Sunday, 29 September 2013

In Shardlake's Shoes...

It's Sunday again (where does the time go?) and I've been out and about today enjoying the lovely Autumn weather and indulging my passion for history and books in one fell swoop.

The City of London proved itself an excellent stage for Shardlake's City, a walking tour based on the novels of C.J. Sansom and his protagonist, Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer living in Tudor London. Blue Badge guide Paula met us this morning at the glorious Royal Courts of Justice and took us on a 2 hour odyssey back into 16th century London...

The Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street London
We visited Shardlake's 'home' at 124 Chancery Lane, the Inns of Courts where he plied his trade, the public houses frequented by his able assistant Barak and a whole range of locations pertinent to the five novels in the Shardlake series so far. Here are just a few pics...

Shardlake's offices were located at Lincoln's Inn in Chancery Lane, just a short walk from his front door....

...but he also petitioned at Gray's Inn and Clifford's Inn. The Prudential building actually housed one of the 'feeder' inns for London's legal profession.

The Old Mitre is representative of the back alley pubs where Barak, Shardlake's assistant, would have visited.

Shardlake's investigations took him all over the City of London, from Cromwell's corridors to the seedier parts of the city...

Clockwise from top left: Smithfields Market, site of public executions in the 16th century; getting our bearings coming out of St Bartholomew's; peering over the 'back fence' at St Bartholomew's Monastery and Chapel

Clockwise from top left: St Bartholomew's Hospital (with Henry VIII over the door), the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, the site of the infamous Newgate Prison (demolished in 1777) opposite the Old Bailey (right)

Near the end of the two hours, we approached one of our final stops on the tour, the Guildhall, to find that rather than a quiet square, the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival was in full swing...

As the tour drew to a close in Poultry (which ended at the site of...ahem...Grope C*nt Lane - did what it says on the tin really) it was time for a well-earned coffee and chinwag. The conversation started with giving our guide Paula a bit of a grilling about the whys and wherefores of being a guide before weaving through subjects like architecture, book clubs and history just to name a few. It was a very pleasant way to cap off our shared walk through Shardlake's City together.

Finally, I headed for home, foot-sore and mind buzzing with all of the interesting tidbits that I'd learned about London over the course of the tour. As I sat on the tube going back to Finchley, I flicked through all of the photos I'd taken, reliving a fantastic three hours (including the post-tour coffee). And I marvelled at how a little girl from the other side of the world grew up to live in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

If you like the sound of this tour, check out and find out when the next Shardlake City tour - or any of the other tours in Paula's repertoire for that matter - is scheduled. You might just fall a little bit more in love with London yourself.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Kindred Spirits...

Each evening as the 82 bus trundles north up Finchley Road and navigates the lights at Henly's Corner I find myself cheered by the thought of just a few more stops before I'm off for the short walk home. Henly's Corner can be a nightmare for the traffic if things go wrong but most nights, it's a fairly seamless crossing to deliver passengers to the bus stop on the other side so my optimism is usually well-placed.

As you reach the other side of the North Circular and start up Regents Park Road, there's a big green 'space' to the left. It seems an odd place to position a patch of nature, right next to the heaving flow of traffic. Even odder is the statue - a naked woman raising her arms to the sky, her sword in one uplifted hand. As the bus merges back into the traffic from the stop, her brazen profile stands stark against the urban 'wallpaper' behind her. A silent silhouette, triumphant and still, while I sit, usually oblivious, immersed in my post-workday literary feast. 

Image source: Wikipedia
But a few weeks ago, too tired to read, I spent the entire journey from West Hampstead gazing out of the window and as I saw her, arms uplifted, I wondered how she came to be there. What's the story here, I wondered?

So out came my trusty HTC One and before long I had the answer.

The Naked Lady (real name La Délivrance) was purchased by Lord Rothermere (the family of The Daily Mail fame) in 1920 and gifted to the district of Finchley. Initially local officials, in need of a war memorial, planned to place the statue - created to celebrate the first battle of Marne which prevented the Germans from capturing Paris in 1914 - at the entrance to Victoria Park. But our well-heeled aristocrat put his foot down - the current location or not at all - and so the statue was unveiled in its current location by Prime Minister David Lloyd-George in 1927.

The Naked Lady is the creation of French sculptor Émile Oscar Guillaume and stands, a bronzed 16 feet tall, at the southern edge of Finchley.

A bronzed goddess hey?

I always knew I'd find kindred spirits in Fab Finchley.

ps...speaking of kindred spirits, there are only 19 sleeps to go until my very own sibling kindred spirit deliverance indeed!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Going Downto(w)n...

There has been a blogging hiatus here at Gidday HQ as life in general overtook...well everything over the last couple of weeks. Preparing our exhibition at an international industry fair last week has been a six month affair but the last couple of weeks have been all-consuming and short of tapping out my 3am lists of things to do here on Gidday - not very interesting reading - I've been a bit bereft of my usual ability to blog about the things that I have found fascinating, curious, annoying, inspiring and funny. It was like everything all got stuck in the pipe and I couldn't find the wherewithal to squeeze them out.

So this weekend has been a time for making space, for letting my head empty and my body unravel from the work of the last six months and in the process, I've discovered a whole new addiction...

