Commuting Gems…The Garden Bridge

A few weeks ago I was reading Time Out magazine on the tube ride home when I was inspired by the latest campaign to have the support of the fabulous Joanna Lumley, The Garden Bridge project.

Image Source: arup.co.uk

The Garden Bridge is set to be London’s first green pedestrian walkway stretching across the Thames between Southbank and Covent Garden on the north side of the river. The project has been commissioned by TfL (Transport for London) as part of their vision to create a pedestrian river crossing – the aim is to complete this rural corridor by 2017.

Image Source: arup.co.uk

Thomas Heatherwick is the creative genius behind this verdant proposal. He’s the one who designed that spectacular 204 petal Olympic Cauldron for London 2012 and has also designed a new-style ‘London bus’ some of which hit the streets earlier the same year. He envisages a peaceful and rejuvenating precinct for the nation’s capital, one which reflects the beauty of each of the seasons and creates opportunities for commuters to linger and take a breath in the hustle and bustle of their day. 

Image Source: arup.co.uk

Can you imagine what an amazing legacy that would be? I feel quite inspired by such commitment to quality of life and the philosophy of green living.

There’s currently a public consultation about the Garden Bridge project which can be found here. So if you feel inspired and have something you’d like to say about it, you have until the 20th December (2013) to register your views.

There’s also a rumour that the bridge would feature a Christmas tree during the festive season.

I’m in…where do I sign?

Composers, Canalboats And Christmas Cheer…

What with lots of changes, challenges and general excitement over the last few months I’ve been a little lax in my pottering about London (note I do not include my recent tourist-ing with Lil Chicky in this – that was by no stretch ‘pottering’) and today it was a combination of music and markets that had my full attention. Having been in Chicago for work this week (and slept the morning away yesterday ‘in recovery’), today saw me up, about and out the door for a little culture and some festive cheer. 

First stop (well after the tube ride and the large soy cappuccino purchase at Caffe Nero) was Kings Place for Bach Unwrapped, a one hour concert featuring the work of JS Bach, his protege JG Goldberg, and his son, CPE Bach. For those of you in the know about these things, today’s Trio Sonatas programme consisted of:

Trio in G for flute and violin
Trio in C for two violins (collaboration with Goldberg)
Trio in D Minor for two violins (collaboration with his son)
Trio Sonata from Musical Offering

(For those of you who know nothing about these things, the violin, cello and harpsichord were joined by another violin for the second and third pieces and a flute for the first and the fourth.)

Apparently the last piece, Musical Offering was borne of the composer’s meeting with Frederick The Great in 1747 – the King challenged Bach to improvise over a theme he had written and while Bach rose to the immediate challenge, on returning home he composed Musical Offering and despatched it to King Frederick. The programme note claimed that Musical Offering has been dazzling musicians with its brilliance ever since.

While I don’t know very much about classical music, I find it incredibly moving and very easy to lose myself in the ebb and flow of the music so after an enjoyable hour, I wandered out and headed back to Kings Cross Station in a leisurely snap-happy stroll. 

Despite my having been there several times, I had never actually walked out the back of Kings Place before today – lo and behold there’s a rather lovely deck which overlooks Regent’s Canal…


…and the stroll back to the station along the canal was quite pretty too.



The area around Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations has been undergoing a major redevelopment since 2008 and in the midst of the construction site, there’s quite a pleasant walkway – dotted with titbits about the area’s history – which connects the stations to Regent’s Canal. This is the view coming back from the canal, the spire of the Grade I listed St Pancras International station building standing tall above the ‘debris’.

The forecourt between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations.

The second half of my Sunday foray was spent wandering along the Southbank Christmas Market. There is something deliciously festive about this market. The decorated stalls stretched along the riverside path from The London Eye to the National Theatre with stallholders plugging their wares (hand made gifts and eclectic arts and crafts feature heavily), tempting passersby with a fresh waffle, a little glühwein or perhaps some kind of German sausage concoction.

