Monday, 30 August 2010

Goodbye To Summer...

The thing about the August Bank Holiday in the UK is that it's like this last 'hurrah' of Summer.  Even though for the last week it's been cooler on the walk to and from home each day and it's dark enough each night when I get home for me to leave the outside light on when I leave in the morning, there's something about our last long weekend of the year (not counting when the fat man in the red suit visits) that's a little laden with regret.

It's been a cloudy Bank Holiday Monday too - perfect weather for some daytime telly and an indulgent dvd (Julie and Julia if you must know). This has followed on from much sleeping in, considerable reading and highly-intensive jigsaw-puzzling and as a result, I'm feeling extraordinarily relaxed and reflective as I sit down to tap this farewell to Summer post. 

And then just as I'm sitting down at my computer positioned smack-bang in my front window, a blinding shaft of sunlight bursts through the clouds - making the late afternoon all golden and hazy for a moment - and then it disappears again. The light is soft and beautiful and takes me back to when I first arrived here and how struck I was by how softly the light bathed everything it touched compared with Australia's harsh and brilliantly hued landscape.

I know it's a day early: but today it's goodbye to cardy-less commuting and twilight evenings around the barbie...

...and welcome to my favourite season of the year, the soft, golden hues of Autumn.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Picking Up The Pieces...

Over this August bank holiday weekend I have been indulging in something I haven't done for a while - a jigsaw puzzle.  I always used to do these as a kid on holidays so there's something about doing this that's intrinsically linked to holidays for me. 

It's also the perfect thing for cosying up inside and shutting out world (and some pretty ordinary weather - I think Summer might really be over!) and it's kept me completely absorbed for a few hours over each of the last 2 days.  So Friday night, I  spread the puzzle roll mat out on the dining table, cracked open the bag of pieces and surrendered myself completely...

THE FIRST 24 HOURS (3-hours Friday night and 4-hours Saturday afternoon)
The border is done (I always do the border first) and centre strip (with lots of interesting bits) is well on the way!

SUNDAY 6.30pm (After another 5-hour stint):
Tah Daaaah!!!!  All done!

Fuelled by chocolate and other snack-ettes I have built my 1000 piece world piece by piece and am currently basking in a quiet glow of self-indulgent achievement - like I have achieved something just for myself without the pressure of chores and other 'things to do'.  Now I just have to keep that feeling all through tomorrow and that will be one excellent long weekend!

ps...BTW the puzzle roll thing that its on? Don't trouble yourself with getting one- rolling it all up only produces frustration and disappointment as all the little pieces come apart again. That patent was a real waste of money...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Life In The UK...Neighbours

For the first time in 5 years, I am back to the car-less status I held when I first arrived in the UK..and I had to do my first sans car grocery shop.  The trouble is that now I have to plan my shop and stick to the list with considerable rigor as there are 3 important things to manage:  My items fitting in the 2 shopping bags I take, the even distribution of their weight between the 2 bags and actually carrying said weight to the bus stop and then from the bus stop to home.

You see, the bus back up Kingston Hill is fine but that walk up the hill, down the hill and up the hill again to home is a killer at the best of times and if the shop has gone awry, well, it ain't pretty!  So today, I was ready with my small-ish, well-planned list and on the way, I knocked on J's door to do the neighbourly thing and find out whether there was anything he wanted me to pick up for him.
Well...his few items grew and grew until his list WAS bigger than mine.  But it still all looked do-able so off I set, list in hand...but milk, orange juice, pasta sauce and soup (just to name a few) are not exactly light so let's just say there was a bit of mental f-ing and blinding going on as I walked from Sainsbury's to the bus stop and from the bus stop to home.

Next time, I might stop being so bloody independent and 'I can do it' and get him to take me.  We could have a date night at the supermarket!  Or not...

We'll see...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Summertime...And The Blackberries Are Easy...

