Do you feel lucky?

Late last year I saw an interview with Australian columnist, presenter and commentator Jamila Rizvi about the launch of her book Not Just Lucky. Her premise was this: Why do successful, high-powered, high-achieving women undermine what they’ve achieved, what they aspire to and what they are capable of with the word luck?

Something prickled within me.

A few years ago I was promoted into a new job. It encapsulated all of the things I love to do and that I do well – developing new ideas for the business, working with a whole range of people in a whole lot of places and creating the ways and means to keep it all going well beyond whatever my tenure in the role.

Excited beyond measure, I had emailed my happy news to loved ones abroad, veering between the pride of taking on the kind of create-as-you-go role I’d always dreamed of and the disbelief that, after all of the ups and downs I’d experienced since moving the London, it was finally happening for me. I felt liked I’d earned it, like I’d paid my dues and deserved this opportunity. At the same time, I felt like it could be gone in a flash.

And I wondered, could this ephemeral quality be what Rizvi was referring to, what had disquieted me during her interview? Her own disparaging inner voice – the one that “says things that no polite human being would ever say to someone else” – sounded a lot like mine. So I got hold of the book and started to read.

20180408_165325

Over the first couple of chapters, my inner voice protested: Perhaps men (and I generalise here) could do with a little more of the humility and collaborative practice associated with women. But gradually I saw Rizvi’s point. It’s not so much the issue of who has particular qualities but rather that our attachment to humility does not always serve us.

Her chapter on conditioning – that we are products of the world around us and that our initial reactions are invariably the result of this conditioning rather than any objective ‘truth’ about the situation – gave me pause.

“First comes conditioning. Next comes me.”

She writes about crying at work, something that’s seen as the purview of women. Have you done this? I have – as a result of sheer frustration, of persisting with putting my point across. Of being reprimanded with “it’s not nice / appropriate” to push or “you’ll get a reputation as a bully”.

It’s exasperating not to be heard – it builds and seethes and then it boils over…and ‘leaks’.

Rizvi (along with a whole lot of other research) points to the different ways that girls and boys are socialised as they grow up. Boys are discouraged from showing “emotional fragility” (a topic for a whole other blog post!) while girls are discouraged from showing anger and aggression. So first comes that conditioning – the collaborating, the ‘appropriately assertive’ discussion, the ‘playing nicely’ – and it gets in the way of the authentic response – me.

I’m not saying that we should adopt aggression and anger as a mantra – we have far more to offer than that. But sometimes a personal flop can show up as failing for womankind and the extra scrutiny that comes with being the first, the one and only or even one of a select few can be pretty tough to take.

So how should we be dealing with the slings and arrows of social expectation? I found three gems in Rizvi’s chapters that I thought might help me to go beyond my conditioned responses.

1. Accept that your brain is hard-wired to protect you from lions, not criticism.

Cortisol has achieved somewhat of a celebrity status over the last few years. Books have been written and experts have waxed lyrical about why society is stressed, tired, overweight and just plain grumpy. But cortisol is one of the physical ways our brain prepares our bodies to respond to danger. It used to be lions that might have eaten you alive. Now it appears, it’s criticism. Thinking about it like this made criticism seem palatable and eminently more survivable.

2. Don’t forget it’s the receiver that makes criticism constructive.

We love to be right and to make others wrong. And we judge and take the role of the ‘wronged one’ when criticism strikes, wallowing in resentment and righteous indignation. It’s satisfying, isn’t it? Before we know it we’re off on a quest for the next heady hit…but where does our righteousness get us? It is up to us to step past the conditioned response and find the courage and stoicism to unearth the lesson hidden in the censure.

3. Everyone who is good at something did it for the first time without knowing how.

I’ve spent my career in marketing, innovation and customer development and I forget how many layers of ‘knowing’ I have developed. My recent foray into the world of property has thrust me right back into the space of conscious incompetence and with each week that passes I realise just how much I do not know and how scared I am of getting it wrong. This pearl of wisdom reminded me that getting good at something, let along gaining mastery of it, takes time. It also takes the resilience to keep getting up every time you take a knock and the persistence to always keep moving forward, even if the next step is just a tiny one.

Where does all this leave me?

Well I figure the world can’t afford to wait for us – actually, make that me – to be perfect. I have far too much to offer to be squirrelling it away until it is ‘just so’.

So maybe I need to practise owning the successes along the way and stop taking the criticism as something being wrong with me instead of as an opportunity to choose who I want to be in the world.

