early months of 2003.

Strangely, despite how miserable I was, not for a nanosecond did I consider turning tail and going home. I'm stubborn like that (or maybe just plain stupid).

I'm not sure when the turning point came. I don't think it was until I found myself single after a four-year long relationship that I truly fell for London, heart and soul. It was my London now. A lot of people expected me to move home after that break-up, but instead I dug my heels in and looked around me with fresh (if somewhat red and watery) eyes. This time around, London nurtured me. I'd put in the hard yards. For the first time, I felt free to make the most of living in such a populous, diverse, surprising, stunning, rich cultural centre. I moved into a bright, girly flat in a pretty area with a lovely English girl. I knew about some of London's secret oases and went out of my way to discover new ones. I relaxed my self-imposed rules about saving money and just committed to enjoying my time here. I started going to gigs again. I said "yes" to most of the things that people asked me to. I bought a bike.

Now, I fall deeper for this city every day. Several times a day in the Summer.

I love the incredible music scene, the soft quality of the light, the sly and silly humour, the pretty Victorian/Georgian/Tudor architecture, the millions of cultural happenings going on all over town, all the time.

But above all these things, I think the thing I admire most about London is that there is an audience for absolutely every kind of pastime imaginable, no matter how random or esoteric.

Examples? Here is a smattering of odd things in which I have recently taken part:

- the Iron Cupcake competition (as a taster, not a baker);

- the Sunday Stroll, a massive meet-up of roller-bladers who stop the traffic and take over the city streets for a couple of hours every weekend;

- urban barn dancing;

- Laughter in odd places (Richard Herring at the Museum of London, amongst the bones and arrow heads: v. funny); and let's not forget

- the European Hard Court Bike Polo Championships (spectating only, apparently you have to have a moustache and knee-high socks to play).

I know that you could probably seek out similar weird and wonderful underground happenings elsewhere in the world (including Melbourne), but London does seem to be the epicentre for eccentricity, attracting odd-bods from all over the globe. Random silliness has been elevated to an art form here (see: Monty Pyton, the Goodies, the Mighty Boosh et al). No sport is so crazy that some damn fools wouldn't try it, no bet is too ridiculous to follow through on, and no subject is so seemingly narrow that it couldn't have a museum dedicated to it.

London is full of people who refuse to grow up and start taking life seriously young man, harumph, you think this is all a big joke, don't you? and that suits me just fine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why I ♥ London, part the first of many

The meaning of life

Looking for the Meaning of Life? Aren't we all! Click on the image above to reveal one artist's response in full (discovered while cycling home through the backstreets of Shoreditch one evening).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Bike-Related Outrage

So I finally levered £100 out of the now-notorious van lady. It took a few weeks worth of negotiations over the phone, during which she tried to convince me the damage was superficial (it wasn't); to get me to let her take the bike to a mate of hers to fix up (I refused); to avoid my increasingly irate calls by "losing" her mobile down the toilet (the lovely WPC Caroline gave me a hand there by leaving her a no-nonsense voice message); and finally, to bargain me down to £80 (by now I was too furious to budge).


So imagine my horror when I got back to Angel station to discover the bike that I had left locked up there - a bike which I had borrowed from a friend of a friend while I am temporarily wheel-less - was gone. Gone! Oh god. Lesson learnt: do not leave a bike of any description at Angel, no matter how good your locks are (I had a D-lock worth £40). This is London, y'all - you could bludgeon somebody to death on the street and everyone would avoid eye contact and step carefully around the body. A bike being lifted by some punk at one of the busiest hubs in North London wouldn't be worth breaking your stride for.

Thankfully the owner was very understanding and didn't seem all that fazed (I was prepared to be sworn at). She even suggested that it saved her the hassle of getting it from Islington to Chiswick, funnily enough.

I guess this gives me a good excuse to buy a new bike...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


skinny jeans

I sloped into work today in my very first pair of skinny jeans (purchased from the rather marvellous - and dirt cheap - Uniqlo). One of my fellow designers looked me up and down and remarked that my legs pretty much don't change shape from the ankle - they just go straight up like a couple of straws.

I'm reminded of the bit in the Mighty Boosh (series 1) where Vince describes Howard's legs as being "like a couple of hosepipes propping up a beanbag".

*sigh* it's not easy coming from a family of chicken-legged folk.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Hot List – revisited

Some of you may remember a previous blog post in which I listed my top 5 celeb-crushes (as well as a few more who I couldn’t bear to leave out). Being of the eternally fickle female persuasuion, I feel the time has come to update and ammend that list to reflect my current mood, and to acknowledge the general Summery freshness that is currently happening on the wrong side of my window. The unadulterated excitement of wearing unsheathed legs and toe-nail polish has gotten to me, evidently.

I’m sure if I put my mind to it (which I would happily), I could create a constantly shifting league table like those cheeky slappers at the Observer Woman do. But these mere 10 cherry-picked from past and present will have to do for now...

