Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Nothing Happens When You Hide...

During the first part of my commute this morning (ie. the bus) I opened emails to find my daily snippet from Seven Sentences waiting to inspire me. Today's headline - to not dream is to not live - seemed a little clichéd at first but as I read on, my interest grew:

"'s no fun to's important to realize no one is actually looking for you."

This was quite a grounding statement to be hit with at 6.45am. And then there was this:
Nothing happens when you hide...the world is simply getting older."

Being on the cusp of birthday number 44, that rang very true. But what rang even truer was this:

"Waiting to be discovered is essentially a form of hiding. Just be you, celebrate who you are and take authentic risks every day."

This didn't resonate just because my big day's tomorrow (and regular Gidday-ers know how I love to celebrate).

You see, I have been offered an exciting promotion and it was all announced at work on Monday. The congratulations have been a mix of 'well done', 'I'm happy for you', 'you'll be great at it' and 'you deserve it', a wonderful acknowledgement of my last two and a half years in my role. I feel proud and moved, thrilled and humbled by it all.

Then I received an email that reminded me of something else. The journey.

I sat at my desk in the quiet of the early morning office and as I read each of the words, I remembered the 'dream' of working overseas, a dream that I had forgotten I had ever declared. But this someone reminded me that so long ago I had shared it and through all of life's ups and downs, the highs and lows, joys and sorrows, here I was living the 'dream'. That with hard work and a bit of risk-taking, I had somehow charted my course and ended up where I'd dreamt I would.

And as my eyes filled, I remembered something else.

That there's no hiding from the people who love and know you best. And that is a remarkable thing.

Because when you hide, love doesn't happen either.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Ye Olde Bucket List...Part Two

With the previous night's Shakespearean sortie under my belt, on Sunday I added another satisfied tick to Ye Olde Bucket List by visiting Lord's.

Lord's is the home of cricket. It's located in North London and as my local bus goes right by on its way down to Victoria Station, you can get a glimpse of the Nursery Ground over the wall. So it was with much anticipation I arrived at the gates with friend The Umpire to see Australia versus England in the second Ashes test.

With England leading by about 500 runs from the first three days of play (for those of you who don't know your cricket, test matches can go for five days), I had little hope of an Aussie victory but the Ashes series is an age-old contest between our two nations and when in Rome London, Lord's is what one must do.

Australia got an absolute shellacking. No surprise there given recent performances. But it was a great day. Lots of sporting banter, a cricket umpire as a companion (to answer all my inane cricketing questions), some really fabulous weather and a goodly selection of vittels to keep us sustained: what more could a person want?

Oh yeah. A few more runs on the board.

Here are a few pics of my Big Cricket Day Out.

The first one's of yours truly, mainly to prove not only that I was there but also to demonstrate that England is actually having a Summer (note the blue sky behind the hat and sunglasses).

Fans had travelled from across the world to stand sit shoulder to shoulder and support their team.

The emergence of the players at 11am...England was STILL batting.

This is the Grace Gate, the official players entrance. It's Grade II heritage listed - that happens a lot in London.

And this is the Big Vacuum Cleaner, ready to suck up all the rubbish it could find. Just kidding. It's actually the media centre.

And in true form, the banter was everywhere. Even on the back of the dunny toilet door.


And that, my dear Gidday-ers, was Lord's and another tick made on Ye Olde Bucket List.

Speaking of ticking things off, never fear peeps. I'm still ticking off the days until the very fabulous  birthday celebration of yours truly. Just 7 sleeps to go...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Ye Olde Bucket List...Part One

It's been a busy few days since my last post and I've been having a rather splendid time enjoying some of what the English do best...namely Shakespeare and sporting banter. So you lucky, lucky Gidday-ers get two posts.

I know. Two for the price of one. That's got to be an offer you can't possibly refuse.

Macbeth came first.

To provide a little context for this rather tragic inclusion on ye olde bucket list, all of that 'double double toil and trouble' stuff has been running around in my head since High School when I studied the play as part of the English curriculum in Year 11 and then revisited it in Year 12 English Literature.

And the fun didn't stop there. Lo and behold, Macbeth was also the Shakespearean text in my first semester of literature at University. That's three times in three years. The Merchant of Venice the following term was a breath of fresh air.

Anyway I've never actually seen the play. Ever. Not even a movie adaptation.

So on Saturday night I settled into my seat at The Phoenix Cinema (my lovely local) and watched a live transmission from the Manchester International Festival. Kenneth Branagh co-directed (with Rob Ashford) and took the leading role with Alex Kingston (of ER fame) as Macbeth's lady wife by his side.

The set wasn't a theatre but a deconsecrated church so the live audience sat either side of the central aisle and watched the action unfold...on the grassy verge in the middle. The rains came down, battles were won and lost, murder most foul committed and vengeance served in the end.

It was absolutely brilliant, Branagh was breath-taking...

...and Macbeth finally got ticked off the bucket list.