We went blackberry picking today....hunting out those fat juicy gems in amongst the thorns and our car park!

For those of you new to Gidday from the UK or those that have simply forgotten, it was just over a year ago that I discovered the joys of plump, juicy, fresh blackberries and bemoaned the fact it had taken me 40 years to do this.

So today, being J's birthday and all (Happy Birthday honey!) and before the little blighters got eaten by other wildlife (human or otherwise), we ventured out into our street and carpark to snaffle as many as we could.  And snaffle we almost-full ice-cream container.  And I have the proud scratches on my forearms and hands to prove it.

We were going to indulge in these tonight as a post birthday dinner treat but I'd already promised to make my first ever apple crumble (after a birthday resolution to master some basic dessert skills beyond cheese arrangement) so the blackberries are being held in abeyance until tomorrow - but are still on hand if the crumble is appalling.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Inspired by....Sunflowers

I was walking home from the bus stop earlier this afternoon, silently cursing the sticky weather and wishing that puff of cool breeze I could feel would just exert itself a little more when I was stopped by the most unexpected and glorious sight...

Beautiful happy least 2.5 times my height with their blooms dipping slightly with their own an otherwise unspectacular front garden on an ordinary suburban street.  I would never had seen them had I not been walking back from the bus stop so I whipped out the Desire and snapped away to capture their magnificence.
The thing is, this small moment lifted my entire day and I finished the rest of my bag-laden trudge around the corner and up the hill to home still smiling at the memory.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Up, Up and Away...

Now I've done some high-flying things in my time (like jumping out of a perfectly good plane strapped to the front of a burly sky-diving instructor) but in reading Friday's Metro, I was inspired to new heights by an article about the new Palletways Dragon balloon and its maiden flight over the town of Bath in Somerset. This photo encapsulates the birds-eye view from this glass-bottomed beauty:

I do not know which pair of feet belong to this intrepid Metro photographer but it looks to me like a breathtaking and slightly scary experience.  And forget the pony, I think I want one!

I'd also be looking for a bunch of brave souls (and perhaps a small windfall to cover the expense) to trip this light fantastic with me...

Any takers?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Heaven On A Penny...

I have a secret...

...I love Wilkinson.

I really do.

For those who don't know, this English high street discount store is just heaven on a penny.  You can get everything from hair gel to garden seating, cutlery to carpet cleaner, stationery to home furnishings at bargain prices.  I don't go often but when I do, I get all overcome with 'disco-unt' fever and have this lovely warm glow afterwards as I gaze at my full-to-the-brim bags of super savings - here are just some of the things I could not resist today:

  • Listerine Mouthwash (less than half the supermarket price)
  • Blue nail polish for £1 (adorning my toes as I type)
  • Washing up gloves (I never wear them but it's good to have them for emergencies...apparently)
  • A portable concertina file (because I like to feel 'sorted')
  • A red lamp shade (to replace the blue one I am bored with)
  • Some secret birthday treats for J (honey, please pretend you never saw this)
Some of the things I did resist included:
  • bedsheets (to go with the lovely duvet cover I got for my birthday),
  • more stationery (you know how addictive stationery is),
  • coffee cups (apparently I have too many already and the ones I liked weren't THAT cheap)
  • and plants (my gardening clippers have recently had a serious altercation with the thyme that had the audacity to die after thriving all year - I am now focusing my regenerative green thumbs single-mindedly in this direction).
So today's post is really a big 'shout out' to this British bastion of bargains...

...who were also the only place I could find to buy a hammer in Robert-Dyas-less Kingston (to put together my Ikea furniture together) when I first moved to the area...

Wilkos, what would I do without you!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

When Pants Were Pants...

As a result of my recent interview on Seen The Elephant, I seem to be tripping over a whole lot of blogs by travellers from all over the place who've stopped awhile.  Some posts are interesting, others occur as a little irrelevant.  And there are some that just hit the spot so sweetly I am sure that I must have been separated from the fellow blogger at birth.

