Thursday, 30 June 2011

These Are The Days Of Our Lives...

'What??!!' I hear you say.

Yes, there is one - dedicated to marking the last 120 years or so of British history using the everyday items that have surrounded us. My colleague at work came in a couple of week's ago bubbling about it, I was working from our offices in central London today and I thought I'd make the most of the fine weather and close proximity.

The brochure says this:

The history of consumer culture is revealed decade by decade in our 'time tunnel', from the naive charm of the Victorian era to the sophistication of today.  The exhibits reflect how our daily lives have changed over the years, the unimaginable revolution in shopping habits and the things we buy, the huge impact of motoring, aviation, radio and television, the effects of two world wars, and the gradual emancipation of women.

A tube ride, a wander through Notting Hill and £6.50 later, I  entered the time tunnel for myself.  It was amazing!

I spent almost an hour and a half surrounded by more than 12,000 items from yesteryear.  Gathered from the Robert Opie Collection (and aren't we rather glad he was a little OCD about this particular passion!), every corner turned revealed more products and brands and their evolution alongside society.

I was fascinated to see products evolving in response to advances in culture, technology and changes in behaviours and attitudes.  Everything was grouped in decades so you could see how the prevailing views of the time were reflected in the products we bought and the things entertained ourselves with.  Royal weddings peppered the trail starting from the marriage of Queen Victoria to her beloved Albert and ending with the recent nuptials of William and Kate.

As I walked out through the cafe, there were rows and rows of old televisions and one of them was playing a reel of old ads - this one was my favourite and a perfect illustration of how products and brands are so integral in our daily lives, yet go unnoticed:

So in short, I loved it.  And you should go!  No kidding...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Life in London...The Highs And The Lows

When I sat down at my computer tonight and started to tap-tap-tap away, I couldn't quite decide what to post about.  It's been a long 48 hours and I feel a bit knackered after all of the highs, lows and running around that seems to have constituted life in the UK over the last couple of days.

You see it all started Thursday night. After dinner with an old work friend, it was a long bus ride home through a ridiculous amount of traffic, resulting in a rather late night and significantly less sleep than is sensible on a 'school' night.  A Low

However, I did find it fascinating watching the stream of humankind that was advancing steadily from Hyde Park (Kings of Leon playing apparently) who were squeezing themselves into the much smaller entrance to Green Park tube station - this all viewed from my comfy seat on the top deck of the (almost stationary) number 14 bus.  A (slightly smug) High.

My rather epic struggle into work on Friday morning was a definite Low.  Let me tell you here and now, a long commute is not conducive to morning perkiness at the best of times and I was rather concerned I might drop off and find myself well past where I wanted to be.  But Friday is fish and chips day at work - always a High.  (We have a canteen that provides  meals at lunchtime so my evening toast consumption habit is not nearly as careless, lazy or diet conscious as it may look - ooh, there's another High). I booked a couple of days off work to have a 4 day weekend around my birthday (yes peeps, the countdown is a-comin'!) - another High. And then on the way home, there was a last minute invite to a 4 year old's birthday party (pizza-making at Pizza Express no less) on Saturday which dealt me a quick one-two: A High (to be invited) then a Low (realising I would have to get up early to get errands done before I went).

Today was a rollercoaster of Highs (wine, cake, pizza, 15 kids in cute hats making their pizza - aaaaawwww!!) and Lows (emergency locksmith call out, aborted afternoon drive to Southend-on-Sea, 15 kids full of excitement, sugar, squealing-type noises, more sugar and hysterical tiredness - uugggghhh!).  The weather started off a bit grey and average too (Low) but by the time we were sitting outside Starbucks at the O2 shopping centre this afternoon bathed in sunshine, it seemed that tomorrow's promised dip into Summer had made an early appearance (High).  An incident-free trip home and a little visit to Waitrose for bread, newspaper and a few bits (I do love Waitrose!) were the happy pieces that tipped the scales in the right direction.

But here's the best part. 

I have a day at home tomorrow with  he promise of glorious sunshine and a fab book to read.

High-di-high campersLife just doesn't get any better.

...and here endeth the post that nearly was not.