1. Robert Pattinson.
Me and the entire female tween population of the world. There’s just not enough Robert Pattinson to go around.

2. Justin Long
First came to my attention in the brilliant TV series “Ed”. Way up on the geek-o-meter (which can only be a good thing in my book).

3. Ed from “Ed”.
While we’re at it.

3. Friendly Fires
Make me want to jump in the pool.

4. Jason Bateman
Cute, puckish, slightly dishevelled, likes scarves - my ideal man.

5. Stephen Mangan
A face for comedy (especially the eyebrows). Outrageously hilarious as Guy in Green Wing.

6. Chris in the Morning
I wish I could wake up to Chris’ Cali drawl on Radio K-Bear every morning.

7. Aladdin.
Again with the eyebrows. The full extent of my geekiness is revealed.

8. Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger
Charisma personified.

9. Bob Dylan
No wonder he had women falling at his feet back in the day.

10. Ben Wishaw
Can’t wait for Bright Star.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Ten songs that turn my brain orange

There has been a lot of scientific yakkety-yak lately about the effect music has on the brain, and it seems that the boffins have discovered that a song will light up some parts of one person's brain and different parts of another person's - possibly indicating that we are predisposed to like a certain kind of music, or suggesting that our reaction to music is biological rather than aesthetic? I'm a little bit hazy on the details, but the idea that "music which produces extreme pleasure, or "chills," activates the reward systems in the brain" chimes with me. Music has been the most constant source of pleasure in my life.

I also love the idea of certain songs turning my brain orange. It makes sense to me (orange is my favourite colour*). These are songs that I loved instantly and fervently upon hearing them for the first time; songs that still give me a shiver of pleasure, everytime.

Feeling Good by Nina Simone: Epic.
Sea Lion Woman by Feist: Frenetic.
Cannon Ball by The Breeders: Delirious.
A-Punk by Vampire Weekend: Infectious.
That Teenage Feeling by Neko Case: Vast.
Play Dead by Björk: Kooky.
Tear In Your Hand by Tori Amos: Interstellar.
Homeward Bound by Simon & Garfunkel: Joyful.
Lilac Wine by Jeff Buckley: Heady.
Vicious World by Rufus Wainwright: Silvery.

*Sometimes. Sometimes it's sunflower yellow; sometimes it's bright kermit green, sometimes it's fuschia. But orange is the colour I am most known for using in my designs, so I guess it is the most favoured of the favourites.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Of white vans and buckled tyres

This is the blog post that had to happen eventually: earlier today a white van ran into me and knocked me off my bike. Not fun, but I'm OK! It could have been worse! No broken bones, trips in an ambulance, or long-distance funeral for my parents to attend. Just a few superficial scrapes and bruises. The first thought I had once I sat up and took my bearings was my best jeans are ruined! My second thought was my bike is ruined! and my third thought was I'm alive! Which tells you a lot about how important those jeans are to me. I have only ever had one pair of jeans that have fitted me properly in my life, and now they have an irreparable tear down the left shin. Grr.

To put it in perspective, I've been cycling the mean streets of the capital regularly for the past two years, which is a decent amount of time to have gotten away with no incident. Truthfully, I feel a little bit triumphant - like I have finally been indoctrinated into the inner sanctum of true, hardcore London cyclists: entry only on presentation of x-rays, colostomy bag and/or scars over 5 inches long. I felt pretty cool as I rocked up at the local Old Bill on Borough High Street in my ripped jeans and nonchalantly asked the attending copper for an incident form.

Pity I've only got a plastered little finger and a brand new batch of bruises to show for it.

* * * *

Oddly, the very same night of the Bike Crash Incident, I went to see a play about three elite cyclists competing at the Tour de France, staged in a disused office space near Oxford Circus. I highly recommend it for a couple of reasons - firstly, even if you don't follow cycling as a sport (I don't), it is a riveting account of three very distinct sporting personalities - American Lance Armstrong, Italian Marco Pantani and German Jan Ullrich - and their relationship to each other, as well as the psychology of competing at such an elite level. Secondly, it is incredibly inventive in the way it utilises very basic props - the actors use plastic chairs in a variety of ways to evoke cycling in various conditions, and crash barriers stand in for everything from a press security barrier to a car to a jail.

Gripping, intense, and more than a little inspiring.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happiness is...

...cycling through the stunning Slovenian mountainside behind a fat little Dutch kid singing to himself.

...wandering down to where the Soca and the Tolminka merge into one magnificent, pristine, impossibly bright aqua-coloured river; and watching as the mist that is suspended ethereally above the water turns from cool white to gold in the light of the sunset. euro beers on a warm evening.

...the respite between rapids while paddling down the Soca on a hot, clear day, when the rush of water over rock recedes and once again the only sound is of the oar dunking into the ice-cold water.

