My favourite things: Festive films

It is the last weekend before Christmas and having despatched most of my presents to their respective other sides of the world several weeks ago, all that remains is for me to do a few last minute things at home before the big day on Friday.

What it also means is that I’ve been at home all weekend and after immersing myself in the glitz and glamour of Strictly Come Dancing’s [very grand] Final and the last two episodes of the awesome Netflix series Bloodline last night, Sunday on the box is set to deliver a few more of my favourite things.

As I’ve been tap-tap-tapping away, Mr Wonka has led his five golden ticket winners and their ‘plus-ones’ along the red carpet and into the most fabulous factory in literary history. Gene Wilder is the quintessential Willy Wonka for me, combining playful joie de vivre with an other-worldliness that the later movie just did not capture. I’ve already welled up at Mrs Bucket’s “Cheer Up Charlie”, “Pure Imagination” is one of all-time musical favourites and I can feel a bit of “Oompa Loompa-ing” coming on in the not too distant future. Very little beats a bit of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

And then later on tonight, free-to-air channel ITV is running a live TV adaption of The Sound of Music from the soundstages at London’s Three Mills Studio. There are some well-known faces (to me anyway) in the cast from some of my favourite TV shows – Kara Tointon and Katherine Kelly from Mr Selfridge, Julien Ovenden from Downton Abbey, Alexander Armstrong from Pointless and Mel Giedroyc from The Great British Bake Off to name a few – so it promises to be a splendid night on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ.

The week that stretches in front of me holds just three days in the office before a welcome two week break.

I’m not heading Down Under this year but will instead spend a few days with my very good friends and their family in South East London. There’ll be plenty of good food and wine and a bit of spirited board game-ing on the big day plus the promise of A Muppet Christmas Carol – an annual tradition on Christmas Eve afternoon for them – to get us all into a festive mood.

(My version of this is the 2004 musical version of A Christmas Carol starring Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge and Geraldine Chaplin as the ghost of Christmas yet to be – it’s tearfully, wonderfully fabulous.)

A Christmas Carol DVD

And then it will be on with the rest of my London staycation. I’ve got a couple of theatre forays planned as well as some potential gallery and museum excursions in my sights. Then there’s shopping, reading and catching up on a few things to ready myself for next year. Perhaps there’ll even be time for a pyjama day or two.

In any case, with just five sleeps to go until Santa sleighs his merry way across the world, I’m all set for a huge helping of festive nostalgia.

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Twinkle twinkle

It’s the first weekend in December and here at Gidday HQ, that means that it’s time to get festive and put up the Christmas tree.

I love doing this, especially as I only do this every second year when my Christmas is a London-based one. It reminds me of living at home in my late teens/early 20’s when, for a few short years, Lil Chicky and I would set aside an afternoon to decorate the Christmas tree at Mum’s together. The tree itself usually needed some MacGyver-like ingenuity to ensure it stood tall and straight for the festive period and bore up under the weight of copious amounts of tinsel and general Christmas bling.

So today I pulled the boxes down from the high cupboards. I tested all the lights and untangled the string of gold beads that I drape in lieu of tinsel. And I laid out all of the ornaments I have collected over the years – from my travels, gifts from friends and family and nods to my Dutch and Australian heritage – and with the jingling bells of Christmas movies on TV in the background, Gidday HQ  got  a dose of Christmas spirit. Here are just a few of my favourite festive things…

Aussie Xmas Wreath (360x640)

My wreath has had an Aussie update this year

Dusseldorf Santa(360x640)

I bought this fantastic festive tea-light holder in Dusseldorf in 1999

Ornament bowl(640x360)

The tree gets quite full so in recent years I’ve taken to displaying some ornaments separately – the gold and red baubles are personalised ones from Mum and the one in the middle is a nod to sisterhood from Lil Chicky

New York(360x640)

Here’s a bauble from a work trip to the Big Apple in 2005  (it had to be done)…

Krakow (360x640)

…and this hand-painted glass bell was purchased in Rynek Glowny (the main square) in Krakow in 2012

Angel (360x640)

For years my tree has featured this hand-made (not by me!) angel – this year she’s sitting on an apple to keep her upright.

IMAG3943 (359x640) (2)

I love this fabulous shoe, unearthed from a Christmas stocking during one of my bi-annual pilgrimages Down Under (my mother knows me well).

