47: Some ups and downs

Since my last post, I’ve had a birthday – number 47 to be exact. As is my usual birthday habit, I decided to take a long weekend and explore somewhere new – the last few years I’ve been to Stockholm, Ghent, and Barcelona. This year, another adventure beckoned.

I have known Swiss-S for about 15 years – we worked together in Melbourne and have ridden the rollercoaster of expat life in London at overlapping points in time. A couple of years ago, I watched him exchange I-do’s with Prosecco-G in a small Belgian village and now they live in Geneva with rescue dog, R. At his 40th birthday drinks do earlier this year (Swiss-S that is, not R), we agreed to ‘make a plan’ so at a dark and excruciatingly early hour last Saturday, I boarded a plane for Geneva. Here’s how things went down.

After a quick trip from the airport on the Swiss-ly efficient and air-conditioned train (it’s about the only air-conditioned thing in Geneva), we had a hello ‘coffee and chat’ before Swiss-S and I wandered down to the lake.

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An aaaw-dorable local family takes a dip

Next we headed to the Old Town where we climbed the 150-odd steps to enjoy the views from the South Tower of St Peter’s Cathedral…

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View from the South Tower, St Peter’s Cathedral, Geneva

…and then climbed down and back up the North Tower to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.

We also visited the archaeological exhibition beneath the cathedral – I know it’s not for everyone but I’m fascinated by old stones and stuff.

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Old monk’s cell beneath St Peter’s Cathedral, Geneva – must have been a small monk.

After such exertion, it was time for a pick-me-up so we headed to a rooftop bar to check out the view again before heading further around the lake to pay homage to the Jet d’Eau with a dash along the old stone pier beneath its spray.

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Evening number one started out with a drinks cruise on the lake, a very pleasant way to enjoy the warm weather, clean air and magnificent views. Each ticket included two drinks and at first, we got a bit excited when we saw that cocktails were included.

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They may look harmless (as well as cheap) but after one, we realised that these were pure alcohol (there was no mixer included in that one glass!). Sensible Swiss-S purchased a bottle of something soft with our second round so we didn’t end up pie-eyed on pouches. It probably goes without saying that we were really ready for dinner by the time we disembarked.

Day two took an international turn with a trip into France to Chamonix. Our first order of business was a trip up, up, up the mountain (two cable cars and an elevator) to Aiguille du Midi to admire the panoramic views of Mont Blanc.

This is a picture of the information board showing the view from the lookout…

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…and this is what we saw.

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‘Limited’ visibility – don’t worry, we were warned when we bought our tickets.

Nevertheless, we rejoiced in the snow…

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It was actually snowing as we stood there – but it had to be done.

…stepped out into the void…

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You can just make out the cliff face beneath our feet. It must be super freaky when you can see everything below.

…and had a rather pleasant lunch at the highest restaurant in Europe.

In the afternoon we took the train up another mountain to see the glacier and visit the ice cave

Did I mention that there are 430 steps down to the ice caves? Oh yes, and that means 430 steps back up. After yesterday’s cathedral climb and a morning at altitude, we were completely done in when we finished here – a crepe and coffee pick-me-up was essential before the 90 minute drive home. Lucky for us we also found one of Prosecco-G’s mixed CDs to keep us entertained on the road.

Evening number two proved rather festive with a boozy barbecue at the apartment. And at midnight, my big day arrived with a ‘happy birthday’ and a few surprises from my fabulous hosts.

After all the food, fresh air and alcohol, it will probably come as no surprise to you that I slept very well that night.

August 1st is Switzerland’s National Day (nice of them to do this for my birthday, wouldn’t you say?) and with a festive feeling still in the air, we all piled into Prosecco-G’s Beetle and headed to a local winery for brunch. I had raclette (among other things) – it was delicious!

The afternoon was spent driving around the area, admiring the scenery and making the most of the warm sunny weather.

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Once back in town again, it was an ice-cream by the lake with Swiss-S and R to cap off a chokkas weekend. Then there was just enough time to pack, freshen up and head to the airport.

So that was my sensational Swiss celebration – full of fresh air, glorious scenery and plenty of laughs and good times with my fabulous friends. Not a bad way to birthday, I’d say.

Wonder what I’ll get up to next year?