But the weekend wasn't yet over.

Tomorrow I'll let you know what else got ticked off.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The World's Coolest Bottle Opener...

So the big birthday bonanza is on and this year, first card past the post(box) is from Mum.

She's gone for a very practical design this year. Knowing how much I like a vino or two, she's come up with something I've actually been looking for all my life - the perfect bottle opener.

It's a mix of 'easy on the eye' and getting the job done. Style meets pragmatism if you will. 

It's not quite handbag-sized but I could see myself taking it everywhere.

(Although popping my cork on a whim may not be entirely appropriate in every situation.)

Oh what's that?  You'd like to see it?

Well if you must...

Only 13 sleeps to go peeps...NOW I'm excited...

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Marilyn Moment...

London is officially having a heatwave.

(It does make me chuckle at the thought of a mere 32C sending weatherpeople and policymakers into paroxysms of fear and foreboding, causing them to issue warnings to the old, young and mums-to-be.)

London does not do heat well. Its narrow streets swelter and arterial roads melt, its transport system buckles and its buildings steam, constructed to retain rather than dispel the heat. People visibly droop as the mercury rises and breeze is a rare thing on days such as these.

Which is why I stood my ground this morning.

I got to the station a few minutes earlier than my normal train courtesy of what I like to call a 'fast bus' (one where not many people make it stop and/or get on). I heard the speaker crackle heralding news that the next train wasn't stopping. I had been standing in the shade, positioned where the door usually ends up when my train stops.

Rather than step back as I'm usually wont to do, I stood still, flattened my palms against my light summer skirt and as the train raced past, I let the breeze swirl around me.

I felt my body sigh in sheer relief.

It was all over in under a minute but my Marilyn moment stayed with me all day.

Even now it makes me smile.

ps...and speaking of smiling, my smile will be getting bigger and bigger as my special day approaches. Just 15 sleeps to go peeps...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

In Memorium...

Yesterday afternoon, a jeweller's shop was held up in the tiny Victorian town of Hastings.

The husband was fatally stabbed while trying to protect his wife from the bandit. She was taken to hospital for her injuries and has since been released.

These people were our friends.

Dermot and Bridget O'Toole were amongst that first group of people who, when Mum arrived in Victoria with two little girls in 1980, generously wove a much-needed support network around us.

Bridget ran the nursery at the tenpin bowling centre where Mum worked. Dermot made Mum's Claddagh ring for her second wedding. I remember Dale and Trent (two of their three sons) only as little boys: it's been a long time since I've seen them.

An email from Mum this morning bore this devastating news and my heart goes out to this wonderful family who made such a difference to us and who must now face the consequences of such a terrible and senseless tragedy. My thoughts are filled with memories of this lovely Irish man whose passing leaves such a gap in his community, his family and in the hearts of all of those who were blessed to know him.

So I dedicate this post to the memory of that lovable Irish rogue, Dermot O'Toole.

May he rest in peace.


Saturday, 13 July 2013

Questioning The Benefits...

I watched a television show this week that explored the benefits system here in the UK which pitted public opinion against the benefits culture.

I've never been on benefits although I have been in the position of scrimping to pay my bills and feed myself as the result of my job being made redundant at the end of 2008 followed by the a**e falling out of the job market in 2009. So as everything from the weekly grocery shop to the job hunting behaviour was scrutinised, I did have some sympathy. But I was definitely on the side of the tax payer who was stunned to see how cavalier other people were being with 'my money'.

One of the people receiving benefits was a young guy on the dole who had graduated from University with his degree. He received a visit from a tax-paying nurse who works long hours to earn the money she needs to get by. She asked some pretty tough questions and pointed out to him that his situation in having a supportive family - living rent-free with an aunt and uncle who also co-fund things like his iPhone bill - surely meant that he should be working to contribute, albeit at something that might not reflect his degree qualification.

Granted, this guy only received something in the order of £3,600 per year and was doing some volunteer work at the local Youth Centre but in doing the job-hunting rounds of the retailers in the town centre, there was very little enthusiasm demonstrated around find a job to pay his way, let alone fund his hi-tech paraphernalia or brand-name shoes. He'd worked his way through Uni and he felt he should wait for a career job.

I remember leaving Uni in 1991, a rare (for then) duo of degrees in hand, expecting that my choice to double the workload and fees over my four years of study would yield the kind of career prospects I'd been promised when I had first enrolled. I had worked to pay my way throughout and also had a mountain of debt to pay back at the end.

As I sent off applications, phoned recruitment officers and generally chased as many opportunities as possible, time after time I was met with 'you're over qualified and under-experienced', something I found - and still find - to be a ridiculously circular argument. (How can a graduate with any promise get the essential experience for an 'entry level' position in their chosen career?) So after leaving my put-myself-through-Uni job, I worked as receptionist, then moved to a sales admin role with a sales brokerage firm six months later and worked my way into my marketing career from there. Life being what it is, I have found myself back 'at Reception' several times, temping to make ends meet after moving to London. But that's a whole other story.