Nearly there – this glimpse of Big Ben framed by the railway bridge caught my eye from Concert Hall Walk on the way to Southbank.
This ‘urban’ paint job decorated the entrance at the back of Royal Festival Hall. 
Traditional festive cheer above one stall…
…faced off against Scrooge on another.
German sausage concoction? Enough said…

The twinkling lights, the smell of roasted chestnuts…I just love it. Even the nip in the air as I snuggled deeper into my coat, hat and scarf was a reminder of the merriment to come…in just 31 sleeps.

Needless to say I’ve started my Christmas shopping…

Tis The Season…O Christmas Tree

I’ll be away over Christmas/New Year so there is a notable absence of Christmas regalia at Gidday HQ this year.

No festive Christmas wreath at the door, no flickering Christmas candles and no Christmas tree.

That’s right. Gidday HQ is tree-free.

Which means I’ve had to find my foilage fun elsewhere. And in my kicking up the leaves, I’ve found something both inspired and eco-friendly.

Eco landscaping company, Green Rabbit, have come up with a scheme which offers the Viennese a Nordmann fir (sustainably grown of course) for free. They then collect your Living Christmas Tree after the big day and replant it elsewhere but if you want to keep this tree and plant it yourself, you pay and Green Rabbit will supply a booklet to help you care for your tree.

What a great idea…what a shame that it’s only available in Austria.

I’ll just have to stick with the version the Pelangi Beach Resort, Langkawi has provided.

O Christmas tree O Christmas tree, only 9 sleeps to go…

Tis The Season…Pass The Parcel

We are down to just 12 sleeps peeps and in the interests of providing you with a Gidday helping hand, I’ve come up with a few quirky and slightly questionable gift ideas for your nearest and dearest.

A subject close to my heart is reading so at the top of the shopping list is a little something for the bookworm in your life. Upon opening one of my daily Emerald Street e-newsletters this week, I found this fab booklight. It also holds your book open – you know, while you go a make a coffee or hang out the washing or go to the loo. You get the picture…

Available from Suck UK (yes really) for £40

Next it’s over to I Want One of Those. Popping in here always yields something unusual and it was a tough choice about which curiosity would inspire you most. But back in November, I lamented the wearing of socks with sandals so this has to be the perfect present for the saddo in your life…and let’s face it, everyone has one.

Available on I Want One Of Those for £7.99 (or 3 for £20 – you could knock off 3 saddos in one!)

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling this year (and it’s not over yet!) so my next inspired idea is for the traveller in your life. Cue The Scrubba, a lightweight portable bag which lets you wash on the go. Your clothes that is…

Visit www.thescrubba.com and fork out 59.95 Aussie dollars to Do It (your washing that is) Yourself

Christmas presents of the participative kind are next on the agenda. Imagine, you’ve stuffed yourself silly with Christmas fare, squeezed in a spot of pud and are looking for something to stop the family snoozing on the sofa. Billed as a ‘no holds barred game which stimulates after dinner discussion on controversial subjects of our times amongst friends’, After Dinner Arguments could be just the thing to inspire a bit of spirited conversation around your festive table this year…

Available from shinyshack.co.uk, you can get hours of family feuding fun for just £7.99

And finally there is the ultimate in glam grooming: a ridiculous gift at an entirely ridiculous price…

Glam up those tootsies with a Swarovski crystal duck nail brush from Etsy for the bargain price of US$175.

Because couldn’t we all use a brush with a duck on it?

12 sleeps to go peeps…can you believe it? Best you get cracking or you’ll end up as a late addition on Santa’s Naughty List.

Tis The Season…Party Feet

With the big day fast approaching (only 17 sleeps to go peeps), attention has suddenly turned to collaborations of the festive kind. And this week has seen me celebrating with considerable commitment to the Christmas cause, the result being that I am ensconsed on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ today after last night’s work Christmas party. Amongst today’s priorities is resting my aching feet, having kicked off my dancing shoes *slash* drinking boots in the early hours of this morning before pouring myself into bed.

