Saturday, 31 December 2011

Moments of Joy...

It's that time of year when the world looks back, wonders at what it didn't achieve and makes a promise for the year to come.

Source: pinterest

I'm not really one for New Year, resolutions and all that. It seems pointless to me to wait for one day in the year to reflect and make plans.

But each year, while I don't make a list, I can't help but look back at where I've been, the unexpected paths taken, the unexpected moments of joy and sadness, and wonder where I might be this time next year.

It reminds me of the words from my favourite poem by Robert Frost:

So both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
From The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Life has a funny way of showing you the path sometimes so this year there will be no plans, no resolutions for me.

Just a continuing hope to inspire, be generous, find peace and savour moments of joy wherever the road may take me.

Source: pinterest
Wishing you a 2012 filled with a million tiny moments of joy.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Destination...Museum of London

So yesterday I told you all about the journey, leaving you with the adage that the getting there is often just as fabulous as the destination.

This is the post about the Destination.

I arrived at the Museum of London, eagerly anticipating a couple of free hours of strolling through time. The Museum is laid out in chronological order and is quite interactive with fewer than usual items of the 'do not touch' variety. Prior to entering the permanent exhibition there's also a display called London and the Olympics which celebrates the Games already held in London (1908 and 1948) as well as the 2012 preparations.

The journey starts with an exploration of the region from 450,000 BC before London was...well London. The locations of significant archaeological finds are also showcased - places like the site of the current Heathrow Airport - as well the work along the shores of the Thames where FROG volunteers from Thames Discovery continue to catalogue new finds to assist in preserving London's rich history.

From 50 to 410 AD, the Romans built, defended and rebuilt Londonium - there are some great displays of homes, shops, food and the opportunity to peek at the defensive City wall from another perspective.

Traditional Roman dining room
Roman Wall from the Roman Gallery of the museum
We then move to Medieval London and the galleries which showcase the period from 410 through to 1558 AD covering Viking raids and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon power right up to the early Tudor years. This gallery also shows much of the religious development of London and features a model of the original St Paul's Cathedral.

The original St Paul's Cathedral
The next gallery take us on the path of London's devastation through civil war, the plague and fire. I was fascinated by the survival of London at the end of this period in spite of the loss of between one third and one half of the population to the Black Death, followed by the loss of some 13,000 homes (but only 9 lives) in the Great Fire of 1666 the following year. It took London 50 years to rebuild including Christopher Wren's reconstruction of St Paul's Cathedral as we know it today.

I followed the arrows downstairs to the next set of exhibitions entitled Modern London: Expanding City.

A main feature of this gallery is the recreated Pleasure Gardens which allow you to wander, sit and watch the cinematic story of the time unfold on the screens around you. The hats on display were...interesting. It must have taken incredible posture to manage these with any grace and dignity.

Pleasure Garden fashion - can you see the ship hat on the left of the picture?
Pleasure Garden - a (t)horny affair!

Just down the ramp from the Pleasure Gardens there was an arcade walk to celebrate the Victorian era.

The Victorian Walk celebrates the era of expansion 
Trinkets for sale - The Victorian Walk
Next we move into the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Modern London: People's City. The class divide is brought to life by an interactive version of Charles Booth's map of poverty in London which sits opposite a vintage motor display, a recreation of the entrance to the Savoy Hotel and panelling from the Selfridges lift which was installed in 1928.

Vintage 'white walls' representing People's City
Japanese panelling in the Savoy Hotel recreation

The Selfridges Lift
But did you know that Harrods installed the first escalator in 1898?
Smelling salts were on hand to revive passengers from the ride.
The final step in time is Modern London: World City which takes us from pre WWII London, through the fab 50s and swinging 60s right up to today.  This was a busy gallery so I was frustrated in my attempts to take pictures and despite cases filled with fashion, music and even a real life Vesper, I managed this one only.

My one and only tribute to Modern London: World City
There's a room off to the side of this exhibition called the City Gallery which contains the Lord Mayor of London's official coach which leaves the gallery each November (since 1757) for the Lord Mayor's Show.
The Lord Mayor's Coach, first commissioned in 1757
Amazingly preserved after more than 250 years
So after two and a half hours I emerged into the dark evening thinking 'well that was that' - only to find a special installation in the windows outside.

The London Cityscape by Simon Crostin was commissioned by the Museum of London to commemorate the 2012 bicentennary celebrations of Charles Dickens in conjunction with the Museum's exhibition, Dickens and London, running until June 10, 2012.