This happened today when I read Marmite and Fluff, a blog about an English woman living in Connecticut, and her latest post about the language divide that occurs between your new country and your original homeland. 

Upon arrival in the UK, one of the things that's hardest to contend with is being misunderstood when you all seem to be speaking the same language in a literal sense.  But as I'm here in the land of self-deprecating wit and ironic understatement, this part of my journey has unfolded with confusion, hilarity and not inconsiderable repartee.  But there is one thing that still mystifies me.

I thought pants would be pants in any English-speaking country but the English begged to differ - oh how misguided I was.  And just I as thought I'd managed to suss the snigger-worthy reference to outerwear as underwear (remembering that when I stood in a puddle, it was my trousers I got wet, not my pants), along came another eclectic English-ism.

It's pants.


Using it here essentially means that something is rubbish or crap.  Let me illustrate by using it in context.

"The weather is (a bit) pants" is not some reference to climatic undergarments but a statement of disappointment or disapproval, usually when it's raining, about the condition of the elements.

And I was reminded yet again of its laugh out loud absurdity when, as my Aussie-in-the-UK friend A dropped an "it's pants" in front of her visiting-from-Oz mother, I giggled at the look of utter confusion on her face.

Marmite and Fluff quoted Sar-chasm as the giant gulf between the sarcastic comment and the person who doesn't get it.

Personally, I think it's just all a bit pants...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Ugg-ly...An Australian Travesty...

For most Australians, one of the things that dismays us completely is the predeliction of the English in wearing Ugg boots not as slippers or comfy and warm pre-yoga clogs but as fashion items.  And I don't mean the trendy looking Uggs that have emerged over the last season (if you click here to see some from their website, you'll see that there are some un-Ugg-like ones) but the traditonal fleecy ones that they insist on wearing to accessorise a summer dress and bare legs.

But then I saw something today that shocked me, made me gasp and weep at the sheer travesty of it all...the 'costume' (and what a highly appropriate word that is here!) for Australia's representative in the Miss Universe competition featuring "high-heeled ugg boots, a brown one-piece swimming costume hand-painted by an Aboriginal artist, a multi-layered rainbow skirt and a lamb’s wool shrug"...

Need I say more?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Life in the UK...A Guilty Pleasure...

With yesterday's birthday festivities done and dusted, the final day of my birthday-treat-to-myself, four-day weekend is well underway and I am indulging in a little delightful daytime telly, a few episodes of the ultimate combination of ego, pretentiousness and witty put-downs, Come Dine With Me.  While I love passing vicarious judgement on the food, hosts, houses and guests at each weeknight dinner party, the best bit is definitely Dave Lamb, voice-over extraordinaire, who tracks the behind-the-scenes shenanigans both in and out of the kitchen.

I've just been laughing at Dave's reaction to Night 1 (lamb's testicles and a falling out - unrelated), Night 2 (speechlessly bad food, gifts of crystals and a truce - again unrelated), Night 3 (great food that nobody could pronounce and a falling out) and Night 4 (mackeral with a rhubarb & sorrel sauce and more falling out). 

We are now at Night 5, the host of which has been the focus of Night 2 host's righteous indignation - Night 2 host has just arrived before anyone else and she's as frosty as a popsicle (and I am hoping her fellow diners are about to tell her exactly what she might do with it!)

Must go...I wouldn't want to miss a moment!

In the meantime if you don't believe how smugly funny this show is (I hear it's made its way Down Under and Stateside), you can read a couple of other little snippets below (and yes the WAGs special was priceless).
N2 host caused so much friction at the table that N5 host asked her to have her dessert IN THE NEXT ROOM....LOL!
364 sleeps to go...
Ha ha just kidding. Even I can't sustain the interest, excitement or badgering for that long...

Come Dine With Me: Wags Special (
Why Come Dine With Me is a gem | Marina O'Loughlin (