It was a fabulous night, starting with a drinks-style mingle (with a spot of champers, of course) and delicious dinner table conversation under the majestic Rubenesque ceiling of the Banqueting House in Westminster. Commissioned by King Charles I and installed by Inigo Jones, the ceiling comprises the only canvasses from the old Whitehall Palace to remain in situ. Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens painted them in his studio in Antwerp, shipped them across for installation in March 1636 and was paid the princely sum of £3,000 for his efforts.

Eyes up at dinner – what a spectacular view!

After dinner it was down to the Undercroft for a spot of drinking dancing. Designed as a drinking den (how appropriate!) for James I, the area went on to host lotteries after his death, which sounds kind of akin to some (alright, most) of the moves on show under the temporary disco lights last night. And a big shout out to DJ Jeff who kept the floor packed with swinging, singing partygoers – and at whose feet I lay the blame entirely for my scratchy throat and tender tootsies.

But this was not the only celebratory collaboration as earlier this week, we turned to team-building of a whole different kind. On Tuesday night we found ourselves in the south London suburb of Wandsworth for a night of culinary negotiation at Venturi’s Table. Split into three teams, we kneaded, chopped, stirred, dipped, chatted and laughed under the careful supervision of Anna Venturi’s team of patient chefs before sitting down to a fabulous three course meal – fresh pasta, chicken ballotine and a super-scrummy pannetone pudding. Oh and a few drinks. (There may also have been a bit of singing. Yes it’s true.) This is not the first time I’ve done something like this (see my post on Hot Chicks & Hens) and let me just say right here and now, it won’t be my last. It is such fantastic fun.

And last but by no means least, I managed to squeeze in a catch up with three colleagues from workdays past and over a bottle of wine (or two) and a cheap and cheerful meal at my local Italian, we shared the news, reflected on 2012 and speculated on what changes 2013 might bring.

It starts again this week so right now, I’m feeling rather grateful for today’s respite. But not for too long. After all, it is the season to be jolly…

…and my drinking boots still have plenty of tread.

Your 2012 five-a-day: December

It’s December 1st, the first day of winter (on this side of the planet anyway) and a mere 24 sleeps from the Big Day. The temperature this week has really dropped: it was a brisk -1C when I was standing at the bus stop yesterday morning. I have some present wrapping and a little prep for next week’s work Christmas do (at the Banqueting House in Whitehall no less) on my to-do list today. And to my absolute delight, this month’s Violent Veg gives a big festive nod to one of my favourite Christmas traditions, carolling.

Seattle-A was in town on Thursday night (it was like a surprise early Christmas present when I got her text message this week) and as I made my way through Richmond train station to meet her, I saw my first set of carol singers for the season. A big group of kids, all rugged up in their vibrant winter woollies, braved the chill to fill the space with joyful tunes and I snatched a brief moment to stand on the stairs and enjoy a little of their festive spirit.

It took me back to Christmasses in Oz where opportunities to belt out a few yuletide tunes seemed to be around every corner, where the point was to join in rather than what you sounded like – probably just as well in my case. This was never about show-pony-ing (I’ve never been a Karaoke fan) but about sharing a bit of Christmas spirit with a disparate group of people who, in embracing the anonymity provided by the crowd, sang simply because they could.

I particularly remember bouts of Brownie carolling as a youngster in Brisbane in the 70s and another hot sticky evening somewhere in country Victoria in my early twenties, grown-ups and kids alike sprawled on picnic rugs under the riverside gum trees and a community band playing in the background while everyone sang their hearts out.

And in any of my excited witterings about Christmas (and particularly with Christmas Down Under in my sights), I cannot omit one of Melbourne’s most wonderful institutions, Carols by Candlelight, a televised open air concert held at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl every Christmas Eve. I watched this on telly for many years and finally found myself singing along on the grassy slopes under the stars nine years ago just before I moved to London.