No-one is born lucky and when I took that job, my Dad wrote to me saying among many other things, that I’d worked hard and made my own luck. (And you’d be right in thinking that I cried as I read his words.) Yes, I did work hard. I also took some risks. And I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. I’m also a big believer in that if you put it out there, the Universe provides.

But luck is hard to ‘own’ so I’m thinking that what it’s really time to start thinking, saying, and embracing far more often is that luck had nothing to do with it.

So how much of your life are you willing to own?

Do you feel grateful?

Or do you just feel lucky?

Reasons why

I spent last weekend at a three-day property symposium at the Birmingham NEC.

I had travelled up to Birmingham on Thursday night to make sure I got checked-in and unpacked ready to start Friday morning. If you’ve been following UK news reports over the last few weeks, you’ll know that the weather here has been a little different from what we are used to so as I was greeted by bone-chilling wind and swirling snow on arrival, I bailed on the planned walk to the hotel and jumped in a cab. As we trundled carefully along the icy dark roads, I had no idea how I was going to find my way back in the morning.

It stayed icy for the next three days so each morning I’d layer up like a pass-the-parcel prize – jumper over long sleeve top over singlet, wool tights under jeans, thick socks under sensible walking boots all topped off with my warmest snow-coat and beanie. I’d walk around the corner to the Drop and Go at the Airport and get a cab to the exhibition centre. Then I’d reverse the process each evening.

After three long and full days, I was both buzzing and completely spent. Mercifully my trip back to London on Sunday night went smoothly and when I got home, I dropped my bags inside the front door and crawled happily into my own bed. That meant I spent Monday sorting myself out. I tackled several loads of laundry, a pile of unopened post and the stream of unread emails. I planned my week, allocating time in my calendar to prepare for things coming up and to follow up on all of the to-dos from the weekend.

I was beavering away when the doorbell rang. I get a lot of people ringing the doorbell during the day trying to sell their charities, ideas, political affiliations, etc. and if I’m not expecting anyone, I don’t answer the door. But when the bell rang a second time, gut instinct told me I should see who was there.

Look at what the nice man at the door delivered!

Aussie snacks

It was veritable cornucopia of Aussie delights. Burger Rings, Twisties – both chicken- and cheese-flavoured ones – a bag each of chocolate and liquorice bullets and Caramello Koalas, and two each of Crunchie and Cherry Ripe chocolate bars. Yippee!

As I was reverently unpacking it all and exclaiming over each nostalgic favourite, I found something more.

tim tams header

Chicky's tim tams

Yes! My very own super-sized packet of Tim Tams!

In lieu of my being Down Under for Christmas, it seems that my sister (Lil Chicky) had taken it upon herself to deliver a little bit of Down Under to the UK, gathering a whole lot of my favourite Aussie snacks and sending them across the sea. And the timing was perfect, taking me back to our time in Paris together and reminding me why I’m launching myself into the world of property investing.

Back in November, I had just completed my three-day basic property training and had committed to a two-year elite mentoring and training program. I knew nothing about property but I did know that I wanted to build a different financial future for myself. One that would give me some choices about how I spend my time in the years ahead – whether that’s in having the freedom and security to choose a job that I love and that fulfils me, building a portfolio career through contracting and non-executive director roles or pursuing some of my personal passions in education, mental health and travel.

We’d had about three weeks notice of her trip and between her getting on several planes and me whizzing across the channel on Eurostar, we’d managed to rendezvous in the Latin Quarter, make our plans and soak up as much as two erstwhile Australians ambling through the last shreds of Autumn in Paris could manage.

We were sitting on the top deck of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus on our first morning. It was dry, blue-skied and quite sunny yet the wind was icy – but the top deck is the best place for photographs so we had wrapped ourselves in beanies and scarves and taken our seats upstairs.

I was watching her take photos, leaning to get the best angles as the bus tootled around the sights and I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks: I could not have done this if I’d been working. With three weeks notice, I might have managed to wangle a three-day weekend, working my tail off to get things done beforehand and planning the trip at the same time. But my mind would have been filled with everything I hadn’t quite managed to get done before I left and wondering what would be waiting for me when I got back.

Instead there I was, my ears warm and toasty under my new beanie and the tip of my nose red with cold, completely present and hanging out with one of my favourite people on the planet. It was a moment of pure joy…and also one of clarity. I found myself thinking, ‘moments like this are what I want my life to be about’. To spend it with the people that matter most to me, to make a difference in what I do and to invest time in the things I’m passionate about.

