The Land Sans The Long Black…

This morning I met up with an Aussie friend of mine for brunch. S travels a lot for work and since he has the next 2 weeks in London before his next round of jet-setting, we decided to grab the bull by the horns – so to speak – and catch up over some scrumptious vittels and good coffee at The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell.

S and I used to work together and as such, he is a fellow afficionado of both the Melbourne coffee scene and that bastion of Italian yummy-ness, Lygon Street. Way back when we worked together, we were fortunate enough to share premises with the barista training school of a very well-known Italian coffee brand. As such, there was no schlepping around with freeze-dried instant or filter coffee for us. It was punchy espresso with gorgeous caramel-coloured crema, warm milky-smooth lattes and luscious foamy (not frothy people – there’s a world of difference) cappuccinos. Let me tell you, we knew our Robusta from our Arabica.

Then we came to London. And caffeine confusion reigned.

You see there are two types of coffee that are ubiquitous in the Land Down Under (and for that matter, in the Land of the Long White Cloud) but as rare as hen’s teeth in Ol’ Blighty. 

The first is the Flat White. It lies somewhere between a warm milky latte (a flat white has less milk and is served hot) and the foaming cappuccino (the flat white has less/no foam). It’s hard to find in London but with the likes of The Australian Times providing a handy list of good flat white-rs in London Town alongside a little Antipodean word-of-mouth, it’s possible. But most places here will translate the Flat White into a white coffee (a black coffee with cold milk), completely ignoring the craft of creating a steaming Long Black before adding a large dollop of warm milk.

Which brings me to my second point – the Long Black. In non-barista terms, it’s a shot of espresso poured into hot water to preserve the crema.

Simple right? Not nearly as complicated as the Flat White one would think.

But apparently so.

Just ask for a Long Black here and watch the bewilderment appear across the face of one’s waiter. Then try to explain it ie. a shot of espresso with hot water (and that’s not getting into the size of the cup it should come in). In most places, the response is ‘oh so you want a black coffee?’ No. Not if you are going to stick my cup under the coffee filter for 5 minutes.

Some will respond by correcting you calling it an Americano, grinning proudly at you as they successfully navigate the lingo of yet another of the half million or so Antipodean immigrants living in London. Well no actually – but at this stage, an espresso topped up with hot water is starting to sound like an acceptable (and considerably less stressful) compromise.

But all I really want is a proper Long Black. I want a lovely shot of espresso – that’s right, like you normally give one who orders an espresso – poured into the cup with hot water. Rich and smooth with a velvety crema. No bitterness, no acrid aftertaste. Understated yet still packing a caffeine punch.

Just like the one this morning.

Anna Hansen may have been ‘chef-fing’ all over the globe – and let me tell you the food was really, really good – but for the coffee alone , The Modern Pantry gets my vote.

Smooth, rich and velvety. Exactly the way I like it.

12 Steps…Losing My Religion?

I’ve been dashing about London in the rain today – appointment to appointment, jumping around puddles and waging a battle with my brolly in the wind. (Incidentally, I lost that battle but managed to snaffle a cab so feel I won the war.)  It seemed that after posting my moment of inspiration on Facebook this morning – “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain” – the fickle London weather seemed determine to dampen my mid-week mambo.

On the homeward-bound bus at last, I opened up my weekly Australian Times e-newsletter (I’ve had a whole new love of commuting since the advent of my Desire) to be greeted with the question Are You Losing Your Australian-ness?.  After the rubbishing I got while visiting loved ones in Melbourne over Christmas (about my Ocker-Oh’s referring to my tendancy to intersperse flat ‘Australian-speak’ with a few English-sounding Oh’s and Ah’s), I thought I should read on.

Lee Crossley actually identifies twelve signs of disappearing Australian-ness but I am pleased to report that I have only identify five signs after seven years of living here:

THE phrases ‘Mind the Gap’ and ‘alight here’ no longer seem a tad odd.  In fact, I find them quite sweet and quaint.  I mean who ‘alights’ anything any more?

YOU no longer grumble on a crowded tubeSimply hours of fun to be had ‘minding the gap’ and ‘alighting’.  Plus no-one likes a whinger.