12 Steps...Losing My Religion?

I've been dashing about London in the rain today - appointment to appointment, jumping around puddles and waging a battle with my brolly in the wind. (Incidentally, I lost that battle but managed to snaffle a cab so feel I won the war.)  It seemed that after posting my moment of inspiration on Facebook this morning - "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It's about dancing in the rain" - the fickle London weather seemed determine to dampen my mid-week mambo.

On the homeward-bound bus at last, I opened up my weekly Australian Times e-newsletter (I've had a whole new love of commuting since the advent of my Desire) to be greeted with the question Are You Losing Your Australian-ness?.  After the rubbishing I got while visiting loved ones in Melbourne over Christmas (about my Ocker-Oh's referring to my tendancy to intersperse flat 'Australian-speak' with a few English-sounding Oh's and Ah's), I thought I should read on.

Lee Crossley actually identifies twelve signs of disappearing Australian-ness but I am pleased to report that I have only identify five signs after seven years of living here:

THE phrases 'Mind the Gap' and 'alight here' no longer seem a tad odd.  In fact, I find them quite sweet and quaint.  I mean who 'alights' anything any more?

YOU no longer grumble on a crowded tubeSimply hours of fun to be had 'minding the gap' and 'alighting'.  Plus no-one likes a whinger.

YOU expect miserable weather. 
And am conversely delighted to a slightly hysterical degree at any 2 plus run of warm-weather-days. I must point out here that we are classifying mid-20(c)s as blissfully warm. I just do not have the wardrobe/patience to deal with anything hotter any more, unless lying prone next to the pool/beach in holiday repose.

YOU start to wonder where all the English people have gone in London.  Yep. Pretty much. I think they all live 'elsewhere'.  Like Oxford.  Or Spain.

YOU accentuate the ‘ie’ in unbelievable.  Actually pronounced un-be-leeeeeeev-able and can be applied to any moment of wonder/dismay/disbelief.

Yes, 5 out of 12.  That's 41.66%, an average of about 5.9% a year.  By my reckoning, that means this insidious creep will have completely subsumed my Ocker-ness in just under a decade.

Bugger!* Best bring out the big guns...

*Please don't take offence.  Click on the link if you really think I am being rude.  I am not.  Truly.  I'm just a laconic, dinky-di colonial.

ps...if you want to keep a watchful eye over my continued slide progress, find out what the other seven are by going to Lee Crossley's article here and keep checking in at Gidday from the UK for updates. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Travel Broadens The Mind...Flights Of Fantasy

As you know, I have been travelling over the last couple of weeks and you know what that means - more of my wry observations on the facts of life according to BA's business:life magazine! (Calm down peeps, I know you can barely contain your excitement.)

The theme of the June 2011 issue of business:life is 'If At First You Don't Succeed...why we all need to fail'.  Whilst I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment (and in fact, the general tone of the articles), the 'stats sound bites' strewn throughout seemed to suggest that perhaps the realms of fantasy are society's preferred option.

We start with that perennial favourite, the body beautiful.  According to business:life sources, one third of UK women would be prepared to trade at least a year of their life in exchange for an 'ideal body'.  I have news for them.  Obsessing about the ideal body and what constitutes this has probably shortened their lifespan already.  Particularly since Britons don't start worrying about their health until aged 39 - I suspect the additional 4 inches around the waistline is probably the first clue.  And then a third think that they will grow their own fruit and veg this summer - a healthy and noble ambition, no less. Does digging up garden beds gone to seed cover the 'needing to fail' bit?  Might also count as exercise...two birds with one stone there.
Next we take a look at what we've been doing other than worrying and planting a few carrots and strawbs - watching telly.  One fifth of Britons have been motivated to start their own business after watching programmes such as Dragon's Den and The Apprentice. So I have a question - does this mean they actually started a business or just got a nice, warm feeling about it?  Reports that business failures are actually down 7.9% across the UK for Jan/Feb 2011 versus the previous year would appear to be an encouraging sign. However, the Welsh have clearly not been paying attention - with business failures up 23.9%, I suspect that the nice, warm feeling has passed them by.  Although there's 2.2 million potholes in Britain - perhaps that repesents a business opportunity in the offing or at the very least, an episode of The Apprentice.  Oh, sorry they already have that - when the candidates lug their shovels with them into their interviews and proceed to dig deep, deep, deep holes... 

