Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Silent Letter...

One of the things any Australian coming to the UK feels assured of is the ability to speak the language. You know, to communicate, be understood, that kind of thing. And after almost eight years here, despite some early faux pas (the use of words like pants and thongs come to mind), I don't find myself thinking twice about the way I speak.

However, working for a global business, I am surrounded by colleagues whose first language is not English. My team mate is French and a close colleague who sits across the partition from me is Turkish. Within a couple of desks away are three Germans so by the time you add the erstwhile Aussie to the mix, the locals represent less than 50% of the seating arrangements in our area. 

There's often much hilarity as sayings go a bit awry with regularity. We've had the dog barking at the wrong door (vs up the tree), don't let the bugs bite (the bed just went amiss), cookie (vs brownie) points and my personal favourite, a 'one pony trick' which leads the mind in a significantly different direction from the one trick pony!

But on the train home today, I was reminded what a real minefield the 'English' language can be, particularly when it comes to place names.

It's not just the longer prefixes to the shires that trip one up on this green isle - I mean how do you get 'wooster' from Worcester - or the fact that words tend to dribble away here as opposed to the emphasis-on-every-syllable pronunciation employed by my lot (eg. Bir-ming-ham rhymes with 'I eat SPAM'). 

It's the presence of a letter.  A letter that just sneaks in there, quiet as you like. And upsets the natural order of things.

The letter 'W'.

It's a dastardedly affair. The 'W' sound is happy to lead off, loud and proud, at the beginning of a word - Walthamstow, Windsor, Worthing are fine examples. 

But the rules seem to differ when that little 'w' ensconces itself right in the middle of things. So Southwark is pronounced 'Suthick' (vs my fresh-off-the-boat South-walk all those years ago), Harwich is pronounced 'Harrich'...

...and today, I automatically corrected my collègue français' Flitwick - without skipping a beat - to 'Flittick'.

My family keep telling me I sound more and more English every time I speak to them.

I think they may be right.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A Liverpudlian Tipple...

I was in Liverpool for work last week (yes I know, this Gidday Gal's been getting around a bit of late) and as part of the conference agenda was a Brewery Tour.

What? I hear you say. No Fab Four tour?

No, but ours was a magical mystery tour of a completely different kind.

Cains Brewery was started by young Irish immigrant, Robert Cain who bought his first pub in Limekiln Street, Liverpool at the tender age of 24. In 1858, just eight years later, Cain's hard work enabled him to buy the site on the corner of Stanhope Street where his brewery still stands today - and is the site of our tour.

Twenty-five years later, Robert Cain was one of the wealthiest and most influential businessman in Liverpool, having built over 200 pubs Mersey-side (and a palatial mansion for himself) as well as a reputation for exceptional quality. Of beer I mean. I can't speak for any of his other predelictions.

In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Cain began work on the red brick brewery and ornate tower that still in use today (I can attest to this personally) and remains a Liverpool landmark and upon his death in 1907 (at the age of 81) more than 3,000 mourners attended this 'adopted local' lad's funeral.

But it's been a checkered past for Cain's. During the 1900s, the brewery changed hands 5 times. A merger with Walkers of Warrington in 1911 saw the newly formed business become one of Britain's top 50 companies by 1918. Then in 1923, the Stanhope Brewery was sold to Higson's. - Cain's continued to flourish until Higson's sold out to Boddington's of Manchester in 1985. The company then faced a further change of ownership 5 years later as Boddington's divested its breweries to Whitbread who then closed the landmark brewery. In 1990, the site was reopened by The Danish Brewery Group who renamed it Robert Cain & Co Ltd but despite brewing a popular Liverpudlian pint, in 2002 the business found itself on the brink of closure.

The current owners, the Dusanj brothers, were inspired by the ethos and tradition of Robert Cain & Company and believing that success could not only be found for the product in Liverpool but around the world, mounted a rescue operation. Under their stewardship, Cains now brews more than 120 million pints a year and is one of the fastest-growing brewers in the country.

One of the innovations brought to market by the brothers is Cain's Fine Raisin Beer which has won a few awards including Winner of Tesco’s Autumn Beer Challenge in 2003, “Beer of the Festival” at the 2004 Liverpool CAMRA Festival and "World's Best Fruit Beer" at the World Beer Awards in 2007.

So I tried it - well it seemed rude not to - and quite liked it. Although it does not taste like raisins. Whether this is good or bad, I will leave you to decide.