Ballerina (360x640)

Lil Chicky snuck this back from our Amsterdam trip in 2013 and hid it in my flat for me to find…

Japan (360x640)

…and she gave me this one courtesy of her trip to Japan in 2014.

I have A LOT of Dutch ornaments. I just can’t help bringing a little piece of my ancestry back from every visit I make.  You see, there’s a fabulous Christmas shop down by the Singel flower market in Amsterdam – I’m sure I’ve kept them in business – where I spend my last day on each visit working out how to get these fragile purchases a) into my already full luggage and b) back home in one piece.

I’ve managed to restrain myself – here are just two of them…

Windmill (360x640)

Clogs (360x640)

Anyway, the deed is done. The tree is up, the lights are twinkling and Alfie Bear has donned his Christmas hat, ready to join in the festive fun. And there are already a few presents under the tree with this year’s Christmas bonanza from Mum arriving a couple of weeks ago.

Alfie Bear+Xmas Tree (360x640)

Alfie Bear is a fixture at Gidday HQ, having come into my life as part of a redundancy gift in 2008 – he loves Christmas as much as I do.

So if I go missing in action at all, you’ll probably find me sitting on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ  admiring the view…

There are 19 sleeps to go until the big day peeps – are you feeling festive yet?

Get your act(ing) into gear

There are 47 sleeps until Christmas.

I know. Sorry about that.

In my world once Lil Chicky‘s birthday is behind me, the leaves have fallen from the trees and the ice rink at The Natural History Museum has opened, it’s the only countdown left (unless you count the fact that this time next week I will be basking in the sun on a tropical island – but I digress).

Christmas lights at the Natural History Museum

Christmas lights adorn the trees around the ice rink at The Natural History Museum and yes, that is a Christmas tree you can see at the bottom right of the photo.

Normally I would not post about my countdown to festive cheer so early but this week, a number of retailers launched their 2015 Christmas ad campaigns. It’s a big deal over here with the national press casting a critical eye and then publishing their opinions on each (like they have some sort of expertise). Department store chain John Lewis has the reputation for the most memorable Christmas ads and indeed, The Telegraph has proclaimed this year’s The Man in the Moon a ‘hankie moment’.

With Guy Fawkes / Bonfire Night celebrations done and dusted last night and enjoying some easy Sunday morning telly curled up on the comfy couch this morning, I saw the first of this year’s Currys ads featuring actor Jeff Goldblum:

I laughed out loud.

I know we should all be grateful that others put time/effort/money into a gift but how many times have you opened something and responded with a “How lovely, thank you” or “It’s just what I wanted” while really thinking “Mmm, interesting” or “what am I going to do with this”.

Anyway, upon investigation, I have discovered that there are five of these ads to help us through those awkward Christmas moments. So there’s plenty of time to get your act(ing) into gear.

Although please note I would be genuinely excited to get a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas.

No really. I would.

Only 47 sleeps to go peeps…the countdown has begun.

The Answer To Virginia…

Many years ago, Mum gave me a Christmas card. You might be thinking that this was not an unusual thing for a mother to do, give her 11 year old daughter a Christmas card. But this was a special card.

You see this was our first Christmas since Mum and Dad had separated. We’d moved to Melbourne 6 months before, were living in a small flat which backed onto a cold and windswept beach and had struggled to settle. Our new school was fraught with assessments on things I had never been judged on before (my prior record of scholarly success undermined by my ‘chicken scratchings’ hand-writing) and for the first time in my life, I was teased mercilessly by the ‘in’ crowd and found it hard to make friends. 

So Christmas rolled around. For several years I had known ‘the truth’ about Santa and yet the season had still been magical – the lights, the tree, the carols. But in 1980, the magic was missing for me.

And then I read about 8 year old Virginia O’Hanlon, a little girl whose friends had tested her belief in Santa and who wrote to New York’s Sun newspaper in 1871 to ask for the truth: Is there really a Santa Claus? The unsigned response (later attributed to newsman Francis Pharcellus Church) was printed on 21st September that year and it was these words that I found when I opened my Christmas card over a century later…

The answer to Virginia

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. 


Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.


No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
And while it didn’t make me believe in Santa Claus again, I still have this card 33 years later. So perhaps Church was right – Santa Claus does live forever, albeit in the child-like heart of a 44 year old. 

So for you my marvellous Gidday-ers, I wish each of you a little sprinkling of child-like hope and wonder this Christmas.