On the subject of starting one's own business, 53% of Britain's entrepreneurs put their success down to their innate talents, rather than learnt skills or education. (Perhaps pot-hole identification is genetic?)  So I ask you this - what are Mums-and-Dads (M-A-D) doing paying squillions for privately educated children (£360,000 apparently) to then attend fee-paying universities?  And then spending an average of £772 to bail their little darlings out on their gap year?  No wonder 38% of Britons would use a discount voucher on a first date and 23% of British readers are attracted to e-books because of the cost.

And as to the value of all this education?  Well, one in five Britons thinks Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple are historical figures.  I rest my case...

And finally, in light of my re-entry into singledom this year, let's look to the state of romance here in the UK:

16% of British adults are planning a holiday with their parents this year.

312 is the number of times the average couple argues each year.

72% of young British men never buy flowers for their loved ones.

On the other hand, let's not.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Goose Steps...

I have been away at a conference this week in Skanor, a small seaside village in Sweden.  It's been a busy few days and having never been to any of the Nordic nations before, I was keen to grab a few moments here and there to soak up a bit of the pure Skanor experience.

There was seafood (herrings, roe, salmon, trout, scallops), bread (glorious bread), local jams (including scrumptious raspberry), cheese (for breakfast - yay!) and schnapps ('local', lemon and bitter - all lethal to the same degree).  There were games on the beach, meetings not on the beach, much laughing and cheering   and quite a bit of follow up work to do as a result!

A little research also tells me that the locals have a penchant for geese and Gåsaloppet (goose race) is a much-feted annual event traditionally held on midsummer at noon where residents form teams of six and race through the streets of old Skanor on home-made skis! (Click here if you want to check this out for yourself.)

So each morning we would take a short, sun-kissed and ski-less stroll through the village to our meeting venue and it was on Day 2 that I noticed a rather curious nod to the local fauna...

And then I looked down...

Do you think they've been practising for next year?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Quite A Milestone...or is that A Quiet Milestone?

There is much surprise and delight here at Gidday HQ today!

You see, I've been away for a few days at a conference (more about my travels later) and have not had the time or the internet access to lavish my usual attention on these virtual ramblings.  

But it seems that in my absence, you've been rather busy in the 'lavish-ing' department over the last couple of days.

I opened my dashboard today to see that Gidday from the UK had tiptoed quietly past the quite significant milestone of 10,000 page views to reach 10,088 page views.
That represents all of those times you dropped in to say 'Gidday'.  Amazing! Wicked! Bonza!  I feel honoured and completely chuffed.  Who would have thought it eh?

Thanks so much for your support/visits/comments and hope you continue to enjoy fossicking around for the next 10,000.

Friday, 10 June 2011

My Tweet Lord...

(subtitled 'When I Went Down To The Woods Today')

I'm just back from a couple of days in HollandI do love being around Dutch people. It feels and sounds so familiar and nostalgic and the simple flavour of Dutch cooking brings back many childhood memories of home-cooked meals at Oma's table. 

I'd never ventured beyond Amsterdam before and so it was with delight that I found myself in the North Brabant province in the town of 's-Hertogenbosch (which translated means The Duke's Woods, and is often shortened by the natives to the more easily pronounce-able Den Bosch, or The Woods).

While the days themselves were filled with meetings, Thursday evening gave me the opportunity to walk around the city with my colleague (a local) before dinner.  It's absolutely beautiful and historically rich with the remains of its medieval fortifications, the old buildings, the fountains (based on this visit, I have decided that the Dutch have a touch of OCD around fountains) and the thing that makes Dutch towns...well, Dutch - canals.  Here's a short pictorial walkabout of my evening in 'The Woods':

Crossing the Canal to the Medieval City centre
The 'neat as a pin' town square
The medieval well (in the town square) unfortunately covered over
The Town Hall
Statue of artist Jeroen Bosch
A statue I liked in a side street
Excellent signage in another side street
But there was one thing that was so perverse and unexpected that it was the thing that inspired me to post about the trip in the first place.  The cathedral was undergoing a refurbishment and there was a desire to represent the 'new generation' by including a modern angel in the pantheon - so here she is...

...on her mobile:
Nothing like a direct line to the Big Guy Upstairs eh?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Cupcakes and Champers...It's Lush!