In true immigrant-made-good fashion, Robert Cain had become a legendary brewmaster, married the Liverpool Lord Mayor's daughter (he's a mover and shaker that one) and was enobled as Lord Brocket (although what he would have made of his great-great grandson's antics on I'm a Celebrity... in 2004 we'll never know!).

Photo courtesy of
The Brewery is open to the public for tours and apart from the history lesson, you get to see how all that lovely beer is made and then get yourself a little tipple or two on the house at the The Brewery Tap which adjoins the brewery.

Not bad for £7.99 eh? 

Sigh...I love my job!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free...

This weekend I was determined that Gidday HQ would take a little more shape in all areas - not just the relatively finished kitchen and living room - but in order to do this I needed to find a way to get rid of the 45 odd flattened boxes from my move a month ago (plus 5 filled with packing paper - never let it be said I am a wasteful girl!)

Enter Freecycle.

The Freecycle Network is a non-profit organisation that allows people to offer and find things FOR FREE. Started in Arizona in 2003 the aim was to create a worldwide network of 'gifting' groups to divert reuseable items from being sent to landfill. Since then, Freecycle has grown to more than 8 million members across almost 5,000 communities and operates under the mantra 'changing the world one gift at a time'.

And what a gift it turned out to be. At around 5.30pm Saturday, I registered as part of my local Freecycle Group (that's Barnet, if you must know) and posted my OFFER of 50-ish packing boxes/paper.

It is now 5pm on Sunday. From the 8 contacts who professed interest via the network, 3 visited Gidday HQ over the course of this afternoon to avail themselves of My Free Stuff.  I have 3 flattened garment boxes left. In the meantime, I have unpacked and found homes for much other stuff and moved furniture between rooms all in the space afforded me by the departure of said boxes.

So Gidday HQ is really taking shape. I feel so productive and exhausted and happy, I almost don't know what to do with myself. Almost...I can hear last night unfinished bottle of Grenache Blanc calling from the fridge...

Anyway, props to Freecycle and a bit of community spirit. Both now up there amongst my favourite Fab Finchley discoveries.

To find out more about The Freecycle Network in the UK, you can just click here. There are also links to Freecycle in other countries on the landing page and if there's not, there's even a link to start your own group. 

See how super easy it is?  What a community-minded soul I am becoming...wonder what it is I'll find out about next?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fabulous Finchley...Misty-eyed

Last weekend it was time to do a little more exploring of the new 'hood so I decided to wander down to Victoria Park just a 10 minute stroll away. 

The park was proposed by Henry C Stephens to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 and was finally opened in 1902, a year after her death. It's not a large park and it's kind of set back from the street and tucked away behind the lawn bowls club but it was originally part of Colby Farm where Charles Dickens penned parts of Martin Chuzzlewit - or so the sign says - so there's a touch of literary significance as well.

So I wandered around for about an hour, pausing to snap gorgeous pic after gorgeous pic. Bear in mind as you look at these that it was about midday when I arrived!

Amazing misty sun photo - I was stoked when this pic turned out!
Entering though the Ballards Lane gate
Trees in the mist
Following the winding path
Rooms with a view
An avenue of trees through the centre of the park
Tennis anyone?
Is the fog starting to lift?
A place to rest
The local cafe and the place to book your tennis court

Backlit by the sun
The sun finally comes out and reveals brilliant Autumn colour
How wonderful it is to find so much inspiration just around the corner. I can't wait to explore a little more.

I also have to pause for a shout out to HTC. All of those photos were taken with my phone and it's getting increasingly difficult to justify taking my camera anywhere with quality pics like this!

Until next time peeps...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Axis of Awesome...Funny Dudes

A couple of months ago, I was asked by some friends whether I wanted to see Axis of Awesome with them.

"Who?" I asked, handing over my ticket money in the belief that I could trust said friend's taste.

(Failing that, it would just be a great opportunity to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while.)

Axis of Awesome are an Australian (yes, let's get that out there right now - never let it be said I am unsupportive of my native countrymen) comedy band who, unbeknownst to me, are something of a Youtube sensation. They specialise in the ridiculous and this tour brings their silly songs (their words not mine) and Aussie banter to the stage across Europe. Well Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland and the UK anyway.

It's a blend of cleverness and irreverence that had the audience, including moi, rolling in the aisles.  I wanted to capture the hilarity provoked by the show for you but it was hard to choose one thing - there was Bird Plane, How To Write A Love Song and Can You Hear The ****** Music Comin' Out Of My Car - but the one that has made them stars the world over, thanks to the wonders of Youtube, is the 4 Chords Song.