Some Observations on Mid Life…

I wrote last week about my penchant for the peculiar…well this week I have come across something that I cannot bear to be true.

It just dropped right into my Inbox and before long, Iconoculture’s latest Observation had me shaking my head in vigorous denial.

You see, Kathryn Milner has reported that instead of a girls’ night out, some Australian women are dressing up and drinking tea.

Excuse me, I think not. Who are these women? After all, this is the land of quintessential casual – the Ugg, the barbie and thongs of more than just the foot variety.

The Havianas Thong Challenge – an Australia Day institution in the making

Kathryn has also supplied a definition of high tea: ‘a light meal served before 5pm’.

Well, I think that source is questionable. EVERYONE knows that a high tea is no light meal. It’s like saying a marathon is a gentle stroll in the park. And tea? A ‘high tea’ not really complete without a spot of champers…is it?

And finally, here’s the sting in the tail – the ‘lifestages’ that this trend most appeals to.

I may have left Young Adult-hood behind a few years ago but let me tell you right now, this Aussie sheila is no ‘Midlifer’!

So to provide a more balanced view of an ‘Australian in midlife’ crisis, I offer in evidence:


Cupcakes and Champers – it’s Lush!

and this…

A Commuting Gem

and especially this…

The Rides

So let me sum up by saying that this little black duck is not quite ready for Iconoculture’s version of Mid-Life…

…so just ahead is where it shall stay!

Now where are my slippers?

Your 2012 Five A Day – February

Here we are in February, the month when that Mother o’ mine will visit Gidday HQ and  I am fervently hoping for a little of the white stuff to fall, or the box of thermals and winter footwear I highly recommended she send across (rather than traipse around with them in Egypt for two weeks) will go to waste.

Recently I posted about getting back out on the dating scene and with all of that frisson and angst to look forward to, this month’s Violent Veg musings could not be more apt…

Here’s to a frisky February!


Five A Day Back Catalogue

The Dating Game…

Source: pinterest

As a single lass whose broken heart has been carefully glued back together over the last year or so, I am starting to notice more and more avenues  available for me to meet my next conquest, the man of my dreams, a fella.

Being quite an open-minded sort, in the past I have ogled the online options, given the introduction agency scene a whirl and speed-dated (the rapid, not drug-induced, kind) with assistance of locks and keys. No, not like that – that would be another type of blog entirely. It’s actually quite harmless fun, until you realise you are – at 34 – the oldest in the room by a long way. And that was 8 years ago.

Today I read about a new method for the time-poor and travel-rich. Those clever pragmatists over at KLM have developed Meet and Seat which allows you to choose your on-board neighbours based on LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. They say it is an ideal opportunity for ‘networking’ but some pundits suggest it will be used more for matchmaking, whether that be between long term relationship seekers or those looking for the more abridged variety. I will use it to avoid crying babies and large, smelly people.

There’s been a ground swell of news and opinion about purposeful singledom too. Each week, I read Hannah Betts’ ‘Things You Only Know If You’re Single’ column in The Times Magazine (which you will have to pay to read for yourself thanks to bad Uncle Rupert). Last week’s was ‘…that one should forget dating sites in favour of realism.’ Nuff said on that score. She also writes stuff for The Telegraph which I fall over intermittently and which you can read online for free.

And just prior to Christmas, Elizabeth Tannen shared her thoughts on the whole scene over at The Huffington Post in Five Excuses For Being Single  By the way, Elizabeth has written a fab post called ‘Letting Your Silly Out’ on her own blog but I digress…again.

So this led me to think about dating. My approach in the past has been underpinned by the philosophy that if you open your eyes/mind, ‘the universe provides’. But I’ve also read things which suggest we should treat finding a partner in the same way as finding a job. Know your ‘audience’, targeted selection, tailor your ‘CV’. It just doesn’t seem to have that joyous and romantic ring to it, does it? Nor does it sound fun.

My theory is that life happens the way it happens and if we remain open along the way, we stand a chance in spite of the pitfalls.

But I’m not quite sure what you would put on this CV.

My last relationship began as a friendship with my next door neighbour and, if I exclude the last couple of months, went on for five and a half very happy years. I’ve met others through common interests (there were a few of these during my ballroom dancing days), chance encounters at bus stops and all sorts of liaisons in between. There have been the short and sweets, the long and lingerings, the quick fizzers – and then the gaps in between where I get to immerse myself in all the things I love to do without any of the negotiation or compromise.