...finally working up the nerve to launch myself off the first of a series of waterfalls, starting with a baby 3-metre jump and culminating with a 27m cascade over which they lower you on a 20m rope (the last 7m I don't remember very clearly, I was too busy screaming). My main motivating factor was knowing that if I couldn't do the first jump, they wouldn't let me do any subsequent ones. I'm stubborn like that.

...coming home with a suntan and freckled shoulders. And an almighty bruise that covers my left thigh in a hideous yellow and purple swathe, proof of my exploits.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Romance at the bus stop

Romance at the bus stop
Awww. Actually, my brother met his (Swedish) girlfriend at a bus stop in Cricklewood - perhaps waiting for public transport is the new speed-dating?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Wherin Mr. Random helps me break out of the female singer/songwriter rut

I have a self-confessed predilection for vocalists of the feminine persuasion - the quirkier and more distinctive her voice, the better - which means that my music collection has always been dominated by women in the past. I love a bluesy, ballsy soul-sister, an alt-country belter, a heart-breaking waif, a gentle folksy gal, a 90's alterna-goddess and a defiantly unclassifiable kook.

Oh, and also the occassional sassy R&B diva to mix things up a bit.

The lyricism of the words is important to me (despite Beyoncé's best efforts), and I'm a sucker for a wrist-slitter no matter the gender of origin; but if these qualities combine with an outstanding female vocalist - ka-ching! - I've hit auditory paydirt.

However, I have been trying to rectify this inherent gender bias* by gradually adding more male artists to my nano by stealth, one album at a time. Last night while walking home in the sweet-smelling wake of a Summer rainshower, Mr. Shuffle selected a gorgeous all-male lineup (albeit including one in particular who is very much in touch with his feminine side), and I loved the unexpected change of tone.

Rain on the Pretty Ones - Ed Harcourt
Your heart is an empty room - Death Cab For Cutie (I have been listening to this a lot recently)
Heretics - Andrew Bird
Nylon instrumental - Scott Matthews
Crown of Love - Arcade Fire
Tiergarten - Rufus Wainwright
Up With People - Lambchop
Two Silver Trees - Calexico (featuring what is surely the prettiest song intro ever)
Theme to Pinata - Bright Eyes
Heartbeat - José González

I think my next musical resolution should probably be: 'listen to less depressing music and see if it a) turns me into the kind of girl who has an "I believe in magic!" sticker on her back window; b) makes me want to smash things; or c) has no discernable impact on my emotional landscape'.

I'll let you know how that goes.

* Actually, I just realised that the last playlist I mentioned was all-male as well - and I didn't even notice it at the time! Perhaps I am more aurally gender-balanced than I thought..?

Friday, July 03, 2009

The fourth rule of online dating is... don't lose heart

A while back - about a year and a half ago now - I took a leap into the world of online dating (which you can read about here). I was lucky; my experience was a positive one overall, and thankfully weirdo- and creep-free. I went on several nice enough meetings/dates with dudes of varying attractiveness; the loveliest of whom I found myself in a verging-on-serious relationship with. Ultimately however, we had to face up to the unavoidable fact that we are at different stages in our lives - and that was that.

In my experience, heart-break only gets harder to recover from the older you are. However [grits teeth], I try to remind myself that there are some consolations to be had from growing older - it is only at this point in my life, for instance, that I have felt confident enough about my body to wear a mini-skirt. Not that my legs are better than they were in my twenties; it's just that now I am that much less prone to giving a sh*t about the imperfections.

There's a spirit of recklessness that kicks in during your thirties - I've only got a few mini-skirt wearing years left, so might as well get my pins out, no? Maybe I will get that tattoo after all...

But back to the point: I've gathered the pieces, dusted myself off, and have been thinking about giving the whole cyber-dating thing another whirl. Despite the fact that I have been just one text message away from bitter (to paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw) - and have felt like dropping out of the game altogether at various points - when it comes down to it I'm a romantic at heart. I believe love is our only real purpose in this crazy mixed-up world - to give love, to accept love and to cultivate love in our hearts defines us as human beings in my opinion.

And it couldn't hurt to meet a few more nice English guys, surely.

However, I want to be fully ready before I throw myself back in there. Internet dating is most decidedly not for the faint of heart. I want to be in that strong, resilient, contented place I was in when I originally signed up and logged on.

I'm nearly there. I'm hovering at the edge of the water in my bathers, my toes curling around the ledge as I give myself a little pep talk and take a deep breath...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cycling chic

I recently gave up wearing a separate cycling outfit to work - partly to save myself the hassle of carrying extra clothes and the faff of getting changed in the locker room; but mostly out of sheer vanity. I got sick of seeing gorgeous London girls sailing past me, dresses and heels carefully coordinated with their Pashley's, immaculate hair streaming out the back of their fancy helmets, while I trudged along in old track pants, a second-hand reflective jacket and flouro vest.