Based on the premise that a large proportion of music is based on the same 4 chords, their original sketch has attracted over 20million hits on Youtube since 2009:

They have re-released this with new songs added which was featured in Thursday night's show so you can click here if you want to see their latest video.

These are some funny, funny dudes so if you enjoy a good belly laugh, you should get along to see them while they're touring Europe (OK Germany, Holland, Ireland and UK) or catch them when they get back to Oz. You can find show dates by going to their official website or by clicking here.

In the immortal words of Ian 'Molly' Meldrum (the Australians reading this will get this reference), do yourself a favour!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Nuremberg Post Script...

So last we corresponded I'd been in Nuremberg and I revealed that there had been some wining, dining and generally sociable behaviour. I also mentioned we'd been to Peruvian restaurant, El Encanto to celebrate a busy and successful week.

The following is the result of what happens when combining two hysterical tired females with cocktails and arm them with a camera while they are impatiently waiting for their food....

My small contribution to Movember...
These napkin rings look like ears!
Look pigtails! (aka Heidi Hair, the closest I'm likely to get...)
Bringing out my inner devil...
Here endeth the lesson.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Postcard from...Nuremberg

When last I tap-tap-tapped away, I promised you some visual splendors from Nuremberg where I was fortunate enough to be for work last week. Nuremberg is probably not a common tourist destination but its old town is architecturally gorgeous in that medieval way that this area of Europe seems to do so very well.

Nuremberg is, for most of us, most commonly linked with the activities of the Nazis during WWII, being the location chosen by the Nazi Party for the Nuremberg rallies and then later the site of the most famous war crimes trials in modern history. But it is a city with a long and intricate history. Founded at the turn of the 11th century, Nuremberg's importance as a location along key trade routes grew until the late 1500s. During this period, Nuremberg was known as the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire and in the 15th and 16th centuries, Nuremberg was also considered to be the centre of the German Rennaissance.

The Kaiserberg stands high overlooking the town and it was here that all of the German Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire resided at one time or another. This Imperial Castle is the symbol of Nuremberg and is deemed to be one of the most important palaces of the Middle Ages.

Photo source:
We were lucky enough to be entertaining our customers here and so I was able to get some amazing snaps of the views over Nuremberg.

The Holy Chapel, just off the main hall...
...where we dined in splendor.
As with all good trips to Germany, we also managed some dining of the less formal kind and I can report that there was much sausage and dumpling eating, beer drinking and generally sociable behaviour amongst we good folk. Here's a sampler from our excursion into Central Nuremberg for sausages earlier in the week:

A pre-dinner cocktail of Raspberry and Cassis

A rather unusual display of canapes
The empty sausage platter was pushed aside while my colleague ate every piece of dragon fruit in sight

The end of the week saw it down to just two of us who had stayed on to tidy up so to celebrate the end of a successful week, we headed off to Peruvian restaurant (as one does in downtown Nuremberg) El Encanto. The ambience may have been a little lacklustre...

El Encanto - made up for its lack of ambience with amazing food
...but the food was so good (avocado and tomato salad, dumplings and then fish for main - completely scrumptious) and the cocktails so forthcoming, I forgot to take another picture until the funky teaset came out at the end.

Saturday morning arrived and I packed up my things and headed off to the station for the fastest-train-in-Germany (300km/hr) trip back to Munich to connect with my flight. But after the reasonably balmy temperatures of the week, I was little under-dressed for the bone-chilling air on the platform...

Even that front pigeon looks cold! it was with delight that I finally climbed on board the carriage, sank into my seat and soothed by the high speed whirr of the train, let myself alternate between dozing in the warmth and simply watching the world go by.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Travel Broadens The Mind...The Euro Zone

I've been a Travelling Wilbury again peeps and this week's expedition found me in Nuremberg, Germany. While there hasn't been much of an opportunity to sightsee, I'll be sharing some spectacular pics and a brief highlights package when next I put fingers to keyboard.  But in the meantime, I've been browsing BA's business:life magazine to see what's new in the world of fascinating facts.

Having been in Germany this week, it seems only appropriate to make a start with the locals so according to USwitch/WHO, 66.5% of Germans are overweight, making them the fattest nation in Europe. Must be all that beer and sausage. 

