Sunday, 31 July 2011

Twas The Night Before Birthday...

Twas the night before birthday
And all through the land
The excitement's been building
The day off is planned.

Yesterday's Vintage
Was a trip back in time
From disco to swing dance
And fashion sublime.

And today we've done polo,
With divot and chukka,
The picnic we had
Was definitely pukka.

So sun-kissed and dozy
I'm back at my screen
At my cosy front window
To muse where I've been.

41 has been tough
With 'curve balls' galore
And it's been hard not to miss
The good life from before.

But finally it seems
The sun has come out
And its warmth on my face
Reminds me what it's about.

Old roads and new paths
To defend and to chart
With family and friends
Those close to my heart.

So on this night before birthday
As 41 fades away
I fondly wave it farewell
And bid 42 'Gidday!'

Friday, 29 July 2011

After The Dance...3 Sleeps To Go

Today is Day 1 of my pre-birthday long weekend (only 3 sleeps to go peeps...isn't it exciting?!) and while I've been out and about today and have some rather magnificent plans for the rest of the time, I wanted to tell you about an unexpected treat I discovered on telly last night.

I am, by nature, a night owl and would happily stay up til all hours but with my 2 hour each way commute at the moment, I am fairly disciplined about getting myself to bed by 11 each night (and that's an hour later than what's known in these parts as Surrey Bedtime) so that I am spritely enough to get myself out the door in an efficient 30mins each morning.  But on holiday, all bets are off and last night I trawled the channels to see what late night movie I might like to partake of.

I came across 'After The Dance', a 1992 TV adaption of the play written by Terence Rattigan in the 1930's.

It's one of those kinds of plays I loved seeing when I frequented the MTC's program in Melbourne - a little Noel-Cowardish in style with the action all taking place in one room (or within earshot of said room). It's crammed full of gorgeous language, crisp banter and subtle innuendo all the while covering the fragile egos and unspoken political agendas surrounding the era.  Anyway, this film for TV adaption had been made in 1992 by the BBC and re-kindled a whole rash of revivals in the West End in the years to come.

It's a little slower to get into than modern films but once I settled into listening to and watching for the subtleties, the intrigue crept slowly into the room and curled its wicked fingers - in the form of Helen Banner - through the fabric of David and Joan Scott-Fowler's 15 year marriage. A small ensemble cast added colourful layers but Rattigan makes a stinging comparison between the 'Bright Young Things' of the 20's and the serious 'new generation' facing a society crushed by the onset of World War II.

Frivolous. Sad. Thought-provoking.


And despite this being an adaption for TV, After The Dance made me realise that I'd forgotten how much I enjoy I'm off to scour the internet for some super-dooper deals!

In the meantime, land is definitely in sight and the SS 41 is cruising comfortably towards its mooring...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Universe Is Testing Me...9 Sleeps To Go

The Universe is testing me.

Really it is.  I kid you not.

Absolutely, unequivocally testing me. Pushing my buttons. Stretching my patience.

All in the space of the last 24 hours.


Weekends are a highly valued commodity where I come from, as I'm sure they are for you, so I like to plan a bit of stuff but also make sure I have time to chill out, avoid doing chores, write - you know the drill.

(The current silence tells me that the wet washing is 'ready' and will not hang itself out.)

With a weekend plan including a photos viewing Friday night on the way home, a haircut on Saturday morning and then off for a mani-pedi Saturday afternoon, I was looking forward to firstly feeling rather productive then followed by some serious chilling as a busy Saturday mellowed into a Sunday of pottering about.

So Friday morning I pick up a message from my hairdresser asking me whether I could turn up 15mins early.  Sure, I think, no problem.  I call back to confirm that this is ok to be told 'No it's ok we worked something out - turn up at 11.'  Great news but I'm glad I rang back instead of turning up early - tolerating lateness is not my strong suit.  Anyway, moving on.