The moment was brief and poignant – and it has stayed with me. Over the last couple of months, I have embarked on my property journey in earnest, preparing my strategy, travelling to investigate a number of investment areas, building my network of contacts, researching the people I need in my power team right up to attending last weekend’s Symposium and booking my first viewings for later this week.

All new and scary things to me.

And what keeps me pushing forward are my reasons why, the very ones that were delivered in a moment of blinding clarity on the top deck of a tourist bus in Paris.

Read anything good lately?

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know that I’m prone to wittering on about books every so often. Sometimes this is inspired by an author interview or literary festival. At other times something I’ve read will have seized my imagination or evoked such a swell of nostalgia that it’s inspired me to some wordsmithery of my own (like in my recent post, Sacred Places).

Reading is one of my passions – in fact if you asked me the one thing I would never give up, it’s reading – and 2017 has been a stonking year on the reading front. In January I set myself a target of 60 books for the year…and ended up reading 118. (Website for the book-ish Goodreads informs me that equated to 43,369 pages. Phew!)

I use Goodreads to rate and review everything I read and to follow some other like-minded souls. I also participate in the Ultimate PopSugar Reading Challenge, an annual list of at least 50 themes to read against – last year’s included a book set in a hotel (I found Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford) and a book from a genre/subgenre you’ve never heard of (I discovered paranormal fantasy via the Goodreads-recommended The Rook by Daniel O’Malley) – that pushes me to look ‘off radar’. Rating and reviewing also helps the Goodreads algorithm-thingy to shape their recommendations for you – I have found some wonderful, off-the-beaten-track novels this way.

My average Goodreads rating in 2017 was 3.7 stars – which falls somewhere between good and great on the Gidday scale of literary love. Here’s a pie chart for the statistically-minded amongst you:

Goodreads 2017 ratings pie chart

The good news is that I finished everything I read last year, so no-one was awarded the ignominious 1-star rating reserved for the ones that I can’t / won’t finish. However, that’s not to say that there weren’t disappointments. I gave nine books 2-star ratings and of those there were four – Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Emma Cline’s The Girls, Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies and Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles – that I hope I never set eyes on again.

At the other end of the spectrum I awarded 5-star ratings to 21 reads…

5 star reads 2017

…and 4-star ratings to 51 reads. That means 72 books – or 61% – of last year’s literary exploits ranked somewhere between fabulous and life-changing.

I revisited some of my favourite writers in 2017. There were heart-pumping thrillers from Dan Brown (The Lost Symbol), David Baldacci (The Guilty) and Matthew Reilly (The Great Zoo of China). Robert Harris and Bernard Cornwell brought the conquests of ancient Rome and the Vikings to life in Imperium (Cicero #1) and Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Stories #9). And there were poignant past-meets-present tales from Barbara Kingsolver (The Prodigal Summer), Joanne Harris (Different Class) and Kate Mosse (Sepulchre).

I also discovered some new favourites. I romped happily through Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay in January then returned for seconds in April with The Final Solution. Australian writer Jane Harper had me feeling nostalgic for the hot, dusty smells of the Australian outback with her debut, The Dry while Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent turned out to be a luscious mix of myth, social mores and a woman ahead of her time. Robin Sloan introduced me to Mr Penumbra and his extraordinary bookshop while A.S. Byatt’s masterfully-drawn cast of characters held me in their thrall throughout The Children’s Story. All five writers are on my to-read list for 2018.

It wasn’t all about fiction either with 18 of my reads tackling subjects across history,  politics, food, technology, psychology, society and the future of humanity.

I spent some time immersed in tales of the future reading Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (scarily prescient given it was published in 1970) as well as Noah Yuval Harari’s much publicised histories of today and tomorrow, Sapiens and Homo Deus. I delved into politics with Nick Clegg’s Politics: Between the Extremes and on the social psychology front, devoured Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind with relish. Mark Stevenson’s We Do Things Differently was a fascinating look at some of the forward thinkers – and tinkerers – of our time while Jay Rayner’s exploration of his (and our) relationship with food in A Greedy Man in a Hungry World gave me a lot of food for thought (just couldn’t resist that pun). And reading The Silk Roads (Peter Frankopan) in January and From the Holy Mountain (William Dalrymple) in December meant that I inadvertently book-ended the year with tales from the Byzantium…and got my travel juices going.