Not to be outdone, Britons holidaying in France gain an average of 7.3lbs over a fortnight (cheese and wine related methinks) and 6% of Scottish high street shops are takeaway food outlets (I suspect the heady delights of deep fried Mars Bars come in here somewhere). But 82% of Spanish holidaymakers say they can't live without herbal teabags and 63% of Spanish women are dissatisfied with their lives. Let me see, cheese and wine or herbal teabags. Seems a pretty simple equation to me. Attendez-moi, s'il vous plait!

Speaking of holidays, did you know that Irish workers get the lowest holiday entitlement in Europe (29 days)? There's clearly so much to be done harvesting potatoes, making widget-induced alcohol, marketing expensive glass crystal and encouraging gullible visitors to their fair isle to hang upside down and plant their smackers on some old stone. Spare a thought for the less diligent Swedes and Portugese who enjoy a further 10 days left to their own devices. 

On second thoughts, it probably takes an extra 10 days per annum to assemble flat pack furniture so I think we are down to the Portugese as the most relaxed nation in Europe.

As a single gal, it would be remiss of me not to include a couple of key insights into the European singles scene. Lucky for me, 60% of men across Britain, France, Spain and Italy (as well as the US and Brazil) say they prefer brunettes. And 73% of British singletons seeking a partner rate a good sense of humour as a must-have trait. 

(Note to self: dark and funny, dark and funny, dark and funny. Repeat such affirmation each morning while wondering whether to pluck irreverent silver threads from my still largely brunette barnet.)

And last but certainly not least, it's back to the green and slightly drizzly isle of Great Britain. In typical understated British style, without boasting, shouting or any remote sense of preening, I was informed by a soundbite in the magazine sidebar that Cambridge is the top university in the world. So it would appear that that unique blend of British intelligence and Victorian modesty is alive and well and did not disappear with Mr Humphreys being free to stroke Mrs Slocombe's pussy.

But I also learnt that one fifth of British people do not know a dairy cow is a female. So maybe the world's best is just 'keeping its powder dry' and we shall see cleverness unleashed in it's finest form on University Challenge
Or maybe they are just otherwise engaged training for next year's boat race.

For more fascinating conversation starters for your next cocktail soiree or dinner party, check out my other Travel Broadens The Mind posts:

You'll never be lost for words again.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Turning Points...Blogging and Beyond

One of the best things about blogging is that you get to open up your world to all sorts of amazing, generous, interesting and talented people that you just might not bump into when immersed in the minutae of day to day life. Linda Janssen is one such person for me - amazing that is, not minutae!

An American living in The Hague in Holland, Linda is the lady behind the fabulous blog Adventures in Expatland where she charts her particular journey as someone who wants to make a difference: as an expat, a wife, a mother and as an aspiring writer. 

But wait...aspiring no more. She IS a writer. And as you know, I love to support those who are brave enough to reach for what their deepest heart desires so I am both completely thrilled and deeply honoured to play host to her virtual book tour here at Gidday from the UK.

So here's to you Linda - chin chin! And for all you aspiring...well anything you want to be's ...out there, read on to see how inspiring reaching for your dreams can be.

Blogging and Beyond
by Linda A. Janssen

On the latest stop of my 'virtual book tour' I'm here in London at Gidday From the UK. I'm visiting  a number of my favorite blogs to share a little about the writing journey that has led to the publication of a book to which I've contributed. 

Specifically, I'm in Fabulous Finchley in Northern London today. A big thank you to Kym for hosting me in her new abode so soon after moving, but she's a brave gal and not one to let a recent move keep her from having company.

Last week was the launch of Turning Points: 25 Inspiring Stories From Women Entrepreneurs Who Have Turned Their Careers and Their Lives Around, and it's been a roller coaster ever since. The book is edited by Kate Cobb, a women's business and executive coach ( and Brit now living in France. Our publisher is the formidable Jo Parfitt ( who runs Summertime Publishing, a niche publishing house that specializes in fiction and non-fiction books by and about expats and international living.

I'm new to the publishing arena, and while I did a fair amount of research beforehand into what I could, should and would do to help get the word out about the book, I wasn't entirely sure how it would all go. The answer in a word is fabulous. But I would credit the book's concept for that more than anything else.

Turning Points is an inspirational collection of uplifting personal essays in which women from all over the world, living different lives and working in various fields, reach a pivotal moment or series of events that triggers within them the acknowledgement that they simply cannot continue on in the same manner. Change in their professional and personal lives is demanded and inevitable.

Each woman shares her own situation, how her particular turning point came about, and  the manner in which she responded. Even better, each contributor offers the resources (books, websites and the like) that helped her implement change, and lessons learned along the way.