These every-man-sings opportunities don’t seem to abound in the same way in Old London Town. There are many chances to sit and listen – from The Hallelujah Chorus at St Martin in the Fields and the Christmas Festival at The Albert Hall right through to a myriad of local community events but it seems that spirited audience participation is hard to come by. And as I stood amongst the swirling commuting masses on the stairs on Thursday night, watching those bright young faces, I realised that I missed this little piece of Christmas Past.

So that’s another thing to add to the festive to-do list before the fat man in the red suit comes to town. But I’ve been a good girl (no really I have) and have already ticked one thing off the list this morning…

I do so love Christmas. Only 24 sleeps to go people…I’m excited!


This post also completes Gidday from the UK’s Five A Day series for 2012: 12 posts containing both a whole range of random themes inspired by my merely turning the page each month and the laugh out loud cleverness of my Gidday Guest Stars, the vitamin-rich team from Violent Veg. The back catalogue is below for any of you that missed any…I hoped you’ve enjoyed it.

November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

Sheepish…

I am perturbed people. Seriously perturbed.

With Christmas fast approaching and a trip Down Under on the agenda, it goes without saying (but I shall say it anyway) that I am looking forward to embracing all things festive with loved ones in Oz this year.

You know, the Christmas Day feast, either a BBQ or a seafood selection depending on whether we are at Mum’s or Lil Chicky’s.

The annual Stocking Sprint – or who can open all the small, ridiculously over-wrapped presents in their stocking first, thereby spoiling the ‘surprise’ element of each piece of tat gift for everyone else.

Or the Festive Forage otherwise known as where will Husband of Lil Chicky hide random pieces of Christmas wrapping at Mum’s place and how long will it be before she finds them.

Yes I am confident that these traditions will resist our continued path through adulthood the test of time as well as Mum’s desire to have a clean house/stop staying up til all hours wrapping teeny tiny presents.

But there is one tradition unique to Melbourne that really brings out the big kid in me, the 5-year-old who presses her nose against the window in wonder (okay maybe my nose doesn’t exactly touch the window any more but you get my drift.)

The Myer Christmas Windows.

Every year, the windows of the Myer Store in Bourke Street Mall pay tribute to the festive season with an animated display of fairytale movement and magic. The crowds, young and old alike, line up and file past the windows, ooh-ing and aah-ing at Cinderella, The Nutcracker, The Night Before Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and many other well-known storybook worlds.

But this year, things have gone awry in a big way.

This year’s windows, unveiled last week, pay glittery homage to…

Russell the Sheepwho has apparently saved Christmas.



Who is this interloper?

What on earth happened to Rudolph and his shiny nose?

Only 33 sleeps to go til I can investigate for myself. 

Stay tuned peeps, I’m on the case…

Valencia…Que?

This blogging lark is a strange caper. We online literary hopefuls tap-tap-tap away in the hopes that people (that’s you – in case you were wondering) will read all about our passions, woes and little foibles, whilst wondering what the perfect recipe will be to whet your appetite.

Anyhow for those of you uninitiated in the delights of blogging oneself happy, I think I speak for the majority when I say we bloggers love a stat or two. How many visitors pop in to check things out, where they come from (geographically and virtually) and which posts they read can add an elated squeal, a puzzled frown or, more often than not, a combination of both.  

A little while back, I decided to add my Top 5 Posts for the Week to the Gidday From The UK home page. It was a little experiment to see what Gidday-ers were reading each week and also designed to offer anyone with a little reading time on their hands, a quickie guide to my most popular posts.  

As you would expect, the most recent posts appear. Of late, both Did Somebody Mention Christmas? and 3 Sleeps To Go…A Little Pre-Christmas Cheer (from 2010 and 2011 respectively) have popped up. 

(Let’s face it, the man in the red suit arrives in 74 sleeps and Gidday has probably appeared in a few early – rather too early for my liking – festive searches.)

But there are times when I find myself at a loss to understand why a particular post suddenly appears. 

I mean what’s with the sudden surge of interest in Valencia?

Is there something happening over there that, being the Metro-less traveller that I’ve been this week, has passed me by? 

Is it football? Spanish flu? Last minute holiday deals? Or a sudden political scandal?

