Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We've come a long way, baby

I have already mentioned the truck driver who wound down his window to yell "LEGS" in my direction as I cycled to work recently. I only just thought of the appropriate response, which would have been "ARSE".

This morning, another truck driver shouted: "I finish up at 1!" (to which, I realise now, I should have suggested that he spend his afternoon at the zoo, where ogling is encouraged). But really, both blokes were rather polite in their approach, don't you think?

To top both of these Random Street Hollers, a friend reported a chav-tastic teen who called out "oy, luv!" to get her attention and then proceeded to tell her, "You look really nice today luv, and I 'ope you have a good day".

I'm pretty sure it wasn't like this in the Seventies. Thank goodness some things have changed, eh?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Clumsy art-lover seeks robust artworks

So it's not just me then.

I went to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the beginning of Winter, and I was so entranced by his glorious "Yellow"...

...that as I leaned in to better appreciate the impact of the colour on that immense scale, I got dizzy and tripped, stumbling onto the artwork. I immediately jumped back as a wizened security lady hissed at me, her face contorted with outrage.

Disregarding my natural clumsiness, I am one of those terrible people who often cannot resist touching sculptures. It's just that they are so damn inviting sometimes, and I must admit that the air of stuffiness in many galleries brings out my inner rebel. I was dying to squoosh my hands into the red wax of Svayambh at the same show. Kapoor is partly to blame for creating such beautiful, awe-inspiring yet invitingly visceral works.

Luckily for cat-bum-faced security vigilantes everywhere, I managed to restrain myself for the rest of the show. But the lure of touching the apparently weightless tumble of mirrored bubbles in the courtyard proved too much. Artists - if your sculpture is outdoors, exposed to the elements, then all bets are off.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Special Guest Recipe: Hot cross bun bread & butter pudding

I can't quite believe I was sunning myself in 36 degree weather mere weeks ago. The tan has yet to fade, but I've already slumped agreeably into my UK Winter diet - the one that consists of eating fatty foods pretty much constantly while gazing out at the grey world through a rain-splattered window. And before you raise your eyebrows at me doing the opposite of what most people are doing in January, I'm eating more in order to fatten myself up! So I don't die of cold! Besides, detoxing is a ridiculous waste of time. It's science, see?

Someone made me this improvised pudding last night. It was so good - fluffy and warming and delicious, and so easy even a big idiot could make it ;)

600ml milk
2 eggs
hot cross buns - 4 to 6, depending on size
butter/margarine for spreading
60g brown sugar
handful of sultanas
a few drops of vanilla extract
cinnamon/nutmeg to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 180 celcius. Slice the buns through the middle (ie. into top and bottoms), then butter lavishly and cut the pieces diagonally into triangles. Beat the eggs and milk together, then add the vanilla. Line a deep baking dish with a single layer of the hot cross bun pieces, sprinkle with some of the sugar and a little of the spices, then repeat until you run out of pieces. Pour the egg/milk mix over the top and bake covered in the oven for an hour, removing the lid for the last 15 minutes.

All for the cause, people. There are still several long months of Winter to go, after all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Layered like lasagne

Boxing Day AM: I am attending a BBQ on the Yarra in honour of Middle Bro's 30th birthday, enjoying the hot, hot rays of sunshine on the last day of my holiday.

Boxing Day PM: While lying in the park with a friend as the sun sinks behind palm trees, I discover that the backs of my arms are pink and tender, and I have acquired some really quite impressive sandal marks on the tops of my feet. Never have I been so delighted to be sunburnt. If nothing else it will remind me of the sun as I return to bleak mid-Winter London.

Two days later: I land at Heathrow amid a flurry of the usual doomsday Winter headlines: "ARCTIC WINTER", "TRANSPORT CHAOS" etc. etc., which I ignore in much the same way I ignore the "HEATWAVE", "TRANSPORT CHAOS" headlines that pop up every time the mercury hits a sweltering 28 degrees in the Summer. The British media love nothing more than exaggerating the effects of any weather that differs from "fine and mild" (unless it's gleefully reporting on drunk young celebs showing their undies).