I've been reading Kym's posts for quite some time now, and it's difficult to point to just one aspect that pulled me in. She's witty and amusing with an eye for the absurd yet isn't afraid to display her romantic side. She's a voracious reader who kindly shares her mini-reviews; I enjoy the range of titles and authors, constantly adding to my own 'must read' list. I'm drawn to her story (arriving in the UK for love and courageously choosing to stay when it didn't go as planned) but am liking her ending even more.

When I started my blog, I was in the early stages of 'coming out' as a writer. I'd hidden my dreams and aspirations for too long, and knew that in order to move forward I'd have to put my writing and myself out there for all to see. Like Kym, I started writing articles, book reviews and interviews and slowly began to build up my published portfolio.

We can't do it all. In truth, who can? So we choose to do the things that bring us closer to our goals. I'm writing a non-fiction book about the importance of emotional resilience in living in countries and cultures other than your own. Contributing a chapter to Turning Points was a fork in the path, an opportunity that presented itself, another decision point.

I helped start a writers' group along with some other wonderful writing women here in The Hague, and over time I've come to trust their instincts and feedback. Now I share my deepest secret with them in the form of sections of a novel I've begun to write. The pace is slow, almost glacial at times, but just the fact that my words are seeing the light of day is enough for now.

Blogging is the public portal through which many a writer now steps. As Kym states herself in her Gidday bio, sharing bits and pieces of everyday life has 'reignited her passion for writing and she now wonders where it all might lead.' With a writer as talented as Kym, it will be fun to watch.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you'd like to find out more about our book, please take a look at the website, or follow along on Facebook's The Turning Points Book page or on Twitter @Turning_Points. A portion of all sales will benefit

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pastures New...



    I'm over here!


Now that I have your attention...

Gidday HQ has moved to pastures new.

Last weekend there were keys to exchange, cupboards to clean, movers to step around and goodbyes to say as I farewelled my little front window, climbed aboard the moving van and set off to begin a new chapter on the other side of the river.

As with all good moves, not everything went according to plan but I have arrived and can confirm I am safely ensconsed in the North London suburb of Finchley.

Day 1 - Morning: Many many many boxes to unpack
Day 1 - Evening: Kitchen done!
That's not Finchley Road peeps (which does not go through Finchley as the name would suggest but rather skirts past West Hampstead in the south). Or East Finchley, lovely though it looks from the tube as it emerges into the night air on my commute home. Or even North Finchley, which is actually one stop too far.

No it's Finchley peeps. Sometimes known as Church End but really, it's just Finchley. Bit like 'just Kym' (no it's not short for Kymberley). But I think I will call it Fabulous Finchley for I am determined that life's next chapter will be filled with all things fabulous.

So yesterday it was time to explore my new neighbourhood (that is the one beyond my easy 5 minute commute to the station....ah bliss!)

Let's start with a stroll along the street where I live...

The street where I live - look at that Autumn colour!
As I reached the main road (you can just see it in the above  picture if you squint hard enough), I decided to venture right towards North Finchley where, rumour had it, there would be a Carphone Warehouse outlet for me to kit myself out with a dongle. I was having withdrawal symptoms and missing you all dreadfully without internet at home!

Luxury Desserts - what's not to like?
A little further along I came across a grassy stretch...

An unexpected patch of green right by the road.
...which actually heralded the entrance to local bowls club.

Doesn't this make you want to kick up the leaves and hear them rustle underfoot?
A bit further on, the spires of the local church pierced the cloudy sky...

The I mean
...and before long, I was in the midst of the hustle and bustle of North Finchley.

Desperately seeking dongle (and door stops actually) as I was, I gave a cursory glance to the myriad of fruit markets, continental food stores, factory outlets and tat shops that spilled out onto the footpath. Until a sweet, sweet sight brought a smile to my face...

Mr Simms is in North Finchley too!
Remember this discovery last Christmas?

Mr Simms in Kingston - a joyous discovery last year
Anyway, this is where the photos stop because by the time I bought my dongle, finally found door stops in Robert Dyas, stocked up on a few essentials at Boots and spent £9 on - yes, you guessed it - tat, I was on my way to that English bastion of all things delicious, Waitrose. Where I bought more stuff.

Which meant more bags (supplied by moi of course - we love to reuse) to carry home. 

Which meant the bus - 10 minutes to go 5 stops versus the 25 minute bag-free wander north earlier.

I think I'm gonna like it here.

Aah, Finchley.  Fabulous already!