Monday, 29 October 2012

Trickle Trickle...Splash Splash

Exciting news here at Gidday HQ.

I've had a new boiler installed. 

For those of you who don't know - like me before my migration north of the river and away from electric heating (in the ceiling no less) and hot water - the boiler is an essential piece of kit in one's house here in the UK. It not only supplies the hot water but also fuels the gas heating.

And with the temperatures dipping into single figures this weekend, these two 'objet d'omesticity' have grown particularly close to my heart. Especially as, after arriving home earlier this month to a chill indoors, I had to break out the bedsocks twice in the space of a week.

So last week, the pipes were fitted and the new combi-boiler installed. Gidday HQ is toasty warm and ready for winter.

But there's been an unexpected bonus. The water pressure is amazing.

No more shimmying around under the dribble from the shower head.

No more waiting 20 minutes to run a bath.

And the kitchen sink is full within a minute or two. (Let's face it, the quicker I can get washing the dishes out of the way, the better. It's not my favourite chore but there are not many other options when there's no-one else to blame nag cajole ask.)

It's gone from a trickle to a veritable torrent.

I didn't think it could happen but Fabulous Finchley just got even more fabulous.

I am one happy little Vegemite!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Frocks, Flicks And Champers...

This morning I wrapped myself up against the cold and stepped out into the crisp Autumn air to meet friend J for a few hours of glam gambolling at the V&A. The day was bright and it all started with a coffee in the sun before we wandered around the block to the museum in time for the first fabulous instalment of our day, Ballgowns.

The exhibition runs over two floors and displays ballgowns from the 1950s right through to the modern day. There were royal rags made by Norman Hartnell and Catherine Walker (remember Princess Diana's 'Elvis dress'?) right through to celebrity stunners worn by the likes of Helen Mirren, Sandra Bullock and Liz Hurley. There were even gowns made from everyday items like aluminium foil and plastic.

The 'Elvis Dress'
So after ooh-ing and aah-ing and eew-ing (yes there were some of those too - I am not a fan of Zandra Rhodes or Vivienne Westwood) for about 45 minutes, it was time for a quick break before venturing into the V&A's newest exhibit, Hollywood Costumes.

(It opened only last week - we are just SO up with the latest you know *wink*)

The three halls - Deconstruction, Dialogue and Finale - contained over 100 original costumes from the last century of Hollywood films. There was the iconic, the heroic and the historic - Star Wars and Superman, The Birds and Breakfast at Tiffany's, Elizabeth and The Iron Lady. We saw Indy, Arnie, Rocky and Neo as well as the yellow track suit from Kill Bill, the white halterneck from The Seven Year Itch, the green velvet 'curtain' dress from Gone With The Wind and the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy Gale's gingham dress and ruby slippers, worn by Judy Garland in 1939, are one of the last exhibits. You know you are not done until you see these.
Speaking of wizardry, the behind-the-scenes notes along the way gave a really intriguing insight into the development of character through costume as the art of costume design morphed from stand out to understated and back again before our very eyes. And after almost two hours of wandering down celluloid lane, I can tell you that David Prowse (Darth Vader) is really tall, Robert de Niro is an absolute chameleon and you should definitely book yourself a ticket to this before it closes in January 2013.

After almost three hours of glam, it was time for a little refreshment so it was off to The Pelham (near South Kensington Station) for a spot of my sort of tea, the champers kind.

There was a cosy fire, a glass of champagne and plenty of sandwiches, scones and cakes to enjoy as we chatted about what a great time we'd had at the exhibitions and stretched our aching feet towards the warmth of the hearth.

Post champers cakes at The Pelham. The raspberry macaroons were uh-maaayzing!
(There may also have been a slightly congratulatory tone as we appreciated the brilliance of pre-booking our (timed) V&A tickets instead of dealing with scrum of people who had a three hour wait in front of them. Well done us!)

And so that was our spectacular showbiz Saturday, a perfect way to chase away those looming winter blues and celebrate that sacred triad of all things glam - frocks, flicks and champers.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

This Is My Life...

In perusing my weekend-ly dose of Saturday Times this morning, I read that Deborah Meaden - yes the multi-millionaire businesswoman on Dragon's Den - was a gifted pianist as a child who, upon winning a prestigious music scholarship, decided she wouldn't do it because 'all eyes were upon me and it became someone else's thing.' 

She doesn't say anyone pushed her but does cite her 'refusal to obey orders' in the preamble to this tale. I suspect no-one ordered her to 'do' anything but rather felt that they were merely encouraging what she loved to do anyway and wanted her to fulfil her promise. But now her passion and talent had an expectant audience and it had stopped being hers.

And in her anecdote of childhood wilfulness, I recognised myself and a lifetime of rebellions and I won'ts flashed before my eyes. If you are regular Gidday from the UK reader, you can probably figure out some of these for yourself, my sudden move to the UK being among the most notable.