Vanity beats safety, I'm afraid. When in Rome...

Here's what I've learned about cycle chic (this was before I discovered these two brilliant websites devoted to girly-biking):

Dresses and skirts are surprisingly easy to wear on a bike - the perfect shape is a knee-length swirly skirt which gives you room to move each knee independently and still preserve your modesty.

Leggings (the bike shorts of the noughties) are your best friend. Can be worn with any skirt but work especially well with mini's.

Wrap dresses are a no-go unless you like flashing your knickers and stocking tops to all the bankers and construction workers at 8am in the morning. I sure as hell didn't.

pinup girl
I don't know what she's smiling about.

There's no need to wear ugly flouro clips - you can peg the leg of most pants by tucking them tight against the ankle and rolling up. Skinny jeans would be perfect - if you're emaciated enough to wear them (I'm not).

Heels are also surprisingly easy to cycle in: you just hook the pedal between the heel and the arch and away you go. Just be careful taking off at the lights/standing up as these shoes tend to be quite slippy.

A long scarf is brilliant in the Winter months. I advise applying the Kelly Cross (I am pretty sure I am the inventor of this technique so I hereby christen it thus). You wind the scarf once around your neck, cross the ends over your front and tie or tuck at the back. Keeps your front and your lower back warm. Works best when hidden under a jacket.

And finally, in the event of a sudden hailstorm, I advise taking shelter at the nearest bus stop/shop awning until it passes.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Home's face: how it ages when you're away

I am thirty-two years old. My last relationship broke up because I wasn't twenty-seven instead*. Shame. It hit me quite hard afterwards that actually, I am never going to be twenty-seven again; and that I'm only going to get older from here on in - what sort of a stupid system is that?! Time is annoyingly, rigidly, out-datedly linear; like analogue television. As a child who came of age during the digital revolution (I'm a paid-up member of the "On Demand" generation), having to conform to a linear schedule that proceeds in a ruler-straight line from birth to death just doesn't do it for me.

But there it is: I am never going to be twenty-seven again.

Or, to put it another way: this is as young and as free as I'll ever be.

That simple statement of truth can be an uplifting affirmation or a despairing lament, depending on my mood.

Some days I am so grateful for the incredible freedoms I enjoy - the freedom to work (even though it doesn't always feel like a "freedom", I never forget that it is a hard-won privilege), the freedom to be independent; to travel; to earn money and buy things that make my life comfortable and enjoyable. The freedom to choose a partner (and the freedom to reject inappropriate ones). The freedom to wear colourful sundresses - or indeed, whatever I choose. The incredible freedom of having time that is my own and the freedom to do whatever I like with it; which I never take for granted (even though I waste a lot of it lolling about doing bugger all).

The freedom to ride a bike.

The freedom to sunbathe.

The freedom to walk around a city by myself.

The freedom to drive along the coast (although it's been a long time since I took advantage of this one).

The freedom to listen to my favourite music.

The freedom to explore the internet.

...and other days, I just wish I was twenty-seven again.

*I hasten to add that it wasn't a case of my ex wanting to trade me in for a younger model - shame on you for thinking I would waste my time on that kind of guy! - it's just that we are at very different stages in our lives and couldn't reconcile the gap.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Share house living for introverts

Last weekend I moved* into a big new home. A new home with four other (extremely lovely) people. Four of 'em though! That's the most people I've ever lived with in my life, apart from when I was growing up in a family of five (and I don't believe that counts because we were a family of hermits).

Lovely though all my new housemates are, I admitted to a friend last week that I was a little aprehensive about how I would cope with such a big share-house situation and confessed that I was treating it as an experiment (with me as the guinea pig).

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am a true introvert, but other people rarely seem to understand why I need time and space on my own in order to not go totally bat-shit crazy. Non-introverted people just don't get this at all; and it's hard to feel you aren't being constantly judged by the majority of extroverted people who just can't fathom why you wouldn't want company for every little aspect of your life. One girl had her brother tell her, "we didn't know you were introverted; we just thought you were a bitch", and I'm sure there are a slew of people I've come across in my life who thought that of me; or maybe just that I was shy, aloof, snobby or very quiet.

Man, introverts get some bad press.

To help with the adjustment, I have tried to make my room as much of a haven as possible (it's a lovely big, quiet room on the top floor). But there is much to love about the rest of this rambling house (besides the people, natch) - we have a backyard with a barbeque, goldfish, 5 people's worth of kitchen gadgets, and OMG Sky TV! We also have a seriously big kitchen, and I am looking forward to getting stuck into some serious baking for my new flatties. It's been a long time between muffin batches.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes. Fingers crossed it doesn't go horribly wrong...

* This will be my ninth address in eleven years. It's fair to say that I am a bit of an expert with the moving now. The secret is to get boys to help you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bike rage descends

I obviously angered the mechanical transport gods (or somebody) with my last post as when I went to collect my bike from the secure area last night, I found the D-lock pushed up against the valve - and the moment I moved it, the air was filled with the anxiety-inducing hiss of air escaping. Fast. Arrrgh!