This time, however, it turns out to be slightly closer to the truth than usual.

I have completely forgotten how to dress for this weather, as I seem to do every year. It's like childbirth, I guess, in that we are wired to forget the pain so that we don't all move to the Bahamas (and stop reproducing).

A few days after I get back, I cycle to work in an extra vest and big Winter coat, with just one layer of tights under a miniskirt. They're wool, I tell myself, it'll be fine. Except that it's not. The wind wooshes up my coat sleeves, down my neck, straight through my wool tights, and assaults my exposed face. I'm stunned by how cold it is. It is literally breath-taking. A truck driver stopped at the lights yells "LEGGGGS!" out of his window at me, which would make me smile wryly under normal circumstances (it does seem a fairly polite observation, and is to the point without being smutty or using rude words), but my face feels like it's carved of ice, and the few brain cells that aren't frozen solid are concentrating very hard on my survival, which depends on me reaching the office before hypothermia sets in.

Must keep moving. Must ignore pain in forehead and chin. Must get to office.

By the time I get there, I am rigid with cold, absolutely frozen to the bone, and my face is bright red. I feel like a big Australian fool.

So I have retired the bike for now. The streets are treacherous, especially the back streets which haven't been gritted and are covered in the Invisible Black Ice of Death.

But I think I'm learning to outsmart that grinning idiot Jack Frost. I have taken to wearing 2 vests under my work top, and a fleece under my coat. Six layers in total, plus various woolen accessories for exposed bits. I'm eating twice as much as in the Summer, strictly for the purposes of building up a prudent layer of insulation, you understand.

Pass me the After Eights, will you? And that leftover Christmas cake while you're at it. Don't be shy with the brandy butter.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My top five albums of 2009

Can you believe it's twenty-flippin'-ten? We is livin' in da future, man! Science, why do we not have hover-boards yet? Or teleportation? Or microscopic robots rebuilding our bodies continuously from the inside?

I was quite looking forward to those little nano-squidlets being injected into my bod to exercise me from the inside, fixing all the shit bits as they go, while I bumble on on eating too many biscuits.

Stupid science. To music!

(Click on the pics to link to my favouritest song off that album)

by Florence and the Machine


I've already gushed a waterfall of praise over this woman and her heavenly music... the love affair continues, growing more impassioned with each listen.

The First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale

The First Days of Spring

Possibly the most lovely break-up album of all time. Best listened to from start to finish if you are suffering from heart-break, otherwise you may never get past the doleful I have nothing to witness the first glimmers of sunshine showing through by Love of An Orchestra. Almost makes having a broken heart worth it (almost).

Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear


A sumptuous, complex and wide-ranging album which unfurls its charms slowly, like a flowering tea. Truly original, despite the "new Fleet Foxes" tag.

Two Dancers by Wild Beasts

Two Dancers

Strictly speaking, I have only just listened to this properly in the last week or so, but I adore it and I can't make a list of the best albums of 2009 without including it. Swooping and stunning (while hooting and howling).

Middle Cyclone by Neko Case

Middle Cyclone

Heartfelt and brave. I have a lot of respect for this lady, and I could happily listen to her honeyed gospel vocals til I'm 90, when I plan to die in my rocking chair on a porch somewhere, listening to my ipod (or future incarnation thereof).

* * * * *

Oh, and then there is this dirty little secret which I'm too ashamed to file under my top 5, even though I have listened to it a fair bit this year. I can't explain. Please don't ask me to. The lyrics are truly awful, it's "dance" music which falls under some kind of newfangled "electronic" genre, and Calvin himself is the biggest, dorkiest nerd in popular music since Moby - but damn if he doesn't put a big goofy smile on my face.

I think I just destroyed all the indie credit I'd built up in my top 5 right there, haven't I? Sh*t-sticks.
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