I leave work a little early on Friday to get to my appointment to view my photos at 6pm (a 90min trip but it is a stop-off on my regular 2hr commute home. I know it's long. Don't ask.)  I reach Clapham Junction station which is about a 15min walk from the studio and get a message - which had obviously arrived during the underground portion of my journey - asking me to come at 7pm instead.  With an hour and a half of travelling under my belt already, my weary brain shouts 'NOOOOO!'.  Long story short - we settled on 6.15pm instead. 

To kill the time, I take myself off to Caffe Nero for a white chocolate and raspberry muffin and a soya cappucino, thinking I will just chill for a little bit before wandering up Lavender Hill towards the studio.  Another message arrives, this time from the Mani-Pedi salon.  There's a problem with my 2pm appointment on Saturday - can I come earlier?  Brain swears loudly.  Despite the ensuing conversation confirming that someone else will be available at the time of my booking to pretti-fy my paws, I feel mildly nervous walking up Lavender Hill, wondering whether I will receive an apologetic phone call Saturday morning (or better yet, be mucked about upon arrival).  I have next Friday off so I call back and agree to have pretty paws then.


Photo viewing goes well (pics look amaaaazing - I will collect my chosen ones mid August and share with you) and I go to bed last night, thinking I will get up early-ish and dash into Kingston to do my errands before my hair appointment.  I'm up at 8.30am and, feeling mildly awake and presentable after my ablutions, am eating some vegemite toast before heading out.

There's another message. 

My hairdresser (a new one, the lovely A having decided to embark on some world travelling for a while) has called in sick.  Brain sighs resignedly.  Little voice in my head reminds me to 'breathe'. 

I'm going at 12.30.

In, out. In, out. Breathing, breathing. Time for a coffee.  And a post.

And if it's really lucky, the washing will get hung out to dry. I'm a little intolerant of lateness and would really love a chilled out, low-irritant birthday, I thought it prudent to remind you that there are now only 9 sleeps to go. We are now into single figures peeps so don't be late - I can just see the good ship 42 coming into view.

Monday, 18 July 2011

007...Links To Thrill

Apparently, I'm IT!

No, this is not a narcissistic declaration of my own fabulousness (although I won't disabuse you of this notion if that's where your mind happened to wander). 

Linda over at Adventures in Expatland has tagged five of us in a game of Seven Links.

The rules are simple:

1. You’re nominated by a nominated blogger - Check

2. You decide which seven of your posts to assign to each category - Check

This is a tough one to choose from.  I love it when you come across something so beautiful and surprising that you just have to share it so The Art Of Mindfulness...Music To My Ears definitely makes the grade.  So too does Inspired By...Sunflowers.

21 Sleeps to Go...Better Latte Than Never.  For the life of me I cannot work out why but this post accounts for just over 31% of the TOTAL pages viewed since Gidday from the UK began in August 2008.  Who knew that Latte Art was so popular?

I found this a tough one to find but my recent post My Tweet Lord celebrated the modern angel, mobile phone in hand, adorning the Den Bosch cathedral.  I have to confess that the controversy that occurred was limited to the local press and did not make it as far as Gidday from the UK!

Lost In Translation tops my list here as a fail-safe guide to mastering the art of English understaement.  And The Universe Provides...Adding A Blog Page because it does what it says on the tin.

Definitely Whipping Up A (Sand)Storm, a post I wrote while in Melbourne with family last Christmas.  Truly astonished at how fascinated people were with this one and it's my second most popular post of all time.  I also learnt that there are Sand Sculptures in Weymouth each year - perhaps one for the 'Things To Do' Bucket List - you can take the girl away from the beach (and all that)...

I could trawl through lots of them here but I think it has to be post number one The First One (original huh?)  If I'm really honest, I think I wanted the champagne corks to pop and a few fireworks to announce my arrival in the blogosphere.  Upon reading this, my sister (the fabulous Lil Chicky) will probably guffaw and say 'Suck it up princess!'  We Chickies come from the Hamer bootcamp of tough love.

There are two for completely different reasons.  The first is The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of. It wasn't so much reading this post again or even the act of writing it at the time.  It was allowing myself to see, probably for the first time, how much I've overcome and how I have forged a life for myself, by myself, here on my own terms. I cried as I typed it.  The second is Quite A Milestone...Or Is That A Quiet Milestone? I think the reason is obvious.