Almost immediately, the tube was completely deflated, rendering the bike as useless as an ashtray on a water ski. Not 10 minutes earlier, I had convinced my hairdresser to squeeze me in before her last appointment of the day, but that was back when I had a functioning means of transport. I stalked back in to the office, mad as hell; had a rant at the gormless security guard about the overcrowdedness of the secure area (which I was convinced had been the cause of the flat); and called to cancel my appointment. Through gritted teeth. Had a little internal monologue to myself re: the rare but extreme annoyance factor of a flat tyre vs. the common but mild annoyance of waiting more than 10 mintues for the bus.

Luckily I managed to wangle my way into an on-the-spot tube replacement at my local Evans Cycles, courtesy of the charmingly bike-mad Gabriel. He managed to change it in about 60 seconds flat, and he (rather stupidly, I thought) agreed to show me how it's done.

Me: How big is that spanner?
Him: 15mm.
Me: Can't you just use a teaspoon to lever the tyre off?
Him: Possibly, never tried it.
Me: Am I going to break a nail getting it back on?
Him: Probably.
Me: Wow, that's dirty work.
Him: Yup.

Poor Gabriel. But in the end, I was cycling down the Cut only minutes later, elated to be back in the saddle so quickly. I ended up pelting it all the way back, to arrive at the salon out of breath and more than a little sweaty - but miraculously, only 5 minutes late. Luckily the serene and lovely Kimmy just smiled, sat me down and pretended not to notice the sheen of sweat under my fringe.

Job done!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two wheels good, four wheels make me grumpy

Now that the weather has turned decidedly Summery (yay!) and the evenings are so light, it has been more of a pleasure than ever to ride to work and around town on the weekends. It has gotten to the point where the bike feels so much a part of me that I find any other form of transport plain annoying. Walking? Nice if you've got time for it; but otherwise frustratingly slow and lacking in adrenaline. Jogging? Too ungainly and butt-shaking. The bus? Overcrowded, stuffy, slower than molasses... Tube? Forget it, I ain't getting back on a peak hour tube unless it's for a damn good reason.

Nothing tops the feeling of getting up half an hour later than the commuter crowd - freewheeling past the lines of traffic, zooming around corners and sneaking through red lights with the pedestrians - to breeze into work warm and pink-cheeked.

Deck chair couple in Green Park

I don't ever want this Summer to end!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Un gusto dell'Italia

A typical day from my recent trip: I wake up to the distant bonging of church bells announcing seven o'clock. The soporific sound of the sea shushes me back to sleep. The murmur of a middle-aged tour group wafts up from the street, growing louder as they shuffle past en masse toward the seafront. I doze on. Eight o'clock and the bells toll once more, gently nudging me back to awareness. Someone is brewing delicious smelling coffee in the kitchen. Just before nine, the fish man winds his way down the main street in his van - the only traffic in the small seaside town of Manorola - talking all the while into his loudspeaker. I imagine he is saying something like "Fresh fish! Everybody come and buy my fresh fish! My fish are the best fish for miles! Queue here for fish!", but it sounds far more romantic in his native Italian.

I open the shutters out onto the main street to be greeted by a view of rows of tall houses painted in shades of terracotta, ochre and pink with uniformly spaced windows shuttered against the bright morning sunshine. The air smells divine, fresh with sea and rock; sweetened by the profusion of fragrant star jasmine flowers draped over every wall.


After a slow start to the day, we will head out to explore a couple of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terra. The walks range from an easy (and suitably romantic) 20 minute stroll along the cliffs of the Via Dell'Amore between Manarola and Riomaggiore; and a steep, sweaty, leg-trembling 1.5 hour trek between Vernazza and Monterosso. At the first town we reach, we will typically stop for coffee and (if you are the permanently hungry kind like me) an olive oil-soaked mozzarella, basil and tomato foccacia bursting with vibrant flavours. If the sun is out, our walk might be followed by a swim in the salty, bouyant Med, during which we try not to stare openly at the smooth, tanned locals as we walk by in bikini bods that haven't seen the sun in a long, long time.

There will definitely be gelato at some point. At €1.50 for two flavours, it would be rude not to.

* * * *

On our third day, we do a 3.5 hour trek from Monterosso to Levanto, from which you are supposed to get a fantastic view of all five villages after you clamber up the first very steep section:


Never mind. We are thrilled to have made it, and it is a gorgeous walk from here on - the sparkling turquoise Med on the one side; wildflowers, ferns and pine trees on the other. It is so unbelievably quiet, so peaceful. All I can hear is my own heavy breathing, the footsteps of the girls in front of me, birdsong in the trees, and the very distant rushing of the waves below. We barely see signs of another soul, apart from one very remote vineyard halfway between the two towns where a crudely drawn sign out front declares: "Here you can drink home wine". No, grazie signore! I need all my energy for this walk, if I'm going to make it to Levanto and the pompelmo rosso e cioccolato gelato that awaits me there.

