Monday, 30 December 2013

Bourne Again...

I've been enjoying a little staycation for this 'week between' Christmas and the start of the New Year. It's been a week of pottering about at Gidday HQ: literary lie-ins (aka indulgent reading in bed until somewhere around 10am), comfy couch sessions and bouts of cleaning with a few dips into some local delights - a trip to The Phoenix Cinema to see Gone With The Wind (all 4 hours of it - at last) and a fab girly catch up over cocktails & lunch at Skylon  - in between.

After a couple of brisk, blue-sky days, the weather is wet and a bit dismal today so amid continued bursts of cleaning up, I'm aiming to tick a few more movies off the I-haven't-seen-it-yet list with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes already under my belt this morning.

Speaking of ticking things off my list, I want to tell you about my Boxing Day. You see, I went to Sadler's Wells to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake as a Christmas present to myself. Yes peeps, Happy Christmas to me.

I first saw Matthew Bourne's work in July last year. Play Without Words left me thrilled and awestruck and his take on Sleeping Beauty was clever and fun and brilliant. His Swan Lake, which premiered in 1995 with an all-male 'swan ensemble', has something of a reputation. So even though my previous experiences of Swan Lake had left me bored and wondering what the point was, I took my seat just before 2.30pm feeling quite excited.

The first familiar notes of Tchaikovsky's score swelled from the orchestra pit soon after, the curtain rose and I was riveted.  

It was theatrical and dramatic and witty, filled with light and shadow and the most extraordinary dancing I've ever seen. And for the first time I really felt the story. It was visceral - I could feel the fear and liberation in the prince, the reined-in majesty of his mother and the sycophantic expectation of his subjects. But most of all I felt the magnetism and menace of the swans. Their flapping fury, their drooping necks and piercing eyes, the muscular ebb and flow of sweeping, swooping limbs that were, it seemed, inseparable from the music.

Source: www.sadlerswells.com
Source: www.sadlerswells.com
www.sadlerswells.com
Source: www.new-adventures.net
Source: www.sadlerswells.com
Source: www.new-adventures.net
It was an amazing show and for me, it was if Tchaikovsky's powerful score had finally met its match in the powerful movement on the stage. I felt incredibly emotional and as the cast took their final curtain call, I was on my feet applauding furiously. 

Thinking back, I can still feel the moment that the final note evaporated into the air and the curtain fell. The slight prickling of my skin, the full feeling welling in my chest and the profound sense of being touched by something extraordinary.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Answer To Virginia...

Many years ago, Mum gave me a Christmas card. You might be thinking that this was not an unusual thing for a mother to do, give her 11 year old daughter a Christmas card. But this was a special card.

You see this was our first Christmas since Mum and Dad had separated. We'd moved to Melbourne 6 months before, were living in a small flat which backed onto a cold and windswept beach and had struggled to settle. Our new school was fraught with assessments on things I had never been judged on before (my prior record of scholarly success undermined by my 'chicken scratchings' hand-writing) and for the first time in my life, I was teased mercilessly by the 'in' crowd and found it hard to make friends. 

So Christmas rolled around. For several years I had known 'the truth' about Santa and yet the season had still been magical - the lights, the tree, the carols. But in 1980, the magic was missing for me.

And then I read about 8 year old Virginia O'Hanlon, a little girl whose friends had tested her belief in Santa and who wrote to New York's Sun newspaper in 1871 to ask for the truth: Is there really a Santa Claus? The unsigned response (later attributed to newsman Francis Pharcellus Church) was printed on 21st September that year and it was these words that I found when I opened my Christmas card over a century later...


The answer to Virginia

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.


Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. 

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.


No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


And while it didn't make me believe in Santa Claus again, I still have this card 33 years later. So perhaps Church was right - Santa Claus does live forever, albeit in the child-like heart of a 44 year old. 