3. You assign the next five bloggers to keep going - Check

Laura at Happy Homemaker UK
The Vegemite Wife at The Vegemite Wife
Penny at I Blame Oprah
Vanessa at Optimal Optimist
Michelle from The American Resident

Ladies, over to you...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Of Hearts And Minds...(NB: 15 Sleeps To Go)

I have just spent a lovely few hours this afternoon with my friend A-mother-of-N, and little N.  They live on the opposite side of London so we catch up on alternate 'sides' once every couple of months or so.  Anyway, we were chatting today about how much life has changed for us both, particularly for me in the last 9 months, the challenges we have faced and the little victories we've celebrated.

One of the things we spoke about was my writing.  I will have been writing my blog for 3 years next month but it's only been in the last 9 months, I've started to consider where it all might lead.  I've 'guest-posted' a couple of times and been acknowledged by generous fellow bloggers (you know who you are - and for everyone else, you can find them on my blog roll) but am now starting to get encouragement from outside the blogosphere with family and friends commenting 'how well I write'.

Recently I started writing for weekendnotes, my first 'paid' gig depending on how many articles I submit and how many subscribers and page views I get.  I have just submitted my second article for publishing today. (My first, about my visit to the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, which I have also blogged about, was published last Monday.)  I love London. I love writing.  It seems a match made in Heaven.

But I feel...hesitant. 

You see, I am completely besotted with writing.  Even more so than when I was in high school (high school, not secondary - now that ages me!).  Some days I write what I see, hear, experience in the small things.  Other days it just seems that I can't help but put my heart on the page.  It's a joyful feeling, sometimes emotional, but always satisfying.  An expression of my creativity and passion that feels both cathartic and right in its current proportion.  

And that's the thing - the balance.  I also love my work.  It's commercial and fast-paced and dynamic and I'm part of a team - and it's a big part of me as well.  And right now, the two things together feel balanced and right.  Yet I can't help asking myself, could I still do both if I wrote more?  Could I keep managing the balance or would there come a tipping point, where the single, albeit dual purpose, path may naturally divide and I find myself standing at a fork in the road?

One of my favourite poem's of all time is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.  There's a line in it 'yet knowing how way leads on to way'.  I feel like that now.  I am desperate not to lose the joy I have rediscovered in writing but suspect that life will take me down the road that it will. 

I will just have to be brave enough to keep my heart and mind open to whatever happens next.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

You've Got Mail...16 Sleeps To Go

I staggered out of bed this morning to be greeted by a drizzly Saturday and have been faffing about (great word that, faffing) instead braving the elements and getting out to do the list of things I need to do.  This is also known as re-prioritising and is a very useful skill to have here in the UK, saving hours of damp trudging and allowing one to enjoy the soothing sound of the rain from a dry and comfortable vantage point at the front window.  But I digress.

My faffing meant that I was home when the postman arrived.  Nothing exciting really comes through the mailslot: just the usual assortment of bills to pay, flyers advertising things I could never imagine needing and To The Homeowner letters from local estate agents wishing to sell my little flat from underneath me.  But today was different.  As I whipped around, startled by the metallic clunk of the mail flap, I saw a flash of girly colour.

'Pink!', my little heart cried.  'Could it first birthday card?'

And so it was.

Itinerant Father and Erstwhile Wife have won the Birthday Derby again, and although 2 days later than last year's stirling effort, getting in with 16 sleeps to go can only be vigorously applauded.  (Sounds of wild cheering and me doing a little 'Hooray it's my birthday soon' dance around my postage-stamp-sized lounge room).

The card (we are allowed to open birthday cards pre-special-day in the Hamer clan) is a testament to their continued concern about my welfare in a faraway land and featured some handy hints for me to consider in my advancing years:

An ode to ageing gracefully

May your bum stay firm and pert
May your boobies not head south
May your lippy never blend
Into thin lines round your mouth

May you eat a ton of chocolate
But never gain a pound
May you always look your best
Whenever Brad Pitt comes around.
May you never wear big pants
Or grow unwanted hair
And Birthday Girl if all else fails
May you be to sloshed to care!!