Back at our adopted home, there are apricots and cherries begging to be picked - they practically fall into your hands as soon as you touch them. They are slightly tart, but I prefer them that way. Every time we see a police man for the rest of our trip, one of the other girls tells me that he is after me for my fruit-pilfering. Non potrei aiutarlo, signor polizia!


This is surely the most beautiful, poetic, wonderful country in the world; with the best coffee and the most mouth-watering cuisine. I feel lucky. I feel content. La dolce vita, è per me.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Music to be miserable to

Courtesy of the shuffle function this morning. As if I wasn't feeling gloomy enough already!

A Glow - Okkervil River
Hope there's someone - Antony & The Johnsons
What Can I Do? - Rufus Wainwright
Around and around - Mark Kozolek
No One's Gonna Love You - Band of Horses

Thank god then for the next selection:

Across The Wire - Calexico
De la Orgee - De La Soul
In the Hot, Hot Rays - Fleet Foxes

Those Fleet Foxes boys - how I love them. Listening to their music is like floating in a pond with that golden, late afternoon sunshine warming your skin - soul-soothing, gentle, uplifting.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A quick lesson in the importance of wearing knee pads while roller blading

...even if you are a confident blader of many years experience and don't think you need them. The pavement don't care, man.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hard to be a girl, so nice to be a boy

I was never a girly-girl. On the flipside, I was never the stereotypical scrappy 'tomboy' either - I think I just grew up in less gender-defined times, when boys and girls were kind of lumped together in a big amorphous mass, all sunburnt limbs and interchangable t-shirts. I didn't wear a skirt until my grade 6 graduation. I never wore make-up, even in high school (assuming you don't count Body Shop lip gloss) - social suicide nowadays, judging by the prozzy-painted faces of school girls at the bus stop. Coinciding happily with the end of my schooldays and the beginning of my painfully self-conscious adolescence was the Grunge movement. Grunge tied in nicely with a) my burgeoning feminist principles; b) my fingers-down-the-throat reaction to anything pink, sparkly or adorned with heart motifs; and c) my inherent laziness.

However, since I've been living in the UK, I think it's fair to say that I have been slowly but inexorably sucked over to the feminine side of the gender divide. It started with a boyfriend who encouraged me to wear dresses, then developed via working with a bunch of girls who knit and make jewellery and cut their own hair (my measly contribution to this girl-fest is baking).

Further proof of my girlification: just recently I've bought five new necklaces (because I couldn't decide between them - I love them all!); gotten my first ever bikini wax (Not Worth It); and even applied a little bit of Holiday Skin to my legs (a purely humanitarian act - so that I don't blind pedestrians with the sight of my brilliant white legs scissoring past them in the morning sunshine).

Like 99% of my gender, however, I represent a startling mass of contradictions. Champagne and heels one day, cutting my knees open roller-blading the next. I like to think I nurture both sides; the girl who loves bright colours and new clothes, and the tomboy riding the mountain bike to work with plasters on her knees.

I was reminded of this contradiction when I watched the final series of Sex and the City for the first time recently, and (god forbid) enjoyed it, albeit guiltily. Scarier still, I identified with it. Crikey O'Blimey. I openly sneered at this show when I was in my twenties; now - single in my thirties, having lived in New York, asking myself a lot of the questions that Carrie poses, living away from my parents and family (and thus, my grown up responsibilities) - this show resonates in a way that it never used to. However, I do not condone the reckless consumerism it promotes, and I think anyone watching it should be aware that they are participating in fantasy-level escapism (girl-porn, basically).

However, just so I don't tip too far over, I have also been devouring Series 4 of The Wire. For those who have not yet been harangued to watch this show by their geekier friends, The Wire is probably the most beautifully understated, brilliant, real Police drama ever aired. This is a show that celebrates old-school manliness of the hard-drinking, straight-talking, solitary-living, authority-shunning kind. It is absolutely absorbing to watch; not least because it feels so unnervingly real that you can't help but be drawn into the worlds of the many characters, despite the often obscure jargon bristling from the dialogue. I've learned to go with it even if I don't always understand it - David Simon, the show's creator, maintains that "The first season of The Wire was a training exercise. We were training you to watch television differently." It's not supposed to be an easy watch. I have to watch it alone, because the distraction of someone sitting next to me is too much - it requires 100% attention. But damn, it's worth it.

God, someone should do a mash-up of these two shows. That would blow my mind.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Panic on the streets of London

Ups and downs this week, roller-coaster like.