And there, in that unequivocal indulgence of all the things I love, lies the rub…

Source: pinterest
The defence rests.

Twas The Night Before Birthday…

Twas the night before birthday
And all through the land
The excitement’s been building
The day off is planned.
Yesterday’s Vintage
Was a trip back in time
From disco to swing dance
And fashion sublime.
And today we’ve done polo,
With divot and chukka,
The picnic we had
Was definitely pukka.
So sun-kissed and dozy
I’m back at my screen
At my cosy front window
To muse where I’ve been.
41 has been tough
With ‘curve balls’ galore
And it’s been hard not to miss
The good life from before.
But finally it seems
The sun has come out
And its warmth on my face
Reminds me what it’s about.
Old roads and new paths
To defend and to chart
With family and friends
Those close to my heart.
So on this night before birthday
As 41 fades away
I fondly wave it farewell
And bid 42 ‘Gidday!’

Fros ‘n’ Flares…

So Friday night saw me trekking cross-London to Borehamwood for a birthday-filled weekend.  Ostensibly it was all about my friend A’s do on Saturday night but it all started a little earlier than I had thought it would with the news on Friday night that we would be popping in to a 1st birthday party on Saturday morning (said friend has a 10 month old boy and has been venturing into fields somewhat alien to a resolutely childless 41 year old). 

Many balloons, small people, and toys later, I emerged flushed with success at managing to have conversed amicably (with the adults) whilst riding complacently along the wave of ceaseless attention grabbing unique to the under-5s…and having quite enjoyed myself!

But really this weekend foray into the ‘wilds’ of North London was for my friend’s 40th birthday bash on Saturday night, a 70s themed ‘fros and flares’ do at Ziloufs in Islington.  Now I’m not a huge fan of the whole fancy dress thing and funds being what they are (or aren’t as the case may be!), I was forced to indulge in a great deal of frugal googling (70s fashion) and frantic imagining (what’s in my wardrobe) to come up with ‘the look’:

Me ‘n’ the birthday girl…btw, I’m the one on the right…and that’s actually someone’s sequinned shirt in the background…
An hour in the mini-bus later, we found ourselves boogie-ing away to the funky sounds of Soulscape, enjoying some great cocktails and impressing the dining crowd with our general party spirit…needless to say it was a big night and a long mini-bus ride home with the remains of this on my lap…
So all that was left to do was remove the eyelashes and pour myself into my floor-level airbed (no falling out for this little black duck!).  And after a reasonably gentle recovery on Sunday morning, fuelled by flat diet Coke and a small bad-for-me snackette at the tube station (a chicken and mushroom pastry if you must know), I toddled my way back to South West London…
…wrapped myself in a blanket and finished the weekend off with cheese and tomato on toast!
ps…the widget thingy says there’s 33 sleeps til Santa comes…that’s less than 5 weeks now people so chop, chop!  On with the preparations I say!

The Icons of Youth…

This year has been something of a transition year – my redundancy, the passing of J’s Mum, 2 weddings, several 40th birthdays – including my own – and 2 births (well one is still actually pending but I figure a due date of January 17 means that the majority of ‘womb-time’ falls into this year).  But one thing in particular has made this feel like even more of a watershed year…when I read this week that Don Lane had died.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself ‘who is this guy?’ (for those who don’t know, he hosted one of Australia’s late-night ‘chat’ shows, whilst I was a young’un) or ‘what about MJ and Farrah Fawcett?’.  But here’s the thing.  Don Lane was like this quintessential piece of my growing up years – not that I thought he was great or anything or even that the show was on all that much in the house I grew up in.  But Don, his show and Bert ‘Moonface’ Newton as his sidekick, was just there in that patchwork of Australian late 70s-early 80s culture.  Not really as an idol but more an icon of my youth – something I didn’t choose but perhaps chose me.

A bit like musk sticks from the tuckshop at lunchtime or the smell of Coppertone Sunscreen, the daffodil wallpaper in my childhood bedroom or the seed pods, shaped like tiny fried eggs, that descended from the tree in the back yard.  Or even the annual ‘all-day-on-the-telly’ ‘Hardie Ferodo’ live from Mt Panorama.

