Sunday, 31 May 2009

Diversity for the Queen...

Britain's Got Talent - so they claim - but with all the fuss in the press about songstress Susan Boyle, I'd kind of gone off it all...until I heard that dance act Diversity took line honours in last night's Final. The prize (for those of you who don't know) is that they get to perform at the Royal Variety Performance 2009...oh and they also get £100,000. Nice!!!

I love great dancing and it was with chills up my spine that I watched Diversity's Finals performance on Britain's Got Talent on youtube this morning - amazing, amazing, amazing! The choreography alone left me speechless enough (what an awesome future, Ashley Banjo has...and he's studying physics???) but the execution by the guys was just extraordinary and it made me smile and go 'wow!' in alternate breaths and I felt thrilled and disappointed (in an 'I just want to see more' way) when it was over. So I went back to see their other BGT performances:

First Audition:
The Semis:
The Final:

What a showcase! And what worthy, worthy winners...Britain really does have talent!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Angels & Demons...

After being a bit disappointed by the movie version of The Da Vinci Code (particularly after loving the book) it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I entered the darkened cinema on Sunday to see Angels & Demons - the book that came first and the story I loved best. And I am pleased to say that, despite some slight script tampering to pretend that The Da Vinci Code story came first, Ron Howard did a fantastic job. A great race against time with that amazing twist right at the end, we ran all over Rome with Robert Langdon, reading the symbols and absorbed in the 'legend' of the Illuminati right to the end. So exhausted were we from our thrilling adventure that afterwards, we decided to refresh ourselves Italian-style - at Pizza Express. Buona salute!!

To see the trailer itself, just click on the blog post title

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Revisiting my Youth...

I spent last evening revisiting my teenage years - surrounded by thirty 16 year olds at a bqq/costume birthday party for J's daughter. Wow, let me tell you there's nothing like it for reminding one's childless self (again and again...about 30 over!) that one is actually old enough to have children of this age!
I have known J's kids since we first met (before J & I discovered that we might like to be 'an item') and it has been quite an extraordinary thing to be part of their lives and watch them growing up into two fantastic human beings. I would never profess to feel about them like their Mum & Dad (I can hear all of you parents out there affirming that this is something so unique and special). But I can confirm that an extraordinary connection can develop out of learning about each other and working together (of sorts!) to understand how this new 'friendship' in the emotional maelstrom of parents' being separated can really work...
Anyway I was chuffed to be invited last night (albeit a bit last minute due to J not checking his text messages!) and it all went well - A's friends are great, there were no melees or emotional outpourings to contend with and the house still standing. Would I be 16 again? No...but what fun it was to be amongst these bright young things with their lives all before them...and what great memories it brought back for me.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Queensberry Rules...Are The Gloves Coming Off?

In a couple of recent email exchanges with my step-mum, we have been bemoaning how little change for good people in organisations seem to be able to achieve. We are both full of examples in politics, business, religion and community groups (there's my residents association sitting right on my doorstep!) where passion and a willingness to put oneself on the line, instead of sitting around whingeing, appears to get squashed under a mantle of esoteric waffle. In fact, in watching those around absolve themselves of the responsibility to achieve anything with great alacrity and frequency, one's energy seems to become more absorbed in deciding whether to throw oneself on one's sword for the cause or adopt a pragmatic 'hands in the air' retreat.

I attended the launch of a white paper yesterday on the future of my profession and was dismayed at the lack of 'way forward' that the professional body, of which I am a member, was standing for. The big multi-nationals are used time and again to show examples of where good practice delivers results - but not everyone works for a multi-national or for that matter a SME (small-medium enterprise) so that leaves a rather significant group in the middle ground...those who haven't been made redundant, that is...whose needs are not being served.

I have always been one for sticking my 'money' (so to speak) where my mouth is so I've recently become the Treasurer for one of the Institute's new Member Interest Groups and am determined to champion a more pragmatic approach (to the IG) as part of this. But will sticking my chin out again just result in it being an easy target for the 'right hook' of esoteric waffle and the 'upper cut' comfortable apathy? Only time will tell...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Milk & Cookies...

Not working at the moment gives me the opportunity to indulge in lots of different things but also to enjoy resting in the times between all of the doing. I seem to have loads more energy - both physical and mental - the latter which, for those that know me, is always looking for an outlet in reading, crosswords, puzzles etc but I am also sleeping more soundly each night than I have for a long time.

There are times when being surrounded by busy working people makes me feel a little lazy (old habits die hard!) but it does make me wonder whether we all wouldn't be better off with a little less of the doing and a bit more of the in-between resting.

I have a desk calendar that has a 'thought' for each day and here is today's:

"Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap." Barbara Jordan

Would this give us a small space to regroup, re-energise and re-focus - to rest between the 'doings' of life?

Imagine how quiet it would be...

Resting...near Ullswater, Lake District, August 2007

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Fotografía Extraordinaria...