Ending up at indie disco Saturday night. Dancing my cons off to all the best stuff from my heyday (the Smiths, the Cure, the Breeders, Pulp, Blur, etc), lots of cool newer stuff (Vampire Weekend, Hot Chip, the Killers and...ermmm a bunch of others I'm not cool enough to know the names of), as well as the odd 80's power ballad to get all melodramatic to. Much fun 'til the early hours of Sunday morning.

Also: laughing at the utterly incongruous sight of a bunch of kids born in the late eighties/early nineties, dressed in full 80's outfits - blazers with huge square shoulder pads, lace leggings, t-shirt dresses, acid wash demin jackets etc. If I was in denial about the 80's revival before, I ain't no more.

The wonderful Australian-barista-ed coffee at my new local funkyplace. Yay!

Getting a bonus set of holiday prints from Jessops 'cos they got my order wrong the first go around and printed them all on gloss paper. I'm a designer people, I will only tolerate matte stock with white borders (I'm snobby like that).

My wonderful flatmate of the last 1.5 years moving on. I guess it would be selfish of me to keep her captive (so she can provide me with timely relationship advice, play me her new songs and make me endless cups of Lady Grey) when she could be honing her song-writing skills in Barcelona alongside her lovely Catalan boyfriend. Goddamn him and his Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall-like good looks. (No te creas, Dani!)

Confronting a dude who tried to steal my bike lights (he apologised and gave them back, which was seriously weird/upsetting), only to have them stolen a few days later while I was blissing out at yoga. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My mum accidentally deleting 6 months worth of emails from my Yahoo account. Arrghh!

Being single again. I have been running slow-jogging just to get my mind off it. Soundtrack kindly provided by Vampire Weekend (perky; may cause involuntary dancing).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chocolate beetroot goddess cake*

This cake is absolutely gorgeous - the beetroot gives it the most beautiful soft texture, and it is rich without being sickly. Partially nicked from "Cook Yourself Thin" (no, I'm not on the first diet of my life, this book just happens to have lots of great, everyday recipes in it).

250gm dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
3 medium eggs
250gm unrefined caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs maple syrup (not critical)
2 tbs honey
40gm self-raising flour
40gm plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
pinch salt
50gm ground almonds
250gm raw beetroot, finely grated
100ml strong black coffee
30ml sunflower oil

Set the oven to 160 degrees celcius.

Melt the chocolate gently in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and set aside to cool. Beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and honey for 3 minutes with an electric hand mixer, until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the flours, bicarb, salt and ground almonds until fully incorporated.

Dab the finely grated beetroot with an old tea-towel to remove excess moisture (prepare yourself to have pink stained hands for the rest of the day), then fold into the mixture along with the melted chocolate, coffee and oil.

Pour into a greased cake tin and cook in the middle of the oven for 1 and a half hours. Cover the cake with foil and cook for another 1/2 hour. I misread this so I'm not sure how long I actually cooked it for, so use your judgement and check it with a skewer (it won't come out completely clean as it's a fudgey cake, but it shouldn't drag lots of mixture out with it!).

You could ice this with coffee flavoured icing, as I did, or just more melted chocolate, but personally I think it doesn't need any embellishing. A winner.

*Warning: this cake inspires adoration

Friday, May 08, 2009

London dreaming

I'm back from a 3 week trip to Melbourne and Sydney, and after a whirlwind of catching up with people, several light bulb moments and a ridiculously long and drawn out trip back (including, but not limited to, an unscheduled 8-hour stopover in Dubai), London is doing it's darnedest to change my mind on at least one front. While I was away, the city has burst into full-blown Spring gorgeousness; the streets are strewn with white blossoms and the trees have exploded into stunning fresh greenness.

In no particular order, here are the highly personal lightning bolts delivered to my brain from the heavens while I was away:

1. I want to feel more emotionally settled in my life
...and that's not going to happen while I'm living away from home and family. Foolishly, I have been waiting for a man to provide me with this feeling of being emotionally "settled", and I now realise I have to be brave (hard for a scaredy-kitten like me) and create my own sense of stability. Now all I need to decide is, is it worth sacrificing another 12 months or so and qualifying for UK residency? Right now I feel like I could move home tomorrow without a backwards glance, but I am well aware that is not how I might feel in a year or two.

Answers on the back of a postcard, please.

2. I want a place I can call my own
Not exactly a revelation, but I am excited about the idea of buying my own place in Melbourne - probably a pitifully small one-bedder in a drug-infested neighbourhood what with house prices being as loopy as they are, but hey ho! It will be my pitifully small one-bedder in a drug-infested neighbourhood.

3. Moving back home does not have to spell the end of my adventures
I could always relocate to Sydney if I get bored of Melbourne (having outgrown my disdain for the unofficial capital of Australia). Or New Zealand, which I hear is gorgeous - and they have some seriously cute ambassadors. Or Japan. Or Beijing! They are crying out for Western designers over there. Now that would be an adventure, not to mention a proper culture shock compared to sedate old London. The point is, moving back is not the end of my life as I know it. It's just the beginning of a new chapter. And I can always come back to London to visit, on a tourist visa. Shudder.