I read about some women of note too: Royal women like the wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria (Cavalier Queen) and Katherine Swynford, the paramour of John of Gaunt. I read about literary women, such as poet Emily Dickinson (The Lonely House) and author Jane Austen, as well as women succeeding in the world of men – from Pope Joan in the 9th century, through to Katherine Johnson (Hidden Figures) and businesswoman Karren Brady in the modern era.

There was also some unexpected weeping in my local cafe over prize-winners A Little Life and Fugitive Pieces. And the compelling stories told by Liane Moriarty in Big Little Lies and Jay Asher in Thirteen Reasons Why inspired some comfy-couch time and box-set binge-ing in an effort to recapture what I loved about the books.

What a year it was.

And now you know why, when you ask me, “read anything good lately?” I pause. It’s such a big list to choose from. So it is with this post that I offer you my answer.

“Yes, yes I have.”

So fill your boots and enjoy peeps – and don’t forget to return the favour.

Have you read anything lately that shook your world?


I have provided links to Amazon UK for all my recommendations. It seemed the most common place to send you to access reviews and/or purchase. Of course other websites are available as are bookshops – and don’t forget the shelves of your local charity shop – if that’s your bag. And if you happen to be on Goodreads, you’ll find me here…make sure you pop by and say gidday!

Setting the tone

This morning I was lying in bed listening to the radio. English TV presenter Davina McCall was being interviewed and she mentioned that she ‘loves a new year’, that it was a time of ‘getting on with it’ after the world winding down over the Christmas period. I found myself nodding in agreement from beneath the duvet.

There is something insistent about a new year, isn’t there?

Wherever I am at this time of year, whether Down Under with family in Melbourne or at home here in London, I like to give a nod to the year just gone. This time around I’ve been enormously grateful for the time and space that my end-of-2016 redundancy has given me. 2017 has turned into something of a watershed year. It’s been a year during which I wondered how a life without a job – and the structure that a job brings – might look. It’s certainly been a year of reflecting and exploring what I’m passionate about.

And the first of these is reading.

Yes I’ve been indulging my passion for the written word, reading like a mad thing and finishing the year with 118 books under my belt. At the same time, I’ve tried to challenge myself by reading more widely and I’ve tackled books that have been confronting, uplifting and gripping. Some have been boring, some have been surprising. But for the most part, they took me to new places, immersed me in new stories and left me curious, inspired and hungry for more.

Then there’s learning.

I’ve introduced myself to the world of MOOCs, embarking on the first structured learning I’ve had in over 25 years. I relished the return to economics and development – a subject I loved at high school – and dived into the untested waters of democracy and development in Africa and an introduction to philosophy. It inspired me, taught me, challenged me and frustrated me. What I didn’t expect to learn is that I have a better capacity for self-discipline that I thought.

I’m also passionate about making a difference. Regular readers might remember that in June, I took on my first non-executive director role by becoming a school governor – answering a personal calling to support and guide the young people who will live in the environment/society we are leaving in our wake.

I’ve also been travelling, exploring places like York, Edinburgh and Muscat (Oman) for the first time as well as revisiting old haunts – Oxford and Canterbury in the UK and then Paris with Lil Chicky in November. And on the home-front, I’ve shone some light into a few culinary black spots and added some new made-by-me staples to the Gidday pantry.

That’s not a bad year. It has certainly been a busy and stimulating one so like everyone, I enjoyed the luscious slow-down of the pre-New Year week. But once I could see January on the horizon, just like Davina I was itching to get stuck in again.

So it’s time to tackle 2018.

I’ve already added a new batch-recipe staple to my culinary repertoire – a delicious chicken bhuna curry – courtesy of a pre-new year visit to the Waitrose Cookery School.

bhuna curry montage

Left: The version I produced under supervision (with some sticky rice and made-by-Kym chapati); Right: The batch made at home was an absolute treat. The three leftover portions froze beautifully and kept me well-fed for a week.

I’ll be continuing to expand my aesthetic horizons this year and am off to the V&A Museum next Tuesday. What’s new about that? I hear you say. Well, I’ll be off with my brand spanking new V&A Museum membership – a Christmas present from Mum – tucked safely in my pocket.

VAM membership pack

The membership pack was almost as much fun to open as the promise of free exhibitions and other membership perks!

On the reading front, I’ve signed up to read 70 books for the year on Goodreads – including something from all 50 themes on the PopSugar Reading Challenge 2018  list – and am looking forward to some unexpected gems from my V&A Book Group. And after a few years of donating, I’ve finally made the acquaintance of the bookshelf at my local charity shop.