So for you my marvellous Gidday-ers, I wish each of you a little sprinkling of child-like hope and wonder this Christmas.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

It Must Be Saint, Nick...

Apologies for the grammar peeps...
Here in old London town, there is just one sleep to go until the fat man in the red suit brings his bounty (although by rights all of you Down Under should be tucked up in bed by now, listening for the pitter patter of tiny hooves on the rooftop).

Having been left with limited options by my seasonal shopping sloth, UPS has been the mandatory vehicle of choice for my deliveries Down Under. So in a final burst of commercial Christmas chicanery, I've been hunting for a few alternative methods of delivery to ensure my goodies make it across the miles in time for future big days.

Firstly bbc.co.uk have reported that the good folk at Amazon are working on Prime Air, a delivery service that will provide customers with their order by drone...



How very cool. But it's five years away, needs to get through a regulator or two and I imagine it would take rather a long time for my less-than-2.3kg parcel to reach Australia (although interestingly Australia does allow the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial use). Perhaps not very practical.

For more immediate gratification, I really like this idea from West Jet. Turn up at the airport, make your special request...et voila! It's a carousel of Christmas that meets you at the other end of your journey...


Now that's my kind of arrival. However, this might just be leaving things a little too much to chance so it's back to the drawing board.

And then I came across an article on Nick Saint. Who runs a delivery firm.



So it would appear that my search is over. 


It must be Saint, Nick.

One sleep to go til we find out whether you've been naughty or nice peeps...are you ready?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Art Of Giving...


That's right peeps. Just 4 days to go. And I'll bet there are a few of you who are feeling a little stressed by your unfinished Christmas shopping. 

Having to post mine overseas means that I cannot rely on a Christmas week dash around the shops but I admit that things did get a bit 'skinny' this year. The most difficult part is to find interesting yet post-friendly gifts - and I get so delighted when I find the perfect thing - so each year there's a bit of hunting around and inspired choosing to avoid sending yet more scarves, jewellery or gadgets. And in my shopping sorties this year, I've seen some corkers.

For the green thumb...
 

Edens Paper's plant-able wrapping paper has seeds embedded into the paper. Rip off your carrots, stick 'them' in the soil, water and watch them grow. In onion, tomato, chilli, broccoli and of course carrot, one sheet will set you back $9.95 or buy a mixed pack containing one of each for $39.95.

For the geographically challenged...


This fabulous 120 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ding Studio features all of London's postcode districts. If you fancy yourself a true local and think you know your way about, set yourself a challenge by completing it without looking at the picture. It's available from The National Gallery shop for £15.

For the young...


I'm led to believe that one of the many frustrations of having healthy, growing kids is just that - they grow out of everything! Go Plae has come up with a way of letting you customise shoes for your little ones to allow for their growing feet. There's even a variety pack of decorative bands so that young fashionistas can style for every outfit. Only available in stores stateside but you can order on-line at http://www.goplae.com/

For the young at heart...

Remember pinball machines? In my teens I could make a dollar's worth of 20 cent pieces last a really long time waiting for Mum to finish work at our local tenpin bowling centre. Then 'pinnies' got complex and expensive, I got interested in other things and now when I venture back, it's all over in an instant. But with this Duo Pinball Controller I might be able to get in a bit of practice and see off all those young things. Available for £11.99 at 
http://www.iwantoneofthose.com.

For the nostalgic just plain weird...


This one fascinates and disturbs me in turns. To keep those who've passed on close by, this service from And Vinyly will press their ashes into a vinyl record. You get to choose the soundtrack (24mins - 12mins each side) and then share your revolutionary memorial with up to 30 recipients. The basic package (for 30 discs) will cost you £3,000. *gulp* I am tempted to say something tacky about turning in their grave...

And speaking of corkers, for the aspiring sommelier...


...oh hang on, that's my Naked Wines delivery. Happy Christmas to me!

Remember there's only 4 sleeps to go but there's still plenty of time...just.