It Must Be Saint, Nick…

Apologies for the grammar peeps…

Here in old London town, there is just one sleep to go until the fat man in the red suit brings his bounty (although by rights all of you Down Under should be tucked up in bed by now, listening for the pitter patter of tiny hooves on the rooftop).

Having been left with limited options by my seasonal shopping sloth, UPS has been the mandatory vehicle of choice for my deliveries Down Under. So in a final burst of commercial Christmas chicanery, I’ve been hunting for a few alternative methods of delivery to ensure my goodies make it across the miles in time for future big days.

Firstly bbc.co.uk have reported that the good folk at Amazon are working on Prime Air, a delivery service that will provide customers with their order by drone…


How very cool. But it’s five years away, needs to get through a regulator or two and I imagine it would take rather a long time for my less-than-2.3kg parcel to reach Australia (although interestingly Australia does allow the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial use). Perhaps not very practical.

For more immediate gratification, I really like this idea from West Jet. Turn up at the airport, make your special request…et voila! It’s a carousel of Christmas that meets you at the other end of your journey…


Now that’s my kind of arrival. However, this might just be leaving things a little too much to chance so it’s back to the drawing board.

And then I came across an article on Nick Saint. Who runs a delivery firm.


So it would appear that my search is over. 


It must be Saint, Nick.

One sleep to go til we find out whether you’ve been naughty or nice peeps…are you ready?

The Art Of Giving…


That’s right peeps. Just 4 days to go. And I’ll bet there are a few of you who are feeling a little stressed by your unfinished Christmas shopping. 

Having to post mine overseas means that I cannot rely on a Christmas week dash around the shops but I admit that things did get a bit ‘skinny’ this year. The most difficult part is to find interesting yet post-friendly gifts – and I get so delighted when I find the perfect thing – so each year there’s a bit of hunting around and inspired choosing to avoid sending yet more scarves, jewellery or gadgets. And in my shopping sorties this year, I’ve seen some corkers.

For the green thumb…

 


Edens Paper‘s plant-able wrapping paper has seeds embedded into the paper. Rip off your carrots, stick ‘them’ in the soil, water and watch them grow. In onion, tomato, chilli, broccoli and of course carrot, one sheet will set you back $9.95 or buy a mixed pack containing one of each for $39.95.

For the geographically challenged…


This fabulous 120 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ding Studio features all of London’s postcode districts. If you fancy yourself a true local and think you know your way about, set yourself a challenge by completing it without looking at the picture. It’s available from The National Gallery shop for £15.

For the young…


I’m led to believe that one of the many frustrations of having healthy, growing kids is just that – they grow out of everything! Go Plae has come up with a way of letting you customise shoes for your little ones to allow for their growing feet. There’s even a variety pack of decorative bands so that young fashionistas can style for every outfit. Only available in stores stateside but you can order on-line at http://www.goplae.com/

For the young at heart…


Remember pinball machines? In my teens I could make a dollar’s worth of 20 cent pieces last a really long time waiting for Mum to finish work at our local tenpin bowling centre. Then ‘pinnies’ got complex and expensive, I got interested in other things and now when I venture back, it’s all over in an instant. But with this Duo Pinball Controller I might be able to get in a bit of practice and see off all those young things. Available for £11.99 at 
http://www.iwantoneofthose.com.

For the nostalgic just plain weird…


This one fascinates and disturbs me in turns. To keep those who’ve passed on close by, this service from And Vinyly will press their ashes into a vinyl record. You get to choose the soundtrack (24mins – 12mins each side) and then share your revolutionary memorial with up to 30 recipients. The basic package (for 30 discs) will cost you £3,000. *gulp* I am tempted to say something tacky about turning in their grave…

And speaking of corkers, for the aspiring sommelier…

…oh hang on, that’s my Naked Wines delivery. Happy Christmas to me!

Remember there’s only 4 sleeps to go but there’s still plenty of time…just.

If you get your skates on…

Throwing Some Shapes..

Ten sleeps to go until Christmas Day…

…and today I was off for a bit of festive lunching at The Chop House at Butlers Wharf. The Chop House is nestled just under the south eastern ramparts of Tower Bridge and an easy 15 minute stroll from London Bridge tube station. Needless to say I left home in plenty of time for a little pre-lunch strolling – and you just never know when travel plans may go awry.

My ‘extra’ time quickly disappeared as I admired this relatively unknown – to me anyway – part of London. And I couldn’t help but whip out the smartphone and record its moody shape-shifting for posterity this post.

