Monday, 31 December 2012

Boats And Bridges...

Being part of a somewhat caring and supportive family, Lil Chicky and I decided that it was time that we do a little window shopping to find the next lucky man in my life. Fortunately, the family had decided to take a ferry ride over to Williamstown yesterday so at 12.30 the family Hamer (including those with a myriad of other names) gathered at Southbank, boarded our ship of dreams and set sail.
The one hour cruise took us along the Yarra River and out through The Docklands which has developed significantly since I last lived Down Under - there are lots of interesting buildings to ooh and aah at on the way but for now, let's maintain some focus on the purpose of this post and leave architectural meanderings for another time.

The title promises bridges and we headed under many of them - here are my top three:

The Bolte Bridge, named for Henry Bolte who remains the longest serving Victorian State Premier (17 years from 1955). The bridge was opened in August 1999) and also forms an integral part of the entrance into Melbourne by car from the airport. The view of the City from here always feels like a big 'welcome back' to me. 
This bridge is a new one since my departure - it was difficult to capture the whole bridge but I loved this side, looking like one of those hooped underskirts from yesteryear.
The clean lines of this bridge and the Australian flag fluttering in the breeze typifies the clean, stark lines of the Australian landscape for me - no idea what this bridge is called either but I loved it all the same.
The weather was gorgeous - a pleasant mid 25C - and a gentle breeze cooled our sun-kissed noses and cheeks as we motored along. There were many boats out of all shapes and sizes, some puttering along at a more sedate pace...

Before we knew it, we had arrived at Williamstown Pier so it was off the boat for a stretch of the legs, something to eat and a hearty discussion about our plan of attack (which mainly revolved around ice-cream).
Docking at Williamtown foreshore...yes, that bright shiny object is the sun...
One of the great things about Williamtown (apart from the ice cream) is the fantastic view of the City of Melbourne so here's the shot, complete with the millionaire shopping arcade boats in the foreground... 

After a pleasant few hours we decided to head back but finding a millionaire/boat had not gone so successfully so we decided to keep our eyes peeled on the way back. A single girl's work is never done, you know...

As with some of my past experiences with you critters from Mars, this one seemed to over promise (Global Dream? Really?) and under deliver. I know it's a working boat and all but a lick of paint wouldn't have gone astray. There's always something to be said for making an effort.
Now this is more my style: Sleek and white and celebratory even in name. Unfortunately a small child appeared as we chugged past which is just going a bit overboard (pardon the pun) with the accessories I feel....
This one has a spot in the boot for one's jet ski. Very handy!
Suddenly the Bolte Bridge loomed above us again, signalling that our sea adventure (well the combined waterways of the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay in any case) would soon be over...
The Bolte Bridge with the bright shiny sun-thing again...
So that was the Day of the Family Hamer, seven intrepid wanderers out to see the world of Williamstown and conquer it with ice cream.
Which brings me (not so neatly) to the end of this post, my last for 2012. And all that remains is to wish you a Happy New Year wherever you are and however you choose to celebrate it.
There's one 'sleep' left peeps - let's show 2013 we mean business!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Heat Is On...

Some of you may know that I have ventured Down Under for the festive season this year. Well Christmas has been done, with many a cold cut and cooling beverage and much SPF30 application. Yes folks, it's warm!

Since my arrival on Sunday in 38.3C, I have been marvelling at how poorly I handle the heat now, particularly when I must do more than lie by the pool and read. But I will do my best to aclimatise so that I can return to the UK glorious and that I can rub your noses in it cover it all up with winter woollies.

We've been out and about a bit with a Boxing Day trip down to my old stomping ground, Frankston, to see the Sand Sculptures again (more on this in a later post peeps). Suffice to say everything and nothing has changed since I lived there almost 20 years ago...