4. I don't want to be a teacher
For a while I was thinking about a major career change. But it hit me with some force while I was away that - although I love spending one morning a week working with kids in the classroom - I am just not teacher material. Seriously, you need metric tons of energy to be a teacher, and you spend more time preparing lessons and trying to get the kids to sit down, shut up and listen than you spend actually teaching. It's an incredible job, but I'm just not up to it.

Hopefully my friend's gorgeous kids (and any future nieces and nephews) will provide all the kid-liness I am currently missing in my life.

Kids are just so much fun to be around, aren't they? And they are so easily impressed - I stunned a pair of hyperactive 3 year old twins into cross-legged silence simply by performing a forward flip on their trampoline. The power really is intoxicating. I guess that's why nature invented sleep deprivation - so that parents don't get too drunk on their own power and turn into complete ego-maniacs.

5. There's no point throwing my love into a void
'nuff said, really. Randomly, I was reading this article about watching a tigress on the hunt, who is foiled at the last minute by a busload of noisy tourists, and this observation struck a chord:

"The deer sprang away in alarm. The tigress relaxed, stood up and sauntered off. Success rates in hunts are never very high for tigers and they don't appear to waste energy on frustration. Unlike us."

After reading the tense build up to this moment, I felt a pang of frustration on the tigress' behalf, at not getting what you want. I admired her ability to move on immediately, without a moment wasted on frustration or regret - even though she was, according to the writer, very lean and obviously in dire need of a meal.

*sigh* I guess that's what you get for being human (especially of the female variety) and prone to stupid one-way love affairs.

* * *

So the overall lesson here: this kitten needs to stop being distracted by balls of string and find her inner tigress.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Tug of love

I think my Dad is afraid I'm never coming home.

I guess that is a possibility. I just don't like to think that far ahead (ie. as far as never/forever). In fact, my brain simply won't go there - it just doesn't compute. I hate that stock-standard job interview qustion: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Who the frick knows the answer to this question?! I sure as hell don't. I have never been a goal-setter or a ladder-climber. I just want to be reasonably happy and healthy; to lead a good life and achieve some degree of inner peace. No small feat, I'm discovering.

I like the idea of staying in London long enough to qualify for UK residency, which means I would be able to travel back and forth between the two countries more easily. Some people call that 'being chronically indecisive'. Others call it 'trying to have it both ways'. I prefer to call it 'hedging my bets'.

Choosing to stay over here is a difficult decision, fraught with emotion. I can't deny that it upsets me deeply to think that my parents are hurt I have stayed over here so long (six years last February. Bloody hell!). And there is the worrying possibility that I have put off my "real" life by staying here - swanning about town going to yoga classes and gigs, drinking proper coffee and generally living the high life - when I should have been at home leading a normal, sensible life, paying off a home and knocking out babies*.

I should explain at this point that I come from quite a working class background, and that there are members of my family who cannot fathom why I would choose to run away to the other side of the earth - to England! Where it's cold and damp and crowded and the people are miserable! - when I could be back home enjoying burnt snags and beer in the blinding early evening sunshine.

God, I miss the smell of the beach. I miss the openness of the people. I miss the piercing bright light and the warm embrace of a Summer evening where you can go out in just a light cotton dress, no cardie. I miss the warble of magpies and the piping of bellbirds as you walk through the gorgeous Eucalyptus-scented bush. I miss South Melbourne market and going out for coffee and cheesecake in the evening.

I don't miss the sunburn, the mossies or the water restrictions. I don't miss the endless suburbs full of ugly houses and the barely-adequate public transport system. I don't miss having a car.

The thing that worries me most of all, of course, is that I will never fit in again back at home - that I will never settle back into Melbourne life, and that I will always be full of regret at leaving behind the eccentric, complex cultural whirlpool that is London, with its endless diversions and awesome travel opportunities.

But my family are a strong drawcard. I miss being part of their boring, everyday lives; turning up for dinner and raiding the pantry for treats just like I did as a teenager. Hugging my parents for ages and laughing uproariously at my Dad (with Mum telling me off for encouraging him). My Mum's spaghetti bolognese. I feel I have been living in a precarious, bare-knucked way since I have been away, deprived of the emotional cushioning and comfort their presence in my life provides. I miss my youngest brother, and all that has happened in his life since I have been away - asking his lovely hairdresser on a date, their increasingly serious courtship, buying his first home with her, their engagement. I am awe-struck to watch my little brother building the foundations of a proper, grown-up life for himself.

Sometimes I wish I could split myself in two and lead two separate lives; one settled down in Melbourne, the other untethered and responsibility-free in Europe. I guess I just don't know how good I've got it.

*I don't know where this voice comes from, but I wish it would shut the hell up.
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