I wandered slowly back to Moorgate along the raised walkways around St Alphages, still snapping away (as my previous post will attest to). And as I finally sat, homeward-bound, on the top deck of the bus, I marvelled at the fascinating snippets I'd learnt about London's chequered past and felt a quiet contentment at my big day out and the historic city that I've chosen as my home.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Your Armchair Tour Of...London Wall

First things first - you might be wondering about the title of the post. It's not meant to suggest that I have been an armchair traveller - as you know I like to get out and about and see what there is to see. But I've had a few people leave comments or send messages that, in reading some of my wanderlust-themed posts (Nuremberg and Prague to cite a couple), it's like they get to visit without leaving their armchair. This is another one of those posts. If you are not in the mood for a meander, you should read something else.

This week's small lull between the festivities of Christmas and the euphoria of New Year's Eve means that Londoners aplenty have availed themselves of the opportunity for rest and relaxation (or a little sale shopping but I digress). Which means that the actual City of London is pretty deserted at this time of year - a  golden opportunity to mosey around free from the usual tyranny of the booted and suited.

My ultimate destination was the Museum of London, a museum I have not visited since I first 'got off the boat' in 2004, and one of my favourites. But the empty streets tempted me and I spent a little time meandering, fascinated, along London Wall.

London Wall is a street that runs through the City of London (also known as the Square Mile) that is located along the course of the first defensive wall that the Romans built around the beginning of the 3rd century AD.

On a quiet, traffic free day, it is easy to take photos and absorb a little of the atmosphere of London's Roman past:

Restored Roman arches along London Wall

All that is left of the church of St Alban in Wood Street.
Remember my visit to St Albans early in December?

A blast of modernity right amongst the history
Walkway along the remains of the preserved wall
The old and the new - why I love London
Deserted City streets on December 27th - no festive cheer here!
Ruins on the other side of London Wall (the street) - they're everywhere!
So I took this and then turned around... see this. Looks a bit like a gigantic Meccano set to me.

Grace and elegance as I passed a random window

London's Square Mile

At this point I had wandered right along to the Museum and so disappeared indoors for at least a couple of hours... 

...and when I emerged at about 4.30pm, the day had dipped its lights in deference to the night. As it does here in London during December..and November...and January.

So this is what happened walking back to Moorgate:

Remember the Meccano building? Looks quite cool at night.
And those Roman arches? Them and my shadow
Finally, a touch of Christmas on the corner of London Wall and Moorgate
No significance other than it seemed like a good idea to take a pic.
Some rather fetching glasswork across the road - missed this during the daylight hours
The Dragon and St George's Cross, guarding the City of London
And so with London's guardian of the realm at my back it was time to board the bus and take my weary legs and aching feet back up north to my cosy flat and a hot bath. But not before a final snap from the bus stop...

 ...of largest licorice allsort I've ever seen!

We are so busy rushing to the destination sometimes we often forget that the getting there can be just as fabulous. In case you're wondering, this is where I went:

So much to see in such a short walk.

And here endeth the tour.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Rusty Old Ute And 8 Mighty Roos...

Gidday peeps! Hope you've all had a fab Christmas (or however you celebrate). I've been lounging around, drinking champers and out and about swotting up on a bit of history (but not all at once you understand).

With Christmas done but still a week left on holiday, I've got quite a list of things 'to do' but decided to open up my emails this morning to see what the world at large had been up to.

Amongst the post Christmas/Boxing Day and End of Year sales (with even more discounts), there were a couple of missives from Mum. And in response to my last post, she had received an Aussie rendition of Twas the Night Before Christmas so before we say our final farewells to the little dude's official birthday celebrations, here's one more post Chrissy post script for you to enjoy Oz style.

It's a bewdy!

'Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn't a sound.
Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around.
We'd left on the table some tucker and beer,
Hoping that Santa Claus soon would be here;

We children were snuggled up safe in our beds,
While dreams of pavlova danced 'round in our heads;
And Mum in her nightie, and Dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports.
When outside the house a mad ruckus arose;
Loud squeaking and banging woke us from our doze.
We ran to the screen door, peeked cautiously out,
snuck onto the deck, then let out a shout.

Guess what had woken us up from our snooze,
But a rusty old Ute pulled by eight mighty 'roos.
The cheerful man driving was giggling with glee,
And we both knew at once who this plump bloke must be.

