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

 

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?

No Bed-Hopping Allowed…

It’s been about a month since I posted. 


It’s an unexpected state of affairs for me as there’s been a lot of great stuff going on including birthday number 45 (note the absence of the all important birthday countdown), a wedding and five overseas trips in the space of six weeks. And I love sharing this kind of stuff.


But I’m full. Like an over-stimulated child at a birthday party, full of the thrill of new people and the excitement of new experiences, who absolutely insists it is not time to go home yet who falls asleep in the back of the car the minute you leave the driveway.

I feel so full that I’ve struggled to choose something to write about. It’s like someone tipped about 20 jigsaws worth of puzzle pieces into my head and I just can’t work out where to start. Corners, borders, some obvious part of the middle bit…it’s all felt a bit much to deal with and I’ve found myself going around and around and around – and then doing nothing at all – on a fairly regular basis.
So that’s where I am at – I am tired. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Just tired.
And as I look forward to being at home – in my own bed – for ten days in a row, well it feels like absolute bliss.

So for the next week or so that is where I’ll be…unless well, of course…

This year’s winner for the birthday card of best fit…
So Şerefe, proost, santé, cheers and bottoms up!

After all life is for celebrating and there are 356 days to go celebrate until birthday number 46 wraps its arms around me.

A Skip In My Step…

So the great Chicky Adventure is done and my sibling partner in crime has arrived back on the other side of the world (and is working through her jet lag by all accounts). 

It was such an amazing two weeks – firstly for the unadulterated ‘just us’ time, secondly for the opportunity for me to introduce her to this amazing city I call home, and thirdly for our shared pilgrimage to Amsterdam, Dad’s childhood home, and the delicacies we enjoyed in memory of our Oma and Opa.

I’ve been meaning to pick up the blogging ‘pencil’ again over the last few days but I have felt so full of everything we did that I haven’t known where to start. The anticipation of Lil Chicky’s first trip here. The pride in the sharing of my new hometown and experiencing its fabulous-ness through her ‘new’ eyes. The privilege of helping her celebrate her 40th birthday. The sheer intensity of spending 2 weeks – 24/7 – together for the first time since…well forever. 

All underpinned by a lifetime of sisterly memories, the effortless and uncomplicated recall of funny stories, childhood scrapes and sibling rivalry, and squillions of photos… 

…including a few selfies.

DAY 2: Fab Finchley – looking for coffee in the pouring rain.
DAY 3: Can’t go to London without visiting the Queen.
DAY 4: Hamers do ‘the henge’ (squeezed between visits to Salisbury and Bath). Technically not a selfie thanks to a kind Aussie chap on the tour, but close enough.


There’s a small selfie gap here while we undertook birthday celebrations (part one – The Mousetrap and dinner in Covent Garden – and two – Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley)…

DAY 5: Fashionista food at the Berkeley

…Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Globe Theatre and a visit to Carnaby Street.

DAY 6: Yes, we bought these. Because we had to get out of the rain. And the Irregular Choice shop was just there. Really.


Then we went to Amsterdam…

DAY 9: Arriving at Amsterdam’s Central Station about 2 minutes before torrential rain…
Waiting for our first poffertjes (teeny tiny pancakes served with butter and icing sugar and eaten with a toothpick) of the pigrimage trip in Dam Square.


(More on Amsterdam in a later post).

After 4 days, we returned to London, hired a car and drove first to Silverstone and then to Donington Circuits to tick a few things off Lil Chicky’s motorsport bucket list. Looks like Day 13 was a lucky one…

The Winners’ Podium at Silverstone – cheesy but had to be done.


We decided to take Day 14 easy with a visit to the Museum of London after the ‘wild storm‘ had abated…and when Day 15 dawned bright and blue-skied (if a little chilly), there was just one thing left to do…

DAY 15: It endeth on The Eye – our last sibling selfie of the trip.
Full of our time together and tired from our two weeks of tourist-ing, we said our emotional good-byes at Heathrow last Tuesday. After I’d waved until she’d disappeared behind the security barrier, I made the long trip home to Gidday HQ. It’s still my warm and cosy haven but a little quieter. And yellow banner of the Money Shop, which became our welcoming ‘nearly home’ beacon as we turned into my street each night, has now taken on a new and poignant significance. Another memory, meaningless to anyone else but enough to inspire a skip in my step…

…one that only Lil Chicky will understand.

L Is For…

Here I am four days into year 45 on the planet. Birthday number 44 seemed to whizz by in a blur despite having a day-off-morphing-into-a-long-weekend, albeit 24 hours after my big day. For a Leo birthday, I have to admit that it has been little less lush and a little more laid-back than usual.


But I’ve managed to capture myself a few luscious moments along the way.