It's been demoralising each time and there was many a time I thought to myself, what am I doing and how did I get here after all that hard work? But I always wanted to earn rather than receive the handout. Quite frankly, it also kept me sane: to be learning about a new business and meeting new people rather than dwelling on the situation I was in.

There's a big part of me that can 'see' the logic in waiting and taking what one can get. And I understand the disappointment of feeling that years of hard work to get a qualification is being overlooked or even dismissed. But I am pretty put out that my taxes are paying for his gadgets. I've blogged about 'entitlement' before so I won't get on my soapbox (for now anyway) - maybe the fault also lies in a system that is ill-equipped to validate need versus ease.

What do you think? Is there anywhere that has gotten this right?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Body Beautiful...

I was flicking through yesterday's Times when I saw the most amazing thing.

Looks like a frog right?

Look a little closer...can you see the five people?

This colourful tribute to the amphibious is courtesy of 2012 Bodypainting World Champion Johannes Stötter.

While there's part of me that wonders at the ways people keep themselves busy (eg. how do you first work out you want to paint bodies), the other part of me finds this fascinating. And I guess that's the power of art - polarising, puzzling, poignant. Sometimes none of these. Sometimes all three...and then some.

Anyway Stötter has been using the body beautiful as his canvas for 12 years, having painted his first at the age of 23. His website and facebook page are a veritable showcase of the human frame drenched in the inspirational colour and texture provided by the world around us.

It certainly brightened up the News section of The Times.

ps...and speaking of brightening things up, the Wish List is underway and there are only 24 sleeps to go until the Big Birthday Bonanza...can you feel the excitement?

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Cut To The Heart...

I love my street. It is a wonderful street to live in. It's chock full of old semi-detached houses with amazing architecture, intricate decorative detail and gorgeous leadlight windows which come alive when I walk along the footpath at night.

During the day, it's a leafy avenue lined with a magnificent array of trees that signal the passing seasons with their colour and bloom. And there's a particular tree that signals the entrance to Gidday HQ. It's verdant boughs cast a familiar shape across the sky as I gaze out of the window from my lazy-weekend-morning pillow and I've watched it transform from stripped bare to a riot of pink blossoms to its recent coat of rich, deep red.

So I was devastated to arrive home one evening last week to find this.

Finchley Council...not so fabulous!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Happy Birthday To You!

Today is the 4th of July. It's the day that America left the empirical embrace of Great Britain and declared their independence some 237 years ago.

And my recent sojourn to visit Seattle-A and her boys (that's Husband, the little dudes and G the wonder dog!) means that America's National Day has featured a little higher on my radar this year.

In doing a little research to prepare for this post, I have learned that today is also Republic Day in The Philippines - celebrating their cessation as a US territory in 1946 - and Liberation Day in Rwanda - commemorating the end of the Rwanda Genocide in 1994.

I've also learned that Eritrea Independence Day (24th May) is by far the hardest to say and that Morocco The Day of Enthronement of His Majesty King Mohammed VI is the longest (30th July) closely followed by China Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China (1st October) - try fitting either of those on a postage stamp.

And last but not least, I've been overjoyed to discover that 1st August is both Switzerland Confederation Day and the Tonga Official Birthday of His Majesty King George Tupou V. Thanks goodness! I started to think that my own official day was to be celebrated amongst only the equine.

(Do you like how I slipped in the birthday reference? Clever huh.)

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that today's lunch-table conversation naturally turned to the National Days celebrated by my colleagues of many cultures.

My French colleague claims Bastille Day (14th July) as her national day with a raised fist and 'vive la revolucion!'  Our Italian celebrates the liberation of Italy from the Germans on the 25th April. (Incidentally that's ANZAC Day in Australia which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915). The Turks at the table celebrate on 29th October with Turkey Republic Day and the English contingent hold St George's Day (yes, he of the dragon fame) up as the beacon of their nation.

And Australia? Well we have a celebratory beer on January 26th. Australia Day commemorates the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip sailed his fleet of eleven convict ships into Sydney Cove and 'settled' Captain James Cook's 1770 claim to Eastern Australia as a colony of the British Empire. We give out a few awards, go to the beach and chuck a few snags on the barbie. And we usually watch a bit of sport - tennis, cricket, horse-racing, yachting just to name a few.

Australia Day doesn't celebrate a separation as such (and rest assured I have plenty of views on that score). What it does represent is the birth of our modern nation, built on the shoulders of the brave who, in true pioneering spirit, forged a life for themselves in a strange and hostile land.

So as one pioneer to another, I raise a stubby to our American friends and with a taciturn nod, wish you a laconic 'happy birthday'.

Hope you've had a good one.

ps...and speaking of good ones, my loved ones have asked for 'The List' which means a certain blogger's big day is just 27 sleeps away...yes peeps, the countdown is back!