Book stack

I loved Byatt’s The Children’s Book (a V&A Book Group read from last year) so was chuffed to find Possession on the shelf. Grenville and Amis are authors I’ve never read and let’s face it, at less than £1.50 per book, I can afford to explore some new literary horizons.

I’ve also taken my first steps towards being a property investor, attending a 3-day strategy builder course last weekend, booking in for some courses on Buy-To-Let and Multiple-Occupancy over the coming months and getting stuck in with some research.

And of course my governor activity will continue in earnest as we embed last year’s initiatives and embark on some exciting new projects in 2018.

So with all of this setting the tone for the year ahead, I’ve bought some new stationery…

Stationery

Setting the (b)right tone for the year

Isn’t it lovely?

*sigh*

It’s going to be a bright and shiny 2018 peeps – I can feel it already!

Inspired by: Women of the future

Back in 1986, when Whitney Houston sang about children being our future, I paid little attention. It was the year I turned 17 and I was busy casting off the shackles of childhood. As far as I was concerned, the future was all about me and what I was going to be in it.

It took thirty years and the words of another powerhouse woman, Miriam González Durántez, before I got the point: I may be the ‘now’ but the future is in the hands of those much younger and specifically those who inhabit our education system. Whilst I’m not interested in being a school teacher, Miriam’s words made me see that there was another way to contribute.

In the weeks that followed, I signed up for Inspiring the Future, an initiative connecting schools with the world of work and before long I was involved as a business volunteer with the Barnet Business and Education Partnership. For the last year, I’ve been in secondary schools supporting programs like presentation skills, interview skills and how to make the most of work experience that help students prepare for life ‘beyond school’. Participating in this way has been really motivating. It’s also got me thinking about how we prepare young adults to tackle life’s challenges outside their academic curriculum.

What other things can we do to help them to be resilient, resourceful and responsible in their adult life?

Earlier this year, I returned to the Inspiring the Future website to tick an additional box flagging my interest in being a school governor. I didn’t know that this would be the right thing for me but I knew I felt passionately about the contribution to be made and wanted to explore this further. In the words of change leadership guru Deborah Rowland (who I met in March)…

” …having set up these initial conditions for emergence, you have to let the change come towards you, not go chasing it.”

Still Moving: How to Lead Mindful Change by Deborah Rowland

…so I ticked the box and went on with life, continuing to explore a range of other interesting opportunities that had been emerging.

On June 4th, I attended the TEDx London conference and among the lineup of inspiring speakers was Teach First’s Executive Director of Delivery Ndidi Okezie who spoke about ending educational inequality and creating a world where all children have an “equalising educational experience”. Okezie spoke of feeling overwhelmed by the scale of change required but insisted that “a change must come”. Did you know that the proportion of UK children who go on to attend Oxbridge is roughly 1:20 but in poorer schools that this opportunity falls to 1:1,500? Teach First has over 10,000 ambassadors in schools creating equal educational experiences for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances.

As I listened to Okezie speak, I was taken back to my school years where a couple of teachers were particularly instrumental in helping me navigate the path to adulthood. Back then I was preparing to take flight into a world that, despite my insistence to the contrary, I didn’t really know much about. I was embarking on a new phase – just as I am now. I jotted a few notes down as the talk came to a close, thinking that they might come in useful at some point. One of the things life has taught me is that you never know which pieces of the puzzle might eventually come together.

And how timely this was. Less than a month later, I joined the Board of Governors for a local secondary school, becoming part of their Educational Standards Committee and also the link-governor for the school’s performing arts curriculum.

Needless to say there’s a lot to learn and a lot of work to be done. But I’m really looking forward to working with this team of passionate and committed governors and teachers. I’m also excited about ensuring that the student community – these women of the future – are equipped and empowered for the adventure ahead.

I’m stunned by how quickly these pieces fell into place.

I once heard it said that when you take responsibility for your own happiness, life shows up as a gift. I drew deeply on my reserves of resilience and resourcefulness as I struggled to build a new life in London over 13 years ago. And after last year’s work changes, I decided to take some time to explore how I wanted the next stage of my life to look. Whilst the full picture is still emerging, I’m feeling happy, fulfilled and excited to be on the brink of new possibilities.