If you get your skates on...

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Throwing Some Shapes..

Ten sleeps to go until Christmas Day...


...and today I was off for a bit of festive lunching at The Chop House at Butlers Wharf. The Chop House is nestled just under the south eastern ramparts of Tower Bridge and an easy 15 minute stroll from London Bridge tube station. Needless to say I left home in plenty of time for a little pre-lunch strolling - and you just never know when travel plans may go awry.

My 'extra' time quickly disappeared as I admired this relatively unknown - to me anyway - part of London. And I couldn't help but whip out the smartphone and record its moody shape-shifting for posterity this post.

It all looked a bit un-auspicious when I first got there...


...but lovely little shops and cafes lined the cobbled laneways and taking a smart left turn led me to The Galleria...


...whose exit on to the river brought the City's growing mix of modern shapes above the old sharply into focus.


Looking right, the White Tower of the Tower of London (left) and Tower Bridge beckoned despite the damp and dreary skies...


...while at my back, this strange tree-like shape took my fancy amidst the stark winter branches that surrounded it.


Sometimes a new position brings a whole new perspective and standing outside the More Riverside complex with The Shard looming in the background was an opportunity to see London's urban face, washed shiny by the rain...

..while the controversial City Hall beckoned further along the river bank.


And no Thames-side meandering would be complete without the magnificent Tower Bridge. It didn't seem to matter how many times I have seen it or how many photographs I've taken before, my hand moved automatically to my pocket to take just a few more... 



So it would seem that I'm not the only one throwing some shapes this festive season.

Only ten sleeps to go...

...you should be dancin'...yeah.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Brand Santa...

There are 13 sleeps to go until Christmas Day (12 if you've just woken up Down Under)...


...and the Gidday HQ stash is looking good under the verdant boughs of my un-real - aka plastic - tree. 


Christmas is in full swing on this side of the planet with my first festive do under my belt and a super-busy week ahead as I do more of the necessary yuletide rounds - socialising, dancing and raising a glass or two (oh alright, five) to pay homage to this most wonderful time of the year.

And I've also been keeping my eye out for any clever Christmas chicanery to share.

This morning I was indulging in a quick browse through my Facebook feed before the tube went underground when I found this...

Source: www.quietroom.co.uk
For those of you who don't know, haven't guessed, have never looked up my LinkedIn profile or simply don't care, I work in Marketing. 

(Please note, this makes me a Marketer, not a Marketeer. I didn't go off to some club, wave my arms around and wear black plastic ears to get myself a career.)

But I digress.

The folk at Quietroom have put together this brilliant Santa 'brand book', a fabulous tribute to the fat man in all his glory and a complete p*sstake of marketers everywhere. I chuckled at the brand promise, laughed at the brand house and guffawed at the brand assets being 'geographilised'...and then thought about all the brand books I've worked with over the years.

Well, I guess there's nothing like a little irreverent festive fun to put things in perspective.

13 sleeps to go peeps..time to Snap It Clap It Wrap It.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sorry, I Spent It On Myself...

Today marks 20 sleeps to go until we all embark on our annual gift-giving frenzy.


(Although those of you in Oz will wake up to only 19 sleeps.)

I know this isn't going to be very Christmas spirited of me but I laughed out loud in the office this morning at the latest in a long line of seasonal shopping plugs. This is from London 'posh shop' Harvey Nichols...


I was always taught that it was better to give than to receive...

...but then we don't have Harvey Nicks Down Under.

In other news, Lil Chicky wins the 2013 Christmas bonanza with the surprise arrival of an unmarked box at Gidday HQ yesterday...

...which I opened. And then had to apologise and duly promise to wrap said contents up, put under the tree and exclaim with surprise and delight on Christmas morning.

Oh the shame! 

(Note: There is no advance present opening in the Hamer Clan - one must always wait for 'the big day'.)

Just as well there are only 20 sleeps until unrestrained receiving Christmas...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Let The Festivities Commence...