But there are many - giving up clarinet as a teenager after 9 years of playing, an all-or-nothing approach to my tertiary choice, a double degree that no-one had heard of (no-one did 2 degrees at the same time then) at an institute of technology, rather than a university. Not playing the corporate 'open all hours' game to get ahead, climbing the ladder at a rapid rate anyhow by producing results no-one thought I could. Refusing to fill my life with the work or ambition that 'society' suggested I should in the absence of children. And even now walking away - sometimes mentally as well as physically - from the people and the things that don't work for me.

It took me a long time to reach this point - where my life is mine and mine alone - and to stop feeling battered by the best-intended expectations and good opinions of others. For while my rebellion may have seemed intransient on the surface, it was so often underpinned by guilt and inquisition. Was I cutting off my nose to spite my face? What sort of a person did this make me, this proud and jealously possessive soul?  Selfish, impatient, ungenerous, obstinate and righteous?

These were not 'nice' things to know about myself.

I look back over almost 9 years in London and I am proud of what I've learned from all the challenges I've faced here and how my expat experiences have given a different cast to the way I shape my life. That's not to say that all of those years leading up to January 2004 didn't teach me a thing or two. Things like resilience, resourcefulness and learning to ask for help (although the last could always use a little more practice than I give it).
Somewhere along the way I learned to believe that saying no was valid, that disagreement was OK. That the love and the listening of close family and true friends really was unconditional, whether they actually liked what I was doing or not. That they just wanted happiness and success for me even though the direction I chose did not appear to be the obvious path to them.

Many years ago, I committed to living a life of complete generosity and inspiration. Little did I realise that the biggest bridge to cross was to be those things for myself first before others.

And in this, I finally learned that all of the 'theys' (and that includes all of the 'yous' who might be reading this now) don't have to like my life.

I do.

And that is when I found happiness.

This post is also part of Post of the Month Club - October - pop over to discover more great bloggers.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Just The Essentials...

What is it about life when it delivers randomly themed events that make you wonder what on earth kind of secret desire energy you were channelling?

I went to work on Monday thinking to myself - on my early morning bus trip - that I really must do some bra shopping to support those which precede me.

I open my Springwise email - which, along with strong black coffee, is about all I can manage at that hour - to be greeted by this...

...a breast tissue screening bra that uses smart technology to detect tiny changes before cancer can grow.

What a great idea and a timely reminder to give my protuberances a preventative prod or two.

So I go to work Tuesday thinking I should do a breast check this week (again on the early morning bus ride - obviously these things germinate while I sleep).

I get to my desk, open my Springwise email to find this...

...the Joey bra complete with handy side pocket for your essentials.

Because aren't every woman's essentials small enough to fit in your armpit?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Fabulous Baking Boys...

After a couple of weeks of travelling, this weekend I have curled my exhausted body up on the couch and caught up with some of my fave telly. This has included a dip into The Best of Saturday Kitchen - with Tom Kitchin making an amazing mallard and cabbage roll and James Martin pulling together a mouth-watering monkfish curry, all in the time it took me to have a couple of crumpets with peanut butter and a coffee. 

But I digress - easy to do when there's food involved.

The piece d'resistance of my comfy couch-based catch-up has been the quarter- and semi-finals of my favourite bastion of Britishness, The Great British Bake-Off.

Clever clogs: one of the contestants this series actually made this
(For the life of me I cannot remember who...sorry!)
I LOVE this show. There is something so quintessentially British about a bunch of baking boffins wielding their spatulas and icing bags in a big white tent in the middle of the English countryside. Having had a little go at baking myself, I can completely appreciate how skilled, clever and brave these men and women are, much more so than me. 

While I have, quite literally, not been in a position to experience the flavours and textures of scrumptious scones, donuts and petit fours, watching the critique from GBBO duo Mary Berry (great baking surname) and Paul Hollywood (super showbiz moniker) brings a smile to my dial every time. The contestants' trials and tribulations also make for many highs and lows in the baking rollercoaster. In the meantime, hosts Mel and Sue meander around the marquee revealing the human side of baking, providing words of encouragement, shoulders to cry on and a 'Mel and Sue' sandwich for each week's evicted baker.

L to R: Sue, Mary, Paul and Mel
After last year's all female final, this series has been ambushed by the men and Tuesday's Final will see Brendan, James and John battle it out for line honours. It has been a generational joust with the experience and exactitude of Brendan's years going head to head each week with 21 year old James' experimentation with form and flavour. And John - well 22 year old John has ridden the rollercoaster in between the two, producing both the awe-inspiring (like his gingerbread Colosseum in the quarter-final) and occasionally abysmal. He has also been the source of the greatest drama with a bloody injury mid-series saving all bakers from the usual weekly eviction (only for them all to face a double eviction the following week). I always knew puddings were not for the faint-hearted.

L to R: Finalists John, James and Brendan await news of their fate with Semi Final evictee, Danny
So on Tuesday we will see the back end of this season's BBC baking bonanza and after a joyful - and delightfully pastel coloured - romp through cakes, breads, biscuits and pastries, one of GBBO's fabulous baking boys will wear the crown. And it's really anyone's race - any one of these runners could snatch the winning bake by a nose. So I'm not sure who to put my money on.

