Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Commuting Gems...The Broad's Hair

During the first part of my commute (which a 15-20 minute trip on the bus), I often use the time to scroll through my emails, clear out the superfluous and read through the balance.

Late last week I came across a forwarded funny that made me laugh out loud...and pretty much look like a dill in front of my early morning commuting brethren.

So at the risk of completely plagiarising someone-I-don't-know's clever story or offending someone's religious sensibilities (you should look away now), I have decided that I should share it.


In a parochial school students are taught that lying is a sin. However, Instructions also advised that using a bit of imagination was OK to express the Truth differently without lying. Below is a perfect example of those teachings:
An attractive young woman on a flight from Ireland asked the Priest beside her, 'Father, may I ask a favour?' '

'Of course child. What may I do for you?'

'Well, I bought my mother an expensive hair dryer for her birthday. It is unopened but well over the Customs limits and I'm afraid they'll confiscate it. Is there any way you could carry it through customs for me? Hide it under your Robes perhaps?'


'I would love to help you, dear, but I must warn you, I will not lie.'

'With your honest face, Father, no one will question you.'

When they got to Customs, she let the priest go first. The official asked, 'Father, do you have anything to declare?'

'From the top of my head down to my waist I have nothing to declare.'

The official thought this answer strange, so asked, 'And what do you have to declare from your waist to the floor?'

'I have a marvellous instrument designed to be used on a woman, but which is, to date, unused.'

Roaring with laughter, the official said, 'Go ahead, Father.

Next please!'


Hope this made you laugh out loud too.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Going Global...

Here we are at the last bank holiday in the UK before Christmas and I am ensconsed at Gidday HQ catching up on a whole lot of the must dos after a few days of fun to-dos (and not a small amount of alcohol). The washing machine is whirring in the background, the ironing pile is lurking within eye-shot - which I must address one way or the other (ie. iron or put away in the cupboard) - the UKHot40 is playing on the telly and my water bottle is within reach.

So let's start with Saturday: a day of short sunny bursts and bouts of torrential rain under a largely grey sky. And an evening of cocktails and mighty fine cuisine as four work friends painted the heart of London's Soho multicultural - at a Peruvian restaurant. This is what happens when a Turk, a German, a Frenchwoman and an Aussie, all obsessed with food, get their heads together for a girl's night out.

After a flurry of emails late on Saturday afternoon, a plan was hatched and a few hours later, four happy expat ladies were sitting at the bar in Ceviche, watching the intermittent drizzle against the window with cocktails in hand. Ceviche is new to the London restaurant scene, having only opened in February this year, and has had some terrific reviews (including one by yours truly over on Weekend Notes after our super Saturday soiree). I won't repeat here what you'll find elsewhere - suffice to say we left four very happy ladies. And it wasn't just the cocktails.

Sunday morning dawned and after a kick-start of croissants, coffee and copious amounts of water - how is it that so much drinking can be so dehydrating - I was off again, this time to the Edinboro' Castle in Camden for a farewell do.

You see, in just under two weeks time, A-used-to-be-down-the-hill will become Seattle-A. Yes, she and hubster are moving state-side to the land of the free, the home of the brave and city of highest rate of sunglasses purchases per capita in the US. They've bought a fabulous new pad, booked the movers and are starting their own round robin of goodbyes to old London town.

And yesterday, under the canopy of trees in the sun-dappled beer garden at the Edinboro' Castle, was a gathering of their wonderful circle of friends. Almost ten hours of repartee and reminiscing, of howls of laughter and a little just-between-friends political incorrectness, of re-connecting and fond farewells, to wish them well in this next exciting chapter...and to book our respective berths at Palazzo Seattle.

So this weekend has been a poignant reminder of the power of my expat friendships, both old and new, and the importance of trusting my instincts in reaching out amongst the myriad of connections I make each day, week, month, year.

Saturday night heralded the start of a 'four girls from four nations' friendship.