Fotografía Extraordinaria...its Dutch for 'Extraordinary Photograph'...which is apparently what the people at Schmap though of my photo of de Waag in Nieuwmarkt when they found it on Flickr and asked could they include it in their Amsterdam City Guide! HOW EXCITING! You can look at it by clicking on the Blog Title....

I took a heap of photos when I went to Amsterdam last October and spent a couple of hours sitting at Cafe in de Waag one brilliantly sunshine-y afternoon chatting with a couple of local students and updating my travel diary. The cafe is located in the oldest Gate in Amsterdam (built in 1488 on St Anthony's Dock as part of the medieval city wall) and in its time, the building has been a public weigh-house, a trade hall for various guilds, a museum and now a restaurant!

Anyway enough about that...just wanted to share my little thrill so I'm off to bask in the glory of my first ever published (albeit FOC) photo!

Friday, 15 May 2009

News From The Patch: Report Card May 09

I have strawberries!
Green, not-pickable ones as yet but still...strawberries. Check them out...How chuffed am I?

My other children are coming along at different levels of enthusiasm (just like real children I am told)...

- Top of the class goes to the strawbs but not far behind are runner beans (busy 'running' up the bamboo frame), Mizuna lettuce (has grown taller than the container - bless) and peas (I'm thinking I might need to put taller stakes in!)

- Tomatoes, courgettes (or zucchinis for those of you who know better), dwarf french beans (btw - how big are the regular ones??) and all of the herbs are trundling along nicely as are the rocket, spinach and chard. That's an A for effort kids!

- Greater challenges have been faced, however, by the pearl lettuce which have faltered a bit in the shadow cast by mizuna and rocket success so I can see that a bit of T(ender) L(ettuce) C(are) is required here...

So that's about it for the Mid May report card at The to do my rain/sun/rain/sun dance now so we can have more salad and 'eating strawbs' for June!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Under The Weather...

It's a grey, rainy day in Kingston today so there has been very little strawberry stalking I'm afraid...and after seeing the most amazing clear view of Trafalgar Square and London last night from the penthouse of no. 80 Haymarket (the venue for a marketing seminar, nothing more fruity - although the presenter was from a company called Berry Gardens!), it's a bit of a come-down. And just like the climate, I am feeling a little under the weather today so it's perfect for curling up on the couch under a blanket for some light-weight telly...and leaving Alfie to the chores...

What a busy little bear he is....and so proud of being able to help. It makes him feel so grown up. Anyway, I'll be back on my feet soon (but don't tell Alfie - I kind of like a little helper around the place!) and I have a sneaking suspicion the next News From The Patch will be quite exciting...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Tough Love Down Under...

Yesterday was Mother's Day...not in the UK but in I am confident that the British telcos made an absolute fortune from a) all the Aussies phoning home and b) all the phone calls that went over their 'free' threshold. (Here's a tip: I set the kitchen timer for 55mins as I get free calls to Australia up to an hour - if the conversation goes longer, I just hang up and call back for my second freebie).

Whilst I was one of these erstwhile antipodeans (and it was lovely chatting to you Mum!), I actually wanted to tell you about her email to me this morning which followed up on my last blog 'The Australian Way' - about the introduction of random breath testing in the UK 33 years after its advent in Australia. Apparently things have gotten even tougher Down Under...

'...on public holidays, long weekends and times when anything "special" is on eg Melb Cup, AFL Grand Final, Grand Prix, we now have double the normal points lost and double the fine for the period. Also, they now impound the cars of street hoons for 3 months minimum. No car... no drunken races or burn outs..,. Also now the random breath testing is everywhere, almost every time you go out and you can be stopped. Along Nepean Hwy between Mentone and the city, I often get stopped 3 times in the one trip - quite often. They no longer have 6 policemen testing, they have 20, so nobody gets waved through. It's making a big difference, but sadly people still become fatalities.'

So knockin' the top off a cold one around the barbie is not as free and easy as it sounds and any Aussie will tell you that a combination of 'fair play' and negotiation are integral in creating simple, strop-free weekend travel arrangements. Could this be why London is so full of Aussie 'cheer'? Oh how I love the bus(es)...

Also, News from the Patch...I used the first mizuna, rocket, spinach and chard from my garden for our bbq salad last night...the little blighters are going beserk! I am now stalking (daily) my strawberry plants as they tell me once flowers appear, the fruit is not far herbs are getting a regular trim too - fresh mint is amazing with pineapple and vanilla yoghurt and they were a few coriander leaves available to garnish a fairly wicked curry I made last week...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Australian Way...

Well today I read that the UK is following Australia's lead...

"Random breath testing in Australia was first introduced in Victoria in 1976 and within 15 years had halved the amount of people who died in car accidents as a result of drink driving. Although slow to follow our lead, British parliament announced two weeks ago that they planned to implement random breath testing in the UK which will come into affect later this year." Australian Times (

...only 33 years later!