So I feel passionately about encouraging the development of these qualities through my role as a Governor:

  • Resilience – in the face of life’s challenges;
  • Resourcefulness – in spite of what might stand in the way;
  • Responsibility – for stewarding themselves and the world through tumultuous times and inspiring the generations to follow to be the authors of their own success, whatever that may be.

Three more R’s to supplement the three – reading, [w]riting, and [a]rithmetic – that began their education over a dozen years ago.

My life is undeniably the sum of all of the people and experiences that have left their mark on me and it was another speaker from the TEDx London conference in June – a bloke from the world of policing and forensics no less – that captured this perfectly:

“Every contact leaves a trace.” John Sutherland

Here’s to leaving a positive and worthwhile mark on the generations to follow.

Think Fantastic Try Hope

Inspiration forms part of the window display of the Fendi store in New Bond Street, London (June 2017)

Spreading the word[s]

Acknowledgement is a lovely thing. When I started blogging in 2008, the first post I sent out into the blogosphere was intended for my family, a way for me to share the moments of my expat life with those across the other side of the world.  But I got two comments – some kind words of support and encouragement – and suddenly a whole world opened up. 626 posts and nine years later I still wonder at you all – in a marvellously nice way that is. That you actually want to read my warblings on life is humbling and I am grateful for every time you visit and leave your mark whether it’s by following, liking, leaving a comment or just hanging out incognito.

Earlier this week I popped into Gidday from the UK ‘s back office to follow up on a few email notifications. I had a few comments to reply to and I wanted to return any post ‘likes’ by having a nosey around the latest posts of those very likers. Anyway, I got a lovely surprise. A nod from new Gidday-er, Rupali who blogs over at Full of Dreams, who had nominated me for a Unique Blogger Award.

UBA landscape

Acknowledgement never gets old (even after 626 posts) so Rupali, thank you.

Rupali’s blog is full of dreams – her dreams – and the masthead says it all…

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

Her posts capture moments and explore how the smallest things can change one’s day and make a difference. You can pop over, have a squiz and say gidday here

Rupali’s also asked me three questions…

  1. What is the best thing about writing that you love? It’s definitely the ability to relive a moment through writing about it.
  2. Name one of the blogs from your collection that you love and why? Memories of Nanjing because it captures a memory, a moment of unspoken acknowledgement in the most unexpected place. Even when I read it just now, I could still feel the thick warmth of the night air on the back of my neck and see the flowers appearing beneath her fingers.
  3. What do you prefer more, Reading or Writing? Oh dear, it’s reading. I’m a bit addicted…

Rupali finishes each post by admonishing us to ‘never lose that smile’. Well if you’ve been following Gidday from the UK for a while, you’ll know how I feel about creating moments of joy. So I’m sending this award on its way in the hopes of paying a little joy forward…

10 blogs that I love are:

  1. Chaotic Shapes
  2. Black.Bunched.Mass.Mom.
  3. Trash on the Monocacy
  4. Perking the Pansies
  5. Expat Edna
  6. lemanshots
  7. My One Beautiful Thing
  8. Pelky Sisters
  9. Are You Happy?
  10. Flirting with the Globe

Bloggers, your mission, should you choose to accept it (otherwise known as the rules for this award)…

  • Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
  • Answer my 3 questions:
    • What was your first ever blog post about? Don’t pretty it up peeps, mine was about turtles.
    • If you weren’t blogging/reading this blog right now, what would – or should – you be doing? The list is long…but probably eating.
    • Name one of the blogs from your collection that you love and why?  I am stealing this question from Rupali because it made me smile the most.
  • In the spirit of sharing smiles and moments of joy, nominate 8-13 bloggers for the same award.
  • And ask them 3 questions of your own.

Seriously peeps, acknowledgement is so good for the soul and we can all find a little time to give a nod to someone who brings something beautiful, thoughtful, joyful to our day.

So please share the bloggers that you love and keep spreading the word[s].

Counting down

I was fossicking about on Facebook this morning when Licensed-To-Grill (Mum’s partner) mentioned that I had been unusually silent. He didn’t mean generally – I always have plenty to say and share – but he was pointing to one thing in particular. So this post is designed to address that gap, to fill the space that has been created, ironically enough, as a result of my busy-ness.

There are 38 sleeps to go until my birthday.

My sister, Lil Chicky, and I love a countdown. I mean what’s not to love about a Christmas countdown, (especially when you are smugly/annoyingly organised like me)? And every second Christmas I’m usually heading back Down Under so there’s the additional excitement of seeing loved ones again and enjoying a stretch of warm weather smack bang in the middle of a London winter.