And while my own personal farewell with A is still to come, Sunday was a celebration of a friendship that began just two weeks into my expat journey. That's more than eight years of life in the UK together. Opening the pages of this next chapter in our friendship has me feeling a little sad, but excited about the possibilities that will follow for both of us. 

You see we, my friends, are going global.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

A Travelling Penn...

Just a couple of weeks ago I fell across the blog of an old friend.

Actually I should clarify: she's not old. For matter neither am I. And I'm sticking to that.

Tanya and I worked together in a turbulent time of tea, tuna and tomatoes a couple of years before I left Australia. While I've been making hay my way here in Ol' Blighty, she upped sticks and taught English in Korea for a while without having any local lingo under her belt (among other things). You could say she's a baptism by fire kind of girl.

(I confess I can't remember which bit of Korea peeps. Apologies. Tan, you'll just have to do a proper guest post on Gidday *wink*)

Anyway, it's called travellingpenn.

Tanya has started her blog to record her experiences as she undergoes her transformation into a emergency communicator for World Vision. We are only seven posts into the journey so far so it's the perfect time to get in, so to speak, at the grass roots.

Her writing is warm and lovely, the tone ranges from self-deprecating to poignant (yes already - in seven posts!) And let's face it, her job, facing one of the world's greatest humanitarian issues - child poverty - puts her in a unique position to share, to make a difference and to enrich the lives of those with whom she has the enormous privilege to come into contact with.

As I said, she's only seven posts in and it promises to be an extraordinary journey.

I hope you'll share it too.

Friday, 24 August 2012

People In Glass Houses...

I am someone who loves technology.

Not in a really techno-geek, have to have the 'latest and greatest' kind of way. 

I love the clever ways that technology provides access to new ways of day to day working, convenient shortcuts for the most mind-numbing of tasks and some fascinating and alternatives views of the world.

On top of that, I'm lucky enough to work in the kind of job that's all about exploring new ideas so there's not a week that goes past where I don't find something that makes me go 'wow' or 'that's amazing'.

And recently I was reminded of a real 'techno-wow' moment I experienced earlier this year.

Global glass and ceramic manufacturer Corning has been beavering away to create their very own vision of the future. Each time I watch this, I feel absolutely amazed that this world, that not so long ago would have seemed completely unbelievable, could be possible in my lifetime. 

So strap yourself in, open your mind and check this out:

It's amazing right? And before any of you starts saying it's all a long way off, evidence suggests that the next generation - not Gen Y but the ones born in the last decade or so - are closer to this futuristic world than we think.

Watch this one year old work an iPad...and then watch her wonder why her motor skills aren't transferable. Keep an eye on her hands as she tries to 'activate' the magazine...

I remember when the film Minority Report was released (only 10 years ago) - it was lauded as visionary and yet so far-fetched. But it would appear that this future is heading our way and much sooner than we think, whether we Gen X-ers and our forebears like it or not.

An unstoppable wave of change is sweeping across the world we live in.

I think I'm ready...

Saturday, 18 August 2012

From The Cheap Seats...

It would appear that my first 43 years on the planet have been so bereft of cultural pursuits that, as I am wont to do after a birthday, last weekend found me looking around for a new thing(s) to experience. Two years ago it was baking, last year it was polo (the pony kind).  And this year it's opera.

Opera has been one of the few 'Arts' that I have not readily subscribed too. I love classical music but the combination of singing I don't understand and high prices has been a particular deterrent. That's where a bit of community clever-ness came in from my lovely local The Phoenix Cinema.

Being an independent arthouse cinema, The Phoenix doesn't need to subscribe to the wants and desires of a head office and experiments with its schedule to inspire the local community. In partnership with Glyndebourne 2012's Opera Season, it's running two live screenings of the performances there this weekend. Tomorrow is a double bill of two 1 Act operas from Ravel. The other - Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro - was screened last night and that's where I was.