So now I’m off to pick up some Halloween goodies for our imminent bevy of neighbourhood ‘trick or treaters’ and the disappearance of one of these icons, long forgotten until this week, has brought up such a wave of nostalgia around my childhood I’m now wondering how I can recapture some of ‘it’…

Do you think Sainsbury’s have got musk sticks?

Ol’ Four Eyes…

Yes it’s true…in the aftermath of my 40th birthday and after 8 years of perfect vision, I bought a pair of glasses today…

I knew when I had laser surgery back in 2001 that I might only get 7-10 years before my eye muscles started to weary with the – ahem – ‘natural age-ing process’ and my regular eye test back in January this year confirmed that this had indeed begun so I did attend my appointment with the optician on Thursday with a more than sneaking suspicion that a return to glasses would be the outcome.

However, I would like to reassure you that I am not so despondent about this as you might think.  Tired eyes and headaches are certainly no fun and it will be quite useful to glance quickly at the distant train schedule to ensure I do not end up on the wrong tube – I admit that I am currently resorting to asking the waiting passengers on board any platform-ed train ‘What line is this?’ or ‘Where is this one going?’ as I come racing down the stairs…instead of dashing along the platform until I am close enough to see whether it was actually the train I should have been on…or not!  If you’ve been to London, you know how completely shocking it is for people to make eye contact, let alone actually be addressed, during their commute so I feel that as London is my home, this aberrant behaviour of mine must stop.

As J is heartily sick of me squinting/complaining ‘I can’t read that’/borrowing his glasses, he (and his daughter, the lovely A) came with me to ensure I did not end up looking either nanna-ish or try-hard-trendy and in the end, the choice was pretty easy…and a rather cool pair of specs will be awaiting me in about a week’s time.

So peeps, ol’ four eyes is back and better than ever!

Disney Studios…Or The Invasion of High School Musical

Well day 2 of our Disney Extravaganza was spent at the Disney Studios Park, a peek behind the magic of making movies right next door to the original park. 
So after starting my 40th birthday with all my new friends at Cafe Mickey (see The Happiest Friends On Earth…) it was time to get into some ‘action’ (geddit?…action…movies….). This park is reasonably new so I have been reliably informed that some of the areas lack the depth of the other Disney Studios parks in the States (partic. the backlot area) but it had a different feel from the Disneyland park and we spent a great day amongst the rides, shows and streets of the Front Lot, Hollywood Boulevard, Toon Studios, Back Lot and the Production Courtyard.
One of the best things about our day was the Moteurs…Action Stunt Show Spectatcular.  In front of 1000 plus people in an open air arena, the director, stunt drivers and a few special guests (like the Love Bug himself, Herbie) took us on a 45min stunt ballet of screaming engines, smoking tyres and special effects all wrapped up into the final ‘movie’ reel at the end.  I will NEVER look at movie car chases in the same way again…completely awesome!  Here’s some pics but they don’t really do it justice….

And one to prove we were really there…

The Happiest Place blah blah…THE RIDES!!!!!!

Badge lovingly hand-crafted by J for me to wear…all day…

Returning to my big 40th birthday Disney extravaganza (yep it’s still all about me on this blog!) this one is all about….
So hang on tight people…
It all began with a gentle tour around the Disney Park aboard the Disneyland Railroad…

…followed by a visit to Phantom Manor

…dropping in to Indiana Jones’ Temple of Peril and cruising past the underground Blue Lagoon restaurant with the Pirates of the Carribean.

The thrills really started inside Space Mountain: Mission 2…

before levelling off again with an annoyingly uni-lingual flight with Star Tours (commentary all in French!!!!) and a cheese-y sojourn through It’s a Small World.

And that was day one…

Day two was in the Disney Studios Park with even more thrills and spills…there was the Studio Tram Tour…

followed by the Armageddon Special effects experience, the Motors Action Stunt Show Spectacular (not really a ride as such but just as thrilling – more on this later) and then the ultimate thriller…

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror…

Our final day saw us start with the Rock n Roller Coaster (and a few choice phrases directed at ‘the big man upstairs’ – after all it was a Sunday!)…

followed by a few tamer experiences…Flying Carpets of Agrabah

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and The Adventures of Pinocchio…
and last, but not least, the giant teacups (or in its more official capacity, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups).
Turning 40 really was one hell of a ride…….