Yep, that’s a pretty great thing to count down to.

But what about the birthday countdown?

Mum, Lil Chicky and I moved to Melbourne when I was ten which put us a plane trip away from a lot of our family. It also meant that the usual day-to-day experiences of girls growing into teenagers were not available to them. As a result, a couple of times a year, Mum would find herself fielding a host of ‘what would she like?’ requests as our birthdays approached. Being a family that doesn’t do ‘here’s some money, buy what you like’, we would be asked for a ‘birthday list’.

As I got older – and I mean into my 20s, 30s and *ahem* 40s – I started to have a bit of fun with this by dropping it into regular conversation. Things like ‘Oooh I’m excited, only 38 sleeps to go!’ or ‘Did you know there are only 37 shopping days until my birthday?’. It gets a laugh but it also does something else.

Remember how excited you used to get about your birthday when you were a kid? (And if you can’t remember that far back, just check out any kids aged up to the age of ten with an impending birthday in your vicinity.) Well, this silliness creates a huge dose of childish excitement…in me. I absolutely love it. I don’t know about you but I reckon we could all use a bit more childish joy in life.

On the practical side, I still supply a birthday list each year that gets built in the weeks leading up to my big day. (I like Amazon Wishlist as I can build it as I think of things – instead of in one go – and I can restrict the list access so it’s not public.)  I treat it as a way of showcasing things I’m currently interested in so loved ones can either purchase directly from it (instead of shipping stuff from Australia) or be inspired by it. Books feature a lot, jewellery gets a regular look in and every so often there’ll be something a bit more random like a fancy lampshade I’ve fallen in love with, a funky kindle case or a pretty summer dressing gown.

But every year I am reminded of the power I have to generate my own joyful moments. And to remember that the day I came into the world was a gift and will always be worth celebrating.

There are 38 sleeps to go peeps.

And I AM excited.I'm excited

 

The meaning of stuff

Lately I’ve been thinking about stuff.

Just over thirteen years ago I packed my stuff into a half container and had it shipped across the world. A year later, when I finally moved into a tiny flat in South West London, I can still remember how thrilled I was to have my stuff all around me again. I remember filling the drawers of my beautiful wooden sideboard with games, crockery and assorted bits and pieces and ripping into the box marked CDs to plug into some much-missed Aussie favourites. It felt like Christmas and a birthday all rolled into one.

Spending so much time at home at the moment has made me realise how much stuff I have. Most of this original shipment is still with me and my years here – and a move to a bigger flat five and a half years ago – has seen me accumulate more.

What has struck me is how it runs my life. Last week, I spent almost three hours re-staining my 5-year-old outdoor setting. It was not a fun experience and as a mucky pup, I managed to get the wood stain in all sorts of places it wasn’t meant to be. But it’s a big job that’s been ticked off the list and I’m really pleased with how it looks. Until I have to do it again…

Outdoor setting freshly stained

Almost 3 hours of work and it looks great. But I know I’ll have to do it again…and again.

I saw Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, interviewed earlier in the year. It was clear that he’d been considering this as well.

“We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us.” 

His point was this. Before we caught on to the idea of cultivating more wheat than we needed, we hunted and gathered only as much food as we could eat, following and staying where the food source took us. Wheat had us stop and settle, invest time and energy and resources – including the building of fences and the shovelling of sh*t – to preserve and protect it. His question is ‘do we really think we are running the show?’

My question is now, ‘has my outdoor setting domesticated me?’

Stuff is everywhere. And here in London you cannot travel far without coming across a testament to it – a museum. And it’s been in visiting some of the smaller ones recently that has got me thinking about what stuff means and why preserve it.

In the last couple of months, I’ve visited the home of wealthy industrialist, Frank Green in York, the Hampstead home of Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna and the home of architect and collector Sir John Soane in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields. For me, these personal collections of antiquities, curiosities and everyday items created a much greater sense of the person’s story and time. I was especially fascinated to learn that:

  • Sir John Soane was such an avid collector that he bought the sarcophagus of Egyptian Pharoah Seti I (1303 – 1290 BC) when the British Museum ran out of money after it had secured the controversial Elgin Marbles.
  • Sigmund Freud was so attached to his stuff that he refashioned the study he had in Vienna in his new home in London, including THAT couch.
Freud Museum montage

Freud lived at Bergasse, 19 in Vienna for 47 years. Before he fled to London in 1938, he had his rooms in Vienna photographed with a view to recreating them in his new home.