The night of said big day, after a frantically busy day at work, I logged off and headed into town. It was a hot and humid tube trip in and after picking up my theatre ticket, I decided to pop in to Cote for a quick bite to eat and, in a moment of too-bloody-hot-for-wine, a refreshing glass of cloudy lemonade


Replete with a delicious vichyssoise and ratatouille vegetables in puff pastry, I was soon ensconced in my seat at the Duchess Theatre. Courtesy of lastminute.com, I had scored a cheap ticket to see the play Fences starring Lenny Henry. In short, the play was fantastic and Henry was awesome.

It was late by the time I got home but fave flick Top Gun had just started (who could ever lose their Lovin’ Feelin’ with that volleyball scene on the box *sigh*) and there was still an hour left of the birthday Day to open some presents. 

I got some lambswool

…and something with which to further my baking exploits (I’ve always loved licking the bowl).


As with all birthdays, it is a requirement that one brings cakes into the office for others to scoff and I decided that my new mixer would best be christened by whipping up a batch of great Aussie favourite, lamingtons. These are squares of light fluffy sponge cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. So after a lie-in and a morning frappe at local café La Barista yesterday, I embarked on step one – baking the sponge . 

They turned out less light and fluffy…


…and more like sponges of the dish-washing kind. Clearly I need to master the new mixer.

So instead I’ve made Lemon Drizzle Cake


…and some white chocolate brownies for the Great Office Scoff.

There’s been some lazing about in the sun in between times – reading the paper and excellent magazine, Intelligent Life which always deserves some time to peruse at a leisurely pace. And finally I’ll be topping off my big birthday bonanza tonight with my regular Sunday night dip into the lives of the Lancastrians and Yorkists with the BBC’s The White Queen.

So that peeps was my lusciously long and lazy-ish birthday weekend…only 361 sleeps until the next one.

Your 2012 Five A Day…August

Well, the 1st August heralds the end of year number 42 for yours truly. No more counting down, no more sleeps to go. It has arrived so first up, it’s a Happy Birthday to me!

There’s much else to celebrate in August. The Olympics have begun in earnest and I’ve been cheering on the green and gold. The Opening Ceremony was quirkily British and aside from that inordinately weird section with all the beds, I loved watching it. And what a tribute to future sporting generations that torch lighting ceremony was – absolutely brilliant. I may have even welled up a little.

Back at Gidday HQ, I’m still quarantined and starting to go a little stir crazy – although at least I’m sleeping through the night now and my appetite has returned a little despite the aches, pains and general unattractiveness of my affliction.

And last but certainly not least, this month’s Violent Veg introduces us to Brian, of the Parsnip variety. After Colin Carrot’s heart-thumping exploits in June and July (you can see the Violent Veg Back Catalogue at the end of this post), Brian reminds us to enjoy some gentler pursuits this Summer…

But quite frankly this is now Day 7 of *tranquility* so even with the promise of a little tackle-nibbling, I think there’ll be no such standing still for me.
Here’s to throwing oneself in the deep end this August.
———————–
Five A Day Back catalogue

Gidday Soiree…A Hat Trick Of Birthdays

The inaugural Gidday soiree is done. My guests have left replete with good food, an indiscriminate amount of wine and feisty yet flowing conversation.

Le outdoor setting (or patio furniture as my American compatriate at work calls it) did me proud and the skies, while not exactly blue and sunshine-y, kept to themselves with not a drop of rain falling. That’s a minor miracle in itself given the past few weeks.

(Although as I woke this morning after yesterday’s intermittent and torrential rain, I do believe I closed my eyes and whispered ‘oh please just let it be dry!’ Maybe someone was listening.)

It has inspired me to do more of this. I have to say that I rather enjoyed having visitors to fuss over, deliberating over the menu during the week prior to strike the balance of both the ‘right’ quantity and trying out some new things.

(There was a chilli, cheese and corn loaf and some savoury rolls – basically a soft cheese mixture and some other ingredients wrapped in pita bread, chilled overnight and sliced – which were both newcomers to the party.)

It was also an opportunity to use my ‘stuff’. You know the stuff I mean. You have some of this yourself. For me it was my Oma’s crockery, my Mum’s tea set (for the coffee) and, being a cup short, even a lone Royal Doulton cup and saucer for the fifth of our party.

Having the room at the new Gidday HQ for all of this to have been unpacked from the boxes that were their home for 6 and a half years is absolutely brilliant. Now it’s all just an arms reach away on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.

I’m extremely proud to say that the only thing not Gidday-Made was the chocolate cake, collected from the local Polish store round the corner this morning, to celebrate our three birthdays.

Which brings me neatly to a reminder that there are only 17 sleeps to go until my big day. Celebrations may have started today at Gidday HQ but this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook peeps.

Not by a long shot!

A Very Chicky Birthday

Today is Lil Chicky’s birthday.
So I thought I’d tell you a birthday story.
The first one was fraught with competitive friction.
This young whippersnapper had the front to question her big sister’s attempts at teaching birthday best practice
Her (L) and me (R)
 But it wasn’t long before she got the hang of it 
Sisterly pride in the background
And tried to muscle in
‘What’s the deal? It’s my birthday, not yours!’
So I had to re-assert my authority
Birthday territory re-established
And by the time we got to her 21st, we had learnt to share
21st birthday of Lil Chicky (in the green dress)
So we played happily together
Outside Flinders St Station in 2005
for ever
Anzac Day Match at the MCG 2007
 and ever
At Sand Sculptures in Frankston, December 2010
Happy Birthday Chicky!