What a shame it's too late for a trifecta.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


This blogging lark is a strange caper. We online literary hopefuls tap-tap-tap away in the hopes that people (that's you - in case you were wondering) will read all about our passions, woes and little foibles, whilst wondering what the perfect recipe will be to whet your appetite.

Anyhow for those of you uninitiated in the delights of blogging oneself happy, I think I speak for the majority when I say we bloggers love a stat or two. How many visitors pop in to check things out, where they come from (geographically and virtually) and which posts they read can add an elated squeal, a puzzled frown or, more often than not, a combination of both.  

A little while back, I decided to add my Top 5 Posts for the Week to the Gidday From The UK home page. It was a little experiment to see what Gidday-ers were reading each week and also designed to offer anyone with a little reading time on their hands, a quickie guide to my most popular posts.  

As you would expect, the most recent posts appear. Of late, both Did Somebody Mention Christmas? and 3 Sleeps To Go...A Little Pre-Christmas Cheer (from 2010 and 2011 respectively) have popped up. 

(Let's face it, the man in the red suit arrives in 74 sleeps and Gidday has probably appeared in a few early - rather too early for my liking - festive searches.)

But there are times when I find myself at a loss to understand why a particular post suddenly appears. 

I mean what's with the sudden surge of interest in Valencia?

Is there something happening over there that, being the Metro-less traveller that I've been this week, has passed me by? 

Is it football? Spanish flu? Last minute holiday deals? Or a sudden political scandal?

Can anyone shed a little light on this conundrum?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Travel Broadens The Mind...Let's Play!

I've been travelling of late so it's time for another dip into BA's business:life magazine for a few fascinating facts to top up your dinner party conversation. And in the spirit of all work and no play making for a rather dull life (as the saying goes), I thought we'd delve into the subject of play and what makes a Brit get 'social'.

First it has to be said that the divide between work and play is ever-blurred with 1 in 3 Britons meeting most of their friends through work. I concur heartily with this generalisation, my own personal experience being that much of this friend-making occurs after work. And with one year in the life of the average Briton spent drinking in the pub, I'd suggest that if you are feeling 'lonesome tonight', the best advice would appear to be polish up your drinking boots.

Speaking of drinking boots, did you know that £2.5bn is spent annually by British women on uncomfortable shoes? Me neither. (Although now that Seattle-A has departed these shores, that figure may come down a bit.)

Drinking boots come in many different shapes and sizes...
Another £1bn a year is donated lost by British gamblers in slot machines - perhaps these are the same people - the 44% of Britons - who don't consider pensions to be a source of retirement funding. Hmmm sounds to me like there'll be no more Choo Shoes for Granny.... 

But there's still plenty of fun to be had on the cheap  All you need to do is listen to the voice within58 mintues a week being the average time Britons have a catchy song stuck in their heads - probably from listening to the tune some ear-plugged and oblivious dude is availing everyone else of in the train carriage/bus/general vicinity. Or you could hang out down at the farm. Yes, 77% of farmers play music to their livestock - although I would not suggest getting jiggy with...well anything...while you're down there.

And finally let me astound you with a little bit of amazing arithmetic. There are 28.5 million cars on British roads and 10 million fixed penalty notices were issued to British motorists in the last 12 months. That'*screws up face*...erm...*counts on fingers**resorts to calculator*...a little less than 1 in 3 vehicles that earned themselves a little special attention for speeding, having a broken headlight, not wearing a seatbelt (that'd be the occupants of said vehicle) or parking in the vicinity of a really confusing sign.
And if you find yourself a little short of paying, you can ask your retired parents or grandparents to release a little equity from their bricks and mortar - 31% will do it to help their nearest and dearest.

I wonder what the percentage is Down Under?

Mum? Dad?

Travel Broadens The Mind - Back Catalogue
...It's A Virtual Life
...The Euro Zone
...All About The Readies
...Flights Of Fancy
...Or So They Say

Monday, 1 October 2012

Your 2012 Five A Day - October

Here we are in October and Violent Veg is paying tribute to everyone's favourite Fright Night...

But Halloween is not the only source of fear and trepidation this month.

Lil Chicky will celebrate the last birthday of her thirties in just 18 sleeps. I don't know quite where all the years have gone and quite frankly, I'm a little perturbed that next year, my 'baby sister' will enter the Naughty 40's.
The year is now 75% through and the shorter days on this side of the planet herald the end of British Summer Time on October 28th.

And let's not forget in 12 weeks time, we'll all be lying in bed listening for the rooftop patter of eight tiny reindeer...yes I'm afraid Christmas will be on us before we know it.

But in the words of Usman B. Asif:

'Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.'

So fear not and let's face the month ahead with an anticipation about what unexpected curiosities and delights it might bring.
And I hope this month's Halloween thrills don't prove too hair-raising for you.

Five A Day Back catalogue