Well, don't mind if I do!  And I have 16 days to plan how...

Dad & Bev, thanks for the birthday tip and the lovely wishes.

ps...for a little more detail on the Birthday Rules according to the Hamer clan, click sister sums it up so succinctly in her comment!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sleeps To Go...On A Small Island

I have been reading Bill Bryson's Notes From A Small Island during my commute this week and this morning, I read a page that really struck a chord.

One of the things I am asked by every second (or maybe third) Brit the minute they hear my accent is 'what are you doing over here?'  Well, let me refer you to page 46 of Bryson's tome:

"It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press (nowadays lively in a sinister, phone-tapping kind of way it would seem), better theatres...leafier squares...and more courageous inhabitants than any other large city in the world."

He also talks about the 'incidental civilities'

"cheery red pillar boxes, drivers who actually stop for you on pedestrian crossings ...lovely forgotten churches ...sudden pockets of quiet like Lincoln's Inn and Red Lion cabs, double-decker buses...polite notices, people who will stop to help you when you fall down or drop your shopping, benches everywhere."
It inspired me to think about some of the things I love about London and as I was gazing out of the window of the number 57 bus tonight, here are the first five that sprang to mind:
  • the light - it's soft and beautiful and drapes itself gently over great expanses of countryside within 30mins of London
  • the fabulous place names - I am just dying to get on the bus to see what Seething Wells is all about and St Martin In The Field overlooks not a field but Trafalgar Square

  • the squirrels - skipping across the railing along my front garden, in the tree overhead, the little ones daring to venture a little way along my front path towards my open door before scurrying away at the behest of the bigger ones
  • the sun worship - with the merest hint of sunshine, Londoners appear from every nook and cranny and cram themselves along river banks, in parks and all sorts of public places to bask at lunchtime, after work, on weekends and any available opportunity
  • the irony - the Brit's do that dry, dry wit better than anyone else - and really know how to poke gentle fun at themselves (and others) as a result.

There are loads of other things and I could go on (and on and on) but this post was inspired by someone else's vision of the place I call home.  So what about you?  I'd love hear what you love about London, whether it's your home, your home-away-from-home, a memory captured for holiday posterity or a trigger for the nostalgic yearning of days gone by.

What do you consider worthy of note about this small island? 

ps...there are 20 sleeps to go peeps...that's less than 3 weeks for all your Gidday shopping and shipping. Just as well I'm super-prepared with my wishlist at the ready should any of you need a little helping hand.  I mean let's face it, who has to have a wedding to partake of one of those Bridal Register thingies?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

All Things New...And 22 Sleeps To Go

It's been a busy weekend and as a result it's gotten to Sunday afternoon before I've had the opportunity to be tap-tap-tapping away in my front window.  But it's been a weekend of some new experiences which I want to share with you.

The first happened yesterday afternoon when I went to have my very own studio photo shoot at insspire in Clapham.  Prompted by a couldn't-resist deal on living social (and the fact that since I've had my hair cut short again, I do not have a lot of photos that actually look like me), I'd booked my session several weeks ago and so yesterday found me strolling up Lavender Hill in the afternoon sunshine feeling excited and just a tad nervous.

Taken in hand by the lovely (and official Master of Photography) Monika, first it was into make-up.  I don't wear very much of this on a day-to-day basis so it felt rather Hollywood to have someone else doing the primping and preening for me - although it was a little disconcerting to have that same someone peering at my face wondering what she could 'do' with it.

Half an hour later it was back downstairs to the studio to start shooting.  What can I say except that it was fun and very, very weird.  There was lots of standing, sitting, leaning, lying and draping - and yes, that was all me!  Monika spent an hour coaxing me into different poses and faces: there were lighting changes, set changes, costume changes (well, just one - I changed my top) and even a camera change!

I left feeling a little tired, a little emotional, a little curious to see how the pics come out (viewing is not until the 19th July so stay tuned!) and a lot exhilarated.  Let's just say that the small top-up Sainsbury's shop I stopped to do in Wimbledon on the way home took a little longer than it usually does.