Frankston Pier hasn't changed a bit and I remember many a walk along it as a teenager at the end of a day at the beach with friends. It looks empty here but it was buzzing with people about an hour later.
Kananook Creek has had a real makeover with picnic spots and a boardwalk up to the beach. It was not so nice when I was living here.
Boating is big here and in my youth there was many a day spent water-ski-ing or fishing (well that's the boys fishing and me lying on the front bit of the boat getting a tan).
And under yesterday's summery skies, there was nothing for it but to have some fish and chips under a shady tree for lunch.
 That's a nice piece of blue grenadier nestled against a yummy corn jack and scrumptious chips. And in the background, that's a can of Creaming Soda, not really to my taste but I've been on an Australian foodie nostalgia trip - aka 'oooh I haven't had that for yeeeeeears!' - since I arrived.
Lil Chicky has just arrived and we are off for a day of pampering and relaxing together so hope your Christmas has been a good one and you are making the most of whatever the season has to offer wherever you are.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Much Ado About (Doing) Nothing...

By the time you read this, I will have fled the chill in old London Town to sun myself in Langkawi.

For those of you who don't know, Langkawi is a collection of 99 islands just off the Malaysian Peninsula in the Andaman Sea.

Whilst I've been lucky enough to travel a lot this year, exploring new places and reacquainting myself with others, I have not had a 'do nothing' beach holiday for about 4 years so back in April, I decided to spend a few pennies and book myself a week in an upmarket pad at the Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa. And after months of waiting for a mere splash of warm sunshine, you can probably imagine that it was with much excitement that I boarded the A380 at Heathrow, especially after a week of sub-zero mornings.

So far I've slept (in bed, by the pool), read (in bed, by the pool) and generally moved at a rather lethargic pace. I've visited the beach, the bar(s), both resort pools and the spa and my plan is to repeat this pattern for the remainder of my week here. After all, I didn't pay for a lovely room in an upmarket resort to look around elsewhere or make any more perplexing decisions than which pool vs the beach and which book to read next.

Just in case you were wondering what this level of luscious lethargy looks like, here are a few pics of my inactivity-packed sojourn so far...

DAY1: Arriving in the morning meant my room was not ready so I was forced to wander around and admire the views - this one is just begging for an audience don't you think?
Once my room was ready, all I had to do was sit on my balcony admiring the view...and wait for my luggage which missed the connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. No big surprise as I had to sprint down the length of one terminal, get on the train to the other terminal, clear customs and security and run halfway up the other terminal to get said flight. I achieved this, sweating and panting, in 20 minutes. My bag did not.
DAY 2: After an hysterical emotional reunion with my luggage last night and a rather average night's sleep, I transferred my bikini'ed self to a sun lounge beside the pool for a few hours this morning before heading off to the spa. As it has done each afternoon since I got here, a brief (20 minute-ish) yet heavy shower came down during my walk back, but I just had to stop and snap this allamanda. We had these growing all over our side fence when I lived in Brisbane in the 70s so I had a little moment of childish (and wet) nostalgia.
DAY 3: Time for a proper beach walk so up at 8-ish for a 40 minute stroll. This colourful local is flying a flag close to my heart...
...while this one seemd to have taken a rather long and winding road.
As for my bikini'ed good self, I took my pretty paws (thanks to yesterday's spa visit) off to the Cascade Pool for the day. (There's a bar in the pool off to the left of the photo so don't worry, I didn't go thirsty.)
DAY 4: Hot and humid again today (surprise!) so it's back to the Horizons Pool (see DAY 2) for more lying about and reading...
...before a spot of lunch overlooking the beach.
I liked it so much there that I went back that night...
...for a couple of these.

And do you know what? I have plans to simply press repeat and do it all over again. Such are the hardships I must endure.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tis The Season...O Christmas Tree

I'll be away over Christmas/New Year so there is a notable absence of Christmas regalia at Gidday HQ this year.

No festive Christmas wreath at the door, no flickering Christmas candles and no Christmas tree.

That's right. Gidday HQ is tree-free.

Which means I've had to find my foilage fun elsewhere. And in my kicking up the leaves, I've found something both inspired and eco-friendly.

Eco landscaping company, Green Rabbit, have come up with a scheme which offers the Viennese a Nordmann fir (sustainably grown of course) for free. They then collect your Living Christmas Tree after the big day and replant it elsewhere but if you want to keep this tree and plant it yourself, you pay and Green Rabbit will supply a booklet to help you care for your tree.

What a great idea...what a shame that it's only available in Austria.

I'll just have to stick with the version the Pelangi Beach Resort, Langkawi has provided.

O Christmas tree O Christmas tree, only 9 sleeps to go...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Tis The Season...Pass The Parcel

We are down to just 12 sleeps peeps and in the interests of providing you with a Gidday helping hand, I've come up with a few quirky and slightly questionable gift ideas for your nearest and dearest.