I have no idea why this has taken so long to come to the fore in the UK given Australia is still part of the Commonwealth (my 'Australia should be a offense to the Queen and all of that' I shall save for another day). However, this article does make me realise that I was much more aware of the road toll statistics in Australia than I am here.

Some of the other things I remember include:

- State by state road tolls being televised and published during all major holiday periods as well as on an annual basis (check out There was a slightly competitive feeling between the states to get the lowest road toll and in the case of the annual road toll increasing either state or nationally, this 'bad news' was discussed at length around office water coolers, at weekend bbqs and after work shindigs.

- Drink-driving had a stigma of shame and irresponsibility when I was a teenager. This was led largely by TAC (Transport Accident Commission) television campaigns featuring the slogan, "if you drink and drive, you're a bloody idiot." I remember my younger sister and I being horrified to learn that our parents had driven home after a cocktail party and in another incident, I remember a stand-up row with a boyfriend about me refusing to get in the car and begging him not to drive - both occurred when we were in our teens in the 80s.

- Losing your license in Australia is a bit of a disaster both socially and professionally. Public transport is not very 'joined up' and Australians generally travel a fair distance to work so getting anywhere without driving is a major logistics exercise - unlike the UK. (Yes, you Brits may complain about it but it so-o-o-o works!)

I don't know what the answer is but could building awareness of driving fatalities from an early stage be a start? Does the problem lie in that we perceive our ownership of the action as distinctly separate from the outcomes it produces (which is viewed as someone else's problem)?

Rant over...phew!
(Unless of course someone leaves comments on my blog about this which results in a 'set-to' of soap box sounding off...oh yeah.)

Monday, 4 May 2009

A Cracking Good Read...

I love to read...anything and everything...and even as a little girl, I never went anywhere without a book tucked under my arm. (My Facebook WeRead library is on my blog page so you can see what I've been reading, would like to read and some of my favourites...if you're interested, that is). But I digress - the point of all this is that I have decided to re-read a couple of books by one of my all-time favourite authors, Matthew Reilly.

Matthew is an Australian who has written a number of fast-paced action novels (Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Scarecrow to name a few) but the series I have loved best is the Jack West series: Seven Ancient Wonders, Six Sacred Stones and then Five Greatest Warriors which is due for release in Oct 09...with such a long wait for an impatient soul like myself, to help bide the time until this latest book is released, I have embarked on the Seven Ancient Wonders again. And what a book!

The first time I read this, I could not put it down (and finished it at about 3am) and as I curled up on the couch yesterday afternoon, I could feel the same thrill grip me as I joined Jack, Lily and the rest of the team on their hunt for the world's greatest monuments and the 'treasure' within. I love the way the action is combined with history and archaelogy and the suggestion of 'meaning' behind things like the Pyramids at Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, even though its fiction, just adds to my love of the story.

You'll be pleased to know that I did put it down last night (because J wanted to sleep so - lights out!) and I have just over half left to read...then it will be the Six Sacred Stones and then...a really long wait until October. Matthew, if you're reading this, are you sure you couldn't advance me a copy? Please??

Friday, 1 May 2009

Pieces Of Me...

For those of you who don't know, I am 'between assignments' (better known as being unemployed) and having always been quite a career-oriented girl, have been surprising myself with how many things there are to do in life during the 'work day' eg. veggie-patching (and watching them grow day-by-day, bless!), gym-going (with a vast choice of machines available in the middle of a week day), networking (at non-work conferences and seminars - you meet really interesting people...not that the ones I already know are not completely fascinating...) and best of all, sitting in my sun-filled front window...blogging.

You see, I am completely new to blogging, having never written, let alone followed one. I use to wonder where people found the time, what they actually blogged about and how you kept up the momentum when there was only you to create each new post. I mean I like technology and all that, but am not a huge advocate of things that are not practical and useful to me ie. make my life easier AND more interesting (have tried Plaxo but was not smitten and do not get the Twitter thing at all...) so blogging seemed like a really alien thing that I couldn't relate to at all.

But a conference last year convinced me to 'avago' (Aussie for 'dip you toe in the water') and after a start-stop-start-stop approach, I thought that would be it for me...but part of me wondered - wouldn't this be a great way to invite my friends and family into my 'everydays'?

Choosing a life in a new country on the other side of the world has meant that phone calls tend to be a bit like an exec summary of the highs and lows (and I actually hate phone calls...a long time aversion since I don't know when) but I thought my blog could be about the randomness of living and a way to express the things that touch me every day in my life over here. And so I began again...and as I went along, it became easier...I noticed the things I smiled about, was moved by, and wanted to say...and as the small circle of [auto-emailed] family and friends started to respond, it made me feel a little more connected both to myself and to them.

But the biggest surprise of all has been this...that I love writing...and it took a comment from a friend (JF) to register how much I have missed it (I have not written anything that was not for business since I was 18) and what a 'complete' way to express myself it used to while I look for the next step in my career (and then hopefully once I am working again), stay tuned for a little piece of me every now and then...and know that I appreciate all of what you have to say in return.