The second new thing for this weekend is that I have continued my foray into the The Great Bake-Off with a new challenge.  We are off to Kew the Music at Kew Gardens tonight and part of the deal is that we all bring stuff along to share.  A-down-the-hill let me know yesterday that there was marinated chicken, frittata, olives and snacky things and chocolate whoopie pies already on the menu so this morning I was whipping up a batch of Raspberry and Coconut Cakes (a variation on the Apple and Raspberry Squares I'd done previously).

But this is not the new thing.  Oh no!  I baked TWO things today - yes two! 

So I am enormously proud to present to you the latest addition to The Great Bake-Off family:

TAH DAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Walnut and Rosemary Bread

I want to take this little beauty intact to tonight's festivities so there's a huge risk posed by the fact I have not conducted my usual taste test - but it looks completely wicked right?

Time is a-ticking so I best be off to pack my baked goods and other essentials for tonight's summer of fun (picnic blanket, folding chair, paper plates, plastic wine glasses, umbrella - yes sadly, showers are forecast).  In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for a dry evening and some tasty bread!'ve had a few days respite from the countdown but with only 22 sleeps to go before the good ship 41 goes into dry dock, I thought it would be very helpful of me to give you a little nudge.  Best not stand next to the ship's railing peeps - the nudging gets more persistent the closer we get and I wouldn't want you to end up in 'the drink'.  Or would I?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Cry Into The Wilderness...

This mid-week post is a bit of a cry into the blogging wilderness.  I 'attended' (for want of a better word) a webinar yesterday where the virtues of Word Press as a website and blog platform were extolled. 

But for the last three years I have been resolutely filing post after post after post using Blogger.  I have happily fiddled about with formats, added pages and even embarked on a little AdSense experiment and I have to admit, I feel rather attached. 

But yesterday's fine Word Press words got under my skin...

So I'm asking for your thoughts: Blogger or Word Press?  The pros and cons.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Now, over to you - I'm all ears.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

It's July...And You Know What That Means...

Here we are in July already, half the year has gone and there's only one topic that is an absolute must for today: 

There are 29 sleeps to go!

That's only 29 days of 41-ness before setting sail on the good ship SS forty-two. 

For those of you new to Sleeps To Go, this is a family tradition around all significant events in life. The raison d'etre? Why wait for anyone else to make it All About Me?

So, that's just over 4 weeks of planning, wishlist-ing, shopping time for you all.

Time to get your skates on peeps!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Chasing Rainbows: Where The Bright Women Are

Today I came across a blog called Where The Bright Women Are. Their premise is this: what happened to all of the bright and brave young women readying themselves to rule the world and how did we end up so unrepresented at 'the top'? (According to Grazia magazine, only 12.5% of women run FTSE 100 companies and WTBWA confirms only 3% of CEOs are women.)

I have found myself asking that very same question quite a lot of late.  Being at 'the top' just doesn't hold the same appeal any more and the last year or so has had me speculating why.

In retrospect, moving to London in 2004 was not the greatest career move but I suspect I was disenfranchised before this and maybe upping sticks like I did was my way of throwing all the toys out of the pram at once to see which of them I yearned for most.  I have never wanted to get married and even less, to have children and that hasn't changed.  And nowadays, I find myself ranking happiness, maybe even a little joy, and self expression most highly in both where I work and what I contribute. 

Self expression - maybe that's the key.  Not moulding myself to fit someone's ideal of what it takes but rather finding an environment that allows me to be the full force of 'me':  demanding, smart, brave, compassionate and eminently likable.  The creative thinker. The solution finder. The rapport builder. The one who loves to belong but needs her space.  The pragmatic soul who revels in chasing the occasional rainbow.

One of the great benefits of the online world is that it is an absolute treasure trove of learning opportunities, opinions, discussions and communities.  We may not meet others in the same way our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers did but the circle of women is still there - asking, sharing, offering advice and learning from each other.

Don't get me wrong. I am not looking for Where The Bright Women Are to provide 'the answer'.  But being amongst a group of like-minded women asking the same questions may provide some interesting signposts for me for the next stretch along my own path.