...Downton Abbey.
Highclere Castle, or as we know it, Downton Abbey.
I know many of you may be wondering how I have managed to come so late to this particular party in light of my predilection for the historical. Well, a few weeks ago I was out for dinner with friends and they were talking about the show, how great it was, and were quite surprised that I hadn't succumbed. We left the pub agreeing that Season 1 would find myself to me the following day...and the rest, as they say, is history. Season 2 was done and dusted soon after.

With both a purposely empty Sunday - to recover from the last seven days away and enjoy an unimpeded re-aquaintance with my own bed - and the start of Season 4 screening tonight, I have spent this weekend watching Season 3. If any of you have watched a whole season of something in a compressed period of time, you might understand the emotional rollercoaster of watching a whole nine episodes in quick succession. There are A LOT of ups and downs in this season so I'm thinking that it was probably much less exhausting to allow a week in between viewings.

But be that as it may, I am completely hooked. So I'll be joining the hordes of fans for tonight's frolic through Fellowes' fictional take on upstairs and downstairs.

And just in case you were wondering (it's been a little while so you may have forgotten), there are 23 sleeps to go until Lil Chicky arrives at Gidday HQ.

And I only have six working days left until I move into my new role at work

So much excitement, I can hardly stand it.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Has Our Luck Run Out?

The results are in and Australia has a new Prime Minister.

Yes, another one. Our third this year.

And I cannot believe this man has been chosen by 'the people' to represent them.

Or has he?

When I moved to the UK almost ten years ago, I added myself to the UK's electoral roll (as an Australian, I can do that here). There are many places in the world where having your say is not an option so I appreciate the privilege of living in a society that allows me to do this, whatever the mechanism.

At the same time, I removed myself from the Australian electoral roll, figuring that if I make my home elsewhere, it is not for me to have a say in the lives of those who still live in Australia. That is their privilege - albeit a compulsory one. But I remain staunchly Australian, carrying my native twang, laconic style and direct approach with pride and  hoping to be a good ambassador for my homeland wherever I go.

The outcome of this weekend's election Down Under has left me stunned. I can find absolutely nothing to recommend Tony Abbott and as far as I'm concerned, he is an incredibly poor representative of the Australian people. And unusually - I move in opinionated and voluble circles - I haven't come across anyone with a different point of view. No-one.

Pundits talk about a long election campaign (seven months) riddled with 'reality stunts' as opposed to committed and thoughtful politics; a circus of name-calling and sniping that perhaps voters just wanted to be done with. And given the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd tug of war within the Labor Party, perhaps people voted for the leader with a semblance of alignment behind him.

So what did happen? Is it a result of apathy or is there really something worthwhile under all of the surface nastiness and sniping? I'd be genuinely interested to hear any views that explain Abbott and the coalition's policies, if only to understand what the future looks like over the next four years for Australia.

Australia continues to hold the rest of the world in its 'lucky country' thrall and with a pretty buoyant economy (by global standards) and four cities in the world's top ten most liveable cities, this perception seems warranted.

But after this weekend, I'm left wondering whether our luck's about to run out.

Sunday, 1 September 2013


Here we are at the 1st day of September. Summer has ended (although it's rather sunshine-y at Gidday HQ today) and Autumn will start its annual pilgrimage across the northern hemisphere, creeping in with nippy mornings and shorter days. The leaves will...

...hang on. Stop right there. This is not meant to be a post about Autumn!

Take 2:

Here we are at the 1st day of September. And today is Father's Day in Australia.

So in honour of celebrating the man that is my Dad and warm the cockles of your hearts, I though it was time to do a little roasting....Gidday-style.

Let's start at...well, the start.  Here's where it all began for us...

 I think that there's a slight 'okay now what do I do with this?' look here.

But soon he got into the swing of things...blowing out candes (an important lifeskill even today)...

...and giving fatherly advice.
(Meanwhile, I am practising my 'whatever' look.) 
The decades flashed by and a few years ago, Dad swapped the city for a life roaming around the countryside.

Taken in New Zealand but I have seen many a similar picture of Dad-and-Stepmum in Down Under's very own great outdoors.

His days now consist of travelling to outback properties and national parks around Australia, 'homestead-sitting', painting, mending fences - generally lending a hand wherever needed - and visiting family and friends, whether they may be other itinerants or those of more fixed abode. Dad even put his new-found construction skills to work at Christmas, stepping up to the challenge of making this for our Christmas Day host...

 ...and seemed rather pleased to consider some liquid refreshment after the big unveiling.

Dad's also become quite the photographer and newsletters are often filled with amazing pictures of the local flora and fauna he finds on their travels. (Click here to see some of his work.)  But it's a dangerous job you know - not at all for the faint-hearted...
And nor has it been to have two rather independent and opinionated daughters living a few hours flight away for most of our lives. Which is why our recent frolicking about in old Melbourne Town last December was such a great testament to the passing of the years and the changes in our relationship.
Because growing up, I would never have credited Dad with photobombing!
(By the way, that's me on the left with Lil Chicky and the old man.)
So there's only one thing left to do and that is to say Happy Father's Day to my old man.
May you keep finding ways to surprise us all!