Book, Cover, Judging And All Of That…

For those of you who have been living under a rock lately (most likely hiding from the horrible, horrible rioters if you are in the UK), I recently had a birthday. And joy of joys, I got a Kindle.

I finally succumbed to Kindle lust somtime in May and so it went on the birthday wishlist in the hope that some vouchers would help me edge a little closer to its purchase. But there was no edging required.  On the first of August I opened the box from Mum/Amazon to uncover what might become the best commuting gem ever. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet…Audrey!

Isn’t she pretty???!!!!

So I got on the blower straight away to organise a free wi-fi router from my broadband provider and got a parcel-to-be-signed-for-and-collected card from the postman last Saturday.  Thinking I wouldn’t be able to get to the post office before yesterday and would therefore have to be patient (not my strong suit), I was all gee’d up to be waxing lyrical about Audrey today.

But no cigar.

The customer service person who answered the phone at my broadband provider couldn’t find the file note from my previous call which was supposed to ensure said router was sent to me…taking a deeeeeeeep breath, I managed to order another one (to be despatched to my work address) without reaching through the phone and strangling the person-not-responsible at the other end in disappointment and frustration. 

Breathing, breathing…

So the lovely Audrey is still download-less…and we will all have to be patient just a little while longer.

But you gotta admit – in her Diane von Furstenberg cover, she looks mighty good!

ps…oh the parcel that I collected?  It was a belated birthday present from half-sis, S (she of Fawlty Towers fame) – a fab pair of earrings that I can’t wait to show-off wear – I am a lucky, lucky girl.

Pukka Picnic and Polo Ponies…

As regular readers of Gidday from the UK will know, I had a birthday.  Not a ‘big’ birthday by society’s reckoning but I like to endow each of my special days with a significance and joyful anticipation befitting someone who has not yet reached double figures.  And faced with how to mark my special day this year, we decided to do the only thing one should do in south west London on a sunny Sunday afternoon – a picnic at the Polo.

Ham Polo Club is located just a 15min bus ride from my place and every Sunday from May to September, you can pop along for a fiver and picnic alongside the rich and…well the rich.  And every Summer for the SIX Summers I’ve lived nearby, me and A-down-the-hill have said ‘Oh we should go!’ and then before we know it, October arrives and we’ve missed the season.  Well not this year!

So on the last day of my year, the SS 41 chugging slowly and gracefully into its mooring, two Aussies, a Scot and four Turks packed their picnic vittels and headed to TW10 to grab a dainty bite of quintessential English-ness.

The sun beamed down upon us, the wine flowed freely and the players and their ponies polo-ed.  There was a smidgen of educating (we learnt about chukkas, treading in and the like), a modicum of movement (chair to field to chair to field to…oh you get the picture) and a whole lotta laugh-out-loud-ness as commentator after commentator filled the slow bits gaps in the action with that droll, dry humour that the Brits do best.

Anyway here’s how the day went…

The game started with something a bit like a passing out. The eight players and their ponies line up in front of the clubhouse (where all the posh people sit) and as the players are introduced, they ride in a little circle around their team mates before stopping back in their original place. Bless! 


‘Passing Out’
Then the action started – these eight grown ups ride around on their horses with big sticks trying to hit a tiny ball up and down a big field and through a couple of posts at either end. No, I don’t play golf either.

An unexpected and rather noisy spectator dropped in for a while…(I hope at least he paid his fiver!)


…before it was back to the action as well as a change of direction (the scoring end for each team changes after each goal)…

 …which is unbelievably confusing for all concerned.

Every so often play stops and they all gather around for a throw in, which look a little like a Rugby Scrum on horseback.

And lest we forget, polo is the sport of the everyman – NOT!  Ponies are usually changed after each chukka making it at least four per game.  Whatever happened to sweating those assets?

Anyhow, after paying for all those posh ponies, there’s not much left in the pot for grounds maintenance so it was our job to chip in and ‘stomp those divots’

Stomping the divots or ‘Treading In’ as it’s called here
Stalking Up close and personal opportunities

 …while our Scot ‘minded the store’.


Four and half hours later, sun-kissed and inebriated it was time to go and in the back seat on the way home, I believe I gurgled happily about what a lovely day I’d had!

So that was my fond farewell to forty-one and another one of the ‘things I must do while I live in Kingston’ ticked off the list.  But to be completely honest, now I’ve been, being local is no longer a mandatory for future attendance.

Chin chin!

ps…I’ve also been submitting some articles and reviews on a site called Weekend Notes – why don’t you wander on over and check out what I wrote about this little adventure and some of the other things I’ve done in London.