Without stuff, how would we get a sense of what has happened before or what life was like? And yet the physical stuff is not the whole picture.

I attended a breakfast seminar in April which addressed the question of stuff. There was a lot of talk about decluttering, connoisseurship and the trend towards spending on experiences rather than things. Research shows that the Millennial generation in particular (born between the early 80’s and the late 90’s) are tending to share and access stuff versus owning it. Perhaps this is a conscious choice about being unencumbered and financial enough to travel, attend events, concerts and festivals, eat out and, as one media pundit noted, ‘drink their £4 coffees’.

The digital discussions around music (iTunes), streaming services (Netflix/Amazon Prime) and e-books were also interesting and in the face of their continued growth, the non-digital experiences associated with all three industries are being revisited. Vinyl has become the choice of the cool connoisseur. Cinemas are providing VIP services and collaborating with live event providers eg. theatre, opera, ballet and even the annual TED Conference, to expand their audience and revenue opportunities. And books? Well, e-book share is highest in the US, having grown to 25% since 2009, yet only 7% of people state that they will read only e-books in the future. (Source: PWC – The future of e-books 2016). That seems to me to be a gap for stuff to fill…

Here at Gidday HQ, the past few months have been chequered with bi-weekly trips to the charity shop as I’ve been weeding stuff out of cupboards, drawers and wardrobes. In the words of Steve Howard, CEO of global stuff purveyor IKEA…

If we look on a global basis, in the west I’d say we’ve probably hit peak stuff.” 

…and my cupboards probably agree. But with IKEA’s sales up 4.8%, their expansion into new markets going strong and the opening of their IKEA Museum in 2016, I’d say ‘I don’t think so’.

Consider this. How often have you been trapped shopped in the IKEA Market Hall and found yourself putting a funky new toilet roll holder (that you had to have) onto the checkout conveyor next to the matching-colander-and-spatula-set (that will be very handy) and yet-another-bag of 100 tea light candles (because we might’ve run out)? And who doesn’t love a Billy bookshelf – the home for books (and most likely other stuff) that ‘loves to grow’?

No. We like stuff. We like the stories stuff tells us about ourselves – how much or little of it we have, what it all means about us. And we like to check out other people’s stuff – in museums, on social media, on the bus – and decide what we think it means about them.

So to my mind, our relationship with stuff is still going strong and digitisation is just encouraging us to get more and more of it. Case in point: My Kindle currently holds 70+ books, about what I would normally read in a year. (I also have a bookshelf full of ‘proper’ books.)

But in our world of curated content and social media profiles, the tangible and/or visible stuff only tells part of our story. I wonder what the people who will populate the centuries ahead will imagine about us based on this – the visible/tangible stuff we leave behind? I’m not talking about the impact on the environment – that’s a question that could fill several blog posts – but about the minutiae of our daily lives.

And actually, come to think of it, what will the people, the ones who will be buying my pre-loved items from the local op-shop, think about me!?

The coffee moment

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the Freud Museum in Hampstead.

I was in my element. I got to potter around half a dozen rooms packed to the gills with mementos, curios, antiquities and furnishings that belonged to the great Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna. It took me right back to my psychology studies at university and as I listened to the audio guide and wandered through each room, I marvelled at how one man and his ‘couch’ (below) could remain so relevant for so long – his methods are still at the heart of many of the ways and means we use to handle the world we live in today.

DSCN7823

Two hours later, and with a head full of Freud (make of that what you will), I headed back down to the main road to have lunch, enjoying a tasty meal then settling in to read for a bit while I drank my coffee.

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Going back to basics

Some days you just can’t win a trick.

Today started well with eight minutes of meditation, something I’ve been doing every day for the last three weeks. My target has been to do this for one month before deciding what’s next.  A small steps kind of approach. I followed this with a brisk clear-the-cobwebs-and-get-things-moving kind of walk before tucking into a bowl of porridge.

All good so far.

It was then off to the hairdresser to get the mane cropped back to its smooth, slicked-back self. My hair is an important part of determining how I feel – I am a Leo after all – so this is a regular and important part of maintaining my positive sense of self. Let’s just say there was a significant amount of said mane on the salon floor and that I left lighter and eminently cooler.

In other words, still looking good.

Feeling virtuously productive, on the way home I dropped into my local jeweller to get the battery replaced in my ‘work’ watch. And here’s where things started to go awry.

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