As cinema lights dimmed, the camera lit on the empty stage with its 'Moorish Palace' backdrop, the familiar strains of the overture began and soon the space was filled with hustle and bustle, music and colour...and a vintage red and cream Austin Healey.
Glyndebourne's re-telling of this famous tale is set in the Seville of the swinging 60s. If you don't know the story, it follows the trials and tribulations of Figaro and his lady love Susanna as they plan their wedding. There's lots of hi-jinx and trickery, cross and double-cross in the tale (a bit like a Shakespearean comedy such as A Midsummer Night's Dream or Twelfth Night) and with the aid of English subtitles, the familiarity of the music (I love Mozart's music and it wasn't until I sat through this that I realised how much of his musical bounty I had actually heard before) and the captivating performances, it made the whole experience a really enjoyable one - although as an opera neophyte, I could not tell you one aria from the other.

So in short, I loved it. And I paid £13.00 and was home 20 minutes after I'd left the auditorium.

I am sure that experiencing opera live, and especially in the gorgeous surrounds at Glyndebourne, is fantastic. But for someone who wasn't sure it would all be worth it, getting a taste from the cheap seats was a perfect way to dip my proverbial toe into the water.

The other thing to say is this: I really admire Glyndebourne (and some of the other companies that will feature over the coming months) in their vision of bringing opera to the masses. While I'm a known champion of the written word (and quite frankly anything that promotes it), having access to art in all of its myriad expressions is such a wonderful opportunity and one of the things I love about living in London and more specifically, the ecclectic and fabulous Finchley.

The Marriage of Figaro actually follows on from the story in another Mozart opera, The Barber of Seville - the protagonists have grown older by the time we see them in 60s Seville and rather than lead, form backdrops (and a few barriers) to Susanna and Figaro's impending nuptials - so you can guess what I'll be keeping an eye out for in order to dip my other toe.

And as ever, I'm hopeful that my search will all turn out in the end - just like the marriage of Figaro and Susanna - with a joyful celebration and me drifting off into the warm and hazy night, humming a little Mozart to myself on the way home.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Lemmon Drops...

I have only recently become acquainted with the work of Jack Lemmon. Oh I'd heard about some of his movies like The Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men but I'd never seen them. (My association with The Odd Couple being the 1970s TV series starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.)

My first viewing was The Apartment at a gorgeous art deco cinema, The Rex in Berkhamsted. Similar to my beloved local, The Phoenix, the grandeur of the auditorium fitted the same sense of occasion as when movies began by telling you right up front who was in it and what it was called. But I digress.

The Apartment stars Lemmon with youthful Shirley MacLaine. Lemmon is the employee put-upon by the powers that be at work in return for a boost up the corporate ladder. Things get complex when MacLaine becomes an 'apartment' girl and falls off the pedestal that Lemmon has adoringly placed her on. It turns out in the end but not before some pretty grim soul-searching.

In mentioning my lack of Lemmon to my movie friend, she immediately loaned me Some Like It Hot, starring Lemmon alongside Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. This is a lighter affair, full of naughtiness and high jinx and Lemmon's turn as Daphne gets him into all sorts of trouble. It all works out at the end again (as most Marilyn Monroe movies do).

By then I'd found myself completely under Lemmon's spell. You see I'd become rather partial to that cheeky grin, the twinkling eyes, the earnestness. Although he does look a little too good as a woman for my liking! There's obviously a few more movies to see and I'm wondering whether Lemmon was always cast as the hapless but endearing charmer. I guess I will have to find out.

Not that I'm complaining.

Lemmon may just have become my new favourite flavour.

And you can never have too much of a good thing.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Holy Homage...

This is post number two about my recent sojourn to Barcelona with fellow emergency handbag-ger, A. And I made a promise. 

The promise was to inspire you with a post about Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona's premier tourist destination and testament to the vision of one of the city's greatest sons.

The spires of La Sagrada Familia
But now it seems like a really big promise and it's ended up presenting something of a dilemma for me. Here's why.