YOU expect miserable weather.  And am conversely delighted to a slightly hysterical degree at any 2 plus run of warm-weather-days. I must point out here that we are classifying mid-20(c)s as blissfully warm. I just do not have the wardrobe/patience to deal with anything hotter any more, unless lying prone next to the pool/beach in holiday repose.

YOU start to wonder where all the English people have gone in London.  Yep. Pretty much. I think they all live ‘elsewhere’.  Like Oxford.  Or Spain.

YOU accentuate the ‘ie’ in unbelievable.  Actually pronounced un-be-leeeeeeev-able and can be applied to any moment of wonder/dismay/disbelief.

Yes, 5 out of 12.  That’s 41.66%, an average of about 5.9% a year.  By my reckoning, that means this insidious creep will have completely subsumed my Ocker-ness in just under a decade.

Bugger!* Best bring out the big guns…

*Please don’t take offence.  Click on the link if you really think I am being rude.  I am not.  Truly.  I’m just a laconic, dinky-di colonial.

ps…if you want to keep a watchful eye over my continued slide progress, find out what the other seven are by going to Lee Crossley’s article here and keep checking in at Gidday from the UK for updates. 

Life’s Classroom…

Every week I get an email newsletter from Australian Times.  It keeps me in touch with what’s going on with Aussies in London and also with some of the big stories Down Under.  But this week’s article by Adrian Craddock, Does Being Australian Make You Less Employable? hit a particularly sensitive spot.

I arrived in London at the age of 34.  I had achieved a great many things in my career up to that point and my move to London, while sudden, was a permanent one as far as I was concerned. I had great references and could give many examples showing the results I’d achieved and how I’d ‘managed’ to do this. I’d qualified easily for my work visa under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme. Note that this was not the 2 year working visa, or youth mobility visa as it’s now called, that most Aussies who are under the age of 30 and without UK ancestry come on. I’d sold my apartment and had a shipping container of furniture on the way. 

No-one actually said anything but as I trawled the recruiters and the job boards and built my networks, I felt an undercurrent of disbelief from the locals.  Had I actually done all of those things at such a ‘young’ age?  Was I really here for good and how could they count on me not to get homesick and flee back to Melbourne? And for that matter, why hadn’t I stayed in Australia if my career had been that great?

On top of this, I was faced with the constant refusal to believe that the skills and experience I had put to such good use in Australia (and in dealing with suppliers and customers in overseas markets while based there) could possibly be transferred to the UK.

And the longer this went on, the more difficult it got.  Added to the great unspoken was the question, ‘Why aren’t you working yet?’

My networks were gone – the Australian ones I’d left behind could do little to provide any pragmatic help and the new ones, while delighted with the opportunity to ask me ‘what I was doing here’, proved a bit of a closed shop.  I didn’t resort to spending my time fulfilling the common view of Australians as hard-working wanderlusts, ready to ‘make the most’ of the plethora of multicultural experiences just a couple of hours and a few quid away across the Channel.  I kept working – temping and working in the kinds of roles I’d worked in 8-10 years prior – trying to get a foothold in the market and earn enough to pay my bills and build my life here. 

Seven and a half years on and a whole rollercoaster of ups and downs later, I’ve learnt a lesson or two.  

The first is around dogged hard-graft, relentless persistence and above all, emotional resilience.  It’s tough to start again.  Really tough.  And it’s destabilising to be without those taken-for-granted ways of life, the unconditional daily support networks and, not to put too finer point on it, money.  It made me dig deep to find new ways to keep going and new things to embrace about my life. 

Which leads me to the second lesson: humility, integrity and faith that it would ‘happen’ for me.  There is no such thing as being ‘too big for your boots’ when doing the coffee round for the office was helping me to pay my bills.  I was employed to do a job, whether I liked that job or not. And I’m someone who always wants to do a job well, sometimes in the face of much cynicism and comments like ‘why are going above and beyond? No-one cares!’. (I am not a proud, proud Leo for nothing!) 

I’m emerging from a 2 year dip now, enjoying the sunshine (so to speak) as I climb to the top of the hill again.  It’s good to feel inspired and hopeful.  Everywhere I look, the future is looking bright and shiny. 

And the best part?  I feel grounded, like I can deal with whatever comes, and lucky to have such valuable lessons from Life’s never-ending classroom under my belt.