Can anyone shed a little light on this conundrum?

Your 2012 Five A Day – October

Here we are in October and Violent Veg is paying tribute to everyone’s favourite Fright Night


But Halloween is not the only source of fear and trepidation this month.

Lil Chicky will celebrate the last birthday of her thirties in just 18 sleeps. I don’t know quite where all the years have gone and quite frankly, I’m a little perturbed that next year, my ‘baby sister’ will enter the Naughty 40’s.
 
The year is now 75% through and the shorter days on this side of the planet herald the end of British Summer Time on October 28th.

And let’s not forget in 12 weeks time, we’ll all be lying in bed listening for the rooftop patter of eight tiny reindeer…yes I’m afraid Christmas will be on us before we know it.

But in the words of Usman B. Asif:

‘Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.’


So fear not and let’s face the month ahead with an anticipation about what unexpected curiosities and delights it might bring.
 
And I hope this month’s Halloween thrills don’t prove too hair-raising for you.

———————–
Five A Day Back catalogue

September

July
June
May
April
March
February
January

A Rusty Old Ute And 8 Mighty Roos…

Gidday peeps! Hope you’ve all had a fab Christmas (or however you celebrate). I’ve been lounging around, drinking champers and out and about swotting up on a bit of history (but not all at once you understand).

With Christmas done but still a week left on holiday, I’ve got quite a list of things ‘to do’ but decided to open up my emails this morning to see what the world at large had been up to.

Amongst the post Christmas/Boxing Day and End of Year sales (with even more discounts), there were a couple of missives from Mum. And in response to my last post, she had received an Aussie rendition of Twas the Night Before Christmas so before we say our final farewells to the little dude’s official birthday celebrations, here’s one more post Chrissy post script for you to enjoy Oz style.

It’s a bewdy!

‘Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn’t a sound.
Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around.
We’d left on the table some tucker and beer,
Hoping that Santa Claus soon would be here;

We children were snuggled up safe in our beds,
While dreams of pavlova danced ’round in our heads;
And Mum in her nightie, and Dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports.
 
When outside the house a mad ruckus arose;
Loud squeaking and banging woke us from our doze.
We ran to the screen door, peeked cautiously out,
snuck onto the deck, then let out a shout.

Guess what had woken us up from our snooze,
But a rusty old Utepulled by eight mighty ‘roos.
The cheerful man driving was giggling with glee,
And we both knew at once who this plump bloke must be.

Now, I’m telling the truth it’s all dinki-di,
Those eight kangaroos fairly soared through the sky.
Santa leaned out the window to pull at the reins,
And encouraged the ‘roos, by calling their names.
‘Now, Kylie! Now, Kirsty! Now, Shazza and Shane!
On Kipper! On, Skipper! On, Bazza and Wayne!
Park up on that water tank. Grab a quick drink,
I’ll scoot down the gum tree. Be back in a wink!’

So up to the tank those eight kangaroos flew,
With the Ute full of toys, and Santa Claus too.
He slid down the gum tree and jumped to the ground,
Then in through the window he sprang with a bound.

He had bright sunburned cheeks and a milky white beard.
A jolly old joker was how he appeared.
He wore red stubby shorts and old thongs on his feet,
And a hat of deep crimson as shade from the heat.
 
His eyes – bright as opals – Oh! How they twinkled!
And, like a goanna, his skin was quite wrinkled!
His shirt was stretched over a round bulging belly
Which shook when he moved, like a plate full of jelly.

A fat stack of prezzies he flung from his back,
And he looked like a swaggie unfastening his pack.
He spoke not a word, but bent down on one knee,
To position our goodies beneath the yule tree.

Surfboard and footy-ball shapes for us two.
And for Dad, tongs to use on the new barbeque.
A mysterious package he left for our Mum,
Then he turned and he winked and he held up his thumb;

He strolled out on deck and his ‘roos came on cue;
Flung his sack in the back and prepared to shoot through.
He bellowed out loud as they swooped past the gates-
MERRY CHRISTMAS to all, and goodonya, MATES!’