A subject close to my heart is reading so at the top of the shopping list is a little something for the bookworm in your life. Upon opening one of my daily Emerald Street e-newsletters this week, I found this fab booklight. It also holds your book open - you know, while you go a make a coffee or hang out the washing or go to the loo. You get the picture...

Available from Suck UK (yes really) for £40
Next it's over to I Want One of Those. Popping in here always yields something unusual and it was a tough choice about which curiosity would inspire you most. But back in November, I lamented the wearing of socks with sandals so this has to be the perfect present for the saddo in your life...and let's face it, everyone has one.

Available on I Want One Of Those for £7.99 (or 3 for £20 - you could knock off 3 saddos in one!)
I've done a fair bit of travelling this year (and it's not over yet!) so my next inspired idea is for the traveller in your life. Cue The Scrubba, a lightweight portable bag which lets you wash on the go. Your clothes that is...

Visit and fork out 59.95 Aussie dollars to Do It (your washing that is) Yourself
Christmas presents of the participative kind are next on the agenda. Imagine, you've stuffed yourself silly with Christmas fare, squeezed in a spot of pud and are looking for something to stop the family snoozing on the sofa. Billed as a 'no holds barred game which stimulates after dinner discussion on controversial subjects of our times amongst friends', After Dinner Arguments could be just the thing to inspire a bit of spirited conversation around your festive table this year...
Available from, you can get hours of family feuding fun for just £7.99
And finally there is the ultimate in glam grooming: a ridiculous gift at an entirely ridiculous price...

Glam up those tootsies with a Swarovski crystal duck nail brush from Etsy for the bargain price of US$175.

Because couldn't we all use a brush with a duck on it?

12 sleeps to go peeps...can you believe it? Best you get cracking or you'll end up as a late addition on Santa's Naughty List.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tis The Season...Party Feet

With the big day fast approaching (only 17 sleeps to go peeps), attention has suddenly turned to collaborations of the festive kind. And this week has seen me celebrating with considerable commitment to the Christmas cause, the result being that I am ensconsed on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ today after last night's work Christmas party. Amongst today's priorities is resting my aching feet, having kicked off my dancing shoes *slash* drinking boots in the early hours of this morning before pouring myself into bed.

It was a fabulous night, starting with a drinks-style mingle (with a spot of champers, of course) and delicious dinner table conversation under the majestic Rubenesque ceiling of the Banqueting House in Westminster. Commissioned by King Charles I and installed by Inigo Jones, the ceiling comprises the only canvasses from the old Whitehall Palace to remain in situ. Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens painted them in his studio in Antwerp, shipped them across for installation in March 1636 and was paid the princely sum of £3,000 for his efforts.
Eyes up at dinner - what a spectacular view!
After dinner it was down to the Undercroft for a spot of drinking dancing. Designed as a drinking den (how appropriate!) for James I, the area went on to host lotteries after his death, which sounds kind of akin to some (alright, most) of the moves on show under the temporary disco lights last night. And a big shout out to DJ Jeff who kept the floor packed with swinging, singing partygoers - and at whose feet I lay the blame entirely for my scratchy throat and tender tootsies.

But this was not the only celebratory collaboration as earlier this week, we turned to team-building of a whole different kind. On Tuesday night we found ourselves in the south London suburb of Wandsworth for a night of culinary negotiation at Venturi's Table. Split into three teams, we kneaded, chopped, stirred, dipped, chatted and laughed under the careful supervision of Anna Venturi's team of patient chefs before sitting down to a fabulous three course meal - fresh pasta, chicken ballotine and a super-scrummy pannetone pudding. Oh and a few drinks. (There may also have been a bit of singing. Yes it's true.) This is not the first time I've done something like this (see my post on Hot Chicks & Hens) and let me just say right here and now, it won't be my last. It is such fantastic fun.

And last but by no means least, I managed to squeeze in a catch up with three colleagues from workdays past and over a bottle of wine (or two) and a cheap and cheerful meal at my local Italian, we shared the news, reflected on 2012 and speculated on what changes 2013 might bring.

It starts again this week so right now, I'm feeling rather grateful for today's respite. But not for too long. After all, it is the season to be jolly...

