Friday, 18 April 2014

A Milestone With Meaning...

It's Good Friday here in the UK and after an impromptu dinner out last night with a work friend (and a nice bottle of red shared between us) it's been a lazy start to the day. But with Vegemite toast done, the coffee machine warming up and back episodes of Frasier on the telly, I've popped by to see what was happening.

And it seems rather a lot - in the last few days, Gidday from the UK has tipped into triple figures and passed 100,000 page views.


It might not seem so much to some but when I started tapping away in 2008, it seemed quite impossible that anyone outside my nearest and dearest would actually find my witterings in the big wide blogosphere, let alone read them with any regularity. And that's because I really started this blog for me, to find an outlet to express both the richness and ordinariness of my everyday expat moments that seemed to fall short in their relating during long distance phone calls to loved ones. 

But it appears that there are many more of you out there - and for the most part we've never physically met each other - and I feel enormously humble when I think about that.

So whether you've been visiting for a while or you're a newbie here, thank you for stopping by and being part of the Gidday community.

And have a wonderful Easter however you choose to spend it. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Having Reservations...

Yesterday I went out with some friends of mine to see a show followed by some drinks and dinner. 

We had a great time. Handbagged was witty, topical and a lot of fun and with a few drinks under our belts (there may have been three grapefruit Cosmopolitans involved...for me), we expected that dinner at American-eatery-in-Soho, Jackson and Rye, would contribute some worthy state-side vittels to finish off our evening. 

And the verdict? My inaugural grits (a kind of polenta porridge) were weird, pleasant-ish but not right with shrimps, my sea bass with apple and fennel slaw was light and lovely and the pecan pie was mmm...mmm scrumptious!

But I digress. You see, Jackson and Rye don't take reservations which is a pet peeve of mine. And I am coming across this situation in London with greater and greater frequency. 

A catch-up dinner with a friend at no-bookings Italian 'tapas' joint Polpo last year was planned around being there just before 7pm to ensure we got a table rather than when we were actually hungry or what was convenient for us. And looking for somewhere to eat after the theatre with Lil Chicky last October was fraught with queue after queue.


(We eventually found a table at Tuttons right on Covent Garden which was lovely...and for future reference, book-able.)

I remember when Jamie Oliver opened his sans booking restaurant chain Jamie's Italian in 2008 and we thought we'd head down to the one in Kingston to give it a try. We queued outside - no room inside for waiting - for a barely acceptable 15 minutes. I've been to Jamie's Italian once since when we were lucky to have only a five minute wait. 

To say I was put off is putting it mildly. I accept that if I haven't booked then I have to take what I can get but this we-don't-take-bookings nonsense is all getting a bit much for me. I don't want to have to trawl Soho post-show because of this growing 'no booking' policy. What ever happened to looking after the customer? Couldn't they at least allow some tables to be booked, leaving some free for these apparently all-important walk-ins?

Polpo's website offers an explanation of sorts, saying that their casual Venetian 'bacaros' are designed to encourage the locals to pop in for a bite to eat and to build a sense of community amongst their regulars. There are 3 Polpos and 1 Polpetto in Central London, none of which take bookings. Who are these 'locals' I wonder?

In any case it would appear these places are doing rather well and that the standing in line has become a badge of honour - after all, if you've queued (or waited in the bar) for at least an hour, the food had better be rave-worthy, or at least good enough for you to tell everyone about. I don't know about you but after an hour, my palate becomes a little less discerning, swamped by a-drink-(or two)-while-I-waited or the sounds of my stomach growling with hunger...or both.

Luckily last night's drinks were at one of our favourite drinking holes, the Freedom Bar, just two doors down from Jackson and Rye so The Umpire kindly did a recce before we gave up our pre-dinner perch. And the meal was delicious.

But if I'm really honest, I have my reservations as to how long I really would have waited for it.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Literary London...

For those of you who keep an eye on my literary forays - whether through The Book Nook or on Good Reads - you'll know that my Year in Books has gotten off to somewhat of a prolific start. Having set my yearly target at 54 books (that's one a week then bumped up to match last year's tally), I am already reading #24. That's right - three shy of the halfway mark and only 25% of the year gone. 
So I was walking up to North Finchley last week and noticed this street poster for CityRead London.


Intrigued I came home, googled and found out about this wonderful initiative.

Launched in 2012, CityRead London is an annual literary festival held in April each year which is designed to have us read a little something about London...together. Then throughout the month, the book is brought to life with literary events and talks in borough libraries all over the capital. This year it's Louisa Young's My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You, a love story set during the first World War. Released early in 2011, this book was short-listed for the Wellcome Prize, the Costa Novel Award and The National Book Awards that same year.

There has been a plethora of authors eager to showcase London and all of its charms over the centuries (think back to Charles Dickens in the 1800s who actually wrote part of Martin Chuzzlewit just up the road here in Finchley). So the choice must have been a challenging one with so much to choose from but for all its accolades, I had not heard of Young or this particular book.

I love reading about this wonderful city: its history, its place in the modern world or simply as a backdrop to a cracking story. One of my very favourite books of the last few years is John Lanchester's Capital so with all of this London literary love in mind, I have Amazon One-Click-ed Young's war tale to Audrey's lovely e-pages. 

What an inspired and clever way to promote reading (and to get me to download yet another book to my kindle this week).

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On The Shore...

This month's Calendar Challenge inspiration comes from waiting around for hours for something to happen - also known as fishing.



I went fishing once. I caught a small reef shark off Mission Beach in Queensland (Australia) when I was in my teens and having shrieked with fear and promptly dropped the fishing rod for someone else to deal with, I decided that perhaps the whole waiting patiently deal was not at all worth it.

I played golf once too. Surrounded by advice at the first tee, I wiggled and kept my eye on the ball and swung the club as instructed. And I smacked that little white ball right down the middle of the fairway to achieve a birdie (that's one less than par for the uninitiated). Nothing to this I thought as I collected my ball from the hole. And things went downhill from there, with both my beginner's luck and my patience running out by holes two and five respectively.

Apparently patience is a virtue and good things happen to those who wait.

I tried to apply these guiding principles to skiing in my mid-twenties. I'd been when I was twelve and after three days of valiant effort graduated to the next class, promptly hurt my ankle and spent quite some time sitting in the snow waiting for help and then sitting around the chalet waiting for everyone else to come back. I was twenty-five before the opportunity arose again (how's that for patience!) and this time it only took an hour before it was ski-do to the rescue again.

So I've decided that there are times when it's infinitely preferable to be the idiot standing on the shore.


Abu Dhabi, UAE - March 2014
Amsterdam, The Netherlands - October 2013
Cottage Lake, Washington USA - June 2013
Paris, France - May 2013
Frankston, Australia - January 2013
Langkawi, Malaysia - December 2012
And let me tell you, waiting on the shore is absolutely fine with me.

-------------------------------
Calendar Challenge 2014 - Back Catalogue
Keep Calm And Carry On
Sour Grapes
Water Water Everywhere