Today is December 1st and that can mean only one thing:


It's been a hive of festive activity at Gidday HQ today. First order of business was the construction of the Mum's traditional seasonal supplement, the advent calendar...


It took me a while to find today's window, hidden as it was in a back street...


Then there was a spot of present wrapping to make sure I could get some Seattle-bound goodies into tomorrow's post (Seattle-A, look out for Santa-Kym's delivery very soon.)

Then it was time for that favourite of all my favourite Christmas things - decorating the tree.

I missed out on this last year between lounging about in Langkawi and meandering around Melbourne - and since Christmas 2011 I've travelled to Krakow and Amsterdam (among many other places) and have added a few more objets d'Christmas to my horde. 

Needless to say I spent a happy couple of hours laying out all of my carefully wrapped ornaments and awarding them their leafy homes for the next month...


And last but by no means least, Alfie Bear has a new Christmas hat...


So it's all systems go here at Gidday HQ.

Let the festivities commence!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Commuting Gems...The Garden Bridge

A few weeks ago I was reading Time Out magazine on the tube ride home when I was inspired by the latest campaign to have the support of the fabulous Joanna Lumley, The Garden Bridge project.

Image Source: arup.co.uk
The Garden Bridge is set to be London's first green pedestrian walkway stretching across the Thames between Southbank and Covent Garden on the north side of the river. The project has been commissioned by TfL (Transport for London) as part of their vision to create a pedestrian river crossing - the aim is to complete this rural corridor by 2017.

Image Source: arup.co.uk
Thomas Heatherwick is the creative genius behind this verdant proposal. He's the one who designed that spectacular 204 petal Olympic Cauldron for London 2012 and has also designed a new-style 'London bus' some of which hit the streets earlier the same year. He envisages a peaceful and rejuvenating precinct for the nation's capital, one which reflects the beauty of each of the seasons and creates opportunities for commuters to linger and take a breath in the hustle and bustle of their day. 

Image Source: arup.co.uk
Can you imagine what an amazing legacy that would be? I feel quite inspired by such commitment to quality of life and the philosophy of green living.

There's currently a public consultation about the Garden Bridge project which can be found here. So if you feel inspired and have something you'd like to say about it, you have until the 20th December (2013) to register your views.

There's also a rumour that the bridge would feature a Christmas tree during the festive season.

I'm in...where do I sign?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Composers, Canalboats And Christmas Cheer...

What with lots of changes, challenges and general excitement over the last few months I've been a little lax in my pottering about London (note I do not include my recent tourist-ing with Lil Chicky in this - that was by no stretch 'pottering') and today it was a combination of music and markets that had my full attention. Having been in Chicago for work this week (and slept the morning away yesterday 'in recovery'), today saw me up, about and out the door for a little culture and some festive cheer. 

First stop (well after the tube ride and the large soy cappuccino purchase at Caffe Nero) was Kings Place for Bach Unwrapped, a one hour concert featuring the work of JS Bach, his protege JG Goldberg, and his son, CPE Bach. For those of you in the know about these things, today's Trio Sonatas programme consisted of:

Trio in G for flute and violin
Trio in C for two violins (collaboration with Goldberg)
Trio in D Minor for two violins (collaboration with his son)
Trio Sonata from Musical Offering

(For those of you who know nothing about these things, the violin, cello and harpsichord were joined by another violin for the second and third pieces and a flute for the first and the fourth.)

Apparently the last piece, Musical Offering was borne of the composer's meeting with Frederick The Great in 1747 - the King challenged Bach to improvise over a theme he had written and while Bach rose to the immediate challenge, on returning home he composed Musical Offering and despatched it to King Frederick. The programme note claimed that Musical Offering has been dazzling musicians with its brilliance ever since.

While I don't know very much about classical music, I find it incredibly moving and very easy to lose myself in the ebb and flow of the music so after an enjoyable hour, I wandered out and headed back to Kings Cross Station in a leisurely snap-happy stroll. 