It's the last day of my little staycation before I go back to work tomorrow.  It's been grey and drizzly, a perfect recovery day after a Saturday of champagne (and a few other alcoholic beverages), chocolate making and cupcake decorating with friend, A-down-the-hill (she of the emergency handbag adventure). 

Yes peeps, champers, chocolates and cupcakes.  On a Saturday afternoon.  I think the word that the youngsters use nowadays is 'lush' (or is that to describe my drinking habit??)

Anyway, we met at the train station in the gorgeous sunshine and before we knew it we had arrived at The Peacock Bar - 30 minutes early (not excited - much!).  Being the resourceful Aussie girls we are and having always been taught to entertain ourselves, we perused the cocktail list, read up on the Burlesque portion of the club's entertainment offering and did a little reconnaissance on our preferred position at the chocolate-pots. 

(I'd like to point out here that this was purely for the chocolate-making, not the burlesque, although there was a boobs chocolate mold and another that looked alarmingly like a woman's...well...bits.  But this is a family blog - hi Mum - so let's move on to less fruity tales!)

Serious dipping, dribbling and chocolate mold-filling was the first order of the day (oh sorry wait - it was the second: champers was the first!) and before long, our creative efforts were whisked away to 'chill' before our departure. Come to think of it, I am now wondering how on earth those little bundles of cocoa joy knew that they needed to prepare for a stressful trip home.

Then it was on with the cakes - and some rather nuclear coloured icing that kept melting a little in the heat.  But with perseverence (and a few nips outside for a hormonal flushed yours truly to un-flush cool down), I managed these little beauties:

A's were pretty good too but she was quite speedy about it all and hers were boxed up for taking home before I got around to whipping out the ol' HTC for happy-snapping.

So there was nothing left to do but have a(nother) drink and sample some more of the expert/organisers' wares while our chocolates continued to get suitably chilled (remember, we did the chocolates bit before the cupcakes bit.)

After three hours or so, we were issued with our little bundles of chilled cocoa joy and, placing our boxes of iced splendor carefully into carrier bags, we set off in search of the local gbk (all hail gbk!) and a savoury snackette (a chicken and avocado burger, chunky fries and smoked chilli mayo between us) to take the edge off our sugar rush before heading home, comfortably ensconsed behind our fashionable sunglasses at 5.30pm.

(Imagine, if you will, two grown-up and determined-not-to-stop-yet children after substantial quantities of red cordial, followed by the inevitable post-cordial slump, the slavish search for carbohydrates and a doze-y train ride home.  The walk (me) / cycle (A) home from the station was never going to go well.)

Just for the record, the cakes did not really survive the trip home...

These are A's - mine weren't much better!
...but the chocolates were delicious.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Staycation...In The Sunshine

There are moments in my expat life that make me realise how much I love living here in the UK.  I am lucky enough to live in beautiful Kingston Upon Thames - a completely accidental find about a year after I arrived - just a 25 minute train ride from London and right by the river (hence the Upon-Thames part of the name). I am up on Kingston Hill - apparently quite a posh bit (so my landlord says in justifying the price of the 'cosy' flat I am in!) and only a short walk away from one of London's most wonderful Royal Parks, Richmond Park.  

Hanging around at home on my little staycation this week has meant that I've been able to visit a few times and just enjoy it in the British half-term sunshine.  And on today's walk, the camera on my phone got a bit of a workout. 

First there was a surprise appearance from the locals grazing by the walking path...

Then this view of the lone bench-sitter really gave a sense of the scale of the view.

This little corner near Ham Gate is at about the three quarter point on my circuit...

  ...and Ham Gate pond is gorgeous.

And the final stretch back to Kingston Gate is just perfect for meandering and enjoying the solitude.

I came home smiling and relaxed (and a little damp with perspiration from the 'heat' and the final walk home up the hill).  You know, there's lots of talk these days about 'going somewhere' - on holidays, at work, in life generally.  But I love days like this.  They remind me to just enjoy the journey...and that the destination more often than not, will take care of itself.

Hope this inspires you to find the magic in your great outdoors.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Gidday Is Getting Around...

Excitement over here at Gidday HQ.  Gidday from the UK has been awarded featured blog status on Blogging Women for the month of June.

Blogging Women gathers together women bloggers from all walks of life to offer a comprehensive collection of the best spam free women's blogs online.

(That's a squeal for those of you who are Gidday neophytes).

Now, back to my little staycation...