It all looked a bit un-auspicious when I first got there…


…but lovely little shops and cafes lined the cobbled laneways and taking a smart left turn led me to The Galleria…


…whose exit on to the river brought the City’s growing mix of modern shapes above the old sharply into focus.


Looking right, the White Tower of the Tower of London (left) and Tower Bridge beckoned despite the damp and dreary skies…


…while at my back, this strange tree-like shape took my fancy amidst the stark winter branches that surrounded it.


Sometimes a new position brings a whole new perspective and standing outside the More Riverside complex with The Shard looming in the background was an opportunity to see London’s urban face, washed shiny by the rain…


..while the controversial City Hall beckoned further along the river bank.


And no Thames-side meandering would be complete without the magnificent Tower Bridge. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I have seen it or how many photographs I’ve taken before, my hand moved automatically to my pocket to take just a few more… 



So it would seem that I’m not the only one throwing some shapes this festive season.

Only ten sleeps to go…

you should be dancin’…yeah.

Brand Santa…

There are 13 sleeps to go until Christmas Day (12 if you’ve just woken up Down Under)…


…and the Gidday HQ stash is looking good under the verdant boughs of my un-real – aka plastic – tree. 

Christmas is in full swing on this side of the planet with my first festive do under my belt and a super-busy week ahead as I do more of the necessary yuletide rounds – socialising, dancing and raising a glass or two (oh alright, five) to pay homage to this most wonderful time of the year.

And I’ve also been keeping my eye out for any clever Christmas chicanery to share.

This morning I was indulging in a quick browse through my Facebook feed before the tube went underground when I found this…

Source: www.quietroom.co.uk

For those of you who don’t know, haven’t guessed, have never looked up my LinkedIn profile or simply don’t care, I work in Marketing. 

(Please note, this makes me a Marketer, not a Marketeer. I didn’t go off to some club, wave my arms around and wear black plastic ears to get myself a career.)

But I digress.

The folk at Quietroom have put together this brilliant Santa ‘brand book’, a fabulous tribute to the fat man in all his glory and a complete p*sstake of marketers everywhere. I chuckled at the brand promise, laughed at the brand house and guffawed at the brand assets being ‘geographilised’…and then thought about all the brand books I’ve worked with over the years.

Well, I guess there’s nothing like a little irreverent festive fun to put things in perspective.

13 sleeps to go peeps..time to Snap It Clap It Wrap It.

Sorry, I Spent It On Myself…

Today marks 20 sleeps to go until we all embark on our annual gift-giving frenzy.


(Although those of you in Oz will wake up to only 19 sleeps.)

I know this isn’t going to be very Christmas spirited of me but I laughed out loud in the office this morning at the latest in a long line of seasonal shopping plugs. This is from London ‘posh shop’ Harvey Nichols

I was always taught that it was better to give than to receive…

…but then we don’t have Harvey Nicks Down Under.

In other news, Lil Chicky wins the 2013 Christmas bonanza with the surprise arrival of an unmarked box at Gidday HQ yesterday…

…which I opened. And then had to apologise and duly promise to wrap said contents up, put under the tree and exclaim with surprise and delight on Christmas morning.

Oh the shame! 

(Note: There is no advance present opening in the Hamer Clan – one must always wait for ‘the big day’.)

Just as well there are only 20 sleeps until unrestrained receiving Christmas…

Let The Festivities Commence…

Today is December 1st and that can mean only one thing:

It’s been a hive of festive activity at Gidday HQ today. First order of business was the construction of the Mum’s traditional seasonal supplement, the advent calendar…


It took me a while to find today’s window, hidden as it was in a back street…


Then there was a spot of present wrapping to make sure I could get some Seattle-bound goodies into tomorrow’s post (Seattle-A, look out for Santa-Kym’s delivery very soon.)

Then it was time for that favourite of all my favourite Christmas things – decorating the tree.

I missed out on this last year between lounging about in Langkawi and meandering around Melbourne – and since Christmas 2011 I’ve travelled to Krakow and Amsterdam (among many other places) and have added a few more objets d’Christmas to my horde. 

Needless to say I spent a happy couple of hours laying out all of my carefully wrapped ornaments and awarding them their leafy homes for the next month…


And last but by no means least, Alfie Bear has a new Christmas hat…


So it’s all systems go here at Gidday HQ.

Let the festivities commence!