Now, I'm telling the truth it's all dinki-di,
Those eight kangaroos fairly soared through the sky.
Santa leaned out the window to pull at the reins,
And encouraged the 'roos, by calling their names.
'Now, Kylie! Now, Kirsty! Now, Shazza and Shane!
On Kipper! On, Skipper! On, Bazza and Wayne!
Park up on that water tank. Grab a quick drink,
I'll scoot down the gum tree. Be back in a wink!'

So up to the tank those eight kangaroos flew,
With the Ute full of toys, and Santa Claus too.
He slid down the gum tree and jumped to the ground,
Then in through the window he sprang with a bound.

He had bright sunburned cheeks and a milky white beard.
A jolly old joker was how he appeared.
He wore red stubby shorts and old thongs on his feet,
And a hat of deep crimson as shade from the heat.

His eyes - bright as opals - Oh! How they twinkled!
And, like a goanna, his skin was quite wrinkled!
His shirt was stretched over a round bulging belly
Which shook when he moved, like a plate full of jelly.

A fat stack of prezzies he flung from his back,
And he looked like a swaggie unfastening his pack.
He spoke not a word, but bent down on one knee,
To position our goodies beneath the yule tree.

Surfboard and footy-ball shapes for us two.
And for Dad, tongs to use on the new barbeque.
A mysterious package he left for our Mum,
Then he turned and he winked and he held up his thumb;

He strolled out on deck and his 'roos came on cue;
Flung his sack in the back and prepared to shoot through.
He bellowed out loud as they swooped past the gates-
MERRY CHRISTMAS to all, and goodonya, MATES!'

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Visit From St Nicholas...

Well my The Nutcracker Advent Calender is empty and all the little storybooks are lined up below it so this can only mean one thing - it's Christmas Eve and Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St Nicholas, Sinterklaas or however you know him, has packed up his sleigh and is on his way.

Source: pinterest
This morning I picked up my Top 500 Poems to see what had been penned about Christmas many years ago and in scanning the table of contents, one titled 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' seemed appropriate. Imagine my surprise when I turned to page 475 and read the first line - 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house'.  

A Visit from St Nicholas was written in 1822 by Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of religion in New York. He refused to have it published, but a friend sent it to an out of town newspaper where it was published - anonymously - in time for Christmas 1823. Moore eventually included it in his collected works 15 years later but continued to maintain that it was a 'mere trifle'

Every festive season since I was 'knee high to a grasshopper', my head has been filled with little snippets like 'twas the night before Christmas', 'a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer' and those famous reindeer names - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, 'Donna' and Blitzen.

This mere trifle has continued to shape the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve for children (big and small) the world over so it seems a fitting finale to this year's Gidday Christmas Countdown. So I leave you to embrace the child within and wish you all the very best of everything your heart desires this Christmas.

Kym x


A Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief', and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to the objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyeys should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

Illustration by F.O.C. Darley at
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddlar just opening his pack.
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of his pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of an eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."
~ Clement Clarke Moore 1779-1863 ~

Friday, 23 December 2011

Death and the Maiden...A Study in Vengeance

As a result of another Metro offer (I do love a deal!), I was off to a matinee at the theatre this week to see Death and the Maiden. Not the opera - although there is a reference to the music of Schubert, thus the name. This is the play written by Ariel Dorfman in 1990. The theme is judgement - human rights butting up against vengeance to challenge what we think is fair and just.

Paulina Salas is a former political prisoner who has been the victim of torture and rape. The play is set 15 years later when she and her human rights lawyer husband Gerardo are living a quiet life by the sea. On the particular night of the play, Gerardo has a flat tyre on the way home and is helped by a passing stranger who then visits their home later that evening. Paulina becomes convinced that he is the sadistic Dr Miranda, the instrument of her rape and torture all those years ago.

The play centres around Paulina's absolute conviction, and her desire for vengeance contrasts starkly with her husband's belief in 'the human rights process' he has been fighting for all his life. In the midst of all of this, we are left to wonder about Dr Miranda - is he or isn't he?

This is Thandie Newton's West End debut and she grips the audience with her impassioned portrayal of the slightly crazed Paulina (and is more than ably supported by Anthony Calf as Dr Miranda and Tom Goodman-Hill as her husband Gerardo). The play raises challenging issues throughout: how certain can we ever be of innocence/guilt and the single-mindedness of a victim's belief in the release revenge will bring as well as the broader themes of penitence, forgiveness and above all, justice - what is it and how far is too far to achieve it.

This is a powerful and thought-provoking piece of theatre that poses more questions than it answers in the end.

I think you should go.