Before I went, I wasn't really sure I would like it. The whole thing looked crude and indulgent in most of the pictures I'd seen and having visited a cathedral or several in my time, I doubted that anything could really blow me away on the church front. But like all great tourist attractions, you can't visit a city without at least paying homage to what it deems to be the absolute best of itself.

After lining up for half an hour on Saturday morning, we finally entered at around 10am. And I was blown away...but largely by what I didn't expect to see.

So I'm wondering whether my sharing here may actually spoil it for any of you inspired to visit for the first time. But a promise is a promise and in the interests of keeping my word, I will do my best to walk the fine line between providing you with a little inspiration and giving the complete game away. I will leave it for you to decide whether you want to stop here/look away now.

First things first. La Sagrada Familia stands in the heart of Barcelona just a 15 minute stroll away from the bustling shopping district of Passeig de Gracia (and not far from our top tapas tip from last post, Bar Mut). It is still a work in progress, begun by Gaudi in 1883 and designated for completion in 2026, a century after his death. (Anticipating that the project would outlast him, Gaudi spent the last 12 years of his life developing the plans so that work on his vision could continue after his death.)

The main entrance is via the Passion facade, which is on the opposite side of the cathedral from the Metro station and which is considerably less photographed than its famous counterpart, the Nativity facade. Make sure you get the audioguide before you start - I know they can be a bit naff but the extra few euros is really worth spending here. And finally, all of the advice says to get here early to beat the queues - also I expect to avoid standing in the fierce heat. We had a 30 minute wait - be patient, good things are to come, as the saying goes.

The 'tour' starts with the Passion facade, which traces the story of Christ's judgement, crucifixion and resurrection, before inviting you to move under the wide arches of the portico and enter the cool sanctuary of the church itself.

The story of Christ's crucifixion plays out across the Passion facade.
And this is where I gasped out loud - it literally took my breath away.

Gaudi's vision - of capturing nature's surreal beauty and presence - is extraordinarily delicate and bold at the same time. Imagine if you will a forest glade, dappled sunlight dripping through the canopy overhead...

Gaudi's forest...
...and his trees.
Natural light streaming through the stained glass creates its own pallette.
The ceiling forms an ornate and dreamlike canopy overhead...
...lit only with glorious sunlight.
(Note: I took squillions of photos, trying to capture every moment when I turned and gasped at some new aspect - it's unbelievably difficult to do it justice.)

There's a brief opportunity to visit the under-construction Glory facade, which is at the long end of the nave-cross, before moving outside again to see the famous Nativity facade, celebrating the birth of Jesus.

The expressive style of the 'birth' facade contrasts with the modern starkness of its opposite number at the entrance.
Here's where angels herald the miracle...
...of the birth of Jesus.
The audiotour finishes by suggesting a visit to the museum and workshops underneath the church. The workshops are...well, working and aside from the history of La Sagrada Familia, you can see the actual models which are created to explore both the aesthetic and practical components of building each intricate piece of this fantastic sanctuary.

Last glimpse of the towering Nativity facade before entering the museum.

We left after a little over two hours, me with a 'considerable number' of photos and a flat camera battery. Both awed by the morning we'd spent.

We had an amazing weekend in Barcelona with great food, brilliant weather and some excellent sightseeing and shopping. There are many other things to do which we didn't have time for but for me, La Sagrada Familia was the piece d'resistance. The luscious cherry atop our Catalonian sundae.

Hope I've managed to whet your appetite.

Other posts in the Barcelona series:
Brave Beauty

This post is also part of the Post Of The Month Club - August 2012

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Brave Beauty...

Last weekend, A-used-to-be-down-the-hill and I took a little city break to Barcelona

There was much tapas and tippling (I can highly recommend Bar Mut for tapas and Bubo for pastries), a bit of slip-slop-slapping (to protect ourselves from that hot Spanish sun), a spot of retail therapy and a whole lot of jaw-dropping ooh-ing and aah-ing at the clash of the bold and the beautiful that is so uniquely Barcelona.