...and my drinking boots still have plenty of tread.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Driving Our Future...

Could you imagine driving your car along roads that adapt to the traffic and the conditions around you?

Sounds like something out of a futuristic sci-fi flick doesn't it? But in fact, it could be closer than we think.

In my itinerant innovation meanderings last week, I came across a cracker of an idea from a couple of literal clever clogs. Dutch design firm Studio Roosegarde have partnered up with Heijmans to develop Smart Highway, their vision for roads...

...which are more sustainable and interactive by using light, energy and road signs that automatically adapt to the traffic situation.

This looks like it responds to the weather conditions - we have many changes in weather here in the UK. Perhaps a highly lucrative market may not be so far away...once our road taxes have paid for all of the tearing up and re-laying of asphalt, the filling in of potholes as well as visibility jackets, hard hats and shovels...
Looking at this, I think the car is actually charged up when you drive in the 'induction' lane...what a fantastic idea! Now that might just give the oil companies a run for their money.
I love this idea of having lighting that is triggered by the traffic flow. Bit like turning the lights on and off as you enter and leave the room. No nagging required...and energy saving too.

During Dutch Design Week in October, this brilliant idea won a Best Future Concept award and Studio Roosegaarde claim that the first Smart Highway will be a reality in The Netherlands mid 2013.

What an amazing use of technology - concepts like this really do inspire me. What do you think? Could you see yourself driving on these highways of the future?

NB: All images sourced from:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Your 2012 Five A Day - December

It's December 1st, the first day of winter (on this side of the planet anyway) and a mere 24 sleeps from the Big Day. The temperature this week has really dropped: it was a brisk -1C when I was standing at the bus stop yesterday morning. I have some present wrapping and a little prep for next week's work Christmas do (at the Banqueting House in Whitehall no less) on my to-do list today. And to my absolute delight, this month's Violent Veg gives a big festive nod to one of my favourite Christmas traditions, carolling.

Seattle-A was in town on Thursday night (it was like a surprise early Christmas present when I got her text message this week) and as I made my way through Richmond train station to meet her, I saw my first set of carol singers for the season. A big group of kids, all rugged up in their vibrant winter woollies, braved the chill to fill the space with joyful tunes and I snatched a brief moment to stand on the stairs and enjoy a little of their festive spirit.

It took me back to Christmasses in Oz where opportunities to belt out a few yuletide tunes seemed to be around every corner, where the point was to join in rather than what you sounded like - probably just as well in my case. This was never about show-pony-ing (I've never been a Karaoke fan) but about sharing a bit of Christmas spirit with a disparate group of people who, in embracing the anonymity provided by the crowd, sang simply because they could.

I particularly remember bouts of Brownie carolling as a youngster in Brisbane in the 70s and another hot sticky evening somewhere in country Victoria in my early twenties, grown-ups and kids alike sprawled on picnic rugs under the riverside gum trees and a community band playing in the background while everyone sang their hearts out.

And in any of my excited witterings about Christmas (and particularly with Christmas Down Under in my sights), I cannot omit one of Melbourne's most wonderful institutions, Carols by Candlelight, a televised open air concert held at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl every Christmas Eve. I watched this on telly for many years and finally found myself singing along on the grassy slopes under the stars nine years ago just before I moved to London.

These every-man-sings opportunities don't seem to abound in the same way in Old London Town. There are many chances to sit and listen - from The Hallelujah Chorus at St Martin in the Fields and the Christmas Festival at The Albert Hall right through to a myriad of local community events but it seems that spirited audience participation is hard to come by. And as I stood amongst the swirling commuting masses on the stairs on Thursday night, watching those bright young faces, I realised that I missed this little piece of Christmas Past.

So that's another thing to add to the festive to-do list before the fat man in the red suit comes to town. But I've been a good girl (no really I have) and have already ticked one thing off the list this morning...

I do so love Christmas. Only 24 sleeps to go people...I'm excited!

This post also completes Gidday from the UK's Five A Day series for 2012: 12 posts containing both a whole range of random themes inspired by my merely turning the page each month and the laugh out loud cleverness of my Gidday Guest Stars, the vitamin-rich team from Violent Veg. The back catalog is below for any of you that missed any...I hoped you've enjoyed it.