Despite my having been there several times, I had never actually walked out the back of Kings Place before today - lo and behold there's a rather lovely deck which overlooks Regent's Canal...





...and the stroll back to the station along the canal was quite pretty too.




The area around Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations has been undergoing a major redevelopment since 2008 and in the midst of the construction site, there's quite a pleasant walkway - dotted with titbits about the area's history - which connects the stations to Regent's Canal. This is the view coming back from the canal, the spire of the Grade I listed St Pancras International station building standing tall above the 'debris'.



The forecourt between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations.
The second half of my Sunday foray was spent wandering along the Southbank Christmas Market. There is something deliciously festive about this market. The decorated stalls stretched along the riverside path from The London Eye to the National Theatre with stallholders plugging their wares (hand made gifts and eclectic arts and crafts feature heavily), tempting passersby with a fresh waffle, a little glühwein or perhaps some kind of German sausage concoction.


Nearly there - this glimpse of Big Ben framed by the railway bridge caught my eye from Concert Hall Walk on the way to Southbank.
This 'urban' paint job decorated the entrance at the back of Royal Festival Hall. 
Traditional festive cheer above one stall...
...faced off against Scrooge on another.
German sausage concoction? Enough said...
The twinkling lights, the smell of roasted chestnuts...I just love it. Even the nip in the air as I snuggled deeper into my coat, hat and scarf was a reminder of the merriment to come...in just 31 sleeps.

Needless to say I've started my Christmas shopping...

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Turning Japanese...

As things settle back into a normal rhythm here at Gidday HQ, I'm finding some head space to register the curiosities that I come across in my going about in the world each day. This week has seen me ooh-ing at 3D printed food and aah-ing at spray on clothes but the one that really got me going was an injection of fun in the place where I least expected it.

With the amount of travelling I do, one of the biggest bugbears is the wait for luggage (alongside the wait in the immigration queue). Luckily I can get away with carry-on for most trips but when I think of the number of times I have strained to see - amid the proliferation of black - my trusty grey and green suitcase emerge onto the carousel, my delight upon spotting it trundling towards me is often too long coming.

It would seem that the Japanese have understood such a plight and have decided to make the wait more enjoyable by introducing some local character to the baggage hall - literally. 

In Tottori Airport, Medama no Ovaji - the 'eyeball' father from famous manga series Kitaro (of the) Graveyard - rides around and around the carousel, welcoming waiting travellers with open arms. 

al5
Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com
Now this would really jerk me out of my post-travel stupor. And after wondering whether jetlag had finally done a huge number on me, I imagine I would rub my eyes, search frantically for my phone and upload a quick disbelieving pic to my Facebook circle.

But what's really great about this scheme is that each airport gets to choose its own theme and so is able to promote its own particular city or region.

Toyama's Kitokito Airport promotes the area's fresh seafood...

al3
Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com
Okayama takes its inspiration from the local tale of Momotaro who's said to be born from a peach...

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Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com
And the loquats (or mikan oranges) at Nagasaki airport stand testament to the region's proud claim as Japan's #1 producer.

Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com
And it's not just at the airport where the Japanese apply their quirky brand of fun. 

In an effort to inspire children's interest in the big wide world out there, you can buy a tour through Unagi Travel for your child's toy(s). Said teddies are sent off for 2-3 weeks to tour a region of Japan, keeping those 'at home' updated with Facebook posts, photos and even a postcard before returning home with a bunch of photos on CD and even a video of their grand tour. 

video

What a great idea. I wonder whether Alfie Bear would be up for a tour? 


Huh? What do you mean it's only for children...

ps...and in being reminded of Alfie Bear's first festive foray, I was then reminded to let you know that yes peeps, I counted today and there are 38 sleeps to go until Christmas (37 if you are about to wake up Down Under). Gulp...