Barcelona is a curious mix of leafy boulevards, intricate alleys and wide modern avenues. Its architecture moves from the classical to the bold, at times visionary while at others bordering on ugly. Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia forms the touristic heart of this city of contradictions - and will feature in a separate post - but is by no means the be all and end all.

So this post is to whet your appetite with a little scenic tour of Barcelona's brave beauty and extraordinary visual diversity....

Apartment building La Pedrera, one of Gaudi's many architectural wonders scattered throughout the city.
The dis-used bull ring still stands proud whilst undergoing a transformation to host activities of a more modern ilk, shopping!
At Barcelona's Olympic Stadium, the torch provides a poignant memorial 20 years on...
...and 'the athlete' still points the way to the now residential Olympic Village.
Modern shapes silhouette against the blue hot sky...
...right next to more classical, and decoratively painted, architecture.
La Sagrada Familia mixes monochromatic starkness...
...with lush and glorious colour.
(More on this amazing testament to Antoni Gaudi's vision later.)
The wide and leafy La Rambla forms the backbone of Barcelona, dividing the residential El Raval district from the buzzing Barri Gotic and La Ribera enclaves...
...while numerous small squares and parks provide a shady retreat for the locals from the heat of the day. 
Packed your bags yet? If you haven't, stay tuned for your armchair tour through Barcelona's visionary heart...coming soon. 

Other posts in the Barcelona series:
Holy Homage

Friday, 3 August 2012

I Come From A Land Down Under...

With the Olympics going on here in London, I've read/seen a lot of stuff about Australia and sporting heroes. 

Just last night, in the midst of profile after profile on Team GB (as is the perogative of the Host City), Cathy Freeman featured in a montage about 'The Face of the Games' for her star turn (both on and off the track) at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and legendary Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe has been a key part of the commentary team at the Aquatics Centre for the swimming events.

Let's face it, there's nothing like a sporting great or two to bring out a bit of proud Aussie patriotism.

Today I was reading a post by Aussie-in-Doha, Kirsty Rice called The Fine Print In Your Passport. Just as the company you work for tells you that you are a representative of that company and are expected to conduct yourself as such, Kirsty reveals that same admonishment exists in the pages of your Australian passport. (For those of you that have one that is - the rest of you should check your own fine print.)

For many years, Australian airline QANTAS has run an overseas television campaign featuring Peter Allen's I Still Call Australia Home, the unofficial anthem for any self-respecting Aussie expat. The line 'no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home' has always moved me (and most other Australians I know) and reminds me of the enormous pride I feel in being an Aussie amongst the ecclectic cultural melting pot of London.

But today Kirsty's post unearthed a new gem and for me, an absolute pearler that covers the two places I'm lucky enough to call home... 

So just you remember, I come from a land down under...'d better run, you'd better take cover.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Your 2012 Five A Day...August

Well, the 1st August heralds the end of year number 42 for yours truly. No more counting down, no more sleeps to go. It has arrived so first up, it's a Happy Birthday to me!

There's much else to celebrate in August. The Olympics have begun in earnest and I've been cheering on the green and gold. The Opening Ceremony was quirkily British and aside from that inordinately weird section with all the beds, I loved watching it. And what a tribute to future sporting generations that torch lighting ceremony was - absolutely brilliant. I may have even welled up a little.

Back at Gidday HQ, I'm still quarantined and starting to go a little stir crazy - although at least I'm sleeping through the night now and my appetite has returned a little despite the aches, pains and general unattractiveness of my affliction.

And last but certainly not least, this month's Violent Veg introduces us to Brian, of the Parsnip variety. After Colin Carrot's heart-thumping exploits in June and July (you can see the Violent Veg Back Catalogue at the end of this post), Brian reminds us to enjoy some gentler pursuits this Summer...

But quite frankly this is now Day 7 of *tranquility* so even with the promise of a little tackle-nibbling, I think there'll be no such standing still for me.

Here's to throwing oneself in the deep end this August.

Five A Day Back catalogue